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
Let me be the first to congratulate you on your new “easy access to The Sierra” home!
Thanks, Kathy! My hand is about worn out from signing documents, but it is finally ours. We are just 18 1/2 miles to the shore of Tahoe and the glory of the forests.
Hope you’ll enjoy your new home Ray.
On a negative note I must say I’m surprised at your suggestion to burn your “bags” after use. As a strong advocate of leave no trace principles as well as wilderness regulations I would suggest you and others don’t. Please follow the rules and pack out everything. Simply put and usually found on your permit is the note “pack it in, pack it out.” And that includes your used toilet paper.
Also I would suggest taping notes or even leaving notes for others behind is not a good practice. I often run across notes that are obviously outdated and had not been removed by those they were intended for. If you need to communicate with group members plan ahead and use a two way radio communication system. I much prefer skipping on down a trail without being subjected to dangling fluorescent flags, rock arrows in the middle of the trail and paper notes saying “Dude………”
Good day, Don. Thanks for the comment and my apologies for taking so long to respond.
First, I’d like to address your comment about burning the paper bags. You say you are an advocate of “leave no trace principles as well as wilderness regulations”. Me too. In fact, I wrote in the blog post that if regulations prohibit fires, you should not do this. As far as leave-no-trace principles are concerned, I consider the couple of ounces of ash a burned bag would produce to be within the appropriate limits. No one packs “everything” out during a three week hike, and even if you did, the tiny bit of ash left over from a small paper bag has less of an impact than several logs, which are perfectly legal to burn (in some areas, at some times). I think a little ash has no practical impact on the wilderness, although I would never fault someone who felt differently and carried the paper out.
I tend to agree with you in regards to leaving notes, although I will tell you the vast majority of the ones I see are left by Rangers. (And while it’s true that Rangers probably always recover their notes, that doesn’t help if the rain comes first and they fall apart onto the trail.) I haven’t seen the rock arrows or fluorescent flags (although I see fluorescent tape often here in Hawaii), and I wouldn’t want too, either. Finally, while I do not approve of the note I pictured in the blog, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me smile when I saw it.
Thanks again for the comment.
Nice collection of suggestions. On the reuse of your first night cooking bag. Great idea for reducing mass/trash. Caution should be used however, to clean the bag thoroughly on each use. You should work to consume all the meal, including licking the bag clean, clean, clean, then rinse with water and gut sump the contents. When using after the first time, pour in boiling water first to sanitize the already really clean container. The objective is to maintain the bag in as sterile a condition as possible so that you don’t develop an exposure to a noxious microbial beastie thats feeding on your leftovers.
Thanks for the comment, Loren. I have to confess that I don’t do what you describe as religiously as I should. It certainly comports, however, with what many, many Rangers have told me over the years: far more people get sick on the trail due to personal hygiene and cooking issues than from giardia.
That was from some of the excellent training I got from three Philmont Treks. And I agree on the hygiene based on many Scout outings. I did get giardia once when I allowed a well meaning Tenderfoot to pump my water. That’s a good deed that I have sadly learned to turn down…
Great tips! One adjustment I’ve made is to keep the duct tape wrapped around my pencil or pen, not my trekking poles. It stays cleaner this way.
Very true! Thanks for the comment, Mitch.