Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Backpacking and Camping Hacks: Part II

This is the second installment of our Backpacking and Camping Hacks series.

The idea here is to give you several bite-size tidbits that you can use whenever you are living out of a tent, whether that be on a multi-week mountain expedition, or on an overnight campout...

Packed to the seams.

Extras in First Aid Kit

There are two things that live inside my first aid kit that might seem odd.

The first item is a lighter, just in case I forget one for my stove. I'm also likely to carry my first aid kit when I'm away from camp, and it's nice to always have some way to start a fire if needed.

The second item is Afrin, or some other nasal decongestant. I find it tremendously hard to sleep with a runny or stuffy nose. This medicine lives in my kit, just in case.

Pee Rags for Women

Many women use pee rags instead of toilet paper. The rag can be hung on the outside of the pack to dry after use, and can be washed in the evening. This decreases toilet paper garbage on the trail and is way better than the "drip dry" method.

There is some concern that pee rags can lead to UTIs. This is why it is important to wash the rag every night. Consistent washing will also keep the rag from smelling.

There are now products out there that are designed specifically for this use. Women may wish to check out the Kula Cloth as an option.

Prepping for Blisters

It is important to hike in your boots before a big trip. Try to break them in. And figure out if there are areas where you get hot spots on big days. Once you know where you're prone to get blisters, you can place gorilla tape, duct tape, athletic tape, mole skin or KT tape on the area where you tend to get hot spots prophylactically, before you start your hike.

Tape on the Water Bottle or Trekking Pole

Some people carry duct tape on their water bottle. I usually carry gorilla tape on my trekking poles. I like gorilla tape because I can use it on my heels if I start to get blisters and it's so tacky that it doesn't matter if I sweat. Obviously, there are a million other things I might use this kind of tape for as well.

Additional Sleeping Bag Warmth

Fill a water bottle with hot -- maybe even boiling water -- and put it in your sleeping bag. If it's too hot, put a sock over it.

Bring Food You Want to Eat

It's not too uncommon to see people trying to do some kind of a diet while in the field. That's not the time for it. When you're in the field, you should eat well and enjoy your downtime.

Weight Savings Quick Ideas

These tips are trip specific and are modular. Some things work better in conjunction with others. Use good judgement.

Before we get into the actual weight savings items, the first and best thing you can get to cut weight is a scale. Weigh your pack and then start cutting from there.
  • Cut the handle off your toothbrush.
  • Carry travel toothpaste. Squeeze out extra paste into a separate tube so you don't carry any extra at all.
  • Don't carry extras, like deodorant or a travel pillow (use clothes).
  • If you wish to read, download books in your phone and carry a battery bank to recharge.
  • Always look for the lightest gear when making purchases. Ounces = Pounds.
  • A mid-layer with a hood may allow you to leave a hat behind.
  • Carry the lightest sleeping bag possible. Don't carry extra warmth (more fill for more warmth = more weight) if not needed.
  • Use the smallest pack possible. Big packs lead to more things in a big pack.
  • Carry a Nalgene bottle and use it for both carrying water during the day, as well as for hot drinks at night. If you do this, test it at home first to ensure it won't melt if you put hot water in it.
  • Don't bring a 4-season tent, unless you need a 4-season tent. Often you can use a 3-season tent in the spring in the mountains, on the snow. You may even be able to get away with a bivy bag or a tarp, a tarp being the lightest of all options.
  • If you're on a summer backpacking trip, you may be able to leave the rain pants behind. Wear shorts on a wet day and expect your legs to be soaked. Every leaf, branch and piece of grass on the trail will be wet. In colder seasons, rain pants are a must-have.
  • Put your sunscreen in a small tube. Only bring what you need, not a large bottle.
  • Alcohol stoves are often used by lightweight thru hikers.
  • A collapsable bowl may double as a mug.
  • Bring the smallest headlamp possible for the job. You may want a lot of light on a mountaineering trip, so you might need something more substantial for that. But you can get pretty small for backpacking.
  • Bring the knife you need. It's common to see people on backpacking trips in particular with large hunting style knives. That seems excessive.
  • Titanium sporks should be used for eating.

You might also consider the book, Lighten Up by Don Ladigin. This book was designed for backpackers and thru-hikers, but many of his tips can also be employed by mountaineers.

I often repost these blogs every couple of years. If you have things to add, please leave them in the blogger comments, and I'll be able to repost those too.

--Jason D. Martin

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