Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thru-Hikers & Long Hikers Trail Tricks

Somewhere... Wallyworld, I think... I saw a set of adapters that would let you use any size battery to power any battery-powered device (so long as you're sizing up). My headlamp & radio work on AAA batteries, but my camera takes AA. I'm thinking about getting an adapter so I can just carry AAA batteries & then follow TJ's method. Start them out in my camera, then move to my headlamp or radio. Might save a few ounces & allow me to buy batteries in bulk.

A couple of tricks that can come in handy. I'm a custom home framer so I try to incorporate some of the materials I use at work into my hikes. I can enthusiastically endorse masons string line (avail at any hardware store or home depot for $2/200ft) for hanging bear bags, guying out your tent or anything else you use a heavier rope for. The stuff is virtually unbreakable & resists abrading. Case in point, I have to string across rough concrete to measure & level steel beams, etc. Tough conditions & the stuff never breaks. Best of all, it weighs nothing & has tremendous strength.
Another multitasking building material is sub-floor adhesive. When hiking I primarily use this as a wet day fire starter. I keep a small amount (maybe 3-4oz) in a Lexan bottle & if needed scoop out a thumbnail size serving to start my fire. This stuff is burns for 3-5 minutes & is a no-fail option. If it dries out, it works just as well if not better than when its fresh. The down side is that it stinks when burning...could it be the Methylchlorohydrosiloxane? We may never know, but if the smell doesn't bug you it's awesome stuff.

They have PV foam towels used for drying cars in Wal-Mart in the automotive section...come in a clear plastic tube, cost 6 bucks. It's my most useful piece of gear. When completely dry & folded it feels & weighs about the same as a Styrofoam block the size of a pack of cigarettes. It absorbs 20 times its weight in water & releases 96% of it when you wring it. Makes a great bath towel, cut up it makes great headbands & wristbands, it dries your tent off in the morning like nothing else does.
Here is the really cool trick: If you get soaked take your clothes & roll them up in it & wring, do it a few times. It is amazing how well it removes the water, enough to put everything back on, & your body heat will finish the drying process in minutes.
This is the best $6.00 you'll ever spend on anything that goes in your pack. I was curious to see what exactly the water content was in my pearl uzumi shirt after I'd dried it like this so I ran some tests at home. I soaked the shirt in a bucket of water & wrung it out in the PV towel a number of times then weighed it on a digital postal scale. I then completely dried it dryer & re-weighed it. The difference in weight was only 6/10ths of an ounce.
Newspaper. Best stuff there is to dry shoes when youre in town. Stuff em full & change often. The boots/shoee can get crispy dry within 24 hours as long as you keep dry paper in them
I learned to strip excess boxes & packaging on the food that I carry.
Duct tape, duct tape, duct tape not something new but I love this stuff. I use it for everything.
Trash bags, I put everything into trash bags & even use them for a pack cover at night so that my pack does not get wet when it is hanging from the bears.
I got rid of the Coleman lantern & the Coleman stove & went with a canister stove with an attachment for cooking & a small attachment for light. I have burned it all night at it lowest setting & I have never run out of gas on the trail yet.
I also learned to carry my water in a bladder with a hose & I have in my pack so that I sip water all the time. I find I get better performance getting my water this way instead of drinking from my bottle.
And when I have damp or wet clothes I throw them on the roof of the shelter & they dry very quickly.
And one thing that I learned was I take washcloths & wrap them around the shoulder straps with duct tape for impact protection. Take the pain out of my shoulder with more protection on the straps.
Use a foot or so of duck tape about only 1 inch wide around a see thru lighter... but first put a safety pin under it... this give a loop to afix a dummy cord.... now never without fire, safety pin to remove splinters, lance blisters etc & enough duck tape for blister coverage & plenty of butterfly bandages...
Pocket knife goes on another dummy cord.
To go just a bit lighter, I know I almost never think of this but: after making ALL of your purchases in town, either leave your leftover coins in the penny jar of your last stop, or buy a candy bar. Coins can add up weight wise, & you need that candy bar anyway.
Practice with every piece of gear before you hit the trail. Light the stove & cook a meal, set up the shelter (tent, tarp, hammock, etc) several times (even at night), change the batteries in your light while blindfolded, etc.
 Seam seal everything with a seam. No matter what the maker says about how well their stuff is made.
A favorite quote from my bicycling days: I know my pack is waterproof, it stopped raining 2 hours ago & there is still 4 inches of water in the bottom.
Keep a journal: Days, weeks, months after your hike, you may find that those Forever memories are firmly etched in vapor. Take pictures for the same reason.
I paint my: tent stakes, knife, etc. Day-Glo orange. It makes them easier to find when I drop them, which I seem to do all too often.
never leave without some 550 cord in my pack. It's got to be the real parachute cord with 7 strand inner core, though. That way, you have a normal cord, but when certain needs arise you can separate the cores into whatever small sizes you need. For example, one core strand is enough to guy out a tarp, & it's very light. Separate the cores even further & you can use them for dental floss or sewing thread.
On my first trip to the desert, I picked up my (too heavy) pack by the shoulder strap & it broke off. On a layover, I sewed it back on with the 550 cord inner core & never had a problem with it again. Then I returned the pack for a new one when I got back.
Re, keeping your water bottle from freezing: Sleep with your water bottle.
In addition to sleeping with water, I also put my camera, headlamp & stove fuel in a stuff sack inside the bag with me. The warmth keeps the batteries from draining, & since I use a canister stove the cold can really make a difference.
I think it isn't the cold that wrecks the batteries. I think if it gets cold & then you use it, the batteries drain. If you warm the batteries up before you turn your camera on, though, the batteries should last longer. Haven't really experimented with this, though, since I sleep with my batteries.
I hate frozen boots the worst. I'll put my boots into a plastic bag or stuff sack & sleep with them, too.
Just be sure not to squeeze the tick's body when you pull him out - you'll squeeze the blood back into your body...with the Lyme's baddies. Or so I've heard.
I like a small neck doesn't support my head, just my neck. Otherwise, it kinda strains my neck right at the base of my skull & gives me a headache. Usually a small stuff sack with clothes or my fleece stuffed into its sleeve works well.
1) When you send a maildrop to a location that is not within walking distance of stores, you'll save time if you also mail TP & anything expendables you use either to clean up there (soap & shampoo/conditioner in tiny motel bottles, disposable razor) or on the Trail (wet wipes/paper towels).
2) In such mail drops, send a couple of cans of food (or even drink) that you enjoy, but are impractical for carrying on the Trail. You're going to be dumping the cans in a nearby trashcan before getting back on the Trail, so the main issue IMO is the expense for postage. This is a good way IMO to get some additional vegetables, too; I'm trying to stick in a can of spinach or asparagus in such mail drops in my own pre-thru hike attempt planning. I'm also putting in a couple of MRE heating units in some drops; I don't want to ever again hump them on the Trail, but there's no reason I can't enjoy a couple of conveniently-heated meals where I can dump the extra trash before I get back on the Trail.
3) Drive to a few potential maildrop locations in advance of a long hike, & simply drop off boxes of supplies. Bulky stuff (like TP, paper towels, freeze-dried vegetables) & heavy drinks (plastic bottles of fruit juice, or a gallon or two of distilled water, say) are particularly convenient to do this way. Plus, you can preposition supplies like stove fuel/bottles that you can't legally mail, or pricey stuff (ATC maps you won't need for a while, or camera memory sticks, say). And, the mail service (UPS, FedEx, US Snail, whatever) doesn't get a chance to lose it this way!
4) Throw in a dispo razor, motel-sized conditioning shampoo, & bar of motel-size soap into each of your mail drops. Pick up your maildrop before getting a shower. No need to worry about buying them in BFEville before you get your town shower that way
When you get to the shelter, or stop & set up camp somewhere. First thing to do is to gather water. Don't take off your boots just yet. If the water source is uphill or down a muddy hill, the last thing you want to be doing is walking that distance in flip-flops. So leave your boots on for another 10 minutes & gather a TON of water. That way you only have to make one trip & you can relax the rest of the night
Sleep on the floor in your house for a couple of days to get used to not being in a bed.
Wear your hat when sleeping.
Don't allow another person to control your destination, stand up for yourself & be in control
The one who blames is the one that is of blame.
Don't try to make your hike a competition.
There will always be someone with a lighter pack; & someone with a heavier pack.
There will always be someone who hikes faster than you; & someone who hikes slower than you.
There will always be someone who is more experienced & knows more than you do (hard for some to accept this); & someone who is less experienced & knows less than you do (hard for some beginners to believe this as well, but it's true!).
Most of all, enjoy yourself! This is supposed to be fun!
Always pack your sense of humor! Second only to duct tape!
What lies behind us & what lies before us are tiny matter compared to what lies within us.
Mental preparation is (at least) as important as physical conditioning
You will get wet - accept it
And the one I have to keep telling myself over & over: Respect the Trail
It's not just what you're given, it's what you do with what you've got
Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff.
A bad on the trail, is better than a good at work.
No matter how bad things seem, they could always be much worse.
It is always darkest before sunrise.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel & it's not freight train.

Climbing Katahdin is like The Final Exam. For about a mile of it, the toughest climb on the whole AT. The one that determines if you "graduate." The one that you're never gonna forget.No Rain,No Pain, No Maine
For Hammocks: A Drip Line For Rain
Tie a shoe string or any cord/string to the support ropes to keep the water from running down into your hammock and sleeping bag.
Hanna Hanger
Find two of those tiny mini-biners and clip them into the head and foot end loops of the overhead line in a Hennessy Hammock. I clip my shoes to the foot end one, so they don't ride down the line and end up in my face overnight. i put any odds and ends i want inside with me in a remaining stuff sack and clip it to the other one, over my head, so it's handy to get to at night. of course, you can always just throw them over the line outside, but you might want them closer at hand if it's raining or cold.
Use white-out or liquid paper to mark a few 6" increments on the head and foot tie-out lines to help you center things more quickly.
Mark the end of the head or foot tie-out lines with something (or even just knot it) so you can tell which end is which in the dark. you can also make a mark with white-out on the knot cover at one end or the other, for the same reason.
Keep your tarp in a separate bag. you can set it up first if it's raining, and unpack everything else under cover. when you pack back up, if the tarp is wet, it won't get the hammock wet.
If you use the stock HH tarp, sew small triangular pockets into the corners near the tarp tie-outs with a small velcro patch to keep them shut. roll the lines up and store them neatly inside.
Tie the foot end of your tarp a little higher than the other end, so you can stand up easily underneath. gives you a place to take off your rain gear and wet boots before you get into the hammock.
Years ago I hiked until I was exhausted & then took a break. During my thru-hike, & ever since, I have begun taking a short break EVERY HOUR (give or take a few minutes). What I've learned is that I can hiker longer & farther in a days time without being so tired when I get to my campsite for the night. I also have noticed is that I have fewer aches/pains. Coupled with the more frequent rest stops are increased snacks, which maintain more constant energy levels instead of the highs/lows I used to encounter.
Baking Soda
Use it instead of smelly, bear-baiting, where-do-I-spit toothpaste. Just dab a damp toothbrush in a small amount of it & scrub away!
Use it as an underarm deodorant. Pat it on after you clean up & you'll be set for a couple days.
Use it to remove stains from cookware. Make a paste by adding some water & it makes a great polishing compound.
Another use for a common product, Purchase any strong smelling after-shave lotion from the dollar store. Now take a tampon, soak it in the after-shave. Now using the string tie it to your tent, food bag, or anything you wish to keep small animals away from. I don't know if it will work for bears but raccoons, skunks, & other small animals can't stand the smell of cheap aftershave & the tampon is a very absorbent carrier & has a nice convenient string to attach it. Soaked with DEET & attached to your hiking boot laces it not only may keep tics off your legs but will also give strangers something to open the conversation when you walk into a shelter at night.
Practice with ALL OF YOUR GEAR!!!!
Practice with ALL OF YOUR GEAR, at home, before you hit the trail. Practice even with the old stuff you are familiar with, it may be broke.
Check all your gear, before you hit the trail! Look it over for: worn spots, tears, actual breaks & function (does your: Stove, Flashlight(s), Camera, etc. work?). When was the last time your shelter (boots, etc) seam sealed? Is now a good time to replace something? Is your fuel still good?* Lighters in good working condition / full (I get new ones each trip). Matches in good condition. NEW Zip Locks. Etc.
Clean gear lasts longer, so clean what you have. Then seam seal as needed.
Close the lid to your fuel bottle, or make sure that all connections are leak free BEFORE you light your stove! I always move my fuel bottle 3 or 4 feet away, just in case! Note: Do NOT over tighten connections, you could strip them out, then your problems will be seriously increased.
I paint my: tent stakes, knife, etc. Day-Glo orange. It makes them easier to find when I drop them, which I seem to do all too often.
I paint my tent stakes florescent orange. Makes them easier to find.
I have a small piece of reflective (runners) shoe lace tied to my spoon, am thinking of additionally painting the handle orange.
Everyone has probably heard about getting a scrap piece of tyvek from a building site to use as a footprint, or ground cloth. But it is usually quite stiff. Take it to a Laundromat (for the front loading commercial washer) & wash it. Hot water, don't need any soap. This doesn't change the toughness or waterproofing in any way, but it will make it as soft as a bed sheet. Much easier to handle & fold back up.

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