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  • First aid
  • Fitness
  • Hygiene
  • Navigation
  • Nutrition and Food
  • Safety
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    34 Hacks in Hand

    1. Trail Guy suggests:

      Don’t be caught skimping on entertainment the next time you find yourself on the trail or in camp with a few hours to kill. No, I’m not talking remembering to pack your iPod Shuffle, Netflix enabled smartphone, or any number of other electronic gizmos flooding the public consciousness these days. Think outside the box, get into your surroundings, and don’t be afraid of being unconventional.

      Here are a few quirky activities that I enjoy when hiking/camping with a friend:

      - Satellite spotting in the night sky
      - Racing to see who can start a fire first without matches
      - Test your off-trail navigation skills
      - Name that tune (in my case this one helps ward off bears)
      - Assemble your tent in the pitch dark with no flashlight
      - If near the mountains, do a summit day-hike
      - Catch a fish without a fishing pole
      - Read to each other
      - Wildlife photo hunts
      - Cliff jumping – as long as there’s deep water at the bottom of course
      - Make up your own fire dance
      - Who can build the tallest cairn (rock stacking)?

      And now the shameless plug – Read other outdoor musings and get trail reviews for Washington State on my personal hiking blog – http://mytraverse.blogspot.com

      Happy Trails!

    2. TheGearHouse suggests:

      Here are a few tips for cleaning/washing your sleeping bag. Never dry clean your sleeping bag, down or synthetic. Hand washing is the recommended method though machine washing works well (in a front loader only). As for soaps, any liquid detergent will do. Powdered detergents are okay if you can get them to dissolve thoroughly.

      Here are a couple rules:

      * Use warm or cold water only; excess heat will destroy any sleeping bag.
      * Use half as much liquid detergent as you think you need.
      * Remove the spun-dry bag from the washer and place it in an extractor (a high speed centrifuge, available at coin operated laundries). One pass through the extractor will remove nearly all the water.
      * Dry the bag at a low heat setting in a large commercial dryer. Be sure the dryer actually puts out low heat. If it doesn’t, jam a magazine over the safety button so you can run the dryer with the door ajar.

      Another thing you can do when drying your sleeping bag is to add in some tennis balls to the dryer. This will help fluff the bag .

    3. Dicentra suggests:

      Don’t bonk!!

      Drink plenty of water and have a small snack everytime you stop… Ideally at least once an hour.

    4. Ralph Alcorn suggests:

      We tend towards multiweek hikes where a guidebook is required and food drops are infrequent. Three hacks we use:

      1. Always make a spreadsheet with all mileage points from the guidebook for your route. Include elevations for each point. Usually the guidebook will have them. Worst case, get them from Google Maps terrain, zoomed in to contour lines.


      More info:

      2. Repackage freeze dried meals, take freeze dried fruit instead of dried fruit. More info:

      3. Each day, rip the appropriate page out of your guidebook, and cut out the needed map page, fold appropriately and stick in a ziplock quart bag or sturdier equivalent so that map is on one side, directions on the other, and bury the rest of the guidebook and maps in your pack. That way you have a very light waterproof daily guide in your hand for constant reference. If you have a shirt with napoleon pockets (side entry) you can stuff it there for quick access. We use the ALokSak bags from REI since ziplocks only last about a week.

    5. Dave suggests:

      Here’s a little info on how to properly size and fit a pack in a video with Wayne Gregory, founder of Gregory packs. He’s also got some useful info on how to put your backpack on to get it riding right on your back (the reverse of what a lot of people suggest, Wayne says you should get it riding correctly on your shoulders before fastening the waist belt, which will put the waist belt in the right spot on your hips).


    6. Lighthiker suggests:

      Those are a few of my tips…

      First aid
      - Toothpaste can be used in an emergency to cover crucial areas if you run out of sunscreen.

      - an old trick to replace a compass: Point the hour hand of your watch at the sun. Halfway between the hour hand and 12 on the watch will be south (also works in Daylight Saving time)

      - Slip a sheet of fabric softener into your sleeping bag once home if he smells bad and you want to avoid washing him

      - When your water bladder wears out, cut off the upper two thirds and use the bottom as a bowl

      - To dry socks when it is wet outside fill boiling water into two small half liter bottles and roll your wrung-out socks over them. The odors unleashed might make a skunk gag, but by the morning. your socks will be dry

    7. Sarah Kirkconnell suggests:

      Tips on handling aggressive dogs.

      While I love dogs and don’t mind sharing the trail with them, there are times when I have had unleashed and unminded dogs approach me and my son. Often the owner will be 4 or 5 switchbacks down, well out of voice range. This also happens often when I urban walk at home.

      So what do you do when you have a slobbering, growling beast coming at you?

      If you have children with you, get them behind you. Their high pitched voice and small shape is a siren to animals. Train your kids to not approach dogs.

      Use your voice. Even if you are a tiny female, go deep and project loudly. Let the dog know you are Alpha, not it. If you have to cuss at it to get that deep – do it. Get a stance where you are not looking timid. Even if you are scared, do not show it. Treat the dog like you would a cougar.

      Use your trekking poles if you need to. Use them to keep the dog at bay, if need be use them to smack the dog’s nose. Dog’s don’t like that.

      #3? Always carry pepper spray if it is legal in your area. Learn how to use it and have it in your pocket. I consider it to be an essential outside of NP’s. You can often pick it up for a couple dollars to $10 or so a tube. It is tiny and light. Aim for the dog’s eyes. It won’t harm the dog – but it will give it a harsh lesson.

      If you get attacked and bit by a dog, report it immediately! The dog will need to be quarantined no matter what tale the owner spins to you.

    8. Dicentra suggests:

      Drink up!! If you are thirsty, you are already getting dehydrated, so drink lots of water.

    9. Jim Muller suggests:

      How To Start Winter Camping

      Where does one start if you have discovered that you enjoy overnight camping in the summer but now want to try winter camping? This list assumes you have some camping gear (backpack and sleeping bag) and at least some summer time camping experience.

      * Making the trip enjoyable should be your primary goal – not how many miles you cover or how fast you get to your destination. Some of our most enjoyable trips involved falling short of our intended destination. Frame the trip as winter camping, not winter hiking.

      * Be prepared. Research books, internet web sites, discussion boards and blogs devoted to winter camping for tips and recommendations.

      * Borrow, rent or improvise gear for your initial trips. Winter camping can be gear intensive. Snowshoes, sleeping bags, down booties, extra clothing can be expensive – especially if they are only used once. If you can’t borrow gear improvise; use two summer sleeping bags instead of an expensive down winter bag. Quality gear tends to last years so you can be stuck with something for a very long time.

      * Start by extending your camping season. Try winter camping in late March or early April when there is still snow, but temperatures are moderate and there is more daylight.

      * Take extended day hikes and prepare a meal. This is a great way to introduce kids and novices to the winter camping skills without worrying about sleeping over-night in cold temperatures. An extension of this would be to try a hut-to-hut excursion.

      * Join experienced friends and/or hiking organizations to learn the ropes. You can also use these contacts as a source to borrow your initial gear.

      * Keep it close. You only need to be outside in the woods, you don’t need to go very far in the winter to escape civilization. The closeness of your home or vehicle gives you a bail-out option if things go badly.

      * Consider a sled. If the trip is short and level you can bring additional gear by towing a sled. This lets you start with heavy gear and transition to lighter gear as you get more serious. For example, if you don’t have lightweight down booties for the initial trip you can add your Sorel Pacboots to the sled and ensure warm feet in camp.

    10. Laura Moncur suggests:

      You seem to be talking about camping as well. I wrote up a definitive list to pack for camping here. I don’t know if it will help, but it has helped me over the years.


    11. cyberhobo suggests:

      First Aid: Cactus Spine Injury

      Pull out spines with tweezers. Pull them like a tick, gripping as close to the skin as possible. It’s easy to leave microscopic bits embedded in the skin even so.
      There may be spines too small to see or pull. Coat the the area with Elmer’s glue, let it dry, and rip it off. This can remove many smaller spines.
      Wash the site, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover.

      Helpful info I got from the tubes:

      Penetrating cactus spine injury to the mediastinum of a child – good summary.
      Cactus Skin Injuries – good summary.
      Cactus Spine Injuries – good summary.
      Still removing spines after 8 months
      Cactus Bontanical Info with a good section on spine removal.
      Cactus Dermatitus – technical, but information-rich.

    12. Dicentra suggests:

      Take smaller steps. Those big long strides are hard on your knees and lower back (they compress your lower vertebre!). You may have to take a lot more steps with a smaller stride, but it will take a lot of pressure off of your knees and back.

    13. Justin suggests:

      I have all my trail crews add a quarter cup of water to their personal dish and use their spork to brush the food scraps into the water. Then they get to drink it.

    14. Susan Alcorn suggests:

      It’s always important to have clean dishes, yet sometimes water while backpacking is at a premium. I recently wrote a piece for Backpacker Magazine (April 2008) on keeping clean, etc. Funny thing is, they made some additions to my article. Interestingly, one of them was something I always do but hadn’t mentioned: lick (or use your clean fingers to wipe out) your bowl before you start washing the dishes–more food for you, less dishwashing required, less garbage to dispose off.

    15. Justin suggests:

      Do not dry leather boots by a hot fire or in the sun. The extreme heat leads to cracked leather and reduces the life of the boots.

      When out of the backcountry after a hike, use a balled up newspaper to get the rest of the moisture out of the boots.

    16. Justin suggests:

      Limit ankle flex on steep trails to reduce the strain on the Achilles tendon and the chance for tendinitis. Use the larger leg muscles to do the work instead.

    17. Dicentra suggests:

      Look to your local pharmacy for TINY zip lock bags. They are designed to hold daily med, but are also great for carrying small quantities of things – like spices or safety pins.

    18. Dicentra suggests:

      How about uses for a bandana? Every pack should have at least TWO! I came up with 75 uses, including pot holder, bandage, snot rag, origami (entertainment), and trail marker…


    19. Dicentra suggests:

      USE those trekking poles!! Your knees will thank you!

    20. Sarah Kirkconnell suggests:

      Staying Warm When It Is Colder Than You Planned For:

      A couple years ago when I was first going UL I spent the night shivering, wondering if I would survive the night. My problem was I had a 45* bag and it dipped below 32* that night! I was utterly miserable. Lesson learned.
      I now always carry one of the disposable emergency blankets ($1-2 at Walmart or any outdoor store) in all of my packs, be day or overnight.
      Last fall I used it finally – I was caught in a snow storm with a warm bag but howling winds/wet ground. I quickly lined my solo tent with the E-blanket, then put my sleeping pad and bag on top. The snow turned to a driving rain that was soaking through my tent wall near the ground, so I unrolled the blanket up the walls.
      My tent stayed dry inside, the wind didn’t come in and best of all – I could sit on the floor of my tent and wasn’t cold. I couldn’t feel the cold coming up from the ground like normal.
      In the morning I left the blanket in my tent and rolled up my tent like normal.
      It was one of the best nights sleep I have ever had in the outdoors. I now line my tent in cold weather with the blankets. If the temps drop too low you can also roll the blanket over you to trap in heat.
      You do need to make sure you have good ventilation so you don’t get condensation – but otherwise it can mean the difference between wondering if you will freeze to death and being snuggle warm.

    21. Dicentra suggests:

      Want pudding or cheesecake for dessert on a warm evening?? Freeze a nalgene full of water the night before your trip. Store it deep in your pack. The icy cold water will help your dessert set up!

    22. Sarah Kirkconnell suggests:

      Nature’s Energy Gel:

      Individual packets of honey. Yes, the packets one finds at coffee houses are what you are looking for. Need a quick boost? Rip one open and suck down.

      Cheap and it works. It also contains only one thing: Honey. Nothing fake, nothing chemically engineered.

    23. Sarah Kirkconnell suggests:

      Tasty High Fat Snack With An Added Bonus:

      Pick up single serving bags of Kettle brand potato chips. You can often find them in grocery stores at the deli. They run around $1 a bag. Ok, technically they are 2 servings. They come in great flavors, are not full of fake junk and besides being high in fat contain a lot of potassium (with a sprinkling of sodium) – which helps your body regulate the water you are drinking, encourages you to drink more water and stave’s off leg cramps.

      Think of it as a tasty and cheaper version of fancy pants electrolyte mixes. With a ton of fat.

    24. Susan Alcorn suggests:

      Don’t Reach In, Pour It Out!
      When you are sharing GORP/trailmix and other bags of food with others, everyone should pour out what they want, not reach in. Experts suggest that improper hygiene (not washing hands thoroughly after bathroom breaks, etc.) causes many backcountry illnesses such as E-coli and Giardia.

    25. Sarah Kirkconnell suggests:

      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.

    26. Philip Werner suggests:

      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.

    27. Philip Werner suggests:

      Before you start hiking up a steep ascent, eat a bunch of hard candies to get your blood sugar up. When you get to the top, eat a bunch more. You’ll be surprised much more mentally alert you become from the sugar and it will boost your performance up the slope.

    28. samh suggests:

      Strengthen Your Ankles

      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 everyday. 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.

    29. Rick McCharles suggests:

      Rob Glaser recommended hikers buy a full down jacket with hood. Very comfortable around the campsite!

      How do you justify the weight?

      Rob carries a light summer sleeping bag. And wears the down jacket to bed, if needed.

      I’m taking my first trip with my own new jacket — a Mountain Hardware Sub Zero Parka — this weekend. A climb of Mt. Adams in Washington State. And predict I’ll be the warmest hiker in my group.

    30. 4wheelbob suggests:

      Something for beginners – folks, that plastic pint bottle of water you just picked up at 7 – 11 on your way to do the Summit Trail at Mt. Diablo is not going to be enough…even in winter.

      Part of getting to know and love trails is preparation, and water is THE first key. Check out your local gear store for a nice Camelback pack or something similar. Nothing can make a trip less pleasurable than to be too warm and out of water, eh?

    31. Carl suggests:


      Take clean footwear

      This seems obvious, but I always take a pair of sandals with me for the drive back. It sucks to have to keep your heavy socks and heavy, dirty boots on in the car after a hike.

    32. Sam H suggests:

      Food & Nutrition

      Save Money on Backpacking Food

      Buy a food dehydrator, vacuum sealer and copy of Linda Frederick Yaffe’s book “Backpack Gourmet: Good Hot Grub You Can Make at Home, Dehydrate, and Pack for Quick, Easy, and Healthy Eating on the Trail”.

      Take her examples and cook up a few dozen meals for storage in a closet or the freezer and have them on hand any time you decide to take a backpacking trip. Pair her dishes with bulk granola, energy bars and whatever other dried odds and ends you like to eat while hiking and your pre-trip hassles will be minimized.

    33. Keith Barlow suggests:


      Save flashlight batteries

      You put new batteries in your flashlight and stow it in your pack or suitcase and when you retrieve the flashlight for use, the batteries are dead. Arrgghh…the flashlight got tousled and the switch slid to the on position.

      Next time, turn one (and only one) of the batteries around in the battery compartment. This keeps electricity from flowing even if the switch moves to the on position.

    34. Rick Deutsch suggests:


      Get a Whistle

      #1 safety item to carry – a Whistle. If you ever fall down a ravine you may not be able to get up or yell for help. Modern “pea-less” whistles are shrill and can save your life. I refer you to Amy Racine, who fell 60 feet, broke both legs and a hip and crawled for 3 days in Sequoia National Park – she had no whistle. Read “Angels in the Wilderness.”

      I now have a whistle on every fanny / back pack.

      Rick Deutsch -Mr. Half Dome
      Author: “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome”

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