Bushwhacking is the practice of hiking off the trail using skilled navigation to guide your way. It is something that should not be taken lightly and only be considered by those with experience in GPS use and/or a map and compass class. Understanding of navigation is essential to a fun and safe time exploring between contour lines. For those that are not as confident with self navigation, it is best to check out some of the marked hiking trails throughout the Adirondacks.

Bushwhacking has inherent dangers not seen on most hikes where trails are involved. However, bushwhacking also offers great potential. When exploring off trail you have the chance of wildlife experiences, solitude, unique views, and seeing what only a handle of people get to see – if anyone at all.

Do your homework, ask questions, be prepared, have a game plan, and emergency plan, proper bushwhacking gear, and, most of all, tell someone where you are going.

Gear needed for bushwhacking is similar to that of any day hike or overnight camping excursion, but includes a couple more items that might not always be in your pack.

Bushwhacking gear:

  • Map and compass
  • GPS – optional only if you have an area map and compass
  • Eye protection
  • Gloves – to protect hands from branches and rock scrambling
  • Sturdy boots, over the ankle – this should not be optional. Low hiking boots and trail running shoes have their place, just not bushwhacking
  • Long sleeved pants and shirts
  • Extra food, bushwhacking is much more demanding and requires more energy output
  • First Aid kit
  • Water filter
  • Emergency kit, just in case you should have to spend the night in the woods

Emergency kit contents:

  • Matches
  • Emergency blanket
  • Fire starter
  • Whistle
  • Dry socks
  • Dry shirt
  • Light jacket
  • Two grocery bags or two large food storage bags – just in case your boots get wet to use as liners between socks and boots

Bushwhacking can be fun, but it can also be one of the hardest things you have ever put yourself through. So be prepared and make it a positive hiking experience that you'll want to repeat. 

If you want to learn more about bushwhacking, map and compass use, and GPS functions and want to gain experience from the professionals, check out some of the local and regional guides in the Lake Placid area.