Backpacking Tips

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Daily Tip: March 30, 2000
Head's Up
Check the turf under your tent. When you decide on a spot for your tent, spread out your ground cloth and then lie on top of it to determine which end of the ground is higher and where to put the head of your tent (uphill) if there is a slight incline. You will also be able to detect any lumps or bumps ahead of time so you can move the tent site to the right or to the left in order to avoid them.

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Daily Tip: March 29, 2000
Pack It Out
Packing out used toilet paper in a resealable plastic bag is the best way to handle waste on the trail. To make this noble practice less noxious and more sanitary, saturate a small cellular sponge with ammonia and place it in the bag before you go. The ammonia will kill the offending bacteria.

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Daily Tip: March 28, 2000
Be A Quality Cop
Brian Moran of Madden Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado, is a quality guy. As Madden's full-time quality control manager, it's his job to hand inspect every pack that goes out the door. "In just a few minutes of close inspection, you can get a good sense of a pack's overall quality." Brian recommends checking out these key points before you buy.

* Closely examine the stitching at a number of different points. The stitches should be neat, tight, and uniform. When you pull on a strap, the seam should not move, stretch, or gap.
* Look for a minimum seam allowance of 1/4", preferably a 1/2", especially on areas that bear weight like the hipbelt and shoulder harness. (The seam allowance is the amount of excess fabric between a seam and the cut edge of the fabric.) Since fabric is woven, it can unravel near the edges, so the closer a seam is to the edge, the weaker the seam is. A good seam allowance is an insurance policy against this. Binding tape, which is used to cover the frayed edges, also helps.
* Check the bartacks. A good one is really tight, and you should be able to yank on it and see no movement of the threads. Look closely at both sides of the bartack and be sure that each pass goes from end to end (as opposed to half passes, which aren't as strong).
* Give the pack a quick once-over, looking for any fabric pinches or folds, missed stitches, loose threads, or other signs of shoddy workmanship.

-K. Hostetter

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Daily Tip: March 27, 2000
Candle Lantern Holder
Protect your delicate candle lantern from the rigors of the ride. Most will fit perfectly in a racquetball canister, which can be obtained free at health clubs, without adding much bulk or weight to your pack.

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Daily Tip: March 24, 2000
A Long Life For Your Pack
"Good backpacks are meant to withstand major abuse," says Jan Whelchel, head of the repair department at Kelty. "But they still need regular care and maintenance in order to perform their best." Here's what she recommends.

1. Clean your pack regularly with a soft brush and mild detergent. If all the foam on the pack-typically found on the back panel, shoulder straps, and hipbelt-is closed-cell, submerge it in a tub of water to loosen dirt and get rid of odors. If the pack uses open-cell foam, don't submerge it because this can malform the foam. If you're unsure of the type of foam your pack uses, contact the manufacturer.
2. When you pick up a loaded pack, grab it by either the haul loop or both shoulder straps, but not by one.
3. Don't over-tighten compression straps. This adds unnecessary stress to the seams.
4. Don't let your pack get sunburned. Ultraviolet rays fade and weaken nylon. Store your pack in a cool, dry, dark place.
5. Use a raincover to prevent saturation, which can lead to mold or mildew.
6. Take care of zippers. Clean them, lubricate them with silicone spray, and don't yank on them. Keep frayed fabric trimmed so that the fibers don't get stuck in your zips.
7. Keep buckles fastened to prevent them from getting stepped on and broken.
8. Inspect stress points. Your pack's most vital links are at the attachment points for the suspension system (hipbelt, shoulder straps, and stabilizer straps). Make necessary repairs using stout upholstery thread and a heavy-duty needle. A coating of seam sealer waterproofs and strengthens stitches.
9. Pack smart. Don't let pointed objects like stoves, cook pots, and tent stakes create wear spots in the fabric.
10. Don't store food in your pack. Rodents think nothing of chewing through nylon. Better to hang your grub from a tree in stuff sacks, which are relatively cheap and easily patched.

-K. Hostetter

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Daily Tip: March 23, 2000
A Good Night's Sleep
Make a backpacking pillow out of a pair of sweat pants. Cut the leg off a pair, turn the leg inside out, and sew the cut end closed. The elastic cuff stays open so you can stuff it with a jacket, sweatshirt, bath towel, or other soft garment for an instant pillow.

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Daily Tip: March 22, 2000
Hose Down The House
After a wet, muddy hike, put up your tent and hose it down, if necessary using a mild soap to rinse away stuck-on grime. Leave the tent up to dry.

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Daily Tip: March 21, 2000
Jump Start Your Morning
Whether you need to get an early start on that mountain to avoid the afternoon storm or you've simply heard enough razzing about being the last one to hit the trail, here are some ways to speed up your a.m. rituals.
* Use a watch alarm to wake up earlier. If you can hit the trail around sunrise, you've already gained an hour or two.
* Sleep under the stars, weather permitting. No tent to take down and fold means quicker packing.
* Pack up gear at night that you won't use in the morning.
* Filter or boil the water that you'll need for breakfast, and fill water bottles at dinner.
* Split tasks. While one camper prepares the morning meal, another takes down the tent. Make it a game to see how quickly each task can be accomplished.
* Go cold for breakfast. Munch an energy bar, granola, or gorp and guzzle a sports drink (made the night before!).
* Avoid fumbling with a complex bear bag. Attach a metal shower hook or a carabiner to the end of your bear-bag rope so you can clip the bag on and off quickly.

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Daily Tip: March 20, 2000
Talus Techniques
Besides being a general nuisance to travel up, down, or across, talus is dangerous. Rocks dislodged by fellow hikers can become head-seeking missiles. Play it safe by employing one of several different techniques depending on the terrain. In broad, gently sloping talus fields, stand side by side and hike straight up or down the talus slope, remaining parallel to each other the entire time. On steep slopes or in couloirs, follow behind one another in an angled traverse. Gather at switchbacks before spreading out again and following each other. You can also travel bunched together so loosened rocks have little momentum by the time they reach fellow hikers.
If you start a rock tumbling or see one falling, yell "Rock!" to warn others. If you hear the magic word, dive for cover, ducking your noggin and shrugging your pack overhead as fast as possible to deflect the impact. Train yourself to resist the natural impulse to look up and say, "Huh?"

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Daily Tip: March 17, 2000
Setup Secrets
As a tent designer for Kelty, Mike Scherer has set up a few shelters in his time, and he offers several simple recommendations for folks aspiring to do likewise:
Staking: Instead of simply sticking the stake through the stake-out loop and pushing it into the ground, hold the loop at the pointed end of the stake, tension the loop away from the tent, then sink it. This way, you don't lose the tension you created by pulling on the stake-out loop.
"And pick your tent stakes for the terrain," say Scherer. "Choose thin, rigid pegs for hard ground; larger T-shaped and U-shaped cross sections for soft dirt. For tent stakes, 7000-series aluminum stakes are the best choice; they're lightweight and rigid, yet flexible enough to resist cracking."
Guying: Don't just string one length of cord from each guy-out point on the tent canopy. Double the holding power-with fewer stakes-by stringing the cord in V configurations from guy loops around the perimeter of the tent to neighboring stakes.
Bibler's Peter Wilkening has likewise stumbled on a few universal tent truths through years of honing sewing and set-up skills: "If there's a breeze," he says, "stand upwind and thread the poles from that direction. Move the tent afterward, once it's set up. Practice in a controlled environment, like in your yard, before you have to do it in the backcountry. Whatever you're putting the pole through, whether it's clips or a sleeve, be careful. Pole ends can be sharp enough to rip fabrics."
-S. Howe

 

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