Hike Hacker

Reboot your hiking life

How to

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


How to find gear made in somebody’s garage

The question answers itself: Why would gear crafted by hand be better than gear mass-produced in a Chinese sweatshop?

Over at my hiking blog, I amassed a nice list of links to folks who make packs, tents, gaiters, stoves and a host of other cool outdoor gadgetry. Most of it is price-competitive to high-end gear, though you can always buy a $19 tent at Wal-Mart (till 1 billion Chinese realize communism is supposed to help working people; then all bets are off).

Here’s my list of links (not all of these are specifically garage/basement/backyard built, but they are home-built businesses:)
Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 5:28 pm August 25th, 2008

How to

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

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

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

How to

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

How to

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

How to

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

Health & Fitness

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

Health & Fitness

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