When my oldest kids got old enough we started going backpacking. I started a myth with them that I had put 2 pops in the outlet of various, or all, of the lakes in Washington. As we hiked up the trail I would say to them that “those pops sure will be good!” When we got to the destination lake, I’d tell them “I think those pops are over that way. You guys look over there near the shoreline of the lake, and I’ll go over the other way.” Read more
If you want to get your whole family into backpacking, you can do what we did with our kids, Jim and Ciera. When Jim was 6 and Ciera 11 we took them on their first overnight backpack, a 2 mile hike to Baker Lake near Ketchum. They carried their own packs, and we didn’t carry Jim once. His pack contained not much more than his lunch and a raincoat. I was carrying quite a load, including his sleeping bag. In those days we had traditional external frame backpacks, and a heavy tent. Read more
Cooking when winter camping is different from cooking when backpacking. My favorite setup is to make a bench seat, and sit on a foam pad, with another foam pad under the feet for insulation. Then cut a bench conveniently right in front of the chef on which to put the stove. Lay a thin plywood panel on the kitchen area, on which to place the stove. That way it won’t melt into the snow. With the stove in easy reach, you can heat water, melt snow, and cook a meal. Read more
My go-to knife for backpacking of late has been a lockback folder which our scout troop gave me. It is etched with the words “Bob – Thank you for your Service to Troop 100.” What a nice gesture, and it turned out to be a fantastic little knife which is a pleasure to carry. Its perfectly adequate for any task on a backpack. Based on my experience with the BSA knife, I wanted to try my hand at making a folding knife, so I bought a folding knife kit from knifekits.com. The model was the “Sheriff.” Read more
In times past, I thought a 30 or even 40 pound pack for a weekend hike was about right. Lately, I’ve gotten the pack down to 20 pounds pretty easily by lighter gear. A few more years and replacing some older gear, and 15 lbs was pretty doable. My backpack for an overnight trip few weeks ago came in at 12 lbs, the lightest overnight pack I’ve had. That is the weight without food and water. That weight measurement is the base weight, and you can figure you will have 2 pounds of food per day, and the volume of water you carry will vary all day. Read more
I try to stay fairly clean on a long backpack. My strategies are several:
1. swimming: I swim in a lake once a day, preferably at camp for the night. I go in with my clothes on. It is unbelievably refreshing, and has to clean things off a bit. Read more
Tenkara fishing is a Japanese style of fishing which uses a rod, a line, and a fly. It uses no reel, no eyelets on the rod, but the rod is telescoping. I first tried tenkara fishing when I was a child in Kansas, but we called it fishing for catfish with a cane pole on Grampa’s farm pond. The pole had a string tied to the tip, and we attached a big hook with a piece of liver on it. With that, we tossed it out into my Grampa’s pond with a cork bobber, and we tried to catch a few catfish. The best part was riding the hay wagon behind the tractor back to the house. Read more
I got to try out TrailDesigns new simmer ring on our Spring Break hike, and am just now getting around to writing something. Rand and Russ made a ring which fits around the stove, and partially blocks the air holes around the side of the stove. It is adjustable, and by setting the adjustment tab, the level of air intake and hence the flame is adjusted. Read more
My friend Gary Fujino recently taught a class at our scout meeting on building a debris hut. Gary studies all kinds of survival topics, from martial arts, shooting skills, to outdoor survival skills. He took his son Tomio out in the Sawtooths in the summer of 2011 to show him how to build a debris hut, and they slept in it without sleeping bags at a lake at about 6000′ in the Sawtooths. Temperatures in the Sawtooths can drop to the mid 20s on any given night. Read more
This survival kit is put together so that a hiker will have greatly improved chances of surviving a few days in the mountains. It is small and light enough so that a hiker need never hesitate to take it along on even a day hike. I have been on many mountain rescues where a hiker left for a short day hike in warm fall weather, often wearing shorts and a T shirt, then got disoriented and the weather turned bad, and he ended up spending the night out in bad weather wearing shorts and t shirt. Read more
Kelly Kitchens, founder of MacLife, was the guest speaker at my college backpacking class recently, and brought us up to date with the state of the art when it comes to ultralight backpacking. Kelly Kitchen and other proponents of ultralight backpacking get their pack down to 12 or even 8 for an overnight trip, including food. This is in contrast to the usual backpack weighing in at more like 30 pounds. The secret: don’t take anything you can do without.
I thought I was already practicing that rule, but too often my pack felt like my partner’s pack (pictured in the photo) when we did the Ptarmigan Traverse many years ago.
Some ways to achieve the 12 pound packweight: a 10 oz backpack, a tarp instead of a tent, a tiny MSR water treatment pen instead of a water filter, a super light sleeping pad, a pop can alcohol stove (similar to a Trangia) instead of something like a Snow Peak or an MSR stove, a tiny headlamp like the Petzl Zipka, and a super light down sleeping bag.
Places to see some real ultralight gear: