Western Traveler

Tips and Tricks

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PICKING THE BEST CAMPSITE – There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a campsite. First, make sure you’re off the main trail. Secondly, pick a location with a breeze, which is away from standing water. This will give you a better chance of a bug-free campsite. Third, make sure that your tent site is NOT in a wash, could be a real problem if a storm pops up. Lastly, make sure that the site is safe from environmental hazards.

NATURE’S KNIFE SHARPENER – If you’ve ever tried to cut anything with a dull knife you know two things for sure: (1) it takes at least a week to cut through anything short of wet bread and (2) you’re more apt to cut yourself than the intended item. In a pinch you can turn to Mother Nature for some help. Find a not-too-course flat stone to sharpen your blade. Then, peel off some bark from a limb or down tree to substitute for a leather strap, and give the instrument a nice, clean edge.

COOKING WITHOUT GEAR – There may come a time when you have to cook without “gear” in the modern sense. As they say Down Under, “no worries”. Here are a few things you can use to cook a hot meal without mess kit. The oldest and simplest is to get a stick and turn it into a skewer, works with many items. You can also lay green branches over the coals to cook on. Last, but not least, carry some aluminum foil in your pack for a makeshift-cooking platform. DO NOT use your emergency space blanket as foil, it’s actually mostly plastic and will melt. Though I’ve never done this, I’m sure it won’t add to the flavor of your meal.

PORTABLE PILL BOX – If you like to carry your meds with you on the trail try this for a great container. Get a 35mm film canister, put a cotton ball in it, and drop in your pills. This offers a waterproof, tough and space-efficient way to take your medicines with you.

SUPER-SMALL UTENSIL – One of the best places to look for good outdoor gear is at your local military surplus store. Many years ago I came across a neat little gadget called the P-50. In a nutshell, it’s a combination can opener and spoon. In a pinch you can even use the “sharp” edge to cut strings or whatever. There is an even smaller model called the “P-38” but this unit is strictly a can opener and does NOT have a spoon. Go ahead and live a little, get the P-50.

STORM MATCHES – It’s a fact, sometimes you end up camping when weather conditions are less than favorable. It’s usually in these times that you really need a fire, whether to fight off hypothermia, or to dry out gear. There’s one “sure fire” (no pun intended) way to get started, and that’s with storm proof matches. These are treated with a special chemical that will light and burn under virtually any conditions, even in a pouring rain. They tend to be longer to help protect your fingers form accidental burns.

EMERGENCY STROBE – If you’re big into night hiking, canoeing or kayaking, you may want to pick up something called an emergency strobe. The small, lightweight devices can burn for hours and make the difference between staying lost, or be rescued in a timely manner. There are several models on the market, ranging in price from very inexpensive to moderate cost. If you decide to invest in one, make sure that it’s made specifically for wet conditions.

SOGGY FLEECE – One of the most uncomfortable feelings in the backcountry is getting wet with no way to dry out. Fleece is one fabric which makes life easier. If you get soaked, wait until the precipitation event is over and peel out of your fleece and spin it “round and round” over your head. The water will go flying off and make your outerwear much more comfortable. Then, when you get to camp sit near your campfire to finish the job.

SAVING BATTERIES – If you’re out in the wilderness with a group of friends, you can work as a team to conserve the life of your collective batteries. For example, while sitting around camp, place a single light source high enough to allow everyone to use it for those always-necessary trips to the woods. If there’s an emergency and if you’re using cell phones to call for help, turn all but one off, saving the others if needed. (FOR THE RECORD) – I am NOT an advocate of carrying phones into the wilderness, but there are those who won’t leave home without them).

CLEANING A HYDRATION BLADDER – Here’s an easy way to keep your hydration bladder from getting “funky” tasting. Just put in a teaspoon of bleach for every quart (or liter) of water, fill the bladder and rinse it out. Then, leave it open so it can dry out. If you notice that the water in the bladder begins to taste funny, then it’s time for a cleaning. If you use your hydration pack constantly, you won’t have to do this very often (assuming you use water from the tap) as water companies are required to maintain a certain minimum level of Free Chlorine in the drinking water supply (0.2 ppm).

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Last modified on: September 27th 2023.
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