OK, you realize that trip planning for Yellowstone trekking should include considerations for the tremendously varying conditions in the park, often over very short distances. That’s great. And for most folks, figuring these nuances out is a great start. And a great challenge. Of course, Big Wild Adventures schedules its Yellowstone backpacking trips for optimal time periods to be in a given part of the park. Yet for experienced backpackers, backpacking nearly anywhere in Yellowstone’s backcountry is wonderful in any season, most anywhere in the park. Sure, in parts of Yellowstone the mosquitoes are thick in early summer, but that is often when the wildflowers are at their best. And yes, it may get bone-numbing cold on a clear late-September night on the interior plateau, but if you want great solitude (and lots of elk bugling!), there’s no better time to explore the backcountry. Snow-drifts in June? So be it. So yes, planning a Yellowstone backpacking trek at an optimal time for a given area of the park is important, especially for those with limited experience, but in our mind there’s something to be said for being anywhere in Yellowstone at nearly any time of the year.
Aside from poor trip planning, there are a number of other common Yellowstone rookie mistakes. Mistake number one relates to our society’s aversion to human body odor. But in bear country — and Yellowstone has both black and grizzly bears — body odor is good. So don’t bring anything that smells like it might be tasty or that might make you smell good. Trust me, you don’t want to smell like a meal. You want to smell like a human, not deodorant or cologne, which a bear might understandably mistake for an easy snack. Human body odor probably warns bears of our presence and therefore helps to avoid sudden close encounters with grizzlies. So leave the sweet smelling chemicals at home. Wash with water, not citrus-scented shampoo. And if you really can’t stand the smell of your pits after a few days, rub on some sagebrush or subalpine fir. Smelling like a common shrub or tree will not get you into trouble. And don’t bring scented sunscreen or bug dope. Plain old unscented repellent and sunscreen is what you need. These products don’t smell good, I know, but remember, anything that smells bad to you probably also smells bad to a bear. And that’s good!