Renovation our vintage Airstream is certainly a labor of love. It’s not always easy and sometimes pretty frustrating, but all in all it has been a blast.
As in most RV’s, there are two types of electricity. The first, is much like your home electricity. You plug something into a outlet, and it has electricity. You know that because you get a electric bill each month that tells you how much you use. This is called AC power. Your home get’s it’s power from the power pole and comes into a circuit breaker box.
The other kind of power is DC power. This is electricity that you would find in your car. You open up your car door and the dome light comes on. Or you plug something into the cigarette lighter and charge your phone. Most cars have a fuse box that operate Turn Signals, Head Lights, Radio, and all the other electrical in your car. As you know, you can turn on these lights without the car running. You also know, that if you keep lights on all night, your car battery will be dead. Of course, when you start your car, your Alternator charges your battery and all your lights run off that alternator when your car is running. As long as your Alternator is working, your battery remains charged.
Having said ALL THAT. RV’s use both AC and DC. So when we got into the electrical part of our Airstream, we had some work to do. The first thing we wanted to tackle was the DC wiring. We literally had to pull every wire that was associated with the Battery that runs the DC. RV’s run DC for: Interior lights, Furnace, Hot Water, and Water Pump. Newer RV’s even have more to run off of batteries. Ours were a mess.
A vintage Airstream Argosy has color coded DC wires that run to different parts of the camper. PINK, YELLOW, PURPLE, and WHITE. Each color goes to a different circuit that runs lights, water pump, etc. This is where the fun starts. In our Airstream these colored wires ALL run to the battery which was in the battery box located inside. (they all had a door on the outside also. These wires were 40 years old and had to be replaced. So we pulled out every single wire and traced every single circuit to find out where they went.
PINK – Furnace, Hallway Lights, Front Lights, and Porch Lights
YELLOW = Water Pump, Upper Fan, and Hallway Lights
PURPLE = Hallway Lights, Bathroom Lights, and Bedroom Lights
WHITE = Ground Wire
Wires we completely had no intention of keeping were Radio Speaker Wire, Thermostat Wire and Antenna Wire.
We found that the wires ran all the way to the front of the Airstream, then turned around, and ran all the way to the back again. It really looked complicated when we first started figuring out what wire went to what. But then again, it was only 3 different circuits. We did NOT have a fuse box for the DC wiring which ended up being a good thing. It helped us learn and re-build a better system. Some people keep it, but later realize they need a new one.
The biggest help to us was to plan what lights we were keeping and what lights we wanted to add. All the Hallway lights were replaced with LED lights. The Bedroom lights were replaced (with a little creativity). The bathroom lights were replaced, and we had to add a wire for our composting toilet fan. We kept the lights in the front over the couch, the porch lights, and the switch to the water pump.
The new batteries were moved to the front of the Airstream where the Hot Water Tank used to be and all the new wired led there. They were all put behind the inner skins. We attached the new Fuse Box to the New Battery Box. (see pics below)
All of the 12 volt switches were replaced. The old cigarette lighter plugs were replaced with new DC plugs (just like your car) Every single light has a LED light. Some of the old light fixtures we were able to keep and replace the bulbs with LED ones. Again, it really helps to have a plan before tackling this. In the end, we put a Battery Cut Off switch on our battery box, so when we leave the Airstream, ALL DC power is cut off from the battery.
Electrical can be tricky, so make sure you consult with a qualified Electrician if you don’t feel comfortable with it.
Compression, compression, compression. That is what I think about when looking at new lightweight backpacks. How do can they compress, and is the way they compress going to benefit my overall gear system. When I tried on the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 ultralight backpack, I have to say I was impressed. It’s overall design and durability puts this pack high on my favorite pack list. At 2.2 lbs this is a pack you have to consider on a long distance hike.
With it’s 60 liters of capacity I would find it hard pressed to fill the bag all the way. This pack can carry a full load of gear that is for sure. With it’s roll top feature, you will be able to use this pack in Winter and still keep it as a lightweight system since your layer 4 winter jacket would nicely fit on the top. Since it compresses down, I can utilize unusable space. Again, compression!
The compression of this pack is what I truly like however. The two crisscross of of Linloc compression straps on the side of the pack provides and excellent compression system. The pack design of the Linloc straps can be utilized to attach a rolled up sleeping pad, a tent, or tent poles. Also, there two compression straps that run over the top of the main compartment and provide additional carrying capacity.
Make it even lighter! The frame itself is removable so the pack can be used for ultralight loads without the frame. This takes the pack weight itself to almost a 13 oz pack.
What’s the VC stand for? Vapor Current. At first glance, you’ll notice the ventilation channels molded into the cushy back pad. These channels allow air to circulate from bottom to top, taking advantage of convection to aid in evaporative cooling. This facilitates circulation without shifting the pack’s center of gravity away from your back. Beneath the molded foam, the VC frame has a full length (all the way up to the load lifters), HDPE die-cut sheet that supports loads up to 35 lbs.
Will this pack handle a Long Distance Trek?
I say YES! As more and more ultra lightweight packs hit the market, it will be the durability and stitching that will ultimately stand the test of time. I like the VC Crown because of it’s CORDURA® fabric. If you are like me, you are hard on your packs. Ultimately, a strong fabric will make the difference.
TIP: Ultra lightweight packs means you should have lightweight gear. The maximum weight for this pack is 35lbs. I would subtract 5 lbs to that. Light weight packs maximize their performance when you pack your gear correctly AND carry other light weight gear.
We have big news! Our new subfloor went in this weekend and it’s pretty damn exciting. It wasn’t as hard as we expected, but it was still kind of hard. If that makes any sense.
We started the weekend on Friday with priming all of our plywood with Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer™. We had already measured (re measured) and cut the pieces we needed. We initially used cardboard to make a template of the front cornered piece. The cardboard was a good idea because we could measure and trace around the C-Channel and get a good measurement for the curves. We made sure to put a heavy coat of Epoxy Sealer on the cut edges. It’ s edges that are most vulnerable of course.
We first placed the cardboard template (front corner) where it needed to be. Of course, installing a piece of cardboard is much easier than a piece of plywood. The cardboard looked like it was where it was suppose to go and we were happy with our measurements. Maybe a “good nervous anxiety” is a better expression.
TIP: Double check, and re-check, that all of the tiny wood screws that get drilled in at the top of the C-Channel are OUT. This will save you from pulling your hair out and having a break down in front of loved ones.
Saturday was spent on the front Belly Pan. We wanted to make sure that before putting in the Subfloor, we could see the new rivets going in to secure the Belly Pan. With my new Central Pneumatic 3/16 in. Air Hydraulic Riveter we were ready to tackle our Belly Pan. We drilled out all old rivets that the belly pan had dropped through. Surprising, our Belly Pan is in pretty good shape. We did drill new holes in the bottom frame using a 3/16 drill bit and popped in 3/16? Large Flange Rivets. Some places in the Belly Pan the holes were just too big. So we used large Fender Washers with the Large Flange rivets to secure and cover the holes. We also cleaned and prepped the frame once again, along with touching up any spots we may have missed with POR 15. By late Saturday we were exhausted. Sleeping in a 1998 Ford Expedition with 2 dogs on a Air Matress can be cozy, but we were so tired on Saturday Night, both dogs and humans were fast asleep by 9:30 PM.
Sunday: (The big day). Woke up early to a blue sky and the Rooster crowing. After mayhem with the dogs and few cups of coffee and a brief visit with Tulip the Goat, we were ready to get that floor in. We opted (after long debate and discussion) NOT to have any insulation between the Belly Pan and the Subfloor. But we did opt to using a Self Adhesive Waterproof Rubberized Asphalt Roll Flashing. This protects the Frame and the Plywood from moisture that could get in between. The Flashing also protects the Outriggers that are most vulnerable to the elements. After taping the top of the frame, we were ready.
The funny thing about putting in the first piece of your new subfloor was; “Are we really here”? We were almost in denial looking for other things to do before we actually put this in. With some trepidation, we brought in the front corner piece. We had cut some 2×4’s that we placed on the frame so we could beat the 2×4’s instead of the plywood. We brought in laying it down on the frame but on a slant. The “idea” here, was to push the out one side of the C-Channel and then to beat the front piece using the 2×4’s. Once we got both ends in the C-Channel it was then a matter of just beating it forward all the way in the “front C-Channel”. To our amazement, it worked. However, the rubber mallet was quickly replaced with a sledge hammer. (*Side Note: When something goes right on our Airstream restoration, we ask ourselves, “is this real or a dream”?)
TIP: Be prepared to beat one side of your Airstream to move the “cut” from right to left. Use a 2×4 for this also. Remember, you are pushing out one side of your C-Channel to get both ends in the C-Channel.If your cut is correct, the one side that you pushed out, will come back in.
The next section was only 2 feet wide to sit on the frame correctly and get bolted into the Outriggers correctly. That piece went in fairly smoothly.
The 3rd piece, (the biggest piece) was 4 feet wide went in by lifting the “cut” up over our heads, tucking the far end (opposite of the door) into the C-Channel, then bringing it down and tucking in the other end. This also involved major beating on the side of the Airstream.
So, the first 3 pieces are in. 4 more to go…
I must admit, never did I think the words; “she’s an amazing stripper” would ever utter out of my mouth when describing my significant other. Yet that is simply the truth! Oh sure, I can strip with the best of them. But let’s face it: I rush it. I tend to go fast and just want it off far too quickly. She, on the other hand, focuses on the details.
I’m speaking of stripping the paint off of our Argosy, of course. What did you think I was talking about? In our recent blog post about Stripping, we explained HOW we were doing it, but the devil is in the details right? Surviving it, might be a different post altogether.
Stripping the paint off outside in 97 degree heat in the Georgia sun, well, isn’t fun. In fact, I would describe it as…not at all in any way enjoyable! Our Lucy is pointed North South, so the sides of her are East, West. Which means if we want the shade, we are either working on the East side at 6:00 AM or working on the West side after 6:00 PM.
Stripping Lucy this week taught me a few things that I must share. One, I suck at stripping. Two, my partner, my intended, the one I love, is an amazing stripper! She’s virtually a machine. She actually said at one time; “Not interested in taking a break right now, I’m in a zone”. Though I actually said at one time: “Let me die so the Vultures can take me”. It was a blistering 98 degrees out on the Farm. While every living animal on the farm was seeking shade (and for our spoiled dogs, air conditioning), there was Ariane, stripping 40 years of paint off our Lucy. At one point she looked like Leonardo Da Vinci with her pallet of paint artistically looking for every nook and cranny of to highlight. In reality it was just a gunk full of scrapped paint on cardboard. But when you are hallucinating because of heat exhaustion, I would like to think of her that way.
In the end, we have Lucy almost all stripped and bare. Our hands tired, blistered, and swollen. Ariane’s hands took most of the blow, looking aged and peeling from the abrasive material. For me however it was just my ego that took most of the blow as I watched in admiration.
TIP: If you have to work in the blistering sun of hell. Listen to Disco Music. Believe me, listening to KC and the Sunshine Band and “Shake, shake, shake”, offers a mild relief from heatstroke. And at the end of the day when you tell your girlfriend. “You are an amazing stripper”, it becomes worth it.
In any Airstream you are going to rehab, you quickly learn that the Sub-flloor isn’t just laying on the frame itself. The camper body is bolted to the frame, and in between the camper body and the frame is the edge of your sub-floor. Simply put, you are going to have to remove the sub-floor by removing the camper bolts first.
In our case, we were somewhat lucky. Our sub-floor was so rotted that we were able to break away the sub-floor without removing the camper bolts. In some cases it did take a while to pull the sub-floor out around the bolts. There was some cutting involved. We actually used a wood chisel for some of the harder parts.
TIP: Consider the Full Monty (pulling the entire camper off the frame) This is something that we wish we would have done. We just didn’t have the resources do it. It’s not has hard as you think it might be, But in the end will make things much easier.
TIP: If you can’t do the Full Monty, take the banana wrap off first before you start taking out the sub-floor. You will have direct access to the camper bolts and the outriggers. (see photo).
Most of the sub-floor in a vintage airstream is going to be rotted. We have a center bath which means the bathroom was on top of the wheel wells. We were surprised to find that this was the section that the sub-floor was in good shape. Most sub-floors that the bath sits on are rotted, since most bathrooms are in the back. AND the double whammy is that the back of most airstreams leak.
The sub-floor is attached with large head screws that sink into the sub-floor. Most likey they are NOT coming out easily. The best way to remove the sub-floor is to cut around the screw bolts first. We used a Saw Zaw, but some use a cirrcular saw. Once we cut around the bolts the floor was just preyed up. You will have to chisel around the screw bolts to get the rest of the floor out. We then took a “Lock Wrench” and unscrewed the floor screws.
In any case, always check the condition of your sub-floor. When we bought ours, the previous owners said they had “repaired” the floor. All they did was put another level of sub-floor on. So we had the privilege of removing 2 sub-floors.
It seemed easy enough. Just take out the old stuff, and put in new stuff. How hard could that be…? Pretty hard actually. We quickly learned that the old stuff (including walls, sinks, and closets) really are all part of the way Lucy is built. Everything is interconnected with each other.
The rehab project is really a lesson in Airstream Engineering. We felt like we were old school detectives looking at each piece of panel, or plumbing, or wiring. Thinking, “ok what were they thinking”? But not only did we put on our Airstream detective hats, but Lucy had secrets. Oh did the secrets come out with each piece of sub-floor.
We have to say however, that the first few days, we felt like we had made great progress. We littered the front area of where we parked her quite diligently with debris, insulation, and the bleeping closet that made us utter curse words we didn’t even know existed. We may have even said “this is easy”. We are sure at that point, Lucy laughed.
It has taken two weeks to get the sub-floor out. Most of it as rotted as it can be. We decided early (due to cost, and resources) we were not going to be able to lift her off the frame. So it was important to for us to be really diligent in removing the floor. We found out that the sub-floor is actually built first in the Airstream world, and the camper itself is bolted through the camper down into the sub-floor. So just “taking up” the sub-floor without lifting the camper off the frame is by any stretch of the imagination…NOT EASY. It almost felt as if we were reliving a “Christmas Story” where the Dad was just making up curse words that made no sense. Yep, we are pretty sure one of us said “BADDAFINGA”.
We knew from the beginning we were planning to remodeling our vintage Airstream named Lucille. Not just a short paint job and new fixtures either, full blown rehab. We also knew there would be challenges unseen, leading to a much longer completion than anticipated. In attempting to keep this rehab entirely DIY, we needed time without restraints. We needed space and needed the ability to keep her stationary for a long time. Urban style living doesn’t exactly accommodate parking a 28ft trailer in front of your apartment. So when you buy something this large, just where do you consider operating on her?
We had to utilize our resources. We couldn’t really afford a rent a garage or borrow a closed in structure. We had been offered a place to keep her with an abundant supply of tools. So going with the “lot’s of tools” offer, we chose to renovate Lucy on my moms farm. With all her many goats chickens roosters dogs and cats. Equally it was the perfect opportunity for our dogs to gain the exercise and stimulation needed while our attention was temporary elsewhere. It was a win win.
Of course you must know that living on a farm, everything moves at a much slower pace, thus slowing us down simultaneously! We take a lot more breaks than we ought to, that’s for sure. It becomes irreconcilably inevitable. All ‘because a heard of goats surround the trailer to feed, or a five month baby goat (Tulip) jumps inside to investigate. Perhaps the roosters are squawking about because the dogs are chasing after them, or my mom comes to bring us lunch and wants to see our progress, or unexpectedly we become part of completing a chore. And of course the loud screams to our dogs to “STOP EATING GOAT POOP”. What progress!!For just about every hour of work there’s likely fifteen minutes of downtime. We stop and take a hundred photos, pet the animals and well really just enjoy our surroundings. The farm life intrigues us and it’s impossible to work when taken by it’s lure.
The best thing about rehabbing Lucy however, has to be camping next to her under the starts and moon. Seeing Lucy’s glow as the moon shines on her is a reminder of why we are embarking on this journey to begin with. We try and imagine us being somewhere off the grid, and relishing in all that we had accomplished….NOW, back to work.
When we were considering buying a tiny home we contemplated how that would mesh into our lifestyle. Very early on we knew we wanted a travel trailer. Though not just any travel trailer. We wanted to reflect our personalities, thus a vintage Airstream Argosy. Why? It was the perfect for us. It was as though the universe made it all happen, and we were the last one’s to know it. We love every minute of our project, our Lucy.
5 things to know before buying a vintage Airstream
Bonus. Be prepared for the Full Monty. Aka, The Lift. Definition: lifting the camper entirely off the trailer. Separation at its fullest. There is a reason why Airstream campers stand the test of time, they are built well and will take an incredible amount of fortitude love and patience to bring her back to her glory. Though well worth the journey. Welcome to Vintage Airstream Rehab!
Both Ariane and I have used Alcohol Stoves for years now. After recently buying the Toaks Alcohol Stove, we wanted to test the efficiency and burn time between our Whitebox Alcohol Stove. I’ve had my Whitebox Alcohol Stove for 8 years and have always loved it.
I compared price, total burn time, and how fast to boil.
The conditions of the test were outdoors, 2 cubs of water in a 900 mil pot with lid. Winds were light to variable 5-10 mph. Both used Denatured Alcohol.
Specs on the Toaks:
Material: Titanium (Grade 1 or 2, no coating)
Weight: 0.7 oz (20g)
Capacity: 2.7 oz (80g)
Weight: 1 oz
Capacity: 2.5 ounces of fuel
Considering the weight and cost. The Whitebox Stove still comes out to be the better stove for the price and burn time. It is .3 ounces heavier, but that is just the stove. The Toaks comes out to be the same if you add the wire screen you need to place your pot on top of and the wind screen. AND you will pay a lot more for the Toaks.
I think it’s a matter of preference if you like Titanium over Aluminum.
Cold weather could obviously affect both stoves. But haven’t tested that yet. Have you?
Do you use an Alcohol Stove? If so we would love to hear what you use and how you like it?
After my Thru-Hike in 2003, I wanted to give back to the Appalachian Trail as to what was so freely given to me. So, each year I invite a small group of Hikers about 7 miles from the start of Trail (Springer Mountain) to provide shuttle services, some food, hot coffee, and lots of encouragement and love. We have never had any kind of debate that we were providing a little “trail magic” to Thru-Hikers. However, in 2017 it was a little different.
After a few hours of setting up our tent, and tables, a GATC Ridgerunner stopped by (he was camping at Hawk Mountain Shelter a few miles away). He explained that we weren’t really doing “Trail Magic” but a “Hiker Feed”. I was perplexed. A Hiker Feed? What’s that? He went on to explain that “trail magic” is a random act of kindness, and a hiker feed was just feeding hikers. Mmmm? But we were doing more than just feeding hikers. Mr Ridgerunner also suggested that we don’t do trail magic right near the trail, but off the trail. Ok, maybe I get that, but was still a little perplexed on the hiker feed vs trail magic gig.
Apparently, this is a controversial topic. Outside Magazine wrote an article back 2016: Are Trail Angels Taking the Magic Out of Long-Distance Hikes?
Some argue that so-called trail angels, who hand out ?food and water (and beer!) ?to weary through-hikers, ?are cheapening what should be a life-altering experience
Another article from The Trek ask’s “Trail Magic – Love it or Hate it“.
I have seen and heard many comments of individuals who believe Trail Magic should not be given to hikers; a view I most certainly cannot agree with
I see both points. In 2003 there was barely any kind of the Social Media we have today. In 2003 the big debate was whether to bring a cell phone on the trail and was THAT ruining the wilderness experience. I personally have seen a lot of garbage on the trail have picked up full bags of it. But NEVER have I seen ANY person providing Trail Magic/Hiker Feeds be the cause of that garbage. NEVER. So I’m perplexed at the controversy with my only withstanding personal debate as to if it indeed has gotten so saturated that is is hampering a trail experience.
Maybe next year, we will only hand out Leave No Trace cards instead of Hot Dogs. It seems that might be a bit boring, but needed. I can only expect that the popularity of the AT will bring out more Trail Magic. In the 7 years I/We have been providing trail magic we have: shuttled hikers, fixed their gear, provided first aid, sent home gear, and one time even taught someone how to use their pocket rocket. Yes, that is true. So I take a little step back when someone tries to redefine the Appalachian Trail and the experience Thru-Hikers will have on it. BUT, I get it. It’s beginning to get crowded for sure.
What’s your opinion? WE sure did get a lot of comments on our YouTube Channel.
One of the drawbacks from getting older is that my eyesight just isn’t the same anymore. I have fought over the years wearing sports glasses, sunglasses, contacts, my regular glasses, the list goes on. Being active, I rarely keep a pair of (fill in the blank) for any long period. They usually break in my pocket or I lose them.
Recently my Eye Doctor recommended a pair of sunglasses/glasses/sports goggles, that have been perfect for all kinds of reasons.
A cross between a sunglasses and a goggle the Adidas Climacool Elevation is great for Skiing, Snowboarding, Backpacking, and simply sitting on the beach soaking up the rays. The Adidas Climacool Elevation model A136 has been around for a couple of years now but no one has managed to copy it or – beat it!
The best part: I don’t need a second pair of glasses to read a map. (Can’t see close) If you need prescription lenses then simply snap in your specially made prescription glasses into your Climacool Elevation glasses.
ClimaCool by Adidas is a dynamic ventilation technology.
The ClimaCool Technology for eyewear (made up of the specially engineered vents on the pad) allows for air to be directed in a way that does not disturb the eyesight but rather manages moisture and prevents fogging providing a more comfortable wear throughout. The foam pad surrounds the entire frame front and is easily detachable. It can then be replaced with the sadle nose strap and be transformed into a cool looking sunglass.
The Adidas Elevation is very versatile. within minutes you can change the side and lenses to produce a goggle suitable for windsurfing in low lighting, canoeing or climbing as the image below shows. Everything is configurable to meet your needs. You can take apart the stems and snap on a band that fits around your head incase you are in a situation they may drop off.
A spare set of lenses are included, these are orange lenses which are suitable for low lighting – they enhance contrast and show up lumps and bumps in the ground – so making them ideal for skiing or snowboarding. Just pop out the lenes.
There are quite a few places to buy these. Consult your Eye Doctor to make sure your prescription is good to go. My Doctor was able to send my bi-focal prescription out and they couldn’t be better.
Let’s discuss some backpacking cookware and how the Sea to Summit X Pot (1 liter) did on our field test.
I guess the first thing we need to talk about is: How are you going to use your Cookware System? I love to cook in the backcountry. So I may bring a extra (lightweight) pan to cook additional foods in. Like bacon, eggs, or bagels. But for some, you may only use it to boil water. How you cook and what you are going to cook is important before you go out and start buying cool gadget cookware.
There is of course the difference in metals. Some cookware is made out of an Aluminum base, and some cookware is Titanium. The most common rationale for choosing titanium over an aluminum one is weight: But just a quick FYI, Titanium is actually heavier than Aluminum as a metal. However, you need more aluminum to equal the same amount of (strength as) titanium. Makes sense right?
Probably the reason Aluminum doesn’t last as long if you cook it over the fire. (Like I do)
So when you are determining how you cook, you also have to take a look at as to what you are going to eat on the trail. Again, I use a 900 mil Titanium pot because I love to put stuff in the pot. Not only hot water, but multi-use my hot water by cooking stuff in bags that are in boiling water. Uncle Ben’s Rice in a Bag for example.
Then there is the SnowPeak Titanium Cups. Weights 2.4 oz. You can pick these up for around 30.00. You are limited however when it comes to creative cooking. But great for just boiling water.
PRO TIP: Campbell’s® Hot N Handy© Classic Mug Mug holds 14 oz and weighs 2.4 ounces. AND has a lid. It’s BPA Free. The huge TIP here. It costs 5.00 and weighs the exact amount as the SnowPeak 450 Mil Titanium Cup.
The other piece of Gear that we love is the MSR FLEX Skillet. In fact, we have put this in our backpack to replace our old (bacon cook pan), yea, we love bacon. AND it only weighs Weight 7 oz.
Our review of the Sea to Summit 1 liter X Pot is we like it. However it’s NOT going in our backpack. We love this for Car Camping and cooking soups and our famous Texas Chili. But we think it has a lot of gear failure after long term use on a Thru-Hike or just wear and tear use. Also, if you are using an Alcohol Stove, this pot will NOT work. The flame is just too wide for this pot. Again, we love Sea To Summit Gear. Just don’t think this pot will last through a long distance hike. Very pack-able however.
Do you have a favorite cook system? Let us know and share what works for you.
To many times we hear of hikers on a simple day hike becoming dehydrated and having to make a 911 call. In fact, just recently an Alaska teen was hospitalized in critical condition and his family members were treated for dehydration after they ran out of water on a hike at Phoenix’s South Mountain Preserve.
Dehydration is defined as excessive loss of body water. There can be different circumstances as to why one becomes dehydrated. However, when hiking in the backcountry, it usually means not carrying enough water, or having ample water in your system when temps are high, humidity is high, are you are physically active.
How much water do you need when Backpacking? The hotter the temps, the more water. That seems to be a no brainner. However, Altitude is also something to consider. The higher you are climbing the more water you will need, even in cooler temps. The average human must consume a minimum of 3 quarts of water per day up to 12,000 feet, and up to 10 quarts above 12,000 feet
Remember: Physical strength has nothing to do with becoming dehydrated. It’s the amount of water your body is consuming. In the high heat. You sweat around 1/2 to 1 quart of fluid every hour you are hiking.
This fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed 2 quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight and during the hottest time of the day. www.nps.gov
Remedies: First, don’t wait til you feel thirsty. Odds are, you are already dehydrated. I always takes sips from my 3 liter platy on a continuous basis on my hike. Some good gulps, (at least 10 ounces)every 20 minutes when the heat is on. Less in the Winter. I also consume a gallon of water at least an hour before a hike. Sometimes I have to force myself to drink it, but it has always allowed me to stay hydrated. No matter what the temps.
I also gauge my hydration levels by my urine. A useful rule of thumb for avoiding dehydration in hot or humid environments or during strenuous activity involves monitoring the frequency and character of urination. If one develops a full bladder at least every 3-5 hours and the urine is only lightly colored or colorless, chances are that dehydration is not occurring; if urine is deeply colored, or urination occurs only after many hours or not at all, water intake may not be adequate to maintain proper hydration.
What I carry: Before I even begin to pack, I determine what my water situation will be? Will I have access to water? Can I get water by filtering? Lakes, River, Creeks? Or will it be dry, desert like? In the East, you are probably going to find creeks and rivers. Water purification is essential. Gauge your miles. How many miles are you hiking? Hiking in the desert will require you to double your water.
I carry a 3 litre platy, a 32 oz Nalgene bottle (Usually I put Gatorade or even Tang). I also carry a Katadyn Micro filter. This enables me to filter while I drink. I try and use this as much as I can. Rule of thumb, never pass up a water supply and always use it to your advantage.
Symptoms may include headaches similar to what is experienced during a hangover, muscle cramps, a sudden episode of visual snow, decreased blood pressure (hypotension), and dizziness or fainting when standing up due to orthostatic hypotension. Untreated dehydration generally results in delirium, unconsciousness, swelling of the tongue and in extreme cases death.
Dehydration symptoms generally become noticeable after 2% of one’s normal water volume has been lost. Initially, one experiences thirst and discomfort, possibly along with loss of appetite and dry skin.
Always make sure you plan and prepare your backpacking trip and know how you are going to stay hydrated.
We often get questions about Tarp Tenting in the snow. In fact, if you have the right gear, you can be as comfortable under a tarp in snow, than any other regular tent trip in the Winter.
I use the Equinox 10 X 12 tarp. It takes about 20 minutes to dig a 3′ deep pit and pitch the tarp above it. There are many options including burying the sides under snow to fully prevent wind vs keeping it somewhat open to help with condensation. If you use your poles to support the tarp (and choose a flat site or a slightly rougher nylon tarp–snow really slides off of silnylon) you can cover your tarp with snow for insulation much like a snow cave but without the 2 hour time needed and guaranteed wet-through gloves.
However, tarp tenting in the Winter is a bit different from just pitching it anywhere. I usually look for a place out of the wind. Under a huge pine tree. Or even next to a rock crop. If you get a heavy snowfall, the extra protection will keep your tarp from falling in. One time it started sleeting, and sleet is heavy. Understanding how your tarp reacts to different weather issues may help you when that crappy weather moves in at night.
Tarp tenting in the snow is as much fun, and enjoyable than without snow. Looking out in a panoramic view underneath your tarp worth it.
Select a area that is sheltered from exposure or strong winds if possible. I almost always hang my tarp between trees, it can help block the wind from your tarp if needed.
Try to avoid any vegetation and set your tent up on snow if possible. Snow is the ultimate “No Trace” campsite because all signs of your camp will disappear when the snow melts in the spring. Snow can also act as a insulator in some cases
Pack down the snow where you want to set up your tent before you set it up. You don’t want your body heat to cause deformation in the snow. Also, you want to make sure you have a good r-value sleeping pad. The best choice here is a “insulated pad”. Otherwise the air in the pad will make it feel like you are sleeping on a refrigerator.
If the wind is gusting, dig a hole 1-2′ deep in which to set up your tarp. This will reduce the amount of wind that blasts your tent. Digging out a 1′-2′ deep pit under the vestibule area of the tarp makes getting in and out of your tarp a little easier. Also make sure your Tarp is all the way to the snow level. You can build a small wall of snow around your tarp to block the wind.
Attach 4′ – 6′ of cord to each of your tent stake-out points so you can use rocks or logs for anchors if the ground is too frozen to drive in stakes or the snow is too soft to hold a stake. Regular tent stakes will NOT work in snow. Instead you can use snow flukes or special snow stakes or skewers for anchoring your tarp.
When camping on deep snow, you can fill 1 gallon size freezer bags with snow and tie your stake-out cords to them for deadmen anchors instead of using stakes.
Cooking in the backcounty can be a blast if you have planned your meals accordingly. When planning your backpacking trip, the first rule of thumb is bring what you like. Why would you grab a typical freeze dried meal that you have never eaten or not even sure if you like? Then, start looking at weight. The biggest mistake I’ve ever made while planning a long backpacking trip was to stuff my food bag with food I normally didn’t eat.
There are plenty of food items that don’t need hot water poured in a bag for me to enjoy after a long day of hiking. In fact, many foods now come pre-cooked. Which is why I run to that section of the grocery store. Pre-cooked meals mean I only have to heat them up sometimes without boiling water to do it. For example: Pre-cooked bacon is amazingly good. Nothing like a small bagel with some cheese on it that makes a tasty breakfast.
The first thing I do is make a list of what I like to eat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Things I would eat at home, but on a smaller, lightweight scale. I like cereal in the morning, but that doesn’t mean I bring a bowl and milk. However, I would bring a breakfast bar, or some powdered milk to mix with cold water. Make an extra 2 cubs of powdered milk, then make some hot chocolate at night.
Another way to avoid cooking during a backpacking trip is to have lots of prepackaged, ready-to-eat food such as fruits, trail mix, and energy bars. Dried fruit is an even better choice than fresh fruit if you plan to stay out for a long period of time. Individual boxes of cereals or raisins are also great, both as a quick breakfast and as mid-afternoon snacks. Most of these snacks also pack a good energetic punch, so they will provide a quick pick-me-up when you’re on the go. Dehydrated fruit by the way goes great with Oatmeal and some hot water. It’s also great to eat for electrolytes.
Be creative: Lots of meals can be prepared on the spot if you just bring along the right ingredients. A good example is burritos or wraps. Just pack corn or flour tortillas, some mayo or ketchup (small, individual packs are best, like the ones you can find in restaurants). Sometimes I have made a pizza wrap with shredded cheese, one small bag of tomato sauce, small package of pepperoni, in a pita bread. You can also make some awesome burritos with Knorr Meals, and pre-cooked steak strips.
What about emergency food when storms keep you stuck in your tent. For unexpected multi-day delays, snow storms or emergencies such as getting lost, high-calorie snacks are life-savers. High-calorie food also makes good meals for ultralight hiking. Some ultralight backpackers swear by peanut butter eaten straight out of the package, using it as their main source of food for days at a time. Jiffy makes small packaged Peanut Butter that are easily packed.
Then of course we have backpacking, or hiking food that’s freeze-dried or dehydrated. This can reduce weight by sixty to ninety percent. If you’re carrying a backpack or other hiking gear with a few days worth of camping food and supplies this can make a BIG difference. This is why I mix it up. I tend to eat my creative food (or dry food) first. I reduce the weight, then it’s on to the freeze-dried food my extended days.
TIP: DO NOT throw those freeze dried bags away. Recycle them. You can buy other dehydated foods like Knorr Foods that you can’t poor hot water in. But you can poor those Knorr Foods into a recycled freeze dried bags (like Mountain House bags) and boom.
Hiking food offers trade offs. While it isn’t usually gourmet that doesn’t mean it has to be bad. After all, a gourmet meal is in the eye of the beholder…or backpacker
TIP: Good to Go Meals offer a great alternative to those who need and want a special diet out in the backcountry. More importantly, they are really good.
Some extra items that help. Ziplock baggies. I can’t tell you how many of these I have gone though. Also, a waterproof food bag. You don’t want your food water logged. I found this out the hard way one time. Just remember planning is everything. Winter food should be different than summer food, but it should all be food you like.
Are you that Backpacker/Hiker that loves to play in deep snow? I am. So when I wanted to buy my snowshoes and snowboots I automatically look lightweight. There are many choices out there when buying a snowshoe boot. However, with the hundreds of choices you have, what is the most practical? For most of us, this piece of gear may not be used as much as other gear items. Unless you live in the Tundra, you may want to look at just how much you will use your Snowshoe Boot. In the “Gear World”, one thing is for sure, some one will come out with better, lighter boot. So find a boot that is comfortable, and make it your best winter friend. I bought the best snowshoes that I could afford based on how much I use them.
Heavier & Warmer vs. Lighter & Less Warm:
For myself, this is an easy question. I asked myself: How long will I be out there? How many miles, and how cold will it be? When I answer those questions, my answer is heavier & warmer. Nothing is worse than having cold feet. Not to mention it’s highly dangerous.
The best boot you can find is the one that is going to be flexible at the ball of your foot. What kind of terrain will you be in? If you are going on a long multiday trip in the backcountry, will you experience a lot of snow? You can choose leather boots, plastic mountaineering boots, snowboarding boots or even running shoes. Since the snowshoe bindings fit most types of boots, you have a large selection to choose from and you may already own boots that are comfortable as well as work well with your snowshoes.
Remember that backpacking up a mountain is a lot different than flat. Choose a boot that will be fit the terrain that you most hike in. You might wear a much different boot when backpacking (Mt. Washington) for example, than on a long distance in trip in Minnesota. Even with no snow, I would change boots depending on the terrain.
Test your boots. Before you buy, bring your snowshoes with you. Make sure your snowshoe straps will fit around your boots. Before you go out into the backcountry wear your boots. More importantly, make sure your boots fit properly. People often make the mistake of buying boots that are too tight. This is bad. The tighter the boot the less circulation your feet get. Make sure you have plenty of room. Wool socks, with a liner perhaps will make your feet cozy and warm.
A good boot manufacturer I like is Baffin. I use the Baffin Tundra and these boots have always worked for me. They are warm and sturdy. You can even buy an insert if your feet are prone to get cold.
When I set out to Thru-Hike the entire Appalachian Trail in 2003, one of the things I first did was get in shape. I mean, you are walking over 2,000 miles up and down every day right? However, not that long into my hike I realized I wasn’t battling the physical part of it. Although, (and let me be brutally honest here), I hurt like nobody’s business the first four weeks. What really took me by surprise was the mental part of the hike. The loneliness, isolation, being wet all the time, being hot all the time, being cold all the time. One could say it’s physical, but the mental hardiness is as important as the physical part of your long distance hike.
There are two dominant schools of thought when it comes to the necessity of physical conditioning before a long distance hike. The first one asserts that the only way to prepare the body for the rigors of hauling a heavy pack up and down mountains is to haul a heavy pack up and down mountains. This being the case, the long distance hiker simply limits mileage and duration for the first few weeks, slowly increasing both as the body adjusts, increases its fitness, and hardens. You will get in shape as you go. No doubt about it. I prepared physically, but nothing does it compare to when you are actually out there.
My recommendation is: Do your best to prepare physically. Take your time in the beginning. You are NOT in a race and hike your OWN hike. Getting to know your gear before you go is VERY important. Practice a number of weekend trips before you carry a pack up and down mountains. Do you know how to pack your backpack up in a pouring rain without getting your sleeping bag wet. Nothing will give you the mental shit’s than knowing you’ll be sleeping in the wet spot tonight. Know your Gear!
The truth is — I’ve been backpacking for years and I’m still learning and five to six months is a long time to hike in the backcountry. You will be hot, cold, tired, wet, lonely, and scared. You will itch, ache, and smell bad. The smell bad part is a huge one by the way. You will be hungry all the time. You will get homesick. After awhile, hiking becomes your job, and you’ll be bored. You’ll want to quit. The hardest part of completing a thru-hike is knowing you don’t have to. No one is making you hike day after day. You can go home anytime. The trick is to keep that far-away goal in the back of your mind while focusing only on the immediate day’s hike. Don’t think of hiking 2,000 miles; the longest trail is just a series of week-long hikes. From one town to the next. Rest. One day at a time. Just this next climb. Beating the Mental breakdown is keeping a positive attitude about why your hiking in the first place. It can be a journey where you will meet and become friends with people from all different parts of the world. You will see the beauty of the trail and what it brings YOU. Laugh when you hurt, smile when you smell, and enjoy it. You may only get one change to hike your long distance hike.
My recommendation: Bring your Ipod and regularly download new songs to listen to at camp. Laugh at yourself. Don’t be seduced by town you are re-supplying in. Have all new clothes brought you to half way in. This gives you a good feeling and reduces the odor you’ve been hiking in for awhile. Stay in contact with others and let them be inspired by you. They may be living vicariously through you.
Mix up your food choices. I seriously could eat anything out there and still be hungry. However, I became sick of freeze dried food out there. I started buying pre-cooked food and started cooking gourmet. Was the food heavier, yea a little, but I really enjoyed cooking it. Spaghetti, sauce, sausage was eaten a lot on the trail.
THE BIG TIP: Don’t buy ANY BOOKS, OR BELIEVE ANYTHING YOU HEAR Before you’re Thru-Hike. IT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE AND YOURS ALONE. Nobody can tell you how to psychologically prepare. They think different than you and everyone’s experience on the trail is different. Sure, they can give you some pointers, and some advice, but in the end all your planning will probably go out the window anyway.
If I had to instill one thing in a new backpacker or a wanna be Thru-Hiker (AT or PCT) makes no difference, is this: BE GRATEFUL YOU ARE EVEN OUT THERE. Gratefulness when it sucks the most will be your most important piece of gear. And nobody can teach you that.
Wow! 2017 will mark 20 years of backpacking for me. That’s crazy!!! No wonder I make sounds when I get out of a chair. What I’ve learned from all those years out on the trail? Backpacking is hard!
I’ve been on this earth for 50+ years. What I’ve learned about life after 50+ years? Live is hard! But the single most important thing I’ve learned from both. Trusting the trail makes life a lot less fearful and lot more plentiful. “the trail” isn’t always something you are just hiking on. Sometimes, it’s the journey your on.
Not sure of the day it struck me that completely and without a single guess, trusting the trail was a no brainier. It was as comfortable to me as a good pair of hiking boots. Maybe it was all those miles, all those trails, all those locations deep into the wilderness, that always showed me how to get home. Even the times I was a little lost, the trail always pointed me in the right direction, when I was hungry, it provided food, and when I was alone, provided company. Although truth be known, it hadn’t always been that way.
I grew up on the concrete sidewalks of Chicago. City boy for sure. Not what you would call “the Wilderness”. I didn’t even start backpacking until I was in my 30’s. Moreover, my camping experience was pretty limited. Once or twice at the most. 1998 afforded me a job working for an IT company in central Illinois when Internet was just beginning. The years previous to that was working in the Insurance business selling insurance. Words can not describe how much my blood boiled at the thought of sitting in a cubicle for the rest of my working career without doing something big. Putting on a tie everyday for work brought me deeper and deeper into the abyss. I just wasn’t living the kind of life that was calling to me. Who was calling, I had no idea, I just refused to answer. That inner voice that whispers in your ear “what are you doing”?, where are you going? We all have heard it, and we all have ignored it. Even at my earliest age, I remember wanting to do something creative and different from what everyone else was urging me to do. Learning to ignore that inner voice I think is called denial.
Denial of who you are and what you can do is, the single biggest mistake one can make in their life.
The most common phrase I have ever heard in my life is “Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it”. I hate that saying. Makes me want to scream. However, so true. I probably said outloud everyday how much I hated my job. Hated, hate, disgust, every negative adjective in the world to describe how much I couldn’t stand what I did to earn a living. It was cut throat, brutle, ugly, and manipulative. I was in the middle of a Merge and Acquisition and the new owners were demons from the outer banks of hell. Everyday I wanted to quit and go.
On a night of cocktails and more cocktails, a freind had mentioned she had just got done backpacking the Appalachian Trail.
I literally asked her “what the hell is an Appalachian Trail”?
It was 1997 and the answer to that question changed my life forever. The Universe gave me everything I wanted. I wanted out, it put me right on the trail. Camping, hiking, backpacking for the next 4 years was all I did dreaming about Thru-Hiking the AT.
In 2002 our company was sold, and they immediately starting laying off key employees. I was one of them. That voice once again started bantering at me repeatedly, and through a much heated debate with my inner voice, in the Fall of 2002, I sold everything I had, and I began to prep for a Thru-hike on the AT. In March of 2003 I left Illinois for Georgia and arrived at Springer Mountain to finally do something that was bigger than myself, to face my biggest fear, to calm that inner voice, and to hike 2168 miles.
Things I’ve learned after 20 years of backpacking:
All the books is the world that “supposedly” tell you how to “psychologically prepare” are just crap until you decide to get out there. It’s your journey!