Wild Backpacker

The Wasatch Range, nor the Unita, La Salle, Bear River or Boulder Mountains could keep a wild backpacker from hiking an outdoor adventure. While loving all that Utah has to offer for an outdoorsman, Colton Gardner could not let the Utah Grand Canyon or any other barrier stop him from trekking around home in Utah and far away. He now features backpacking gear, food, exotic destinatinations and much more at his outdoor website, WildBackpacker.com. Following is an entertaining and educational interview with a Wild Backpacker; Colton Gardner.

*How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?
For as long as I can remember, my family was teaching me to enjoy the outdoors. We have explored all around the country with motorized vehicles and on foot. I’ve especially grown to love backpacking and hiking. I’ve been hiking all over, exploring my local mountain ranges near home in Utah and Colorado, and also traveling far to experience exotic places like the gorgeous coastal views of Kauai, the breathtaking waterfalls of Havasupai, or the luscious forests of Alaska. My parents taught me to enjoy, respect, and protect all that nature has for us. My purpose in starting Wild Backpacker has been to share my experience, to give backpackers tips that I’ve had to learn, report on hikes I’ve been on, and share recipes I’ve enjoyed.

*What has been your favorite outdoor recreational area?
My favorite outdoor recreational area… I would say a tie between Zion National Park in Utah or the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Both are magnificent in their own way. Zion National Park has handfuls of diverse hiking trails and breathtaking sights. Their trails range in difficulty from week-long backpacking trips through the Narrows to quick day hikes up Angels Landing. If you haven’t been able to experience the beauty of Zion National Park, I strongly encourage you to visit. My other favorite area is Kauai. As the “world’s wettest place,” the Hawaiian island is full of lush jungle and greenery. I love exploring the island – finding waterfalls, caves, and other hidden wonders. It is also home to my favorite backpacking trail, the Kalalau Trail!

*Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.
As I said, the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Hawaii, is my all-time favorite trail. The Kalalau Trail is a 22-mile trek, not counting detours to the waterfalls, along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. Pictures of the valley, beach, and cathedrals are very popular and even more spectacular in person. It is a rigorous hike, but the sights are well worth it. You hike right along the coast, seeing whales in the ocean and waterfalls in the valleys. We spent two days backpacking in to take our time and enjoy it, spending the night at the Hanakapai and Kalalau beaches. I can’t even explain how amazing it was to fall asleep to crashing waves and wake up and look out of your tent into the Pacific Ocean. From eating wild mangoes to meeting crazy natives to having giant killer cockroaches crawling through our backpacks and carrying our dinner away into the jungle, it was an experience I will never forget. If you would like more information about the Kalalau Trail, check out the trail guide on Wild Backpacker.

*Have you ever experienced a wilderness emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.
I have not had any medical emergencies myself, but I have encountered others who have. While hiking in the Zion Narrows, we came upon a group that was planning on making it a simple day hike, but ended up having to stay the night with us in our camp. They weren’t prepared for something like this, but we were. We had extra food and dry clothes for them. We lent them our tent and our 4-person group squeezed into one 3-person tent. It was tight quarters in there, but the other group was able to have a place to sleep that night. This is just one of the times that being extra prepared came in handy.

*Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?
I am a bit embarrassed about this story, but I will tell it anyway. My brother, then 18 years old, decided that he would take me, then 12 years old, one a night-time hike. Even from the beginning, everything that could go wrong went wrong. We forgot important items, I lost my map, and the batteries in our flashlight went out. Luckily, my brother was prepared and had extras. But while replacing them, all our batteries rolled down the trail and off the mountain side. So we continued our trek with one dim headlamp. While still hiking in the dark, my brother stopped me suddenly. He told me to be quiet. He whispered to me that there was a moose up ahead and that we need to wait for it to move. I asked why we couldn’t just scare it off and he explained that they can charge and be dangerous. Don’t ask me why we didn’t think about going around him or turning back, but we stood there in the middle of the trail for a good hour and a half waiting for the moose to move. By the time my brother finally was convinced that it had left, it was light enough we didn’t need our headlamp anymore. That was the longest hour and a half of my life. I specifically remember being so bored I taught myself the ABCs backwards in my head.

*What nuggets of wisdom have you learned from your multi-day backpacking trips?
Go light. The first principle in enjoying backpacking is a light pack. Even if you can’t achieve ‘ultralight’ all at once, just do what you can. Figure out what is the heaviest thing in your pack and determine if you can substitute it with a light solution. It may be that bulky heavy sleeping bag that goes first or dehydrating your food instead of packing MREs. Another common way to lighten up is to acquire a micro-sized stove and filter water instead of carrying large amounts.

*What is your favourite outdoor website?
Of course, I love my own website, www.wildbackpacker.com! It is a one-stop resource for any information a backpacker or hiker could need. But other than my own, I love the Backpacker Magazine’s website www.backpacker.com. You can spend countless hours exploring and learning with trip reports from around the world, backpacking how-to videos, and outdoor skill articles. The forum is also an amazing resource, as it has thousands of other backpackers from experienced outdoors-men to first-time hikers.

*What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?
Most of my online outdoor gear purchases are through REI and Wilderness Dining. REI, Recreational Equipment Incorporated, has any gear you want in any brand. They have very reasonable prices and fantastic customer service. Be sure to check them out. Wilderness Dining is where I buy most of my backpacking food and cookware. I discovered them in 2008 and have been addicted since. Have any questions to ask about their products or services? Feel free to call them – they are open to talk!

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