Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Response to 20 Viewers' Backpacking Tips

A month ago I announced a give-away contest on my Youtube channel, the winner getting their choice of either a tarp or a bug bivy from Borah Gear.  Thanks again to Borah Gear who were nice enough to put up the prize for this contest!  They make great gear and have a well-earned good reputation in the online UL community, for instance on Reddit's UL forum.

So the contest was pretty straight forward: to enter just leave a comment with a favorite backpacking tip on my 1000 subscriber video special, and I would take 20 of them and pick one at random.  I also wanted to share all 20 of these tips here on my blog and also give some feedback on each tip, so here we go!  I will make a short video picking the winner at random shortly after publishing this post.  

Thanks to all my readers, Youtube subscribers, and special thanks to everyone that left a tip and entered the contest.  These are good tips, and I've been looking forward to responding to them as they collected over the past month.

1. Susan Hornbuckle
My tip:  I use my pack liner/trash compactor bag inside my sleeping bag to help warm up my feet on a really cold night.  :)  Thanks for all the product reviews and information.


Nice multi-use out of your pack liner!  A vapor barrier will warm you up, but the down side is of course having whatever part of your body covered by a vapor barrier get clammy/damp/wet.  I've actually resorted to using a garbage bag as a torso vapor barrier in situations when I was younger and less experienced to get some sleep on nights with harsh cold snaps, and while it worked, it was not very pleasant.  So make sure to try this out on casual trips (like say car camping) to see if it is for you.  But great tip to keep in mind if you're in a cold snap and need an extra bit of warmth.

2. Alex Guerra
My tip is bringing bread bags when backpacking, especially in rainy or wild weather. They can be used as a VBL in the cold or at the end of the day, when you put on dry socks you can slip those over and put your sweaty/wet shoes back on and keep them clean. 

Similar to Susan's tip, but another good version of it.  Bread bags are essentially free, don't weigh much, and have other utility apart from VBL use.  I used to take two bread bags with me just like Alex and for the same reasons, actually.  But now and for the past few years I've switched to just having warmer/higher quality socks and good routines with them.  I generally take three pair: two for hiking and one pair of sleep socks.

3. Brandon Smith
My tip would be to adopt "one-piece-trash" to make packing out garbage a bit simpler. For instance, if you're opening up something like a Starbucks Via or Justin's packet, don't rip the top piece all the way off of the larger section. Simply leave it attached at the end. This makes managing your trash way easier and helps reduce the amounts of small, sometimes unseeable pieces of garbage on the trail.

I wish more people would do this!  At camp sites it's more common to see scraps of trash rather than full-on litter (at least here in Scandinavia).  Both suck, but odds are some of these scraps are just simple mistakes rather than intending on littering.  So yes, be mindful of trash and pack it all out!

4. James Edge
my tip is carry everything you could possibly use in the day( food, poo kit, rain shell, water purification, ext.) either in hipbelt pockets or my zpacks multi bag so I don’t take my pack off at all while hiking it’s crazy how many more miles you can get in when you can get to everything you need without stopping walking . I don’t take my pack off till I’m ready to set up camp. Not for everyone but works great for me !

I carry a satchel and one shoulder pouch, and also find it convenient to have most of what I need in there for my hikes.  There is plenty of space in my satchel, but the shoulder strap has my water filter (Sawyer mini usually) and water bladder so it doesn't get other gear wet.  One thing I've grown to like over the years is not taking off my pack as often.  It cuts down on the annoying process of having to put the pack back on and then get all the straps back to the way you like them.  It's not a big deal if you do this a few times, but back when I tried hiking without any pockets at all (on very minimalist SUL trips, for example), I was stopping every time I wanted to fill water, get out bug spray, put on sun block, take out a snack, read maps, etc.

One thing I do take my pack off is to put on rain gear or use the bathroom, though.  But cool that it works great for you James!

5. Kerry Fristo
Two fav tips: #1) for anyone using a bivy who doesn’t like finding bugs in their boots/shoes in the morning, put each shoe in a zip-lock bag overnight. And zip-lock can also be used as a dry seat in camp; #2) for women, use a bandana as a “pee rag” (instead of paper or fairly non-absorbent leaves) and hang on top of pack during day to dry. It’s kinda weird at first, but great LNT practice!

1. You know, I often use a bivy as part of my shelter system, and never had problems with bugs in my shoes.  But I think if I lived in Australia I'd mos def cover my shoes!  I've seen people (and read of others doing this online as well) put their shoes into a stuff sack, but I never liked that idea, as then your stuff sack could get all wet and/or dirty.  But a big Ziplock or plastic bag would work great, plus I dig the multi-use dry seat aspect!

2.  I actually have tried to get my wife to do this, but she didn't like the idea.  I like the idea, tho as a man I pee LNT anyhow.  But if I were a woman I wouldn't have any problem doing this.

6. Martin Dohnal
My tips: Look critically at your gear, ultralight doesn't have to be expensive, if you want to reduce pack weight, invest into ''big free'', but other things you can buy usually cheap, moreover items like clothing can be found in thriftstore for almost nothing, make a rain skirt/bivi from tyvek,, use socks as a gloves when needed with cheap grocery bags as a mittens.

Yeah, you don't have to have an expensive solution to everything, nor do you need to spend that much money to go UL, which me and many other UL nerds have written about in great detail before.  But it's worth repeating to traditional and/or new backpackers who have the misconception that UL is all about a price tag.  For example, I recently found a great micro-grid, polyester hoody at a sporting goods store that's literally less than half the price (even a third of the price in some cases) of fancier, big-brand tops that are pretty much the same.  Nearly the same weight, the same fabric content (100% polyester), just as warm and comfy.

7. Cameron's Ultralight Backpacking
My tip would be to use as much multiple use gear as possible to reduce pack weight. Hiking poles to support your tent, drinking cup as food pot, poncho tarp for shelter and rainwear, use tent stakes as pot support for cooking, etc. Saves weight and money just by bringing less to do the same things.

Hell yeah!  I love poncho/tarps, this is a piece of gear I recommend quite a lot.  All it takes is a bit of experience and practice and it's an amazing piece of gear for a good range of hiking trips.  I always eat out of my pot and honestly don't understand what the hell I was thinking bringing a whole big cook kit years ago.  Less to clean, less to worry about, less weight, it's just such an advantage with certain things going minimalist that it's hard to deny or justify full cook kits for long distance trips.

8. Márcio Floripa
My tip is to roll some gorilla tape or duck tape in the trekking pole to save weight and space in the backpack. Always useful and ready to use.

Just be careful where you put it!  I used to do this back when I used trekking poles, but I put the tape too close to the hand grips.  Over time my hands would at times slip down the pole and grab/bump/rub the tape, which eventually messed up the tape, and also got glue on my hands.

When going without poles, you can wrap tape around a pen (which is what I do) or an old library/bus card.

9. Robert Shine
If its rainy out and your pack gets soaked, this can be problematic when you are using it in conjunction with a torso length sleeping pad. To avoid getting your sleeping bag and the inside of your tent wet turn your pack liner inside out and put your backpack in it. In the morning, just take the pack out and put your liner back in the bag. (make sure the wet side of your pack liner is facing your bag)

Yeah, this is great for people that regularly sleep on their packs.  I will do this if there is a cold snap, but my pack is nearly always quite dry, because I use a poncho as rain gear/pack cover.  Most of the time my pack is under my vestibule, and I put my foam sit pad under my legs while using a torso pad.

10. remmirath42
My tip: You can mix a lot of lightweight powdered stuff into your oatmeal. Protein powder for keeping you full longer. Matcha powder for a caffeine kick. Cocoa powder for chocolate cravings. Psyllium husk powder if you want to use less toilet paper, if you know what I mean (it makes for a nice and smooth consistency).

I also like using chia seeds, almond flour, sesame seeds, and spices like cinnamon and sometimes even cayenne for a spicy kick!

11. Jack Nolan
My tip is to load up on mystery podcasts to listen with the wife, who's just getting into backpacking, in the tent at night.  Has made for very memorable - read: scary and exciting - adventures in the woods.

I love scary stories!  My friends and I will often tell them or just discuss hypotheticals that are frightening or dangerous.  Fun but also a good mental exercise to think about what you'd actually do if say, a rabid wolf or a crazed junkie attacked you.  Odds are none of these scary things will happen, but a "just in case" plan in your mind weighs nothing and if anything flexes your critical thinking skills.

12. Stu Minnis
2 tips: If you’re going somewhere hot with lots of sun exposure, a good umbrella is totally worth it. And if you have a cold trip planned and have cold feet like me, down booties are the best.

1. I am not on team umbrella, but if I lived in a sunny place like where I was born (what up Los Angeles, California!?), I'd mos def have one of them chrome-dome umbrellas.  In rainy weather I prefer a poncho.

2. I recently ordered a pair of EE synthetic booties, and I'm excited to try them out!  I don't get cold feet, but it's good to keep fingers and toes warm to boost over all core temperature.  Also good to put on sleep socks over hiking socks if there is a cold snap or if you want to dry out a pair overnight that you just washed at camp.

13. Markus Ulfberg
Here's my best advice that I've heard, but sadly didn't heed quite as much as I should have: Practice setting up your tarp (or anything else new to you) at home before going into the woods. Getting a nice taut tarp is a lot harder than it looks and something you don't want to have to deal with when you're far from home.

So many backpacking noobs need to do this, so it's one I often repeat and recommend.  I hardly think about setting up my tarp when I make camp, and usually takes me less than 10 minutes to have both my tarp pitched and my ground cover and bivy sorted out as well.

14. Raphaël Verstraeten
My tip when packing toilet paper is to remove the inner cardboard roll. This diminishes the volume taken in your pack, and allows you to take paper from the inside of the roll, making it possible to leave it in a ziplock bag at all times and avoid wet TP.

It's okay to steal other good tips!  This is especially good for hiking in groups, but when I go solo I take little packets of tissues.  Each pack only weighs like 20g and has 10 tissues, which works out to around 5 days of pooping for me, because I supplement my wiping with natural materials like moss and leaves. 

15. dinosaur304
Two tips: 1. the best creamiest creamer for your on the trail coffee ! Starbucks VIA and Alpine Start are my favorite trail coffees. 2. baby wipes to get you clean as a whistle down there. helps stop chafing. But you have to pack them back out with you - just put them in a dedicated ziplock bag. you can sandwich them between drier-scent sheets to cover th em and add fresh springtime scent.

1. Never tried those coffees, so I'll have to look out for them.  I love a good cup of coffee and/or tea.  When I go solo I tend to stick to tea bags, but my wife is a coffee fan, so she takes fancy powdered coffee that's not bad. 

2. Speaking of my wife, she is also a big fan of baby wipes.  Moss will also get you clean as a whistle down there, especially with a bit of morning dew on it, but to each their own! ;)

One of my favorite tips I use is to repackage my Mountain House meals... I dump them in freezer bags, and save one package to eat out of... easier to pack, save weight and space especially on a mult-day trip! 

While I usually make my own backpacking meals, I do at times spoil myself with ready-made trail meals, and family members will buy them for me as gifts too.  The packages can be quite bulky, and especially if you eat out of your pot anyhow, you don't need em.

17. Eric Klein
My tip is to try your backpacking pad thai recipe. One of favorites.

Glad you like it!  I'm working on another noodle recipe and will try and do a video on it in the future.  If you ever get sick of my Pad Thai, you can always switch up ingredients.  Try different kinds of noodles, for example, or hot sauces, even fruit to give it a sweet/spice kick like dates or date puree.

18. OperatorOneSix
Tip: For great area lighting while doing things around camp after dark (or just to keep the light out of fellow hikers eyes when navigating in the dark), turn your headlamp upside down and hang it around your neck. Use the articulation in the head (that usually angles down) to position the light so it’s focused in your work or walking area but out of other people’s eyes.

Also make sure to take advantage of white colored things to reflect light around your campsite or shelter.  For example you can strap your headlamp to a white or translucent/white-ish water bottle, or hang your headlamp inside the trail shelter or tent with a piece of TP wrapped around it.  I've rigged all sorts of DIY lanterns!

19. kryzzet
My favourite is the simple thing of bringing parmesan, it surprises many people that I meet on the trail. Simply because it's such a great flavor enhancer for all kinds of meals, and because it's so dry and salty it lasts a lot longer than people expect. And most important, it's rather weight efficient at around 430kcal per 100g

I did this a lot when I used to eat dairy, but now that I'm vegan a nice replacement is either nutritional yeast or vegan mac n' cheese mix you can buy in powdered form.  Add a heaping spoon of either of those to pasta, plus a splash of olive oil, and it's so good!

20. Michael Molloy
Take all your food out of the packaging and put it in ziplocks.

Similar to the tip about re-packaging meals, another tip I'd also give about Ziplock food organizing is to combine foods into less bags to save on waste/bulk/weight.  For example, rather than pack one bag of polenta, one bag of almond flour, one bag of sugar, one of salt, etc.--mix your breakfast grits into one bag.  Saves time in the morning too, just dump in your pot and get cooking.

Alright, that wraps up my response to all 20 of these good backpacking tips.  I hope some of these tips and/or my feedback can help you to have happier trails out there.  The winner of the give-away will be announced shortly in a short video, which I'll add below once it's uploaded.  Peace out!