These tips shared with us by Mr. Russ from backpacker magazine.
- BURYING YOUR RESERVOIR
Few flubs are more irritating than a leaky water bladder that soaks your pack on the drive to the trailhead. It happens when the pressure of other gear against the bite valve pops it open. So place the reservoir atop everything else en route to ensure it doesn’t get squashed.
- NOT BAGGING DEET-BASED BUG SPRAY
Deet melts nylon and polyester and can damage harder plastics like buckles and water bladders, so toss repellents in a zip-top bag.
- POOR PACKING
>> Get gear checklists for all types of trips (snow, desert, swamp, and more) at backpacker.com/checklists.
>> Don’t bury stuff you’ll regularly need deep in your pack.
- COMMITTING CRIMES OF FASHION
Ever notice how many stories about rescued hikers include the line, “The missing man was wearing jeans and tennis shoes”? Insufficient clothing contributed to 10 percent of rescue missions in national parks in 2007. Avoid:
>> Wearing cotton Once damp, it stays damp, sucking away body heat. Opt for adjustable layers of wicking fabrics like wool and polyester. Layering order goes: longsleeve (or tee), pullover, down jacket and/or rainshell, and hat and mitts for quick microadjustments.
>> Starting with too many layers: Ten minutes into the hike, you’ll be overheating
and need to shed clothing. Start from the trailhead a little chilled.
>> Letting yourself sweat. The moisture on your skin siphons away warmth.
>> Not adding layers right when you stop. You’ll soon be shivering.
- LETTING YOUR WATER FREEZE
Reservoir hoses require more work than bottles in frigid temps, so think twice about bladders. To avoid bottle freeze-up, stow them upside down in your pack.
- NEGLECTING TO CHECK THE FORECAST
Be prepared by getting a pinpoint forecast for your route at weather.gov (since frontcountry forecasts often don’t apply to the backcountry or high elevations). Note: Temperatures drop about 3°F for every 1,000 feet of vertical gain.
- IGNORING STORM SIGNS
Watch for clues like winds from the south, developing cloud cover, and a freefall in barometric pressure (measured by an altimeter watch; some even have storm-warning features). If weather deteriorates, descend to safe, sheltered areas (lightning is attracted to isolated, pointy objects like lone trees, ridges, and summits).
- GETTING SEPARATED
Letting the speed-demons blaze ahead while the slower hikers fall behind begs for disaster. If a sudden storm, darkness, a wrong turn, or injury befall you, communicating with other team members will be difficult or impossible. That’s why the “Start as a group, hike as a group, finish as a group” mantra is smart. Try these strategies:
>> Cajole the speedsters to slow down, and put a person in front who sets a moderate pace.
>> Designate a reliable sweeper to bring up the rear.
>> Redistribute weight from slower hikers to fast ones.
>> Agree to stop at every trail junction. Because spreading out is inevitable on any hike, this will
reduce the chance of someone taking a wrong turn.
GETTING CAUGHT IN THE DARK (Above)
Nightfall means cold temps and difficult routefinding. To estimate how much daylight is left: Hold your palm at arm’s length and count how many fingers fit between the horizon and the sun. Each finger represents about 15 minutes. Example above shows one hour, 15 minutes until dark. If darkness descends, no worries—that’s what a headlamp is for. Just make sure you pack it (see #7, p. 40).
- PITCHING YOUR TENT IN A PUDDLE
Waking up in a soggy sleeping bag is a definite buzzkill. To stay dry:
1. Pitch your shelter on dry, flat, well-draining surfaces, like pine needles, rock slabs, or bare dirt. The leakiest part of a tent isn’t the ceiling or walls, but the floor. When rain collects under the tent, the pressure of your gear and body lets it seep through the fabric. So avoid shallow depressions, spongy turf, and runoff zones, which pool water. If you’re using a footprint (a plastic tarp beneath the tent), tuck the outer edges under the rainfly to keep water from inundating it.
2. Waterproof the seams. If the tent or rainfly seams have lost their repellency, coat them (inside and outside) with a sealer like McNett Seam Grip, then reapply once a year.
3. Orient your tent so the smallest cross-section—usually the rear—faces into the wind. That tactic, along with staking out guy-lines, stops rain gusts from blowing droplets underneath the rainfly.
4. Pack the tent in this order: rainfly, canopy, footprint. So if you’re pitching it in rain and wind, the footprint comes out first, then you stake the canopy, and lastly you set up the canopy with the fly draped over it.
- PACKING ONLY ONE BIC
If it fails, no stove or fire. And don’t forget good tinder, like dryer lint.
- NOT GAZING UP
Widowmakers kill. Pitch your tent away from dead trees and limbs.
- RANDOMLY ARRANGING YOUR CAMPSITE
For max comfort and convenience, follow these organizational tips:
>> To warm up fast on chilly mornings, pick a site with southern exposure, and avoid low spots since cold air flows downhill.
>> Evade mosquitoes by picking open areas with breezes, sun, and no standing water.
>> At campgrounds, grab a spot near the latrine and water spigot, but not so close (or on the main thoroughfare) that constant traffic—and odors—will bother you.
>> Locate campfires and kitchen areas downwind from the tent to keep smoke and smells away from your sleeping spot. Hang bear bags 100 yards downwind from both.
>> Site backcountry camps 200 feet (40 adult paces) from any trails, rivers, or lakes. This is also the distance catholes should be from campsite, trail, water, or drainage.
- BAD GEAR DRYING
>> Don’t hang damp clothes inside your tent. They won’t dry. Place them inside your sleeping bag.
>> Putting boots near the fire will crack the leather and melt the soles. Air-dry them upside-down.
>> Don’t store a wet tent unless you want mildew. Hang to air-dry.
35. LAZY FOOD STORAGE
A bear’s sense of smell is seven times better than a bloodhound’s—and the odor of jerky carries for miles. Ergo, hang a bear bag. Even if bruins aren’t present, proper technique will protect food from marauding varmints.
1. Before sunset, locate a suitable tree with a sturdy branch 15 to 20 feet off the ground. It should be at least 100 yards downwind from your campsite. Typically, deciduous trees offer longer, stronger branches than conifers.
2. Put a fist-size rock in a sock or glove. Attach it to a 50-foot nylon rope. Toss the cord over the branch. It should rest at least five feet from the tree trunk. 3. Tie or clip the bear bag to the rope and hoist away. Make sure the bottom of the bag is at least 10 feet off the ground. For more security, add a mouse hanger (p. 34); you can also throw the rope over a second branch on a nearby tree and tie the bag to the middle of the rope.
4. Wrap the rope end around the trunk several times. Tie it off with several overhand knots or hitches.
- IGNORING HOT SPOTS
When heel pain flares up five minutes into the hike, do you keep moving? Many hikers are too rushed to stop, and most regret it later. The earlier you treat a hot spot—a skin irritation caused by excessive friction—the better your chances for a blister-free day. Stop and do the following:
1. Clean the skin around the hot spot with a damp, clean cloth.
2. Apply a self-adhesive, cushioned bandage like moleskin or 2nd Skin over the affected area and the surrounding skin.
3. Secure it with strips of tape or adhesive bandages. Real blister prevention starts at home: Wear new boots around the house and on short hikes. If hot spots develop during break-in, apply bandages and continue the process of toughening up skin and molding the boot. Also, experiment with different socks, insoles, and less-rigid trail shoes.
- HIKING IN WET SOCKS
Soggy skin blisters faster; change into dry socks asap.
- WASTING FUEL
Up efficiency with liquid-fuel stoves by using an aluminum windscreen. Don’t put screens around canisters (they can explode), but cook in a sheltered spot
- ACKING TOO MUCH FOOD
Aim for 2.5 lbs./person/day and 4,000 calories.
- NOT BRINGING ENOUGH FUEL
Figure about 2.5 oz. per person per day in summer, and 7.5 oz. in winte
- HYDRATION BLUNDERS
>> Letting water freeze On subzero nights stow bottles in sleeping bag.
>> Not replacing electrolytes Low levels of sodium (lost in sweat) can cause sometimes-fatal hyponatremia. Consume salty foods or sport drinks.
>> Getting dehydrated An active person loses two liters per hour in very hot weather, and about half a liter in temperate conditions. Drink enough that your pee is nearly clear.