2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Water, Water, Water


Lessons Learned:

  1. Water is heavy
  2. Invest in your formula
  3. Don’t carry what you’re not going to drink
  4. Cow slobber/sh*t water needs flavoring
  5. Trial and error is required to find your vessel and treatment solutions

How Much to Carry?

At 2.2 pounds per liter, water is one of the heaviest items in your pack. So rather than arbitrarily starting a trip with 3-4 liters, I’ve learned it’s better to research available water sources. I’d much rather stop every few miles and replenish my water supply than carry the extra weight.

Figuring out how much to carry is based on a formula adjusted for conditions.  It takes time to build your own formula.

I drink more when I’m:

  • hot
  • ascending
  • at altitude
  • snowshoeing

When I started backpacking, I would track how much water I was carrying and how much I had left when I got to a water source. Then I could calculate how much I was drinking per mile and per hour based on conditions. The goal was to get to a reliable water source with none or very little in my pack.

This gets trickier in unreliable water areas and since I worry about dehydration I tend to carry extra as insurance.

Unless you camp near water, you also need to calculate how much water is needed for dinner, breakfast as well as hiking to camp and to the next water source. In general 3 liters is my magic number.

How to Carry?

I’ve found through trial and error that I like soft water bottles like Evernew. I have one marked for dirty water. The 1500ml size is my preference. I sometimes also carry a 600ml plastic bottle for when I want to add flavorings to my water. I’ll be testing CNOC 2L Vecto bags over the upcoming months.

I started with a bladder in my pack but discontinued because I didn’t like

  • worrying a about a leak
  • not knowing when I needed to refill
  • taking apart my pack to refill

I’ve tried a variety of bottles and while they work for some people they never found a permanent place in my pack.

Capacity is a consideration. I prefer smaller 1.5 liter storage containers to 3 liter because they fit my hands better and I feel like I have more flexibility when it comes to how many to fill. However, I switch to 3 liter in the desert where I have to carry larger quantities between sources.

Remember water is heavy, so figuring out where to carry that weight in your pack is an important consideration.

How to Treat?

Like most other things in backpacking I’ve tried several different systems. I currently use the Sawyer Squeeze filter although I prefer using the water treatment tablets such as Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets. I will be testing the Katadyn BeFree filter over the upcoming months.

Prefilter/Scoop:

Filter:

  • I squeeze from my “dirty” Evernew bottle into a clean bottle (I use a black hair tie around top to flag as dirty).
  • It’s time consuming.
  • I’d prefer using inline so I can scoop and go but the current Squeeze version doesn’t work.
  • I really hate protecting the Sawyer Squeeze from freezing and have had to replace a couple times when I’ve forgotten (sadly the BeFree has the same issue).

Chemical:

  • Carrying water for 20-40 minutes without being able to drink is not very weight efficient
  • I like drinking at a water source (cameling up) so I can be hydrated without carrying extra weight but with chemical treatment it’s not an option.
  • I’m lazy and sometimes compromise especially in cooler temperatures.
  • I prefer Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets over Aquamira liquid drops.

Flavoring and Additives:

  • Although I prefer unflavored water, I’ve had to in nasty situations especially in cattle country.
  • There are a lot of options but my favorites remains cold coffee or Orange/Grape Crush.
  • Electrolytes are important when sweating and drinking a lot. There are plenty of options but I’ve found I prefer to eat pink Himalayan salt rather than having flavored water.

How to Drink?

I prefer drinking from a hydration hose as I’m hiking. I can’t reach bottles easily and don’t like to stop to drink. I got the Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System to use with my Evernew bottles (ebay is best reseller). Many attach their Sawyer directly to a bottle and squeeze as they go. This can be an efficient system.

How to Clean?

When I get to town, it’s time to refresh my water systems. My preference is to use a little bleach in my water bottles, drinking hose, etc. If I’m on a long-distance hike without access to bleach I use denture tablets. Backflushing the Sawyer Squeeze takes a bit more effort than simply using the provided syringe or another system. I’ve had the most success following Sawyer’s advice of soaking it in a very vinegar hot water solution before banging the sides and flushing. I’m hoping for easier maintenance with the BeFree system. I know it won’t last as long at an estimated 250 gallons versus 100,000 gallons with the Squeeze. I average 1-1.5 gallons a day when backpacking and usually backpack at least 60 days per year so that means around 100 gallons per year. At less than $20, I consider it reasonable to replace my filter every year or two.

When and How to Cross?

Water crossings are an accident waiting to happen. I’ve had several minor injuries trying to keep my feet dry. Logs and rocks can be tippy and slippery. Vertigo is common when looking at rushing water. If I have a choice I’ll typically walk through (ford) rather than worry about injury. In swift water, I carefully evaluate crossing options. I honor the saying, “turnaround don’t drown” when I can’t find a safe crossing. Camping and waiting until morning is an option during snowmelt.

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Electronics and Technology


Lessons Learned:

  1. A good power bank (battery) is essential.
  2. Invest in learning how to use devices and apps.
  3. Apps have improved my experiences.
  4. Electronics are a tool but dead weight if not utilized.
  5. Photography is a huge part of every adventure.
  6. Accident insurance is worth every penny.

Although hefty, electronics have become a weight penalty I’m willing to accept as I find great value and enjoyment from technology. I still prefer carrying a camera to using the one on my phone as I don’t find the quality comparable. Additionally my phone uses far more battery than my camera. I also prefer map apps on my phone to a GPS device. I find phone apps to be more user friendly with more flexibility. Having a satellite communication devise is non negotiable. It holds me accountable and keeps me more responsible while also offering a safety and security.

Phone:

Rarely do I have cell signal while hiking and backpacking. I keep my phone on airplane mode and primarily use it for the following functions:

  • Map Apps – I currently use Gaia as my primary digital mapping and tracking app. I pay for premium membership which includes helpful layers such as National Geographic, National Parks, USFS, snow levels, fire history, geology, etc. You can find great tutorials on YouTube and the Gaia blog. I also use Avenza and wrote this blog post with helpful tips, Hiking with Geospatial PDF Maps (Avenza).
  • Trail Specific Apps – There are general apps such as All Trails and REI’s Hiking Project which help you find nearby trails and provide user comments as to current conditions.
  • Park Specific Apps – I’ve gotten in the habit of checking the app store before going to a State for National Park as often they have their own apps which are helpful in planning and gaining insights.
  • Identification Apps – This is one of my favorite features of smart phones. I have several wildflower apps. It’s worth checking to see if there are ones specific to a particular area you’re visiting. Another favorite app is Peak Finder where I can take a photo of mountains and it adds names and elevations. It helps me later when I’m looking at my photos. Other fun apps I use are related to geology, astronomy and scat and tracks. I also have helpful apps such as ones focused on first aid, knots, and slope angles. One in particular helps me level my car when using it as a sleeping vehicle.
  • E-Books – I spend a lot of my down time reading so having books available on my phone is a necessity.
  • Screen Shots – I use this in conjunction with my maps to note location on map showing feature I may have photographed with camera. I also use it to note time I was at certain places and the associated stats from my tracker.
  • Camera/Video – I tend to use my phone for selfies and videos.

Battery life is an important feature for me since I’m fairly dependent on my phone, especially as a navigational aid. It’s at the top or near the top of the list when I’m looking for a new phone. Tip: investigate best ways to extend battery life on your particular phone.

Satellite Communicator:

My inReach is my security blanket, plus it keeps me accountable and responsible. I’m diligent about using it consistently so if my pings disappear hopefully someone will notice and begin the process of finding out if I need help or if I had a technology failure.

The key function is SOS which utilizes a satellite network. After carrying this device for several years, I had to push the SOS button in 2018. It worked as expected. Be sure to set up your emergency contacts online in advance. Here’s the link to the details of my experience: Life Interrupted . . . Forever Grateful for the SOS Button

One of the reasons I chose inReach over other units was the two-way texting option. Competitor products may have this as a feature now as well. Not only do I use this for check-ins but also for urgent issues. Examples:

  • While hiking the PCT in Washington, my power bank (external battery) was failing. I was able to contact a friend who had a replacement shipped to my next resupply town.
  • It had been raining for multiple days and I wanted/needed a hotel room. I texted a friend and she made a reservation and texted back with confirmation.
  • My mom fell and broke her hip. My niece messaged me and I was able to stay in touch while she underwent emergency surgery.

Most of these devices require a subscription service. Garmin has several plans including a flexible option which allows for putting the unit on vacation mode. Since I’m on a budget I have the safety plan which includes unlimited preset messages. This allows me to have tracking without paying the tracking fee. I send a message at the beginning and end of my trip indicating the location of my car, every evening and morning from my campsite, and each time I change trail or find myself crossing sketchy terrain including uncomfortable water crossings. I can also text any major change of plans.

I’ve been using this unit for many years without incident. I consider it an essential item and wouldn’t hike without a satellite communicator.

Camera:

While phone cameras have significantly improved over the past decade, I still prefer my camera for a few reasons.

  • Battery Life – I can usually get about 500 photos per battery on my camera, which can then be recharged from my external battery; however, I usually carry an extra in case of battery failure. I’ve also had memory card failures so I keep one in my emergency kit. Yes there is a small weight penalty for these non-essential items but because photography adds to my experience it’s worth it to me. Taking photos on my phone drains the battery quickly.
  • Photo Quality – I’ve never had a phone that takes the same quality images.  When I compare side-by-side photos taken at the same time, there is no contest. If I were just taking photos for instagram or facebook, my phone would be fine.
  • Photo Processing – I takes tons of photos. It’s rare I come back from an outing with less than 500-1000 images. I download the memory card to my computer where I can review, edit, organize, back up and share.

External Battery (Power Bank):

  • Size – There are lots of options from which to match your needs. I carry an Anker with 10,000 mAh. It usually keeps my phone charged for up to a week, even while running my Gaia tracker, plus if needed I can use for camera, inReach and headlamp. Anker has been a reliable brand for long distance backpackers for many years. You’ll want to do plenty of research to determine price, weight, fast charge, input/output options, etc. This Anker power bank (Amazon link) is a good starting point.
  • Cords – I found short cords to provide more efficient charge than longer ones (Amazon link). Research indicates it’s most efficient to recharge your phone when it’s no less than 30% and to stop at 80%.
  • Wall Charger – If you plan to recharge along your journey, you’ll want a light, small and fast charger. Once again I recommend Anker but don’t have one to recommend as I haven’t done the research recently.
  • Solar Charger – There are very few instances I’d carry a solar charger. Those include when I plan to be out for more than a week and/or I’m primarily dependent on my phone for navigation. Even then I’d be more likely to bring two power banks. The reasons are:
    • Weight of solar charges are usually more or similar to a power bank.
    • You still need to carry a power bank as few devices accept the trickle charge provided by a solar charger.
    • You need to be disciplined about placing the solar charger in direct sun during your breaks (while keeping the power bank in the shade)
    • Solar charges aren’t very efficient when they aren’t in the direct sun for long periods of time. While you can mount on your pack, the panels are rarely in alignment with the sun.

Insurance:

I have a history of having accidents with my electronics while hiking.

  • Camera #1 – dropped in a creek, but rescued and saved with the rice/freezer method, only to break the screen a few months later when I sat on it on a concrete bench.
  • Camera #2 – chipped the lens

Then I discovered Squaretrade Accident Insurance.

  • Camera #3 – dropped in the sand, outside my insurance period. I think I might have bought 2 years, now I buy 4 years.
  • Camera #4 – dropped in the sand. Sent in for repair under accident insurance.
  • Camera #4 – dropped on rock, shattered screen. Sent in for repair under accident insurance.

When I purchased my inReach and my phone, I added the insurance. It’s worth the peace of mind knowing something might happen on that first outing. The cost is very reasonable and is related to the price you paid for the item.

Loss Prevention:

  • Add your name and phone number to your items to help it find it’s way back to you
  • Add some duck tape or other easily identifiable tape to make it easy to differentiate your items from another hiker especially in areas where you might be sharing recharge plugs.

Related Posts:

Links:

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Campsite Selection


Lessons Learned:

  1. Weather conditions should be a primary consideration.
  2. Views with a flat sleeping surface are my highest priorities.
  3. Being near water isn’t necessary.
  4. Condensation sucks.
  5. Campfires are overrated.

I rarely plan my campsites in advance preferring to hike until I’m tired or until I find an amazing view or setting. As the afternoon grows long I’ll start looking at my maps. This is where learning to read topography lines helps, although they only tell part of the story. Reality may mean rocky or wet terrain, or you might find a bunch of down trees or widowmakers from recent fires. There might be a lake but it might be surrounded by willows making access nearly impossible. Of course there is always the possibility you might find fresh bear scat or a bunch of other humans. Since I rarely use campgrounds or stay in areas requiring permits, my tips are primarily for dispersed or wild camping.

Severe Weather:

  1. Wind
    • Hide in the trees to minimize direct gusts (avoid widowmakers)
    • Position your shelter with narrow end into wind
    • Avoid sandy areas or you might get sandblasted
    • Secure tent with stakes prior to erecting
    • Reinforce stakes with rock weights
    • Use extra guylines
    • Pack earplugs if you’re a light sleeper
  2. Rain
    • Avoid low spots where rain might puddle under your tent
    • Consider semi-open areas or you might hear drip drip drip from the trees all night
    • Usually rain is accompanied by wind
    • Pack earplugs if you’re a light sleeper
    • For multiple days of rain while backpacking
      • Add a polycro sheet to line inside of tent as many tents will wet through even with ground cloth
      • Add a plastic garbage bag to keep wet stuff separated from dry stuff
      • Add kitchen gloves to wear over your regular gloves
      • Consider a rain poncho
  3. Cold
    • Avoid damp areas near creeks and meadows as they tend to be chillier
    • Pay attention when hiking toward end of day as you may feel temperature drop zones
    • Sheltered campsites are better to minimize wind chill
  4. Lightning
    • Avoid areas where you are the tallest object or where you are near the tallest object.
    • Avoid being on surfaces such as granite where lightning radiates rather than absorbs.
    • Most likely you’ll experience rain and wind with the lightning.
    • Try to find a dry surface to camp on as water conducts electricity.

Condensation:

You can minimize condensation by

  • selecting a campsite that isn’t damp or near wet meadows
  • encouraging ventilation by finding a little breeze and leaving doors open

I prefer sleeping without my rainfly so I prioritize finding locations that are less likely to generate condensation.

Ground Surface:

An air mattress can temper ground imperfections, but slope can interrupt sleep.

  • Lie on your tent or ground sheet prior prior to erecting your tent to determine if ground is sufficiently flat (I need my head higher than my legs).
  • If the door needs to face a particular direction consider sleeping on the opposite end if that’s how the ground slants.
  • If your mattress is sliding around inside your tent consider adding a few drops of tent sealer to the bottom of the air mattress or a few stripes on the floor. Sleeping at an angle helps at times.

Dry Camping:

The group I started backpacking with were destination campers. Usually the goal was to camp near a lake or creek which makes for easy water collection and camp cleanup. Having water nearby also makes it easier to follow campfire rules.

When I started long distance hiking, I found the joy of hiking until I was tired and then finding a place to set up camp. It was great not having to reach a particular destination. I just needed to be aware of water sources and collect adequate water for the night and morning.

Spending time in areas with limited water made it evident animals would be nocturnal visitors to those sources, making these areas less safe and noisier. Another benefit of camping away from water is fewer bugs.

I’ve also learned over time I prefer quiet campsites, free of loud water sounds like those made by crashing waves or raging waterfalls. Trickling streams or soft creeks add white noise, but for the more gregarious I need my earplugs.

Compromise:

  • I give up views frequently when I’m long distance hiking as I can’t plan for premier campsites.
  • Group camping dictates use of previous campsites to ensure LNT whereas when solo camping provides a lot more options.
  • Companions may have different preferences. For example if you’re hiking with a hammock user or someone with a large tent footprint, your priorities may become secondary.
  • When solo, I might spend an hour looking for the perfect campsite whereas I’d never subject a companion to such craziness.

Leave No Trace Principles (link):

“Selecting an appropriate campsite is perhaps the most important aspect of low-impact backcountry use. It requires the greatest degree of judgment and information, and often involves making trade-offs between minimizing ecological and social impacts. A decision about where to camp should be based on information about the level and type of use in the area, the fragility of vegetation and soil, the likelihood of wildlife disturbance, an assessment of previous impacts, and your party’s potential to cause or avoid impact.”

Links:

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Navigation and Planning


Lessons Learned:

  1. All miles are not equal.
  2. I’d rather hike than plan.
  3. Flexibility and back-up options are good plans.
  4. Learning to read maps is a valuable skill.
  5. Navigation skills are gained through experience.
  6. Being lost or disoriented is frightening.

Planning:

  • I remember being a planner. I enjoyed the process but somewhere along the line it became more of a burden and I learned to be prepared but not to worry about the details. This philosophy works better when:
    • I’m hiking solo and don’t have to provide expectations or details to others
    • My time is flexible and I can enjoy the journey rather than worry about being driven by time and location
  • These days planning for me includes:
    • Usually having a paper map.
    • Downloading digital maps for offline use.
    • Photographing pages from my trail books or taking screen shots from web pages or saving web information to an offline app such as Pocket.
    • Obtaining permits and getting updated trail/road conditions information from ranger stations and visitor centers.
    • How many days of food do I want to carry?
    • Where’s my first water source?
    • How do I get to the trailhead?
  • Many hikers like to plan for each night’s campsite with daily mileage goals. With limited vacation, many have to get permits 6 months to a year in advance. The process becomes more complicated the more people in a group. This process leads many to what I call analysis paralysis whereby worry or detailed thinking takes priority over actually doing.

Mileage:

Predicting daily mileage is a huge challenge since a trail is rarely consistent. These factors slow me down:

    • Heat
    • Technical terrain
    • Trail obstacles
    • Sustained elevation gain
    • Routes requiring navigation skills
    • Carrying too much weight (usually water or seasonal extras)
    • Being out of shape

I track most of my hikes using a phone app. I’ve done this for many years and one of the best tools is daily mileage per hour versus active miles per hour. The daily average takes into account breaks, for me that means a lot of photo and breathing stops. I also pay attention to elevation gain and loss since those affect my average and also are a telltale sign of my current fitness level.

Navigational Skills:

  • Map Reading – I love maps, so learning to decipher the details has been fairly easy although there are still a few things that give me pause. There are plenty of resources to help you gain map and compass skills but practice and curiosity have been my keys.
  • Digital Maps and Tracking – Using the tracking feature on digital maps has improved my skills and confidence in areas such as these:
    • I can compare where I think I am intuitively to where I am in reality.
    • When a trail disappears on the ground, I can verify that I’m nearby and heading in the correct direction.
    • When there isn’t a trail, I can verify I’m heading toward my trajectory and can adjust based on topographical lines.
    • I like to mark my track with waypoints that might be useful on future trips or during my exit such as water sources and campsites. I’ll indicate whether the water source is seasonal or is a wet feet crossing.

I currently use Gaia as my primary digital mapping app and pay for premium membership which includes helpful layers such as National Geographic, National Parks, USFS, snow levels, fire history, geology, etc. You can find great tutorials on YouTube and the Gaia blog. I also use Avenza and wrote this blog post with helpful tips, Hiking with Geospatial PDF Maps (Avenza).

I don’t have an internal compass or landscape memory. I work really hard at “staying found” as they say when teaching map and compass classes. I know I’d struggle if I couldn’t depend on my phone but I’m very aware of that possibility and try to take precautions. Obviously I could drop and break it, lose it, or run out of battery (although I carry an external battery to minimize this risk).

Itinerary and Safety:

I’m the first to admit that I’m not very responsible when it comes to leaving a detailed itinerary with friends and family. Of course this directly relates to my lack of planning, and even more so to my disdain to commitment. My way of staying responsible and accountable is a little different than many but works for me.

  1. I have a network of friends/family who I text my loose itinerary which basically says the trailhead from which I plan to start, how many days of food I’m carrying, and my exit date ETA.
  2. I’m faithful about using my inReach for check-ins. I send a message at the beginning and end of my trip indicating the location of my car, every evening and morning from my campsite, and each time I change trail or find myself crossing sketchy terrain including uncomfortable water crossings. I can also text any major change of plans.

I wrote this blog post after working with SAR teams on rescues where they lost significant search time not having this information, Dear Friends & Family, If I become a Missing Person . . .

Links:

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Solo, Partner or Group


Lessons Learned:

  1. Finding available and compatible partners is challenging.
  2. Being in the right place at the right time opens opportunities.
  3. There are pros and cons to each option.

Groups:

As is common, I started my backpacking career by joining an adventure group where more experienced folks would host outings. It’s a great way to meet people, learn about trails and gear. These trips created some great memories with lots of laughter and fun. Naturally, subgroups were formed based on compatibility and personality. I’ve also taken advantage of permit opportunities by joining up with a group when invited.

  • Positives:
    • Introduction to trails and gear
    • Mentorship by the more experienced
    • Safety in numbers
    • Shared gear and knowledge
    • Assistance available
    • Unlimited conversation
  • Challenges:
    • Group think and decisions can be sluggish
    • Conflict is common between the slowest and fastest hikers, the bossy and the timid, etc.
    • Sticking to a planned itinerary is more important
    • Campsite choice is more limited
    • Breaks and chores seem to be more lengthy
    • Less likelihood to see wildlife and to experience silence

My worst experience was with a guy who did a great job planning and communicating our group trip. We met several times in advance to talk about the itinerary, gear and logistics. However, on our first day as we carpooled to our destination, the plan was already falling apart. The next day, was even worse as the planned miles became a march for more and more which was a problem for at least one participant. This person was shy and wasn’t able to say this isn’t working instead she trudged on getting hurt and being miserable as a result. Another member was really upset as he’d scheduled time off work and now the leader was pushing to end the trip early. All in all it was poor communication and revised itineraries that weren’t in the best interest of the group.

Partner(s):

If you are dependent on group outings, you may find yourself limited on number of trips per year. Are you available when those trips are scheduled? Do you want to go where they are going? Finding one, two or three friends or adventure buddies might be easier.

Is two the right number? If you have a compatible partner, it might be perfect. It takes time to find that partner and they might not be the perfect one in all situations. It’s rare that compromises aren’t needed.

How about three or more? Sometimes having a third member of the team helps with decision making and provides additional conversation and perspectives. Much like groups, the more there are is not necessarily merrier. I consider more to mean more complicated.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about this very issue (Partnership Commitments, Compatibilities & Compromises). You might find it a useful tool although I’ve learned some people don’t necessarily have enough self-awareness or experience to answer the questions honestly. Perception vs reality may be quite different, or might be biased in favor of an opportunity no matter what.

Some of my best memories are with companions. If you’ve followed me on my jaunts, you know that my Team J&J (Jan and Joan) adventures have been epic. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Joan has supported me and I her. We bring to our team unique skills and perspectives, where one may be weaker the other stronger. We’ve tested our friendship and compatibility by working together to overcome challenges. I’ve shared more miles with Joan than any other companion and look forward to many more J&J jaunts.

Solo:

This is the ultimate freedom. Pick your time, date, location. It’s easier to get permits and to find campsites. All decisions are yours and yours alone. But there are some negatives:

  1. Fun – Having the right partner or group can make the adventure more fun. I love being silly, laughing and giggling, singing and dancing. Those elements are missing when I’m solo.
  2. Sharing – I enjoy sharing moments and miss not being able to do that in the moment. Sure I can take photos and share on my blog later but it’s not the same as witnessing something special together.
  3. Decision Making – I might be more conservative when solo, or at least more cautious. The consequences for a mistake are bigger.
  4. Assistance – Having a friend who can help with obstacles is a huge advantage. I have to work harder getting over and around things solo. I also might turn around if it’s something I worry about not being able to get back up or down. If I were to get hurt, it’s up to me to figure out how to get out or get help.
  5. Equipment Failures – You need to be fully self supported and know how to make the best of a situation when you don’t have a friend with items to share if yours breaks such as water filter, stove or electronics.

When hiking solo, I’m more in the moment. I don’t have any distractions. I stop when I want to stop. I can take tons of photos, or sit by a stream or lake. I can go swimming or spend a day reading. I might want to hike off trail to the top of a ridge. I’m a slow hiker so it’s nice not feeling the pressure to go faster or keep up. But I cherish my partner and group times. Those are some of my best memories. I like mixing it up. I’m grateful for those who are willing to compromise on my behalf so we can hike together.

Links:

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Bug Management


Lessons Learned:

  1. Prevention is better than consequences
  2. Pesky pests are my enemy
  3. Be prepared for war
  4. Life is better with pain and itch relief
  5. Evasion is a great solution

Prevention:

  • Pre-Treatment

I consider Sawyer’s Permethrin my secret weapon in this war against unwanted pests. I spray my hiking garb (long sleeve shirt, skirt, tall gaiters, shoes, gloves and hat), as well as my pack and the mesh on my tent. This treatment lasts 6 weeks or 6 washings so I usually try to time it with my first big bug outing. Tip: read the instructions especially regarding cats and also take precautions to protect yourself.

  • Protection

I prefer wearing body armor in the form of clothing rather than repellent, but since I’m also sensitive to heat I usually have some exposed skin that needs protection.

      • Clothing – long sleeve shirt, skirt, tall gaiters, shoes, gloves and hat plus headnet
      • Chemical – I start with least harmful and work my way up the spectrum if needed. These are my product preferences for ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes.
  • Evasion
    • Running is not a great solution, but it does work for short stretches.
    • When all else fails, hide in your tent. That’s my tactic during those highly pesky dusk and dawn hours.

Treatment:

I tend to get bacterial infections from bites and am extremely sensitive so for me it’s worth carrying something for pain and itch management.

First Aid:

  • Tick Key (don’t forget to save the tick)

Gnats:

These things are evil. They drive me batty and it seems they show up when I find myself without my headnet. One little trick I’ve learned is to hang something from my hat or buff that swings in front of my face while walking. I find that tall dry grass works best but I’ve also used pine needles.

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

 

 

 

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . What’s In My Pack?


Lessons Learned:

  1. It’s an evolving process of trial and error.
  2. Choices are unique.
  3. Compromise is expected.
  4. Keep it simple.
  5. Weight matters.
  6. Plan for repairs, revisions and replacements.
  7. Label your stuff; loss happens.

Base Weight:

My standard base weight is 14-16 pounds. The items in italics are seasonal/conditional extras.

  • Pack
    • Gossamer Gear Mariposa
    • Gossamer Gear Pack Liners x2
  • Shelter
    • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 with ground cloth
    • Gossamer Gear Titanium Hook Stakes 6.5″ x 8
  • Sleep System
    • Custom DIY Quilt (modified from ZPacks 900-fill down 10-degree bag)
    • ZPacks Dyneema Dry Sack (for quilt when raining)
    • Big Agnes AXL Air Mattress (replaced with Thermarest Xtherm when temps drop below freezing)
    • Gossamer Gear 1/8″ Thinlight Foam Mattress (also part of pack frame)
    • Klymit Medium X Pillow with Buff as pillowcase
  • Kitchen
    • Jetboil Ti-Sol Stove and Cookpot (no longer sold) (in water shortage areas I’ll forego cooking)
    • Ziploc Twist ‘N Lock 12 oz container (for rehydrating meals)
    • Nylon Ditty Bag and 1/4 Sheet Disposable Towel
    • Sea to Summit Long-Handled Spoon
    • Ursack and Opsak (replaced with Bear Canister when required)
  • Hydration
    • Sawyer Squeeze, Full Size (may use water treatment tablets instead in below freezing temps)
    • Evernew 1500ml Bags, quantity 2-4 with one marked as dirty bag (may bring 700ml SmartWater Bottle)
    • Scoop and Prefilter (made with Platypus 0.5L, Steripen Filter Cartridge and, SmartWater Bottle Flip Top)
    • Insulated Tube, Mouthpiece and Bottle Adapter
  • Sleep Clothes
    • Icebreaker Merino Tights
    • Ibex Merino Hooded Long Sleeve Top
    • Smartwool Merino Socks
    • Smartwool Merino Glove Liners
    • DIY Down skirt, slipper leggings, mittens (winter below freezing conditions)
    • DIY Microfleece Balaclava
  • Clothing Layers
    • Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket
    • Patagonia Hooded Houdini Rain/Wind Jacket
    • Melanzana Beanie
    • Gloves/Mittens (various depending on conditions)
    • Rain Gear (Frogg Toggs UL Jacket, Pants and/or Poncho)
  • Extra Clothes
    • Underwear x1
    • Injinji Toe Socks x1
  • Toiletries
    • Poo Kit (Bidet, Dry Wipes, Dr Bonners, Deuce of Spades Trowel, Doggie Poo Bag, DIY Ditty Bag)
    • Toothbrush, Paste and Floss
    • Eye Drops
    • Lotion with Sunscreen
    • Foot Ointment
    • Ibuprofen and Vitamins
    • Lens Cleaner
    • Disposable Towel (1/4 size)
    • Earplugs
    • Odor Neutralizer Bar
    • Diaper Pins
    • Ziplock (pint size freezer bag)
  • Electronics
  • First Aid and Emergency Preparedness
    • Inhaler primary and backup
    • Pain reliever (ibuprofin, excedrin, norco)
    • Stings/bites (benadryl, pepcid, anti-itch & antibiotic ointments, antiseptic and alcohol wipes)
    • Blisters/cuts (Leukotape-P, gauze, moleskin, steri-strips, needle)
    • Tummy/intestinal (pepcid, imodium)
    • Heat exhaustion/dehydration (Pedialyte)
    • Repairs (super glue, tenancious tape, needle and floss)
    • Hydration tube bite valve (backup)
    • Chapstick (backup)
    • Hairband (backup)
    • Water treatment drops (backup)
    • Mini lighter and fire starter
    • Emergency Poncho
    • Sharpie for notes
    • Ziplocks x2 (pint size freezer bag)
    • Compass
    • Multitool (Leatherman CS)
    • Pepper Spray (grizzly spray when applicable)
    • ID, emergency contacts, medical history, advanced directive, permits in opsak
  • Miscellaneous (seasonal/situational)
    • Bug Management:
      • Bug headnet
      • Bug repellent
      • Tick Key
    • Sunscreen
    • Umbrella (rain and sun)
    • Excessive Rain
      • Polycro Sheet (layer in tent)
      • Larger plastic bags (use to separate wet gear during night)
      • Utility gloves (layer over merino or separate to keep hands dry and warm)
    • Snow/Ice:
    • Desert:
      • Comb and full size tweezers (jumping cholla)

Things I Don’t Carry:

  • A chair
  • Camp shoes
  • Extra hiking clothes
  • A weapon, hunting or fishing gear

Things I Wear and Carry:

Things I’ve Carried Since My First Trip:

As I reviewed my list, I realized I’ve changed everything over the years. There are quite a few items I’ve carried at least 5 years, in fact many probably 7-8 but even those might have been modified. This kit keeps me comfortable and happy through most conditions.

Ongoing Challenges:

  1. I’d love a lighter less bulky tent
    • Stake-dependent shelters are frustrating in hard rocky ground
    • Single wall shelters have condensation issues
    • Dyneema shelters are so expensive
  2. It’s about time to replace my well-loved pack
    • The GG models change slightly year-to-year and are expensive to return
    • All cottage company models require an investment in return postage
    • I’m tempted to make my own
  3. Simplifying water treatment is always on my mind
    • The Sawyer Squeeze takes time and has to be protected during freezing temps
    • The Katadyn BeFree has enough negative reviews to cause hesitation; the custom bottles don’t excite me.
  4. It’s time to do a pack shake down again with weight creeping up to 16 pounds; 12-14 would be better. Yes I know the changes I could make. Like I said at the beginning it’s all about compromise.

Related Posts:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

Note: The purple mat is not part of my gear.

 

2020 – A Decade of Section Hiking Long Distance Trails . . . my podcast debut and resume

As I prepared for an interview with Jester on Section Hiker Radio, I took a trip down memory lane. I had many stories, tips, tricks, lessons to share, but 45 minutes just isn’t enough time. During a recent hike, I came up with this solution. Why not supplement the podcast with blog posts? So here is the interview, an introduction and the first of several posts to celebrate a decade of hiking (PODCAST LINK).

PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) Highlights:

Between 2010 and 2020, I’ve hiked about 1500 miles on the PCT.  Many of my stories and photos can be found on my PCT page (link).

AZT (Arizona Trail) Highlights:

Between 2010 and 2020, I’ve hiked about 500 miles on the AZT.  Many of my stories and photos can be found on my AZT page (link).

CDT (Continental Divide Trail) Highlights:

My time on the CDT has been mostly unintentional. It’s been a mix of being invited by friends to join for sections or coincidental as I hiked other overlapping trails. Here’s a link to my CDT hikes.

PNT (Pacific Northwest Trail) Highlights:

Like the CDT, I didn’t make a plan to hike sections of the PNT. Sometimes I found myself on the trail and only realized by looking at the map. It’s rare to find a trail marker.

Wonderland Trail:

I can actually mark this one complete. It’s the only long trail I completed in one go. I’m not satisfied though as there are so many side trails I’d like to explore.

What long trails await (map link)?

So many trails, only so much time. I feel my personal timeclock ticking. Whether I’m section hiking a long trail or exploring trails with WOW per mile, I’m happy with that pack on my back moving my home each night while chasing sunsets, sunrises, wildflowers and so much more.

 

Safety First . . . says the Old Lady with a Tiny Pack

Perceptions vs Reality.

Little did I know when I stopped to chat with some construction workers that their perception of me was an old lady. I’m guessing they were in their 20’s or 30’s. To them 40’s is probably old. Remember when 20 seemed old?

As non backpackers, their perception of my pack was tiny, which in their minds the blue pictured above is probably more normal for overnighting. Funny I took this photo when I received my inflatable SUP (stand-up paddleboard) and included was this giant blue pack for storage and transport.

Why does this matter?

Well . . . about a mile before the trailhead, the road was blocked by ongoing bridge construction and wouldn’t be open for a few hours. I talked to the workers about parking and passage, then up the hill I walked.

Fast forward 4 days. I returned to my car and drove off thinking about my eventful adventure which included a serious dog bite and an obnoxious owner. A runner had been bitten by the same dog earlier in the day. This German Shepherd was off leash and aggressive. The owner didn’t have voice control. It was traveling with another male who also had two aggressive, off-leash dogs, one also a German Shepherd. I was seriously traumatized and angry about these guys who felt it was their right to terrorize others humans, pets and wild animals of this wilderness.

This is the story I shared on my facebook.

I’m hurt, mad, angry, sad, disappointed and so much more.

I was bit by an aggressive off-leash out-of-control German Shepherd while out hiking a wilderness trail. I have two 3” deep bruises covering 7 inches of my bum. Thankfully the dog released before embedding her teeth. It could have been much worse.

Those few minutes were absolutely terrifying, the following hours and days have been filled with pain and nightmares. The owner is a selfish ass who thought his freedom of allowing a vicious dog to run the wilds ranked above anyone else’s freedoms. I found out later she bit another hiker earlier in the day. His wounds were worse as it was his hand.

The back story:

Picture a triangle with a trail on two legs and a river on the other. This guy and his friend had decided to camp in this triangle. They had 3 unleashed aggressive dogs including two German Shepherds. One guy seemed to have some vocal and engineered controls over his dogs. The other guy had zero control and that’s the dog that bit me and the other guy.

The camp I needed to reach was along one of the trails. As I started down the trail, the dogs started barking. One of the guys (the non-bite owner) came up to greet me as well as the biting dog. He told me the dog was friendly and just needed to smell me. I stood still while she sniffed. She seemed to settle and all seemed normal. The guy escorted me down the trail. Meanwhile the dog came around behind and grabbed my butt. When I yelled, the owner said you’re coming into our camp. HELLO I’m ON the trail!

Why would you camp near a trail with aggressive dogs? Why would you tell someone your dog is friendly and have your dog off leash after it already bit someone earlier in the day?

I had a basic first-aid kit with me and was able to clean the wound with soap and water as well as antiseptic wipes, and then treat with triple antibiotic ointment.

I was in shock and scared. I just wanted out of the situation so sadly I didn’t get the owner’s information except I found out from his friend about the previous bite, that all the dogs were supposedly current on shots and where they lived.

It was a nightmarish night. The next morning as I hiked back to the trailhead I warned all the hikers heading the opposite direction. They were much appreciative but felt as I did. They did not come to the wilderness to be terrorized by a selfish asshole.

I left a warning note at the trailhead as the men planned to stay through the holiday weekend. Sadly I didn’t find out their itinerary. There were 10 cars at the trailhead, some could easily be ruled out as not appropriate for transporting 3 giant dogs, but none stood out as the owners.

The story continues . . . As I’m driving through the nearby town I spy a Forest Service Law Enforcement vehicle. I pull in behind and as the officer exits I say, hey just the person I need to talk to. He then says my full name. I’m in shock, WHAT? He says . . . well the construction crew you talked to when you parked (the bridge was closed for a few hours so I parked near it and walked the additional mile to the trailhead) were concerned when your car was still there the next day. They reported their concerns about “this old lady with a day pack” who hadn’t returned. The next day the LEO went up to check out my car. He ran my plates and noticed my PCT sticker as well as my open hiking guidebook noting the trail I’d be hiking. He said I know those PCT hikers, they have tiny packs (ha, with 6 days of food I don’t think mine was very tiny, and it sure didn’t feel tiny). So when I met him at the gas station he was heading back up to see if my car was gone. If it wasn’t he was planning to contact someone in Redding to check with my family and neighbors. If they didn’t know my itinerary, he planned to activate SAR the next day. Eh gads! All because they construction workers thought I was an “old lady with a day pack.” I like this part of the story much better than the dog bite.

I reported the two men and their three dogs. He planned to pass on the information to the wilderness ranger. Hopefully he’ll do more and go to the trailhead and run some license plates to find out who lives in Grass Valley.

I’m still not sure what to do about this anger. I don’t want to be afraid of dogs. I think I’ll carry mace in my pocket for a while. I don’t want to give off negative energy as I know that makes dogs anxious. I have friends and relatives with dogs I love. I don’t want this incident to stop me from going into the wilderness. In my 10 years of backpacking this was an isolated incident. I know that, but damn this was terrifying. I’m hoping I can overcome with mind-over-matter thoughts like I have after other incidents.

In the meantime I’m hoping to avoid infection. I took an epsom salt soak when I got home, treated with more triple antibiotic ointment, and am now icing and taking ibuprofen to control pain and inflammation.

Sorry for my long rant, but I needed to share the details.

Memorial Day Update – The offender was not caught today and the LEO is off tomorrow when it sounds like they’ll be exiting. He met several groups who encountered the bad group including one whose dog was bit. Another group was camped at a lake when the bad group arrived. They were so bad the group packed up and hiked 3 miles before finding a new camp. The officer believes he found the offender’s vehicle and will minimally be sending a warning letter noting infractions. He’s been doing some code enforcement research and is possibly going to contact Nevada County Animal Control about the dog’s license, rabies etc. I’m continuing to heal with no indication of infection. The bruising is turning dark purple with green edging. Oh so pretty. I haven’t had to ice today.

A few takeaways:

(1) I found a way to wear my pepper spray so it’ll be quickly accessible in the future rather than stored in my backpack pocket. If interested, check out these runner options (link). I wrapped the wrist strap around my pack shoulder strap.

(2) My neighbor is on my notification list and was aware of my itinerary and receives my inReach check-ins. They know about this story and are even more prepared should an officer come calling.

(3) The construction workers noticed the inReach on my pack. That was reassuring for the officer. Of course had my bite been worse I would have used it.

(4) I’m glad my PCT sticker and hiking guidebook alerted the officer to the fact I was most likely a prepared hiker.

(5) This was my first bite in 10 years of backpacking. I’ve had a few other tense encounters but never anything close to this situation where I was terrified all three dogs would gang up on me. It was clear from the bite that dog was ready to take me down. Hopefully I’ll never experience this again or at least be free for another decade.

(6) I didn’t seek medical attention due to COVID-19 concerns. Obviously if it had been worse I wouldn’t have had a choice. However, I’m sure if I would have gone to the Emergency Room, it would have been more likely animal control would have gotten involved with a higher likelihood the offender being caught and facing consequences. Had this happened in town, this dog would be in quarantine or dead.

Stay safe my friends. Be alert, be wise.

2020: What’s stopping YOU from living YOUR BEST Life?

I recently wrote a post about stewers vs doers (link). For many it’s easy to become stuck in a type of paralysis playing the What If game making it extremely challenging to go from a stewer to a doer. I think this image puts risk into perspective.

Are you a worry wort or a carefree risk taker or more likely somewhere in between? Does your worry prevent you from doing? Does it cause you to limit your adventures? Do you weigh yourself and your pack down with the what ifs?

In a book I was reading this morning this quote stood out and seemed applicable to so many situations, “No use wasting time being afraid of something you can’t do anything about.”
My goal is to go prepared mentally, physically and with the right skills, gear and safety equipment so that I can be free to worry less, laugh more, live more, adventure more . . .
What have you done to successfully transition from spending too much time worrying to more time living? What advice do you have for others in same situation?