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Backpacking Hints

      Below are some hints I have found useful in backpacking.  If you have some other suggestions to offer, please feel free to contact me ( and I may add them (or a hyperlink) to this meager list.

Duct Tape

Put some Duct tape around your fuel and water bottles and hiking stick. Duct tape can be used for quick repairs of many backcountry problems such as :
  • Fix holes in no seeum netting on tents
  • Fix holes in packs (from critter attacks)
  • Fix holes in down coats or sleeping bags.
  • Fix tent poles that are splintering.
  • Cut a corner from a closed cell foam pad and use to make an arch support in your boots.
  • Stitching the Duct Tape in with some floss and needle can effect a relatively permanent repair.  Be sure to carry a carpet needle in your emergency med kit wrapped in ribbon nylon floss.  
  • Make effective bandaging for sprains and other injuries.  Note: Duct tape doesn't breath so you may have some additional issues to deal with in long term usage.  


  Preventing and dealing with blisters.

Water bottles

 The light weight plastic pop drink bottles are virtually indestructible as well as virtually 'free'.  They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, tops and openings.  Some additional comments are:
  • Tops -- the most indestructible tops are aluminum caps.  I like the styles that one can open without unscrewing.  Carry a few extras.
  • The wide mouth styles are great for mixing liquids with dry goods as well as for storage of dry goods such as dry soup mixes.
  • Shapes.  The 12 and 16 oz size can be carried in pants and shorts pockets on day hikes without much problem.  The larger formats are fine for around the camp.  

Get Organized

Mesh Potato Bags

 Many grocery goods can be purchased in a lightweight mesh bag.  This mesh bag can be used for numerous uses to aid in organization of a pack.
  • Clothes.  I put my clothes in two basic groups in to separate nets.  The daily clothes, and weather gear.  When I am taking a day hike from camp, I merely have to throw my weather gear bag in the day pack and I am ready to go.
  • Emergency Meds and other trail goodies.  I put this gear in a fine mesh bag.  This allows one to be able to localize all of this gear to a single site for quick access as well as organization.
  • Food.  Put your breakfast, snacks and dinner meals are in separate mesh bags.  The mesh bags allow one to quickly locate foods.  I carry these various mesh bags are carried in a larger spare stuff sack in the main pack.  

Control the pain

Ibuprophen or Alleve (Naprocyn).  Stomach permitting, take two or three tabs before a hike.   (over the counter strength)
  • These medications are prostaglandin inhibitors.  When muscles are damaged or stretched, as they are during a hike, the damaged cells release prostaglandins to attract various parts of the immune system to repair the damage.  Prostaglandin inhibitors reduce (but don't eliminate) this activity so that one might be free of some, not all, of the post hike pain.  Be sure to take some after the hike is over.
  • Waiting to take these medications until after you are sore is like closing the barn door after the pigs and cows escaped.
  • Take them before as well as after the hike.  Don't take any more than 2400 mg of ibuprofen in one day.  
  • If your ears start to ring, you are taking too much and need to ease up or discontinue taking the medications.   

Ultimate in light weight water containers

Lightweight Water Container (aka box wine bag) -- empty a 5 liter box wine container (preferably over a week or so), discard the cardboard box and wash out the bag that contained the wine a few times.  A baking soda rinse helps.  
  • This bag makes a super light weight storage container for water on the trail (stuffed safely in some spot in your pack or day pack), or at camp.  
  • It is lightweight enough that you can carry two, in case one breaks.  
  • It is highly flexible so that it can be stuffed in a pack to carry substantial amounts of water if you need to port water to a dry camp site.
  • Be sure to filter or treat the water with iodine and then neutralizer if the water source is questionable as most is these days.  Pumping through a filter is nice, but isn't 100% reliable.  Use your own judgment, face your own consequences. 

Carrying a Camera

  • Hang your 35 mm camera around your neck and then strap the lens into your sternum strap.  If done right, the weight of the camera will be carried by the strap and not your neck.  
  • You can carry a small camcorder in your hand ready to shoot while your other hand uses a walking stick.

Get Organized

Develop a detailed list of what to pack and where to put it in your pack.  The list will save you time when getting ready for a trip.   Pay attention to details like

The order you need to get things in and out of your Pack. In other words, put all of your foul weather gear in a spot that doesn't require you to sort through your pantry and stove to get.
  •  Make it so these 'streams' of gear don't interfere with each other as much as possible.  You don't want to hold up your buddies while you disassemble your pack to get out some rain gear or a snack and then reassemble it again.
Having ready access to camera, film, snacks, water, emergency meds, flashlight while on the trail.
Have those items (tent, bag, food, etc) you need when setting up camp come in or out of the pack in the order of making or breaking camp.  In other words, the tent comes out before the sleeping bag.
Have quick access to daypack if you are inclined to 'drop' your pack and set out for a peak as part of your adventure.
  • Be sure to hang your pack if you leave it so bears and other critters don't have a picnic while you take a short side trip. Carry a strong rope for this.
Keep a good pack list.  Check and double check the list.  Don't do like I did once and leave the tent poles at home.  
Adjust the list according to expectations of hike.  Each trip has different needs for ability to make and break camp, day hikes, food stuffs, clothes, foul weather, bugs, etc.

Eternal vigilance

Keep your eyes open for new items that appear in the marketplace that can be adapted to backpacking.  Many of the items listed above have been adapted from common usages and, while quite usable, are of little or no expense.