Mornings on the trail

cabin-808.jpgI love mornings. I’m usually awake by 5am, and love getting an early start but I also enjoy drinking hot beverages and appreciating the morning. This is my usual morning routine, on the trail.

From the comfort of my sleeping bag, I reach out of my tent, start my stove and heat up water to make a 16 oz nalgene bottlecabin-802.jpg full of instant coffee. I put the bottle in my bag to warm me up while I eat my breakfast. Breakfast is usually cereal, nuts and powder milk mixed with water.

After I eat, I drink my coffee and enjoy the morning. Then I heat more water and make green tea in my nalgene bottle. While I drink that I look over the guide book pages for the day. Then using the same tea bag I make another nalgene bottle full of tea. When I finish that, I wash my face with the warm tea bag, and stow it in an outside mesh pocket of my pack until it is dry and can go in my ziplock garbage sack.

Then I leave the comfort of my bag, pack up (I can pack up in 2-4 minutes), and go. This way I start the day hydrated and with little or no water that I have to carry.

Note: If the days are blistering hot, the cool mornings can’t be wasted on sleeping, beverages, or breakfast. On those days, I pack up, grab a meal bar, and hike on.


cabin-609.jpgMy skis came today. They came to my neighbors house, two miles away. I put them on and started to ski home. It was all uphill so it was pretty slow going. Soon it was almost dark so I took them off, strapped them to my backpack and hurried home. The skis are really short and fat. They have skins glued to the bottom of them and metal edges. You don’t need boots; I wore my running shoes with them.

How to hitchhike

cabin-587-1.jpg1.If you carry hiking poles, collapse them and put them away. Make sure they won’t scratch or poke a hole in the car’s upholstery.

2. Tighten all your compression straps on your pack to make you pack look as small and tidy as possible.

3. Stand in an area that has a space big enough for your ride to pull over, safely.

4. Push up the brim of your hat and take off your sunglasses, so people can see your eyes.

5. Stand up straight, smile and look the driver in the eyes.

6 Don’t just stick out your thumb, actually thumb a ride over. Read the book or watch the movie “Even Cow Girls get the Blues? to get inspired.

7. When you get the ride, thank them for stopping, introduce your self and tell the person about your trip. This serves as a way to start humanizing your self. Ask the person if they are from around there, if they are, compliment the area that you are in. Be polite, entertaining and upbeat.

9. Don’t ever give up control. Emit an aura of direction and authority over your life. If you feel creepy about a ride grab the door knob and say “thanks for the ride. This is where I get off.? I like to keep my pack in my lap. Most people who pick up hikers are the very nicest of people.

8. When your ride drops you off, thank them profusely, and say, (if you have enough money), ‘I would like to contribute some money for gas? and hand them 2-5 dollars; ninety percent of the time they won’t take it.

Note: It’s much easier to get a ride when hitch-hiking alone.

Backpacking first aid kit.

cabin-586.jpgThis is what is what I carry when backpacking:
Neosporin. I apply to any wound or infection. Someone told me that if you put some on your urethra you can prevent urinary track infections.
Bandaids Most blisters, I pop with a needle, put some Neosporin on them, and cover with a bandaid. Some bandaids work better than others. If your bandaid keeps falling off you can duct tape it on. In the beginning of a long hike you may need lots of blister stuff. After I have been on the trail for awhile, I don’t get blisters very often. Second Skin is also good for blisters. It’s sort of heavy but in the beginning of your hike it may be worth carrying.
Pain relievers, -Ibuprofen is my personal favorite though I often bring a variety. Don’t rely on aspirin as a your main pain reliever as it increases bleeding and puts you at and risk in the event of an accident for excessive blood lost. Some people in addition carry some heavy duty prescription pain medications, like Oxycontin/Oxycodine, or morphine in case of a break or sprain. A good idea if you can get them.
Aspirin– just a little, good for your heart. Don’t take too much as it will increase bleeding in the event of injury.
Benedryl– not only good for allergies but also good if you are having trouble sleeping. -not just good for airborne allergic reactions but also plant and insect bite reactions.
Claritain. Good for allergies when you don’t want to be sleepy.
Decongestants– also good if you need to stay awake to hike out in an emergency. These are sold without a prescription but apparently you have to ask for them, now.
Emer’gen-C good for replacing electrolytes in the event of dehydration.  At an advanced wilderness first aid course, the instructor said that heavy doses of Vitamin C can prevent and even cure urinary track infections by making your urine so acid that nothing can live in it.
Tums or some kind of antacid. Sometimes trail food can cause acid indigestion and make for a really horrible night.

I carry a needle in my dental floss case to pop blisters. I carry duct tape wrapped around one of my water bottles, not just for repairs, but also for taping a splint made from my pad on if I needed to. Every thing is kept in a plastic ziplock.

On my last hiking trip, I pulled a thigh muscle and a hiker I meet gave me her ace bandage. Later in my hike, I met a woman with a sore knee and I passed it on to her. I’m thinking of starting to bring an ace bandage with me. It does offer some relief.

Travel sink

cabin-577.jpg This is my wash kit: a standup ziplock ,that can withstand hot water, to use as a sink (weighs .40 ounce or 11 grams), half of a light terry wash cloth cut diagonally ( .65 ounce or 18 grams) and a .5 ounce (15 ml) bottle of Campsuds. Campsuds don’t come in that small of a bottle; I used an empty, tiny hand sanitizer gel bottle and filled it up.

It’s nice to have a sink. After a day on the trail it’s wonderful to wash up with some hot water, a little bit of soap and a terry wash cloth.  I only use the littlest amount of soap.

I sometimes then use the water to wash out my underwear and hang it up to dry. It isn’t usually dry by morning, but because it’s synthetic it will dry on me while I hike.

The sink can also be used for an ice pack when staying in town.

My old sink was bigger; big enough to put a whole foot in. I wish I hadn’t lost it, because I can’t find another like it. I’m going to keep trying to find a bigger sink, It would be nice to have one that was big enough to at least stick a foot in; even better to be able to stick two feet in, so I could soak them both if needed.

Some people cut the bottom out of a plastic milk jug to use as a sink. I’m thinking of cutting down a collapsible water jug and see how much that weighs.  I certainly wouldn’t carry more then 2 oz. for a sink.

Note: Cut or make a button hole in the wash cloth so you can loop it to the outside of your pack to dry. It will be much more secure than tying it on.

One more thing: Often I also carry a small scrub brush for cleaning feet, hands and gear.


cabin-546.jpgBecause half of a bandana cut diagonally will do every thing a whole bandana does, I cut my bandana in two. I, however, end up bringing both halfs because I have incompatible uses for them. I cut or make a button hole in one end so that I can loop it to the outside of my pack, or around my neck. This system works a lot better than tying it on. I haven’t lost a bandana since getting thecabin-545.jpg button hole put in it. If you don’t hem it, it will get pretty ratty looking.

And because a bandana makes a lousy wash cloth and a terry wash cloth makes a lousy bandana, I cut a small light terry wash cloth diagonally, and put a button hole in it too.

Note: I don’t like the look of the standard bandanna, so I made my own out of a scarf.

new snow ice cream.

cabin-527.jpgA lot of new snow fell today. I scooped some up in a bowl and poured some canned milk, vanilla syrup and some caramel syrup on it and mixed it all up. It tasted a little like ice cream. My favorite snow topping is lemon juice and sugar, but I don’t have any more lemon juice. For awhile I was putting instant ice tea mix on the snow. I liked that but I’m out of that too. When on the trail I have flavored my snow with lemonade mix or Jello mix (both of which make excellent hot beverages as well).

The secret, dogs don’t want you to know.

Bali is plagued with annoying, aggressive, barking dogs that act like they are going to attack you. I was walking with a German tourist, there, and some dogs started to bark and snap at us. He reached down to pick up a rock and the dogs turned and ran. Since then , when ever a dog runs out and acts like it’s going to attack me I reach down, pick up a rock and start to throw it at it. I’ve never not had a dog run away. It’s like magic. Some kind of world wide knowledge embedded in dog’s genes make them run when it looks like a human is going to throw something at them.

Weighing my gear.

cabin-500.jpgFor working on getting my pack weight down, I weigh everything that goes in my pack, that doesn’t get eaten, on this scale. It weighs up to 2000grams (70.6ounces) and as little as 1 gram (.035 ounce) You can switch between modes: ounces or grams. Then I either write everything down or list it in this cool, free Gear Weight calculator program- .  Using The Gear Weight Calculator, I can list ALL my gear and what it weighs and then check what I want to bring on a particular trip and get a total in ounces or grams. Then, I keep looking at the list and try to figure out ways to get the weight down.

Don’t assume that the gear manufacturers weights are accurate; they usually say the item weighs less than it does. When shopping for gear for a trip, I’ve brought my scale into outfitter stores, to weigh the gear. I even some times bring it with me to discount stores, like Target and Walmart and weigh the stuff there. The discount stores may have many light weight, inexpensive gear options. For instance, I once found a raincoat that weighed eight oz and cost only ten dollars at Target. Sometimes the clothes have big plastic tags on them and it makes it hard to get an accurate weight. Just ask to weigh a tag and then push the “tar” button, then it will weigh the item minus the tag weight.

Backpacking wallet

cabin-463-1.jpgFor a wallet, I use a plastic ziplock baggie. I convert all my coins into food, before leaving town. I carry in it: cash, debit card, driver’s license and a data card. I make a data card like a business card on the computer, or just write everything down on piece of paper, laminating it is a plus. Included on my data card are my phone card number and pin, phone numbers of people I want to call, and phone numbers of outfitters that I might have to order replacement gear from, and my bank’s phone number.

I learned that sometimes when you get away from your life of passwords and pins that you can forget them… Once after a 12 day silent retreat in Thailand I stood in front of the ATM machine and to my horror could not remember my P.I.N. I didn’t remember until I returned home. After that experience, I write it down somewhere. I don’t list it as “pin” because if I lost my wallet who ever found it could empty my account. I write it as part of a phone number.

On the PCT I brought some travelers checks. On the Appalachian there are so many debit machines and places that will take cards that I didn’t find it necessary. I also carry a extra credit card and a copy of my data card in my pack in case I lose my wallet.

Water treatment and containers

For water treatment, I use Aqua Mira Water Treatmentaquamira.jpg. It’s safe for long term use and it doesn’t make the water taste bad, in fact it makes bad tasting water taste better. It weighs 3 ounces (85 grams) full and treats 30 gallons. Here is more information on it.

I don’t bring the mixing cap that it comes with, instead I mix it in the cap of my water bottle, that way, I figure, the threads of the bottle will get treated as well. I mix it in my bottle cap, wait until it turns yellow, then add it to my water. The water is then safe to drink after 15-20 minutes.

I don’t treat all my water. Most of the time I drink my water untreated. I rely on my instincts to tell me if the water is safe. If I can be, I’m picky where I get my water, but sometimes I don’t have that luxury and I’m forced to get my water from less desirable sources such as horse troughs and swamps. If there are a lot of floaters in the water I put my bandanna over my pot and strain the water through it.

A lot of folks use a Visine bottle filled with household bleach. It’s cheap, light, and is easy to find. but it makes the water taste bad, as does iodine.aquafina.jpg

To carry my water I have two Aquafina 1 .5 liter “disposable? water bottles. They last for years. I like Aquafina bottles because they are a little studier than some of the other bottles. They used to have a bigger top then other bottles but I think they may have changed that on the newer models. They weigh 1.5 ounces(42grams) a piece.

I also carry a 16 oz(.47liter) wide mouth Nalgene bottlenalgene.jpg to use as a coffee cup, hot wateremergenc.jpg bottle, tea pot, and dipping cup for when the water source is very shallow. The Nalgene bottle is also good for mixing powders such as Emer’gen-C‘s. The Nalgene bottle weighs 2.5 ounces(70grams). (To clean a stained Nalgene bottle just add a little bleach to some water and let it soak.)

Total water capacity is 3 ½ liters, which was all I ever needed on the Appalachian Trail. For the PCT, I would often have to carry much more and would buy more bottles at the stores along the way as needed.

I have tried the plastic bag water carriers like platypus and they have failed me over and over. The plastic bottles have never failed me yet.

Related Post: Water filling tip

Related Post: Why I don’t carry a plastic water bladder

Emergency fire starting kit.

This is my emergency fire starting kit. It’s a spare Bic lighter and two Esbit Solid Fuel Tablets in a plastic ziplock baggie. It weighs 1.6 ounces or 47 grams. I’m thinking of trading one of the Esbit tablets in for a tea light. emergency firestarting kit

I have never had to start a fire on the trail, but I have needed an extra lighter when my other one stopped working. Also I figure I could cook dinner on the Esbit tablets if I ran out of fuel or my stove quit working.

When I was hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Shenandoah’s, it had been rainy and cold for days. It wasn’t just vertical rain but this thick wet mist that would roll into my tent and get everything wet.  Supposedly, there was a camp ground with a laundry mat, showers,  and a store off the trail a bit, but it was so foggy that I couldn’t find it. Walking through the campground, I was yelling, “Hello?, Hellooo?? Finally I found the camp store, laundry mat and showers.    After buying food for the next section, I did laundry and took a shower. The laundry mat seemed so cheery with the bare Fluorescent bulb buzzing away.  While I waited for my clothes to dry I dreaded going back out into that wet cold fog.

Another hiker and I camped at the campground by the bathrooms; they were heated and had one of those lovely hand dryers. We had a hard time pulling ourselves away from the hand dryer.

Day after day it rained, and night after night I crawled into that wet tent.

According to the guide book there was a cabin coming up. It was a cabin that thru-hikers were not supposed to camp at, around or even stop at. I decided to check it out. It was a locked up cabin with a covered rock porch with a fireplace. There was another hiker there checking it out. I called to the woman I had been hiking with and told her that I had found accommodations for the night The other hiker decided he was going to build a fire in the outdoor fireplace.

My friend and I gave a half hearted effort to help him gather wood but we were both thinking it was futile; the woods were so wet. He gathered his dry kindling from the lower dead branches on trees. He also shaved the wet bark off some of the wood. I scraped wax from the mantle left from past resident’s candle burning and he used guide book pages for paper. Soon he had a nice fire going. It was so cheery and we were all so happy; never having imagined that this wet cold day would end up like this. We all laid our bags out in front of the fire and laughed and talked while the fire warmed our bodies and spirits.

Other things that you may have can be used as fire starting aids. For example any petroleum products like Neosporin or Chap Stick. If you carry alcohol gel you might want to try that.