Western Traveler

Tips and Tricks

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COOLER HIKING – One of the most miserable hiking experiences you’ll ever have is hiking in hot weather with a rain suit on. To keep cooler and drier overall, try wearing a lightweight poncho instead. There’s very little chance of developing hypothermia when the temperature is above 80 degrees. I’ve found that the reduced sweating and protection offered by the poncho keeps you dry enough to continue.

STICKING BETTER – If you’re hiking and develop blisters you’ll certainly need to do something about it. There are several good blister products on the market, the most well-known is a product called Moleskin®. These spongy pads can be placed directly over the blister to put a protective layer between it, and your socks. To make the Moleskin stay on, trim the square corners so they’re round. This will greatly reduce the possibility of it peeling off.

EXTRA WATER – If you’re taking an extra-long day hike, or will be hiking at high altitude or in the desert, make sure to carry extra water to keep hydrated. Even though a hydration pack offers the most convenience, they do have limited capacity. The easiest way to do this is to carry some spare Nalgene® water bottles attached to your pack with carabineers. You won’t be sorry to have the extra water to reload your hydration pack.

FANNY PACK CAMERA CASE – One of the drawbacks to carrying any backpack is the inconvenience of having to take the pack off to pull gear. This holds especially true if you’re carrying your trusted camera in it. Here’s an easy solution, wear a “fanny” pack backwards, making it a front pack. This allows you to carry your camera, extra film (or memory cards), batteries, etc. in an easy to get to location.

FIRE STARTER – for a great and inexpensive fire starter, try making your own. All you need is: a cardboard egg carton, lint from your clothes dryer and paraffin. Place the lint into the egg sockets, pour melted paraffin over it, cut the sockets into individual units, and now you have a fire starter that will burn for several minutes and get your damp tender going. You’ve also helped in not filling up your local landfill, a win-win for everyone.

BROKEN STERNUM STRAP – If you’re on the trail and Heaven-Forbid you break your sternum strap or buckle, don’t panic. You can use a bandana or handkerchief as a substitute in a pinch. Just place it behind your straps and use a Square Knot to tie it off. You’ll find that this works fine and can save the day.

FORGOT YOUR HOT PADS – One of the most unpleasant situations you may encounter in the backcountry is forgetting an important piece of gear……say your hot pads for cooking. There are several easy solutions for this problem. In wooded areas just peel off some bark from a downed limb. You can wrap it around the pot handle and cook to your heart’s content. If you’re in the very high country or desert and there is no bark to be found, try using brown, Jersey gloves. I always carry a pair of these super-cheap, cotton gloves with me, just for such an event. BE WARNED……do not use nylon gloves for a pot holder. It will melt and result in a very serious burn.

BROKEN OR MISSING TENT STAKES – It happens, you set up your tent and find that you’re missing, or have a broken tent stake in your tent bag. For the inexperienced this is considered an emergency, but in fact it’s an “easy fix”. For a missing stake, you may find a small, downed branch that can be whittled to the size and shape you need. If you’re in rocky terrain, just find a large rock and place it where a stake would go. Make sure to put it back where you got it when you break camp. If you’re using trekking poles, you can actually use them as a stake in a pinch.

BROKEN TENT POLE – This situation can be very serious, especially if you’re facing some ugly weather. There are several ways to address this. I always carry a few feet of Duck Tape in my pack. This can be used to lash something over the break to give you a temporary repair. I have actually used a Lexan utensil as a splint. Keep in mind that this only works if your poles don’t slide through a sleeve. If your tent has sleeves instead of clips, you’ll need to find something small that you can insert in or over the break, then tape over. In a worst-case scenario, the break will occur where the clip is located. Bottom-line, you’ll have to set up the tent without this clip in place. It shouldn’t be a problem as most tents have more clips than they need. Just make sure to properly repair the pole when you return home.

LEAKY BOOTS – One of the big dangers in backpacking and hiking is the possibility of getting blisters. Basically there are two primary causes, incorrect-fitting boots and wet feet. When it happens, it doesn’t matter why. On the improperly fitting boots, there’s only so much you can do in the field. On the wet feet issue, that’s another story. Though it sounds silly, you can actually put plastic bags over your socks to prevent or at least reduce moisture infiltration. I always carry a minimum of two gallon-size ZIPLOC bags with me. They are large enough for my feet to fit into, and as such could be used to protect my feet. Some people carry bread bags for the same reason.

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Last modified on: September 27th 2023.
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