Western Traveler

Tips and Tricks

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FROSTBITE FIX – Frostbite is a condition that needs to be taken very seriously. Let’s say you’ve headed out on a hike and all of a sudden the temperature drops like a rock and you have no protection for your exposed skin. Turns out Baby Oil is a pretty good thing to put on to protect it. Lay it on heavy and it will help prevent your exposed skin from freezing over.

HAND DEODORIZER – This may sound odd, but one of the grossest things you can get stuck with while camping and/or backpacking is smelly hands from handling food or whatever. If you want to get rid of the smell, just rub coffee grounds on the affected area and the odor is gone. It works on fish, garlic and onion.  Give it a try.

WRONG BATTERY SIZE FIX – One thing is certain, when you need a AA battery all you have is a AAA battery, Murphy’s Law. Believe it or not it’s not a big deal. If you’re in this situation, just ball up some aluminum foil and stick it into the battery compartment and fill in the gap between the two battery sizes.  As they’re both the same voltage (1.5 volts) you can use either one if you can get the current flowing.  Be advised they may have different amperage, but on stuff like flashlights it doesn’t matter.

THE RIGHT SHELL – One of the most important things you need to consider when heading into the backcountry is your clothing. Possibly the most essential thing you choose is your shell layer. Having the right material can “make or break” your experience.  Make sure it will keep the elements out for the conditions you’re going to be in.  Generally speaking, consider the need for wind and/or precipitation needs, temperature range and of course weight.  Taking a little time to select the right material can be crucial to the success of your outdoor experience.

LONG MATCHES–I’ve made a lot of campfires over the years, and gotten a lot of burned fingers in the process. Because of that I’ve become a huge fan of long-stem matches. I buy the ones made for fireplaces and/or specialized matches made just for camping.  Whichever one you pick, you’ll be much happier.  The biggest advantage to these (besides not getting burned) is that the extra length gives you more time to get your tinder bundle lit instead of wasting multiple normal matches to do the same thing.

LOW TECH STOVES–One of the fun things about going into the wilderness is how it can put you in touch with pioneers and explorers of old. Kind of hard to do when you’re taking a lot of high-tech gear with you. Don’t get me wrong, having an LED lamp that’s super bright and runs forever on a set of batteries is a good thing.  But there’s nothing more I dislike than the roar of a propane stove cooking my morning coffee and drowning out the sounds of nature.  Try this instead: either make a small fire and take a portable grate with you, or do like I do, use an old-school Sterno Stove.  These burn hot, are silent, go a long time on a single can and can even be lightweight if you get the right model.  My Dad turned me on to these back in the 1960s and I still love using them.

CHECK YOUR MAP–Before heading out on any new hiking trail make sure to check a current map so you know what you’re getting yourself into.  Many times maps are out of date and offer partial or even incorrect routing information.  This is especially true in National Park areas.  If you’re going on a long hike it’s a good idea to stop by the Visitor Center and talk to a Ranger who has actually been on the trail you’re considering.  You can save yourself a lot of frustration, and sometimes, additional miles with up-to-date information

CARRY COINS—It’s recently come to my attention that sometimes you really need to have coins with you, especially when so many places are pretty much “plastic only”. If you’re wanting to use a “penny crusher” at a site you’re visiting you may not be able to get change from your credit or debit card, or sometimes even cash. Also, many commercial campgrounds have coin-operated laundry facilities and if you don’t have any, no clean clothes for you.  So, the smart thing is to have a bunch of coins in a container for just such situations.

PHOTO PRINTING—If you decide to print up your photographs from your outdoor adventures let me suggest that you have them printed up on glossy paper. The colors hold up better than on the satin finish papers, and if somewhere down the line they get scanned, the images will be in much better focus. Secondly, have a second set printed up on black & white paper which doesn’t fade and lasts many times longer.

TIME STAMPS—Lots of folks use their camera’s onboard system to time stamp their pictures as a reminder of when they were somewhere. While that is a handy tool, it can absolutely ruin a photo if the time stamp ends up in an important part of the image. I NEVER use them.  I’ve been known to carry a small notebook and jot down when & where photos are being taken, but most of the time I just take a photo of any and all signage where I’m at as a reminder.  Then I sometimes change the filenames on the images to reflect date & location.

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Last modified on: September 27th 2023.
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