Hike Hacker

Reboot your hiking life

Archive for August, 2008

Great paper towel tip

Sarah Kirkconnell of Freezer Bag Cooking fame
left this ditty on the Lend a Hacks page:

  • Paper Towels
    Rip off about 8 sheets and fold in half, carry in a quart freezer bag. Use them as a “table” for prepping food, to wrap around tortillas and as well for keeping clean. Many people don’t think to carry them — they are UL and burnable as well. It also makes a great source of TP – better strength overall.

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Tom posted at 11:35 pm August 22nd, 2008

How to hold a trekking pole

The intuitive way to hold a trekking pole — reaching through the strap and grabbing the handle — is in fact the wrong way to hold it. You actually want the strap coming down across the back of your hand, parallel to your wristwatch, with the strap between your hands and the pole grip.

I made this quickie video to show the right way and wrong way:

Note you have to reach up through the strap so that it comes to rest across your wrist — not under it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 10:56 am August 22nd, 2008

How to photograph a waterfall with a blur effect

More falling waterThe best waterfall pictures create the illusion of the water blurring together. I’m not really an expert at it — I use a $250 Canon point-and-shoot — but I have the fundamentals down. The shot at right is a passable example I took on the excellent Steep Ravine Trail at Northern California’s Mount Tamalpais State Park:

If I can get this effect, pretty much anybody can, but there are a few musts: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 7:26 am August 21st, 2008

Don’t let your water freeze

Philip Werner added this tip to the Lend a Hack page:

  • If you’re hiking in cold weather where there is a chance of freezing temperatures, you need to prevent the tops of your water bladder or bottles from freezing. Turning them upside down will help prevent this. In addition, you should try to use bladders or bottles like Nalgene canteens or bottles that have a wide mouth.

Don’t keep it all to yourself, Lend a Hack.

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Tom posted at 10:58 am August 20th, 2008

GPS for hiking, a definitive intro

37557_lA buddy of mine keeps a site called Trailspotting that includes a page describing pretty much all you need to know to get started with a GPS unit for hiking.

The standard advice from all trail veterans is: anything electronic can die on you at times of critical need. Batteries go dead, devices fall against rocks. So, don’t go bumbling into the woods thinking your GPS will bail you out (for one thing, most GPS units get poor reception in deep woods). Other side of the coin: I know some folks who got caught in a Sierra snowstorm who needed their GPS units to find their way back to where their cars were parked; good thing they kept their batteries warm.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 8:42 am August 20th, 2008

Trail crew vacations

American Hiking Society offers a way-cool way to help maintain trails on your vacation time.

Here’s the Hiking Society’s page with links to outings around the country. This page lists all the outings, which are drying up at this time of year but there are still openings if you’ve got some unused vacation time lying around.

This Google news search links to a bunch of stories about trail crew vacations.

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Tom posted at 7:34 am August 20th, 2008

Strengthen your ankles

Backpacker Sam H. added this excellent tip to the Lend a Hacks page:

  • Ever roll your ankle while you’re hiking? If so then you’ve either had the misfortune of injuring yourself in the process or coming very close. A quick and easy way to strengthen your ankles that takes little effort and even littler thought is something you can do every day. In the morning and evening while you’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth, stand on one leg, feeling your ankle flexing to hold you balanced. Take turns on each foot to exercise both ankles equally.

Your hacks are always welcome.

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Tom posted at 8:18 am August 19th, 2008

Fitness for hiking: the basics

ShoeHiking is the best exercise for hikers. Walking on an uneven path with constant changes in grade and elevation work your leg and abdominal muscles in ways that won’t happen at the gym, no matter how you try. Two of the most popular exercise machines are unequal to the task:

  • Treadmill: Yeah, you’re walking upright, and you can turn up the angle to simulate hills, but with every step, the ground beneath you effectively gives way. Sure, the Earth moves, but not fast enough for your lower extremities to notice; hence, you don’t get the same exercise.
  • Stairmaster: Stepping-machines are more like walking in sand than on dirt, and they have the same problem as treadmills: they move in ways the planet does not.

Pretty much every other exercise device has similar limitations. They’re fine for working your heart and large muscle groups, but you can work in the gym like a fiend and still find yourself winded on the trail, stepping aside for veteran hikers twice your age.

So what if there aren’t any trails nearby for your daily workouts. What then? A few ideas: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 7:29 am August 19th, 2008

Water crossings: don’t go down the river

Creek crossing, Henry CoeA water crossing is often reason enough for newbie hikers to turn back and find a less obstacle-ridden path. I have abnormally cold feet but I manage to get across, which tells me pretty much anybody else can.

Not to diminish the danger: a wrong step can get you in deep doo-doo even in shallow water. From a survival standpoint your No. 1 concern is always to preserve body heat (hypothermia will kill you faster than just about anything but a grizzly attack or lightning strike). Water is body heat’s Public Enemy No.1, so walking into it is never a trivial matter, especially given Murphy’s Law of the Outdoors, which is: the harder you try to stay dry, the higher the likelihood that at some point you will get wet.

A stream crossing is just a way to embrace the wetness. On long hikes when your feet feel like they’ve been baking in Mom’s oven, a stream dip can be downright refreshing. A few things I figured out the hard (and wet) way: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 1:39 pm August 16th, 2008

Your first hike: what every newbie needs to know

The snake was THAT longHiking is just walking farther from the neighborhood, right? So why bother?

  • No car exhaust: The air’s cleaner the farther you get from the main road.
  • Much better exercise: Hills offer better resistance, and uneven terrain works far more muscle fibers than flat surfaces like asphalt and concrete.
  • Nature is more interesting: You learn how the world really works by watching seasons change, experiencing the pull of gravity, seeing wild animals.

Before you leave the house you have to answer three questions:

  1. Where are you gonna go?
  2. Who are you gonna go with?
  3. What will you take along?

Each one, in order: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 10:37 am August 15th, 2008