The Pros and Cons of Studded Bike Tires
Studded bike tires provide remarkable traction on snow and ice but don’t fully replicate the regular all-rubber grip you experience on dry asphalt. Think of riding with studs as the biking equivalent of walking on sand-covered ice. You can walk or bike as you normally would, but any abrupt or sharp turn can cause you […]
How to Build a Quinzee (a.k.a. a Snow Cave)
Can you dig it? Photo: Chewonki Semester School; Flickr A quinzee is a giant pile of snow that you then hollow out to create a shelter—essentially it’s a build-it-yourself snow cave. Knowing how to construct one is a useful winter survival skill, a fun activity to do with kids, and a potential use for the […]
One Simple Trick Makes Hand Warmers Last a Lot Longer
Use the heat when you need it. Photo: Heat Factory Most disposable hand warmers provide several hours of quality heat, but what if you only need warmth for a limited time? Don’t waste perfectly good heat by throwing out a hand warmer after only a short use! Save it for when you need it with […]
Warm Winter’s Night: A Guide to Winter Camping
Winter camping has long enticed me into the frosty backcountry. The landscape is beautiful, a world at rest beneath a glittering blanket of snow. Plus, two major hassles of summer—crowds and blood-sucking insects—are nowhere to be found. But for me, the greatest reward of winter camping transcends these things. It’s the deep satisfaction of taking […]
Get a Grip: Crampons and Other Winter Traction Options
Ah, winter: Season of outdoor thrills and potentially butt-crunching spills. When snow and ice create dangerous conditions underfoot—from city sidewalks to rugged mountain trails—adding a winter traction system to your footwear will provide the grip you need to stay safely upright. Here are the options, from casual to extreme, to keep you on your feet […]
How to Keep Feet Warm in Cold Weather
Moisture drains heat from your feet. Once your feet cool down, it takes a lot of energy to re-warm damp socks and boots. Keep them dry, keep them toasty. Here are some tips to keep feet warm: Block snow from your boot tops with gaiters or snug-fitting pant cuffs. Carry a pair of dry socks […]
Why Does My Canister Stove Fail in Cold Weather?
My canister stove is simple and convenient to operate, and has long been my go-to three-season option. But it sucks in the winter or any time temperatures start dropping below freezing, when they work poorly to not at all. Why? Why, stove, why??? Photo: Michael R Perry/Flickr Commons It boils down to some basic chemistry […]
Nearly Every USGS Topo Map Ever Made—for Free
A section of an 1893 USGS topo map for Mount Washington, downloaded for free from the USGS Map Store The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been producing detailed topographic maps for more than 125 years. Today they are nearly all digitized and free to download through the USGS Map Store, an incredible treasure trove […]
Basic Outdoor Gear Maintenance
Over time, dirt and body oils steadily permeate your sleeping bag and rain jacket, decreasing their warmth and breathability. Practicing some basic outdoor gear maintenance can extend the life of your equipment. Wash them once every season or two, depending on how often you use them. Apply leather conditioner to your hiking boots at least […]
Do You Hike with Trekking Poles? Avoid this Common Mistake.
Trekking poles offer a slew of advantages—increased hiking stability, reduced knee compression, easier river crossings, ultralight shelter support, and more—but if you aren’t using them correctly, you’re not taking full advantage of their strengths. One of the most common mistakes—and one of the simplest to correct—has to do with how you use the trekking pole […]
How Does Wind Speed Affect Your Paddle?
Wind speed and wind direction have significant implications for paddling safety and enjoyment—and it doesn’t take much to affect the paddling experience. A light breeze (4 to 7 miles per hour) is sufficient to alter the movement of most kayaks; paddlers will need to compensate to keep moving in a straight line. A gentle wind (8 […]
How Do You Recycle a Used Stove Fuel Canister?
When it comes to cooking in the backcountry, canister stoves—those that run on a compressed propane-butane blend—have been my go-to backpacking option for years. For me, their convenience and ease-of-use—attach stove, ignite, boil, simmer, done—more than outweighs the minor drawbacks of the canisters’ small additional weight and expense. These stoves do create one significant hassle, however. […]
Don’t Get Lost! Tips for Using a Map on the Trail
It’s always good to know where you are. If you’re hiking on trails, here are the techniques I use to keep track of where I am at all times. Have the best trail map available Locate, purchase, and carry the most detailed, up-to-date, and accurate trail map for the area you’re visiting. Whenever possible, spend […]
The 10 Essentials Revisited
The 10 Essentials are more than just a list. They are the basics of survival. Carry them and you will always be equipped for the unexpected. First developed in the 1930s by the Mountaineers, a Seattle-based nonprofit, the original 10 Essentials consisted of a list of specific items—knife, map, compass, matches, etc. Today, several different […]
How Many Mosquito Bites Would It Take to Kill You (and Other Mosquito Musings)
I spent my morning walking the dog and serving as an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet for my local mosquito population. It got me thinking about the little buzzers and prompted several crucial questions in my head. I now have the answers. Death by mosquito draining? For an average person, losing two liters of blood becomes life-threatening. […]
What Is Alcohol Stove Fuel?
Alcohol stove fuel comes in two principal types: ethanol and methanol. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol) is what we consume in beer, wine, and liquor. Pure ethanol burns the cleanest of any fuel, but is expensive and hard to find. Denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) is ethanol that has been rendered undrinkable (and thus exempt […]
What’s the Best Way to Remove a Tick?
Spring is the time of year when adult ticks that have overwintered underground emerge for one last attempt at a succulent blood feast. If you find one attached to yourself or your pet, I highly recommend using the Pro-Tick Remedy to remove the nasty little blood-sucker—it’s been my go-to tick removal device for years. This […]
Carry in Comfort: How to Fit a Backpack
When it comes to choosing a multiday backpack, forget about pockets, zippers, ventilation, access panels, materials, color, and any other number of design elements. Focus instead on the single most important feature: a good fit. Figuring out how to fit a backpack isn’t difficult, yet it may be one of the most crucial gear skills […]
How to Set Up a Tent Guyline
It’s raining, it’s pouring, a big wind is roaring. In such conditions, you better have your tent guylines set up properly. If not, you can probably expect water inside your tent or—in a more serious situation—a snapped pole and tent collapse. Better to make your backcountry shelter as bomb-proof as possible. Here’s what you need […]
If You Fall Through Ice, Remember the Rule of 1-10-1
Developed by Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, a professor at the University of Manitoba, this simple mnemonic might just save your life. A scene from Cold Water Boot Camp Cold-water paddlers are at particular risk of capsizing and going into the freezing drink (especially in the Northeast, where frigid ocean and lake temperatures lag far behind the […]