Enhancing Your Backwoods Navigation Skills
When we’re in the outback, especially the deep outback, we like to have all the necessary navigation tools that we can (e.g. trail map, compass, GPS app, etc.,) to make sure that we successfully find our way to where we are going. But, in addition to having these tools, you need to have the knowledge related to how to use them, and the basic knowledge of how to read the signs of the wilderness around you.
So, if you're looking to enhance your backwoods navigation skills, you might want to check out Tristan Gooley's "The Natural Navigator" website. The site gives some great tips on how to use the Sun, moon, stars, sea, plants, animals and weather to help you find your way. The website has lots of great information and write-ups on how to navigate in the wild; it even has tips about how to navigate in a city and in extreme environments.
You can check out “The Natural Navigator” at: https://www.naturalnavigator.com/
If you want to read a brief overview of natural navigation, here’s a good article, written by Sommer Mathis for Atlas Obscura back on 25 July 2017, that provides a good overview – “An Animated Guide to Nature’s Best Wayfinding Secrets”. The article covers five of Tristan’s favorite natural navigation tricks:
You can read the entire Atlas Obscura article here:
If you want to learn even more than is covered in the brief Atlas Obscura article, or what is written on Tristan’s website, you might want to check out one (or more) of the books that Tristan has written to share his knowledge and expound on his point of view:
"Know Before You Go" (KBYG) Online Avalanche Education Program
Just in time for winter the Utah Avalanche Center has produced a new set of Avalanche safety classes and made them available online.
The free "Know Before You Go" (KBYG) online avalanche education program was specifically made to help people learn about avalanches and the best way to ski, ride and hike in avalanche terrain safely.
There are 5 interactive courses designed to help everyone learn the principles needed to be safer and more confident in the avalanche terrain.
You can find out more at both the “Know Before You Go” and the Utah Avalanche Center websites.
Packing Lighter for Endurance and Speed
These days many people are not just out there backpacking, they’re lightweight, ultra-lightweight and super-ultra-lightweight backpacking so that they can travel further and faster. So what are the definitions of lightweight, ultra-lightweight and super-ultra-lightweight backpacking, and what gear do you need to jettison from your normal load to give it a go?
The short answer is that for lightweight backpacking your “base pack” should weigh less than 20 pounds. Ultra-lightweight requires a base pack weight of less than 10 pounds and super-ultra-lightweight requires a base pack that weighs less than 5 pounds. Note that “base pack weight” refers to the weight of all the items in your backpack, including the backpack, with the exception of your consumables (food, water and fuel). Base pack weight also doesn't include the clothing that you are wearing to hike. Alternatively “skin-out weight” refers to everything in your pack plus your consumables and the clothes that you are wearing. In other words, skin-out weight is what you weigh with your clothes and backpack on - minus the weight of your naked body. But there’s a lot more to Lightweight, Ultra-lightweight and Super-ultra-lightweight backpacking.
Luckily one of our website’s readers found a great article on Angie’s List (thanks Steven and Stephanie - who knew that they had hiking articles on Angie’s List) that summarizes this trend and provides lots of links to other websites to give you all the necessary information to get you started. Since the article nicely aligns with our thoughts on the topic we thought that we would pass it along - "Ultralight Backpacking: Keeping the Packing List Short". You can find the article here:
….and here’s a complete listing of the 21 links that the article references:
1) Start Lightweight Backpacking
2) Ultralight Backpacking Guide (How to Easily Conquer Lightweight Hiking)
3) Working Gear List: The Big Three
4) The Big Three: How to Lighten Your Backpack, Sleeping Bag and Shelter
5) Lightweight Backpacking Step 2: The Big Three
6) Ultralight Makeover
7) How Much Should Your pack Weigh?
8) A Weekend Backpacking Checklist for First-Timers
9) Lightweight Backpacking: The Big Three
10) How to Pick Your Big Three
11) Water for Hiking
13) How to Cut Water Weight: A Backpacker's Guide to Hydration
14) Ultralight Backpacking: 10 Tips for Shaving Weight Without Sacrificing Comfort
15) Tips for Lightening Your Backpacking Load
16) How to Calculate Backpack Weight with LighterPack
17) Organize Your Backpacking Trip
18) How to Pack and Organize a Backpack for a Euro Trip
19) Long-Distance Hiking: Lessons from the Appalachian Trail
20) Pack Like a Pro: Ultralight Backpacking with Scott Robertson
21) Making the Switch to Ultralight Backpacking
If you read the article you’ll see that many of the embedded links talk about the need to first sort out your backpack, shelter and sleeping bag/system (the “big three”) since they are the absolute required gear and weigh the most. After that, assuming that you still have remaining weight allowance, you need to add water, food, fuel, cooking/eating utensils, first aid kit, etc.
So, if you’re interested in challenging yourself with a Lightweight, Ultra-lightweight or Super-ultra-lightweight backpacking adventure, look over all this great information and get out there…….
Another Good Source for Gear Reviews, Gear Checklists and Outdoor Knowledge
These days there’s lots of information related to Hiking, Camping and Shooting gear on the internet – some of it good and detailed - and some of it superficial and just plain wrong. Since we like to help our readers save time by focusing on information from good online resources (instead of wasting your time surfing all over and filtering out bad resources) we list the best sites that we find on our website under the heading of “Other Helpful Information Sources”.
Because the content on the internet is constantly changing, we also update our references when we find new ones that we like. Recently the folks at MyOpenCountry.com found our website online and reached out to us to us since we both love the Outdoors and share a common point of view. We hadn’t seen their site before so we looked it over and really liked the information that they were putting online.
We especially liked that they had a specific sections for “Hiking & Camping Gear”, “Hiking & Camping Tips & Guides" and “Trip Inspiration” – much like the content on our site.
In addition to all of their other content, the folks at My Open Country just published a great detailed article with their point of view on the gear you need for Hiking titled "What to Carry: 3 Season Hiking Gear Checklist”; they even included a downloadable checklist to make things easier for you.
Their article starts with some "Quick Tips: Do's & Don’ts" and then the covers the areas listed below in more detail:
So, if you’re searching for another great outdoor information source, you might want to take a look at, and bookmark, MyOpenCountry.com.
If you want to see our latest gear checklists you can download PDF versions of them here:
Disaster Preparedness Gear
Preparing for Fall Hiking
Well Autumn is in full swing here in New England. For some people that means that the happy days of Summer Hiking and Camping are over – for us it means that there are even more beautiful sights to see in the outdoors. But one thing is sure, hiking in the Fall requires different preparation than the other seasons. So here’s some tips from what we have learned over the years.
Be prepared for shorter daylight hours. Because of this you should plan to start and end your hikes a little earlier. If you are planning a half day hike (e.g. ~6 hours) you probably need to be on the trail by 10:00 AM to give yourself a little buffer. As Fall approaches Winter you probably need to even start earlier since here in New England sunset will arrive between 4:30 and 5:00 PM. When you plan your hike read your guidebook or trail map ahead of time and be realistic in assessing your group’s ability to complete the hike in the allocated time. As always, make sure that you tell someone what your plans are before you depart, especially if you are hiking solo. If your plans change, make sure that you let your contact know.
Be prepared for changes in temperature. Since temperatures can change 20 or 30 degrees during a Fall day make sure that you pack an extra layer in case your hike takes longer than you planned and the temperature begins to drop. Wear polypropylene or other wicking layers. Don’t wear cotton since it can soak up perspiration, mist and rain - and stays wet, making you even colder – especially if it is a windy day. On colder days make sure that you pack gloves and a hat – and perhaps a down or fleece vest.
Make sure that you have the appropriate rain gear. If you unexpectedly get caught out in the rain without a rain shell or poncho an adventurous hike will turn into a miserable outing.
Make sure that you have enough water. Because the air is cooler and moister than in Summer, many people fail to bring the water that they need to stay hydrated on fall hikes. Bring at least 2 quarts of water for any hike longer than two hours.
Make sure that you have some food for energy. It’s always a good idea to have some high energy food with you on a hike, On a Fall hike it’s probably even more important since your body needs to generate more heat to combat the colder temperatures. So take some snacks with you.
Make sure that you take all of your normal Hiking gear – especially your First Aid and Emergency Supplies since your survival may depend on them if there is a problem on the trail and you have to spend the night in the wild.
Check the latest weather reports and trail conditions before you so. Since the weather can be more variable in Autumn make sure that you know what you are getting into before you start. If there has been wet weather lower elevations may be muddy and slippery, while higher elevations may have snow and ice.
If you are in a location that has Fall hunting seasons make sure that you increase your awareness while hiking and take the appropriate safety precautions. Pay attention to trail signs as you enter an area. It’s also probably a good idea to avoid hiking in the early morning or at dusk when most hunters are active.
If you make a fire make sure that you are even more cautious than usual since all of the fallen leaves (assuming that they are dry) increase the chance of a forest fire should something go awry. Keep fires in designated areas, fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
But whatever you do – get out there and enjoy the beautiful Fall weather and sights. You might even want to check one of the online websites that shows when the trees are at their peak Fall colors so that you can experience the full majesty of nature.
The Ultimate Leaf-peeping Road Trip Through New England
Following up on our previous blog - If you're in New England (like we are) and want to go on a leaf-peeping adventure - the Outdoor Project's got you covered. They just published a great article with lots of wonderful places to see the full glory of nature - complete with details on all the locations.
Their list of great places in New England includes:
We've been to half of them and plan to hike the others soon.
Here’s the link to the Outdoor Project’s article with all the details to the leaf-peeping locations; enjoy:
When Will the Trees Get Their Peak Fall Colors in Your Neck of the Woods?
Since Fall is now officially here - it's time to start looking at all the beautiful Autumn colors. Luckily there’s a great online resource that you can use to see when the tree colors should peak anywhere in the US on a “Fall Foliage Prediction Map”.
Here’s what they are predicting for the upcoming week:
And it looks like they are predicting the week of 15 October will be the peak for “leaf-peeping” here in New England:
If you want to see what the predictions are for your part of the country, or a part of the country that you plan to visit to see the beautiful fall colors, then you can check it out the on the following website:
Added Photos of Some of our Adventures in Acadia National Park
During our recent trip to Maine, in addition to visiting lighthouses along 200 miles of the Maine coastline, we also hiked all over Acadia National Park. From the Beech and Canada Cliffs, to the Seawall. From Sargeant Drive along the Somes Sound to Bass Harbor. From Pretty Marsh to Jordan Pond. In fact, the only part of Mount Desert Island that we didn’t visit was Bar Harbor because that’s where all the casual tourists flock.
In addition to the beauty of the mountains and coast, of particular note was the Asticou Azalea Garden of the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve which was designed to resemble a Japanese stroll garden. Having spent 16 days in Japan only 2 months ago we were impressed by how a much the garden, which was designed for a coastal Maine setting, looked like the gardens that we saw in Tokyo and throughout Japan.
You can see all the photos of our Adventures in Acadia on the Adventures/North America page.
How to Never Have a Serious Poison Ivy Rash Again
Well, now that Summer is in full swing, all the plants are growing like crazy here in New England; even the poison ivy (and it's cousins poison oak and poison sumac). So if you want to enjoy hiking and camping in the woods, but avoid getting a serious poison ivy rash what should you do?
The first thing that you need to know is that you don't get poison ivy rash from contacting a poison ivy plant - you get it because you didn't wash off the Urushiol oil that comes from contacting the plant or another object that contacted the plant.
Urushiol oil in poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac is what produces a severe skin rash. Timely removal of the urushiol oil will prevent poison ivy skin reaction. Clean your skin within 2 to 8 hours of contact. When doing this, the most important thing is not the type of soap that you use - but that you use a wash cloth to apply vigorous friction to make sure that you get all the sticky urushiol oil off of your skin. To make sure that you do this it's a good idea to soap up and wash off 3 times.
Here's a great video from retired biomedical scientist Jim Brauker that clearly demonstrates the poison ivy problem and solution.
Added Photos of Some of our Adventures in Maine
We just got home from a trip to Maine where, as a part of the trip, we visited seven of the larger active lighthouses (there are ~60 active lighthouses) along the Atlantic coast to include:
1) Cape Neddick (Nubble) Lighthouse - York, Maine
2) Cape Elizabeth and Cape Elizabeth West Lighthouses - Cape Elizabeth, Maine
3) Portland Head Lighthouse - Portland, Maine
4) Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse - Portland, Maine
5) Pemaquid Point Lighthouse - Bristol, Maine
6) Owls Head Lighthouse - Rockland, Maine
7) Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse - Acadia National Park, Maine
You can see all the photos of our lighthouse Adventures on the Adventures/North America page.
If you want to learn more about the lighthouses in Maine here is a great website that has detailed information on 29 of the lighthouses:
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