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Archive for the ‘How to’ Category

Know your knots

It used to be a pain to learn knot-tying if you didn’t have an Eagle Scout handy to walk you through all the twists. Books and pamphlets with diagrams were incomprehensible enough to convince you you’d just do something like tying your shoe in a pinch. These days the Web has tons of video knot instructions. I’m fond of a site called I Will Knot (less fond of the cheap puns but hey, it’s unavoidable). The vids are soundtrack free and straightforward.

A guy named Dan from someplace called Expert Village (great place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there) has crafted a collection of knot videos for advanced loopers. Dan sports a long beard, ties loops to his legs (and his piano’s) to demonstrate, and has a slightly junky backdrop that fairly screams “real live hiker and camper.” He also pronounces “bowline” as “bow-len” like all good sailors.

One more handy link: Seven knots every Scout should know.

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Tom posted at 11:54 am August 29th, 2008

Emergency blankets: extra warmth in a pinch

Sarah Kirkconnell left this excellent tip on the Lend a Hacks page.

  • 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-degree 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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 8:08 am August 28th, 2008

Healthy trail mix tip

Susan Alcorn shared thusly at the Lend a Hack page:

  • 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.

Susan is the author of “We’re in the Mountains, Not Over the Hill.” Check out her backpacking site.

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Tom posted at 11:36 pm August 26th, 2008

How many uses for duct tape can we count?

Duct tape Duct tape is the universal hiker’s do-all. The most obvious uses:

  1. Patching: tents, tarps, packs, etc.
  2. Preventing: Blisters. Tape your trouble spots.
  3. Splinting: Help immobilize a broken bone. (I shudder to think of how it would feel to peel it back off your skin, though.) Best to know how to immobilize a broken bone first, though.

Duct tape advice known to hikers the world over: wrap some around your hiking pole and you’ll always have a bit ready and won’t have to carry a big roll.

I know the rest of you have some duct tape tips: click on comments and add yours.

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Tom posted at 9:19 pm August 25th, 2008

Improving gas mileage: the 2000 RPM challenge

TachometerBurning less gas in city traffic all week equals more gas for long drives to trailheads on the weekend. How I’ve been scrimping on gas consumption: minding my tachometer, and trying to make sure my engine never spins faster than 2000 revolutions per minute while in town.

Stop-and-go driving is fiery death to fuel economy. It’s basic physics: it takes far more energy to get 3000 pounds of steel moving from a dead stop than it does to keep it moving because the car’s momentum helps keep the car in motion. A car’s engine generates motive power by spinning; the fewer times it spins, the less gas it burns. Easing the beast up to urban speeds has got to be more economical than kicking the throttle wide open.

When a light turns green I prefer to hit the gas, sending the engine racing to 3500 or 4000 RPM. A couple weeks back I wondered what would happen if I just picked an even number like, say, 2000 RPM, as my engine speed limit.

How it’s working out: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 7:18 pm August 25th, 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.

Got a great idea? Lend a Hack and let the world know.

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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