backcountry distilled wisdom  return

Knowledge Nuggets

Page 6

Semi Primitive:

Name: Ron Schmidt, 5/16/00

Sewed my own canvas 1lb (3000 cu in) backpack, sewed a sleeping blanket to replace my sleeping bag 1.5 lb., made a 40 deg. bag with an sleeve to stuff in additional insulation ( leaves, grass, what ever I can find ) 1 lb. , no stove other than solid fuel bars or burned wood & cones in a can (modified peach can).


Spectra Line:

Name: Roy Anglin, 8/4/00

Try using the modern day version of para-cord for critter-bagging. Spectra line is lighter and stronger than nylon para-cord. It is 825test and 1000test. The 825 weighs around 1.2oz for 50ft, the 1000 is a little heavier. Best of all, it is a braided-unshiethed cord that is slippery- it does not snag on bark. It is quite durable and seems to repel dirt and sap. The reduction of friction means that some knots need an extra loop or two to hold though. It also works well for the ridge-line in tarp set-ups. Available from parachute companies over the net.



Pocket Stove:

Name: Andreas Faulstich, 9/22/00

Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany For winter camping I like to use a pocket stove. It weighs just 75g (=2oz) and burns 10 hours on 5g (0.2oz) gasoline. Using my pocket stove at night I can take a much lighter sleeping bag. In harsh winter conditions I use my Feathered Friends Wallcreeper sleeping bag (1kg = 35oz). In camp I can wear it as warm and comfortable jacket using its arm and leg holes. In summer I only use a bivy bag (320g) and sleeping bag liner (223g).


Knock off weight, plus More!:

Name: Don Kredl, 10/24/00

I agree with Charles Lindsey....Loose some weight....Over the past 3 years I've worked on chiseling off over 30 lbs...Now just think, here we are knocking off an ounce here and an ounce there with our gear and we're all carrying at least 10 to 20 pounds around our waist....Just think you guys that are 20 lbs over weight have to go tentless while I can carry a nice 4 season 5 pound tent and still be 15 lbs ahead of you....Seriously, think about it. Your knees, back and feet will love you for the it, and if you pack light weight to boot, man you'll fly over the trails.

Other tips:
-Dehydrate my own veggies, Broccoli, Cauliflower, onions, mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of powdered gravy mix...Great nourishment....
-Cut back to a 3.5 oz fuel bottle. You never seem to get to the bottem of those biggies...
-Photo copy only the pages of your guide you will be used rather than carrying a 12 oz. guide book.
-Dried soy beans have much more protein and 1/4 the weight as other nuts... -Napkins are just great...does the job for clean ups without any us of water...I always pack 6 or so...Next to nothing weight wise...
-And remember on a 14 day hike or less you will not have a super appetite so cut back to 1 lb or less of food....Hey, you're not going to die out there and gee the worst that can happen is that you may even loose a pound or two...


Cooking with Lids:

Name: Jim Walton, 11/26/00

Always use a lid when cooking - you reduce the time it takes to boil water and reduces the amount of fuel needed.

Unless you are planning to fry anything, don't pack a "proper" lid. The aluminium pie trays available at most supermarkets make a very lightweight lid. They can be moulded around the pan (before it gets hot!) to form a perfect seal - often beter than a manufactured lid.

NEVER take pasta or rice to eat. These foods, although hign in carbohydrate, require the water to be boiling for over 10mins. This requires a huge amount of fuel. Better to use fuel that only requires the water to be boiled for a short period of time - a perfect example being INSTANT MASH POTATO. Boil the water, stir in the powder, turn off fuel.

If melting snow, always put a small amount of water in with the snow as it speeds the melting process.


Tent Guyline Management:

Name: Bill Holt, 11/29/00

In your review on the Hilleberg Akto you recommend wrapping the folded guy lines with a rubber band. Here's what I do with guy lines on my tents. On all of my tents I leave the guy lines on permanently. To eliminated lines all over the place I fold them into 6 to 8 inch lengths and then tie the folded lines into a simple over hand knot. The knot is easy to untie, the folded lines are easy to pack and the unused lines are hanging from the side of the tent ready to be deployed if needed.


Camping Tips:

Name: John Godino, 12/12/00

Oregon John's tips:

There are a lot of good comments here about using garbage bags - even pet cadaver bags, yuck! My preferences: trash compactor bags (for smaller stuuff, like sleeping bags) and contractor's clean up bags, from a hardware store. The contractor's bags are huge capacity, 3 mil thick, super tough, will last for many trips, and will hold up when you really need them. Use for the usual things: emergency bivy gear, solar shower, pack cover, etc.

Bears are great tree climbers but they can't climb rock. In bear country, if you make a point to camp near a rock face (even 20 ft will do) use a piece of webbing wedged in a crack or around a rock horn and a tiny keychain type carabiner to clip your food bag out of bear range. This is a lot less hassle than putting food in a tree, and can provide much camptime amusement as you and your climbing pals try new bouldering problems to put up the food bag.


Sarah's Tips:

Name: Sarah Kover, 12/28/00

! Food Containers

I find that if youlike to bring soups that come in a plastic bowl, take out the insides and put them in a plastic baggie instead. Then copy down the directions on a tiny piece of paper so you will know what to do with it.

2. Journals

It is always nice to be able to recount the days adventure in a journal, but they are heavy. Try only bringing one small piece of paper per day. And sharpen your pencil down to only a couple inches and cut off the eraser. You don't need it. Or if you want to be REALLY conservative, just write on the back of your map. Then you won't have to bring any paper at all.


Repackaging Food:

Name: Curt White, 1/10/01

Many tip sheets include the benefits of repackaging food items to save weight. On my last week long trip with my wife we tried a technique that worked well. We both like the packaging of the Backpackers Pantry food. It is in an upright freestanding pouch without an inner package of food. The new ones have a zip lock closure on the top instead of a piece of tape to keep it closed.

On our trip we took two of these meals and saved/cleaned the pouches when we were done. The other meals on the trip we had repackaged into boiling/freezing zip lock bags. We poured the contents into the saved heating pouches for cooking, eliminating the extra packaging that comes with those meals. The spare packaging from those meals filled two paper grocery sacks (two people, two breakfasts and two dinners for 9 days).

We also tried pouring the hot water directly into the zip lock bags. It worked but they were difficult to keep from being punctured or spilled. It might work if you took some of the new zip lock bags which can stand upright on their own. Another advantage of this technique is that you can bulk up your meals for two without alot of extra packaging weight. We always add more veggies to our meals because thats what we crave in the backcountry.

Give it a try!


Foot Care:

Name: Curt White, 1/10/01

One of the best discoveries I have come across in my many miles of backpacking is the custom molded footbed insole.

I have very high arches and a wide fore foot making boot fitting difficult. I used to get off the shelf insoles and start trimming away untill I came up with something that kept my foot in place in the boot and supported my arches. Then I found a good boot fitter who said what I really needed was a footbed molded for me. This happened to be at an REI store and he showed me a selection of three footbeds of differing densities. Since I do alot of backpacking he recomended a fairly stiff and durable footbed. They put the footbed in a susie bake oven to get them soft and then you stand on top of them on a rubber pad and let it cool down. When done it retains the shape of your foot.

I hiked for a week on these things and let me tell you, its like power steering for your feet! I also have a pair in my ski boots and the controll is amazing. My foot now stays where it should be in the boot. Uphill or down. They run between $65 to $100. I paid about $80 on sale.

An appointment with person fitting you is recomended as it takes about 45 minutes to do. If you hike in light weight sports shoes you may want one of the more flexible molded insoles. This would also help prevent bruising of the feet from rocks felt through the thinner soles of these shoes.


Great to be a Dad:

Name: Glen Craig, 2/21/01

One method that has worked great for me was giving my 15 yr old son a Gregory Lassen backpack for his birthday. He went from a 2700 cu inch BSA backpack to 4600 cu inch loaded. This reduced my pack weight by at least 5 lb.s now that he has a bigger/better pack than me. " Its great to be a Dad!"

Groov'in Glen


Mark's Sierra Cup:

Name: Mark Houston, 2/28/01

I take a small "Dinty Moore" stew can and wrap a heavy coat hanger around it for a handle. Each wire handle comes out different as if each one was a work of art. Been using it for several years and it is my prototype that I show to the Boy Scouts to teach them that they do not have to purchase a sieera cup but can make one. Any stout can works especially the one that have the rounded bottoms. I use it for fresh water, hot drinks, and even cook in it. If you get the can to hot without fluid in it the inside lining can be damaged.


Cord Locks and other stuff:

Name: Andy Winz, 4/11/01

On most of the smallerstuff sacks/ditty bags that i use. I don't use cordlocks..I just tie a slipknot into the string.

If you're a college student like me and can't afford to buy titanium cookwear, do what I do: Raid the local K-Mart or Walmart or whatever nasty nationwide chain store you have and buy a light weight 32oz aluminum pot. I got one for a buck....unscrewed the handle which had the majority of the weight and made a homemade handle out of a wire coathanger.


Reading Materials:

Name: chugachman, 5/4/01

I don't care how tired I am from the trail, I can't go to sleep without reading Even small paperbacks were adding unneeded weight. So, the night before, I go online and download some articles (replaces magazines, no weight from ads) and I rip the paperback apart and only take the amount of pages I'll probably read.


Weight of Water:

Name: August Curcio

After a surprisingly exhausting search I finally found the weight of Water. Appearently I prefer to cruise the net rather than simply filling a gallon jug and putting it on the bath room scale. So... Water weighs 8.33 lbs, per gallon at sea level; or 2.0825 lbs (33.32 oz)per quart, add to that the light weight of an extremely durable 1qt. gatorade bottle at roughly 1.9 oz. And you will find you are carrying 35.22 oz or 2.20125 lbs per 1 quart gatorade bottle of water.


Tim's Tips:

Name: Tim Gaffney, 6/22/01

--In mild weather, instead of taking a pair of light gloves "just in case," plan to use an extra pair of socks as mittens if you need them. (I learned to do this on early-morning runs when I couldn't find my gloves.) In cold weather, socks can add an emergency layer over gloves.

--Select a pot for functionality as well as weight. My old Sigg pot has a locking handle that allows me to pour with it -- no pot-gripper needed. The lid doubles as a plate.

--Some food packages allow you to mix the food with hot water in the bag, eliminating a pot-cleaning chore. (if I do wash a pot, I use a good nylon scrubber; its meager weight is good insurance against food poisoning.)

--Why cook? On my first trip to the Smokies many years ago, I left behind my Svea 123 stove (I hadn't mastered it yet) and munched homemade beef jerky, dried fruit and other such stuff for five days. (I carried a small pot and a few pouches of instant soup, and I did make soup one night when some other hikers let me use their camp fire.)

-- Carry your flashlight inside your coat on winter trips. Warm batteries last longer, requiring fewer spares.

OK, now a question: Does it save weight to wear pants that can double as shorts with zip-off legs? I have never worn these, but I'm considering it.


Tim's Tips (2):

Name: Tim Gaffney, 6/23/01

Gotta have a lantern in your tent? Stick your flashlight in a small, white plastic bag and hang it in the top of your tent for a dome light, or prop it against a pot lid for a reflector.

--Toothpaste: At home, buy a travel-size tube of toothpaste and use it until there's just enough left for your next backpacking trip.

--Soap: Buy a biodegradable liquid soap that can double as dish soap. Take just enough in a small eye-dropper bottle. It makes a passable shampoo on long trips.

--Spare bootlaces: Make sure your laces are in good shape before you go, and you shouldn't need a spare. In an emergency, cut a lace from your clothes line/bear line/tent line cord, having made sure it will fit through your eyelets.

--Windscreen: I made a windscreen for my trusty old Svea 123 stove from heavy-gauge aluminum foil. In camp, I unfold it and crimp the ends together to form a ring. Four tabs extending from the bottom fold inward, and the stove sits on them to hold the screen in place. It can all sit on a piece of sleeping-pad foam or an old mouse pad (which can double as an insulated seat cushion when you're not cooking.)

A note about windscreens around canister stoves: I don't have much experience with gas-canister stoves, but I recall reading that enclosing one in a wind screen can create an explosion hazard. The idea of a windscreen isn't necessarily to trap heat, but just to protect the flame. Use common sense and be safe.

--Duct tape: News photographers carry duct tape wrapped around a tripod leg. You can do the same with your hiking staff, but that's extra weight on the end of your arm. You can wrap it around a tube on your pack frame, if you have one, or the handle of your shi--excuse me, trowel.

--Hiking staffs: Can't afford those fancy trekking poles? I've seen squeegees and mops with telescoping handles that are lightweight and only cost $10 to $15. Plus, you can still use them for their original purpose. Check out the broom section in your hardware store.


Breakfast Bowl:

Name: Wayne C., 6/23/01

For breakfast, I pack some granola, along with 3 tablespoons of powdered milk into a pint-size, heavy-duty-freezer ziploc bag. When it's time to eat, just add water, hot or cold, depending on your situation. When you're done, you have a trash bag.


Backcountry Washing Machine:

Name: ValpoSimcich, 7/14/01

If you're near a decent Army Surplus store, buy a "Wet Weather Bag." It will save you quite a few pounds.

If you are out for an extended time in the backcountry, you have the choice of a) packing a lot of clothing with you, or b) becoming as funky as an outhouse rat and being a health hazard as well. Washing clothes is a good idea, but washing them in a stream is a lousy idea (who wants to see soap suds floating by as they fill their canteen downstream of you?). Your wet weather bag serves as an excellent backcountry washing machine.

1) Turn bag inside out.
2) Fill with ONE set of clothes; i.e., shirt, pants, undershirt, drawers & socks
3) Fill with half a quart of water and a tablespoon of soap powder, or your cake of soap if that's all you have
4) Throw in a handful of VERY smooth stones if you can find them
5) Push out most, but not all, of the air in the bag, then tie shut
6) Pretend you know how to play the accordion for about 5 to 10 minutes
7) Dump all out, wring clothes out tightly, fill with water (rinse cycle) and repeat steps 4-6 until your clothes are no longer soapy.

I spent three weeks' time backpacking in the Smokies, and had only one change of clothes with me, a savings of several pounds.


Packaging & Packing:

Name: Maxime Lachance, 7/18/01

I found that one of the biggest source of extra weight is the extra bags we use. Often, we pack our stuff in boxes or other bags believing that it will help us organize our pack better. While sometimes this is true, most of what I've done in the past was over packaging my stuff. Here are some alternative example for better packing:

- Use heavy duty ziploc kind of bags instead of boxes and fabrick bags (eg for soap, personnal effects...) they protect your stuff from rain, they are cheap and disposable...

- Do not bring an ultra robust water bottle (eg Lexan water bottle) if you plan a short trip. Use those plastic water and soft drink bottle... they often come with your favorite non-alcoolic beverage in them and are very cheap. If your bottle have a leek... repair it with electric black tape or duct tape. Moreover, most people do not really leave civilization for too long when the go backpacking... So at the next village, just buy a new bottle!

- For your films.. avoid bringing the containers

- If you really need good and solid containers to protect your stuff... use your cooking pots.

- For extreme light weight backpakers... I guess you even do not need a bag for your sleeping bag or your tent...

- Also... remember that the smallest your pack will be, the less it will weight... pack small things! However, avoid those compression packs.. they are heavy and does not help you packing smaller as they make your stuff almost like a hard rock that cannot fit properly in your pack.

That's it for the moment....

By the way... sorry for my poor english!


Multipurpose Toothbrush:

Name: William Graham, 7/18/01

Most people forget that a toothbrush doesn't just have to be used on Teeth! Use it to scrub your pots and it will serve double duty. I mean, hey, the food you are cleaning out of your pot was destined for your mouth anyway right? Then swish about some water in your mouth and after you have a clean pot, you'll have a clean toothbrush too!


Fire Starter for Wet Wood:

Name: Corey Aikens, 7/24/01

Make friends with your local VW shop, when aircooled engine cases are line bored, or bored for larger cylinders the shavings are magnesium, a mix of the shavings and wood shavings or other easily flamable material will light just about anything. Use caution though magnesium burns VERY hot, over 1400 degrees I believe, and the only way to put it out is sand.


Fire Starter - Recipe':

Name: Bill Turner, 7/27/01

I've seen many ideas for fire starters on the net and in stores, but this is the best I've ever used. You'll need:

-wax paper cups (3/4" dia. the kind restaurants serve condiments in, but get the small ones they're best).
-paraffin wax(or old candles etc)
-dryer lint

Method: Lay out cups on cookie sheet. While melting wax safely, pack cups full of lint to within a 1/4" of top then drizzle in wax. Object is to saturate lint NOT fill cups with wax. the end product is a safe, enviro-friendly fire starter that is very "packable", water and fool proof. To use, simply light the rim of the cup and stack kindling around it. On average one will burn for 15 min.


Fly Fishing Tips:

Name: John Mowery, 7/31/01

If you're like me, you don't go to the backcountry unless there is an ample supply of trout on hand. Here are several time tested methods to make you pack lighter, fishing more enjoyable, and catching much better.

1. Bring lanyard with your essential tools on it. It's a lot less weight than a vest.

2. Get a very small fly box and bring only the most essential flies. Backcountry trout don't see tons of pressure and you therefore can get by with many fewer flies. My humble recommendations: Adams (14, 16, 18), Lime Trude (14, 16), Hoppers, Wolly Bugger (6,8), Bead Head Prince (16), Hare's Ear (18, 20). These are all great back country flies, and I promise that if you fish them well, you'll catch trout anywhere.

3. Put several #4 weights, and indicators in with the flies.

4. Patagonia wading shoes are by far the lightest, most durable wading shoes I've come across. Get a pair of wading socks and you're ready for a full day on the water. Felt souls are essential to a good day on the water.

5. Most companies make 5 piece rods now. My preference is the Winston LT series. They make packing much easier than even a 3 piece rod. Use the rod case supplied by the company. You can save weight by skipping it, but a broken rod means no fishing and where would you be then?

Also, unless you're starving, don't eat the trout you catch. Put em' back, PLEASE!!!!


Insulated Coffee Cup:

Name: SGT Rock, 8/5/01

I love coffee myself so I .......

Here is what I did. Since I like multifunction and lightweight I don't carry a coffee cup. I carry a Country Time Lemonade plastic container with a polypro cozy.

About 1 1/2 years ago I was backpacking and lost my cofee cup. All I had left was one of those Gatorade plastic jars. So I used it and it was great, but it lost heat, but not as fast as a metal mug. I started looking around for a better solution and even made a foam cozy from some old trimmed down sleeping pad.

I finally found the Country Time lemonade containers. The top is a 1/2 and 1 cup measuring cup which also happens to be the correct size for 2 packages of oatmeal or grits. The bottom needs to be trimmed down to the threads, but makes a great 24oz (I think) bowl/cup/re-hydration chamber. I use it to make my puddding at dinner, rehydrate my pasta before eating (no cook pasta salad), carry extra water in, coffee cup, etc. I was recently cutting up a worn out polypro top to make some mittens and a hat when I realized the sleeve of the shirt fit around the cup perfectly, so I sewed it up and made a polypro cozy.

As for weight - the bowl/jar/cup weighs 1.8oz, and the cozy weighs .4oz. The older foam cozy weighed .5oz but was bulkier. Now I have a total of 2.3 ounces for an insulated multi function cup/jar/bowl/measuring cup. And it is cheap!


Solar/LED Lantern:

Name: Matt Morton, 8/10/01

My buddy fashioned a lantern from a solar powered walkway light he bought at Costco. He simply removed the fixture and the top handle, leaving just a base with a small solar panel and one tiny nicad battery. This little thing charged all day and came on at sunset, emitting enough radiant light to use for cooking and easily the same as a candle lantern. Awesome!


Titanium vs. Aluminum:

Name: Adam, 8/17/01

It is common knowledge in the bicycling industry that aluminum is much lighter than titanium. It is the strength to weight ratio that is better in titanium. However, in such things as cookwear this is irrelevant and the cheaper aluminum pots/mug/etc are fine. As far as tent stakes go, a beefer aluminum stake will be lighter and cheaper than titanium. Also you (we, hikers) should consider the neccesity of tent stakes, as there is almost always an ample amount of rocks and trees and branchs to be found out there in the woods. Instead of a tent with 12 stakes it's lighter and cheaper to carry a tarp like shelter (like the Golite cave) and take only half of the stakes with you.


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