Make me a better camper by telling me your favorite backpacking hacks.
October 2, 2015 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to up my backpacking game. What tricks, strategies, and indispensable-but-overlooked items do you take with you into the backcountry? I'm looking for little things that cost little or nothing in terms of weight or money, but which make life easier in camp or on the trail. What are some of your most clever solutions?

I'm getting back into camping and backpacking (White Mountains style) on a regular basis after something of a hiatus. I'm having an absolute ton of fun (it helps finally living close to some good backcountry) and one of the things that is the most fun to me is working on what I think of as my "camping skills," i.e. the little bag of tricks that help to make trips go more smoothly and pleasantly. I'm talking about the word-of-mouth stuff that generally gets passed from parent to child, Scout Leader to Scout, or between camping buddies, the stuff you won't always find in a manual or handbook.

I'd like to up my game and have some fun by trying out some new tricks, so I'm asking you to share some of your favorites with me. I'll provide some examples to help give a more concrete idea of what I'm asking about. For instance, when I'm hiking and I'm getting close to my campsite, I like to gather a little bit of firewood as I walk along so that I don't have to do as much wood-gathering once I get there. Or for a different kind of example, I always bring a few cotton bandanas in my pack; they're cheap, they weigh next to nothing, and they're endlessly useful. A final example would be that if it's cold out you can stick tomorrow's clothes inside your sleeping bag with you at night so that they'll be warm when you put them on in the morning.

That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about: stuff that is simple, costs little or nothing, and which makes things easier by saving weight, time, or labor or which solves a problem in a clever way. Help make my camping and backpacking trips more fun and pleasant by sharing your wisdom.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (40 answers total) 169 users marked this as a favorite
I no longer carry plates or bowls or things like that (other than what I need to make hot water). I'm totally fine with dehydrated food, and my tip is to get a spork with a really long handle (Sea to Summit makes mine) to eat out of the bad. Longer handle allows you to get to the bottom of the bag without needing to put your hand in the bag itself.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

The book The Two Ounce Backpacker is full of such lovely tips, and has lots of vintage charm. It really is more about technique than gear, which I think is what you are asking for.
posted by grinagog at 3:02 PM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

This compact scraper is an essential part of my camping kitchen. By the time I'm done cleaning the pot and my plate with it, there is hardly anything left to actually wash.
posted by rockindata at 3:04 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

To save weight, time, and labor, try just taking cold food and not doing any cooking. Then you don't have to pack a stove, fuel, or cooking pots, you don't have to make a fire or do any cooking or washing up, and you probably won't need bowls, plates, or eating utensils either. My sister happily hiked the whole Long Trail without cooking.
posted by Redstart at 3:22 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Eat this.

I have lived off not much else for days and been remarkably happy about it. It seems to have just the right mix of fat and sugar to keep me going.

Also, electrolytes. The very best thing, I find, is V8 juice. It has all the electrolytes you need, and a good deal of sugar. If you don't like/can't get/don't want to carry V8, use a combination of table salt and potassium chloride (like this). Just enough so you can taste it. You will get fewer headaches, less of that dizzy feeling, less achy muscles, etc. It really matters.

Also, no coffee. Lots of people take coffee because they think it'll help them get moving. I have not found this to be the case. I find the best way to start moving is to force myself to start moving. Caffeine just makes me jittery. I say this as someone who drinks a good deal at work.

Also +1 to what Redstart said. Cooking isn't actually that awesome. When you're seriously moving, all food is good—no need to futz with fire and pans.
posted by andrewpcone at 3:31 PM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Get a Thermarest chair. Basically you stuff your half inflated sleeping pad into it and it works like a crazy creek chair. It weighs very little and makes every campsite that much more comfortable.

Pop a tylenol PM at bedtime. It'll ease the soreness from the days hike and you'll sleep like a rock.

Long handled spork is a great tip. Reaches deep into those meal bags.
posted by trbrts at 3:37 PM on October 2, 2015

A small tarp can be very handy. If I'm pretty sure it's not going to rain and I'm skipping the tent ( I live in Utah, where it's often pretty dry) I'll still bring a small light-weight tarp. It's a lot lighter than a tent and it's a nice clean place to lay out all your gear, roll out your sleeping bag, etc... If it does drizzle a little at night you can just pull it over you like a taco and you're all good.

Always bring paracord. It's saved my butt many times. And if you need it you can use tarp to make yourself a tent.

If you use treking poles. wrap yourself a little mini roll of duct tape around one of the poles below the handle. You'll always have some duct tape on you. I do this on backcountry ski poles too. I've also seen this done around Nalgene water bottles.

Pack whiskey or tequila in a small nalgene. Highest alcohol to weight ratio. Makes each night at camp a little more pleasant and enjoyable.
posted by trbrts at 3:49 PM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

A small square of tyvek makes a nice staging area for getting in and out of the tent. It is super light, water resistant and off cuts can often be found for free.
posted by phil at 3:57 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I like to roll our tent up by beginning at the rear and ending at the entrance, so that a) all of the trapped air escapes and the tent compresses easily, and more importantly b) I always know which way it will unroll, so I can set it up quickly in the dark and/or the rain. Sounds both obvious and trivial, but sometimes you have to set up your shelter in a downpour and those extra seconds make a difference.

Some other odds and ends:

Always bring along good length of paracord.

Bring along a physical topo map of the area you are hiking and know how to read it, as electronics fail all too easily.

Always bring along a needle and thread, for repairing your gear and/or stitching yourself up if you get a deep cut.

Carry a ziploc baggie with spare parts for your pack, tent, boots, etc. Similarly, I always (!!!) bring along a few zip ties, as they can be incredibly useful in a pinch. It's no fun being 20 miles from anywhere with a broken pack strap and no means to fix it.

If you are in a place where you need to dig a small hole in which to poop, learn how to do it ahead of time, as you may need to do it in a hurry. Also, bring a good, small shovel for this purpose. The plastic shovels that are widely sold in camping stores are actually kinda terrible, especially in rocky soil, so spend a bit more for a small folding metal shovel. Yes, it weighs a bit more. Tough it out, a good latrine is worth the weight of the shovel you need to dig it.

Spices are great, weigh nothing, and liven up boring dishes. I like to bring a small variety when I backpack.
posted by mosk at 4:08 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

The deli section of your local grocery emporium often has little packets of various condiments for "free". I grab a handful of salt, pepper, mustard, and hot sauce before every trip. Basically zero weight, but a lifesaver on night 6 of bland dehydrated mush.

Note: your willingness to take advantage of your grocery store's trust and generosity may vary....
posted by Dorinda at 5:23 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a confirmed coffee addict I take the Starbucks Via concentrate packs backpacking - almost weightless and give me my caffeine fix. We also like to make miso soup for a good electrolyte, warm liquid hit - instant packets don't take up much weight or space.
posted by leslies at 5:43 PM on October 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

I would add to what leslies said in that in hot climates (we do a lot of desert hiking) making soup at lunch adds salts and liquid and takes a while - which keeps you from getting antsy and hiking in the heat of the day.

Also, we use a white gas stove and, depending on the kind of stove you have, it may be useful to have a small piece of closed cell foam to put under the fuel on cold mountain trips as the gas can get too cool and liquify.

Finally, and a very obvious one really, always put the same things in the same place. I've known people who didn't do this from trip-to-trip and couldn't put their hands on gear they needed in a hurry. I can still close my eyes and know where everything is, which I've had to figure out in the dark sometimes.
posted by BillW at 6:16 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Duct tape is overrated. It has its uses but its often difficult to work with on the trail. The single most useful repair items are electrical ties. Bring a few of assorted sizes along with some thin bailing wire. Brings some duct tape, sure.

Bring a spare waste belt buckle. It's light and almost impossible to improvise. I finally used one this summer after carrying it for ten years. I was so glad I had it.

If you use a Camelback bladder, bring an extra nozzle. Ask me why.

Learn to tie a bowline and a taught line hitch. These will get you through most situations. The taught line hitch is the greatest knot ever and the only knot to use when you hang a tarp.

Learn to live without fires. You don't need them and in most places they're bad for the backcountry. In fact, learn about no-trace in general. Outdated things like digging a trench around your tent are no longer necessary.

Keep extending your season but do it safely. Snow is a joy when you're backpacking.

Buy the lightest, best gear you can afford and it will last you for years.

Take ibuprofen when you get into camp and when you get up in the morning.

Use one of those bandanas on the ground as a tablecloth when you cook your dinner.

Parmesan cheese and tobacco sauce will improve any backpacking meal.

Black bears are mostly harmless but will take your food. Be very disciplined about not keeping anything with a scent in or near your tent. Hang your food or use the bear containers now provided at most back country sites.

Respect Rangers and site caretakers. They're not there to ruin your fun, they're there to protect the land and help you.

Clean and maintain your boots after every hike.

Bring light shoes for when you get to camp. Your feet will thank you. Sandles or sneakers will do.

Always bring a map but not the whole guidebook.

Gps and cell phones can help you but don't rely on them. You should be able to get around safely without them. They are not safety nets.

Wilderness first aid is different from regular first aid. Learn it.

Hiking poles are your friends.
posted by bondcliff at 6:18 PM on October 2, 2015 [26 favorites]

Also, when you pack your tent, stuff it, don't fold it. Folding it causes creases which will weaken over time.

Also, also, that trick about putting your clothing in your bag isn't a good one. It may be warm but it may also be wet from your body moisture. Keep your shit dry.
posted by bondcliff at 6:19 PM on October 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

Bondcliff is so right about the spare buckle -that bit me on our recent Grand Canyon trip a couple weeks ago when mine failed 1/3 of the way down the S Kaibab trail. Stopgap with rope was inadequte. Sea to Summit makes replacement buckles that don't require cutting/resewing a belt because they have removable pins - and they're in fairly short supply right now.

Have used ripstop tape more than duct tape but that same trip had us providing duct tape to someone whose shoe had completely separated from its sole.
posted by leslies at 6:28 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

- Contact lens cases are perfect for holding little bits of liquid like toothpaste.
- Mayo packets are a great sub for oil/butter when cooking. My favorite recipe: box of Annies + 1 mayo+1 mustard+1 Parmesan cheese.
- Learn a few wild plants and you'll always have greens to add to your meal. Once you know them, you'll see them everywhere.
- This is an ultralight basic, but an important one: ditch hiking boots for trail running shoes and wool/synthetic socks, combined with flip flops for camp plus an extra pair of socks. Night socks are only worn at night, so they stay clean and dry. Your regular shoes and socks will get wet if there is rain or mud-- but also dry relatively quickly, and the wool will retain heat even when wet. Once you make camp, you put on the flip flops to let your feet breathe. This method was revelatory for me, as you can go so much faster in light shoes (plus even waterproof boots will always eventually get wet, and once they do they'll never dry).
posted by veery at 7:04 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Consider taking one or two packets of sugared drink mix in case you get an upset stomach and still need some energy to hike. [Lesson painfully learned when I almost passed out on the trail from low blood sugar.]

Eat a little bit every hour or so (at least) while hiking, even if you don't feel hungry (e.g. altitude sickness) -- otherwise you may bonk and start to really go slow. (Accusing your hiking partner of unreasonably speeding up may also happen).
posted by elmay at 7:19 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

On my last backpacking trip I got my pack weight down to 25 lb total: pack, clothes, tent, sleeping bag and pad, stove, etc., with three days food. It was great to have a light pack and I'll try for under 20 lbs next season. I was lucky to get a great lightweight tent on sale at REI, and use a 3/4 length waffle pad - put my feet on top of clothes instead of a long pad.
Aquamira water purifier is super light (2 oz) and so much easier to carry than a filter pump.
My stove is now a catfood can with holes punched in the sides, using denatured alcohol as fuel; that's super light too and boils water as fast as an MSR Whisperlite stove.
I use the bottles from "Smart Water" instead of a canteen, saving several ounces per liter. I've also gone from "real" hiking boots (heavy leather) to trail-running shoes.

Fwiw unlike bondcliff I'm not keen on stuffing my tent; it's very lightweight and could easily rip, folding is better for me.
posted by anadem at 8:47 PM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Here is my foot-care advice: bring three pairs of hiking socks and either sandals or light sneakers as camp shoes. Wear one pair of socks when you hike. Change into one pair when you get into camp and put on your camp shoes. And keep one pair at the bottom of your sleeping bag and change into them when you sleep. When you wake up, take off your sleeping socks and put on one of your other pairs. Before you start hiking for the day, take a couple of minutes and examine your feet: take care of any toenails that are sticking out or blisters.

Other things: always put your sleeping bag inside a stuff sack and put a heavy duty trash bag inside that stuff sack, so that you know your sleeping bag will always be dry no matter what. Learn how to pack your backpack so that everything fits inside it, because if you give in to the temptation to hang stuff like pots off the outside, then it's much more likely that you'll lose your pot someday.

Learn about Leave No Trace camping. Personally, I grew up camping with a camping stove and the idea of building a fire every night seems a bit archaic to me. If you are camping in places with pre-established fire rings, that's fine, but don't ever build a new fire ring.
posted by colfax at 3:11 AM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh one more on the subject of foot care - whenever you stop for a break take your shoes and socks off - gives your feet a chance to breathe and your socks a chance to dry off. Huge difference in avoiding blisters and it just feels great.
posted by leslies at 5:51 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like Crocs for camp shoes. The weigh nothing, and are practically indestructible.
posted by COD at 6:21 AM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I take a plastic screw-top container with me (used to house peanut butter) which I soak food in readiness for eating, thereby using less fuel (if I take a stove!) or doing away with stove altogether.
  • At night, do breakfast in it: oats w/ milk powder and LSA (prepare packets of this in little ziplock bags for each morning you're going)
  • In the morning, prep lunch in it: quick-cook couscous with dried vegetables and powdered stock (OR) soup mix with noodles and TVP (OR) ramen noodles (with dried mushrooms/dried jerky)
  • After lunch, prepping dinner: [need to cook this version] dried lentils with quick-cook rice and stock (OR) ramen noodles with jerky (or anything else you think of!)
If you do take a stove, aluminium foil (like for your kitchen) is good as a windbreak if you cut it to size and fold two layers.

Also, pre-cut strips of elastoplast/sports strapping tape so I can put it on various parts of my body where things are rubbing raw, such as under waist straps and on ankles.

Nthing the socks-for-sleep-only thing. I also try to scrub down with a tiny bit of water before I jump into my sleeping bag so that it remains a nice sleep zone and less something the dog rolled in by day 3.

I try to make a cathole as soon as I've set up camp somewhere, because the need to go can hit SUDDENLY! and there is no less time for you to feel like digging than when you're trying to hold it in.

Don't leave your water bottles outside your tent or you may wake to find them frozen over, even in places you don't think it will happen. (Happened to some people I was camping with last year! Delayed start that morning.)

Arm/leg warmers are fab, and you can pull them on while you're starting your walk and freezing and as you go just peel them off without having to pull all of your top clothes off first. Great for early morning starts.

Also, I weigh everything, then look around to see what else I have which is lighter which is probably a better idea. So, like, a pen? I'll see which pens are lighter. The fuel container? It turns out that the dishwashing liquid bottle which holds 200mL methylated spirits weighs less than the another bottle. Cut your scrubby pad in half.

Tiny little ziplock bags are your friend for separating things and doing away with bulkier containers. For example, medications.

Ok, maybe I'm obsessed.
posted by owlrigh at 5:04 PM on October 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

> Learn to tie a bowline and a taught line hitch. These will get you through most situations. The taught line hitch is the greatest knot ever and the only knot to use when you hang a tarp

Not to get into a nerdy knot fight but I suggest that the adjustable grip hitch is superior to the taut-line hitch.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:16 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Roll, don't fold, anything that goes into your pack, for whatever reason everything just fits better. Probably a pretty basic one, but some people haven't tried it.

Tea bags. If you are drinking crap water, turning it into tea first is really recommended, and they weigh basically nothing.
posted by deadwax at 5:34 AM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

One of my Scoutmasters once said the most important thing in his pack was a deck of cards.

"If I ever get lost, I just sit down and start playing solitaire. Within ten minutes, someone will come up behind me and say 'Put the red five on the black six,' and I can ask them where I am."
posted by Etrigan at 7:14 AM on October 7, 2015 [35 favorites]

Bandannas are to camping as towels are to hitchihiking the universe.

Body/cookwear cleanup kit: bandanna + half a scrubby sponge + small bottle of Dr. Bronners, or a small bottle of contact lens solution emptied and refilled with DBs.

After years of futzing with MSR and other stoves, I switched to one of these and I'm never looking back. SO much better and easier.

I've also started really getting into sleeping in a super-light hammock lately.

Re: footwear, they say one pound on your feet equals ten on your back. Wear big boots only when absolutely necessary, like humping a week's worth of gear up a mountain. Otherwise, sneakers or light hikers.

After age 40 and two knee surgeries, I'm never hiking without trekking poles again. I figure each knee has a finite number of shocks it can take in a lifetime. Why waste them?
posted by gottabefunky at 9:41 AM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like sleeping in hammocks, but find them very cool, so it's only something I do in hot climates.

Also, fruity rum drinks! Nalgene sells little flasks for something like $5 at REI. Fill one of those with rum, pack some of the single-serving powdered fruit punch mixes (or vodka and lemonade) and make yourself a tasty cocktail in camp. Though if I'm doing a short overnight trip, I'll pack cans of strong beer. Worth the weight, in my opinion.

You can also buy individual little containers for spices for pennies. Use those with all sorts of spices to liven up meals. Unusual things like truffle salt can go a long way towards livening things up.

Nthing Starbucks Via packets for coffee. Never screw around with cleaning out a french press in the field again.

I like the UV pens for water purification, especially since I can use them while traveling to cities with polluted water supplies (looking at you, lots of central and south america). The UV pens kill viruses, rather than just filtering out bacteria.

I backpack at altitude a lot, so temperatures can be unpredictable. Pack a stocking hat and it'll make a huge difference if things get surprisingly cool.

In addition to a deck of cards, if you have a standard thermarest, another thing you can do for camp entertainment is to draw a scrabble board on it with a ruler, and then just toss your scrabble tiles into a sack.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:59 PM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you use a Camelback bladder, bring an extra nozzle. Ask me why.

posted by allkindsoftime at 1:23 PM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I did say to ask.

I was driving to a hike and we stopped at a store for some provisions. My camelback was on the floor of the car and as I stepped out of the car my leg dragged the drinking hose with me. I closed the door on the nozzle, perfectly cutting it in half.

I spent the rest of the hike attempting to keep the hose upright so as not to spill all my water. I probably spilled about half of it anyway, mostly on my shirt.

A spare nozzle costs about five bucks and weighs almost nothing. Like the spare hip belt, it's something that can not easily be improvised on the trail. I have already used the first one I bought when someone on a hike had trouble with theirs.

Also, I notice a lot of us in this thread are recommending things that "weigh almost / next to nothing." Be careful adding too many things that weigh nothing because they will add up to something.
posted by bondcliff at 1:46 PM on October 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

posted by allkindsoftime at 1:55 PM on October 7, 2015

If I'm heading somewhere that I'll have to carry my own water anyway, especially on short trips, I like to carry those Indian food pouches. They only run a couple of bucks a piece, and make a reasonably tasty trail meal with no added water or dishes. They're basically MREs that don't taste like death or cost a fortune. Most Indian grocery stores carry them, and I think even Trader Joe's has a house brand.
posted by piedmont at 9:34 PM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like sleeping in hammocks, but find them very cool, so it's only something I do in hot climates.

Yeah, hammocks are great, but any time other than the dead of summer--and sometimes even then--it gets cool, if not downright cold at night. You need something to line the hammock; at least a sleeping bag, or a thermal mat.
posted by zardoz at 5:47 AM on October 8, 2015

To save weight, time, and labor, try just taking cold food and not doing any cooking... Also, no coffee.

I agree completely – although I don't really cook that much at home, so it wasn't too different. Nor do I drink coffee (or tea). It seemed like instant heat could be useful occasionally, though, so as a compromise I packed a mini-stove – state-of-the-art way back when. With Sierra cup, and powdered drink / soup / hot chocolate mixes, just for variety. (Actually, the one time I really did need heat, one January at the top of a mountain, the tiny valve on the stove froze, and I couldn't get it to work.)

Night socks are only worn at night, so they stay clean and dry... keep one pair at the bottom of your sleeping bag and change into them when you sleep... Nthing the socks-for-sleep-only thing.

Yes, do this — although that way they never wear out. A few years ago I realized I'd had the same pair of socks now for over 35 years, and got so embarrassed I started wearing them with shoes, while walking around.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:51 AM on October 8, 2015

If you're going to have a campfire, carry cotton balls or drier lint saturated with petroleum jelly to help get it started. Doritos or potato chips also work. Carve a feather stick if you are working with wet wood.

It's nice to have something to sit on when you're taking a break from hiking. Therm-a-Rest makes a seat sized pad that accordions up nicely, but I just use about 2' that I cut off the end of an old closed cell foam sleeping pad.

Wearing liner socks plus normal wool socks helps me stay blister free, especially with wet feet.

If you buy new cotton bandanas, put them in the wash with every load of laundry for a month. They're so much nicer once broken in.

Try freezer bag cooking. Buy or make a Reflectix pouch or pot cozy. You can carry less fuel, worry less about clean-up after eating, and your food stays hot while you eat.

The condiment packets you get with take-out chinese food are great on the trail, soy sauce and spicy mustard work with many backpacking foods.

If you carry a plate; a frisbee works well as a plate but a plate does not make a good frisbee.

Plastic poop trowels are pretty much worthless. Try a snow stake or a metal shoe horn instead, they work as well as the expensive aluminum and titanium poop trowels.

Like anadem said, if you use water bottles instead of a bladder system, use SmartWater bottles. And carry a spare cap, it's one of those things you can't live without and can't easily improvise a replacement. Nalgene bottles are only worth the weight if you are camping in weather cold enough that you want to bring a hot water bottle into your sleeping bag at bedtime.

If you use a Sawyer squeeze water filter, the flip-top nozzle that comes on the smaller SmartWater bottle can replace your backflush syringe, video.

Have food waiting for you in the car. If I'm out for two or three days, I'll have a cooler with ice in the car so I can have real food and a cold beer waiting for me.

> I like Crocs for camp shoes. The weigh nothing

Crocs are actually pretty heavy, my size 11's are 14 oz. The knock-offs at the dollar store weigh almost half and cost about a quarter as much. My camp shoes are the latest in hikertrash fashion, diy clogs made from duct tape and the insoles from some old boots with grip tape on the bottom. Only 4 oz, ugly, but they keep my feet safe and dry in camp.

> tobacco sauce will improve any backpacking meal.

Autocorrect just ruined your dinner.
posted by peeedro at 10:56 AM on October 8, 2015 [9 favorites]

Try camping much lighter from time to time, and every once in awhile, pack much lighter. By forcing yourself to vary the amount of stuff you carry, you figure out what's more (or less) important to you.

In my case, cookware is mostly overrated unless I also take a cooler and a steak for my first night out. On the flip of it, hydrogenated peanut butter (Jif, Skippy) can easily make up half of my calories, as it's cheap and packs trivially easy.

If it hasn't rained in a week and if I'm packing light, I just go with trail running shoes instead of hiking boots. I've never really understood boots unless I'm slogging through mud; the idea of carrying a pair of "camp shoes" around most of the day is really odd to me.

Overall: if you're not going all that far from civilization, you don't need seven million backups from Sunday. If I can walk the trail twice in a day, if my pack fails horribly, I can put it off to the side and come and get it later.

The one thing I will actually spend weight and money on is a second sleeping mat. I'm a side or stomach sleeper at home, and find it near impossible to sleep on my back, so extra padding between me and the ground goes a long, long, long way to my several-day happiness.
posted by talldean at 5:30 PM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

The quick cook cous - cous with jerky and dehydrated vegetables is something I used to do while traveling. I used an old Tupperware, one layer of cous - cous Kaye of vegetables and jerky, add another layer of quick cook cous - cous. Add. Really boiling hot water, put the lid on. Leave it alone for 15 minutes. The quick cook cous cous is done in 5 minutes, but your veggies and jerky need that 15 minutes. If you can lay hands on those KFC butter packets, or the honey sauce get them. Anything light that makes portions for you is your friend.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:32 PM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

OK-- this is for multi-day hikes where you stop at a grocery store someplace on the hike.

In my cooking stuff I have a 2qt pot, tin foil, and a 9 inch aluminum pie pan. for condiments, I always have a small bottle of olive oil, salt, pepper and Tabasco. -- On the way out of any town I always buy 2 small steaks -- I am the cool one when we stop for the night I am the one frying my steaks up in my pie pan. Works great on my Svea 123 hiking stove. everyone else is eating freeze dried or some sort of weird energy bars... Me, I have steak. I also usually grab an onion and a potato and make potato mash in my pot, but it's the steak that is the best.

Just livin' large on the trail.
posted by searust at 5:28 AM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I adore my Jetboil -- hot cup of tea in 4 minutes flat and, if you only boil water in it, zero cleanup. All the cooking gear I take is a Swiss army knife, a Jetboil, a titanium spork and a plastic mug -- instant oatmeal with powdered milk and dried berries, a steaming cup of tea and a boiled egg with a dash of Red Hot makes for a decadent breakfast on the trail.

An extra-long merino Buff really earned its keep when I was hiking through the Hebrides. It's a neck gaiter! It's a balaclava! It's a midge hood! It's a warm hat! It's a hairband for face washing! Tie a knot in the end and whirl it around your head to ward off skua attacks!
posted by stuck on an island at 6:47 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I grew up doing a lot of winter camping in Minnesota. Obviously, the cold sucks, but one nice thing is that you can pack a lot of your gear onto a sled, making it lighter than if you were carrying it and also allowing you to bring more comforts.
Old winter camping trick: sleep with an empty water jug at night. Getting out of your sleeping bag to piss in sub-zero weather is uncomfortable and all that heat you built up will escape. Plus, there is a lot of stored-up heat in the urine itself that you'll lose if you get up. Best just to empty it out in the morning. Ladies, I know some of you are thinking you can't do this. You can.
I also recommend hammock camping over tent camping. I use a lightweight hammock spring through fall. We get a lot of mosquitoes here, so I have a bug net for it, and I also carry a rain tarp. All three take up a third the space of a tent.
posted by Demogorgon at 6:34 AM on October 14, 2015

My dad always insisted on carrying a brillo pad sized piece of 0000 steel wool. A small piece would light from a match and burn so hot it would catch even damp tinder in seconds. Use sparingly and carefully.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:53 PM on October 20, 2015

« Older Dog in distress. Vet closed. What to do?   |   Help me cancel my cable and not pay an extra month Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.