My Biggest Arizona Backpacking Fears – And a Few Things I’m Not So Worried About


When I’m heading into the backcountry, there are a few things that scare the living Bejesus out of me. I’m not afraid to admit it. In fact, I believe being at peace with my inner wussitude is part the reason every trip has pretty much been a success so far (knock on a massive slab of wood).

To me, part the adventure lies in facing those fears head on. When the risk is worth the reward, you just have to lace up and get out.

Top Fear: Bees

I love bees. I’m glad they’re around to make honey and pollinate and do all that bee stuff. I’m also keenly aware that most bees in Arizona are of the Africanized variety.

The thought of being caught up in a cloud of swarming angry killer bees fills me to the core with dread. I mean, people die every year.

I either avoid areas with high bee activity during certain times of the year or just accept that getting stung is a possibility. It comforts me to think about all the people who head out into the backcountry all the time and don’t get swarmed.

If you have any bee avoidance techniques or precautions, please let me know! I’m all ears, or eyes.

Fear Number Two: Falling Trees, Branches

Camping among dead trees is an absolute last resort for me. When I set up camp, I’m compulsively looking overhead for anything that could potentially fall on my tent while I’m sleeping.

Leaning trees and dead branches are a no go. Luckily, my fear of falling trees and branches is one I can do something about by being both paranoid and picky about where I choose to camp.

Fear Number Three: Lightning

Lightning is no joke, especially in the high country during Monsoon season. I recently went backpacking in Mt. Baldy Wilderness when heavy thunderstorms were in the forecast. Those storms never materialized, but the threat changed our entire itinerary.

It meant planning the trip to do about 13 miles in one day so we could camp at a lower elevation.

Fear Number Four: Getting Lost

I always try to bring a map, backup map, compass and backup compass. I study my maps like crazy before I go, but I have to admit, I’m quick to second guess my navigation skills out in the field.

I’ve always found my way and have read a lot about navigation, but I’m still going to invest in a GPS, just for that added peace of mind. So far, all of my backpacking trips have been of the on-trail variety.

Fear Number Five: Injury

I honestly never thought much about this until my wife broke her wrist in the Superstitions. We were doing some creek hoping when a rock slid out from under her feet and she went down.

I made a splint and we immediately hiked out and headed to the emergency room. But the truth is, I kind of panicked.

I realized if this were a situation where someone suffered a serious head injury or one of those breaks where the bone punctures skin, I would have been woefully unprepared.

Today, I carry more than I need in my first aid kit, and I’m also learning more about wilderness first aid. I’m looking forward to getting some classes under my belt and learning more.

Kinda Scared: Rattlesnakes

I’ve run into a few rattlesnakes and I always keep my distance. I also scan compulsively on every hike.  I know my odds of getting bitten are very low as long as I leave the snake alone and show it some respect. Still, there’s that part of me that always wonders what would happen if I got bit 10 or more miles from the trailhead. A scary prospect.

I think rattlers are beautiful creatures and would never venture to harass one in any way, so I’m chalking this fear up to a semi-irrational one. Statistics show that most people are bit on the hands, arms or face, which kind of says it all…

Not Afraid: Bears

We should all know how to handle camping in bear country. I bring a bear canister and never store food in my tent or backpack. I also make plenty of noise on the trail.

The fact that some people don’t take the necessary precautions gets under my skin. After all, if someone is careless with their food and ends up getting bit, or creating problem bears that raid campgrounds – it’s the innocent bear that will pay the price.

I could not live with myself if a bear ended up being put down because I set up a careless camp.



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