What if I've never backpacked before?
That's okay! Unless noted, you don't need experience to participate, but you do need to have a sense of adventure! Many trips are geared toward beginners who have either never backpacked or who have little experience in the outdoors.
What if I don't have a backpack or sleeping bag?
What if I need a stove?
You can rent backpacks, hydration bags, water filters, sleeping pads, tents, sleeping bags, cookware, tarps, and camp stoves from us.
Note: stove fuel is NOT included in the rental fee.
Do I need special personal gear?
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on high tech gear*. You'll be more comfortable using what you have if you follow these basics:
- DO bring a hat and gloves - even in the summer.
After a rain, it can get cold.
- DO bring extra socks - wool, wool blend.
NOT cotton, which can cause blisters.
- DO wear sturdy shoes or boots - the Gila is rough and your feet will take a beating carrying you and all your gear. If you can afford to purchase a pair of sturdy hiking boots, we strongly recommend that you do so, and that you break them in before the trip.
- DON'T wear cotton clothes - cotton takes a long time to dry and you lose a lot of body heat if you get wet wearing cotton. Wear a quick-drying blend that whisks moisture out (e.g. fleece, silk, wool, polyester, and others).
* You'll be provided a gear list at each pre-trip meeting with suggestions designed to make you a happy camper.
What does the trip fee cover?
The cost covers the group food while you are on the adventure, technical gear (e.g. helmet, ropes), trip leadership, and transportation.
Do I need extra money?
We recommend having about $20.00 in cash for any impulse items you may want while we are traveling to and from the trip sites.
How should I prepare?
The Gila is very rugged and you'll be doing a lot of up and down climbing, even on an easy trail. If you are typically a couch potato, we recommend you prepare for your trip as soon as possible. Exercise at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes per session. This will help you to be more comfortable carrying your gear, and it will dramatically increase your enjoyment. Activities such as bicycling, walking, running, swimming, hiking, and aerobics are excellent for preparation.
What will the weather be like?
The Gila is located in a semi-arid region, so it's typically fairly warm and dry. However, if you're going on a trip between July and September, be prepared for heavy monsoon rains. Between October and April, snow is possible and night temperatures can drop below freezing. May and June are typically very hot and dry. Keep in mind that although wind, rain and snow can make life outdoors challenging, proper gear will help to keep you comfortable.
What about snakes, bugs and other scary critters?
Of course it's possible that you'll encounter wild critters while out hiking, after all, the wilderness is their home! However, it is extremely unlikely that the encounter would be bad. Keep in mind that humans are big, loud, clumsy, and we stink. Wild animals do their best to avoid us.
If you're still in doubt, hopefully this information will ease some of your fears:
While on a trip, you may encounter a rattlesnake. The rule of thumb is to leave all snakes alone
. If you encounter a snake in your path, slowly back away from it and give it a wide berth. Snakes do not attack humans unless they are provoked. In fact, you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than you do being struck by a snake. Each year, about 8,000 people in the United States suffer venomous snake bites and most of these folks pestered and provoked the snake that bit them. Less than 1% of these people die, but why even take the chance of getting bitten? Leave snakes alone.
There are thousands of different bugs, or invertebrates, in the Gila, including the common things like butterflies, bees, scorpions, spiders, cicadas, mosquitos, and ants. If you want bugs to leave you alone, avoid wearing perfume, sprays, scented soaps, deodorants, and lotions. These fragrances turn you into a big flower that insects find hard to resist!
If you're lucky, you might be fortunate to see a black bear (Ursus americanus amblyceps
). Black bears, like their grizzly relatives, can be aggressive, particularly if they feel threatened. Adult bears may charge if they believe you are trying to steal their food, and mother bears will attack if they feel you are a threat to their cubs. If you see a black bear, DO NOT make direct eye contact and DO NOT run. Slowly back away to a safe spot and give the bear (or bears) plenty of room. In the unlikely event you are attacked, play dead. Black bear attacks are rare, particularly if you are traveling in a group, but they can happen. Also keep in mind that bears may enter your camp if they smell food, so DON'T
keep treats tucked under your pillow for a convenient late night snack.
If you're really, really lucky, you'll see a mountain lion (Felis concolor browni
). These big carnivores are elusive and rarely seen, especially when traveling in a group. However, if you stumble upon a big cat, DO NOT make direct eye contact and DO NOT run; slowly back away. Wave your arms, throw rocks, and make yourself look big. If attacked, fight back. Keep in mind that you have a greater chance of being bitten by a venomous snake or being struck by lightning than you do being attacked by one of these big cats.
The Mexican Grey wolf (Canis lupus baileyi
) was reintroduced to its historic range in 1998. As of 2010, about 50 individuals reportedly roamed the 4.4 million combined acres of the Gila and Apache National Forests. If you see or hear a wolf, consider yourself extremely lucky. There have been no credible reports of wild wolf-human attacks in the Gila National Forest, or for that matter, in any of the lower 48 states of the US during the 20th century (for more information, see Linnell, et al. 2002 PDF
How do you keep clean? I can't go days without showering.
On many of our trips, we will be near water so it's possible to get cleaned up at the end of a long, hot day. You can also purchase a pocket solar shower for about $30 from an outdoor supply company.