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 […]
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 […]
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 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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
How Heavy Should My Child’s Backpack Be?
Getting your kids to carry a pack while hiking teaches them important skills, like thinking about what’s essential gear. And toddlers who carry their own snack or water bottle take great pride in their growing self-sufficiency. But how much weight should children carry in their packs? Medical experts say a child’s backpack should weigh no more […]
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 […]
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 […]