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Hiking Tips

Drinking Water: Filter Or Purify?

Clean water is a must when hiking, especially in the back country or on overnight hikes. Ideally you would bring along water from home, but water is heavy and it’s not a smart idea to carry 4 days worth of water with you when doing an overnight back packing trip.

In most cases a water filter will work well with water sources found on the hike. However, filtration will only work on two of the three water contaminants: protozoa and bacteria. Filtering water does not eliminate viruses. In this case you will need to purify your water with either chlorine or iodine. Water purification also kills protozoa and bacteria, but will give an off flavor to the water.

When hiking in the United States, filtering of water from mountain streams will most likely be adequate. But if you find yourself hiking in other countries you may want to consider purifying your water as well. It is also a good idea to carry along some iodine tablets, just in case your filter breaks or clogs.

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Hiking With A Properly Fit Backpack

I have learned through experience that a properly fit backpack makes a world of difference when you are hiking. A pack that is too short for your torso, or a waistbelt that is too loose will cause undo fatigue and in some cases chafing on your shoulders or hips. A couple things to keep in mind before heading out on your next overnight expedition.

  • Make sure the pack is properly adjusted to your body size. You will want to make sure the pack matches your torso length.
  • Pack light items, such as sleeping bags and clothes, towards the bottom of the pack, with heavier items such as the tent higher and closer to your body.
  • Keep the waistbelt tight. If it becomes too loose during a backpacking trip, use a piece of clothing to fill the gap. Readjust the tightness of the belt often.
  • When putting on your pack, first tighten the hip belt while leaning slightly forward. Then stand-up straight and snug up the shoulder straps. To reduce the swaying of the pack, you may have to adjust the load-lifters and hip stabilizers. Finally, make sure the shoulder straps aren’t so tight that you can’t shrug your shoulders.
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Sleeping Pads For The Trail

After a long day of hiking, the last thing you want is a restless night’s sleep. Use of a sleeping pad helps make your nights more comfortable. There are essentially four types of sleeping pads, all with their benefits and drawbacks.

  • Air mats - These are all air, and are quite comfortable, but offer no insulation. Also, one sharp rock or twig and you’ll find yourself back on hard ground.
  • Closed-cell foam - These pads are light, inexpensive, water-proof and virtually indestructible. However, they are typically only 1/2" thick and only offer minimal comfort from irregularities on the ground.
  • Hybrids - Some where between closed-cell foam and self-inflating pads, these offer more comfort then closed-cell without the worry of punctures.
  • Self-inflating - These are the most comfortable pads you can get. However you pay with added cost and weight, and you still have the risk of partial deflating if punctured.
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Overnight Backpacking? Don't Forget The Camp Shoes

Here’s a little hiking tip for those of you venturing out on an overnight backpacking trip: don’t forget your camp shoes.

I was an unbeliever when it came to camp shoes. I didn’t want the extra weight and figured my boots would work just as well in camp as they do on the trail. However, changing out of your boots when ever you get to camp has many benefits.

Camp shoes allow your boots to breathe and dry out, either from a wet trail or from perspiring feet. Your feet get a chance to breathe as well and hot spots and blisters can begin to mend. Boots can trample a camping area rather quickly, and wearing shoes will keep it from looking scarred and overused. And of course, wearing camp shoes just makes you feel more comfortable and can make you walk around camp as if you are floating on air.

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Tips On Camping With A Hammock

I was asked recently if I had any tips to pass along on using a hammock while hiking. I use a Hennessy Hammock, but these few tips could be used for any hammock.

  • Use SnakeSkins - These are designed for Hennessy Hammocks but could be used with other hammocks as well. The SnakeSkins are two long tubes that act as stuff sacks. Put them on before you hang your hammock, and then simply pull the SnakeSkins over the hammock when you are ready to take it down. Your hammock is now in a stuff sack and it is a lot easier to handle, plus it keeps the hammock dry and clean for storage.
  • Ultralight tent stakes - Most hammocks have guy lines and to keep with the ultralight ideology, rocks and logs are suggested for tiedowns. However I find ultralight titanium tent stakes provide versatility, are more secure, and weigh next to nothing. You won’t need to carry more than 4 tent stakes for a typical hammock.
  • Start up high - When hanging your hammock for the first time, secure the ends of the hammock as high up on the trees as you can. The cord used to hang the hammock will stretch at first and if you don’t hang your hammock high enough you’ll find yourself either a few inches above the ground or touching it. With time the cord will stop stretching, usually after 6 to 12 hangings.
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