Don’t Sweat: An Impossible Piece of Winter Advice
Don’t sweat. You may have heard this basic adage of winter adventure, which in my experience is all but impossible to achieve. But there are some simple things you can do to minimize the amount you sweat, which is still a very worthwhile goal. Why not sweat? It’s simple. If you sweat, your base layer […]
6 Tips for Hiking Above Treeline in Winter
Don’t overlayer. You generate substantial body heat even in the coldest and windiest conditions, especially if you’re powering up a mountainside. Leash your mittens or gloves to your wrists to prevent strong winds from blasting away these critical items. Secure loose straps on the outside of your pack or clothing to prevent them from flapping wildly in the […]
Warning Signs of Hypothermia: Know Your “Umbles”
A series of telltale consequences begin to unfold as core temperature drops and hypothermia sets in. Knowing your “umbles” will help you recognize them—and take preventative actions before it’s too late. The “Fumbles” Approximate Core Temperature: 98.6 to 95 degrees Condition: Mild Hypothermia One of the first signs of hypothermia is an inability to perform […]
What to Wear for Winter Camping
A round-up of everything you wear, from head to toe, with some commentary on my personal preferences. Head, Face, and Neck You likely won’t need every square inch of your head and face covered while winter camping, but if you plan on heading above treeline in cold, very windy conditions, definitely have the four essentials—liner […]
The Best Boots for Snowshoeing? Five Key Features to Consider
Do you need a specific type of footwear for snowshoeing? Yes and no. The reality is that you can strap in virtually any pair of shoes or boots and hit the snowy trails. But to ensure a warm, dry, and enjoyable snowshoe experience, it’s best to don footwear with the following five features. A Sturdy, […]
How Goggles and Ski Helmets Should Fit Together: Eliminating the “Goggle Gap”
In between goggles and a ski helmet is a little strip of forehead that needs to be adequately protected from the elements. If it’s left exposed, you may find yourself walking around with a sunburned, wind-chapped, or frost-nipped stripe across your forehead that silently and prominently proclaims you a self-inflicted victim of the so-called “Goggle […]
The Warmest Base Layer? A Look at One-Piece, Full-Body Options.
A one-piece base layer — also known as a onesie or union suit — seamlessly covers most of your body and completely eliminates the potential for gaps (and resulting chill) around your waist. For extended adventures into bitter cold, it can be a very warm option, though it does come with several drawbacks, including the […]
How Many Americans Go Camping?
The 2013 American Camper Report, a new study out from the Outdoor Foundation, estimates that 38 million Americans—or 13 percent of Americans at least 6 years old—went camping in 2012. Beyond this topline number, here are some of the other report findings I found of note: Photo: Flickr Commons; Rhock1 2012 camping participation was at […]
Wind Resistant vs. Wind Proof: A Simple Trick to Test Any Fabric
A cold wind can steal body heat fast, so it’s important to have a layer at hand to block wind’s chilling effect. But what’s the difference between a wind-proof and wind-resistant fabric? And what are the relative pros and cons of each? Photo: Flickr Commons; Aidan Whitely The first half of this is easy. Wind-proof […]
Total Elevation Gain/Loss on the Appalachian Trail
I’ve hiked extensively throughout the U.S., and I’m always annoyed when people unfamiliar with Eastern hiking disrespect the Appalachian Mountains simply because they lack the elevation of higher ranges elsewhere, and then leap to the conclusion that the hiking must be easier because of it. Nothing could be farther from the truth, of course, so […]
Know This Hiking Boot Lacing Technique: The Heel Lock
Here’s the video, which should help clarify things: I wouldn’t have bruised and blackened my toenails last week if I had taken the time to employ one of my favorite hiking boot lacing techniques: the heel lock. It’s best illustrated visually (the video below does a good job of demonstrating the technique), but here’s essentially […]
The Best Emergency Tinder for Starting a Fire? I Carry Vaseline-Coated Cotton Balls
Any survival kit should have the tools to start an emergency fire. A firestarter (waterproof matches, flint, etc.) is the crucial item, but a close second is quick-to-light emergency tinder to get the fire going, especially in wet conditions where dry natural tinder is hard (or impossible) to find. You can buy a range of pre-packaged […]
Three Myths (and Facts) About Poison Ivy Rash
Part 3 in a series on avoiding, preventing, and treating poison ivy rash. FACT: Scratching a poison ivy rash WILL NOT cause it to spread. Busting the Myth: Poison ivy rashes often seem to spread beyond the site of initial reaction—a fact that many people attribute to scratching the itch, or to spreading the fluid […]
How to Recognize and Avoid Poison Ivy: Three Sayings to Remember
Part 1 in a series on avoiding, preventing, and treating poison ivy rash. An estimated 70 to 90 percent of people are allergic to urushiol oil, the culprit that causes the maddening rash when your skin comes into contact with poison ivy. To avoid it, the best strategy is to not come into contact with […]
Is Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus as Effective as DEET or Picaridin?
Yes and no. It depends on the concentration. Here’s the important thing to understand: Essentially all insect repellents effectively keep mosquitoes at bay. They just vary in how long they work before they must be reapplied. And therein lies the rub. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a naturally occurring chemical, unlike DEET and picaridin, which […]
Hiking Boots vs Trail Runners: Best Footwear for the Backcountry
Ever hear that an extra pound on your feet is equivalent to 5 pounds on your back? Whether or not that oft-quoted piece of backcountry wisdom is exactly right, one thing is definitely true: Hiking requires less effort in lightweight footwear. And therein lies the allure of wearing trail running shoes instead of heavier hiking […]
GPS Basics: What Is a Waypoint?
When it comes to understanding GPS technology, this particular term is one of the most common, most important, and simplest to understand of the lot. What is a waypoint? Simply put, it’s the coordinates to a specific location, usually described using one of two coordinate systems: Latitude-longitude or UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator). Conceptually, the terms […]
How Many Calories Do You Burn Backpacking?
Short answer: A lot. Long answer: It depends on a multitude of factors, including body weight, pack weight, elevation gain/loss, terrain, and more. Here’s a quick round-up of a few online estimates (and guesstimates), plus some useful tools, for gauging your total caloric burn on your next backpacking adventure: Backpacker Magazine suggests a simple calorie […]
Is a Tent Footprint Worth It?
Yes and no, but mostly no. A tent footprint protects the underside of the tent from abrasion and moisture, helping to extend the lifespan of the tent and keep it drier on the inside. Footprints exactly match the shape of the tent, which minimizes the amount of fabric required for full coverage, and feature corner […]
Why Do Gore-Tex Boots Get Wet Inside?
Gore-Tex hiking boots are supposed to be waterproof, right? Well, they are—except when they’re not. My standard hiking footwear is a pair of Vasque Sundowner Classics, which include a Gore-Tex liner. I’ve worn them in nearly every outdoor condition imaginable and most of the time they have effectively kept my feet dry, yet I’ve found […]