The most important backcountry skill

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The above is a screen grab from the latest episode of Meat Eater.  Whats significant here is not the episode itself, which is an excellent one, but what Steve Rinella is doing here.  A few minutes prior he shot a large-antlered, mature mule deer, fulfilling a decades long quest with a perfectly placed 392 yard shot.  After watching to make sure the deer is dead, he packs up and sheds layers for the hike over to the animal, and after taking three steps away from his shooting spot, turns back to examine where he had been, making sure nothing has been left behind.

There is no more important habit to practice, every time, in the woods.

I’ve heard of people leaving behind the usual stuff, like knives, headlamps and water bottles, more times than I can recall.  And for obvious reasons this can be a major bummer, especially as with the exception of water containers and maybe a tiny secondary light you probably don’t have spares.  I’ve also heard of rain jackets, maps, cameras, and even large percentages of remaining food left behind on accident while out backpacking.  This could be an inconvenience, or depending on circumstance could be a good deal more serious.  So in addition to always buying small, frequently used items in bright colors, always look back at the spot you used for a lunch, map, photo, or glassing break.  Make no exceptions, not for 2 hour dayhikes or ten day traverses, and you’ll be well on your way to avoiding problems before they happen.   As Steve shows, even the most exciting moment does not excuse you.

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5 thoughts on “The most important backcountry skill

  1. I actually have a name for this: the “Idiot Check”. It’s also a good practice in places like coffee shops or the library to make sure I’ve not left my glasses or AC adapter at the table. It’s funny this is talked about more; I think this is the first reference I’ve seen in print.

  2. Checking where you just were is good for trash as well—it’s easy to accidentally pull a knife or rangefinder from your pocket and let an energy bar wrapper come with it.

    Just watched that episode and the tongue immediately made me crave venison. There’s now a blacktail shank on the counter defrosting. Really respect how much of those bucks they make use of.

  3. The worst thing I left in the backcountry… a smartphone. Right on a rock near forbidden lake in the trinity alps wilderness.
    How many stakes have a lost? I don’t know, but I’ve collected and used quite a few lost stakes from trail camps. Where did this stake come from, where has it been before I found it? I would like to think that my lost stakes have been found and are traveling the world right now, living the dream.

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