Wilderness Guide

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The National Outdoor Leadership School’s “Wilderness Guide” is a wonderful book to add to your backcountry library.

“The classic backpackers handbook – revised and updated with information anon new equipment and techniques-providing expert guidelines for backpackers, hikers, campers- anyone who loves the outdoors.”

Author Mark Harvey is a NOLS instructor and  freelance writer.

This book is an excellent first step in the planning process for backcountry  travel.

Available at Amazon.

Winter Hill Walking – Essential Skills And Equipment

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Winter Hill Walking – Essential Skills and Equipment I hope that you have a great list of goals as you travel into 2018. I hope that list of goals has a lot to do with preparedness. Moreover, I hope there is a focus on the functional prepping portion. Skills and getting out and doing are …

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Life Benefits of Getting Fresh Air

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Guest Contributor Lee has a new post on fresh air:
Do you make it a priority to get outside every day? You might after you read this article. People do all kinds of things in the name of their health and well-being, like taking supplements, trying new diets, and going on expensive retreats. But if you want better health and a more optimistic outlook on life, the solution might be much simpler than all those things: just go outside and breathe some fresh, clean air.

Intrigued? Here are five reasons why fresh air might just be the best medicine available to you.

1. Getting outside gives your immune system a boost.

If you want to stay healthy, you’ve got to take care of your immune system. Your immune system fights off invading bacteria and viruses, protecting you from everything from the common cold to stomach flu. There are a number of ways you can keep your immune system in tip-top condition, including eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits, getting enough sleep, and washing your hands regularly. But the simplest thing of all you can do? Just step outside and take a quick walk around the block. The combination of oxygen and exercise will boost your white blood cell levels, helping you fight off infections before they even get a foothold in your body.

2. Fresh air helps you stay alert.

Feeling sleepy after lunch? Don’t reach for that energy drink or third cup of coffee. Take a minute to step outside instead. Fresh air has a way of clearing your head and boosting your alertness. It can even make you more creative. As a result, your thinking will become clearer and sharper at school or on the job, no caffeine required.

3. Spending time in the sunlight increases your vitamin D levels.

Did you know that many people are vitamin D deficient, even though this essential nutrient is plentiful and free? That’s right – we can get vitamin D from the sun, but lots of office workers, students, and other people who spend most of their time inside still don’t get enough of it. You can boost your vitamin D levels – thereby improving your mental health, bone health, and cardiovascular health – by spending as little as fifteen minutes outside on sunny days. Wear short sleeves if it’s warm enough, so your skin can soak up as much sunlight as possible. Just don’t forget to put on sunscreen after fifteen minutes!

4. Fresh air makes you happier and less stressed.

If your mood has been down in the dumps lately, it could be because you’ve been spending too time breathing stale air indoors. People tend to be happiest and healthiest when they’re getting regular doses of fresh air and sunshine. In fact, wilderness therapy has been found to be a potent antidepressant – people actually have lower rates of mental health problems like depression and anxiety when they spend regular time outside in nature. The great outdoors also has a soothing effect on stress, so if you’ve been under pressure lately, a few deep breaths of fresh, clean air could be just what you need.

5. Unpolluted air improves your overall health.

Breathing in pollution isn’t good for you – everybody knows that. People who live in areas with lots of pollution are more likely to deal with asthma, digestive problems, and cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure than people who live in less-polluted areas. Breathing clean air has the opposite effect: it supplies your body with plenty of oxygen, improves your lung capacity, and makes it easier for your heart to do its job. If you live in a big city with a pollution problem, do your best to visit green spaces like parks frequently, since trees purify the air.

The Takeaway

Fresh air does a body good. If you haven’t been getting your daily dose of fresh air, establish a new habit of going outside frequently. You’ll likely become happier and healthier as a result.

SPOT Messenger

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I always take my SPOT messenger and cell phone with me when I head out to the backcountry; it’s part of my ten essentials.

On a recent trip I sent three “I’m OK” status messages.  My first message was sent at 0900,

then 0915 and a third at about 1000.

I always send at least two messages to my family.  I am on the check in list too just to verify my unit is working.

I found that one message was received at  roughly 1020 but nothing else.

When I returned home one message (one of three) was received at 1600.  The last message was received the next afternoon.  This is the first time that I have had such time late message reception.

I called the manufacturer to sort out what happened.

Most importantly learned that the satellite service for SPOT was degraded that day.

I also learned that the internet provider (AOL.com) was having technical issues receiving and processing SPOT messages.  I then put my .gmail account as an authorized service.

I tested  the messenger from home and received my transmitted data almost immediately.

The manufacturers customer service was excellent.  All my questions were answered. 

For more information and suggestions for using your messenger visit:SPOT Tips

Using Your Cell Phone In The Backcountry

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Last month Jenny Rough wrote an interesting article about why it is a mistake to con you a cell phone when hiking.

She stressed that basic navigation skill “is a use-it-or-lose-skill.  How true.

The thrust of the post is that hikers have an over dependence of electronic navigation while forsaking the rudimentary  principles of using a map and compass. 

Take a look at Jenny’s post.

Visit my other articles on land navigation too:

Knots In the Backcountry

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Several years ago I had the opportunity to take an abbreviated wilderness survival course conducted by Emergency Response International (visit www.eri-online.com).  One component of their presentation was emergency shelters.  Key to emergency shelter building is the ability to tie a reliable knot.

First, the hunter needs to carry shelter material.  This can range from a poly tarp (with numerous grommets) or one of the many nylon tarps sold through high end retailers such as REI.  A tarp of 8’ by 10’ is adequate.   Secondly, 50 feet good quality parachute cord is needed to tie the shelter to a tree or pole.  Quality parachute cord has a breaking strength of 500 pounds and can be found at a surplus store or on-online.  (There is some junk para cord out there so be careful with your selection.)

An excellent resource for knot tying is an online web site animatedknots.com.  This site offers downloadable apps for the smart phone and categorizes knots by topic (such as scouting, boating and fishing.  The instructions are concise and easy to understand.

There are hundreds of knots that the hunter can choose from.  I recommend learning just a few knots that expand beyond tying your boots or the square knot.

A great knot to start with is the timber hitch.  Wikipedia claims that the timber hitch was first mentioned in a nautical source around 1620. 

“The timber hitch is a used to attach a single length of rope a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.”



The timber hitch is a friction knot.  The many wraps of rope or parachute cord hold firmly under tension.  It’s simple and easy to use and can be the anchor of a tarp.  Best of all, after being placed under tension it won’t become next to impossible to untie; we have all been there.

For complete instructions watch the video at animated knots:


3 Hiking Preparedness Tips To Consider Before Hitting The Trails

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Hiking is great fun and an excellent form of exercise. An adventure through the woods can be dangerous for the ill prepared, however. Before you set off on your next hiking adventure, make sure you perform these three preparations first.

Research The Trail

Before hitting the trail, know what you’ll find when you get there. There are many maps and trail books available at your local bookstore and online. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact local hiking clubs or plan your hike in a nearby park or nature reserve. Doing so allows you to contact the park ranger for trail information and conditions. Compare the trail information you receive with the skill and fitness level of your group. Know your limits and only hike trails within them.

Pack A Bag

While you don’t want to weigh yourself down unnecessarily, there are a few basic supplies you should always carry with you on the trail. Always bring along the following:

  • Fresh water
  • Healthy snacks
  • A flashlight or head lamp
  • Matches
  • Rain gear
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • A whistle
  • A first aid kit

Stock your first aid kit with the usual supplies and any medications you take routinely, just in case you’re out longer than planned. Be conscious of stinging insect allergies, as well, and carry your EpiPen or other life-saving medications prescribed by your allergy doctor. If you’re unsure if you have allergies or not, consider getting tested, like the services offered at Oak Brook Allergists.

Dress Properly

Your favorite jeans and a worn cotton tee may be perfect attire for a lazy Sunday, but they’re terrible for hiking. Cotton dries very slowly, is worthless when wet and causes chafing. Instead, wear modern moisture wicking fabrics that will keep you cool and dry. Some of these fabrics even include built-in insect repellents and UV protection. These garments are a worthwhile investment, as are the right hiking boots. Buy the lightest, most comfortable boots you can find without sacrificing ankle support. Never compromise on boot comfort. If you don’t find boots comfortable on a level floor, you’ll be downright miserable on rough terrain.

Hiking is a terrific hobby and there is a trail that can accommodate almost every age and fitness level. The key to a safe and enjoyable hike is matching the trail to your physical abilities, wearing the right clothes and bringing along the right supplies. Doing so ensures you’ll have a fun trip and be prepared to handle whatever crosses your path.

About the Author: Emma is a freelance writer living in Boston. When she manages to tear herself away from the computer, she enjoys baking, rock climbing, and film noir.

Six Steps to Take for Summer Hiking Preparedness

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When hiking, it is important you prepare properly to have a fun and safe trip. We’ve all been on the hellish hikes where you wore the wrong shoes or didn’t pack enough sunscreen. Don’t fall victim to these amateur mistakes. If you take all the right steps you can be prepared for anything that may come your way.

Step 1: Bring Plenty of Water
It seems obvious, but water is very important when going on a hike. Dehydration is very real when being active, regardless of the temperature. Bring enough water to drink plus a little extra, since you may need to clean a wound. Some people enjoy a snack or even an entire meal when on a hiking trip, depending on the length of your trek. Since so much energy is being used by your body, having fruit or a granola bar handy wouldn’t hurt.

Step 2: Protection from the Sun
While journeying through a beautiful environment, it’s nice to enjoy the outdoors and get exposed to a little more vitamin D. Just remember, the sun can be damaging as well as warm. Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and some people even wear long sleeve shirts and pants for additional protection.

Step 3: Pack a Backpack
You are preparing for a fun day and you have many needs. If all your supplies won’t fit in your pocket, it’s good to have a small backpack for water, food, and maps. Prepare to pack light. Do your best to bring all the important things, but also remember you will be carrying this backpack the whole time.

Step 4: Bring a Friend or Headphones
Hiking with friends is always a great pastime. You can engage in conversation and take in the sights together. It is a great way to come together and bond on a more personal level. If you can’t find a friend to take the trip, you still want to skip the phone, music can be great when you stop for breaks. You want to be aware of your surroundings during your hike, but when eating a snack, lunch, or taking a breather, you can indulge in some sounds to match your views. Be sure you always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Step 5: Have First Aid Supplies
While hiking is a fun and healthy activity, remember anything can happen while out on the trail. There is the threat of dehydration, sunburn, bug bites, animal attacks, and other unknowns. Just be mindful and stay prepared. It’s best to try to avoid most issues by having the correct supplies on hand. In the end, you won’t have control over nature, so keep some band-aids and first aid supplies with you. You may also want to have your doctor’s number on hand just in case you run into a wild animal or unleashed dog.

Step 6: Have Fun!
Being outdoors is enjoyable regardless of the risks, and should be a good experience. Make sure it is by following the above tips and being prepared.

About the Author:
Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.

Why Every Hiking Trip Needs a Hammock

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Why Every Hiking Trip Needs a Hammock


When you think about packing up your hiking gear, you might think about bringing along your first aid kit, your water bottle and a few other necessities. Although these things are obviously important, you might be missing one thing that can make hiking way more fun: a hammock. These are a few reasons why every hiking trip needs a hammock.


They’re Easy to Carry Around


When you’re packing for your hiking trips, you might like to do what you can to keep your pack light. This makes a lot of sense, since a heavier backpack can make a big difference in how difficult your hike is. Plus, you probably want to save room for necessities. This means that you might not add in many items that you don’t consider must-haves.


Luckily, though, a hammock can still fit in nicely. If you purchase a hammock that is designed for hiking and camping, you might be surprised by how easy it is to fit into your backpack without adding a lot of extra weight. It’s a great way to bring something fun without getting in the way of your weight limit, and it should fold up easily enough that it does not take up a whole lot of extra space, either.


They Can Be Used Almost Anywhere


One great thing about hammocks is that they are so versatile that you can use them just about anywhere if you are creative enough. If you are going to be staying in a camp site, you should be able to use stakes or posts as a means of putting up your hammock. If you’re going to be hiking in the woods, you should have no problem finding two trees that you can string your hammock in-between. You can always bring along posts that you can use to put up your hammock, but depending on where you are hiking, this should not be necessary. In general, hammocks are pretty versatile and can be used in a variety of places.


They Provide the Perfect Relaxation Spot


Hiking is hard work. Sure, you might be planning on going on a hiking trip so that you can achieve your fitness goals, but you deserve to relax a little bit as well. Plus, if you are able to relax well during your rest times, you’ll be able to achieve even more goals when you get back to hiking again.


Even though a plain old camping chair might provide you with a place to sit and rest, you probably aren’t going to find it to be as cool or comfortable as a hammock. Few things can actually be as enjoyable as kicking back in a hammock in a beautiful spot in nature, particularly after a long day of hiking. You can even create a campfire and break out your e cigarette starter kit and start vaping to make things even more relaxing.


The truth is that once you try relaxing in a hammock on one of your long hikes, you’ll probably never want to relax in a regular camping chair again, since you probably won’t find it to be quite as comfortable or relaxing. Plus, there’s a good chance that other hikers on the trail will find themselves to be quite jealous and will wonder why they didn’t think to bring a hammock along themselves!


If you are into hiking but don’t yet have a hammock, you may want to consider investing in one. You can find them at many outdoors stores, and once you have one, you’re sure to wonder how you ever went hiking without one in the past.


Essential Backpacking Gear Checklist

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Essential Backpacking Gear Checklist Sometimes you just need a good old fashioned list. This is a great one. It doesn’t come from a prepper or survivalist website. Rather I thought we go to the source. As peppers we may practice a bugout a couple times a year but for backpackers they think about backpacking every …

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Snakes In The Backcountry

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Are you ready for rattlesnakes?  The following post is from a site that I just found a few years back.  This is great info as you head into the backcountry.

Be Rattlesnake Safe

05/22/13 — As warm weather returns, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding the public to be rattlesnake safe. All of California is snake country. Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations under control.

California has six venomous snakes, all of which are various species of rattlesnake. They are heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed with triangular-shaped heads. A rattle may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and not developed on the young. Additional species information can be found here.

Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike when threatened or provoked. Given room, they will retreat and want to be left alone. They are not confined to rural areas and have been found in urban environments, lakeside parks and golf courses.
The best protection against unwelcome rattlesnakes in the yard is to have a “rattlesnake-proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least 3 feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground.
Keep the fence clear of vegetation and debris. Encourage and protect kingsnakes, which prey on rattlesnakes, and other natural competitors like gopher snakes and racers.

On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when humans are most active outdoors. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths. 
CDFW recommends the following outdoor safety precautions:
  • Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails.
  • Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.
  • Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
  • Remember, rattlesnakes can swim so never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers.
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

What to do in the event of a snake bite:

  • Stay calm and wash the bite area gently with soap and water.
  • Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling.
  • Immobilize the affected area and go to the nearest medical facility.

What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:

  • DON’T apply a tourniquet.
  • DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
  • DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
  • DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
  • DON’T let the victim drink alcohol. 

Bush shelter saved dad and son lost in Tasmanian wilderness for days

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Learn primitive skills & equip yourself with suitable equipment before going bush.

Extreme Weather Survival

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Wes Siler recently wrote a fine article in OUTSIDE magazine titled “The 5 Principles of Extreme Weather Survival.” 

The key take-aways of this article are the subtitles:

  1. Never Leave Home Unprepared.
  2. Check the Forecast
  3. Tell Someone Before You Go
  4. Be Conservative
  5. Use Common Sense
Do visit my website to download a copy of my trip plan.  This is akin to the pilots flight plan.

Remember the phrase, “the devil is in the details.”  Well, Search and Rescue teams deserve as much detail as you can provide. 

Check out Wes Siler’s article.  It is certainly worth your time.

Keeping Yourself in Shape for Your Next Backpacking Trip

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A new post by Lee.
If you have a big backpacking trip planned for the near future, you definitely want to be in the kind of shape where you can enjoy it. You won’t have nearly as much fun if you’re huffing and puffing after the first mile. It doesn’t take training like Rocky to be ready for backpacking, as all you need to do is follow a few simple steps to keep yourself in good condition.
Go on Walks, Runs, and Hikes

The best way to train for a physical activity is to mimic that physical activity as closely as possible. For backpacking, your best option is going on hikes while wearing a backpack, since that’s exactly what you’ll be doing on your trip. Do this frequently enough in the weeks and months leading up to your trip, and you shouldn’t have any issues.

You may not be in a situation where you can hike much, if at all, depending on where you live and the weather. If that’s the case, running and walking are both good alternatives, with running being better since you need to work harder. You can wear a backpack or substitute it with a weight vest so you still get the feeling of carrying weight.

Stick to Healthy Eating Habits

What you eat is a huge part of your overall health. The key to eating healthy is to make it part of your lifestyle, instead of looking at it as a diet. If you don’t currently have the best eating habits, start substituting healthier food choices one meal at a time. By changing your eating gradually instead of all at once, it’s easier to commit to the changes.

As far as what you should eat, you should focus on natural foods, which means anything that comes from an animal or the ground. Healthy food choices include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can usually find the natural foods towards the outer edges of a supermarket, while the processed junk food will be concentrated in the center aisles.

Work on Any Bad Habits

If you’re smoking a pack a day or drinking heavily, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get in good shape for your backpacking trip. One different alternative to tobacco is vaping. You may find that getting a vape helps you cut back on cigarettes. The nice thing about vaping is you can try all kinds of different flavors. Online sites like the e cig juice page from Halocigs can give you a variety of many flavors you can check out.

When it comes to drinking, alcohol isn’t an issue if you use it in moderation. If you find that your drinking is getting out of hand, you may want to commit to staying sober for a certain amount of time or at least cutting down on your alcohol intake.

Get Enough Rest

Make sure you don’t push yourself too hard to the point where you end up injured or burnt out before it’s time for your trip. Whenever you start a new workout routine, take it slow and gradually build up to higher frequencies and intensities. Get at least six to eight hours of sleep every night, as that’s when your body will dot the bulk of its recovering.

If you start feeling very tired or sore, that’s a sign that it’s time to slow down. Take a couple days to let your body recover from everything. You may also want to do some lighter intensity work, such as yoga, on occasion. Remember that you want to be at your best for your trip.

The sooner you start preparing for your backpacking trip, the better. In the leadup to your trip, try to get a workout in at least three or four days per week. Eat healthy, reduce those bad habits, and rest up so you’ll be ready to go when it’s trip time.

Fire and Ice: How To Prepare for Climbing Mount Rainier

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Lee Flynn has a new post for us:
Fire and Ice: How To Prepare for Climbing Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier is one of the most iconic peaks in the United States. Rising 14,410 feet above sea level, this active volcano combines breathtaking beauty with unpredictable and occasionally life-threatening hazards. Summiting this unique mountain is an exhilarating and unforgettable experience, but it does take some special preparation.

Focus on Fitness  

To reach Mount Rainier’s summit, expect to climb a minimum of 9,000 feet in elevation while carrying at least 35 pounds of gear. The extensive glaciation means that it’s not a simple hike, either. You may have to use your hands to hoist yourself up or rely on crampons and other tools that may change the way you move. Start training early and focus on a general fitness plan that works all your major muscle groups. Include both short-term, intense cardiovascular exercises and endurance training.

Learn the Skills

Mount Rainier’s extensive glaciation means that snow and ice stick around all year, as do the hazards that accompany them. Make sure to practice climbing in those conditions. Avalanches are less common during the climbing season, which lasts from April to September, but they remain a risk all year. Learn to recognize and avoid avalanche-prone areas. Make sure you know ice climbing skills, such as how to self-arrest with an ice ax. Get basic training in first aid and rescue techniques so you can handle any problems that may arise and choose a route appropriate to your skill level.

Pick Your Partners

No solo climbers are allowed on Mount Rainier, and the National Parks Service recommends at least three to four people per party. First-time or less experienced climbers typically have the best chance of summiting when they hire a professional guide. If you create your own expedition, try to choose teammates whose skills balance each other out. The most experienced mountaineer should generally be the team leader.

Know the Risks

Volcanic activity and glaciation create unusual risks that aren’t found on many fourteeners in the United States. In addition to avalanche risk areas, learn to recognize unstable seracs, or ice cliffs, which can collapse and fall on climbers. Lower on the mountain, volcanic activity sometimes causes lahars, or debris flows, which can clog rivers and cause sudden and unexpected flooding. Mount Rainier also has notoriously unpredictable weather compared to many other mountains. Make sure to check weather reports and carry the right equipment to handle any likely weather conditions.

Test Your Gear

Never take unfamiliar gear on a major climb. Giving everything a trial run or two not only lets you identify any defective or ill-fitting equipment, but it also ensures that you know how to operate or assemble things. This can come in handy if you have to set up in the dark or in inclement weather. Make sure to try out any new technological equipment, too, such as testing solar chargers or familiarizing yourself with a vape box mod if you plan to use one on your climb.

Planning Is Everything

A detailed plan is the key to a successful summit. Make sure to create a realistic timeline for your climb. Tailor it to the slowest member of your team so no one feels rushed or exhausted. Plan around typical weather conditions as well. Climbing on glaciers during the afternoon can be grueling and unpleasant due to the warmth and the sun reflecting off of the snow. Most experienced climbers leave extremely early in the morning to maximize travel time while minimizing sun exposure. Stick to your plan no matter what to avoid getting stuck on the mountain in dangerous conditions. Remember that reaching the summit is only half of the journey, so don’t spend too much time relaxing or celebrating before turning around to hike back down.

Mount Rainier’s unique geology and environment combine to create an exceptional climbing experience, but reaching the summit can be dangerous. Planning, training and preparation are the keys to a fun and successful climb.

Hiking Essentials for Your Dog’s Backpack

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In a previous article, I talked about the Approach Pack by Ruffwear, which by the way is an excellent pack. Well, okay you have the pack or may have ordered one, so what goes in the pack. 1.) The obvious, of course, is food, water and collapsible bowls for the food and water. These will […]

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How to Pack a Hiking Bag

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How to Pack a Hiking Bag Like anything else there are ways to do something and then there are the best ways to do something. I would never claim that any article best described the way you personally should pack your hiking bag. I understand this is as personal an endeavor to some as how …

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How to Make a Waterproof Altoids Tin Spice Kit

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Waterproof Altoids Tin Spice Kit

Variety is the spice of life especially when it comes to your food. So if you’re looking for a great way to spice up your food on the trail this is an excellent way to bring some of your favorite spices along and it won’t cost you more than 5 bucks for a package of straws and a tin from your favorite Altoids mints.

So check out the graphic below and remember that this method can be used to make all sorts of different Altoids kits, the possibilities are endless. Sealing items in the straws keeps everything sealed and dry the ranger band is optional but just adds protection. Some things you can seal in straws are matches, tinder (cotton balls with vaseline). Keep in mind straws also come in a few different sizes you can use the larger 1/2 inch straws to seal larger items too.

Waterproof Spice Kit

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The Changing Scene of Backpacking

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One of the most popular things for young people to do today is to spend some time backpacking around the world. There are many benefits to having a backpacking adventure. Young people learn more about the wider world when they travel beyond their borders. They come back from their experiences more educated, more tolerant and respectful of other cultures, more flexible and better able to solve problems. Backpacking has been around since the 1950s when backpackers first started travelling the famous Marco Polo Silk Route. That evolved into the Hippie Trail from Europe to Asia in the 1960s, and backpackers have spread around the world since then. Here is a look at the ways backpacking has changed over the years.
The People
Perhaps the biggest way that backpacking has changed over the years is the types of people that go backpacking. When backpacking was in its infancy, it was only hippies and adventurers who would be bold enough to travel the world with nothing more than a backpack on their shoulders. Nowadays, all kinds of people go backpacking. It is not just the young people who are highly adventurous. Now that there are many more resources available for backpackers, people do not need to be as fearless and willing to blaze their own trails as they had to be by necessity in the past. People today can use Internet resources to plan every single detail of their trips. In the past, travelers often had to fly by the seat of their pants when they arrived at a new destination.
The Equipment
Another huge change in backpacking over the decades has been the updated technology. The main way that technology has changed backpacking is by making everything smaller and lighter. Backpackers today can fit a lot more gear in their packs than they could even 20 years ago. Clothing, shoes, tents and most other gear has both become lighter and smaller. It has also become easier to pack by stowing up into smaller spaces. Instead of packing cartons of cigarettes, backpackers can use e-cigarettes and pack a vape starter kit to save space.
Of course, the abundance of electronic gear is one of the biggest innovations in backpacking. With one smartphone, travelers can document their trip with photos and videos, keep in contact with the folks back home through email and video chat, translate a foreign language, call for a taxi, research their next destination and navigate their way through unfamiliar territory with GPS guidance. Smartphones have made travelling much easier than ever before, but they also take out some of the sense of adventure in backpacking.
The Destinations
When the backpackers started spreading out around the world in the 1970s, towns where they spent a lot of time started rapidly evolving. Quiet fishing villages and sleepy mountain towns started sprouting many hostels, restaurants and nightclubs aimed at the backpacking crowd. Backpackers started to fall in love with many of these destinations, putting down roots and opening up businesses of their own.
The result of this is that there are many stops along the popular backpacking routes where travelers can eat Western food and speak in English without ever having to immerse themselves in the local culture. This makes it much more convenient to be a backpacker, which is one of the reasons so many more people are backpacking these days. It also means that something is lost because many backpackers do not gain the cultural enrichment that was once inevitable for backpackers.
As you can see, the world of backpacking has changed a lot over the decades. The people, places and gear may have changed, but the experience is still essentially the same. It is still all about people expanding their worlds to learn about other cultures. Although they may not get the same wild experience that was possible in the past, it is still a good way for people to expand their horizons and learn about the world.

Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Review: Power in a Pinch

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Behold, the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus in all its glory, but is it really all folks state that it is cracked up to be….?

Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus

Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus

Before we get into this, straight from the Goal Zero website.

With the Guide 10 Plus Recharger and Nomad 7 Solar Panel you have a portable, rugged charging kit as adventurous as you are. Charge AAs from the sun or any USB port, then power your phone, MP3, GPS, or perk up your tablet in a pinch.

Let’s cut to the chase here before I get into my detailed review.  This thing is indeed great for power in a pinch but can be a chore, might not even be necessary for the simple weekend trip.  Obviously we are not talking SHTF here because if that were the case, are we truly concerned about charging cell phones when the entire grid is down.  Overall I’d have to say at this price point (around $100) it’s affordable, if you spend more than a few days out in remote areas it can be a nice to have item but don’t go out of your way to snag one up.

I spend a good amount of time out in the wilderness but never for more than a few days at a time (for the most part).  In those instances I usually leave my electronic devices off because…there is no cell phone signal.  I do carry a Delorme InReach Explorer on my person but the battery life of that device is more than sufficient for a 2-3 day trek.  For me and what I do the Goal Zero is a nice to have but also not a necessity.  I could hang it off my pack as an insurance plan knowing that power would always be there, no outlet needed, but again I’ve yet to run into an instance where I NEEDED power.

The Experiment

Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Hooked Up

I charged up the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus to full power (indicated by the green LED on the device) and connected it to my cell phone which was sitting at 17% charge.  16 mins into this the battery pack was showing red, no more charge and my phone was up to 24%.  Interesting.  I then plugged my phone into the wall and 1 hour and 2 mins later it was at 76% (I had to leave).  I set the Goal Zero back out on the deck to recharge.

Indicating Red Quickly

Round Number 2

I decided to give the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus a second chance later in the day after letting my phone battery drain and the GZ battery pack charge.  My iPhone was at 15% when I hooked up the GZ device, it only took 15 mins for the green light on the battery pack to turn amber (30% charge on my phone).  It did last significantly longer this time, running a full 1 hour and 25 mins before turning red (no more charge) and bringing my phone up to 87% charge.  Decent but not exactly earth shattering.

Final Thoughts

As previously stated I suppose one would benefit from having this device versus not having it for longer periods out in the wilderness.  It will limp your small mobile devices along but isn’t exactly a power plant, nor was it probably designed to be.  If you are the type to take a weekend trip I suggest making sure you have a full charge on your phone and bringing along a small power pack which will probably give you 1-2 full charges, less space than the solar panels and more effective.  If you are the type to spend more than a few days out there, you probably already have this and have figured out a way to make it work.  Personally I was a bit underwhelmed but hey, solar is…solar.


Winter Camping and Our Internal Clock

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This interesting news article was in a local paper on February 15.

Article by Brett French, The Billings (Montana) Gazette.

“Camping in winter can be miserable. The nights seem painfully long. I toss, turn and check my watch frequently, wondering how it is that only an hour has passed since I last checked the clock.
New research may give winter campers like me some hope that those cold outings may be of benefit in an unusual way.
According to a study published in “Current Biology” by the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, sleeping outside is a good way to reset your restless winter internal clock.”

Brett French’s complete article

Money Well Spent: Shoes, Socks and an Umbrella

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If you cannot walk or are in pain when walking due to blisters or emersion foot also known as trench foot, or from a twisted ankle, or bruised foot because your boots or shoes offered no support or shock absorption, your survival may hang in the balance.

Boots and Shoes

While you may want your hiking boots to make a fashion statement, they also need to be practical and actually provide comfort and support. Are they waterproof or water resistant, do the soles offer a good gripping surface and do they provide the proper shock resistance, and most importantly, do they fit well?

Cheap boots will have cheap soles that can become dangerous when traversing wet surfaces and can cause stone bruises because they offer no protection against debris on the ground. Quality shoes or boots cost money, but it is money well spent when it’s below freezing and the ground is wet, cold and the terrain is rough. Twenty-five-dollar shoes or hiking boots from your local big box store will not hold up and they can immobilize you out on the trail.

There are hiking shoes, hiking boots and backpacking boots. The backpacking boots are for those of you that plan an extended hiking adventure with a backpack that would be heavier than a daypack, for example. Backpacking boots would offer more protection because they are sturdier, but are also heavier as well, so there are choices to be made when it comes to shoes, and much depends on your lifestyle, terrain, probable weather conditions, and fitness level in some cases.

Hiking shoes are ideal for short walks or hikes close to home where the weight you are carrying is minimal. Hiking boots are essentially hiking shoes that rise above the ankle to provide more support. They offer much needed support when on rough terrain, and anyone that has not been out hiking in a while or may have ankle or knee problems should start out with hiking boots to help prevent twisted ankles.

You can, of course, choose the type of shoe you want based on personal preferences, terrain, and length of hike, but remember things can change quickly out on the trail. Backpacking boots can be used on any trail, sidewalk, or roadway, while hiking shoes, for example, can also traverse all terrain, but the rougher it gets the less protection you would have with shoes.

Plan for emergencies, wet and cold weather, and plan to stay overnight in the woods. If you plan for the worst-case scenario, then you are also prepared for the worst, better to be ready and not need your survival gear than to need it and not have it.

Break your shoes in before setting out on any hike. Make sure they fit well, and some shoes/boots with insulated lining inside require you to size up by half or even one shoe size in some instances. Remember your socks combined with the insulation inside the boot could cause the boot to not fit properly.


Wool or wool blends are ideal if they are not too thick. Fabric technology has allowed manufacturers to produce wool blend socks that are thin yet offer the ever so important wicking, and insulation even when wet feature that we expect from wool, and then there is Polypropylene.

Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first. Polypropylene is an incredibly versatile, bendable, thermoplastic polymer. Get all that?

Okay, what does this mean for you and your feet? Well, the material does not absorb water or break down when wet. The material holds more heat than wool, and will retain it for much longer, and of course, the material will wick any moisture away from your skin.

We don’t need to tell you that cotton is not what you want to be wearing in cold weather.

If your feet get wet, dry them, and every chance you get dry your socks. Hang them close to a fire and allow the smoke from hardwoods to penetrate the material. The smoke helps control bacteria, which causes odor.

Have more than one pair of socks so you can change them often. Wet, cold feet can cause blisters and of course, emersion foot, (trench foot), which can lead to amputation of toes or even the entire foot and eventually death from gangrene if left untreated.


Umbrellas simply put protect you from rain, snow, and sun. If it starts raining while you are hiking, you would typically put on your poncho or rain suit. Both offer protection, but they also cause you to sweat more, and in warmer weather, this can bring on dehydration faster and sweat soaks your clothing and this is not a good scenario if the nights cool off rapidly or if it is cold out, to begin with. People can get hypothermia at 50° F.

Have to stop hiking because the sun is beating down, well an umbrella can help keep the sun off you, thus keeping you cooler, and this allows you to continue hiking.

An umbrella is a mini shelter, which keeps snow and sleet off you as well as rain and the sun. Turn it upside down, if you have a shelter from the rain other than the umbrella so you can collect rainwater for drinking and bathing.

An umbrella can be an emergency walking stick/cane or weapon in some cases. They are light and can be strapped to any pack, and more than one umbrella would be ideal and they would not add any significant weight to your pack.

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While Hiking or Hunting You May Discover Human Remains: What Do You Do

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While rare, it does happen, hikers, hunters, and others out enjoying the day do stumble upon recent and not so recent human remains. What would you do in this case, what is the law, and what should you do as a practical matter.

In some states, like Utah, for example, it is a felony in the third degree for anyone besides an archaeologist, a Medical Examiner, law enforcement or a licensed mortician to disturb, remove, or conceal human remains. Many states have similar laws regarding this, in particular when it comes to ancient grave sites and sacred sites of Native Americans.

What are you required to do by law? In Washington State, for example, you are required by law to notify the County Coroner and local law enforcement, and you must do it in the most expeditious manner possible if you find suspected human remains. Of course expeditious can be subjective. You may not have cell service in that area, so you have to wait until you get back to notify anyone, and this could take hours, so your best judgment would have to be sufficient.

The law in Washington State goes on to state, “Any person engaging in ground disturbance activities that resulted in the exposure of human remains must cease all activity which may cause further disturbance to the remains” (Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation, 2017).

Documenting the scene, without disturbing the scene, with pictures or sketching a map of the area may make sense in some cases, as well as, noting GPS coordinates. You may have to lead law enforcement back to the scene. Some people simply would not, or could not wait for police and others to arrive if they called the authorities from the scene. If you call and identify yourself, and then leave, it is likely the police would want to talk to you in person about the discovery and/or ask for you help in locating the remains.

States have various laws so it is a good idea to know what they are. Of course, if you are alone and do stumble upon a body or bones you have a decision to make. Discoveries of this nature are traumatic and it takes some time for the fact to register. A body or bones on the ground in a place you do not expect them is incomprehensible for the first few minutes. It is shocking, and some may actually run from the area. Some may want to avoid any involvement altogether, and others may even decide it’s an inconvenience and simply do not want to waste time dealing with it and leave without notifying anyone. It is decision time, if you find remains, and what you decide is up to you.

As a practical matter, however, you need to keep your wits about you from this point on. Is this a crime scene, how recent is it if that is the case, and are you in any danger. Hikers, hunters and others do die in the woods from natural causes, and from accidents, and their remains may lay there for months or even years, or they may have passed on just minutes before you arrived.

On the other hand, remote areas are ideal dumping grounds for those wishing to get rid of a body. People that commit murder may drive for miles to dispose of the body, or two or more people out hiking or hunting may have gotten into a fight resulting in the death of one, so you want to ensure you are safe first and foremost. The person or persons responsible for the dead body may still be in the area.

Remains that have been in the woods for months or years are someone’s loved one. Someone disappears and the body is not found, so perhaps, you finding remains in the woods would solve a cold case file that could bring closure to a family. It doesn’t mean there was a crime committed. The person may have gotten lost and fell victim to the elements, a heart attack, or a bee sting and so on.

Coming upon human remains will leave you with a feeling of horror in some cases, unease at the very least, and with other feelings, you cannot quite describe. It also reminds you of your own mortality. For some, the feelings will remain for weeks, months or even years. They will diminish over time, however. You are human and there are things such as this in which you may have to deal with as you go through life.

Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation. (2017). Retrieved 2017, from http://www.dahp.wa.gov/programs/human-remains-program/what-do-i-do

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In late November 2013 my local newspaper, the Bend Bulletin (Bend, Oregon) published a supplementary insert called the High Desert Pulse.  On page 28 there was a superb article by Elise Gross titled “Cover Your Bases.”

A base layer is the garment worn closest to the skin.  In the past, most outdoorsmen thought of a base layer as a simple set of “long johns.”  The days of cotton long johns are fading.  Cotton clothing retains moisture and in winter provides no insulation when wet. 

 Ms. Gross provided a fine discussion of the options of the various base layer choices available to the hiker.

She states:

“.. Your activity level and the temperature should be taken into account when choosing a base layer.”

“Fabric type should also be considered.  Base layers are made of a variety of fabrics with unique properties.”

The following is a brief synopsis of what is available.

·         Wool – Merino wool is at the top of my list.  Merino is soft and doesn’t irritate the skin.  Smart Wool is my favorite.  Wool works well in mild to cold temps.  Wool wicks sweat away from the skin.  It dries relatively quickly.  Wool is antibacterial so it doesn’t start to smell over time as silk and poly does.  It’s expensive.

·         Silk – Silk that has been modified to improve wicking is a fine choice (untreated silk absorbs and retains moisture).  Silk works well during periods of heavy physical exertion.  Though it can get too warm, silk works well in cold climates.  Silk takes longer to dry than wool or polyester.  Silk can get stinky so launder after use.

·         Synthetics – These are popular big sellers and big advertisers in outdoor magazines (e.g., Under Amour).  Synthetics are fine in moderate temperatures.  Wet material close to the skin may be chilly until dry.  Moisture wicking is excellent; that’s the big plus.  Synthetics dry faster than any other base layer material.  Synthetics can get stinky so launder after each use.  

All products mentioned are light and take up little space.
Consider carrying an extra top to keep the hiker dry and warm. 

Bugging Out. Carrying all that weight.

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You can travel light and carry all you need for long term wilderness living/survival, all that is accept perhaps enough water and food! If there are water holes on your route then there is no problem. If you are able to hunt & forage on the way then there is no problem. But what if you get diverted have to by-pass those water holes? What if you are trekking in winter and there are few edible plants to find and the game is scarce? Then you have a problem. You can survive for three days without water, but this also depends on how hard you are working. You can survive three weeks without food, but again, this is dependent on your exertion level. You probably know as well as I that when you are working hard your need for water and food increases. You are drinking all the time to stay hydrated and come lunch time you are very hungry. To go without water and food is dangerous, because the lack of water and food effects how you perform, mentally and physically. One minute you think you are doing fine, the next minute you are feeling sick. Keep going and you will collapse.
Sharing the load with a partner is fine, you can carry the shelter, kettle, arms and ammunition, your partner can carry the water. But water is heavy, and to be safe and practicle your partner also needs to carry at least some of her/his own equipment. Simply put, you can never really carry enough water for a long trek unless you can find a water source along the way to refill your water bottles. Even then to be safe you will need to stop and boil that water before you can drink it.
So what is a simple and practicle alternative? Using a trekking trolley. A trekking trolley can carry a lot of weight, and there is a wide variety of different trolleys to suit your needs. On a level surface pulling a trolley is easier that carrying a heavy load, but going uphill you will need to pace yourself. Even so, when you stop for a rest on the trail and take a drink of water, you are not still bearing that load. If you are travelling with a partner or a group, you can use a rope to link you to another trekker who can help pull the load up steep inclines. If you can afford it, you can purchase a trekking trolley, if you don’t have the funds, then you can make your own without too much trouble.
An Australian made trekking trolley.
A trekking trolley that the author made from old wheelbarrow parts and bush timber. This one only has one wheel, but the author plans to make another one from an old golf trolley.

When you reach your destination this trolley will still be of use, and can be used for: transporting game, transporting water from a water source, carrying firewood, transporting rocks for a fireplace, moving camp if needs be. Perhaps you can think of further uses?

How to Stay Safe Hiking during Hunting Season

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According to the National Safety Council’s most recent statistics, approximately 100 people die nationwide in hunting accidents each year, while, more than 1,500 die in swimming-related incidents each year (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2016). This is just to show you some perspective.

Compare the number of deaths due to hunting accidents to deaths attributed to motor vehicle accidents. The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015 alone, this is an uptick from previous years. That is over 100 deaths per day for that year and if you go back a few years the average is still over 90 people dead each day from automobile related accidents. The year 2015 saw the sharpest increase in deaths in decades (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2016).

Hunting related deaths are tragic and keep in mind there are far fewer hunters roaming afield than there are cars on the road each day. There are approximately 257 million vehicles registered in the United States. Furthermore, hunting season is not year around, so please keep this in perspective as you venture out. It can be dangerous in the woods during hunting season and many if not most hunting accidents can be or could have been prevented.

Stay Safe While Hiking

Before setting out find out when hunting season is by contacting your state agency. Those that do not hunt may not know when hunting season is. Knowing when and where hunting is allowed may influence your decision as to whether to hike a certain trail or area.

Some parks do not allow hunting, but poachers can be found anywhere at any time and some legitimate hunters may stray unwittingly into areas that forbid hunting. Poachers know that areas that do not allow hunting may have the greatest concentration of game. Poachers are criminals and obviously do not follow hunting laws, and thus, can be very dangerous, so do not assume you are completely safe if the park or trail prohibits hunting.

City parks and national parks do not allow hunting typically and many hiking trails forbid it as well. Signs are usually posted, but again, this does not mean that you will not encounter hunters or poachers.

Wear bright clothing. It is recommended you pick up a vest or coat that is specifically designed for hunters and others to be seen in the woods. Typically, orange or red is used. Of course, avoid earth tone colors.

If walking with a dog ensure they also have on a bright sweater or vest, and that they are trained to follow voice commands or are on a leash. Roaming free in the woods during hunting season can be dangerous for pets regardless of their colored clothing.

Make noise that only humans can make like talking, whistling, singing, or humming if you think there may be hunters close by. Rustling the brush is not the kind of noise you should make because unfortunately, inexperienced hunters can and will fire at snapped twigs, leaves rustling or branches slapping back.

Noise will scare the game away, but hunters should never fire at game when people are in the area. Experienced hunters know the area they are hunting in, and typically would not hunt near any walking trail or park where people would be, so if you do spot hunters or suspect they are there noise making is then your best defense in some cases. Use your best judgment however.

Common sense can prevent accidents, so use it when out and about. First, do not wander about at dusk or at night, or in the early morning hours during hunting season. Poachers use the cover of darkness and legal hunters do like the early morning hours and early evening as well.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (2016). Retrieved 2016, from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (2016). Retrieved 2016, from http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/tips/myths.html

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Snow Shoes: A Survival Necessity In Deep Snow

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article_snowshoes_1It’s almost time for winter here in the Northeast.  That means lots of fun outdoor activities, but one of the easiest is snow shoeing. If you ever get the opportunity, I would highly recommend that you at least try it. It’s a great way to learn how difficult snow can be to navigate. When I was in New Brunswick, Canada last season,  I had the opportunity to visit my uncle’s tipi.  It’s about a mile out in the woods and there was three feet of snow on the ground. In some higher drift areas, the height of snow exceeded this. From time to time, we will get similar amounts of snow here in Maine.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

I snowshoe’d out there, shoveled it out, then decided to get some wood for a fire.  I figured I’d try doing it without my snow shoes which turned into a forced march of less than a 100 yards.  It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve been in deep snow you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It’s hard to move around in deep snow.  Anyway, I went back with my armload of wood and returned wearing my snow shoes.

History and Features of Snowshoes

Snowshoes have been in use for over 4,000 years.  Ancient peoples used different kinds but our contemporary snowshoes originate from Native Americans. Older American webbed snowshoes were made from wood with gut and/or leather to form the webbing and bindings.  Modern snowshoes are made from metal and other synthetic materials.

snowshoes_traditional_survivalIn years past I’ve used beaver tail and bear paw snowshoes.  I also used a pair made by one of my uncles that were long and thin – almost like a ski, but wider, which worked awesome on open snow.  Beaver tails (my dad still uses them) are a generic snowshoe that work well in most places.  I found the bear paws, which are a little smaller and rounder, to be good in tight quarters such as bushwhacking, but not as good as the beaver tails on open trail.  With this being said, you could adequately use either type for any scenario. In fact, I preferred the bear paws my dad gave me until I bought the more modern Yukon Jack shoes.

Modern snowshoes are nice and have neat features that help in different environments.  First, modern bindings are superior to older ones.  Instead of a buckle and leather, they are made out of synthetics and easily snap into place.  I’ve froze my fingers off many times trying get old bindings tight.  Believe me, it is a relief to use more convenient, modern bindings.

Another great feature of modern snowshoes is the cleat that sits under your foot.  This is really handy if you’re climbing a hill and need traction on hard snow or ice.  I have crampons I wear for ice climbing, but snowshoes are better for overall snow travel.

There are many kinds of snowshoes on the market today. If you’re in the market for snowshoes, I’d suggest you talk to knowledgeable friends or a store expert.  Some of them are really expensive, but my Yukon snowshoes cost about $80 and have lasted me ten years with no problems.  I’ve hiked many mountains and forests with them and they are still in great shape.  Find a pair that works for you and your situation.

Snowshoe Accessories

article_snowshoes_2Most people use gaiters that keep snow out of boots as they walk through deep snow. Gaiters are pieces of fabric and velcro secured under knee to the boot. Some folks like to use ski-poles.  I now use a ski pole because there are situations where you’ll fall over without a little assistance.  I like to have at least one hand free when walking to move bushes aside, pick stuff up, or what have you, so this was a good compromise for me.  It’s like everything else, find what works for you and run with it.

Earlier this season I was walking through a frozen swamp.  If you think walking through a swamp with alders is difficult, you should try it in the winter when all the trees are bent over from the weight of the snow.  At one point I walked over a fallen tree to try and get past a particularly nasty deadfall.  When I got to the other side, I fell off the tree and landed in a five foot snow drift.  Luckily I had my ski pole with me, but I bent it all to hell using it to get out of that mess.  Without it, I’d have worked much harder to escape from the drift.

Winter boots are pretty much up to you, but I prefer to wear a technical ice climbing boot when I’m doing winter activities.  These boots are usually more expensive. While these are expensive, I get a great amount of use from them. For the record, I have an older pair of Scarpas and love them.

Snowshoeing is Tough

snowshoeing_tough_physicalIn the early part of the snowshoeing season, I get leg cramps at night. Following some of these early expeditions, I’ve jumped out of bed gritting my teeth and massaging my thigh. After a couple times out, I adjust. I suggest you start going slow and walking short distances. Be patient; you’ll get the feel for it.  Once your body adapts, you’ll be good to go.  Even though snowshoes expedite travel over snow, you’ll need be in great shape.  Snowshoeing is damned hard work.  It is especially difficult if you’re wearing a pack, pulling a sled, breaking trail, or heaven forbid, doing all three at once.

When you go out there be prepared to have fun and work hard. Anybody else out there enjoy snowshoeing? Question?  Comments?  Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy of:

Dave Ruben Photo 
Brigitte Malessa

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New Backpacker’s Gas Stove

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It has been a while since Hikin’Jim evaluated a new stove.  

“OK, so, what’s all this about the Soto Amicus? I mean why all the fuss? There are dozens of upright canister gas stoves available out there. Primus, MSR, Optimus, Snow Peak, Jetboil, etc. – in short, all the major stove companies – have upright canister stoves out on the market, in fact, most of those companies have multiple stoves available. So who cares about just one more upright canister gas stove? Big deal. Yawn. Well, maybe. But maybe not. Maybe there’s more to it than that. Let’s keep reading, and we shall see. The New Soto Amicus OK, so why am I excited? Well, I’ll….” 

Hikin’ Jim’s blog – Adventures in Stoving is one to book mark .

Leave No Trace

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The following is by contributing writer Lee.  Here he expands on the principles of leave no trace.
Leave No Trace: How to Enjoy Backpacking Without Damaging Nature

One of the most enjoyable ways to spend time is to go backpacking. Getting out of the concrete city and back into the embrace of nature is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries and satisfy your soul. You have to be careful when you go hiking not to let the dirtiness of the city enter into the pristine wilderness. The only ethical way to hike is to leave no trace behind. You have to embrace this philosophy totally. Here is a guide on how you can enjoy backpacking without damaging nature.
Travel the Proper Paths
Although they say you should leave nothing but footprints when you go into the wilderness, even your footprints can be damaging if you are hiking in sensitive areas. You can hurt wildlife and plants alike when you go tromping through areas where you don’t belong. You can also contribute to damaging erosion if you hike off-trail.
To prevent this, you should always stay on the marked trails whenever you go hiking. Don’t cut across switchbacks or look for shortcuts that leave the marked trails in a wilderness area. If you are hiking in the backcountry, try to blaze trails that go through open areas where you will do as little damage as possible. Always keep your eyes open to avoid stepping on wildlife or sensitive plants. If you are hiking the backcountry in a group, do not travel single-file so that you keep the damage you cause to a minimum.
Campsites Are Best Found
Whenever possible, you should always try to camp at an established campsite. Camping at a brand-new campsite will always damage nature at least a little bit. If you are camping in the backcountry away from campgrounds, you should camp at least 200 feet away from water sources to avoid disturbing wildlife. Try to select a flat, level area that has as little vegetation as possible to keep your impact on the site to a minimum.


Leave Nothing Behind

The most important thing you must do when you go hiking is to leave no garbage behind of any kind. This includes every kind of waste. If nature calls when you are in the middle of it, then you need to have a trowel with you so that you can bury your waste. You need to pack out every scrap of waste that you create when you are hiking in the wilderness. The most conscientious hikers will actively look for garbage while they are on the trail, picking up anything they spot so that they can leave the area more beautiful than they found it.
Use Fire Responsibly
Gathering around the campfire to sing songs and cook s’mores is one of the most enjoyable ways to finish up a day of hiking, but you need to enjoy your campfires responsibly. Always follow the rules of the area you are in. Sometimes, campfires will be banned because of dry conditions or hot weather. You need to respect these bans.
Always use caution when you are making fires out in the wild. Use established fire pits if they are available. If they are not, keep your campfire small to reduce its impact. Burn all your wood down to ash, and then completely douse the fire with water before you leave the area. Make sure the ashes are cool to the touch before you go.
Don’t Smoke
Cigarettes and hiking don’t mix. The smoke won’t do your lungs any favor on the trail, and you don’t want to haul around dirty old cigarette butts your entire hike. Instead, you should use e-liquid vaporizerswhen you are hiking. This will satisfy your cravings without damaging the environment.
Hiking is a lot of fun. You must respect nature so that generations from now your ancestors will still be able to enjoy the beauty of our world. Following these guidelines will allow you to keep your impact to a minimum when you are hiking through the great outdoors.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques, and self reliance

How Accurate is a GPS Receiver’s Calculations.

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I have often wondered about the accuracy of my Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. 

The accuracy inherent in my receiver has generally been “good enough for me.” That said, I was interested in finding technical information to build on my field experience.

I did a bit of google surfing and found a fine article from Outside Magazine writer Erin Beresini titled Your GPS Is Lying to You About Distance,  Outside Magazine, Dec. 7, 2015.  She distills a complex scientific paper by researchers into understandable terms.

The bottom line for backcountry hiker is that GPS receivers overestimate distance.  There are three reasons for this:

  1. “The first is positioning error, or the fact that there’s a difference between where you actually are and where your GPS thinks you are at any given point in time.
  2. The second error is the variance of the GPS measurement. Even if you don’t move, the samples your GPS takes won’t each be in the same location. In other words, your samples will form a cloudlike cluster of points around your actual location. The smaller that cluster and the closer it is to your actual location..,
  3.  The third is the autocorrelation of GPS measurements. If each measurement is off from your actual location by approximately the same amount, they’re said to be highly autocorrelated, ”  Outside Magazine, Dec. 7, 2015. 

There are many other factors that impact the accuracy of a GPS receiver.  These include atmospherics, solar flares, heavy treed canopy, terrain masking and freeway overpasses.   ]In discussions with serious back country hikers ( Search and Rescue members) heavy weather can impact accuracy.

To improve GPS receiver accuracy consider enabling the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS).  Newer units can also take advantage of the Russian satellite system known as GLONASS. It is similar to our GPS system. Enabling WAAS and GLONASS combined offers a significant increase in available satellites for navigation process and give the receiver the time needed to establish solid positioning information.

Hard numbers are only vague estimates.  For example, a basic recreation receiver should be accurate to +/- 15 meters.  With WAAS enabled accuracy could become as good as +/- 3 meters.

A GPS receiver is great to have but don’t leave the map and compass at home.

GPS Accuracy

More On GPS Accuracy

Hiking: Health Benefits and Helping You Prepare For a Crisis Continued

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The last article talked about the benefits of hiking, and how it is good training for a crisis. The health benefits alone are well worth the effort, not to mention the survival skills you will pick up as you get out in the wild.

Your senses will get a good exercise, as well, because you do have to pay attention to detail when out on the trail.

Is that cloud formation a storm that may be happening miles away and yet could cause flash flooding where I am? What animal made those fresh tracks are they from an animal in which I need to worry? What do those claw marks high up on a tree mean?

Use the technology available to research the area in which you plan to hike or camp. You may not have cell service to Google for information once you are out along the trail. You will not be able to look up tracks in the mud, or identify plants if you don’t have cell service. What poisonous snakes inhabit the area, are there water sources and prominent landmarks that can be used for navigation. Researching before you leave can save your life if you know what questions to ask.

Know the terrain by studying a topographical map. If the trail is marked stay on it, chasing after butterflies can cause you to become lost. How many times have you heard a hiker that became lost say they just stepped off the trail for a nature call and then couldn’t find the trail again?

Regardless of how much water you are carrying always look for more and when you find a source know how to get back to the source by mapping it from your next location.

Bear attacks make headlines, and the only reason they do is because they are so rare. Bear attacks make a splash, but they can be deadly.

Keep your camp clean, because leaving food and waste out is a good way of getting a visit. Forget pictures, the once in a lifetime selfie with a bear may be the last thing you do in your lifetime.

Carry bear spray, and a firearm if you feel the need, but keep in mind the local laws and if in a national park know the federal regulations. A .357 or .44 magnum or even a .500 S&W are big enough if you are trained and fast enough to use a large caliber.

Large calibers require considerable training especially to develop the hand and wrist strength needed. Bear spray can be used quickly unless you are a novice and have it packed away. Bear spray should literally be in your hand when in bear country. Don’t know whether its bear country or not? Stay home if you can’t find out.

Avoidance is the best protection. If you get off the trail, where you put your feet is important. Snakes typically will avoid human contact but if you step on one or if you reach down to pick up something, you could be bitten. Pay attention to where you are walking and if you see a snake avoid it, do not try to pick it up or bash its head in with a stick. This is how people get bitten. Usually they will move off, and if they don’t you need to move off.

Falling limbs can kill you whether it’s windy or not, but if it is windy this may be a good time to seek cover from falling limbs. Certainly, do not camp for the night where there is any chance of a limb falling on you.

Find a spot that is high and dry to avoid flash floods or ground runoff off from heavy rains, so choose your spot carefully for overnight.

Do not hike after dark unless it is an emergency and only after carefully studying your topographical map for ravines and other dangerous terrain features. Know before it gets dark where the dangers may be.

Be alert and do not be afraid to hunker down for a few hours, the trail will still be there after your rest. Hiking when sleepy or sick is dangerous.

Much More to Come

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Hiking and Navigating at Night

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What should the hiker consider regarding night time travel in the backcountry?

First, let us decide  that  this is not in a “lost hiker” scenario.  If lost, the best thing to do is to

just stay in place.  This makes the job much easier for the searchers. 

At night the term used to describe our ability to see is “night vision.”   Good night vision is important.  Therefore, avoid bright lighting.   Flashes of bright white light will ruin night vision.  Recovery can take about 30-45 minutes.  Low level white light and low intensity red light are better.
Care should be taken with the use of a GPS.  The normal white backlight function of the GPS receiver will impair night vision. The good news is that the backlight can be adjusted. 
Here are a few recommendations:
  • Stay on the trail and thoughtfully use flashlights and head lamps. A head lamp may be of more use than a handheld flashlight.  Two free hands are better than one.  Have extra batteries.
  • Examine the topographic map of your planned route.  Study the contours to evaluate the terrain. Your visual cues will be gone so you will need to establish new ones, larger objects. Lanes of extraction might present themselves on the map such as a power grid line, a road, a lake or an old jeep track. 
  • Discuss your plan with all involved so that you are all on the same page.
  • Follow your trace on a map. Plot your position frequently.  Agree in advance how often you will do that.  Take your time with your navigation.
  • For night time travel a consideration may be to have one person designated to read maps (with dim lighting) while others in the party preserve their night vision and lead the way.
  • Move forward deliberately and cautiously.  Move more like you are stalking.
  • Others might be moving too.  Be alert for bears, coyotes, cougars and in some areas perhaps wolves.
  • Trekking poles or a walking staff provide support.
  • Sound travels well at night.  Be alert for audible clues to roads and running water.
  •  If you don’t have a GPS and are navigating with just a map and compass it is very important that you start from a known position.  Navigating without getting position fixes from a GPS or by visual sighting is called dead reckoning.  Such navigation requires you to plot your compass heading and distance traveled.  Distance is accounted by pacing (counting your steps) as you move
Night time navigation is not something to be taken lightly.  From reviewing my books, US Army field manuals and conversations with experienced backcountry travelers it should be carefully considered and practiced before an actual outing.  Practise your navigation at a local park with map and compass.  Consider geocaching to improve your GPS skills. 

Keep Critters Out of Your Food.

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5 Ways to Keep Critters Out of Food While Camping

A new post by guest contributor Lee.
You’re on a camping trip. You wake up one morning and climb out of your sleeping bag, ready for breakfast. There’s only one problem: an animal got into your food stash and ate everything you had, down to the last granola bar.
This doesn’t have to happen to you. There are things you can do to make sure that the local wildlife doesn’t leave you starving in the middle of nowhere. Here are five ways to keep critters out of your food stash while camping.


1. Bring a Bear Canister

A bear canister is a hard-sided container designed to keep animals, especially bears, out of your food. They weigh anywhere from two to four pounds and can store between six to 15 liters of food. These containers are virtually impossible to break open using brute strength, and they are usually too big to carry away.
Unfortunately, bear canisters aren’t cheap; they cost between $60 to $80. The good news is that, once you buy a bear canister, you don’t have to buy it again. You’ll be able to use it on multiple camping trips for years to come.


2. Use Publicly Established Bear Lockers

Some national parks, such as Yosemite, provides bear lockers in which you can stash your food. These lockers are typically located around parking lots and campgrounds.
If you do use these lockers, make sure your food is clearly marked. You probably don’t like it when someone at work accidentally grabs your food from the office refrigerator. The same thing can happen at a public bear locker, especially if you’re using generic-looking coolers or plastic grocery bags.
Make a small label and tape it to your container so that other campers know to keep their hands off of your dehydrated food.
3. Store Your Food High And Out of Reach
If you can’t afford a bear container and there are no bear lockers around, you can try hanging your food from a tree branch.
The best type of cord to use is paracord, and you’ll want it to be at least 100 feet in length.
Tie one end of the cord to a rock and the other end to your food bag. Find a branch that’s 20 feet high, and throw your rock over that branch. Pull on the cord until your food is suspended in the air, and tie off the paracord around the tree trunk.
4. Store All Scented Items Along With Your Food
A bear’s sense of smell is 2100 times more powerful than a human’s, and unfortunately, they don’t know the difference between raspberries and lotions that smelllike raspberries. It’s all potential food to them.
Store anything that has a scent inside your food bag, whether that item can actually be eaten or not. The same goes for your cookware, utensils and food waste.


5. Keep Your Food Far Away From Your Campsite

Even if you manage to firmly secure all of your food items, that doesn’t mean those items still won’t attract animals.
This can be a problem, especially at night. Small animals could disturb your sleep, and bigger animals, such as bears, could be potentially dangerous.
Keep your food between 100 to 200 feet away from your campsite. Be sure to store those items downwind from your campsite, so that animals don’t cross your sleeping area on their way to your food.
Additionally, don’t leave anything in your backpack overnight, and leave all its compartments unzipped. If a curious animal does find its way to your bag, it’s less likely to rip or chew it open in order to explore what’s inside.
These five tips to keep critters out of your food will go a long way towards keeping your food secure and helping you stay safe. Properly securing your food doesn’t just reduce the chances of a negative interaction with an animal; it also helps ensure that you’ll have a great camping trip.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques, and self reliance.

Hiking: Health Benefits and Helping You Prepare For A Crisis

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Once the SHTF you will be doing a lot of walking, and in most cases, you will be carrying extra weight. You may have to carry firewood, carry emergency supplies back home from an aid station, carry a child, or carry any number of things to include a backpack loaded with essential supplies during a crisis. You need to be in relatively good shape to meet the physical demands required of you during any type of survival situation.

Remember, you might not be able to drive, so any transporting of supplies will have to be done by you, and one of the best ways to carry supplies, of course, is in a backpack. Quality counts, but larger is not always better in some cases. Just because the pack can hold 80 pounds does not mean you want to carry 80 pounds around on your back.

We are not necessarily talking about bug-out bags here. What we want to convey to everyone is the need to get in shape, or to get in better shape, and hiking right now with a pack is a very good start, so you are ready when something happens. You will need your body during a crisis and it will have to do more because you will not have power tools and vehicles to do all the heavy work.

Hiking up hills or mountainsides is strenuous work that engages multiple muscle groups all while burning a serious amount of calories. The number of calories you can burn hiking depends on your body weight and the terrain. For instance a 160 lb. hiker can burn between 430 – 440 calories an hour, add a 5% to 10% incline and you can increase your calorie burn by 30 to 40 percent.

Hiking is not only a powerful cardio workout but it can also:

  • Improve your core strength
  • Improve balance
  • Improve blood pressure 
  • Help you lose weight
  • Build strength and muscles in your hips and legs
  • Reduce stress

There are many things to consider but an important consideration is elevation when hiking. Have you ever hiked at a higher elevation? It’s different and it taxes the body much more than people imagine if they have never experienced it. Hiking at high altitudes can cause problems for those that have never trained above 6,000 feet, for example. Those that are contemplating or already have a bug-out location in the mountains need to train and prepare their bodies for higher altitudes.

You have to train with a pack even if you cannot train at the elevation in which you expect to be hiking or surviving. You do need to hike almost daily to get your body accustomed to carrying a loaded pack. You have to learn to pack light, however. For those that think they can set off for the hills with a 50 or 60-pound pack without any conditioning are in for a rude awakening.

It takes months if not years of training and conditioning to be able to hump a pack with this kind of weight all day every day. Not many can do it without conditioning given the sedentary lifestyles of some people today. A few hours a week on the treadmill or walking track will not make the grade.

Air becomes less saturated with oxygen at higher elevations, and thus the amount of oxygen your body is able to consume is reduced. In the United States, 8,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level is considered high altitude, which is very common in the Western states. Higher altitudes mean less oxygen and less moisture in the air, so dehydration becomes a significant factor as well. Those hiking at these elevations require more water, and so, a significant amount of the weight in your pack will be taken up by water.

Altitude sickness is very real and in some cases can be fatal. The warning signs include nausea, lack of hunger or thirst, headache, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and a lack of coordination.

The best way to acclimatize is to get a good night’s sleep at the higher elevation and start your hike the next morning. This gives you all night to somewhat adjust.

At 12,000 feet, for example, you are only getting roughly 2/3 of the oxygen you would get at sea level. You will take more breaths, and a lack of oxygen will cause muscle burn. Pace yourself and do not let your ego get in the way of survival. Too many people start out and act as if it is some type of competition or race. If it takes you longer to hike a marked trail, accept it. Pushing yourself is dangerous. Mother nature cares nothing of your ego. Leave it at home.

Pace yourself, rest and drink plenty of water. Lacking a feeling of thirst is common at higher elevations so you must drink whether you feel thirsty or not.

Making Assumptions

Cooking at higher altitudes is different as well. A propane bottle may not work at certain elevations leaving the only option wood or liquid fuels. Pressurized canisters can lose their pressure at high elevations, which means you would not be able to light a small propane heater or stove.

You cannot make an informed decision without doing some research. Novice hikers often times assume that just because they will be hiking in a heavily wooded or mountainous region that majestic waterfalls are around every bend.

If you do not study a topographical map of the area in which you plan to hike, and identify water sources before starting out, you may find yourself in a survival situation. Leave with enough water to survive 72 hours and know likely water sources before starting out. Always top off your water before moving on from a water source so if you do get lost or stranded, you always have 72 hours worth of water. Make sure you have purification tablets or drops and/or the means to purify water by boiling, and remember water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations.

With each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water is lowered by slightly less than 1 °F. At 7,500 feet, for example, water boils at approximately 198 °F. Because water boils at a lower temperature you would have to boil it longer to kill any bacteria and parasites present. Up to 10 minutes in some cases, is needed.

Certain watches will notate your altitude, compass heading, and barometric pressure. This is a wise investment. You cannot count on Smartphone apps, so carry a device to check your elevation.

Food is a concern, of course, but you cannot carry 20 pounds of canned goods and expect to get very far because you will also be carrying 20 pounds or more of water. Water bladders are a good way of carrying water because of the weight distribution.

Protein bars, trail mixes, peanut butter, and MRE’s are ideal foods and the weight is less significant than canned goods.

Higher elevations are colder. The air temperature drops roughly 3.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation.

What To Carry

Before starting out mark your home or trailhead location on the map. When you stop for your break or for the night, mark your current location, and map a route back to the start point. Mark your current location every time you stop and map a route back to the last known location to help keep you from getting lost.

  • Fixed Bladed Knife And Multi-Tool
  • 50 Feet Of Paracord And Climbing Rope And Gear If Traveling In A Mountainous Area
  • Light Weight Tarps
  • Poncho And Poncho Liner
  • Cold Weather Sleeping Bag (Optional Depending On Season and Area)
  • Food And Water For 72-Hours
  • Fire Starting Materials
  • Signaling Devices, Such As A Mirror, Strobe Light, Colored Material
  • Carry A Personal Locator Beacon
  • Extra Socks
  • First Aid Kit and Include Lip Balm, and Sunscreen
  • Hat, Gloves, Bandanas, Sunglasses
  • Purification Tablets
  • Insect Repellent
  • Cold Weather Clothing As Needed
  • Flashlight and Headlamp

Optional Gear

Trekking poles, lightweight one-person tent, and small cook stove with liquid fuel, sleeping mat.

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Why Should You Get The MicroSoft Towel For Your Pack

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Fox Outfitters MicroSoft Towel

Fox Outfitters MicroSoft Towel

Camping Towels

Most camping towels suck. The Fox Outfitters MicroSoft Towel (Amazon Link) does not. Campers and especially ultralight campers are picky. We want all of  the functionality of a home item with 1/3 the weight. Which means that compromise has to be made somewhere. In this MicroSoft Towel review we will see how it compares to other towels on the market.

The compromise made by many camping towels is comfort. You get a lightweight absorbent towel that feels like sandpaper. The material used wants to stick to your skin. Even more so when wet. Unlike a cotton towel that glides across wet skin easily.

So Why don’t we just bring a normal cheap cotton towel? For a few reasons. A cotton towel that is thick enough will weigh too much to backpack in. Yes you could get a really cheap thin one. But don’t! I remember showering at a friends house once that had the thinnest towels ever. Like a giant ass rag. It filled with water and became useless with more than half my body left to dry off. That towel ended up just moving around the water. I had to use my  shirt to finish drying off.

Another reason to not get a cotton towel is drying time. It will take forever for a cotton towel to dry. If it does where you are. If you are in a very humid environment then your cotton towel will probably not get completely dry. Which means than you will have to keep it hanging in a sunny place with good air flow 24/7 just to combat the moisture. I would prefer to use it, hang it up a while then pack it back up.



Bullet Points


Fox Outfitters MicroSoft Towel

How does the MicroSoft Towel stack up? To review a camping towel there are three main factors to judge it by. Weight, How fast it dry’s and comfort. I could have also included how well it packs up. However I will talk about packability with the weight.



I weighed my MicroSoft Towel and the dry weight was 5.9 oz. For the size I have, a medium 20×40, That’s a respectable weight. If you are a true ultralight hiker or camper then that might be too much. You could always try the small or extra small to save ounces. For me I prefer to have the larger size. I don’t like to try to dry off on a tiny square of material.

I’m not the best at folding things so that might be a factor in how the MicroSoft towel packs for me. I was able to fold it down to about the length and width of my palm but it was as thick as a dictionary. If you unfold a few times it will lay flatter and thinner. I prefer to have it be thinner but be longer and wider. It will pack better that way for me. If you toss it on the top the other stuff in your pack it won’t take up any space.

Fast Drying

In my tests of the MicroSoft Towel it never took more than an hour to dry. I didn’t stand over it will a stopwatch to time the exact time. I used it to shower with then hung up to dry. Outside with a high temperature it will dry faster. If you are using it to wipe off sweat then it will dry before you have to wipe again.

If you are hiking and don’t have time to  stop hang the MicroSoft towel  on your pack with the hang loop. It can dry while you’re on the move.


Comfort is often the biggest compromise with pack towels. I have used some that are extremely abrasive. You should not be afraid to dry off with your towel. Drying your face with some is like shaving with a razor that is long overdue to be changed. You know where it just rips out the hair?

With the MicroSoft towel there are no worries of sandpaper towel. It is by far the softest camping towel I have ever used. It does not suffer from sticking to the skin either. When you are drying off it will glide over the skin. With it you can dry off like normal. No inventing new ways to dry off because the towel sticks to you and is painful to wipe with.




In conclusion I really like the MicroSoft towel. It has a good balance of what I look for in a pack towel. It is large enough to be useful as a towel. This towel is really soft and comfortable. I would say that it’s softness is really the star of the show. I would not care how light it is if it feels like chainsaw on my face. The weight is light though. Coming in at under 6 oz for a towel this big is impressive. Lastly the fast drying time is the deciding point in why the MicroSoft towel is so great. Go grab one and find out for yourself.


Do you use a camping towel? What do you use? What do you like and not like about it? Let me know in the comments!


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The Best Footwear For TEOTWAWKI

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Footwear For TEOTWAWKII have wanted to write an article on boots and shoes for some time now, but I see and hear so many different opinions that I have not been sure of exactly what to say. After thinking about it for a while, I have come to the conclusion that there is no one brand or type of boot that I can recommend over every other. There are many good shoes and boots for TEOTWAWKI, so I am going to give you some general guidelines.

Because of where I live, I have good military style boots, but also snow boots and several pairs of running/hiking shoes. My wife has a good selection of boots, snow boots and running/hiking shoes.

boots for TEOTWAWKI

The pair of boots on the left are the only one that I paid full price for.

In addition, we both have our everyday shoes.

When it comes to boots, I look for several things:

  • Good ankle support. I like at least an 8-inch boot that will keep me from twisting an ankle when in the mountains.
  • Comfort. A boot needs to fit you well; they should not cause blisters or hot spots. They need to be well broken in. Put some miles on them and learn what type of socks work best for you in different types of weather. Generally, wool socks will be best, although nowadays, even athletic socks are hi-tech, with breathability and wicking technology. Smartwool is one brand that is highly recommended.
  • Warm and dry. You should have boots that are suitable for the weather and terrain in which you live. I have not yet found one pair of boots that will work for winter and summer in the mountains. The best compromise that I have found is a good pair of insulated leather boots similar to my Danners. They are comfortable most of the year, although in the middle of summer they can be a bit warm and in the deep snow not as warm as I’d like. When shopping for boots, buying a waterproof pair is generally the best way to go, regardless of the season.
  • Long lasting.  First, buy good quality leather boots, and avoid boots from China and the cheaper discount houses. Second, you have to take care of them. Here is a link to a post I wrote on Preserving your Leather Boots.

I keep several pairs of boots for different weather, terrain, and comfort. I have four pairs of leather boots and a couple of pairs of snow boots. Three pairs of my leather boots came from garage sales, which are a great source for finding prepping treasures.

The only ones I bought new were the Danners. The other three pair cost a couple of bucks each.  One is a pair of Wellco lightweight boots, a second pair came from a returning serviceman and are good, well-insulated boots that were brand new when I got them. The third pair is older non-insulated military issue boots. This lets me wear boots that are appropriate to the weather and to rotate them.

If you live in snow country, get boots that are suitable for where you live and travel. I always take a good pair of snow boots when going up into the mountains in the winter.

Beyond boots, you should have several pairs of good serviceable running/hiking shoes, what we used to call “tennis shoes”. For everyday use around your home, these are comfortable. If you have to travel cross county you can carry a lightweight pair of these for extra shoes. These are good for sneaking around in the brush; they make less noise than heavy leather boots.

If you are thinking about picking up inexpensive shoes in garage sales for future trade stock, concentrate on women’s shoes. Most men have at least one pair of boots and tennis shoes. When I look in a women’s closet all I see are high heels and little light shoes that would wear out very fast.

Buy the best shoes and boots for TEOTWAWKI that you can afford and wear them enough to know that they are comfortable and are well broken in. A few extra accessories to have on hand are Shoe-Goo, inserts to help with arch support and overall comfort, extra shoelaces in the necessary lengths, and, always, a few extra pairs of good quality socks.


UPDATED July 28, 2016

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Do You Have A Good Headlamp in Your Kit?

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One of the biggest benefits of using a headlamp is that you still have both hands free and a light that essentially moves with your eyes. A headlamp is ideal for walking in the dark, so it is a must for hikers and campers. Even if you expect to be back by dark, be prepared for the dark, in the event you get lost or stranded.

There are cheap lights that are just a few bucks at a retail store, or you can step up and pay close to 50 dollars for a quality one with numerous functions to include a red light to help preserve night vision.

Before we go any further, however, let’s clear up some myths about red lights and night vision. The human eye does have a chemical within it that helps us see at night. However, we do not have the same capabilities as some other mammals do, we simply do not have the physical attributes that allow us to see as well in the dark as some mammals.

Nature at some point decided we didn’t need any fancy accessories to see at night, because of our advanced brainpower. We learned to light up the dark, and so, no need to burden us with extra features.

Rhodopsin is the chemical within the rods in our eyes that helps us see in the dark without artificial light. Rhodopsin reacts to bright light by closing off to protect the eyes from the intense light. However, this ruins our night vision for up to 30 minutes in some cases. The chemical bleaches out color, which helps us see in the dark, but again the chemical when exposed to light shuts down the ability to see in the dark, because the eye is protecting itself from intense light.

The eye’s reaction to a red, or even blue or green light at low intensity is less severe, thus, not doing as much damage to your night vision. With that being said, if the red, green, or blue light is intense enough it will ruin your night vision.

Low-intensity red light allows you to read maps, check your watch and do close up work without shutting down your vision for 30 minutes. The low-intensity light will light up a pathway or trail to some extent as well. Having a red light on your headlamp can help prevent your light from being spotted by others if you are in evasion mode, as well.

Anyone that ventures outdoors at night will benefit from a headlamp and those hiking or camping or in a survival situation, in particular, may find that a good headlamp can save your life.

What to Look For

Water resistance is important. You don’t want rain to disable your light because a dark rainy night is not the time to lose your ability to see.

Strobe setting for red and white lighting, because the strobe setting can be used for signaling others in your party so you do not have to break radio silence or used to signal for help, or to alert others to danger if your car breaks down or to warn against trail hazards.

Several white light intensity settings, because you may need a spotlight for some tasks at night.

You need one with an easily adjustable and quality strap. You may need to run with the light on your head, and so, you want one that can be adjusted quickly on the fly to hold it in place for rough conditions.

Choose wisely, and having an extra light in your bag is a good idea, as well as, extra batteries and/or the means to recharge chargeable batteries.

A headlamp will certainly make vehicle or equipment repairs easier at night as well as other tasks around the house or camp to include cooking in the dark, fire starting, walking in the dark, applying first aid and a host of other tasks that require both hands and a good light.

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9 Hunting Tips Every Hunter Should Know

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9 Hunting Tips Every Hunter Should Know

Hunting is a very popular sport that requires attention to detail, a great amount of patience, and a love for the outdoors. Many individuals spend their lives hunting to provide game for consumption, while others may do it as more of a leisurely activity.

Whatever your desire is for hunting, there are a lot of key components to hunting successfully. While it may take a lot of practice, anyone can learn how to become a sharp shooter with time. To help you experience a successful hunt, we’ve put together 15 of the top hunting tips to help you find your target with ease and land the shot you’ve been waiting for.

  1. Be patient.

There is nothing worse than having a hunting partner who is in a rush to get trigger-happy. Hunting has a lot to do with being patient and waiting for the precise moment when you can land a good shot, and that can take hours, if you’re willing.

Patience is a virtue, especially for those who are still-hunting. If this is your plan of attack, then you should be ready to stay put for long periods.

  1. Bring a watch.

A watch is a great guide to keep you aware of how long you’ve been in one position, or to set a time for how long you want to stay. Still-hunters will especially benefit from this, as it’s easy to lose track of time if you aren’t paying attention.

Bring a wristwatch that’s easily visible from your position, and decide on intervals in which you want to refrain from moving. This is also a great way to keep track of how long you’ve been out and when you plan to shut down for the day.

  1. Travel with purpose.

Even if you’re still looking for a trail or lead, there is a good chance that you’ve already caught the attention of nearby game. In saying this, only move when absolutely necessary, and move with purpose.

If you’re simply trudging through leaves and snapping twigs, then you’re already losing your chances of finding a target. They will have already recognized you and be long gone. Try making staggered movements, and stay light on your feet. Some animals will mistake these sounds for squirrels or small mammals traveling through the terrain.

  1. Practice shooting positions.

For hunters in tree stands, it’s a great piece of advice to establish your shooting positions. Depending on which direction the animals appear from, you’ll want to be able to maneuver through the tree without bringing attention to yourself.

The best way to do this is to locate your best positions ahead of time, and clear any twigs or brush that will make noise when you move. Decide on a clear position for each area the animal could appear from so that you can get a good look or move swiftly without startling them.


  1. Clear your area.

Similar to individuals in tree stands, hunters on the ground should clear their area once they’ve established a spot for still-hunting. Depending on the weather, you’ll need to clear snow, dead leaves, twigs, and other debris from the area so that you can maneuver to a clear shooting position without letting the animal become aware of your position.

As soon as you find a good location, sweep the area as best you can so that you can be a little more forgiving with your movements.

  1. Travel with a waterproof bag.

You might have all of the skills and equipment you need for a successful go at hunting, but if you don’t protect them properly, then you’ll have some problems. Weather can be unforgiving, and, even if you plan ahead, Mother Nature can still change her mind.

Be ready for unforeseen weather problems by packing your gear and possessions in waterproof packs that will protect everything from water, moisture, dirt, and more. Try to double-bag everything, as well, especially things like your rifle scopes and lenses.

  1. Travel on foot before you settle.

If you want to start your hunt off on the right foot, then you better get walking. If you’re driving to a remote location, animals may recognize and steer clear of car sounds and people. If you want to up your chances of catching them off guard, then it’s best to park your car outside of the area and hike your way into your planned location.

This way, animals may have a harder time tracking you or even recognizing that you’ve entered the area.

  1. Invest in a high-quality rifle scope.

Aside from your prized rifles, investing in a high-quality rifle scope is going to do wonders for your accuracy and precision. There are a lot of different kinds available, and they each have their own advantages to help you become more successful with your targets.

You’ll be able to make a better decision about the type of rifle scope you want when you know what kind of hunting you’re doing. Generally, each design will perform best at a specific distance, certain lighting, size of target, etc., so try to recognize what sort of aiming you’ll be doing to find the one that’s best for you.

Image Source from www.edgewood-outfitter.com


  1. Try a one-man drive.

If you’re hunting alone, you have the opportunity to do a one-man drive to bring animals out of the woodwork. The key to making this work is to walk into a specific location with the wind at your back; this will bring out your unfamiliar smells and get their attention. After you’ve entered the area, circle around and walk into the same area.

You might notice that your smell and the unfamiliar treading confuse the animals, and they won’t be able to locate where you are. This will either bring them out or have them on guard. If you haven’t seen any movement, try to remain still for a while and see if they return when they believe the threat is gone.

Every hunter will have their own theories and practices about the best way to hunt. If you’re hunting alone, the most important thing you can do is to let someone know where you’re going and what area you’ll be focusing on. This way, if anything happens, you’ll be much easier to locate in case you need help.

If you’re new to hunting, consider these 9 tips to help make the experience easier and more successful! With time, you’ll recognize what kinds of tools and practices work best for you.

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5 Tips To Help You Handle Extreme Environments after Bugging Out

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If a natural or manmade disaster happens, many people will be forced to bug out and relocate. But even if a disaster doesn’t happen, people move for education, adventure, or a better life all the time. Either way, a move from one type of environment to another can […]

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10 tips for finding a safe campsite

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Setting up for the night, or making an emergency camp in the wilderness? Here are some things to think about before you camp anywhere.

by Leon Pantenburg

The storm clouds were moving toward us, and bad weather was going to hit in a few minutes. My brother, Mike Pantenburg, and I were far back in the Idaho backcountry on an elk hunt. We had just come out of a dark, shaded drainage, and needed to find shelter quickly. We scouted the area, and set up an A-frame tarp shelter.

Beware of snow on overhanging branches.

Beware of snow on overhanging branches, and know how to get out of the wind.

It rained for the next 15 hours, but we were dry and comfortable under the tarp. Part of the reason was that we found a good, safe place to set up. (Check out 10 tips for comfortable camping in the rain!)

In addition to the skill to set up a quick camp, you also need a safe place.

Here are ten things to look for when setting up a campsite. They are in no particular order, since the environment, topography, ground and shrub vegetation and types of trees will play into your decisions.

Wind: Get out of the wind if at all possible. A cold wind will suck the heat out of your body, and may drive rain and snow into your shelter. Look around – find the wet side of a tree, and use that as a guide to show which way the wind blows in that area. Look at vegetation – in some places, it will move with the wind less, or not at all. That area is more out of the wind.

The water rolled rocks in the desert show this area has flash floods

The water-rolled desert rocks show this is a flash flood area.

In the desert, look for large boulders, rock formations or terrain features that break the wind, and set up your shelter in the lee side. Remember, a hot wind can also be dangerous because it will hasten dehydration and might carry sand that will burn and chap your skin.

Water drainage: Where will storm waters flow? Is there a danger of flash floods?

Look around for rocks that look rolled, as if by a stream. In desert areas, this indicates a flash flood area. Make sure you don’t choose an area that has a dip or depression that might cause water to pool there. The best site will be away from any known water courses, and slightly DIPPED to allow the water to flow away.

Widow makers: In forests, first order of business is to look up. Are there dead branches or snags that might fall in heavy wind? That’s a widow (or widower) maker. Make sure nothing will fall on you if the weather gets nasty.

 Snow: In deep snow, terrain is critical. Avalanche areas are typically devoid of trees and other vegetation, and many have what looks to be smooth snow. Don’t camp on or near these areas.

Watch out for snow-laden branches on trees. When it warms up some, the snow will fall. You could get hit with a lot of snow that puts out fires and collapses tents and shelters. The snow could cause injuries.

Look for animal tracks and poop to tell if your proposed campsite might be on a game trail.

Look for animal tracks and poop to tell if your proposed campsite might be on a game trail.

Game trails: That clear area might be in the middle of a game trail, and you don’t want to camp where a animal might travel at night. A cow path might be the travel route of an aggressive bull. Know what animals are in the area, and look around for poop and tracks. If you find a lot of these, move on.

Where: The warmest place to camp on a mountain is somewhere about halfway between top and bottom. Cold settles in the lower elevations, and higher up may be more windy.

Drip line of trees: Once you’ve decided nothing is going to fall on your shelter, consider where the drip lines of  the trees will fall. This is the point where moisture from rain or snow will come off a tree.

When rain is the consideration, I like to place a tarp shelter about one to two feet, depending on the circumstances, under the drip line. This means the drip line will hit the top of the tarp. It is bad if the drip line is in front of the tarp – that means the rains will splash into your shelter.

Sun and shade: At noon the sun is directly overhead.  Where will it be in the late afternoon? If you need protection from the sun, as in the hot desert areas, shade may be a priority. Make sure your tarp or shelter can create optimal shade.

This is a mosquito breeding ground, and camping near it guarantees swarms of biting insects will find you.

This is a mosquito breeding ground. Camping near it guarantees swarms of biting insects will find you.

Marshy area: Is the proposed campsite near a swamp or standing water? These are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and homes for snakes and other reptiles. Stay away from marshy areas unless there is no other choice.

Lightning: If you’re in the mountains, don’t discount the possibility of a strike. If a storm is blowing in, it may be accompanied by lightning. Don’t set up a shelter under a tall, isolated tree, and consider where might be a safe place. This could mean hunkering down among boulders or retreating downhill to a lower elevation.

If you’re staying in an established campsite, you probably won’t have much choice about where you camp. Let’s hope the campsite was laid out with safety in mind.

But if you’re on your own in the wilderness, look around before you set up any camp.

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Hiking Skills: Back To the Basics

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Yes, there are some skills required when it comes to trekking around in the backwoods. Well marked hiking trails are one thing, while hiking through thick brush, over loose shale and crossing waterways is something else entirely.

Hiking through an urban environment to escape the chaos, also has its own set of challenges, as well, that you would not encounter on a well defined and well used hiking trail.

Some people, when they hear the term bugging-out, naturally assume they will be hiking out of their predicament, because roads will be shut down and/or gridlocked. This may very well be the case, and if you are not ready to be on your feet in the same clothes for hours or even days at a time with weight in your pack, you will not fare well at all.


You cannot do any serious hiking in your street or work clothes. You wouldn’t go to work in your hiking outfit, so don’t try to hike in your work clothes and shoes. Heavy denim may be great for keeping your legs from getting torn up by brambles, but otherwise denim, because it is cotton is not a good choice.

We all know the dangers of cotton in rainy, cool, or cold weather so we won’t delve too deeply into that in this article. If you have ever been in the snow or freezing rain with jeans on then you know what we mean. You may have found that the material actually ices up once wet and this is deadly.

If you don’t know what to choose visit your local military surplus store, and pick up some jungle fatigues for summer hikes, and while there grab a pair or two of cold weather pants and shirts/blouses made of wool.

Wool socks are the best choice, as well, for hiking, because without your feet you are immobilized. Pick up a “boonies” hat, because they are ideal for repelling water during a rain and they do provide shade to the head, neck, and face.

Make sure the hiking shoes or boots you have can take the rigors of the trail. Wearing them around the house for a few days to break them in is not a true test. You need to get out in the woods and walk some rough terrain before you may be forced to travel over rough terrain. Your shoes need practice and breaking in just as you do, so do not buy a new pair and then stick them next to your pack without first introducing them to the great outdoors.

You don’t necessarily have to fill your pack with clothes, but have an outfit with your pack ready to go. Carry extra socks and undergarments, but otherwise do not weigh down your pack with a daily change of clothes. This is not practical, so wear some of the weight, and forgo too many extra sets in your pack.


USGS topographic maps or quads are for backcountry navigation. You would not use one to find the nearest Starbucks, but they will show prominent landmarks, waterways, hills, and they have elevation lines and with a little practice you can find your way to a specific grid square or location using 4, 6, or 8 digit grid coordinates.

Every hiker should have the most up to date map in his or her pack protected against moisture, and of course a quality Lensatic compass is a must have. There is absolutely no reason not to have a map of the area you live in and a map of any area you expect to be in. Once you learn how to navigate using a topographical map and compass it would be impossible to get lost.


Some people before they set out imagine all manner of calamities that may befall them out in the woods and their first aid kits often times reflect that fear. You need a quality medical kit but space is limited. First, go with known medical needs. Daily maintenance medications are required, of course, so they must be in the kit.

Next, go with the basic first-aid supplies. You will need bandages of various sizes, sterile gauge, pressure bandages, possibly a tourniquet and then over the counter pain killers, and medication for stomach upset. Have some allergy medications in your kit, and remember you may encounter plants that may cause an allergic reaction, so always carry Benadryl or something similar even if you have no known allergies. 

Carry moleskin for blisters, antibiotic ointment, duct tape and/or surgical tape and alcohol wipes. Iodine is an option as well for treating abrasions and cuts. Add sunscreen, and lip balm.

If you know how to use a suture kit then pack one, otherwise it probably will not be of any use unless someone in your group, or someone you encounter has the skills to suture wounds. This is a decision you have to make, keeping in mind weight and space when packing.

Carry water purification tablets or drops, a metal canteen, or metal nesting cup for boiling water, and/or a quality water filtration device.


Never leave home without fire making materials even if you think you may only be gone for a few hours. Carry more than just matches, because they can and will let you down.


If you choose wisely you can pack 72-hours worth of food without adding much weight to your pack. Beans and weenies are great for backyard adventures, but even a few cans in a pack add weight, so go with dehydrated foods or Meals Ready to eat, (MRE’s). Why 72-hours, because if you do not pack as if you may get lost then you will suffer mightily when you do get lost , because it is not a matter of if, but when you get lost or stranded.


Use your maps and other sources to locate water before you set out, and have the means as mentioned before to purify a surface water source. Carry enough water for the time you expect to be gone and have the resources to obtain more if you become lost or stranded or if for whatever reason you extend your hike.


It can be a small tent, poncho, tarp or all mentioned, again keeping in mind weight and space and climate. Regardless of weather if you plan an overnight stay you will need shelter of some sort and in cold climates choose your shelter material wisely?

Sundry Items

  • Fifty feet of quality nylon cordage
  • Fixed bladed knife and a multi-tool
  • Sanitary wipes for washing up to conserve on water
  • Other personal hygiene items
  • Sunglasses, bandana, gloves
  • Flashlights
  • Mylar blankets
  • Signaling devices such as a whistle, mirror and/or brightly colored material
  • Personal defense items
  • Optional sleeping bag
  • Optional foam ground pad
  • Wet weather suit/poncho

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Laguna de los Tres and Rio Blanco Circuit: Hiking An Iconic Landscape

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The hike up to Laguna de los Tres is one of the classics of Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia. Starting from the village of El Chaltén, the out-and-back trip do the lagoon can be hiked in a day. Indeed, many people do. The hiking guidebook I purchased locally states…

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The 10-Minute Talk That Protects A National Park

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We arrived at the bus station in El Calafate just before 07:45. It was bustling with backpackers and foreign travellers, squeezing past each other, making their way to ticket offices, buses or a rendez-vous with friends or a group. After the quiet backstreets of this little town on the shores of Lago Argentino, it seemed […]

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Salazon Salted Dark Chocolate Bars – Review

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Is there anything better than chocolate when on an outdoor adventure?… besides bacon I mean. Well we had the chance to try so samples of some of the best chocolate I’ve tasted in a long time. Delicious dark chocolate with just the right amount of salt that comes in a variety of flavours. We are hooked on the quality and flavour: not too sweet, not too salty, just delicious.

We were sent the Trail Series of bars – carefully tailored for the outdoor adventurer.

What is Salazon?

Salazon is organic, fair trade dark chocolate sourced out of the Dominican Republic that has been salted with solar-evaporated sea salt.

What is the Trail Series?

The Trail Series is 3 different 2.75 ounce salted dark chocolate bars. Each supports one of three different scenic trails in the USA: The Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. They do so by donating 2% of their gross sales to the different trail associations.

We received two of each:

  • 57% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Caramel – Certified Organic and made with Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa beans
  • 57% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Coffee – Certified Organic and made with Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa beans
  • 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almond – made with Certified Organic chocolate and Fair Trade Certified cocoa beans

Salazon has partnered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for its Caramel bar, the Pacific Crest Trail Association for its Coffee bar, and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition for its Almond bar. The packaging for each bar depicts actual scenery captured on the trails.

The bars themselves are pretty awesome to stare at too. They cry world explorer with their eclectic map.

Testing / Testers


The bars were shared between our explorers (junior and adult). We tried to be fair to them and to you by trying them at home, before the trip as well as on the trail.


What did we think?

Fantastic! These were all incredibly delicious!

The Salted Caramel had just the right level of Caramel. There are nice sized pockets of soft caramel that weren’t too sweet or overpowering. They complimented the dark chocolate very well, without making it taste artificial.

The Salted Coffee was the same. There was an excellent balance of flavours here.

The Salted Almond bar is a much higher cocoa content (72% instead of the 57% of the other two bars) and it was a good choice. It’s more savoury than the other two. The almond pieces, like the caramel are distributed well and add a refreshing crunch to the bar.

Due to the higher cocoa content, we didn’t have problems with melting. Well, there was one exception to that. One of the bars was carried against someone’s back in their backpack. The result was a bit deformed, but it in no-way took away from the deliciousness of the bar.


You won’t go wrong with these delicious salted dark chocolate bars. They are delicious and refreshing as a trail snack, or even as a late night snack at home when the kids have gone to bed. On top of being delicious, organic and fair trade (as well as being part of the Rainforest Alliance), 2 percent of the gross sales of these bars is donated to the support of  the Triple Crown of American Scenic Trails. You’re enjoying fantastic quality chocolate and you’re helping to keep these amazing trails open and enjoyable for future generations.

At $4 MSRP (Less if you buy more), these bars are more expensive than energy bars, but a fair price for the high quality chocolate that you’re purchasing.

I strongly recommend keeping your eye out for these bars and definitely recommend you give them a try!

The Right Shoes

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gphsDisasters.   Sometimes you get warning, such as a big snow storm or hurricane approaching.  Most of the time they come as a complete surprise with little to no warning.  Think of the Boston marathon bombing….no warning at all.  What about a natural disaster like a tornado, very little warning or time to prepare. One […]

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Gorman Falls-Colorado Bend State Park:Hiking in the Texas Hill Country

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Abundant rainfall in the area has Gorman Falls flowing nicely.  The area is protected by the Colorado Bend State Park, so visitors are limited in how close they can get to the falls.  The Texas State Park does provide an area near the falls with great views.

Gorman Falls will make you think an underground cave has erupted to the surface.  Water from Gorman Creek cascades 60 feet forming calcite deposits similar to caverns.

Colorado Bend State Park near Lampasas, Texas does offer several hiking trails including the 3 mile round trip Gorman Falls Trail.  This trail does have many large limestone rocks which can make footing difficult at times.  
As always, bring appropriate attire, footwear, and supplies.  Leave the flip flops in the car.
Hiking to the water line!