Backpacking: Tips and Tricks

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By BAP45

Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years. Some of these won’t apply to you or you may never need. Like the survival tips, I’ve never used them because I’ve never gotten myself into that situation but it doesn’t mean that its not a handy tidbit to have in the old noggin.

Aleve Regimen for Joints at High Elevation 
I heard from my dad before my Mt Whitney trip that starting an Aleve regimen a day or two before the climb and continuing through the trip was suggested by climbers. The idea being to prevent joint swelling at the higher elevations. As an added benefit to just help with aches and pains as well. This is really more for a above 10,000 feet type stuff but if you are prone to it already then it wouldn’t be a bad idea for lower elevations either.

Steel Wool and 9v Flash Light
A little fire starting trick. Take some dry non oiled steel wool (a lot of the stuff you buy at the store will have some kind of oil or film on it. if it does just washing of with some alcohol or other solvent) and a battery and you can start a fire pretty quick and easy. Pull the wool apart until it’s fairly thin little piece and touch it to the ends of a battery. A 9v is easiest as the ends are right next to each other but few things use that style of battery anymore so you will have to adapt. My pops had found some little flashlights years ago that ran off a 9v and had a door to replace the battery. Just a cheap little flashlight but it just so happened to lend itself really well to this trick. Slide the door open touch the the steel wool to contacts and boom fire. 

Water Helps Prevent Altitude Sickness
Drink lots of water. First for the hydration as you will be exerting yourself and the air is extra dry at altitude so it sucks it out of you. But also for the prevention of altitude sickness. I forget where I heard that but it works. If you are able to spend time at a higher elevation beforehand or you won’t be going up that high then you don’t need to worry about it. But if you are driving up the morning of or gaining a lot of elevation then drink a ton of water. 

Belt wear 
While normally we like a ridged or thick belt, you’ll actually want a thin soft belt when backpacking. The hip belt of the backpack will cause whatever belt you have to dig into you. And after a few days of that you will be pretty raw. Same goes for built in adjustments on pants.

Tent Placement
Sounds trivial but really try to ensure that you have a flat spot. If not you will end up sliding all over. Everything is nylon on nylon so it is really slick. You’ll end up completely off your pad wedged into the side of the tent or your teammate will be smushed into you. Ending up with a mild head rush all night if you’re head down is also likely. Since a truly flat spot is unlikely just make sure your head is to the high side. That makes the most of the situation and when you invariably slide down its easy to just push yourself back up.

Hygiene
Sounds trivial or persnickety but try to maintain your hygiene, especially your toe nails and teeth. Make sure you nails are all trimmed before leaving as long ones will end up getting impacted in your boots and become painful. And take care of your teeth even in the short term. Long term trips are obvious but no brushing in the short term can be nasty too. Aside from have a mouth full of sores if you are sharing your tent your team mate probably won’t want to have rotten breath being breathed around them all night.

Boot Fit
Make sure whatever boot’s you have are comfortable and have some ankle support. A shank in the sole it pretty much a must too. When trying them on make sure they have good arch support as well. Most serious outdoor stores have ramps you can walk up and down to check for any shifting/sliding of your foot. You want there to be as close to zero movement as possible as anywhere there’s sliding there will be a hot spot and hot spots turn into blisters. Side note, don’t forget to include some moleskin in your first aid kit. As for wearing them I like to lace the toes loose and the ankles tight. The loose toes allows for the normal swelling from being on your feet and the tight ankle keeps your foot from sliding. And by tight I don’t mean enough to cut of circulation, just comfortably tight. And make sure you don’t over tighten there your foot bends. That can be a little looser otherwise you wont be able to bend you’re foot and it will feel like you’re wearing ski boots.

As I think of more I’ll come back and add to this but I think this is a decent start. I hope this was interesting.

7 COMMENTS

  1. On “Water Helps Prevent Altitude Sickness”
    Be sure to start taking regular interval sips of water for two days before you know you will be at altitude. If you drink 4 ounces ever 30 minutes for your awake hours, for the two days you know you will be stressed, you will not piss out most of it without it having time to saturate your cells. The water you’re drinking now is for tomorrow’s cell hydration. If you guzzle a quart or half gallon of water because you are very thirsty, you will piss out almost all of it wastefully; and it will flush out crucial salt from your body right through your kidneys into your bladder. Proper hydration begins at least the day before; not the day of your intense activity. Remember: small amounts regularly will hydrate you for the coming activity. Proper hydration prevents you from exacerbating every single malady or injury you could possibly incur, from shock to heart attacks, broken bones and gunshot wounds. Water that you bring along with you to sip is for the next day’s cell hydration and as the article says; it is absolutely crucial.

  2. It is very interesting, hearing from someone on a topic they have time in is enjoyable and worthwhile.

    Would you have any tips on making improvised hiking weights and advice to work someone up to a full pack load? Perhaps advice on finding places to hike or exercise with your gear?

    I have friends who are increasingly enjoying the outdoors after this year and would want to work their way up to wilderness hiking who would appreciate advice you might give towards that end.

      • Personally I’m struggling to find places that allow one to hike that are not paved routes as more and more of the local ones become paved and I have to keep going farther from home.

        As for the friends I am not sure how to put it. I am not knowledgeable enough to explain why I do the things I do beyond “it feels right” in terms of gear, methods, gear selection. I can do it but not teach if that makes sense?

        They’re interested in doing one or two day hikes with the end goal of spending at week hiking and camping trips in state and national forests around Ohio and Kentucky. Starting point so far is taking them to an REI to look at gear and going on light day hikes with some spare daypacks to begin conditioning their feet and backs to movement under light weight.

        • For finding trails I have either just looked around while driving, used google maps (satellite view) and lately the site Alltrails.com.
          As for the friends if it’s just day trips then really as long as they’re in reasonable shape they will be fine. Just a plain old jansport with some water bottles and snacks is it for weight. I suppose if they have stairs at work they could make sure to take them rather than the elevator. At the end of the day as much as I want to toot my own horn hiking is just off road walk. haha

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