[Previous entry: "I owe some thanks"] [Main Index] [Next entry: "Domestic spy agency in the making/time to gulch"]
03/31/2004 Archived Entry: "Backpacking tips from Ian"
AH, SPRING. Even when it looks as if the gloom and cold is never going to depart, campout weather really will be here soon. As I depart for parts unknown, Wolfesblog blogispondent Ian McCollum offers tips for novice backpackers. Being young and able to put up with anything, he ventured out earlier than us sensible sorts and shares a few lessons he learned ...
Backpacking Tricks and Ideas
From Ian McCollum
I recently spent some time backpacking in the woods (heh - why go to a beach for spring break when you could be lugging a heavy pack through the woods?), and I noticed a number of things that did and didn't work well. I'm sure most (all?) of these will be common knowledge to regular backpackers, but hopefully some people will find something useful in what I found.
- Canister stoves (the stoves that are powered by a can of compressed gasous fuel) don't work well in the cold. They generally say this in the instructions, but they're not kidding. If the fuel canister is cold, the fuel doesn't flow well out of it. In practical terms, it's hard to light and will stall out if you do get it lit. One effective solution for this was to warm up the fuel a bit before using it. In the morning, the canister went into my companion's sleeping bag to absorb residual heat, and in the evening it went under a coat for a few minutes.
- For trips of just a few days (where weight efficiency isn't a huge issue), Campbell's chucky soups make excellent dinners. Get ones with the pull-tab lids and they're even better (no need to worry about losing your can opener). I had mine (sirloin burger with country vegetables) cold, and they were delicious. They'd be even better heated up, but I wanted to try out a trip without using a stove (the above-mentioned canister stove was used by my hiking companion for his meals). They do weigh a lot (comparatively), but on the other hand you don't have to carry water for them like you do with dehydrated food.
- Don't bother taking a pillow for sleeping. Use a stuff sack of clothes instead. Any pillow worth having would take up way too much space in the pack to be practical.
- Get boots that fit, and take care of your feet. I use thin liner socks under wool socks and Columbia boots, and with that combo I've never gotten a blister. But my companion did get a couple. Fortunately, he caught them early and treated them with moleskin and athletic tape. If you let them develop, blisters can completely ruin a hike.
- Make sure your pack fits you. Virtually all the weight should rest on your hips (via the waist belt). The shoulder straps should just keep the pack from tipping over backwards. Put the weight on your shoulders and you'll be hurting fast.
- When you stop for a break, put on a hat or extra layer (in cold weather). You generate a lot of heat while moving, and clothing comfortable for that is insufficient for sitting still. I got into the habit of layering up right upon stopping, and that kept me from getting chilly. Same goes for transitioning from standing to moving. I took off a layer just as I started to feel warm a few dozen yards after I started going, and that kept me from getting sweaty. Adding and removing a basic stocking hat was a particularly easy way to do this.
- Take some sort of pad to sit on, whether a piece of a foam sleeping bag pad or a small towel or rag. Sitting on the ground (or worse yet, a rock) drains heat out of you fast. Adding an insulating layer is much more comfortable (the padding doesn't hurt either).
- Don't forget toilet paper of some kind. A (light-weight plastic) trowel and a spot of deserted forest is often more sanitary than a campground bathroom...
Posted by Claire @ 09:25 AM CST