Western Traveler

Tips and Tricks

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FIRE STARTER HAZARDS—A while back I was thinking of making up some homemade fire starters. I thought it’d be a great idea to incorporate some magnesium powder in them because of how hot it burns (About 4,000° F). Luckily, I also realized that it could be too hot to use in a small metal wood-burning/alcohol stove, and I was right.  Had I proceeded my homemade fire starter could have easily burned a hole right through the plate that holds the wood or alcohol burner as the magnesium burn temperature was considerably higher than that which the metal could handle.  Always consider all factors when selecting your backcountry gear, could be a big problem if you destroy gear you’ll need out in the wilderness.

GROUND CLOTH—One of the least fun things to do while hiking is to sit on the ground to rest or cook a meal and get up wet and//or muddy. Consider buying an ultralight ground cloth, specially made for this and put it in the top of your pack. That way it’s there as soon as you need it.  Many of these also come in a ditty bag that can hang off your backpack with a carabineer, or an attached hook designed to use with your pack’s attachment loops.

CORDAGE--It’s a well-known fact that carrying cordage into the backcountry is a good idea. The question is how much, so here’s a thought. I try to carry about 100 feet because I could rig almost anything with that much.  I could use it for lashing up poles for shelter, hanging wet clothes or whatever.  It hit me that it’d be a good idea to cut it up into shorter pieces, about 20-25 feet each.  That way you don’t have to try to cut & burn the ends in the field.  Also, if you have leftover cordage after using a piece, just roll it up on one and tuck it where it’s safe.  Shorter pieces are a lot easier to work with as well.  For storing them I just Daisy Chain them or roll them into hanks and they’re super easy to unravel when needed.  In addition to carrying Paracord, it’s also a good idea to carry some #36 Bank Line which is perfect for lashing projects.  I think a 50/50 mix of Paracord and Bank Line is about right.

MRE Water Collector—A lot of us have used military MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) on the trail, but most of don’t really appreciate the genius in their design. The heavy-duty pouch that they’re encased in is perfect for water collection in the Wild. Just drop it into a stream, under a waterfall, or even scoop out water in a pool and you’ve got the perfect container for collecting water.  You can filter the water as your pour it into another container.  Then just purify it by whatever means and you’ve got drinking water ready to do.

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Last modified on: September 27th 2023.
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