Western Traveler

Tips and Tricks

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SIMMERING – Have you ever tried to “simmer” with a white gas/multi-fuel stove and found that you were cooking with a flame thrower? Here’s an easy fix. Turn your stove off first and let it cool. Then, reduce the pressure in your fuel tank. Re-light and start cooking. This will give you more control over your temperature.

NATURE’S POT SCRUBBER – Have you ever gotten into a hurry and forgotten your scrubbing pad? I have, and it can be a real nuisance. Luckily for the ill-prepared, Nature provides an easy fix for the problem. Simply go down to your nearest stream, and scoop out some gravel, sand and water. Let it sit for a while, and then swirl it around. You’ll be amazed how much crud this will take out of your pots and pans. Though it can scratch up your non-stick coating (not really a good thing), at least you won’t keep piling up the mess in your mess kit.

DRYING FOOTGEAR – Nothing can make your hiking experience more miserable than having soggy socks and/or boots. Though you may not be able to stop and dry your gear immediately, you absolutely need to at the end of the day. Here’s a couple of ways to do it. First, string some parachute cord between two points and hang your socks on the line. If it’s sunny, turn them over every hour or so to let the light hit them directly. For your boots, hang them upside down, either with loops attached to your “clothes line”, or with poles stuck into the ground.

DOUBLE DUTY – One of the best tricks I’ve come across is the using of your tent’s rainfly for double duty. Not only can it keep the precipitation off you at night, it can be used to protect all your pack’s contents while hiking. Simply place the rainfly in the bottom of your pack with the excess hanging out the top, put your gear in and then fold it over on top of whatever is in your backpack. Think about it, if it’s good enough to protect you through a thunderstorm, it can certainly keep your gear dry. By doing this, you can also eliminate a “pack cover” reducing your overall pack weight, always a good thing!!

PITCHING A FIRE FIT – Okay, forgive me for the pun, but you can turn to Mother Nature in a pinch for a helping hand starting a fire. Go to your nearest evergreen tree and collect some pitch (the gooey and sticky substance that leaks out). You’ll find it an excellent fire starter.

REDUCING THE MESS – One of the greatest inventions for car camping is the Coleman® two-burner, white-gas stove. These old work horses seem to run forever!! The only real down side to their operation is that they tend to flare up when first starting up; the end result is a sooty cooking grill. Try this easy way to reduce the mess, BEFORE lighting the stove, remove the grill. Light the stove, let it do its flaring thing, and once it’s settled down, put the grill back on. This will save you a lot of time and mess in the cleanup process.

STUBBORN NON-BURNING FIRE – There are only three ingredients needed for a good fire. They are: heat, oxygen and fuel. If any of these are lacking, your fire won’t burn properly. It has been my experience that the lack of oxygen will cause 99% of your woes when your fire won’t burn. Make sure that you have a suitable air-flow into your fire pit. If the pit is too deep, try trenching on opposing sides of the pit to the same level as the base of the fire (creating a flow-through ventilation). I have found that this usually gets the flames burning as needed.

GETTING MORE FROM YOUR FIRE – When camping in extremely cold conditions, its important to get every BTU out of your campfire to make life more comfortable. Here are a couple of things you can do to improve things. First, build your fire downwind from a large feature (rock wall, big tree, large bush, etc). This allows you to use the object as a “wind break”. This will maximize the effect of the blaze. Secondly, rig a rescue (space) blanket behind you to reflect the heat from the fire directly onto you. You’ll be amazed how much this helps.

PREVENTING WATER FROM FREEZING – Many people believe hypothermia to be the greatest danger in cold-weather camping. Believe it or not, dehydration can pose a higher risk. In order to maintain adequate body fluids, it’s important that you have water (as opposed to ice) available on the cold days. While at camp, put your water bottles in your tent with you (inside your sleeping bag if you can handle it), or bury them (filled only to 2/3 full) in a snow bank. Both will insure your water is in a liquid state come morning. While hiking, place the water inside your pack, next to your body to keep it thawed. While it can be a bit more trouble to get to, at least you’ll be able to drink.

CLIMBING EASIER – One of the toughest things about hiking can be the grade of a climb. Here are a few things you can do to make the effort less strenuous. First, if you’re on a very steep grade, try taking smaller steps. This can reduce the chance of pulling or straining a muscle when over-stretching. Second, in extremely rugged terrain, use large, stable objects to hold on to and for climbing. This decreases your chance of sliding on smaller, loose material. Lastly, if you’re in a non-trail area, try going up in a zigzag pattern which reduces the strain of going straight up a steep grade and gives your legs mini-breaks between switchbacks.

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Last modified on: September 27th 2023.
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