Kalmiopsis Wilderness

Learning How to Backpack Alone


When I go on my wilderness backpacking adventures I usually go alone (solo).  There have been occasions that I have gone with someone but for most of my wilderness adventures I go it alone.  Many people have asked me why I go alone and others think that I am crazy to do so.  The answer is not clear-cut but I explain that the adventure and challenge of being in a remote and rugged wilderness area fuels my backpacking passion.

The challenge and adventure are my motivation but what really allows me to go solo backpacking is having the necessary KSA’s to do so.  KSA is the acronym for (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities).  My KSA’s have given me the skill-set to go wilderness backpacking alone.

Being motivated by the adventure and challenge is good but if you lack the KSA’s your risk of getting hurt or dying increase dramatically.  All wilderness backpackers take on risks when they go backpacking.  Some of these risks are:

  • Bad weather
  • Wildlife
  • Getting Lost
  • Being Injured
  • Getting Sick

Much goes into having the necessary KSA’s to have a great adventure.  Having one of the elements and lacking the others is a recipe for disaster.  For example, if you have the knowledge of what gear to bring in a wilderness area, but you cannot properly set it up then undue hardship, inconvenience, and injury may result.

If you bring a hammock into a wilderness area and you have not practiced using it then you may get injured by improperly setting it up or you may have a sleepless night.

Skill sets in a wilderness environment encompass many things. The most important one in my opinion is Land Navigation.  In my blog section, I have done a series of articles on land navigation.  These articles are basic land navigation skills every backpacker should know.

So how did I develop my skill set for wilderness backpacking?  That is what I will discuss by defining KSA’s.

The Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Oregon)
The Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Oregon) My Basecamp by the Illinois River


My knowledge comes from my years of experience both as a military veteran and wilderness backpacker. In the military I learned survival skills, first aid, and land navigational skills.  As a wilderness backpacker, I have learned from my own experiences, (both good and bad), and other subject matter experts.  These experts cover a wide field of professions and backgrounds.  (Some of these professions are).

  • Outdoor Survival experts
  • Medical (First Aid) Professionals
  • Hunters
  • Other Wilderness related experts.

My knowledge was gained through but not limited by my personal  contact with the experts, reading articles and watching videos.  As stated above, I have also learned from my personal  experiences by trial and error.  The errors have luckily not been to egregious, since I am here to write this article.


I have developed my skills by practicing and training.  Remember that practicing and training does not necessarily happen in a wilderness area.  You should practice and train important skills at home.  Setting up gear in your backyard, like a hammock, will help you set up that same hammock on your wilderness adventure.

Taking a medical first aid course before going into wilderness area will help build your medical skills.  When you sustain a deep arterial cut you will be able to properly apply a tourniquet when you are alone in a wilderness area.  Taking a compass and using it to navigate in a local park will build your confidence and your land navigation skills.  The key point in having the skills for me is to practice, practice, and practice some more.  I am a hands on learner, and I have to physical perform a task repeatedly to get proficient at doing it.


My abilities come from (2) factors.  These factors are my mental and physical capabilities.  Mentally I must be able to retain what I have learned so I can apply it to tasks I perform in the field.   Physically I have to be able to perform those tasks.

If I cannot remember how to determine elevation on a topographical map I may miss the fact that I may have to climb several thousand feet to get to my objective.  If I cannot physically carry my weighted backpack I will not make it to my destination.  This may expose me to the rugged wilderness environment that can lead to heat exhaustion or some other environmental danger.

Wind River Range (Wyoming)
Wind River Range (WY)


I started this webpage along with my other social media sites to on pass on my years of backpacking knowledge.  I am old school when it comes to wilderness backpacking, but I incorporate modern technology to make my stay more enjoyable and safe.  Being alone in a wilderness area at night surrounded by the mountains, wildlife, and other environmental factors can be un-nerving at first.   As you progress and build your KSA’s it does get easier.

What I can say with certainty is that developing your KSA’s will help you control your fears, lessen the dangers, and make your stay in a wilderness more enjoyable and much safer.  It will also give you the confidence to go alone if you choose to do so.

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