None of these tips alone are worthy of an entire blog post, but all are little nuggets I’ve picked up either on the trail or reading various books, magazines or blogs. Enjoy!
1. If you are going to use those dehydrated meals that are cooked by pouring hot water into the package, consider this weight (and space) saving plan. Open all your meals except one ahead of time, and pour the contents of each into the smallest paper bags you can manage. If you can’t find a small enough one, cut a larger bag down to size; apply a little tape to secure the bag. Then, on your first night, use the meal in the original packaging. On subsequent nights, poor the contents of one of your paper bags into the “cook-in” bag you used on day one. If fire regulations permit, you can even burn the paper bag, saving a little more weight. Replace the “cook-in” bag at each resupply point.
2. I never carry a wallet with me on the trail, but I do take a few things out of it for the hike. First is a photo ID, preferably a driver’s license. You’re probably not planning to rent a car somewhere between the beginning and the end of the hike, but bailing halfway can happen, and the ability to rent a car can sometimes make getting around easier. Second is your medical insurance card, for obvious reasons. Third is a credit card. If you are sharing an account with a spouse, take a card from a different account. That way if your spouse loses his or her card, and the number is canceled, it won’t affect the card you have. Last is some cash. You never know when it might come in handy, and a few $20 bills are awfully light!
3. I picked this up on the John Muir Trail Yahoo Group a few months ago, and it is a gem: put a small pencil sharpener in your first aid kit or other emergency packet. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to build a fire under duress, it’s a great way to create small slivers of wood (using a pencil-sized branch), which will ignite easily.
4. An “oldie” but also very much a “goodie”. Wrap a foot or two of duct tape around the upper portion of your trekking poles. Duct tape is good for repairing ripped tents, tarps, and clothes. You can use it, combined with a sterile (or as clean as possible) cloth to form a bandage. It can be a substitute for moleskin if you are having blister problems. It’s also great for taping notes to signs for hikers who are behind you. (Just make sure those slow hikers grab the note and take it with them.) Last, you can even use it as an improvised tick remover.
5. On your first rest day, reevaluate how you are hiking your hike, and make improvements. If you are hiking southbound, many folks will take a zero day at Red’s Meadow. On the evening you arrive, carefully evaluate what is working and what you could do better. If you need to get rid of some gear, the Mammoth post office is about an hour (and two bus rides) away. Mammoth also has several great outdoor stores, in case you want to replace or supplement what you’ve carried thus far. If nothing else, at least take a close look at how your are packing your backpack and make any adjustments necessary.
Good hiking, Ray