Author: Scott Janz

Getting lost in the Wilderness
Scott Janz November 13, 2016 3

What if I get lost in the Wilderness?

One of the more popular comments we get when we teach backpacking is “what happens if I get lost”?  It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Any Search and Rescue person would tell you it’s normally day hikers, but on occasion it happens to backpackers. The Geraldine Largay who got lost on the Appalachian Trail should all remind us it can happen, and to be aware of our surroundings when backpacking, even on a well marked trail.

Before you set out into the backcountry, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t become lost. Learn how to use a map and compass. Call ahead, read a guidebook and study maps of the area you’ll be hiking to become familiar with trails, roads, rivers, streams, mountains and other features. Use these as reference points as you hike. Once you’ve planned your hike, leave your trip plan with family and friends – then make sure you stick to this plan. Learn how to use a GPS. They are good investments if you plan on hiking a lot. NEVER rely on your Cell Phone.  If you don’t have service you may not be able to call out. However, you should always dial 911 even though you cell phone say’s you don’t have service.

Take your map, gps and compass with you. That way, if you become disoriented, you can stop, refer to your map, or gps and try to reorient yourself. Experienced hikers say that most people find their way after studying a map and the surrounding terrain for five minutes, so don’t panic if you can’t immediately figure out where you are. Also, take a whistle; if you become lost, blow it loudly at regular intervals to attract attention.

 

You may need to be on higher ground in order to identify landmarks such as streams and ridges. Just don’t wander far from your original route; remember, this is where rescuers will start looking for you if your friends or family tell them your planned route.

Still lost? S.T.O.P: Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Decide on a plan and stick to it. If the last known location is within a reasonable distance, try to go back to it. If you can’t find any recognizable landmarks by backtracking, stay put.

IF YOU CAN’T RESCUE YOURSELF

1. Stay warm and protect yourself from the elements. If possible, stay near an open space; move into it to be visible from the air and ground. Make sure that if you are in a clearing, you can light a signal fire. Fire is good, but know how to make smoke. Helicopters can see smoke, not a small fire. Just don’t burn down the forest. A reflective CD also works to alert aircraft that maybe searching for you. Just in case you can’t get a fire going.

2. Try to remain hydrated.

3. Put bright clothing on, or put out something that’s bright to attract attention.

4. Continue to blow your whistle at regular intervals.

5. Don’t lie on bare ground. Use the equipment you brought to protect yourself from the elements. Wind will make things much worse. If anything keep yourself from wind. Use leaves or pine to make insulation.

6. Stay together if you are in a group. Common mistakes are separating.

One of the things I do is to carry a small bag outside my backpack. Just in case I loose my backpack. Usually carry it on my belt. I have a small first aid kit, a space blanket, lighter, some kindling, and a piece of cotton soaked in Vascaline. A soaked piced of cotton soaked in Vascaline get can wet and still be used to get a fire going.

If you do a lot of backpacking, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a Wilderness Survival Class. They are not that expensive and will teach you a wonder of good practices for the “just in case”.

The majority of hikers, and backpackers never get lost. But it’s always good to plan and prepare. The most important part, is to always make sure people know where you are going.

Lots of websites out there to reference for getting lost. Research before going, may save your life.

Scott Janz November 10, 2016 0

Episode 9: Top 3 Letters Nature Lovers Need to Know

In Episode 9, Scott and Ariane discuss the Top 3 Letters that all who love the outdoors need to know. LNT or Leave No Trace and the 7 principals that guide all who participate in Nature and how to be good stewards of it.

Leave No Trace is probably the most overlooked set of principals that outdoor enthusiasts make. Backpackers, Day Hikers, Climbers, or anyone that loves the outdoors need to at least take the awareness course that teaches the 7 principals so we can all leave the backcountry exactly the way we find it. Why? Listen to our Podcast and find out.

HIGHLIGHTS:

There is a reason Plan and Prepare is the first principal

Scott and Ariane discuss Poop…What?

Please don’t feed the Bears

Scott get’s passionate about burning garbage in campfires

Ariane suggest reading material for your….private moments

Have a Leave No Trace story? Post it here and we will respond. We love hearing from our listeners.

Backpacking Light
Scott Janz November 9, 2016 3

Essential Tips For Reducing Weight

You might be surprised how fast you can overpack your backpack. There are 3 “big ticket” essentials as I call them, that are not only important, but impact your total pack wieght. Keep in mind, though, it is a process. You have to be willing to be flexible with your gear. You will, undoubtedly, think of something new practically every trip. Here is a compilation of Backpack Weight Reducing Tips.

2-3 lb Pack, 2 lb Sleeping Bag, 2 lb tent: These are my “big ticket” items. These 3 very important items are going to be half your weight. Choose wisely. Your gonna carry it. Seek out a good 2 -3 lb pack that is relatively comfortable with 30 lbs in it. Since, most of the time, you will be carrying less than that, the suspension of that 2-3 lb pack should be adequate for you. Get a quality 2 lb,  goose-down (or dry-down) sleeping bag. How do you choose what rating it is? When season do you do most of your backpacking in? Normally, if you go for a 20 degree bag, you will be fine in almost all 3 seasons. (Spring, Summer, and Fall) I generally bring my 20 degree bag almost all year round since I’m higher in elevation and mountain weather can be cold at night even in summer months.

Look for a quality 2 lb tent. I love the Shire Tarp Tents. There are many good quality single wall tents out there. You may even try a tarp. I use a 10 x 10 Equinox Tarp and love it.

Look for TITANIUM cookware: Pots, stoves, anything metal, if made of titanium, will be significantly lighter than any other metal. It ALL counts

Water Is Heavy: (1) If you know the area you’re in and can be sure there are watering holes up ahead, pack only enough to get to the next water hole. Also, (2) if you drink as much as your innards can hold before you hit the trail and at each water fill-up, thereafter, you won’t need to carry as much, after you get going. This is a crucial step before any hike anyway. I use the Sawyer Mini. I love this because I can drink water on the go. I don’t neccessarily have to carry a lot of water if I am going be crossing a lot of creeks and streams.

It’s all about Compression:  Use the right size compression sack–wasted space means unnecessary weight. Compresson, compression, compression. How you pack your pack is as important as what you put in it.

Go tiny: Sunscreen, bug-juice, toothpowder/paste, condiments, prescription medicine, antacid, vitamin I (ibuprofen), toilet paper, and anything else for which you can measure usage according to time (weeks, days, hours). Weed out portions of these items that will be appropriate for the time you’ll be in the backcountry. In other words, know the environment your in? Are you in the woods where there are tons of Mosquitos? or in alpine country where blistex might be better.

WANT VS NEEDS: This is the decision I make every trip. What do I want to carry and suffer with, or what can I leave home. All the little stuff they sell at your local camp store, like little battery operated fans to keep you cool, and the solar shower, is going to be left at home. About the only extras I carry are emergency blanket, compass, whistle, and special needs, like asprin.

Just remember this article when your hiking up hill for a few hours. See you on the trail

Scott Janz November 2, 2016 1

Backpacking Trail Etiquette Stay on the Trail

Trail etiquette is huge! It separates you from knowing what you’re doing, from people not liking you. I have seen this a hundred times on the trail. For example: If you bring your dog, leash it during meal time. Some other questions I get such as,  “Can I take this shortcut off the trail”? The first answer is NO, the second answer to this is to read and learn the principals of Leave No Trace. In fact, when we take our new students out on the trail for their first backpacking trip. We have a Leave No Trace Awareness Class right there at the trail head.

On of the first rules of trail etiquette is simple: stay on the trail. The more heavily used the wilderness and the more fragile the landscape, the greater the importance of this guideline. Some beauty spots, like that flower field, should be treated like works of art. Few people are so boorish that they would trample across a painting if it were laid out on the ground in front of them. Alpine meadows should be treated with equal respect.

Staying on the trail also means refraining from cutting switchbacks, the places where a trail makes a hairpin turn and almost doubles back on itself. It’s tempting to the ill-informed to leave the trail just before the turn and take a “shortcut,” regaining the trail just after the turn. This too is an invitation to severe erosion, which, once started, is extremely difficult to stop. For the same reason, you should avoid walking side-by-side on a trail unless it was built to accommodate such traffic.

Trail etiquette includes a few other pointers, some of which are backed up by actual regulations.  Harassing wildlife is also prohibited. Enjoy animals from a distance. If you want to photograph them, buy a long lens (300mm or longer) or content yourself with composing a landscape photograph with the animal as part of the scenery. It’s not worth a Selfie and disturbing wildlife. Wildlife doesn’t care about your Facebook Selfie.  Feeding animals is also prohibited. Handing out tidbits corrupts the animals’ normal eating habits and increases the population artificially, beyond what the land can support in the off-season when all the tourists are gone. In wilderness areas and national parks, every facet of the land is protected. That means that visitors shouldn’t pick the flowers. It also means leaving antlers, bones, wind-sculpted driftwood and all historic and prehistoric artifacts in place. This includes pot shards and arrowheads as well as other objects.

Respect the trail, it respects you. It gives you everything that you need. Make it better for the next person who comes along. Pick up garbage if  you see it on the trail. 🙂

See you on the Trail.

How to backpacking on the Appalachian Trail on a budget
Scott Janz October 27, 2016 0

Budget Backpacking

One of the quickest ways to say “the hell with it”, when you attempt a long hike is by buying into the notion you must have the best gear.

If leaving the comforts of home, your Starbucks Latte, and a warm bed means breaking the bank, stay in bed! It’s not worth it.

Let’s face it, gear can be expensive. Here is some ideas to get out there on the cheap. One caveat: don’t be foolish. The outdoors isn’t your living room. Don’t think that reading about a hiking adventure in a book equals actual experience.

“Hey my love, wanna hike up to Dante’s Peak and have a few craft beers?” That will cost you alot more than the price of the micro brew. Don’t go out and invest in a huge trip without getting a feel for the backcountry first. A day hike requires little, just water and a good pair of hiking shoes. (Comfort is more important than name brand) Start slow.

Once you make your adventure plans, check out some gear forums and see what other people bring. Then GO DIRECTLY TO E-BAY. Or, a Facebook Page I really love, Backpacking Gear Flea Market. Gear does not have to be new to be effective.

Some gear buying tips: Walmart!

Biodegradable soap
Mosquito repellent
2 liter Camelback water platy
waterproof matches
batteries
spare tent steaks (aluminum)
Water tablets to purify water.
First Aid Kit
Daypacks

AND FOOD. I could blog about all the small little food items that are already packaged for me at Walmart. Be creative. A little cheese, pepperoni, and pita bread and you have food you don’t have to cook. Snacks, and tuna also make great meals to eat without breaking the bank. If you have to cook, buy some Ramon Noodles for heavens sake and throw some chopped onion and green pepper in there.

TIP: Re-Purpose your Mountain House Freeze Dried Bags. YES! don’t throw them away. Bring them home, wash them out, and now you have a new bag you can pour hot water in and put some Knorr foods in. Knorr foods are $1.00 per bag.

You should also have a map of the area, a compass, a flashlight and a first-aid kit. These items, along with matches and a pocket knife, are like American Express – don’t leave home without them.

Can’t afford an expensive tent?

For less than $100.00 you can buy a Equinox Tarp Tent. Boom! Done! OR, head over to REI Garage Sales. Stalk Online Gear sites like www.thebackpackerstore.com  They have deals everyday.

A good sleeping bag I recommend for the Summer and early Fall is the Aspen 40 Ultralight by Marmot bag. It cost’s approximately $99.00 at Dicks Sporting Goods.

See YOU on the trail.

Scott Janz October 27, 2016 0

Episode 7: Backpacking in the Rain – what you need to know

The thought of backpacking in the rain usually keeps most people home on a weekend. But on this episode, Scott and Ariane talk about the beauty and scents that only the wilderness can provide when it’s pouring outside. “The wilderness comes alive”

They discuss the difference between Breathable and Non-Breathable rain jackets, and how you can multi-purpose your rain gear. Are rain Poncho’s the best piece of rain gear?

Highlights:

Ariane loves to hike in the rain

“New people ask “what if it rains”?

Scott say’s “water is good, put your pot in the rain and collect rain water”

Chasing down your Poncho on the trail in a thunderstorm isn’t fun

If you are new to backpacking then this episode is a must.  This Podcast is from their NEW LIVE SHOW on the BackpackerTV Facebook Page. Starting next week every Thursday at 11:00 AM EST.

Using Your Poncho as a Tarp
Scott Janz October 27, 2016 0

Poncho as Shelter and Rain Gear

The road to Ultralite backpacking is simple: carry the lightest gear possible and carry only what’s necessary.

Most backpackers who practice lightweight techniques have little problem with that statement; it only makes sense that if you reduce the weight of an item your pack will in return be lighter. This approach alone can reduce your pack weight enough to allow the use of lightweight packs GoLite (Rest in Peace) or Ultralight  Adventure Packs. The latter, however, proves to be more problematic. To know what is necessary requires judgment and practice:

So what are some techniques in packing lighter? What do you mean by “Judgment”. It simply means this: Multi-purpose your GEAR, and I mean almost all of it.  Let’s take your sleeping shelter for example. I use a Tarp. So, how could I make a tarp into a multi-purpose piece of gear?

Five Advantages of Poncho Tarping

  1. Can you use your Rain Poncho as a Tarp? Absolutely!

Keep in mind that there some some other things to consider. Like ground cloth and the fact you may not have a bug net. I haven’t had a bug net in years, however, I tend not to get eaten a live like others I’ve seen outdoors before.

2. Weight

The best Poncho’s I’ve seen out there are the Sil Nilon one’s. They are light, easy to use, and have made great shelters. The Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho weighs a little over 8 oz. That is an amazing lightweight shelter system.

3. Versatility

This is the best of the best when it comes to multi-purposing your gear. It really comes down to practice, practice, practice. Imagine it’s pouring.  You have your poncho on, and how you need to make camp. Your Poncho is your Tarp.  Are you going to be able to set up your Tarp when it’s your Poncho keeping you dry? Well, the bad news is, probably not. However, it’s not going to be too bad. With some practice, odds are you will be able to pitch your Poncho/Tarp pretty fast. Look at the Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape. It comes in at 12 oz and sleeps one very comfortably with some head room to boot.

4. Pack-ability

There is something beautiful about packing your shelter system in a nice little ball that fits in the side of your pack for easy access. Remember, this is your rain gear also, you may need to access it quickly for pop up thunderstorms.

5. Multi-Purpose Your Hiking Poles

Here is where you are going to look like a Backpacker Superhero. How many times have you set up camp and then leaned your hiking poles against a tree? Well now, use them to set up your Shelter. Congrats! You have multi-used 3 pieces of important gear. Rain Poncho, Tarp, and Hiking Poles.

TIP: Don’t try poncho tarps until you’ve mastered tarp camping with an 8 x 12′. Then maybe shoot down to 8 x 10′. There’s no margin for error with a small tarp. With larger tarps you can sleep in the center and be more or less insulated from blown rain and the splash factor. You’re about as close as you can get to the weather with a 5 x 8; learn the tricks of the trade before you push the envelope. I use a regular “Paint Plastic Tarp” you buy at the hardware store for my ground cloth. Why? Ground Clothes are expensive, and if they get a hole in it, get out your wallet. Regular paint plastic can just get cut into new pieces.

Also, make sure you always bring an extra large garbage bag with you. These are great to put  your empty pack in at night when it’s raining to keep your pack dry.

Guy lines are essential. A 5 x 8′ tarp gives maximum area when it’s pitched as flat as possible. Guy lines help to keep the fabric taut and water draining instead of pooling. Prop sticks can be used in a pinch; find them before you go to sleep.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
How to backpacking on the Appalachian Trail
Scott Janz October 25, 2016 0

The most important piece of gear a Backpacker will ever need

If I have learned one thing after 20 years of backpacking. It’s that everyone has their own gear preference. Every backpacker that I have ever met on the trail has their own system and has their favorites when it comes to gear. I mean, we can never get enough of gear talk right? But I would argue this: That most important piece of gear that you will ever carry isn’t in your pack.

For us that love backpacking, we hit the trail in some of the most remote places on earth, we are custom to the up’s and down’s of Mother Nature. We got the whole “plan and prepare” down at this point. For us, it makes no difference if it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, or whatever, we just go. Are we a bit crazy, of course we are. But for new people just getting started, or for people prepping for their first long distance hike, I say this.

The most important piece of gear a backpacker will ever need is a POSITIVE ATTITUDE. No piece of gear will ever help you embrace the trail and Mother Nature than a positive mental attitude will.

Let’s face it, sometimes there is a suck value to hiking in a cold rain storm that seems to last forever. But the one thing that you have going for yourself is your ability to be grateful for that suck value.  I mean really, you are out there! You are doing what you wanted to do! Of course it’s going to have suck value. All things worth while do. But it’s going to be your positive mental attitude that will make or break how you experience your hike.

In 2003 when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, it was one of the wettest Springs on record for the AT. It rained, and rained, and then rained some more. In fact, it was almost an entire month before I realized it WASN’T raining. I never did see the Great Smokey Mountains. Fog, yes, lot’s of fog, but rarely did I see sun for the first month. Sometimes I had a hard time getting up and finding a reason to keep going. But the choice was simple, get going or get off the trail and quit. It really was my attitude that I needed to check, not the weather. The weather is going to the weather, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It was then I started being exceedingly grateful for the rain. It changed hike going forward.

A positive mental attitude is going to get you where you want to be. Whether it’s in your personal life, or on the trail. Life happens, and sometimes it rains on your parade. Your attitude is what is going to get you through the rough times.  Let’s face it, backpacking is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be out on the trail. Hiking up a mountain, hiking down a mountain, hiking in the rain, the snow, the sleet, (we would make great mailperson’s by the way) hiking in the cold, and in the heat. Mother Nature doesn’t care about your thru-hike attempt. She certainly doesn’t care about your backpacking weekend. It’s going to be your positive mental attitude that will make your adventure on the trail amazing.

So next time the rain starts falling, or the cold wind blows, or the hot sun starts shining, just smile and whisper, “bring it on, I love this shit”. You are doing it.

Scott Janz October 24, 2016 0

Come Backpacking with Us

We absolutely love backpacking with our Students. Our most enjoyable experiences in the past 10 years of backpacking in the Wilderness is with students we now call friends.  Because we have never offered this online before we wanted to let you in on what we do, and where we go.

We (Scott & Ariane) are both outdoor guides for our Adventure company Full Moon Adventures. We travel all over the country and bring a little adventure into people’s lives.  Grand Canyon, Isle Royale, Zion, or even The Great Smoky Mountains, we love going into the wild and building relationships with our outdoor community.

It really did all start out with a backpacking club back in 2006. Since then, we have taken hundreds of people out backpacking for their first time. Now, it’s our own full time business.  In fact, in 2015 we took many people who had never gone backpacking before to an outdoor adventure trek including the Grand Canyon, and Isle Royale National Park via Sea Plane. What’s the point in learning it, if you don’t go out and play.

 

Scott Janz October 18, 2016 0

Trail Brothers Hiking to the AT

If you like inspirational stories, you’ll love this one. Derick and his brother show us that the “trail” is never that far away from us and if you have the desire, you will find it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy puts together another AT Story about two brothers and their willingness to get on the trail.

Derick quit his New York City life to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2012. Now he wants to share the Trail with his brother, a first-time backpacker.

“Trail Brothers” is the first story in our myATstory video series. Over the next six months, we will showcase inspiring tales from some of these unique individuals about how the A.T. has changed their lives forever.

Visit appalachiantrail.org/myATstory/contest today to share your story

Scott Janz October 14, 2016 0

Scott Janz – 20 Years of Experience

I created TheBackpackerTV because of my passion for the outdoors and seeing nature up close and personal. To inspire, and share all of our experiences so we can bring people closer to the wonders and awe of the outdoors. After 20 years of backpacking I decided to share everything I know, (and I’m still learning).

Started backpacking in 1997, and had an excellent teacher. After my first solo hike through the Smokey Mountain National Park, I was ready for more. In 2003 I Thru-Hiked the Appalachian Trail and since never looked back.  I’ve backpacked all over the country and was even lost in the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon one time. (that was a close one).

A few years ago, I spent the weekend taking a high level Wilderness Survival Class where we all spent 25 minutes laying in a cold creek to learn how to get warm again. (Yikes)!

I’ve been asked twice by the Discovery Network to do a survival show, and have personally talked with some of their Producers.

Ariane and I now teach backpacking and are Guides for Full Moon Adventures. We travel around the country in a renovated 1976 Airstream meeting people who all love the outdoors. Hopefully, that will be you!

Scott Janz October 13, 2016 0

Episode 5: Hammocks, Tarps, and Tents OH MY!

In this episode, Scott and Ariane discuss what to look for when choosing a tent or other shelter. They also chat about different shelter systems like, Hammocks and Tarps, and what is best for you.

Choosing the right shelter can be tricky, since there are so many too choose from. Answering a few questions first however may help:

Where you will be using it?

How many people will you be sharing it with? (dogs included)

How important is weight to you?

They also discuss some epic failures with their own gear, and why they have chosen a Tarp over everything else.

Highlights:

Don’t get caught up in the hype

Do your research! Online maybe the best way to go

I fell out of my hammock

My tent is leaking

Inverted Tarp?

They also discuss that people that are only going out one time, shouldn’t  spend thousands of dollars on gear. As promised in their podcast, sometimes renting gear is the best option. www.lowergear.com is a good place to start when looking to rent gear. Also, sometimes your local outfitter will rent gear.

Do you have Hammock, Tent, or Tarp stories you would like to share?  Or maybe a question? We love to hear, and always get back asap. See you next week.

 

Scott Janz October 10, 2016 0

A Look Behind the Documentary UNBOUNDED

Recently we had the pleasure of touching base with Film Director Garrett Martin who is the brainstorm behind the project UNBOUNDED: Patagonia Documentary We were fascinated about how 4 people came together and said “yes” to trekking through Patagonia, not to mention trekking over 350 miles. We also wanted to know more about how to help promote his Kickstarter Project that is raising money for the Conservacion Patagonica, an organization that works to establish national parks in Patagonia for the protection and restoration of the environment and wildlife of the area

In this interview, Ariane Petrucci and Scott Janz discuss how he came up with the idea, when it starts, and how he got 4 people to participate in the film.

From the Unbounded Web Site:

‘Unbounded’ is an adventure-travel documentary following an unaided crew of four hailing from different corners of the globe as they hike and pack-raft over 1,500 km through the Patagonian region of South America. The expedition will take place from mid-December to mid-April, documenting the extreme and unique conditions of Patagonia and the surrounding area. The crew will base their trip along the “Greater Patagonian Trail,” (see below) trekking it in its entirety until their journey comes to an end in Patagonia National Park.

The interview that last’s about 15 minutes has some very cool moments as Garrett explains how he got the idea for the show. The film starts shooting in December of 2016. It was really fun to meet Garrett and we really hope that the whole team at Unbounded have a safe and exciting time on thier adventure.

To learn how you can help his project, please go visit his Kickstarter Project and help them raise some funds.

 

Scott Janz October 9, 2016 0

Stunning journey through Joshua Tree National Park

We love projects that Inspire the outdoors. More Than Just Parks does just that. Their video’s are simply beautiful and breathtaking.

More Than Just Parks is a project started by brothers and filmmakers Will Pattiz & Jim Pattiz, founders of Sea Raven Media. This project was born out of their love for the National Parks and enthusiasm for engaging multimedia. The goal of our project is to share the wonders of our national parks with as many people as we can, thereby ensuring their continued protection and enjoyment for generations to come.

This video is the culmination of more than two weeks spent exploring Joshua Tree National Park. We chose Joshua Tree because of its unique landscape. Its immense boulder piles, colorful cactus fields, endless desert expanses, and unusual Joshua trees make for a spectacular setting.

Our journey started in the Joshua tree fields of Black Rock Canyon. From there we hiked, camped, backpacked, and drove all around the park, ending up where our journey began. Scroll down to learn more about our journey through the park including filming locations, equipment we used, photos, and more.

For more information on how to become involved in their project or furthering our efforts in any way please feel free to shoot us an email: morethanjustparks@gmail.com, and/or donate to our cause!

How to Pack your Backpack in the Winter
Scott Janz October 6, 2016 0

When should you pack your Winter Gear?

Backpacking in the late Fall, or early Winter is unlike any other season of the year, for obvious reasons. There are definitely some gear changes that need you need to be aware of. Not to mention, it’s COLDER. When I go backpacking in the Winter, temps can get down into the teens at night. That by definition is Winter? It’s important to understand that depending on  what region are you backpacking in, could be the difference in what gear you bring. The Southeast (where I am) is different than Northeast, or the Pacific Northwest. Is packing for a 20 degree night in the Southeast the same as packing for a 20 degree night in the Northeast? Probably not.  Why? In the Southeast, it maybe cold at night, but it certainly warms up during the day. So your layering system maybe a little different. Backpacking for Winter

Backpacking for Winter requires careful thought and planning. Weather and elevation are going to play key factors in how you pack for your trip. In the Southeast for example you are probably NOT going to run into 2 feet of snow. In the Northeast, I would makes sure I brought Snowshoes. Unlikely in the Southeast. Packing for cold nights and warm days can be tricky in of itself. Many times, it’s really cold in the morning. But once I get going, I’m pretty toasty warm

TIP: Learn the 3 layering system. This is essential when backpacking in cold temps.

I was quite warm under a tarp recently when the temps got down to 15 degrees at night. I had 3 layers and a 15 degree Marmot Adventurer sleeping bag with a 2mm ground cloth and a Long Thermarest underneath. However, during the day when temps reached a balmy 45 degrees, I had only 2 layers and never over heated.

My total pack weight was 28 pounds for two cold nights and 3 days in the 40’s. Having said that, I mixed Winter gear with Fall gear. In other words, I didn’t take snowshoes, snow stakes, a white gas stove, nor winter down snow pants.

Here is my clothing pack list for the Southeast:

Long sleeve base layer REI Midweight Polartec® Power Dry® Zip-T
Mid layer Delta AR Zip Men’s
Nail Driver Soft Shell Pants (these are excellent for cold nights and warm days) You will NOT need long johns with these.
First Ascent Downlight Jacket for camp. (I sleep in this and adds an extra R Value to my sleeping Bag. It’s also extremely packable) (look for a good deal on Ebay for this item)
Smart Wool Winter Socks
NorthFace Tent Bootie
Mountain Hardwear Balaclav
Wool Hat, and gloves.

One added piece of gear I brought but didn’t use, but I think is necessary is my Marmot Greenland Baffled Jacket. I bring this for two reasons. One, it makes a great pillow, and two, weather can change quickly in the mountains, so I bring an 800 fill jacket for the “just in case” scenario. If I don’t use it, my dog uses it as a sleeping bag.

And NEVER forget your Hardshell or Rain Jacket. I bring a Marmot Precip Jacket no matter what season it is. Your rain jacket works as a wind breaker and really stops the cold whipping wind from chilling you to the core. It also makes a great pillow.

This gear list would obviously change in high altitude conditions when snow and high winds would be prevalent. For Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers, who plan to start hiking early in the year, this gear list would work nicely for you.

Scott Janz October 4, 2016 1

How to pick backpacking hats, caps, and beanies

It’s that time of year again. We start dusting off our Fall and Winter gear and start thinking of cold weather hiking/backpacking. So many people overlook the importance of a good quality warm hat. Keeping your head warm in the cold weather is important, but it also depends on a number of other factors, including how thick your hair is and how much energy you use in the cold. In other words, your beanie hat is only a part of the equation in staying warm.

The ratio of the surface area of a child’s head relative to the child’s body surface area is much greater than that of an adult. Our young hikers, lose an even amount of heat through their heads (less hair). Hoods and hats are more important to children because of this.

Of course buying a good beanie is still a very important decision. Only us beanie fashionista’s understand this.

There are generally 3 types:

Traditional hand-knit beanies – This type goes into my personal fav list. There is nothing like a homemade beanie to wear proudly on the trail. The crazier the better.

Synthetics (Fleece, or Polyester) – These are great. Make sure you keep them dry however. Beanies made of fleece are generally great windblockers, and provide better insulation in breezy conditions. Polyester beanies are great for wicking moisture,  which helps perspiration evaporate during a hard hike up that mountain.

Merino Wool is usually the softer material and combines both the knit feel and the fleece feel. The nice thing about Merino Wool, is it can get moist and still keep it’s R-Value keeping your head warm. They are also a  bit cheaper of the other two options.

Of course, there are often times I wear a ball cap. On a rainy day (especially a down pour), I find wearing a ball cap keeps my rain jacket hood from falling on my face. Ball Caps are a good choice to wear when the rain really starts falling. The trade off is letting my Ball Cap get soaking wet, but keeping my beanies nice and dry. I often keep a beanie on when I sleep in cold temps.  So when picking a Ball Cap, I totally go Synthetic. This let’s my Ball Cap dry very fast. Even if it’s doesn’t dry right away, it still feels better putting it back on then a soaking wet beanie.

There are other options also.

Liners

Ear Muffs

Visors

All of these have their purpose. It comes down to what makes YOU feel comfortable and what you can live with when temps drop.

Picking the right beanie is important, but also knowing how to layer your clothing system is essential. Feeling comfortable on a cold rainy, snowy day, will make you a happy hiker.

 

 

Scott Janz September 30, 2016 6

PCT Method – Hanging a Bear Bag

Affectionately known by the lightweight hiking underground as the “PCT Method” (presumably because it was first used by long distance hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail), a bear bag hanging method exists that is lighter, requires less rope, offers the benefits of counterbalancing, is easier to set up, and offers simple and quick hanging and retrieval of your food.

You can make your own system quite easily by assembling the following components:

* Food storage bag
* 40 feet of hanging rope
* Keychain carabiner
* Small stuff sack for a rock (“rock sack”)
* Pencil-sized twig about 4-6 inches long.

Bryan DeLay has 30 years experience in the backcountry and shows us in this video produced by  thebackacker.tv, the PCT method of properly hanging a bear bag. Bryan also is a lightweight backpacker and understands that the PCT method can sometimes be the most effective way. and quickest way when your looking for the perfect limb to hang your bag.

How do hand your food bag?

Wilderness camping ethics
Scott Janz September 30, 2016 0

Finding the Perfect Campsite

You’ve been trekking all day in the wilderness. Your tired, sore and ready to get into your sleeping bag. The campsite is a important part of your backpacking experience. A good campsite definitely contributes to a great trip…and a poor campsite can make your trip more difficult. The rule of thumb is to understand Leave No Trace principals to guide you in your decision.

First and foremost, (if your planning a backpacking trip in a National Park) you will have to fill out an Itinerary, or apply for a Backcountry Permit. In this case, your choice is made for you. However, in a designated Wilderness Area, backcountry sites can be subject to different rules and regulations depending on that designated area. Generally, backcountry camping is recommended at least 200 feet from Meadows, lakeshores, and streams. If you are in a designated Wilderness Area, here are some things to look for: TIPS from LNT

  • Practice low-impact camping.
  • Set your tent on a durable surface like rock, bare ground, sand, or gravel to protect fragile areas.
  • Camp at established campsites when possible.
  • Camp at least 200 feet away from water.
  • Good campsites are found, not made!!!
  • Always try and use and existing fire ring.

Sometimes however, a made campsite is ok, IF you understand that you have to clear all evidence that you have been there. This is the quintessential guide for Leave NO Trace.  There are sometimes when making your own camp area is necessarily if you just can’t make it to where you want to go.

There are other key things to remember also:

Water sources nearby? And, will it be easy to get water?

Disposing of waste. Make sure you have plenty of room and 200 feet from water sources.

Look for dead trees nearby. You don’t want to pitch your tent under a dead or dying limb

Speaking of tree limbs, are there adequete limbs to hang your Bear Bag?

Know the rules & regulations of the area that you will be backpacking in. ALL Wilderness Area’s have their own PDF sites to help you plan and prepare your trip.

Remember that practicing Leave No Trace makes a fun and safe trip for the next person who meanders into that camp area. It also protects the wildlife.

See you on the Trail.