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First BCRT? We've Got a List You'll Want To Read

Posted by Anna Roth at May 17, 2017 03:09 PM |
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Courtesy of seasoned volunteer Al Mashburn who's got 15 BCRTs under his boots, here's a short list of items that help make WTA's most physically taxing trips a little more comfortable.

Backcountry Response Teams (BCRTs) are WTA's most challenging volunteer trips. In addition to tools, volunteers carry everything they need to be safe, warm and well-fed for multiple days.

Sometimes they have a central camp, sometimes they thru-hike, meaning they'll move camp each day. But if you're willing to heft a few extra pounds, you can still enjoy some creature comforts at the end of a long day of trail work.

When you have a little extra with you in camp, it can make a work party much more luxurious. Photo by Jonathan Chadburn. 

Seasoned volunteer Al Mashburn created a list of gear he's found makes his BCRT's extra fun. And he should know; he's got over a hundred volunteer days and more than 15 BCRTs under his boots.

"For me, the average BCRT seems to be 5 days, and no matter what I try to do to reduce my load, I have found a 65-liter pack is about as small as I can go. If you are an ultralight backpacker, bear with me and understand that this is not a backpacking trip. It’s a work party."

The essentials: tips on how to make the big ten work better for you

Tent: Roomy but not too big

Camping at Baker Lake Karen Story
Your campsite is your home base for your BCRT. Make sure it's cozy! Photo by Karen Story. 

This is going to be your combination home and mudroom for 4 to 6 or more days, so you want one that's big enough for you and your gear. A one and a half- or two-person tent will give you room to spread out and live a little even if it’s raining, and also give you somewhere to put the wet stuff away from your sleeping bag.

Consider: If it's going to be cold, bring a one-person or small four-season tent. It's hard for one person to warm up a bigger one.

Food: Bring on the (healthy) fats

On BCRTs you're not just hiking, you're working. Depending on the project, you could need 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day to replace what you burn. High calories in small doses are a must (think olive oil and peanut M&Ms).

Volunteer with trail mix by Anna Roth
Packing lots of extra food to fuel your work day is important. Photo by Anna Roth. 

You don’t have to spend a lot on fancy bars. Most grocery stores have flavored mashed potato packs that pack 400+ calories each, and tuna in oil gets you nearly 100 calories per package. Add in a little butter or olive oil, and you have a pretty good dinner for under $3.00. Dry salami and hard cheeses are also great alone, or as supplements to your meals.

You'll also want at least two snacks a day. This can be a bar, a handful of granola, or your favorite chocolate bar.

Remember: Bring enough food for all the days you'll be out, plus 1.5 meals more. You just never know.

Clothes: Change 'em

At a bare minimum, you should have clothes to work in and clothes to wear in camp. 

If you spend all day digging in the dirt, you'll probably want something to change into at the end of the day. Photo by Greg Friend.

A warm jacket is a must. You get chilled quickly going from working all day to sitting in camp. Bring one that's a little warmer than you think you might need. Down is nice, but puffy jackets work as well. If you can take the added weight, layering fleeces works, too. If your jacket lacks a hood, be sure to bring a hat.

Socks are important. If you can, bring one pair for every day. If not, keep one pair of fluffy wool socks only for sleeping in, and use them on the hike out. Your feet will thank you.

Sleeping pad: Bigger is better

While I bring two, most people just bring one. I can’t tell you what you need, but having a closed foam pad and an inflatable mattress is sure comfortable after you have worked all day.

Cookware: Get the good gear

I mostly use food that only requires hot water, because it's fast and easy. If you want to actually cook, add 10 minutes to your food routine, and get a non-stick pot of some sort. I like titanium because I clean it by filling the pot with water, sand and rocks, shake hard, and rinse out. All clean, and ready for the next meal.

Bonus Comforts

Paul Raymaker Tent
Carrying luxuries like a tent light can make your camping experience even better. Photo by Paul Raymaker.

Tarp: Increase your dryness quotient

It sure is nice to have a little room to put on your boots in the morning, and also be able to open the rain fly without having rain fall right into the tent. Also, if you are wet after a day of work, you can get out of those wet duds before getting into the tent.

The downside is weight and bulk, so let the weather forecast be your guide.

Chair: A lumbar luxury

If you can carry it, a chair is a fantastic replacement for the ground, a log, or your bear canister. Let me tell you, at the end of a day's work, that camp chair is your best friend. A lighter option, or supplement to the chair is a closed foam sit pad for lunch or taking a break.

Wipes: So fresh and so clean

Camp wipes, baby wipes, wet wipes -- whatever you know them as, it’s great to wipe off dirt and sweat every night. It also keeps your clothes cleaner, as well as your pillow.

These don't biodegrade, so you'll need to pack them out.