Hike in a skirt, toss your drawers, and pee standing up.

picture from: http://shoesyourpath.com/test-hiking-travel-skirt-by-macabi/

So why did people start wearing underwear?  Probably to keep their pants clean.  And why did they start wearing pants?  Probably to cut down on chafing when they rode horses.*  And why did women start squatting to pee?  ‘Cause they were wearing underwear and pants. So if you’re not riding a horse you might find your life improved without either.

I’ve been exclusively wearing a Macabi hiking skirt for years now.    On trail and off, year ’round.  I don’t own a pair of pants or a pair of underwear.

The number one advantage of wearing a skirt is doing away with underwear and being able to pee standing up without having to remove your pack—-this is no small life improvement.

If you are a man you probably have  mastered peeing standing up.  If you are a woman you may need a little trial and error to learn what works best for you.

Here is one technique to get you started:   Wide stance, with one hand grab the back of your skirt and pull it away from your body,  with the other hand pull up the front of your skirt, grab your pubis and with a finger on either side of your urethra, pull up so that your urethra is pointing in the right direction and is freed from the folds.  Pee.  Blot dry with the hem of your skirt, continue hiking.   (For some reason my skirt doesn’t smell like pee.)

20160305_075020One problem you may encounter is thigh chafing when it gets hot.  I solved this problem by taking a Summer Buff, sewing a little pocket around the top to push through a band of elastic,  and wearing it on one of my thighs.   Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel also works well but you have to keep reapplying it.    I have never tried this but these thigh chafing bands might work.  

Not me; not my picture

With the Macabi skirt you can wear it long or snap it up for a knee-length skirt.  You can also turn it in to pants or shorts but I never do that.  I usually hike with it snapped up.

When it rains, I wear the skirt snapped up and a trash bag rain skirt over it.

It has huge self draining pockets so you can swim in it.   It also as a zippered pocket which is where I carry my money and cards— So they are always with me and secure.

The skirt is for both men and women–  it looks very good on men.

I met a woman in Sierras who would take off her top, pull her skirt under her armpits, and wear it like a dress to modestly clean herself on the trail.

* I didn’t research this or anything—just some info I pulled out of the atmosphere.

Gear Review: Altra Lone Peak shoes

Now, I’m not totally blaming the marshmallow like Hoka One One shoes for me ending up with a knee brace, cane, and a dent in my leg muscle but I believe the high unstable shoe was at least partly to blame.    Would not recommend if you are hiking on uneven terrain.  Even though my feet didn’t hurt in them, they tweaked everything else.

After my injury healed, (the dent still remains), I tried the Altra Lone Peaks 1.5  combined with a soft insole.    They were close to the ground, no heal lift, and a big wide toe box.

Love them— I can put in a 30 mile day and not have feet that scream at me.   But then….they changed the shoe.  So, I bought every pair in my size I could find.

One thing I really dislike about the Altra’s Lone Peaks is the very loose weave of the shoe.   Even while wearing gaiters, my feet were as filthy and dried out as if I had been walking in sandals.    On the Oregon Coast Trail, they would fill with sand but I couldn’t just empty the shoes cause the sand would be inside the weave so I’d have to beat the shoes together for like 10 minutes to empty them and then they would start filling up again.

The loose weave made me long for a water-proof version.    I don’t mind my feet getting wet but I like  water-proof shoes cause they keep my feet clean and moist so my feet don’t dry out and crack.

I’m on my last pair of the 1.5’s.  Looking at the new ones I was happy to see they now come in a water-proof version.    It looks like the new shoe is a little higher than the old ones (which for the above reasons I feel is a mistake). They are however, feeling great on my little 7 mile walks but it’s hard to tell till I hit the trail.  I have high hopes.

One more cool thing about these shoes is they have a little hidden splotch of velcro on the back of the heel for securing Dirty Girl Gaiters.


Gear Review: Gatewood Cape and Serenity Net-Tent.

Picture from: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-ultralight-poncho-tarp Because I don’t want to go set up my tent in the snow this morning.

This has been my trail shelter for years.  I think it’s the perfect set up– the ideal vagabond kit.  It’s a mosquito net, it’s a rain poncho, it’s a tarp, it’s a doubled wall tent.

The cape/tarp weighs 12 oz (340 grams) and the net-tent weighs 11 oz (311) and quickly sets up with 6 stakes and a trekking pole.

I believe the Gatewood Cape was named after Grandma Gatewood,  who walked the Appalachian Trail with a shower curtain that was her rain gear and her shelter.

cape_worn_78x138  In Colorado, I would use it as a rain poncho in monsoons and then, when I got smart, would quickly set it up as a tarp, crawl inside and take a nap till the monsoon was over.  cape_open_60x106

I walked the Camino in Winter.  I was a little worried about crossing the Pyrenees in winter as some pilgrims get caught in snow storms and die.   I brought my tent stakes and my 4 ounce carbon Z- trekking pole and felt secure that if that happened, I could set up my Gatewood Cape and safely wait out the storm.    Although I never needed to set it up as a shelter, on the Camino, I wore it often as a rain poncho.

Serenity_NetTent_5349c52c75bc5A mosquito net is the worlds best invention—why would anyone not carry one?  Whenever I watch survival shows where they can only bring a few items, no one ever brings a mosquito net, but that is the first item I would add.

If the bugs are bad but the weather is nice, I can sleep in comfort in just the net tent.   When I want to take a break from the mosquitoes or biting flies, I quickly set it up, crawl inside and restore my sanity while I eat my dinner or take a siesta in peace.

Sometimes, when it’s  really cold, I sleep inside the collapsed net-tent like a bivy and it adds a surprising amount of warmth.

Although I’ve never tried this, you are supposed to be able to hang it in a shelter for a bug free sleep.

You can leave the net tent attached to the Cape and set it up as one– as quick as a tent—and its a complete double walled tent.

Gatewood_Cape_4c1bbeec14c43It blocks the wind nicely.   No where does the net tent touch the walls of the cape, so, no waking up wet from condensation.   There is a big vestibule for cooking and to store muddy shoes.      The door is high enough for you to get a little view, even when closed, as you lay in your bag.

The hood of the cape makes a top vent.   If it’s raining and you want to make a protected top vent you can stick your hat on your pole, pull the hood over it and make a little protected air vent.   You can open and close the vent from your sleeping bag.

There is a big pocket that works as a pocket while using as a rain poncho,  an inside pocket when using as a shelter and the cape and net-tent can be stuffed inside the pocket for packing–although I usually just stuff it in my pack or in the outside pocket of my pack if its wet.

One disadvantage of  sil-nylon, is it relaxes once you set it up and can become quite slack in the rain, so, you have to leave your tent and tighten things up.   I solve this problem by setting up the cape with my trekking pole at an angle.  When I feel the tent slacken, I pull the pole towards me and everything is tight again.  There is also a tension adjuster inside the tent, on the new ones, that will further tighten things up if needed.

Tip for quick set up:  Tie one color of flagging tape on the back tie out and tie another color on each of the two front side tie outs.  This makes it easy to see  where everything is. First stake the back,  then stake the two front sides leaving a little slack.   Insert pole and stake out front.  Stake out the two remaining  pull-outs and go around and adjust everything so it is very taut.    There are two additional pull outs on the side walls, but I never use those and I can’t see how they would improve anything.

If you plan to use it as a rain poncho, I recommend making a little shock-cord belt for it so it doesn’t blow around so much.   There are snaps to snap up the excess when using as a rain poncho.  This isn’t my only rain gear, I carry a Z-packs rain coat and a trash bag rain skirt as well.

Tent stakes:  I used to go with all super light thin titanium stakes but after I got a trail lesson in high winds and soft soil, I started carrying at least 3 better holding stakes like these hex stakes.   Last year on the Oregon Coast trail, I tried carrying a few MSR Groundhog stakes; they held well in the sand and wind.

Hiking shirts

I only have one outfit—I’ve worn the same thing, on trail and off, summer and winter, everyday for years—a macabi hiking skirt and a nylon shirt.

Since I only have the one outfit, I carefully select my clothes like a super hero selects their outfit.

Although this combo works well most of the time, I’ve been unhappy with nylon shirts in the hot desert because they are hot and aren’t breathable enough.  So, before heading out to the Arizona Trail,  I bought a Columbia Sportswear omni freeze shirt.   My conclusion?– Basically they have taken every disadvantage of a nylon shirt–hot and not breathable enough, and combined it with all the disadvantages of a cotton shirt–cold when wet and slow to dry.

So the next year, when heading back to the desert of the Pacific Crest Trail, I decided to just go with a light weight cotton shirt–breathable, quick to dry, cools when wet and very comfortable.   Worked great and would use again for deserts.

There, however, is a reason you never see a super hero wearing natural fibers— they quickly disintegrate when adventuring.    Even though I kept repairing it with dental floss, in less than a thousand miles, it looked liked I had been marooned for 20 years— that shirt was nothing but a hopeless rag and had to be replaced; where as a nylon shirt will last years and multiple long hikes.

I replaced it with a nylon shirt but I would definitely go back to cotton next time I’m hiking in the desert.

An idea: I was thinking, if a person was sending themselves boxes on a trail, it might be an idea to buy a bunch of used shirts at a thrift store or yard sale and pop out a new shirt every resupply.   That way you could look spiffy when hitching a ride back to trail instead of trying to hitch in a stained raggedy shirt.   You  also wouldn’t have to do laundry, and you wouldn’t have to keep repairing your cotton shirt.  I’ve seen shirts at yard sales for .25 a piece.

Trail food: Roasted seaweed

81HVmFjWwRL._SY606_I discovered roasted seaweed at the little hiker store in the hostel in Lone Pine.  After doing the math, I calculated it had a whopping 165 calories per ounce (6 per gram)–pretty good for vegetables–although I assume, most of the calories come from the oil they are roasted in. 31Jpkh6DOYL

I eat them like chips, but the worker at the store said she crumbles them in anything she is cooking–contributes salt, oil, and veggies to any meal.

71hnYgfYVpL._SL1500_The packaging is quite bulky; I emptied them all into a baggie and threw away the packaging.

I think it may be cheapest to buy from Costco.

Gear review: Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket

flightjacketI’m in a motel room in Idyllwild.   Even though it’s late May in Southern California, winter is never far away when playing in the mountains and its freezing in the San Jacinto’s and I don’t want to leave the warmth of the motel room so I talk myself in to staying another night.

I’m snugged up in my warm sleeping bag and its time to get hiking but it’s too cold to leave my sleeping bag, so I stay in bed.

I stop for a break and suddenly I’m freezing.

This is why I carry this jacket:  Instant warmth.   It gets me out of my sleeping bag in the morning and keeps me happy and hiking when the weather turns frigid.

It doesn’t have logos on the chest.  It does have a tag on the side of it which you can cut off or take a sharpie to ink out the name.  You can also ink out the logo on the zipper pull.

I’ve carried it for at least 6 years; 10 ounces (283 grams) I never regret taking.

Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket


Resupply on the go

I’ve resupplied out of little stores on the trail now for years.  I look at it like foraging.   I don’t go in with an expectation of what I want but more a “lets see what’s available today” kind of attitude.    If I’m open and look at everything, I walk away with a resupply that is better than anybody’s box of stale food they dried months ago.

Once, while sitting out at the picnic table at Echo Lake,  a couple asked me if I got my box.  I said “no, I buy as I go.”    He said, “Well, I guess that’s okay if you don’t care what you put in your body.”   I watched them get their box, that they paid 35 dollars to have shipped from the East Coast, and unpack it.   Inside they had: organic instant oatmeal, organic ramen, vegan gummy bears,  organic dried apples and organic chips.    I had whole wheat tortillas, Cheese, nuts, peanut butter, fresh apples, and chips.  No wonder they were so crabby.

There are places though that a person walks through that don’t have a store and for those places a box would be very convenient.    Unless you have a person to send boxes for you, that can make it tough, on a long trail, as some places don’t want to hold your package for a long time and it’s hard to predict what you want to eat months in advance.

I’ve discovered a few options:

Jet.com is a new Amazon-like site that is often cheaper than Amazon.  They sell single and bulk items—including Kirkland (Costco brand) stuff.   Orders over 35 dollars ship free.

Amazon prime Pantry.   Where you can buy single items, instead of the bulk packages they usually sell,  and have it shipped to you for a flat rate $5.99.   You don’t have to fill a box; you can order as little as you want or as much as you want–up to 45lbs (20.4 kilos).   Looks like they even sell tortillas.  I don’t think they will ship to a post office though.

Another is Sonora Pass Resupply.   They have an online store and you can order food and other trail needs and they will ship to you anywhere on the Pacific Crest Trail maybe anywhere.    I think you can also send them your stuff and they will ship it to you.   Shipping is free on orders of 50 dollars or more.   They will also meet you at Sonora Pass and  hand deliver a resupply to you for 50 dollars.   They will also pickup and mail your bear can home from Sonora Pass for 15 dollars postage included and take out your trash.

Another is Zero day resupply.   They have an online store and I believe will ship anywhere.  They are even set up to do a bucket resupply at Muir Trail Ranch.  They  have a weight and calorie calculator for your order that makes things easy.


Current Gear List

  • Carried a Ursack through the Sierras–Probably not legal
  • NRS Neoprene Sandal Sock —for cold
  • light weight ice axe–  (the Camp Corsa  and the TICA ICE TOOL R5 are the lightest ones) and microspikes for snow sections
  • Rain pants in addition to rain skirt in Washington.
  • May need extra water bottle for dry sections.

All this gear, with the exception of the shirt,  has been trail tested for thousands of miles.  I’m confident with this kit I can handle whatever the world throws at me.   If any of it broke, I would replace it with the same thing.

Keeping your phone charged on the trail.

I love having a smart phone.  It’s a GPS, compass, emergency flashlight, holds maps and trail data.  I can listen to podcast, music, audio books.  On my Iphone, I had Wikipedia offline.  You can store books on it.    To me, its worth its weight.   If I need some gear, I can sit on a mountain top and order it sent to the next town.    I can keep abreast of fire closures and trail info.

Besides the water report in Southern California, I hike the PCT paperless now.

The GPS works even without cell service.  You can turn the sim off so it isn’t spending battery life searching for service.   I hiked the Camino in Spain and though I used the maps and the GPS through GAIA GPS app,  I never turned on the sim once.  Sometimes the GPS is not as accurate as a real GPS but it’s so much easier to load with your tracks and way-points.

phone chargersIn southern California, on the Pacific Crest Trail, I carry a Suntatics solar panel and a small Jackery 6,000 mAh auxiliary battery.  The solar panel weighs 8.2 ounces (233grams) and the auxiliary battery weighs 5.5 ounces(155grams) There is plenty of sunshine and I’m usually laying in the shade when its hot, so I have plenty of time to charge my auxiliary battery with the solar panel while I sleep.    You need to be careful that your phone or auxiliary battery stays in the shade though.  Sometimes I would make shade for what ever I was charging with my umbrella.   The towns are close together  in So CAL and I just want to get in and out of them quickly and not wait for my phone to charge.   It’s freeing to have your own source of power.

It would work great in Arizona and New Mexico too, but as I move north the sun becomes a less and less reliable energy source.   I then send my solar panel home and up my auxiliary battery storage.

For the Oregon Coast Trail, this year, I used one huge battery.   The Anker 16,000 mAh.  It weighs 10.9 ounces (310 grams).

I also understand why people hike without a phone.   It can and most probably will distract from the experience.   There is a place on the PCT , off trail a little bit, with the most amazing sunset and views of many mountains in the distance.  I’ve camped there before and felt thrilled for such beauty.  Last time through, I climbed up there just as the sun was setting and laid out my pad and sleeping bag.  I glanced at my phone, saw there was service and when I glanced up again the sun was gone and it was dark.    I hope now that I have high speed internet at my cabin,  the internet won’t seem like such a treat that I give up enjoying a sunset on a mountain top for it again.

Related post: How-to-remember-your-cell-phone-when-leaving-town

Waterproof your Iphone

phoneprotectorI now have a Samsung Galaxy 6s Active, which is supposed to be waterproof, but for three years I carried an Iphone on the trail.   When it was raining I would put it in a sandwich baggie.   It weighs 2 grams and cost 1.59 for a box of 50.    I could easily operate the phone through the plastic.

To use the headphones I poked a little hole in the bag.

gelcaseI also had a cheap little gel case for it to improve gripping and to give it some bounce when I dropped it.

My phone didn’t have an easy life.  I dropped it many times and  walked through  monsoons, showers, hail, and snow and my phone made it through intact.

Checking out library books while you are on the trail.

I discovered this cool app, Overdrive, for my smart phone this year.   You enter your library card and then where ever you are, when ever you have wi-fi you can download audio books and e-books for free from your library to any of your devices.

If you are a collector of different library cards you can enter all of them and then get a bigger selection.

Gear Review: Microspikes

It’s snow season here in the Okanagon Highlands which means breaking out my Microspikes.   microspikesI don’t know how people out here function without them as I find it hard to bring in an armful of firewood without them.

essential winter wear
essential winter wear

With Microspikes I can take walks with the same long sure-footed strides as when it’s not slick out.    I’ve walked hundreds of miles in them and they have never once popped off my running shoes.

They’re nice for the trail too, as running shoes can feel like ballet slippers when crossing a steep ice shoot.

I walked the Camino in Spain in the winter.  I brought my Microspikes, and though I only needed them for 3 or 4 days, I was happy to have them.

I walk quite a bit so I usually need to buy a new pair every year; they get dull.

Mine weighs 13 oz / 368 grams.   They may be lighter now.

If you wear them inside your cabin, you may want to put rugs down because your floor may end up looking like this:

beat up floor

Before Microspikes, I screwed sheet metal screws into the bottom of my running shoes.


Water treatment

justdrinkitSeveral years ago, I decided to look at trail water like something akin to the way devotees look at the Ganges River—holy and safe to drink.    That worked out okay for me on the Pacific Crest Trail and I can say I’ve hiked the whole PCT and never treated a drop, although sometimes I would filter out the floaties with my bandanna.

chlorinedioxideHours before heading out to hike the Arizona Trail, however, my faith wavered and I stopped in at REI to purchase some chlorine dioxide tablets to throw in my bag—just in case.

I’m glad I did because I encountered a water source that tasted so strongly of cow shit that I couldn’t keep it down.    I broke out my tablets and poof my water tasted good.

I encountered worse sources on the Arizona Trail.   One was an almost dried up pond fully surrounded with acres of cow shit.  If that wasn’t discouraging enough, there was a guy with a jet ski in the little pond going around and around stirring up the muck.  He kept getting stuck because it was so shallow.

It would have been a funny sight if it wasn’t the last water for 40 miles and I wasn’t hot and water stressed.    I walked up to him and asked him to quit spinning around while I get my water.   He said, “I wouldn’t drink that if I was you.”    He said the pond usually had a lot more water in it.

I was hoping he might offer me some water but he didn’t.   He had a gallon of water on the tailgate of his pickup and I should have offered to buy it from him for any price but I was feeling too emotionally fragile to risk getting turned down.

I walked on with my muddy, cow shit water hoping that maybe I would find something better.   Several miles later, when I came to a road crossing.  I walked up to a house in the distance, told the guy that I was very disappointed with the last water source, and asked if I could have some water.   I worried he would say no but I later heard that in Arizona, if someone asks for water you have to give them some.   I don’t know if that’s true but it sounds like a good law to me.  Anyway, he gave me some water and got me out of that pickle.

I met a water treatment worker hiking the Arizona Trail.   One of the ways he treated his water was to use a pinch of alum to settle the mud.   I looked it up on Wikipedia and apparently this is an ancient water treatment method that clears the water by making the fine molecules clump together and sink.    Here is the science behind this.

alumSo heading out to the Continental Divide Trail, later that same year, I brought a little container of alum with me.   You can buy it in the baking aisle at the grocery store.

In the Great Basin in Wyoming,  I came to a water source that was little more than a mud puddle,   I strained it through my bandanna, put a pinch of alum in it,  took a nap, and when I woke up it had cleared.  img-arcade-792

When I first gave up treating my water I carried giardia meds with me– just in case.  I bought them from a pet supply store.

Home modified 0 degree quilt

I did it.  I sliced into my new Marmot Helium and turned it in to something worthy of being in the mountains in September.  It weighs 31 oz, is chocked full of down, has not one cold spot, and is luxuriously wide.

First the bag weighed 35 oz.    Then I cut off the hood, the first baffle, the full length zipper, and the zipper baffle.    Then it weighed 24oz.  Next I took all the down from what I had cut off and stuffed it in to the quilt.   Then I took down from my old Marmot Helium  and stuffed even more down into it.   Then it weighed 34 oz.   Then I sewed the seams up and  took it to the laundry and washed it.   Now it weighs 31 oz. *

This isn’t the ethereal kind of loft you get from having  just washed your bag, this is the solid kind of loft  you get when your baffles are full of down.    If you slept in a shelter with this bag you’d have to say, “Please excuse my loft.”

For this project you will need: thread, pins, scissors, sewing machine, and a mummy bag.    Also a vacuum cleaner to clean up with.

To make the seams,  I just turned both edges inward, pinned them, and then sewed them up.

Difficulty rating: easy.  Tip: I did this with the down dirty—dirty down is much easier to handle than clean down.

*I brought two bags to the laundry and they both came back  3 oz lighter.   Which seems like it might justify the weight of a silk liner.

Update:  I headed out to the PCT with new quilt in late May.  In the  mountains above Idyllwild, less than 200 miles from the Mexican border, the temperature dropped to well below freezing, the wind was blowing 50-80 mph gusts and it snowed.

I was camping in Z-pack Heximid tarp which let in a lot of the wind.   The bag kept me warm till I rolled over and then I would get cold—I missed the zipper.   I think quilts are better for people how don’t move around much while they sleep.  Maybe if I had put elastic straps to hold it around my pad or ties…..

Now I carry a Z-packs 10 degree bag with a stretchy  liner.   Mostly I sleep with it as a quilt but when it is very cold I zip it.   I also went to using the Gatewood Cape as a tent because it blocks the wind better than the Heximid.