Finding Happiness . . . 7 years in the making

Facebook just reminded me of my first backpacking trip. 2010 was a GREAT year!

I started off with an inexpensive pack from Big 5 and a five pound Sierra Designs Tent.

Lessons:

  1. Capacity matters: buy pack after gear otherwise you might find yourself short of space
  2. Fit matters: just like your favorite pair of jeans
  3. Pockets and compartments don’t matter: so much wasted time searching for stuff
  4. Weight matters: grams = ounces = pounds = PAIN

Thankfully I’d already discovered the world of long distance hiking, and kick ass hiker blogs, so after that miserable yet enlightening trip, I got busy making lots and lots of changes.

Since then so many miles and smiles and memories. Unforgettable experiences. I found my tribe, my happy spot. 

Link to more jabber on Long-Distance Hiking

Dear Friends & Family, If I become a Missing Person . . .

Recent missing hiker stories compelled me to do some research on how I could better prepare my family and friends should I become MIA. This is what I’ve done to hopefully be found sooner than later. 


Dear Friends & Family,

When you don’t receive two InReach checkin messages from me (usually about 12 hours apart), these are the steps to take.

1. Do a little detective work

Call my cell phone, send a locate and text message to my InReach, check my InReach map, check my facebook postings, check my google timeline, post an inquiry to my private tracking page, message me on my facebook. Search for my phone (use Google Android Tracking Manager).

If no response nor additional checkins after another 12 hours (therefore missed a total of 3-4 checkins), it’s time to get the authorities involved. Yes, there’s a chance that my InReach is broken or lost, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. My consistent checkins will help authorities understand your concerns.

2. Contact law enforcement

Who to contact? Authorities in the county, city or national park from which I last had an InReach checkin (most likely a sheriff’s department). (TIP: You can start with a 911 call and dispatchers should transfer you to the applicable jurisdiction.)

What to say? You want to file a missing persons report (there is NO waiting period to file a report).

Details you’ll need for the report (TIP: Provide your emergency contact or support team a USB drive with the following):

√ Nicknames or aliases used by the person (include trail name if applicable)

√ Address and phone number (include cell carrier so phone can be pinged)

√ Physical description, including height, weight, age, hair color, eye color, build, etc. (TIP: include copy of your driver’s license and a current photo.)

√ Description of the clothing and shoes the person was last seen wearing, include size, color and brand if known (TIP: include photos of you wearing your various layers of clothing, including hat, sunglasses, pack, shoes, etc., plus your shoe tread and print.)

√ List of possessions the person might be carrying, with name/color/model of items such as backpack and tent (TIP: include photos of your pack, tent, sleeping bag, contents of resupply box, etc.)

√ List of scars, tattoos, and other identifying characteristics (TIP: include photos)

√ List of medications the person was taking, as well as allergies, handicaps, and other medical conditions (TIP: include photo of insurance card and doctor names)

√ List of relatives or friends of the missing person, along with contact information

√ List of places the person has been recently (TIP: include your trip itinerary. ReConn Trip Record provides a detailed form. Also a link to your SPOT or InReach map if applicable)

√ Description of the person’s car with license plate, make, model, color anything unique (if applicable) (TIP: include photos)

√ Description of the situation surrounding the person’s disappearance (TIP: discuss any weather, terrain, medical condition concerns)

Keep a record of the report. Make sure you obtain a case number for your missing person’s report. Write down the name of the person in charge of your case.

3. Push officials for Search & Rescue (SAR) help. You are my advocate and need to be the squeaky wheel. Stay in contact with assigned authority. Ask them to check on any recent phone activity.

4. Contact the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). The US Department of Justice operates this system. NamUs lets you upload information about a missing person for use by law enforcement officials, agencies, and individuals. The site helps missing persons cases wrap up sooner by providing this information to the public.

5. Things you can do behind the scenes while officials are doing their thing.

√ Create a facebook group with the specific purpose of collecting and dispersing details in one place. Some have suggested Reddit is a better option.

√ Create a document/spreadsheet to help keep track of and coordinate activities.

√ Spread the word:

√ Create a post to my facebook asking if anyone has seen or heard from me and link it to a new group page asking friends to share to their page and hiker groups etc.

√ Create a flier with and have it posted at nearby trailheads, towns, roads, etc. Post the flier on the new facebook group page to be shared among social media including Instagram using most popular hash tags. The flier should include recent photos, contact number for authorities, link to facebook group page, date missing, last known location, etc.

√ Contact nearby forest service offices, ranger stations, national parks, BLM, fish and game, etc.

√ Contact nearby hospitals and coroners office.

√ Contact media (TV, newspaper, radio, etc).

√ Contact local hiking, equestrian, ATV and hunting/fishing groups.

√ Solicit search assistance (coordinate with authorities and/or SAR).

6. Stay optimistic, I’m a survivor!

I’ll do my very best to prevent you from ever needing this information. Just in case, THANK YOU for doing your very best to help find me.

♥ Jan ♥


Tips:

  • Dedicated Web or Facebook Page:

I created a private facebook page several years ago to help with the process. I post my itinerary and include a link to my InReach map. There’s also a file which includes my emergency contacts, medical information, cell phone provider, credit card info and the “what to do if” page. Photos of me, my gear, shoes, shoe tread, vehicle, license plate, typical resupply box and contents, etc. are on in a shared google album.

  • Emergency Device:

I carry an InReach because I like the signal confirmation it provides as well as the capability of two-way texting. I subscribe to the lowest level plan which is about $12/month. With that I send out a checkin each morning and evening I’m on trail, plus I send a map checkin whenever I transition between trails or go off-trail as well as when I leave and return to my vehicle. I also use it for weather updates and urgent communication. On the home screen it includes my phone # as well that of an emergency contact.

I strongly encourage carrying a device, especially when hiking solo, whether it be a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or a satellite communicator such as the InReach or SPOT devices.

  • Identification:

Keep your ID readily available for those cases when you can’t speak for yourself. I was involved in an accident where I was in shock and couldn’t answer any of the basic questions. After that I created a sheet I carry with me which has all the important information like name, address, medical history and allergies, emergency contacts, medical insurance, etc. Another option is Road ID.

  • Emergency Contacts:

Keep your phone updated with ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts. Many phones have that as a special designation so others can access without needing your locked pad code.

  • Password List:

Consider having your list available to at least one of your emergency contacts. I have mine in my Safety Deposit Box.

  • Preferences:

Notify your family and friends of your preferences. Some hikers don’t want a search activated. Be sure everyone knows so SAR resources are not wasted and families stressed unnecessarily. If you are interested in rescue, how soon do you want to be reported missing? I have mine set to 24 hours, which most likely means SAR will not be activated for another 24-48 hours.

  • Hiker Ethics:
    • Be a responsible hiker
    • Carry the 10 essentials (and know how to use them)
    • Designate emergency contact or support team and provide them with your itinerary, etc.
    • Consider taking the Wilderness First Aid course

 

Resource Links:

If you have other thoughts, please comment so I can update my post. Special thanks to all my angels who keep an electronic eye on me. I appreciate being held accountable and knowing that I have friends who CARE!

 

 

Let’s Talk Poo

Openly conversing about number two is a completely acceptable and popular topic in the wilderness, second only to food, and at times as controversial as politics and religion.

Sharing is Caring:

  • Are you healthy?
  • Are you clean?
  • Are you practicing LNT (Leave No Trace)?

There are some pretty funny videos and books out about this topic, but for this post, I’ll limit it to what’s in my kit and my methods of staying clean and healthy while practicing LNT.

My Poo Kit: Poo Kit

  • Ditty Bag – Appropriately color coded, sh*t brown of course.
  • TrowelDeuce of Spades, nothing but the best for this gal, and even better because it was in my Christmas stocking.
  • Wipes – Dried (I just open package and let air dry); Wysi are sold as dry wipes.
  • Antibacterial Wipes  I prefer unscented but hard to find; I’m still experimenting with better options.
  • Garbage Bag – Black doggy poo bags from your local pet store are a great option.
  • Freezer Bags – I like the pint size, one for antibacterial wipes and another for dry wipes.

Preparation:

The bidet bottle is filled with water and a couple drops of Dr. Bronner’s soap. My kit has 2 dry wipes and 2 antibacterial wet wipes per day, with a few extras of each thrown in for multi-day trips.

My Method:

  • Dig a hole with my trusty Deuce of Spades trowel, preferably according to LNT specifications (6-8″ deep hole, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails).
  • Prepare for the big event (essentials out and ready).
  • Do my business.
  • Spray my hiney hole with the bidet bottle.
  • Wet a dry wipe with the bidet bottle solution and clean that hiney hole.
  • Place dirty wipe in doggy trash bag.
  • Use antibacterial wet wipe for final clean of privates, front then back. It may cause drying which I counteract with A&D Ointment.
  • Place dirty wipe in doggy trash bag.
  • Find a stick or rock and stir my business, mixing well with natural elements such as dirt. It should no longer be discernible, the natural composting process has been expedited, and it’s less likely animals will find buried treasure.
  • Fill the hole with natural elements. Do NOT cover with the magic rock. It will slow down the natural composting process. If you’re in a heavy use area, you can stand a stick up in the pile which to some signifies a poo burial site.
  • Toss the poo stick or rock away from the poo burial site, making it less likely an animal will find your business.
  • Cleanse hands with another antibacterial wipe (or sanitizing gel)
  • Place dirty wipe in doggy trash bag.
  • Collect my tools of the trade and stash back into that brown ditty bag.

Epilogue:

Relax, eat, drink, hike and get ready for the next big event!

 

What’s in your kit? What’s your system?

 

 

 

 

Backpacking Gear List – First Aid / Emergency Preparedness Jabber

My BASE WEIGHT is about 14 pounds, with my EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS gear representing 5% of the weight at .7 pounds.

Click on graph for a better quality image and to activate the product hyperlinks. Right click on each hyperlink to open in new tab or window.Blog - firstaid1

Blog - first aid emergency2

Emergency Preparedness is my Insurance Plan. I pay insurance premiums and hope to never need the coverage. I carry the weight of my kit and hope to never need the supplies.

My objective is being self-sufficient for a few days in the wilderness should a first-aid or emergency situation arise. Pushing the SOS button on my InReach will not be for lack of preparedness, nor should it be for you.

This incident happened while snow hiking. The first photo is 4-6 hours after the incident. Sutures were an option but I elected to use steri-strips instead. I initially elevated, applied pressure with a bandanna, added snow to the bandanna, and hiked on with hand elevated. Had this happened on the second or third day of a five day backpack trip, I would have been prepared. Would you?

Customization:

There is no single perfect kit. Everyone is different. Create one that works for you!

  • What level of risk are you willing to take?
  • Do you have any medical conditions? allergies?
  • How well do you tolerate pain or discomfort?
  • Are you more susceptible to hypothermia or dehydration?
  • Will you be in wet or cold conditions? or scrambling off trail?
  • Will you be hiking with others? will you share?

My kit has evolved with time and experience. It’s an area I constantly evaluate as it’s easy to add an item after an incident and never need it again or find you have duplication. Even after I created this list I realized I’d added Gorilla Glue when I was having shoe problems the Superglue wasn’t fixing. No need for that duplication now that my shoe issues have been resolved. I found the mini flashlight weighs less than headlamp batteries, but most likely I’ll be ditching it in favor of my phone flashlight given I carry both an external battery and solar charger.

These are pint-sized freezer bags

Additional Considerations:

  • Emergency List (add to your hiker wallet)
    • Your personal info
    • Emergency contacts
    • Medical insurance info
    • Allergies
    • Medications, herbs and supplements taken
    • Medical and surgical history
    • Vaccination history (especially tetanus & hepatitis)
    • Physician name and contact info
  • First Aid App (add to your phone)
  • Education & Training (i.e. Wilderness First Aid, Navigation, Snow Safety, 10 Essentials).  Nothing in your kit is as valuable as knowledge and experience!
  • Emergency Device (i.e. SPOT, InReach or Beacon)
  • Multitool (scissors, knife, tweezers)
  • Paper Maps (electronics will fail, get broken or lost)

Tips:

  • Pill packets – For rarely used medications such as antibiotics, include tiny printed instructions of what color pill for what purpose, frequency of use, date of expiration and any risks such as sun exposure.
  • Resupply packages – The items I’m most likely to use I send to myself. If I don’t need them I’m happy to donate to a hiker box.
  • Single useMinumus.biz and Amazon are both great places to find single use packages of first aid supplies such as triple antibiotic ointment and alcohol pads.
  • Inhaler – Instead of bringing the housing just bring the canister. Protect the nozzle with a chapstick cap.
  • Giardia Treatment Meds – I’ve been told by several doctors it’s best to be diagnosed before self treating since many diseases and illness match giardia symptoms. They recommended I carry an anti-diarrhea medication and get to town.
  • LeukoTape Prep – The tape comes in large heavy rolls. It doesn’t seem to work as well as duck tape to roll onto itself. I’ve found using the backing of labels or postage strips works well as does unwaxed parchment paper.
  • Emergency List – I had an incident where I went into shock. The emergency personnel kept asking questions such as my address and allergies but I couldn’t remember. I had a friend knocked off his bike by a car, he was unconscious. It’s much easier to have the list. Treatment will be expedited.
  • Emergency ID – Another opportunity is Road ID. You can get a bracelet or dog tag and either register your medical info online or include emergency contact info.
  • Phone ICE Contacts – Emergency personnel are trained to look in our phones for our ICE (in case of emergency) contacts. They are usually accessible without security access.

Lightening My Load

YES, I know there are ways I can lighten my base weight. In fact in this area I could lose significant weight. I know which items I carry items others would choose to forego. My kit works for me. It’s custom, it’s mine, so for now I’ll carry the weight.

Links

Grams = Ounces, Ounces = Pounds, Pounds = Pain

Choose your pain wisely!

 

Backpacking Gear List – Sleep System Jabber

My BASE WEIGHT is about 14 pounds, with my SLEEP SYSTEM representing 16% of the weight at a little over 2 pounds.

Click on graph for a better quality image and to activate the product hyperlinks. Right click on each hyperlink to open in new tab or window.

Blog - sleep1

Blog - sleep2

Sleep System

This is probably the most important decision you will make. Finding yourself cold miles from a trailhead makes not only for a long, miserably night, but can also be life threatening. Of course, like any important decision, this one is complicated and includes many considerations.

Sleeping Bag Decisions

(1) Insulation:

DownType of down, fill weight,  baffle construction and fabric choice will affect price, temperature rating, weight and compressibility.

Water Repellent Down – Many bag manufacturers now offer this as an option, the downside is that as compared to down it is a bit heavier and has reduced breathability.

Synthetic – On the positive side, as compared to down, synthetic bags are usually less expensive and insulate better if damp; the negatives are breathability, compressibility and weight.  Tip: Based on my experience, if you prefer natural fibers and wear primarily cotton or wool, and sleep with a down comforter or cotton/silk/wool blankets at home, you won’t like a synthetic bag. I bought one, trialed it one night, found myself sweaty, and immediately exchanged it for a down bag. The cost savings wasn’t worth it.

(2) Temperature Rating:

Historically bags have been rated based on outside temperature (i.e. 25-degree bag), but since there was never a uniform method established to measure bag to temperature, this was an unreliable sales tool and a bit like comparing apples and oranges. We are starting to see labels using the European Norm (EN) 13537 testing protocol which divides temperature into upper limit, comfort, lower limit and extreme, with the comfort rating most applicable to women who usually require an extra 10 degrees of warmth. Tip: Unless you are going to have multiple bags for different conditions, I recommend a 0-20 degree bag. It’s easy to use as a quilt or go without in warmer temperatures. If you are using down, it’s important to fluff your bag well and redistribute feathers before going to bed to maximize thermal benefits. Proper storage and cleaning of down bags is also keep to maintaining loft.

(3) Shape and Dimensions:

While the most common shape may be mummy, other choices include rectangular, female-specific, hooded, wide, tall, short . . .

I’m a bit claustrophobic so when I found a wide-width, female-specific, hooded bag I thought I struck gold. The integrated pad sleeve was a bonus, or so I thought. Lessons learned: (1) the pad sleeve prevents side sleepers from being able to snuggle into their bags and positions the hood at an awkward angle; and (2) wide bags for smaller people create lots of dead space impossible to keep warm.

I was concerned initially when I switched to a mummy bag without a hood. Although I’d prefer it a tiny bit wider so I could sleep in fetal position, I’ve adapted and sleep much warmer than in my previous bag. ZPacks bag length is intended to reach your chin; they recommend increasing by a size if you want to cover head. However, it’s best not to breathe into bag as it will increase condensation. A better option is using your down puffy to regulate head/face temperature. I bought up one size so I have room to shelter my shoulders and neck.

(4) Weight and Packed Size:

Your budget will most likely affect this choice and one of the reasons you should select your pack last. Sleeping bags can take up a lot of room. Tip: Except in inclement weather, I don’t pack my bag in a compression sack, electing instead to use it to fill space around my other packed items.

Additional Resources:

REI blog on bag selection (excellent very detailed article)

Options to a Sleeping Bag:

Don’t feel married to using a sleeping bag. There are several other choices to be considered.

Quilt – These have become more popular the past few years (be aware of drafts)

Fleece Liner – For those camping in warmer climates this could be an option

Blanket – This is a great option for those on a budget

Space Blanket – Don’t laugh, I’ve heard it works

Accessories:

Pillow – Most use clothes in a stuff sack as their pillow, but lightweight inflatable pillows are now a very viable option. Tip: under inflate for improved comfort.

Liner – If you need a little extra warmth, you might consider a silk or fleece bag liner.

Sleeping Pad Decisions

The sleeping pad industry has been busy coming up with lighter, more compact, and more comfortable pads. There is nothing like a bad night’s sleep to ruin your trip. Previously I always experienced hip pain, as I’m a side sleeper, but when I found the right pad, it became a thing of the past.

(1) Type of Pad:

Closed-Cell Foam – These are a solid foam type mattress. What you see is what you get! Definitely more durable and since not inflatable, no worries about leaks. Very popular with long-distance hikers. The least expensive option.

I’m currently using the Gossamer Gear 1/8″ Thinlight Pad in conjunction with an air chamber type pad.

Open-Cell Foam – This is probably the most popular type of mattress. They usually self-inflate.

Air Chamber – These will remind you of pool blow-up mattresses. The benefit is they are light and pack very small. They are the most expensive option. Tip: underinflate to improve comfort.

While I’d prefer to use the very popular Thermarest NeoAir XLite, I can’t tolerate it’s surface noise (think potato chip bag). Thus my compromise pad is the Gossamer Gear Air Beam Sleeper mattress.

(2) Size:

Length – To save weight and space, some campers will use a torso length pad. The trade-off is contact with cold hard ground. Pads also come in regular, petite, tall and wide. Dimensions of those sizes vary by manufacturer. Tip: you can elevate feet on pack to lengthen your “pad”

Width – You’ll want to take note of the manufacturer specs. My regular size is quite narrow thus requiring me to be mindful as I switch positions.

Height – Varies considerably from about 1/2″ to 4″. Your level of comfort may be affected by the thickness of pad, but not necessarily.

(3) Temperature Rating:

This is probably the most important decision second to comfort. Look for an R-Value rating (0-6). The higher the R Value, the warmer the pad will be. Temperature transfers directly from the ground through the pad. Technology has improved the weight and size of the higher R-Value mattresses. Good resource: Section Hiker’s Blog

The Air Beam Sleeper mattress I’m using has no R-Value, thus I use the ThinLight pad on top of it when warmth is needed. To my knowledge this pad has not been rated, but it doesn’t seem to transfer cool temperatures.

(4) Weight and Packed Size:

As with your everything else, your budget will affect these variables. Pads can take up considerable space in your pack, another good reason to purchase your pack last.

Additional Resources:

REI blog on mattress selection (excellent very detailed article)

Other Decisions

Having the right bag and pad will help keep you warm and comfortable, but there are other factors which will affect a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Clothes – Having warm dry clothes to sleep in will not only help keep your sleeping bag clean but will eliminate chill from perspiration absorbed into your hiking clothes during the day. I’ve heard slightly loose-fitting clothes keep you warmer than tight fitting, of course I’ve also heard naked is the warmest.

Layering Options – Items such as hat, gloves, buff and jacket will help regulate your temperature

Shelter – Drafty shelters require more warming options (Tip: use your umbrella to shield wind, use a solar blanket on the floor)

Experience – Learning to sleep warm is a skill. The lessons I’ve learned include:

(1) Don’t go to bed cold (run around camp, do jumping jacks or sit ups, eat something fatty such as nuts, drink something hot, etc)

(2) Don’t wait to pee (if you wake up with a full bladder, you’ll make yourself colder trying to make it go away, to say nothing about ruining your sleep)

(3) When it’s really cold, fill your water container with boiling water and place in your bag

(4) If your feet are cold, place the foot of your bag in your backpack.

(4) Campsite selection can make a huge difference (shelter in the trees, away from water, avoiding low spots and ridges)

Lightening My Load

YES, I know there are ways I can lighten my base weight. But in my sleep system department, I’m about as low as I can go except for eliminating my pillow at 1.5 ounces.

Links

Grams = Ounces, Ounces = Pounds, Pounds = Pain

Choose your pain wisely!

Backpacking Gear List – Hydration Jabber

My BASE WEIGHT is about 14 pounds, with my HYDRATION gear representing 5% of the weight at .7 pounds.

Click on graph for a better quality image and to activate the product hyperlinks. Right click on each hyperlink to open in new tab or window.

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Blog - hydration2

Water is one of those necessary evils of backpacking. We can’t hike without it, but dang it weights a lot. In fact one liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds, a serious addition to your pack weight. If only dehydrated water was an option 🙂

There are two primary considerations when it comes to hydration: Vessel & Treatment

Vessel:

There are four primary categories of vessels in which to transport your liquids. Many hikers will carry more than one type. You’ll need to consider capacity and function when making this decision.

  • Hydration Bladder – Very popular, but they come with some challenges.
    • Placement in pack – Most packs include a compartment along your spine for this purpose. The challenge is knowing when the bladder needs to be refilled and how to refill without unpacking your bag (reference Sawyer Fast Fill Adapter). Tip: When I carried a bladder, I placed it on top of my pack liner with my down jacket covering it to keep it cool, and opening/hose insert face down for improved flow. 
    • Potential Leaks – Plan for the inevitable by placing all your gear in a pack liner except the bladder.
  • Bottles – Nalgene bottles are probably the most popular, followed closely by Gatorade and SmartWater bottles.

I typically carry a 700ml SmartWater bottle. I use it for my flavored beverages and for gulping or glugging water (otherwise I drink from a hose).

  • Collapsible Bags – These have become extremely popular over the past few years as a lighter more compact way to store water and are especially helpful when additional vessels are needed for long dry stretches.

I’ve tried several brands and found I prefer Evernew. The 1500ml (or 1.5L) capacity works best for me as I use the bag in conjunction with the Sawyer Squeeze filter and have a harder time squeezing larger bags.

Water Treatment:

There are five primary categories of water treatment. With plenty of opinions and choices, your choice may be somewhat dependent upon your water source and somewhat upon your concerns about water-borne illnesses such as Giardia, E. coli  and Cryptosporidium.

  • Filter – The most popular types of filtered treatment are pump and hollow-fiber membrane. You will want to compare the specs on filters to ensure you are receiving the protection expected. In my opinion, Sawyer is at the forefront and in my opinion their specs should be used as a measurement standard.
    • Pump Filters – This method was the first in modern treatment. It is labor intensive, but one of the benefits is that it can be used in very small pools of water, where filling containers for other treatment may be a problem. While pumps tend to need more cleaning and maintenance than other options, the positive is that they can be taken apart easily for infield repair and maintenance. They are also heavier and more bulky than the other options.
    • Hollow-Fill Membrane Filters – This type of filter has become very popular over the past few years, primarily because of weight, size, reliability, flexibility and ease of use. Initially the cost was about the same as pumps, but cost is continuing to decrease. In fact, the Sawyer Mini is a mere 2 oz, 0.1 micron filter that fits in the palm for your hand, with a 100,000 gallon guarantee,  for less than $25. The flexibility of hollow-fiber technology is that these filters can be used several ways:
      • Squeeze Method – Sawyer invented this technology and it has revolutionized filtering. A “dirty bag” is filled with water from the source, then connected to the filter and squeezed into your clean vessel. You can use the Sawyer PointOne or Mini for this purpose. I’ve tried both Sawyer filters and found I prefer the efficiency of the PointOne, even though it’s slightly larger and more weighty.
      • Gravity Method – I believe MSR or Platypus were the first to create this method. A “dirty bag” is filled with  water from the source. The dirty bag is hung from a tree or elevated on a rock or log, the filter is attached between two sections of hose and your clean vessel is quickly filled with no effort on your behalf. You can also use the Sawyer filters as a gravity option (tip: loosen the connection coming out of the bag to stop the flow).
        • In-Line Method – With this method, your hydration reservoir becomes the “dirty bag.” It is filled with water from the dirty source, the filter is spliced in your drinking hose. I use this method as I find it a very efficient way to filter on demand. The flow through the hose may not be quite as efficient as without the filter. Most filter manufacturers sell an adapter kit, if not, it is fairly simple to create your own, and with the new Sawyer Mini, an adapter is no longer needed. I use the in-line method as I don’t like to take time to filter. I’d rather filter on the go.
  • Chemical – Many hikers choose this method due to cost, weight and simplicity; however, there are trade-offs. If you are interested in this option, I encourage you to do some research, especially regarding time to treat, process to treat, and what waterborne illnesses you may not be treating. The main categories of chemical treatment are:
  • Ultraviolet – SteriPen is the only brand I’m aware of offering an ultraviolet solution. There are several models and just like chemical treatment, there are similar issues to be researched.
  • Boiling – This is really not an option for backpackers unless you plan to always have a campfire. The amount of fuel required to boil water for sufficient time offsets the benefits of not carrying a filter. CDC Guidelines
  • No Treatment –  There are plenty of hikers who have not gotten sick from drinking untreated water.  Decide for yourself if the risk is worth it.

Other Considerations:

  • Scoop – sometime it’s challenging to fill your vessel directly from the water source. I’ve created three light-weight scoops that all worked.
    • Capri Sun flask (top cut off)
    • SmartWater bottle (top 3/4 removed)
    • Platypus .5L bottle (bottom cut off)
  • Pre Filter – There will be times you’ll want to remove debris prior to filtering. I’ve used the following systems:
  • Field Cleaning of Filter – Sawyer provides a syringe to backflush the PointOne and Mini filters. A more efficient option is to use the blue fliptop from a SmartWater bottle.  Tip: Remember to use clean water in a clean vessel. Be aware of pressure applied).
  • Inline Option – I’ve created a system using the collapsible bottles. See below.
    • Flexible Silicone Tubing – When making your own drinking tube (1/4″ inside dimension ID, 3/8″ outside dimension OD, 1/16″ wall)
    • Insulated Hose Cover –  helps keep water cool when hiking in hot temperatures and from freezing in cold temperatures
    • Bite Valve – it’s a good idea to keep an extra in your emergency kit
    • Sawyer Adapter – attaches to both sides of the PointOne Filter. If using the Mini, no adapter is needed.
    • Jan’s Adapter – Drill a hole in the middle of a soda bottle lid. Insert a 1/4″ dual barbed connector with superglue.

Lightening My Load

YES, I know there are ways I can lighten my base weight. I could forego treatment, or replace my filter with Aquamira, and eliminate my scoop and inline accessories, but I like these items so for now I’ll carry the weight.

Links

Grams = Ounces, Ounces = Pounds, Pounds = Pain

Choose your pain wisely!

Backpacking Gear List – Electronics Jabber

My BASE WEIGHT is about 14 pounds, with my ELECTRONICS representing 20% of the weight at 2.8 pounds.

Click on graph for a better quality image and to activate the product hyperlinks. Right click on each hyperlink to open in new tab or window.

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Electronics are probably one of the most controversial gear-related topics. You’ll find lovers, haters and a full spectrum in between.

With these devices representing a whopping 2-3 pounds of my base weight, I’ve obviously decided they are an important part of my backpacking and hiking gear. Without these devices, I would be less likely to explore, especially solo, as I do not have a good internal compass and am not as proficient as I should be with map and compass navigation.

Phone

This is my all-purpose utility device. I keep it on airplane mode and use it for:

  • GPS
    • Halfmile and Guthook Apps (I use when hiking on the PCT)
    • Trimble Outdoor Navigator App (I use for navigation and tracking)
  • Resources
    • Maps (saved as PDF or as off-line document)
    • Information & Guidebooks (scanned, photographed or saved to Pocket App)
    • Fun/helpful apps (compass, identification of scat and tracks, wildflowers, constellations, peaks)
  • Entertainment
    • Music
    • Audio and E-Books
    • Camera
  • Connections
    • Instagram/Facebook Updates
    • Texting/Phone

Tips: Go prepared for phone failure. Mine has malfunctioned, I’ve broken the screen, and one time I even lost (and found) my phone on trail. Know how your apps work and practice, practice, practice. Learn the best way to conserve battery life. 

Camera

Photography plays a huge role in my hike (as evidenced by my blog). It is not unusual for me to take a few hundred photos per day. Not only do I prefer the quality of photos taken on my camera, the battery life and storage capacity is much better on my camera versus my phone. When selecting a camera, besides functionality, the other things I consider are:

  • Battery – I prefer the lithium-ion battery packs as they can be recharged in the camera (vs AA or AAA)
  • Recharge Port – Since I have an android phone, I’m able to bring just one USB/micro cord to charge all my devices

Tips:

  • The GGS DC LCD Screen Protector is a great solution for preventing scratches on non-touch screens. These are not like the cheap protectors. They are a harder plastic that doesn’t scratch, tear, peel, and is easy to clean without any degradation in visual quality. I’ve used them on my last 3 cameras and never allow myself to use my camera until one has been installed.
  • Consider WiFi memory cards (i.e. ezSh@re) if you want the convenience of transferring photos from your camera to phone for upload to your blog, instagram or facebook (without internet access).
  • If your photos are as important to you as they are to me, you may want to bring along a second battery (in case the primary battery fails), and a second memory card (in case your primary memory card fills or fails). I call this insurance!

Emergency Device

There are basically two types of devices.

  • Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)
  • Satellite Messengers (i.e. SPOT and InReach)

I purchased the InReach SE in summer 2014. I can’t say enough good things about this device. It has given me freedom and security. What do I like about this device?

  • I can send out customized “I’m okay” messages via email, texting and to my map
  • All my messages have my location embedded
  • I know whether the message was sent or not
  • My family and friend network can text me and I can reply (and visa versa)
  • I can use it for non-emergencies (i.e. coordinating transportation or to say I’m going to be late)
  • When SOS is activated, dispatch can text me for more information (i.e. type of emergency) and I can reply
  • The plan cost is reasonable and flexible (InReach Subscription Plans)
  • The battery is extremely long lasting when the device is turned off when not in use
  • It has a micro plug for recharging which allows me to carry one USB/micro cord for all my devices
  • You can receive weather reports based on current location
  • Although I don’t use this feature, it connects via bluetooth to my phone for easier texting and use of DeLorme maps

Tip: If you want to carry a standalone GPS you might want to consider the InReach Explorer which combines GPS and SOS devices.

GPS

Standalone GPS units tend to have many more features than phone apps, but can also be more complicated to use. The two most popular brands for outdoor activities are DeLorme and Garmin. There are lots of reviews and options; I don’t love mine so can’t share any recommendations.  Carrying a unit you don’t know how to use or a dead one, is just worthless weight. On the other hand, they can be lifesaving, very helpful on finding trails, staying on trails, going cross country off-trail, etc.

Entertainment

While I use my phone for my music, audio and e-books, you may prefer an electronic reader and music player. Just like everything else in backpacking it’s a personal decision.

Recharge Solutions

There are three options:

  • Device Batteries – You could bring extra batteries for each device
  • External Battery – This is the most common solution and there is a huge variety to choose from based on size, weight, capacity and price. The two most popular brands are New Trent and Anker.
  • Solar Panel – While these are not a perfect solution, they can be a good option. I’ve been using the Suntactics5 model since 2013 with satisfactory results. Considerations:
    • Works best if exposed to the direct sun (i.e. breaks)
    • When attached to pack, the device being charged needs to accept trickle charge otherwise you’ll lose the benefit as the device turns on and off when traveling under tree cover or through shaded areas. Most external batteries accept trickle charge.
    • If hiking in shaded areas (i.e. canyons) or in cloudy areas, it’s probably not worth the weight.
    • I drilled holes in the four corners and inserted Nite Ize S-Biners to attach to my pack.

Additional Tips

  • Carrying electronics on hiking or backpacking trips most likely will result in accidental damage to your device. I consider myself careful and I take extra precautions to protect my devices, but yet I’ve still had more than my share of electronic accidents. I dropped my camera in a creek, cracked the screen of my camera when I sat on it, scratched the screen of my phone on granite, scratched my camera lens . . . . So now I buy SquareTrade Electronics Accident Protection Plan for my phones, cameras, GPS units, etc.
  • Go prepared to protect your electronics in inclement weather, during freezing temperatures, in extreme heat, down scree fields, through water crossings, etc.
  • The weight and purpose need to be considered when packing electronics. If not careful, soon your devices plus batteries will add pounds to your pack.

Lightening My Load

YES, I know there are ways I can lighten my base weight. I could eliminate either the external battery or the solar charger which would save 9 ounces. I could also eliminate my camera which would save another 10 ounces. BUT I love having my camera and want the insurance of having both my solar panel and external battery, so for now I’ll carry the weight.

Links

Grams = Ounces, Ounces = Pounds, Pounds = Pain

Choose your pain wisely!