Author: Editor

Editor October 6, 2009 1

Backpacking the Badlands

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to backpack in the Badlands National Park. There are no trails in the Wilderness Areas, and there’s no water. But my hike in and around the Sage Creek Wilderness Area was well worth it.

I started my research by downloading this GPS Trail Route from Trimble Outdoors. Since I didn’t have a GPS unit, I printed out the way points, packed my map, and got my compass out. The route seemed easy enough. What I didn’t expect was the 50 mph wind gust. It was windy.

The Route started at the Conata Picnic Area. There is a sign at the very end of the picnic area. The Trail starts out like a normal trail for about 200 yards and then disappears. You are on your own after that. You follow Southwest for about 2 miles then turn Northwest towards a large open grassy field. Deer Haven is way in the background. I headed right towards Deer Haven. You can’t miss it. I ducked under a Cattle Fence and I was off to climb up and over Deer Haven.


Climbing Deer Haven is pretty simple. Follow Deer Trails. They almost look like a regular trail, and they won’t let you down. They will take you right up to the top exactly where you need to start your decent. From there, it’s all creek bed. After a few miles into the creek bed, I noticed I had lost my GPS guide. I had no idea where to get out of the creek bed. Followed some amazing Buffalo hoof prints and saw some spectacular scenery. My hike was cut short. But I did manage to get some awesome backpacking in. I camped at Deer Haven for the night, and it was the best decision I made. What a wonderful place to camp. NO FIRES ALLOWED.

You can see my photos of my Badlands Hike on “Our Gallery“.

After battling the winds for most of the day, the night became calm. Full Moon and not a cloud in the sky. You can download this route from Trimble and follow it on a GPS.

The Badlands climate is variable and unpredictable with temperatures ranging from -40 F to 116 F. The summers are hot and dry with occasional violent thunderstorms. Winters are typically cold with 12 to 24 inches of total snowfall. Extremely high winds are common year-round. Sudden and dramatic weather changes are common. Dress in layers. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and adequate water are recommended for hiking.

The park’s main visitor center, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, is open daily all year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. During the summer months, ranger-led programs are offered throughout the day. Check at the visitor center for more information on these programs.

The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is located at Cedar Pass on the Badlands Loop Road (Hwy 240), 9 miles South of I-90, exit 131 Phone (605) 455-2878

Editor July 21, 2009 0

Backcountry Fire Building by Backpacking Light

This outstanding video by Backpacking Light featuring Sam Haraldson (A member of outlines some techniques in fire building.

“Fire building videos on the Internet are a dime a dozen, but each and every one of them can teach you a thing or two. However, building a fire is nothing short of an art form, so no one can teach you everything you’d need to know to perfect it in a ten-minute video.

Instead of attempting to do this (perfect your form) you’ll find that we’ve simply highlighted some of the gear and techniques used to start a fire. A short description of the fire triangle, finding fuel, and other quick tips are included as well.

Watch for a quick intro to these techniques and discuss some of your own on the Backpacking Light forums”

You can visit Sam’s blog site on other topics covering backpacking techniques

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Editor July 19, 2009 3

Top Ten Hiking Videos

There are tons of hiking/backpacking videos out there on YouTube and Vimeo. Unfortunatley, only a small percentage ever get seen by a large audience. I put together a list of what I believe are the top ten hiking/backpacking videos.

The criteria I used was, best all around production quality. Was the video informative? Exciting? Did it tell a story? Some are professional and some simply done for those who want to document their experience.

Some of these videos are in a series and I counted them as “one” since they are on a DVD.

If you have one that you think belongs on this list, please let me know, and I’ll put it on

These are in no particular order:

(1) Tell It On the Mountain is a documentary full of tall tales and alluring lore from the Pacific Crest Trail. A string of trails running through the center of California, Oregon and Washington. You can see the other two parts on on the Feature Channel


(2) On April 9 2007, Andrew Skurka set out to become the first person to complete the Great Western Loop, a 6,875-mile route that passes through the most cherished and pristine wild lands remaining in the United States including 12 National Parks and over 75 wilderness areas. The route links a network of five long-distance hiking trails and a self-made segment through the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Andy is hiking to promote the “less is more” lifestyle and to draw attention to the effects of global warming on America’s most iconic wild lands.


(3) This is the trailer of “TREK — A Journey on the Appalachian Trail.” I purchased this film at amazon and love it. It portrays the daily life of AT thru-hikers, shows you the great people they meet, and adventures they have on their journey from Georgia to Maine. To buy the entire DVD go to


(4) This 2 part series is a short film by Old Mountain Video: “Climbing Longs Peak” in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I love watching videos from these guys. They are always very good. Watch the second part on their YouTube Page:


(5) Chris Moyles and his gang are about to leave, but a fortnight ago Trail Magazine arrived home from Kilimanjaro after six days on Africas highest mountain. You can see Part Two here on


(6) CBS News does a documentary on Backpacking the West Coast Trail (Currently Featured on this three part series is a great adventure documentary and gets you in the mood to get out there and hike this trail. Part 2 and 3 will be featured on thebackpackertv


(7) Tales From the Trail is one of my favorite shows. This pilot TV show is directed by Paul Sheehan and presents a quality show about hiking and adventure. This show is also playing on The Hiking Channel on Boxee. You can watch part 2 and Part 3 here on


(8) This is one of my favorite raw nature videos. Talk about getting a feeling for Glacier National Park, Wow!

Part 1 of the recently shot Glacier DVD. This 20 min. film recently was nominated for best new nature documentary in the music category as well received an award for photography from the Wildlife Film Festival held in May of 2008. All funds for this project are being donated to the Glacier National Park Fund. This was shot by YouTube User: LiveMontana


(9) If you want to know everything about Yosemite than you have to watch Yosemite Nature Notes: Yosemite Nature Notes is a video podcast series that tells unique stories about the natural and human history of Yosemite National Park. Produced by the National Park Service, this series features park rangers, scientists, historians and park visitors as they discuss the diverse plants and animals that make Yosemite their home, as well as the towering cliffs, giant waterfalls and mountain peaks that are known throughout the world.


(10) This documentary is one of the best if you are a climber. Left for Dead: Miracle on Everest, is the story of Lincoln Hall. Lincoln Hall is pronounced dead on the summit of Mt. Everest after suffering from the effects of cerebral edema, but miraculously survived. With never-before-seen footage, interviews and Hall’s original video diary


If you have any suggestions please comment below. We are always looking to add content.

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Editor April 18, 2009 4

Assessing Your Backpacking Gear

I often get questions about what kind of gear is needed versus what is expendable. The expendable gear for example might be “comforts”, i.e magazines, cosmetics, extra utensils. Here is a list of gear that I absolutely feel is essential. Whether your hiking alone or with a group. The essentials stay the same. The nice thing about hiking as a group, you can share some of the load and gear. You don’t all have to carry a stove for example, just plenty of fuel.

Personal Equipment:

  • Clothing
  • Shirts, pants, boots, hats, and so on. This is seasonal clothing.

  • Travel Equipment
  • What is needed for travel – just your feet or a canoe, kayak, bike, snowshoes, etc.

  • Storage Equipment
  • What are you going to carry your equipment in? Backpack? Waterproof bag (for portaging canoe or kayak?)

  • Sleeping Equipment
  • Sleeping bag, foam pad, or thermarest

  • Miscellaneous Equipment
  • Water bottles, toiletries, medication.

  • Shelter
  • Tent, tarp, hammock. This also can be shared if you are hiking with a partner.

  • Cooking Equipment
  • Stoves, pots, pans. Stoves can be shared, but bring extra fuel.

  • Water Purification
  • Tablets, or a filter can be carried for a group. Just make sure you change your filter after heavy use.

  • First Aid
  • This is an essential piece of gear. Not to be ignored. However, when in a group, count the number of people and bring first aid to meet all needs. Sometimes it’s better for each person to carry their own first aid kit.

    ARCADIA, CA - APRIL 16:  Nalgene brand water b...
    Image by Getty Images via Daylife

    When deciding what equipment to bring, review your planned route and answer some questions:

    How long is the trip?
    How many people are going?
    Are people providing their own equipment?
    What season is it?
    Weather, weather, weather. Average temps for that area. Minimum temps, maximum temps. Is this area pron to thunderstorms, lightning, snow, (could it snow in June)?
    Is there an altitude situation?
    What are the trip activities?
    How remote will this trip actually be?
    Water, water, water. How will I get it, resupply it, drink it, bottle it. Water everything. Will there even be water? Will I need to melt snow to get it?
    Equipment failure. If something breaks, can I keep going?

    The 12 Essentials

    1. Map
    2. Compass (and some knowledge how to use it)
    3. Head Lamp
    4. Extra Food
    5. Extra Clothing. Dry socks, underwear.
    6. Pocketknife
    7. Matches (waterproof)
    8. Firestarter (I include cotton balls for kindling)
    9. First Aid Kit
    10.Water Bottle or Nalgene Bottle, Platy (at least 2 liters)
    12. Water Purification

    Other essentials that might be included are:

    13. Watch (with compass, barometer, altimeter)
    14. Ground insulation (sleeping pad)
    15. Duct Tape (I wrap some around my hiking poles)

    No matter where you are going, and whether you are out for the day or a month. Whether you are by yourself or with a group, the list above is essential. There are countless tales of hikers who have gotten into trouble, even on short day hikes, because they neglected these essentials.

    See you on the Trail.

    You can also read; Essential Tips for Reducing Weight
    Avoid Mistakes in the Backcountry