Weight Saving Strategies for Your Next Backpacking Adventure

Whether you are a weekend warrior, who’d like to figure out how to lighten your pack a bit, or you spend weeks on the trail at a time, and you need to find ways to shave every possible ounce, most backpackers will have more fun on the trail with a lighter pack.

A lighter pack will not only help you travel farther on your next adventure, it’ll allow you to cover ground faster, enjoy better balance and safety while hiking, and feel better after the day’s hike is over too. So, no matter what type of backpacking you enjoy, try to employ some of the following tips and tricks the next time you are filling your pack.

How Much Should Your Pack Weigh?

Ideally, your pack should weigh as little as possible, while still containing everything you may need during your camping trip. But new backpackers often have no idea what a reasonable pack weight is.

Most experienced backpackers use the 20% rule – your pack shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you’ll want to have a pack that weighs about 40 pounds or less. This isn’t always possible (particularly for very small backpackers), but it is a good target weight range.

Some campers like to break the items in their pack down into two categories: Your “base” pack, which includes your tent, sleeping bag, clothing and other items that you’ll pack in and pack out, and the “consumable” items, which includes things like food and some toiletries.

Splitting up your pack into these two categories allows you to better target the unnecessarily heavy portions of your pack. It may, for example, let you determine that your “base” pack weighs a reasonable amount, but you are bringing too much food. Some campers may find themselves facing the opposite problem.

Generally speaking, you’ll want your base pack to weigh less than 30 pounds, although small backpackers may need to shoot for a slightly lighter load. Many backpackers who embrace “lightweight” techniques like to get their base pack under 20 pounds, and hardcore “ultralight” campers usually aim to get their base pack below 10 pounds.

Achieving these super-lightweight base packs will take plenty of work, and you’ll usually have to spend a bit of money on high-end camping gear, but it is possible. It will, however, require you to sacrifice camp comfort in a number of ways, so be sure that you weigh the pros and cons of pack weight carefully before starting.

15 Helpful Tricks for Shedding Weight from Your Pack

Fifteen of the best load-lightening tricks around are listed below. You probably won’t be able to employ all of these tips, but most backpackers should be able to embrace a couple, which should allow you to enjoy a lighter pack on your next trip.

1. Opt for Dehydrated Foods Whenever Possible

Food represents the bulk of the weight from the “consumables” portion of your pack – toothpaste and toilet paper don’t really represent a ton of weight. Accordingly, your food represents a great place to target when trying to shed unnecessary weight.

But you need to understand an important point first: It isn’t really your food that is very heavy – it is the water inside your food that is responsible for the bulk of the weight. So, by simply foregoing fresh fruits, vegetables and meats in favor of dehydrated versions of these items, you’ll be able to shave a significant amount of weight.

There are a number of dehydrated camping foods on the market, but you can also make dehydrated fruits or meat jerkies yourself.

2. Swap Out Your Utensils for Chopsticks

Not all weight-saving strategies will knock pounds off your pack weight; some will only help you shave an ounce or two. But ounces add up, and if you are serious about lightening your pack, you’ll need to embrace weight-saving strategies that get big results, as well as those that provide more modest weight savings.

Relying on chopsticks instead of the knife and fork that typically come with camping mess kits is a good way to accomplish the latter. You’ll likely still need a spoon, but if you prepare your camping food properly (meaning that you pre-cut any large meats or vegetables into bite-size pieces), you’ll find chopsticks will effectively replace a fork and knife.

Chopsticks weigh practically nothing, and, if you use unfinished sticks, you can simply burn them on your last night at camp (this won’t save you much weight on the trip back to the trailhead, but every ounce counts). Chopsticks won’t cost you anything either – just ask for an extra pair the next time you order Chinese or Thai takeout and toss them in your pack.

3. Swap Out Your Synthetic Sleeping Bag for One Stuffed with Down

The choice between natural and synthetic fibers is a hotly debated subject among serious backpackers and hikers. In practice, both options present different benefits and drawbacks. Synthetics are usually lighter than natural fibers, and they usually continue to work when they’re wet. Natural fibers, on the other hand, are often more affordable and they’re usually quite effective when dry (wool is an anomaly, as it continues to insulate well when it’s wet).

However, in terms of weight savings, down is one of the best sleeping bag fillers you can select. Down sleeping bags provide a better warmth-to-weight ratio than most synthetic-based sleeping bags do, and they’re also quite comfortable too.

You will have to take steps to protect a down sleeping bag from moisture, as it won’t keep you very warm if it gets wet. So, you may want to store your down sleeping bag in a waterproof stuff sack or apply a water-repelling product to the outside.

4. Leave the Sleeping Pad at Home, or Go with a Three-Quarter Model

Shedding unnecessary pack weight occasionally requires you to be ruthless when deciding which things you need, and which things you can get by without. Your sleeping pad is a perfect example.

Some backpackers will decide a sleeping pad isn’t completely necessary. You don’t want to sleep directly on the ground if you can help it, as the ground will draw heat from your body (unless, of course, you are camping during the dog days of summer, when the cool ground would be a benefit). Also, the ground is obviously not a terribly comfortable surface for sleeping.

However, if you spend five minutes collecting flexible conifer boughs, place them on the ground beneath your tent, and cover them with a small tarp, you can enjoy a pretty comfortable sleeping spot, without having to lug a sleeping pad with you on the trail.

If you can’t imagine going camping without a sleeping pad, you can likely still save a bit of weight by choosing a three-quarter-sized model, rather than a full-length pad. Just place the pad under your head and torso, and then use your pack to prop up your feet and legs. In fact, doing so may also help your feet feel a little better after a long day on the trail.

5. Don’t Carry Unnecessary Amounts of Water

You obviously need to carry water with you on the trail, but you should be careful to avoid bringing more than necessary. This is especially true for that backpacking in eastern forests or other areas in which water is ubiquitous. If you are going to cross or walk alongside a stream or creek every half hour or so, you don’t need to worry about carrying a gallon of water – just replenish your stores as necessary while making your way down the trail.

Clearly, you’ll need to use sound judgment when taking this approach – you don’t want to underestimate your water needs and find yourself in a bind. But because water is such a heavy supply, it certainly makes sense to avoid carrying any more than is absolutely necessary.

Note that this is not a good practice for those hiking in arid regions, where water is difficult to find. It is far wiser to carry more water than necessary than it is to tempt fate in this manner.

6. Skip the Second Pair of Shoes

Just about every beginning camping book provides a similar piece of advice: Bring sandals, flip-flops or some other type of slip-on shoe that you can wear around camp. This is pretty good advice, as it’ll help keep your tent cleaner (no one wants to take their boots off every time they go inside), and it’ll help protect your feet better than going barefoot would.

However, if you are really interested in shaving every possible ounce from your pack, it is generally wise to skip the camp shoes. You’ll have to walk around camp barefoot or just keep your hiking boots on, but you’ll usually find it necessary to make sacrifices when trying to save weight.

Some minimalist-minded backpackers will take the laces out of their boots while in camp to make them easier to slip on and off. This can be a bit time-consuming, but it is a pretty good workaround for those who don’t want to haul camp shoes in their pack.

7. Scale Back Your Mess Kit

Most experienced backpackers have a trusty mess kit that is comprised of several different items. And while there are plenty of high-end mess kits that weigh very little and skip any unnecessary components, most mass-market mess kits will come with a large pot, a smaller pan, utensils and a plastic cup. Some may even include plates too.

But if you are trying to shave weight from your pack, you’ll want to leave most of these things at home. We already discussed swapping out your fork and knife for chopsticks, but you can also get rid of the plates and pans that come with the kit. If you want to save weight, you’ll need to use one pot for all of your cooking and eating.

Additionally, the small plastic cups that come with many entry-level mess kits are essentially worthless. Leave the plastic cup (which may melt if filled with hot coffee) at home and pick up a camping mug that is campfire-safe instead.

8. Eliminate Any Redundant Items

It’s often wise to embrace redundancy where safety is concerned, but you typically won’t need to bring multiple versions of the same item on the average camping trip. So, try to go through your pack and get rid of any doubles you may have.

For example, you probably won’t need a second flashlight if you are packing a good headlamp. Likewise, you probably don’t need matches with your kitchen kit and your repair kit. Do you typically bring a metal pot holder to help with cooking? Leave it at home and just use your multi-tool pliers instead.

In fact, eliminating redundancy presents a complementary strategy: Try to pack items that have multiple uses. For example, if you typically like to bring along a small fishing kit, you can probably use monofilament line instead of thread when making any necessary equipment repairs.

9. Get Rid of Any Unnecessary Food Packaging

While foods designed specifically for camping rarely features a lot of unnecessary packaging, “regular” foods usually do. Most packaged foods, for example, will be sealed in a plastic bag, which is placed inside a larger cardboard box. There’s no reason for you to carry the box with you on the trail, so just discard the box when packing your food kit.

Similarly, avoid the temptation to bring along more food than you need. Maybe you like to buy rice in 5-pound bags when you go to the store, but you obviously won’t eat this much rice on a typical camping trip, so just pack as much rice as you need in a Ziploc bag, and leave the rest at home.

Condiments can also add up to a lot of weight pretty quickly – especially things like olive oil or butter.

10. Rely on Water Purification Tablets Rather than a Filter

It is always imperative that you treat all back-country-collected water before drinking it. Fail to do so, and you’ll likely regret the decision. You may only suffer mild intestinal distress by drinking untreated water, but in a worst-case scenario, you could become seriously ill, and require immediate medical attention.

But, while you must treat any water you drink on the trail, that doesn’t mean you have to bring along a heavy water purifier to do so. Instead, you could just use water purifying tablets, which will weigh much less. Water-purifying tablets won’t remove the particulate matter in the water, but you can easily use a bandana or similar fabric to strain out most of the silt and dirt.

You could also boil your water to treat it (you’d have to use the bandana in this case too) to avoid having to carry a filter. But, this will mean you’ll have to bring more fuel, which may offset any weight savings you enjoy from leaving behind the filter. Unless, that is, you follow the next tip on our list.

11. Forego Your Stove for Short Trips

If you are traveling to a place where campfires are allowed, and you are secure in your fire-starting abilities, you can simply leave your entire camp stove at home and cook over your fire. It’s a little trickier to cook with a fire than a stove, and it’ll take a little more time (you have to build the fire and wait for coals to form), but if you are trying to shave as much weight as possible, this is a very effective strategy.

It is a good idea to watch the weather very carefully before the trip if you plan to take this approach – a couple of rainy days could make things very tough on you. You don’t want to end up eating all of your snacks on the first few days because you can’t get a fire started.

But, this brings up another, related, strategy you can employ: You can simply bring foods you don’t need to cook. This is an especially attractive option for short trips. You can probably get by for several days while eating canned meats, trail mixes, peanut butter and jerky – it may not be gourmet dining, but meals on the trail rarely are.

12. Skip the Middle Layer of Your Tent

Tents are comprised of three basic layers: A ground cover that blocks moisture, a middle layer which is primarily there to keep out the bugs and provide privacy, and a rain fly that protects you from the rain. And while it is certainly an aggressive strategy for shaving off some weight from your pack, you may be able to leave the middle layer of your tent home on some trips.

To be sure, this is not a great option for cold-weather locations. The walls of your tent don’t provide very much insulation, but when you are trying to sleep through a long, cold night, every little bit helps. Similarly, this is not a great idea during heavy rains – the rainfly will keep you dry in light rain and gentle winds, but it won’t work very well if the winds are howling and the rain pouring.

Bugs can also be a problem for those who choose to employ this strategy. But, bug spray will help some, and you can also use a bug net (which will weigh less than your tent’s middle layer) when you are sleeping.

13. Don’t Bring More Flashlight Than You Need

It’s not only convenient to be able to see in the dark, being able to do so will keep you safer too. You don’t want to step in a hole or on top of a snake while walking around camp at night because you can’t see. But, a lot of campers take things a bit too far when selecting and packing flashlights for their trip.

First of all, if you are really serious about shedding unnecessary weight, you have to limit yourself to one light source. You can’t bring a flashlight and a headlamp, nor can you bring a lantern to use in camp – lights simply weigh too much for you to do so. Just pick a good headlamp or a hand-held flashlight that works in conjunction with a headband.

And for that matter, don’t buy more flashlight- or headlight-power than you need. You aren’t trying to explore the dark side of the moon; you are trying to make sure you don’t trip on a rock while walking back to your tent after dinner. By all means, select a light that provides adequate illumination, but weight matters more than candlepower, once you get above a minimally adequate threshold.

14. If You’re Bringing a Cellphone, Don’t Bring Any Paper

Bringing a cell phone on a camping trip is a bit counterproductive from a weight standpoint. Some of the larger models weigh nearly half a pound – that’s a significant quantity of weight for someone who is trying to create a lightweight pack. Besides, part of the reason you are going on a camping trip is to escape daily life anyway. Why would you purposely bring along a tether to the real world?

The truth is, cell phones do provide significant safety value (assuming you are camping in a place with cell service), and many modern campers will consider them mandatory equipment. This is hard to argue with, although it bears mentioning that you only really need one person in your party to bring a phone for emergency use. Everybody doesn’t have to bring one in order to have an emergency form of communication.

Nevertheless, if you do decide to bring a smartphone with you, take full advantage of it. Your phone won’t weigh any more than it normally does if you fill it up with data, so instead of bringing along books, field guides, permits or big, fold-out maps, bring digital versions of these items instead. Just remember that battery life will become an issue, so use your phone as sparingly as possible.

15. Strip Down Your Pack

You’ll obviously want to keep weight in mind when selecting a new pack, as it is one of the heaviest items you’ll carry, and there are plenty of places manufacturers can shave weight. You may be able to shed a couple of pounds by swapping out your old sporting-goods-store model for a high-end, ultralight pack.

But there are also several ways you may be able to make your existing pack lighter. For example, most packs feature several connectors, buckles and other miscellaneous pieces of hardware that you could do without. Just take these things off and leave them at home.

And although it may pain many campers to do so, you should probably cut off all of those airline tags hanging from your pack. Many campers like to leave them attached as mementos of previous trips, but it doesn’t take many of these tags to add up to a couple of ounces, and if you are serious about weight savings, every ounce counts.

Don’t hesitate to come up with your own creative ways to lighten your pack either – just be sure to keep safety at the forefront of your mind, make sure you don’t leave out first aid supplies or other necessities, and you should be able to enjoy a lighter pack.

Of course, some backpackers prefer being comfortable in camp, so they’re willing to carry an extra couple of pounds worth of gear. There’s nothing wrong with this approach either – it’s all about planning for the kind of backpacking adventure you want.

The post Weight Saving Strategies for Your Next Backpacking Adventure appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/ultralight-backpacking-tips/

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Seasonal Considerations for Hikers and Campers

Part of the reason it is so fun to spend time in the great outdoors is that every trip into the wilderness is different. You may witness deer feeding on trailside vegetation one day, spot a row of recently bloomed wildflowers the next, and observe a recently fallen tree the day after.

The forest (or field, desert, swamp or any other habitat you may visit) is constantly changing, and each trip will yield new and interesting sights, sounds and smells.

But while some of these changes occur randomly, others are related to natural seasonal cycles. It behooves hikers and campers to familiarize themselves with some of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) changes that occur as the calendar advances. This will not only help keep you safe, it’ll help you maximize your time in the great outdoors too.

Winter

Winter is undoubtedly the best time for those seeking solitude to head outdoors – you’ll share the trail with relatively few hikers and campers during the coldest months of the year. There are obviously exceptions, but most wildlands outside of the sunbelt are pretty empty during the winter.

But there’s a reason that relatively few people take to the trails during the winter: It’s cold.

The frigid temperatures of December, January and February certainly pose challenges. Frostbite and hypothermia are common threats on winter trips, and it is hard to get warm while you’re living outdoors for an extended period of time. It can also be extremely challenging to traverse icy or snowy terrain (although good trekking poles can help), and it’s often harder to do simple things because your fingers are constantly cold.

However, there are a few really neat benefits the winter provides. You’ll have to decide if they outweigh the challenges posed by the cold temperatures, but every outdoor enthusiast should give winter camping a try at some point.

For example, you can see much farther into the forest in the winter. Most of the deciduous trees will have shed their leaves, which opens up sightlines and vistas that are obscured for most of the year. In some cases, this may mean that a campsite that doesn’t provide much of a view throughout the warm portions of the year will suddenly afford beautiful views of the surrounding lands.

Additionally, you won’t have to battle many biting bugs during the winter. Most mosquitoes, ticks, spiders and other creepy critters die off or hibernate during the winter, so you won’t spend the evening slapping at bugs and checking your body for ticks. Additionally, most dangerous snakes spend the winter snoozing underground, so you aren’t likely to step on one sunning on the trail.

Spring

Spring may be one of the most beautiful and exciting times to explore the great outdoors. The new leaves on the trees and deciduous shrubs make the entire world look green, wildflowers provide color everywhere you look, and bird songs will usually form the soundtrack for your trip.

And best of all, you get to enjoy all of these things before many of the warm-weather problems present themselves. In fact, the early spring presents a number of the same benefits that winter does.

If you hit the trail early enough, you won’t have to contend with many bugs, and most of the poison ivy (and poison oak) leaves won’t have blossomed yet, which will reduce your chances of suffering an itchy rash. However, all of these threats will become factors by the middle of spring (depending on the local climate), so it is often wise to schedule spring camping trips as early as possible.

Spring can present a pretty significant challenge though, as the entire landscape will be covered in pollen. This can make allergy sufferers miserable and force them to spend much of the trip hiding inside their tent while taking antihistamines. But there are a few ways to limit the problems caused by pollen, and we discuss several of them here.

Trails and campsites occasionally become crowded during the spring, but the earlier you venture out, the smaller the crowds will be. However, you’ll need to be prepared for a wide variety of temperatures during spring camping trips, as the difference between the nighttime lows and daytime highs will be particularly exaggerated.

Cold snaps are also a perpetual possibility in the early days of spring. These can be dangerous if you aren’t prepared for the cold weather and icy terrain, so it is important to make sure you still have all of your cold-weather gear anytime you hit the trail in the early spring.

Summer

Because most kids are out of school during the summer and many adults schedule their vacations for this portion of the year, summer is usually the most crowded time of year for most popular trails and campsites. This isn’t necessarily a problem for all outdoor enthusiasts, but those who prize peace and quiet may want to head to particularly remote locations during the summer.

Summer presents campers with all of the standard warm-weather challenges. Snakes, bugs, poison ivy and other familiar threats will be at full strength, afternoon thunderstorms are often common, and high temperatures will often persist through most of the day and night.

Those trekking in high mountains or northern latitudes may not experience uncomfortably warm temperatures, but campers and hikers in most places will suffer through daytime temperatures that climb into the high 80s, if not further. This’ll make you sweat throughout the day, and it can increase the likelihood of blisters, rashes and friction burns from clothing or backpack straps.

You can partially mitigate these factors by wearing appropriate clothing and changing your socks immediately, anytime they become damp. But there are still times in which you’ll be unable to escape the heat very easily, which can stoke tempers and fray nerves. You’ll just have to do your best to stay cool, and obviously, make sure you remain hydrated.

On the plus side, summer is the best time of year to enjoy most types of aquatic recreation, including everything from kayaking to fishing to swimming. In fact, the warmest days of summer are often the only times it is fun to go swimming in cold-water streams.

And while you’ll always need to keep food safety in mind while hiking or camping (especially if you are using perishable, fresh foods), it is wise to remember that food will spoil more quickly during the summer than any other time of year. Be sure that you keep hot foods hot and discard the remainder in an appropriate way to avoid attracting bugs. Eat everything you can (enlist the help of your companions if need be), but you can throw the last spoon’s worth or so in the fire.

Fall

A lot of people enjoy hiking during the fall, but the season is largely underappreciated among campers. That’s a shame, as there are a number of great reasons to pitch a tent during the season, including the amazingly gorgeous red, gold and orange colors of the canopy.

But while the changing leaves are certainly enough reason to get out and spend some time in the forest during the fall, the season offers a number of other benefits too.

For example, the fall is a great time to view wildlife. Most of the mammal and bird populations will be at or nearing their peak, and many of the adults will be accompanied by their young. Squirrels, jays and other animals will be busy collecting acorns, while bears will amble about looking for tasty berries, bugs and trash.

The temperatures during the fall – at least the early portions thereof – are usually pretty comfortable too. The days often continue to get warm enough for you to wear shorts, and the nights aren’t usually perfectly suitable for sitting around the campfire. Additionally, fall, in many parts of the country, is the driest of all the seasons. This will allow you to enjoy hiking and camping without having to worry about rain ruining your good time.

Of course, fall does present its share of challenges too. The increased contact with wildlife will also include bugs and snakes, whose populations will also be nearing their peak during this time of year. Additionally, a few common allergens tend to bloom in the fall when the humidity drops, which can make allergy sufferers miserable.

On balance, the fall is clearly one of the best times to enjoy the outdoors, so make sure you get outdoors the next time it rolls around.

As you can see, each season presents unique opportunities as well as challenges. Just try to incorporate the tips provided above and prepare for the difficulties described, this will let you make the most of the opportunities available to you and minimize the effect of the negative aspects of each season.

The post Seasonal Considerations for Hikers and Campers appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/seasonal-considerations-for-hikers-and-campers/

Campfire Safety Guide

A crackling campfire is one of the most enjoyable parts of a camping trip. There’s simply nothing like sitting around the fire with friends and family, telling spooky stories, roasting marshmallows and enjoying the way the flames dance in the night.

But you must be sure to keep your campfire contained and employ sound safety protocols. Otherwise, your charming campfire may turn into a raging wildfire, which will not only threaten countless plants and animals but those people living near wilderness areas too.

Fortunately, it isn’t terribly difficult to keep your campfire safe. Just follow the tips and suggestions detailed below, and you’ll be able to enjoy a safe campfire that doesn’t threaten the very wilderness you’re trying to enjoy.

Use Existing Fire Circles When Possible

The vast majority of popular campsites will already have fire circles in place. As long as the fire circle is in a safe and logical location, it is usually best to use the existing one rather than building a new one from scratch. This will help keep the campsite as natural-looking as possible, and it’ll save you time that you can devote to different tasks.

Additionally, by using existing fire circles, it’ll help keep all of the potentially dangerous coals and embers in a single place. If you construct a new fire circle, you’ll just be setting up an additional place that requires care and monitoring.

Design the Fire Properly

If you have to build your own fire circle, be sure that you do so in the proper manner. Make the fire circle by scraping away all of the leaf litter and vegetation from a circular area about 10-feet in diameter. Be sure to locate the fire circle in a safe place – don’t, for example, situate it under overhanging trees. Line the circumference of the circle with rocks.

Then, before starting the fire, clear the ground outside of the fire circle. An extra 5 feet is usually sufficient, but 10 is preferable in fire-prone regions.

You’ll also want to make sure that you keep any other flammable items a safe distance from the fire. This includes things like your tent and backpack; also, be sure your stove fuel isn’t anywhere near the fire.

In fact, it is often wise to consider the fire ring your first priority when laying out the campsite – you can move your tent, you can’t (easily) move the fire pit. So, check out the fire pit location first, and then set your tent and other gear up accordingly (and upwind of the fire).

Keep the Fire Contained

Above everything else, you need to keep the fire inside the fire circle. Do this, and you’ll eliminate many of the potential problems and hazards that campfires present. Accordingly, you’ll want to keep the size of your fire modest and be sure that all of the logs and sticks completely fit inside the fire circle.

Don’t drag a 10-foot log to the fire and try to keep pushing it farther into the fire as it burns – doing so courts disaster. Simply put, all flammable items should be kept inside the fire circle and the area surrounding the fire circle should be completely free of flammable items.

It’s also important to prevent flaming embers from escaping the fire circle by floating upward. You can’t completely eliminate floating embers, but you can reduce the number produced by being careful what you add to the fire. Don’t, for example, add dead leaves, pine needs or other lightweight items to a burning fire. They’ll quickly ignite and be carried upward by the fire’s updraft.

You can use dead leaves or similar types of tinder when you are starting the fire, but once the fire is burning, you should only add relatively thick sticks or logs.

Be Careful What You Burn

Not every stick or branch you find in the forest is suitable for your campfire. You must be careful of things that could be toxic when burned, such as poison ivy vines or poison sumac branches (the smoke produced by either can cause you to suffer severe respiratory distress).

It’s also important to avoid burning some species of wood because they’re apt to pop and crackle in the fire, potentially sending flaming embers in all directions. These kinds of sounds may be romantic when they occur in a fireplace behind a metal screen, but they spell danger in the forest.

Hemlock wood is one of the most notorious such species, but most softwoods, including several pines and firs, will also throw a lot of sparks. If you have your choice of woods, oaks and hickories are both reliable options (in fact, most hardwoods make good and safe fuel for the fire).

And although it should go without saying, don’t burn anything besides wood, dead vegetation or paper in your fire. Throwing plastics, metals, glass or liquids into the fire can often be extremely dangerous, so don’t try to use your campfire as a trash incinerator.

Once the Fire Is Lit, You Can’t Leave

You should never leave a burning fire unattended – even for a moment. It only takes a few seconds for a fire to grow out of control, and you’ll need to be present and paying attention to prevent this from happening.

Want to leave the morning fire going while you day hike? You better leave someone behind to tend it. Need to go get more firewood? Someone has to stay behind to keep an eye on the fire.

Keep this rule in mind when you’re gathering firewood too. You don’t want to have to extinguish your fire because you need to go looking for more firewood – always collect twice as much as you think you’ll need.

Extinguish the Fire Properly When You Are Finished

Always have a supply of water on hand when you start a fire. Even if you are camping mere feet from a water source, you’ll need to have a supply of water that you can quickly bring to bear – you don’t want to have to go fetch water when your fire jumps out of the ring.

How much water you need to have is difficult to pin down, but clearly, you’ll want as much as you can reasonably collect and store. You don’t need to fill a 55-gallon drum with stream water, but it’s probably wise to have at least a couple of gallons on hand.

Collapsible five-gallon water containers are relatively affordable, weigh very little, and won’t take up much space in your pack, so they’re perfect for the job. They’re also helpful in myriad other applications during the average camping trip.

Once the fire is over, you can use the water to put out the fire. But, plan ahead, if you can, and try to let the fire die down around the same time you’ll be retiring – the cooler it is, the easier it’ll be to extinguish. Just stop adding sticks once the last round of scary stories has started, or when you’re done cooking s’mores.

Five to ten minutes before you crawl into your tent, go ahead and start slowly pouring the water on the fire. Stop once you think you’ve completely extinguished the fire. Give the fire a few more minutes, and then use the rest of the water, being careful to hit any spots that are still smoldering. It should only be considered completely extinguished when you cannot see any glowing embers at all.

If you are extinguishing the last fire of your trip (or you are heading to another location), go back and douse it with the same amount of water that you used the first time. Make sure that there is no possible way that the embers will begin glowing again.

Emergency Steps for Escaped Fires

You must always take steps to keep your fire contained – you never want to be faced with a fire that’s escaped and is now threatening large swaths of habitat. However, it is important to know what to do in a worst-case scenario.

First of all, you’ll need to protect any people in the vicinity. Make sure that you warn them immediately, and that all parties are accounted for. Not only will this help prevent human casualties, these people may be able to help you bring the fire back under control.

If you are car camping with your blanket, it is a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in the car. A fire extinguisher will only be helpful for a brief time – once the fire grows too large, the fire extinguisher won’t be able to put out the flames. Accordingly, you’ll want to act quickly and grab the fire extinguisher at the first sign of trouble.

If you are backpacking, your options will be more limited. You likely won’t have any reasonable way to bring the fire back under control, so you’ll need to prioritize two things:

  1. Ensure that you and all other people in the vicinity escape the fire’s path and reach the trailhead unharmed.
  2. Contact the authorities as soon as possible, so that firefighters can begin trying to tame the blaze.

This illustrates the importance of bringing a working cell phone (or satellite phone, if you are venturing into remote wilderness areas) with you during camping trips.

Consider the Conditions: Sometimes, You Shouldn’t Start a Fire at All

Unfortunately, there are plenty of occasions in which you should just skip the fire and enjoy the nighttime sights and sounds the fire would normally preclude. This may put a bit of a damper on your evening, but that’s clearly preferable to putting a thousand-year-old habitat at risk.

For example, anytime you are camping in an area that is experiencing a drought or unusually dry period, you should probably think twice about starting a fire.

This is often a concern for those camping in the western half of the US. Many parts of California, for example, experience near droughts (or full-fledged droughts) each winter. However, all parts of the country occasionally suffer from droughts, including the normally humid forests of the east coast.

It is also wise to avoid starting fires in high winds. It doesn’t take a very strong gust to catch an ember and carry it high into the tree canopy. So, to be on the safe side, you’ll want to consider the winds before deciding to build a fire.

Of course, local officials will occasionally take the decision out of your hands entirely, by prohibiting the use of campfires in a given area. Follow these and all other instructions by the relevant authorities so that they can do their job and protect the habitat you are enjoying. Besides, the penalties for breaking these rules can be severe.

Miscellaneous Campfire Safety Tips

In addition to the general guidelines discussed above, there are a variety of miscellaneous fire safety tips you should embrace during your next camping trip. Some of the most important include:

  • Keep your extra firewood stacked neatly – you don’t want anyone tripping over the pile. Organize it into three small piles, consisting of tinder, kindling and fuel, and be sure to place all three upwind of the fire.
  • Don’t throw hot matches into trashcans. It is usually wise to simply toss them into the fire; just be sure that they burn completely.
  • Build your fire upwind of relatively nonflammable locations, such as lakes or rock outcrops, whenever possible. This way, flying embers or sparks are less likely to land on something flammable.
  • Never throw rocks in the fire. Some rocks contain small droplets of water inside their pores. These water droplets can boil thanks to the heat from the fire and cause the rock to explode, sending sharp fragments in all directions. If you need to warm a rock (to help keep you cozy through the night), keep it a reasonable distance from the fire. Let it get warm but move it away from the fire if it begins to get hot.
  • Sand can be helpful for extinguishing a fire in a pinch. You won’t be able to snuff out a large fire with sand, but a shovel’s worth of sand may help you smother embers that escape the fire circle. Accordingly, it can be helpful to keep a camp shovel at the ready.
  • Be careful if your campfire is located near old tree stumps. Although stumps often take a while to begin burning, once they start combusting, they can keep smoldering for weeks.
  • Move around the rocks and sticks in the fire circle when trying to extinguish the fire. Sometimes, smoldering embers can remain hidden, so stir the cooled fire circle around with a long stick to ensure the fire is completely out.
  • Keep your fire relatively small. A relatively modest pile of glowing coals will produce enough heat to keep you and your companions warm, boil water or cook food. Small fires are easier to control, represent a better use of resources, and they allow you to sit closer without getting too hot.
  • Don’t burn gigantic logs. Very large logs take forever to ignite and once they start burning, they can be difficult to put out completely. You just don’t need this much fuel for a quaint little campfire. Instead, stick to logs that are no larger than your wrist.

Remember that while fires are certainly fun, it is your responsibility to keep the fire safe and prevent it from growing out of control. This is especially important during dry weather. In fact, when the conditions are especially problematic (such as windy weather during prolonged droughts), it is wise to forego the fire entirely.

But, if the conditions are safe for fires, and you follow the tips and suggestions above, you should be able to enjoy a safe campfire during your next camping trip.

The post Campfire Safety Guide appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/campfire-safety-guide/

Leave No Trace Principles

Outdoor enthusiasts often prefer visiting different types of locations.

Some love trekking high into the Appalachian Mountains, while others enjoy paddling through the river-carved rocks of the Southwest. Some may like to explore the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, while others enjoy ambling about aimlessly amid the grass-dotted dunes of the Gulf Coast.

You like forests; your buddy prefers prairies.

One of your kids likes the beach; the other prefers the bayou.

But these various locations all share one uniting characteristic, one about which all outdoor enthusiasts can agree: They offer you the chance to spend some time in an unspoiled place, which has suffered only a minimal amount of human impact.

Whatever types of places you prefer for hiking, trekking, camping or paddling, you surely appreciate that these activities all give you the opportunity to spend time in untouched wilderness areas.

However, careless use of these places will quickly ruin them. After all, they’re becoming more and more popular by the day. If those who visit these pristine places aren’t careful, they’ll destroy the very thing that they sought in the first place – natural, untarnished beauty.

Fortunately, a lot of outdoor enthusiasts have already begun taking steps to protect these places, and you can join right alongside them. You just have to embrace Leave No Trace Principles.

What Does Leave No Trace Mean?

Leave No Trace is an ethical framework designed to help conserve wild spaces. It is not only important for the people who visit these places, but for the habitats themselves. And this includes all of the plants, animals, trees, rocks and microbes dwelling in them.

The thrust of Leave No Trace is often distilled to the following sentence: Take only photographs (or memories), leave only footprints. Essentially, you’ll want to leave the wild spaces you visit exactly as you found them.

However, the Leave No Trace ethic is best exemplified by the Seven Principles. We’ll discuss these – and what they mean to the average outdoor enthusiast – below.

Leave No Trace: Seven Principles

The Seven Principles of the Leave No Trace conservation framework include the following:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

In most cases, a well-planned hike or camping trip will cause less environmental damage than a poorly-planned adventure will. People often end up in precarious situations when they’re poorly prepared, which may force them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t.

You may, for example, be forced to cross vulnerable habitats if you become lost, or otherwise disturb ecosystems to extricate yourself from the situation. In a worst-case scenario, you could find yourself stranded or injured. This may necessitate some type of rescue operation, which may cause even further environmental damage.

Accordingly, you’ll want to be sure you do your homework before leaving home. Learn all about the park or forest you are visiting, including the most common natural and environmental threats you’ll face. Contact the local ranger station (or relevant authority) and inquire about any special rules or regulations in effect and be sure to heed the advice given.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Popular trails may endure tens of thousands of footsteps every day. All of this foot traffic will eventually wear away the soil, potentially altering trails and larger landscape features. So, you’ll want to walk across the most durable surfaces possible while making your way through the wilderness.

This means sticking to the designated trail, doing your best to avoid soft and muddy spots, and don’t cross meadows and other delicate habitats. Similarly, when you set up a campsite, try to select places with firm, hardpacked soil. If there are pre-established tent pads present, use them.

It is true that erosion is a natural process that occurs in all natural habitats. However, natural erosion occurs on geological timescales – not the course of a summer. So, do your best to tread lightly and avoid exacerbating any erosion already present.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Perhaps the most obvious of the Seven Principles, you should always dispose of trash and other types of waste properly when enjoying the great outdoors.

For starters, embrace the “pack it in; pack it out” mantra. Always pack out anything you can’t eat, drink or burn and dispose of it in a proper receptacle. Many (if not most) popular campsites have trash cans near the trailhead, so just bring a small garbage bag with you and collect any trash you created when you’re packing up and heading out.

You’ll also have to dispose of human waste properly. Make sure that you dig latrines the recommended distance from nearby water sources (it varies from one location to the next, but 100 yards is a good rule of thumb) and throw in some dirt every time you use it.

Toilet paper should be burned, rather than buried. Even the most biodegradable varieties will still take quite a while to break down. Animals may dig it up before it has a chance to decompose, which creates quite an eyesore and a legitimate health hazard.

4. Leave What You Find

You’ll surely encounter a variety of beautiful and interesting artifacts on a given trip through the wilderness. You may stumble across beautiful flowers, fascinating river rocks, or cultural artifacts, left by prehistoric people. In all cases, you must resist the urge to take these types of things home as souvenirs.

No, you won’t single-handedly ruin a forest ecosystem by taking home a particularly pretty pinecone you find, but you aren’t the only one wandering through the forest – if everyone did the same, problems would inevitably occur.

Leaving what you find also means leaving the wilderness in the same state that you found it. This means you shouldn’t make any unnecessary changes to the habitat – don’t dig ditches, nor construct shelters. Try to ensure that the trails and campsites you visit look the same way they did when you arrived.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

Campfires are a time-honored tradition, and they’re certainly fun to build and enjoy; however, campfires can become very dangerous if they’re not monitored carefully. Always be sure to set up a proper fire ring if one is not already built and avoid building campfires under overhanging trees. Additionally, you’ll always want to have a bucket of water on hand for safety purposes.

It’s also important to avoid harming the surrounding habitat while collecting firewood. Never cut living branches off trees – it’ll not only harm the tree, it’ll make for terrible firewood. Instead, stick to dead wood that has already fallen to the ground. And although some campers may be tempted to bring firewood with them, this is actually a very bad idea, as tree pests are often spread in this manner.

In fact, if you really want to leave no trace during your next camping trip, skip the fire entirely. Doing so will not only help protect the environment, it’ll provide you a chance to enjoy the kinds of sights and sounds the fire usually obscures or scares away.

6. Respect Wildlife

Of the seven principles established under the Leave No Trace ethical framework, perhaps none is more tempting for hikers and campers to break that this one. Of course, those who do break this rule rarely mean to do so, they just fail to appreciate the ramifications of their actions.

For example, few hikers or campers would ever deliberately harm a deer, squirrel, rabbit or butterfly. But respecting wildlife means respecting all wildlife – not just the cute, cuddly critters. This means that you’ll want to relocate the spider you found crawling in your tent, instead of squishing him. And you should certainly leave the garter snake crawling through camp unharmed.

Respecting wildlife also means keeping a safe distance from the animals you encounter. Never feed wild animals, as this can cause them to view humans as a food source. In the case of bears and other large animals, this can lead to accidents, which may, in turn, require officials to euthanize or relocate the animal in question.

At the end of the day, respecting wildlife means enjoying the encounters that occur, keeping a respectful distance, and avoiding any actions that may harm or threaten the animals living in the wild.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

In addition to treading lightly on the environment, respecting the living organisms that call wild spaces home and cleaning up after yourself, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t prevent other outdoor enthusiasts from enjoying the natural world. This essentially means being considerate and courteous and embracing the Golden Rule.

For example, you’ll want to remain relatively quiet while hiking and camping. People travel to the wilderness to hear babbling brooks and singing birds, they don’t want to hear your conversations from three campsites away. Similarly, refrain from playing loud music, and keep campfire songs to a reasonable volume.

It’s also important to practice good wilderness etiquette. Among other things, this means moving off the trail when you are taking a break, sharing the trail and trying to situate campsites in non-obtrusive places.

Additionally, experienced hikers and campers should yield to inexperienced hikers and campers whenever prudent. For example, if you encounter a family that is obviously new to hiking, you may want to point out the easiest river crossings or provide any helpful advice that would benefit them.

The Value of Leave No Trace Principles: Tangible Impacts

It is often hard for outdoor enthusiasts to appreciate the tangible benefits of Leave No Trace principles to achieve. But that’s primarily due to the entire goal of the Leave No Trace ethos – natural areas should look exactly like the same as when you found them.

However, one of the best ways to appreciate the accomplishments of the Leave No Trace movement is by simply visiting different parks. High-traffic parks often experience significant environmental degradation over the course of a summer (or whatever the busy season is for the location). By the end of the season, you’ll notice trash alongside the trail, broken limbs near campsites, and footsteps leading through fragile meadows and fields.

However, if you visit a park where the visitors employ Leave No Trace principles, you won’t see any of these things. The land will look untouched, and you won’t notice signs of campers who came before you. In fact, you’ll surely enjoy such well-respected parks and forests, as they’ll provide exactly the types of natural surroundings most outdoor enthusiasts seek.

Actionable Steps: Seven Things You Can Do During Your Next Outdoor Adventure

Lofty goals and broad initiatives are great, but they can leave your average hiker or camper without a clear idea about what to do. But most people should be able to employ some (or all) of the steps recommended below during their very next outdoor adventure.

  1. Bring a small trash bag with you every time you hit the trail. It doesn’t take much time or effort to pick up a few pieces of litter you see while enjoying the trail, particularly if you bring a bag with you to carry it back to the trailhead.
  2. Participate in voluntary cleanup programs. Most major metropolitan areas will have regular, volunteer-oriented park cleanup programs in which you can help do your park to keep natural areas clean. You may not be able to volunteer at your favorite camping location, as most people tend to travel long distances to reach wilderness areas, but you can surely pitch in at your local park.
  3. Avoid using switchbacks. Properly designed mountain trails are designed in a serpentine This helps limit the amount of erosion that takes place and keep the trail in good condition. However, unscrupulous hikers often go off trail and create “switchbacks” that essentially form shortcuts for the trail. While it may be tempting to shave off any unnecessary steps on the trail, you’ll want to avoid using switchbacks, as they’re very destructive to the trail system and hillside.
  4. Employ good outdoor bathroom etiquette. In addition to setting up your latrine a safe distance from water, be sure that you don’t set it up directly upwind (or within sight of) other campsites. Utilize shrubs, trees, boulders and other natural items to keep latrines out of the sight of your fellow campers.
  5. Keep your pet on a leash. While pets often enjoy the great outdoors as much as their owners do, it is important to keep your pet leashed anytime you are in the wilderness. This will not only keep your pet safe, but it will ensure that your dog doesn’t chase and harass local wildlife (or other campers).
  6. Turn your radio down. Music can help make a camping trip even more fun than normal, but not everyone wants to hear your tunes. So, you’ll want to keep the volume on your radio down, or better yet, use earbuds when enjoying your music.
  7. Walk single-file on the trail. Whenever possible, try to walk single-file when traveling along unpaved trails. Doing so will help limit the erosion you create, and it’ll also help allow other hikers and campers to pass you easily.

Leave No Trace principles are pretty easy to employ, so every outdoor enthusiast should strive to embrace them. By doing so, you’ll help to protect and conserve the places you love visiting, and thereby allow future generations to enjoy them too.

The post Leave No Trace Principles appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/leave-no-trace-principles/

An Adventurer’s Guide to Climbing Aconcagua

If you’d like to check one of the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each continent) off your bucket list, but you aren’t interested in technical climbing, Aconcagua may be the perfect destination for your next adventure.

The highest peak in South America (as well as the highest mountain outside of Asia), Aconcagua climbs to about 22,837 feet (6,960 meters) above sea level. It is commonly considered to be the highest peak in the world that you can summit by simply walking. But although it isn’t a technically demanding summit to complete, it presents plenty of challenges to those who attempt to scale its slopes.

For starters, the temperatures near the top of Aconcagua are incredibly cold. Glaciers dot the mountainside (including the 10-kilometer-long Ventisquero Horcones Inferior), and the peak remains covered in snow all year long.

Even during the summer, temperatures routinely fall to around 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 degrees Celsius) once you pass the 16,000-foot mark (5,000 meters). And once you reach the summit, you’ll be greeted by temperatures in the -20 F (-28 C) range. Of course, strong winds are also common at high elevations, which only makes the already-frigid temperatures feel that much colder.

However, the cold, inhospitable weather is only one of the major challenges presented by the mountain. Aconcagua also reaches heights that make altitude sickness a serious possibility for those who scale it. In fact, most climbers will suffer mild symptoms of altitude sickness, unless they spend an extended period of time acclimatizing to the altitude. However, unlike Everest and a number of other high peaks, oxygen is rarely used by those attempting to reach the top.

Accordingly, Aconcagua represents one of the most attainable, yet worthwhile of the Seven Summits to climb. But it still requires great respect – many people have died while trying to reach the top. So, if you want to take on this mountain, you’ll need to learn about the challenge and prepare well.

We’ll try to help you do exactly this below.

Getting to Aconcagua

Most adventurers will begin by flying into Buenos Aires, Argentina, although many guides and seasoned climbers recommend flying into Santiago, Chile, instead. In either case, you’ll need to make your way to Mendoza, in the heart of Argentina’s wine-growing region.

Mendoza serves as the last place to secure additional equipment or enjoy many of the creature comforts civilization provides. If you are traveling with a tour guide, you’ll likely meet here. From this point, you’ll need to make your way to Aconcagua Provincial Park, nestled firmly within the beautiful Andes Mountains.

At this point, it’ll be necessary to hike to Plaza Francia, before continuing to Base Camp – generally with the assistance of gear-hauling mules. You’ll take a few days at Base Camp to acclimatize before beginning your journey to the summit.

Typical Routes to the Summit

There are two basic routes by which climbers can reach the summit of Aconcagua, although one of the routes can be attempted in three slightly different ways.

Normal (Northwest) Route

The Normal or Northwest Route is far and away the most common route used to reach the summit, and the only one that most amateur adventurers should choose. This route does not require ropes, ice axes or pins to summit, but you will need trekking poles and crampons, as the snow and ice are quite challenging.

There are a number of camps found along the route:

  • Base Camp (13,800 feet)
  • Plaza Canadá (16,170 feet)
  • Nido de Condores (17,820 feet)
  • Piedras Blancas (19,200 feet)
  • Indepencia Refuge
  • Summit (22,837 feet)

You’ll camp one night at each site, although different tour guides recommend slightly different schedules. The entire journey will take approximately three weeks, with the climb itself requiring about 12 to 15 days.

Polish Glacier Route

The Polish Glacier Route starts from a different location – you’ll typically arrive from Plaza, Argentina. You’ll then travel through the Vacas Valley before starting up the northern side of the mountain. About two-thirds of the way up, you’ll encounter the Polish Glacier – from there you have three options:

  • Polish Glacier Traverse Route – This route traverses beneath the glacier and meets the Normal Route.
  • Polish Glacier Direct Route A – This route heads directly up the center of the glacier.
  • Polish Glacier Direct Route B – This route swings around to the far side of the glacier (known as the Polish Shoulder), before heading up a ridgeline.

Trip Timing

The winter temperatures near Aconcagua are extremely cold and storms are common, so you’ll need to schedule your trip for the summer. Just remember that the Southern Hemisphere summer is offset from the Northern Hemisphere summer by six months.

The official climbing season is from November 15th through March 31st each year, but the mountain is usually most crowded between December and late January.

Be sure to start planning your trip at least six to twelve months in advance of your desired arrival. This will give you enough time to secure a passport, hire a guide service (if desired) and obtain all of the necessary permits. Waiting until the last minute to make your plans courts disaster.

Staying Safe During Your Trip

Unfortunately, you’ll need to pass through a few relatively high-crime areas when trying to reach Aconcagua. Tourists traveling through Buenos Aires – including the airport – must remain alert and observant at all times, and there is also a significant amount of crime in Mendoza.

Robberies, including those involving violence or the threat of force, are quite common in and around Buenos Aires. Often, the perpetrators work in two-man teams, and they use motorcycles to make a quick getaway. Additionally, luggage theft is extremely common in the bus stations in Buenos Aires and Mendoza.

However, once you are in the Andes, you’ll notice that the population density is rather low, and the risk of crime becomes less likely. Nevertheless, solo hikers and campers have occasionally reported being assaulted near the Chile-Argentina border region.

Accordingly, it is wise to employ a few basic safety and security practices when traveling to Aconcagua. This includes:

  • Always be sure that someone back home knows your itinerary and is expecting periodic communication. You won’t find it very easy to remain in contact from Base Camp to the Summit, but you should still have a friend or family member who is anticipating your call. This is especially important for those traveling without a guide service.
  • Whenever possible, travel in groups. The more people who are in your party, the less likely you are to be targeted by criminals.
  • Keep your money, passport, wallet and other valuables in a safe place at all times. Typically, this means carrying these items on your person.
  • Always utilize marked, government-approved taxis and transportation companies, rather than independent operators.
  • While some travelers drink Argentinian tap water without suffering ill effects, it is wise to stick to bottled water while making your way to the mountain. There will be plenty of opportunities to do so, and it is simply not worth the risk to drink untreated water. Once you are in Aconcagua Provincial Park it becomes imperative to treat all drinking water.
  • If you are the victim of a crime, contact the local police to make a report. You can reach the police by dialing 911 in most parts of Argentina, however, in Mendoza, you’ll need to dial 101 instead. After reporting the crime to the local police, contact the U.S. Embassy.
  • Remember that an average of three people per year die while trying to ascend Aconcagua. So, just because it is one of the safest of the seven peaks to summit, doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.
  • Because of the inclement weather near the mountain, rescue operations are often impossible. This means that you’ll need to be especially careful when climbing Aconcagua.

Avoiding Altitude Sickness

As you approach Aconcagua, you’ll surely notice that the air begins to thin considerably. Even at the relatively low altitude of Base Camp (13,800 feet), the air will feel like it has about 40% less oxygen than it does at sea level. By the time you reach the summit, the air will have about 60% less oxygen than it does at sea level.

This means that your body will be struggling to acquire enough oxygen with every breath. If you breathe in this thin air for long at all, you’ll likely begin to suffer the symptoms of altitude sickness. Mild symptoms include things like headaches, fatigue, and nausea, but altitude sickness can also cause cerebral or pulmonary edema, which is fatal without treatment.

The only completely effective way to treat acute altitude sickness is by descending as rapidly as possible and returning to the thick air at lower altitudes. Some climbers tackling Everest, K2 or other significant peaks often use medications that can help treat altitude sickness, but these are rarely used outside of emergency situations on Aconcagua.

So, instead of planning to treat altitude sickness, it is preferable to avoid ever getting it in the first place. It may not be possible to avoid the symptoms completely when trekking this high, but you can certainly reduce the likelihood that these symptoms will become serious by doing one simple thing: acclimatizing.

The human body has an incredible ability to adapt to high altitudes. In effect, your body can become better at surviving while breathing thin air and adapt to the reduced oxygen levels found at high altitudes. To do so, you simply need to allow your body to adapt to the thin air gradually; you can accomplish this, in part, by ascending slowly.

Sometimes, this involves “climbing high and sleeping low.” To do so, you’ll keep hiking after reaching a given camp (you can stop and relax or set up your tent while you’re there) to a pre-determined altitude. You’ll then descend back to the campsite to sleep for the night.

Above all else, just be sure to watch out for signs of altitude sickness, be sure to drink plenty of water and proceed with caution. If you are traveling with a guide service, be sure to communicate with your guide often and let him or her know if you suspect you are beginning to suffer from altitude sickness.

Avoiding Cold-Weather Injuries

Most of the injuries that occur during Aconcagua ascents are the result of the cold temperatures. Hypothermia and frostbite are the most common problems that occur, and each can represent a very serious risk to your health.

For the most part, a proper tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad will help you endure the cold nights safely, although you’ll likely want to wear most of your cold-weather gear to stay warm. Many experienced guides recommend bringing along a “pee bottle,” so that you don’t have to exit the tent at night to relieve yourself.

While trekking during the day, be sure to adjust your layers to keep you warm without sweating. However, you’ll want to be sure to avoid leaving any skin exposed as you approach the summit.

This means wearing appropriate ski goggles and keeping your face and ears covered with a head wrap or hood. Gloves are also imperative, as frostbite often strikes the fingers first. In fact, most experienced guides will recommend bringing along a pair of cold-weather mittens for the day of the summit.

Packing and Preparing for Your Trip

You’ll need to bring the proper clothing and equipment on any adventure, but this is especially true when tackling remote and challenging locations like Aconcagua.

And while you should always tailor your exact equipment list to suit your needs and your guide’s recommendations (if you are traveling with an organized expedition), the following represents the basic items you’ll need:

Clothing

  • Heavyweight base layers (top and bottom)
  • Lightweight base layers (top and bottom)
  • Warm socks (at least two pairs)
  • Fleece or synthetic mid-layers (top and bottom)
  • Raingear (including a jacket and pants)
  • Heavy outer coat
  • Hiking pants (lightweight)
  • Long sleeve shirts (at least two)
  • Winter gloves
  • Winter mittens (for summiting)
  • Winter hat
  • Warm-weather hat
  • Cotton t-shirt and shorts (for use during traveling)
  • Hiking boots
  • High-altitude mountaineering boots
  • Sandals/camp shoes
  • High-rise gaiters
  • Sunglasses
  • Ski goggles

Equipment

  • Ice ax
  • Crampons
  • Climbing helmet (optional)
  • Carabiners
  • Webbing
  • Internal frame pack with a minimum 85-liter capacity
  • Daypack
  • Four-season tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stuff sacks
  • Water bottle/hydration system
  • First-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Propane stove
  • Mess kit
  • Trekking poles
  • Toiletries
  • GPS / Compass / Map
  • Route guide
  • Camera
  • Water filter/purification tablets
  • Lighter / fire starter
  • Multi-tool

Note that the mules who’ll be helping you haul some of your equipment will carry two bags each. Each bag must weigh no more than 66 pounds. Also, you may not need everything listed above if you are traveling with a guide service, so be sure to check the literature provided, as they’ll surely include a pack list.

Logistical Considerations and General Traveling Tips

Half of the challenge of climbing Aconcagua is simply getting yourself to Aconcagua Provincial Park. It’s a long journey to the Southern Hemisphere, and you’ll need to prepare carefully to ensure you enjoy a smooth trip. The following tips should help reduce the chances of problems and ensure that you enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

  • Be sure to use a TSA-approved padlock on your luggage – thieves in Buenos Aires often open traveler’s bags to steal the items contained inside.
  • You’ll need a valid passport to enter Argentina. It must be valid for at least six months longer than your anticipated date of departure.
  • As long as you aren’t planning to stay for more than 90 days, you don’t need a travel visa to enter Argentina.
  • You’ll also need a W.H.O. card verifying your immunizations to enter Argentina.
  • You’ll need to make arrangements for toilet access during your climb. Most tour operators include this as part of the basic travel package, but if you are not, you’ll need to pay for access upon reaching Base Camp.
  • Remember that you are subject to all local laws while traveling in Argentina. If you are arrested, contact the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible.

Aconcagua is one of the most exciting destinations for outdoor adventurers, and it provides a fantastic chance to climb one of the Seven Summits without having to use technical climbing gear. Just remember to prepare for the exceptionally cold temperatures at the summit and give yourself plenty of time to acclimatize to the altitude.

With sufficient preparation and a positive mindset, you’ll likely have a great time climbing Aconcagua and make memories that’ll last a lifetime.

The post An Adventurer’s Guide to Climbing Aconcagua appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/aconcagua-climbing-guide/

Easy Tips for Taming Your Allergies While Hiking

Hiking is one of the most popular ways of enjoying the natural world, but for those with allergies, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, you get to enjoy the sights and sounds Mother Nature provides and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Hiking also allows you to get a bit of exercise gives you the chance to breathe in the fresh outdoor air.

But on the other hand, that fresh air is often full of pollen that can cause your allergies to flare up. And as you are undoubtedly already aware, hiking with a runny nose and itchy, watering eyes is never very fun.

Fortunately, there are a number of tricks you can employ to help reduce your allergy symptoms and enjoy a great day on the trail.

Avoid Heading Outdoors During Days with High Pollen Counts

The amount of pollen in the air obviously varies from season to season, but it also varies from one day to the next. So, if you simply check the pollen count ahead of time, you can avoid going out when the air is full of allergy-triggering pollen, and instead take advantages of those days when the pollen count is relatively low.

There are a number of online resources that provide information about the pollen counts in your area, but the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology is an excellent resource, as is the Allergy Forecast Map, which is maintained by Pollen.com.

Stick to Trails That Climb Above the Tree Line

If you have access to high-altitude trails in your area, you may be able to avoid pollen by simply climbing high enough. This works because trees (and to a lesser extent, herbaceous plants) cannot grow at elevations in which the temperature or precipitation are too low. Pollen is heavier than air, so most of it will travel down mountain slopes, leaving the upper elevations relatively pollen-free.

The exact height of the tree line varies from one mountain to the next, depending on the latitude and overall climate of the region. For example, near the equator, trees may grow up to 4,000 meters above sea level. On the other hand, mountains in temperate areas may become unable to support trees at 1,000 meters or less.

Try to Camp Upwind of Forests and Flower-Filled Fields

Another way to avoid most of the pollen being produced by the local trees and plants is to simply stay upwind of forests (or fields that are blooming). The vast majority of the pollen released by the trees will travel in the direction of the prevailing winds, thereby preventing you, your tent and the rest of your belongings from becoming coated in pollen.

This isn’t practical in all areas, as some places experience highly variable winds, which can change direction without notice. So, do your best to pick a campsite that features consistent winds. If you need help doing so, just try to look for areas in which all of the trees lean in a single direction.

If You Must Camp Downwind of Forests, Try to Set Your Campsite Near a Lake

If you aren’t able to select a campsite upwind of forests or fields full of blooming flowers, you may be able to get a bit of relief by camping near a lake or river. By doing so, you’ll essentially be using the water to collect the pollen, thereby preventing it from blowing into your camp.

When pollen is blown over dry land, some of it falls to the ground, where it will sit until another gust of wind comes along and raises it up into the air column again. But, when pollen is blown across a lake or river, the pollen that drops on the water’s surface gets wet. The water will hold on to the pollen until it sinks or washes up on the shore somewhere.

You can use this same principle when hiking – just pick streamside or lakeside trails whenever you have the chance to do so.

Avoid Irritants as Much as Possible

Remember that pollen isn’t the only thing that can trigger your allergies. Dust, dander, smoke and plenty of other contaminants can leave you sniffling and sneezing. So, be sure that you avoid these types of triggers too.

For example, if one of your camping or hiking partners brings a dog along for the trip, you may want to keep your distance and prevent the dog from entering your tent. Similarly, try to stay away from smokers while hanging out at the trailhead and always do your best to keep dust and debris out of your tent.

In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid most of these irritants anyway. Even if you aren’t allergic to them, they’ll also make your nose, throat, and lungs miserable, which will make your allergies even more debilitating.

Take Advantage of the Rain

Rain will temporarily lower the amount of pollen in the air, as it’ll wet everything down and wash a lot of the pollen off the trees. This will keep the pollen from entering your nose, and it’ll prevent your skin, clothing, and pack from being coated in pollen too.

Obviously, you can’t plan a whole trip based around potential showers, but you can take advantage of any rains that occur. For one, you can continue to hike in all but the heaviest downpours if you have adequate rain gear (although you should never hike when storms include lightning). Hiking in the rain is actually a pretty fun experience – particularly during the summer when it offers a temporary reprieve from the high temperatures.

But, if you’d rather hunker down in camp while it rains, just be ready to pack up and hit the trail as soon as the rain stops. This will give you at least an hour or two to hike before the air becomes saturated with pollen again.

Learn to Identify the Allergens That Cause You Problems

Even if you have very serious allergies, chances are that you are only allergic to a few different types of pollen. So, do your best to identify the tree, grass or plant species that cause you the most problems.

For example, you may determine that you are allergic to the pollen from birch and oak trees. This means you could simply monitor the local pollen count, consult the data from previous years, and try to schedule your hike for those times with birch and oak pollen levels are at their lowest.

You can identify the specific pollen that gives you problems in one of two primary ways. The easiest way is to simply visit your doctor or immunologist and request a sensitivity test. This will also help you determine other things that may trigger your allergies, such as insects, dust or smoke.

Alternatively, you can just monitor your symptoms over time and document the relative severity of your symptoms. Then, you can compare the results with historical pollen count data. After doing so, you may notice that your worst symptoms occur when ragweed, for example, is blooming.

Regularly Rid Your Body and Clothes of Pollen

If you’ve ever noticed that your allergies seem to flare up at night, it is likely because you are dragging pollen back into your tent with you. Once in the confined space, even a little bit of pollen can send you into a sneezing fit.

Most of this pollen enters your tent by hitchhiking on your clothes and gear. To avoid this problem, only bring essential items into the tent with you and try to remove as much of your clothing as you can before heading inside. It may even be advantageous to bring along separate sleeping clothes, which you keep inside the tent at all times.

Use Antihistamines

While most of the tips and tricks discussed above will help you avoid serious allergy problems on the trail, they may not be enough for those who are particularly sensitive to pollen. Fortunately, there are a number of antihistamines that can provide additional relief when you’re hiking during pollen season.

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is the go-to choice for many people, and many hikers and campers keep a couple of these tablets in their first-aid kit anyway. However, Benadryl and other “first-generation” antihistamines cause drowsiness, which isn’t an ideal side effect for someone trying to hike over rough terrain with a heavy pack.

Accordingly, some people prefer taking Claritin (Loratadine) and other “second-generation” antihistamines, as they won’t make you sleepy. Just talk to your doctor about the best allergy medication for your needs and be sure to let him or her know that you’ll be using them while hiking.

Above All Else: Develop an Allergy Plan

Proper preparation will help you keep your allergy problems to a minimum, so be sure to sit down with your map and gear list before heading out on your next hike. Then, try to employ as many of the previously mentioned tips as you can.

This means noting the dominant vegetation through which you’ll be trekking, trying to select routes that take advantage of lakes and rivers and be sure to bring along plenty of antihistamines too. You won’t be able to leverage every one of the techniques described above, but that’s rarely necessary anyway.

None of these tricks is likely to completely eliminate your allergy problems in isolation, but if you employ two or three of them, you’ll likely enjoy a largely symptom-free hike. So, be sure to experiment with the different approaches recommended above. With a bit of luck and some trial and error, you’ll surely be able to tackle the outdoors the way you want to.

The post Easy Tips for Taming Your Allergies While Hiking appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/easy-tips-for-taming-your-allergies-while-hiking/

How Hiking Helps Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are incredibly common ailments of 21st Century humans. But while there are a number of different treatments for these illnesses (and you should always discuss your symptoms with your doctor and seek the treatment he or she recommends), too many people overlook one of the best: hiking.

Hiking is often very effective for easing anxiety and depression, and it is a treatment option that is accessible to the vast majority of people. In fact, there are a number of reasons hiking is such an excellent way to feel better, which we’ll outline below.

Exercise Promotes Brain Health

Hiking is a fantastic form of exercise that provides a variety of benefits for your body. It’ll help you lose weight while simultaneously strengthening your muscles. And if you keep at it for long enough, it’ll likely help lower your blood pressure and reduce your chances of suffering from strokes, diabetes or heart disease.

But while these benefits are all clearly valuable, exercise also helps to promote a healthy brain too. If your hikes are strenuous enough to elevate your heart rate and cause you to sweat a bit, they’ll likely help increase the size of your hippocampus – the portion of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning.

Exercise also causes the body to release growth factors – chemicals that help encourage blood vessel development in the brain and support the production of healthy brain cells. And don’t worry, you needn’t hike for very long to start enjoying improved brain health; research shows that even a 20-minute hike can improve the way your brain processes information.

Hiking Is Easy to Do and Affordable

Unlike so many other treatments for anxiety and depression, hiking is available to just about everyone, regardless of your location or tax bracket.

Most Americans probably live within a short drive of at least one hiking trail, even if it is nothing more than a 1-mile loop around the local park. You may have to do a bit of digging to find longer, more challenging or more scenic trails, but you’ll still likely find multiple options within driving distance.

Additionally, hiking rarely costs much – if anything – at all. Some trails require you to pay for parking or for entry to the park, but even these typically offer “frequent use” passes, which will allow you to enjoy the park or trails for very little money. You may also have to purchase a water bottle and pair of hiking boots, but with a bit of effort, you can likely find these things at very affordable prices.

Hiking Helps You to Disconnect from Day-to-Day Life

Chances are, you are constantly barraged by stimuli from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow. Your phone, TV and radio constantly buzz with messages, information and entertainment, and you probably don’t have much time to quietly reflect on your thoughts.

But to get away from all of this, all you need to do is strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail. In contrast to our neighborhoods, homes and offices, wilderness areas are generally quiet and peaceful. This helps you to shed some of the stress caused by daily life. Disconnecting from your day-to-day life in this way can be very restorative and help reduce your anxiety and depression.

Obviously, you should still bring your phone along with you for safety’s sake, but maybe you should turn off the ringer for a while – at least until you get back to your car.

Hiking Provides Perspective

Often, anxiety and depression cause people to lose sight of the big picture. Instead of enjoying life, people struggling with depression or anxiety become stuck focusing on the small challenges, failures and disappointments that happen on a daily basis. But hiking in natural settings can help you bust out of this rut and gain a bit of perspective.

If, for example, you find yourself overwhelmed by a big work project coming up, you may find that a hike through your local mountains will help you remember that the project is just a tiny part of your life, and that there is a big beautiful world out there waiting for you to enjoy it.

Hiking Helps You to Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

If you hike for long enough, you’ll surely experience a tough day on the trail. Your feet may blister, you may get lost, or you may find that the trail you chose was a bit too strenuous. But chances are, you’ll find some way to tough out the hike, and overcome these challenges.

This will help build resilience and boost your self-confidence in profound ways. In truth, any challenge you face and overcome will help in both of these respects, but doing so in the natural world often provides the most profound results.

Just be sure that you don’t take this concept too far. It’s always good to challenge yourself and set increasingly difficult goals as you progress, but you must keep safety in mind. Always keep a cell phone on you so you can contact help if you need it and let someone know when you’ll be returning.

You Only Compete Against Yourself: There’s No Pressure to Perform

Many people understand the health benefits that exercise provides, but they aren’t interested in engaging in an implicitly or explicitly competitive pursuit, such as joining the local softball league or gym. This is certainly understandable – especially when you are already feeling depressed or anxious.

But hiking is a fantastic exercise, that lacks the competitive aspects that many of these other types of exercise feature. You are only competing against yourself and – to a lesser extent – Mother Nature. You get to celebrate those times you hike a bit further or complete a loop a bit faster; and yet your tough days, when you don’t perform quite as well, will remain your secret.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you go out and hike 1 mile a week or 50 miles a week – the only person you have to impress while you’re hiking is yourself.

Hiking Relieves Stress

Stress is often a contributing factor to anxiety and depression, so anything you can do to help relieve stress should help you feel a bit better. Hiking definitely fits this bill, as it not only provides great exercise (which helps to relieve stress too), but it takes place in gorgeous natural settings.

Scientists have even found that spending time in nature – even simply looking at nature – helps relieve stress and recharge your mind, body and soul. In fact, looking at a natural setting helps reduce pain and accelerate the healing process. And if you hike with a friend or loved one, you’ll often find this helps alleviate your stress even more thoroughly.

As you can see, hiking provides myriad benefits to those battling with anxiety or depression. So, find your closest trail and start trekking. Don’t forget to discuss your anxiety and depression with your doctor (and make sure you are healthy enough to begin hiking if you aren’t normally active), but you’ll likely find that regular hikes are exactly what the doctor ordered.

The post How Hiking Helps Anxiety and Depression appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/how-hiking-helps-anxiety-and-depression/

Common Hiking Injuries and How to Treat Them

Injuries are simply a fact of life for hikers, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Spend enough time outdoors and Mother Nature will surely dole out a few bites, bumps and bruises for your trouble.

If you are careful and prepare properly, you can probably avoid many of the most common injuries hikers experience. But you won’t be able to sidestep them all, so it is important that you familiarize yourself with the best way to treat some of the most common hiking injuries.

We’ll discuss 13 of the most common injuries that befall hikers below and explain the best way to treat them on the trail.

1. Blisters

Blisters are likely the most common minor wound hikers experience. And while blisters are relatively minor injuries in the grand scheme of things, they can quickly turn an otherwise-enjoyable hike into a miserable experience.

It’s always better to prevent blisters from forming than it is to treat them after they’ve appeared, so be sure to break in any new hiking boots before hitting the trail. Also, if you simply keep your feet dry you’ll further reduce your chances of getting blisters, so always wear moisture-wicking socks, which will absorb most of the sweat your feet produce.

The best way to treat blisters on the trail is by first washing the area (and your hands) with soap and water. Then, sterilize the affected area with an iodine swab. If the blister is still intact (it hasn’t popped), you can relieve the pressure by inserting a sterilized needle into the sides of the wound.

Once drained, apply a little triple-antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with gauze. Secure the gauze in place with some tape, but be sure to check the wound frequently and replace the gauze as needed.

2. Snake Bites

Snakebite is an exceedingly rare phenomenon in the United States, but serious snake bites can be life-threatening, it is important to know what steps to take to give yourself the best chance at a full recovery.

First of all, forget about the “cut and suck” method popularized by old Westerns – this is a good way to ensure the wound becomes infected, and you won’t be able to remove a significant amount of venom anyway. Instead, you’ll want to take a photograph of the offending serpent if possible (for identification purposes) and head directly to the nearest hospital. Phone ahead if you can, as the hospital may need to have antivenom shipped in from another facility.

There’s no need to apply a tourniquet (and doing so may lead to tissue death), but it isn’t a bad idea to wash the bite with soap and water. Try to keep yourself as calm as possible and try to avoid elevating your heart rate. Assuming you arrive at the hospital in a reasonable amount of time, you’ll likely recover fully.

The above instructions all assume that you are bitten by a venomous species. However, if you are positive that the snake that bit you was not venomous, you needn’t interrupt your hike. Simply wash the wound with soap and water and monitor it for any signs of infection (redness, swelling, etc.).

3. Frostbite

If you are hiking during cold weather, you should always take steps to avoid frostbite. This primarily means wearing appropriate clothing and keeping your ears, nose, fingers and toes covered (the parts of your body that are most likely to suffer frostbite).

However, you can still suffer frostbite if the temperatures are low enough or you become wet during cold weather. So, you’ll need to be able to identify frostbite and learn how to treat it. Note that serious frostbite will require prompt medical attention to limit the damage, but mild cases of frostbite can be treated on the trail.

Frostbite occurs when the water inside the skin and underlying tissues freezes. This can cause a “pins and needles” feeling and it may be painful. It’ll also cause the skin to turn red, white or black and take on a waxy appearance.

Basic first aid for frostbite involves slowly and gently warming the afflicted area. Warm (not hot) water is the ideal way to do so, but you can also use body heat and clothing to do so, if need be. But, it is important to avoid warming the area back up unless you’ll be able to keep it warm – repeatedly thaw-freeze cycles are very destructive.

If you believe the frostbite is severe, if blisters appear or you cannot regain feeling after warming the area, you’ll need to cut your hike short and head to the closest hospital. Mild frostbite may not be a very big deal, but serious cases can necessitate amputations, so you’ll definitely want to err on the side of caution.

4. Deep Cuts and Serious Wounds

Small cuts are pretty easy to treat with a bit of antiseptic and a bandage, but large or deep cuts can be very serious and often require medical assistance. The trick is to stop any excessive bleeding (if present) and keep the wound clean and protected while you head to the local hospital.

Light bleeding usually only involves damage to the capillaries, which will heal relatively quickly. Just press a clean gauze pad on the area, and you’ll usually be able to stop the bleeding. You can then clean the wound with a mild antiseptic (such as an iodine pad), apply some triple-antibiotic ointment, slap on a fresh bandage and get back on the trail.

But, if compression will not stop the bleeding, it is likely that you’ve suffered damage to an artery or vein. This can be quite serious, so you’ll need to apply pressure to the area with a gauze pad and seek immediate medical assistance.

Don’t walk if you don’t have to, as this will speed up your heart rate and accelerate the rate of blood loss. Instead, call for help if possible. Also, if you can, try to keep the bleeding area above the level of your heart, as this will help slow the bleeding a bit.

5. Burns

Minor burns are painful, but they rarely require extraordinary care. As long as the skin is intact (though likely red) and no blisters have formed, the burn is likely of the first-degree variety. This means you’ll want to stop the burning process by soaking the area in cold water for at least five minutes. Then, you’ll want to wash the afflicted area with soap and cool water, cover it in a loose-fitting sterile bandage and leave it alone.

You can apply a bit of topical pain-relief cream (such as aloe vera) to the wound a few hours later, and an over-the-counter painkiller (such as ibuprofen) may help provide further relief.

However, second- and third-degree burns are particularly nasty wounds, which are not only painful, but very susceptible to infection too. Second-degree burns cause the formation of blisters, but the blisters remain intact, which provides some degree of protection against infection. Third-degree wounds, on the other hand, entail broken blisters.

Second- and third-degree burns will usually require medical attention, so you’ll want to stop what you are doing and head to the nearest hospital or call 911 and wait for assistance to arrive. You can rinse second-degree wounds in cold water to reduce the temperature and eliminate some of the pain, but third-degree wounds should simply be covered in a clean, loose-fitting bandage (water may cause third-degree burns to become infected).

6. Broken Bones

Broken bones are usually pretty serious injuries that’ll require you to seek professional medical assistance as quickly as possible. Accordingly, your goal should be to stabilize yourself or the afflicted hiker, and then, you’ll want to begin hiking out (if the broken bone doesn’t preclude walking) or contact emergency responders and have them come to your location.

Stabilize the injured party by stopping any bleeding present and watching for the signs of shock (cool skin, racing heart, rapid breathing, weakness or nausea). Have the injured hiker lay down and prop his or her feet up about 1 foot above the ground. Toss a blanket over the victim to help retain body heat and provide reassurance until help arrives.

If the injured hiker is in otherwise good health and able to walk normally, you’ll want to head back to the trailhead and then to the hospital.

However, you’ll want to splint the broken appendage first to prevent further damage. You can make a splint from just about anything long and rigid, including sticks, trekking poles or tent poles. Tie the splint to the affected limb gently and try to limit any unnecessary movement.

7. Sprained Ankles

Sprained ankles are incredibly common, thanks in large part to the rugged terrain many hikers must cross. Sometimes, sprained ankles are very mild injuries, which won’t even prevent a hiker from continuing on the trail, but serious sprains are very painful and will usually prevent you from walking much at all.

In the latter case, you’ll simply need to keep yourself warm and comfortable, contact help and wait for them to arrive. But, if the sprain is mild, and you intend to push through, you’ll want to rest it as much as possible and apply ice. This will help reduce the pain and swelling and accelerate the healing process.

You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever to further reduce pain. It is also wise to wrap the ankle in an Ace Bandage before heading on the trail the next day.

Regardless of the severity of the sprained ankle, it is important to avoid removing your shoes or boots to inspect it for several hours. Doing so may allow your foot and ankle to swell dramatically and prevent you from getting your shoe back on later.

8. Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions vary significantly in terms of their severity. Mild allergic reactions may involve nothing more than a runny nose, if the reaction occurs in response to pollen, or a bit of irritation, if the reaction occurs in response to a bee sting or bug bite. Conversely, serious allergic reactions may cause breathing difficulties and necessitate immediate medical attention.

Minor allergic reactions needn’t interrupt your hike. Try to avoid contact with the allergen as much as possible and then take an over-the-counter antihistamine (such as Benadryl) to calm the allergic reaction. If the allergic reaction occurs in the form of a rash, you can apply a topical rash cream to provide further relief.

Serious allergic reactions require immediate medical care. Call 911 immediately, and follow the advice given. Be prepared to administer CPR if necessary and watch for the signs of shock.

If you have potentially serious allergies, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about carrying an epi-pen, which may be able to stop an allergic reaction before it threatens your life.

9. Treating Rashes

Rashes – typically characterized by discolored, irritated or swollen skin – are never fun, but they can be extremely unpleasant when they occur during a hike. And, while rashes are usually not serious, they can occasionally progress, leading to blisters, raw skin and long-term damage.

The most important thing you can do when treating a rash is to identify the substance triggering the problem and then take whatever steps are necessary to avoid it.

But unfortunately, rashes can be caused by a wide variety of different things. Some rashes are caused by direct contact with a plant, animal or other substance, while others can occur in response to something eaten. Rarely, rashes can even in response to diseases. Further complicating matters, some rashes do not occur immediately. Poison ivy rashes, for example, generally only occur several days after the initial exposure.

Therefore, your best bet is to treat the rash by washing it with soap and water and then applying zinc oxide to rashes that produce burning sensations, or cortisone lotions if the rash itches. Contact your doctor if the rash doesn’t go away within a short time.

10. Poisonous Berries

There are a number of poisonous berries growing on trees and plants across the United States, and many look quite similar to edible varieties.

The relative danger presented by different species varies significantly. Some may cause nothing more than a mild stomach ache; others may prove deadly in a matter of hours. Accordingly, you should always call 911 or Poison Control whenever you or someone in your group is thought to have eaten poison berries.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with berry poisoning include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Slow pulse
  • Low blood pressure

Do not eat or drink anything after potentially eating poisonous berries, nor should you try to induce vomiting. Simply follow the advice of the medical professionals you’ve contacted.

11. Dehydration

Dehydration is another extremely common problem that afflicts hikers, and unfortunately, it is usually one of the easiest medical problems to avoid. If you simply drink plenty of water while hiking and avoid traveling or exerting yourself during the hottest parts of the day, you’ll usually be able to avoid dehydration.

You’ll usually want to drink ½ liter per hour while hiking or whenever the temperatures are high. However, different people require different amounts of water to remain healthy. So, it is generally wisest to simply listen to your body; if you are thirsty or you aren’t urinating frequently, you should drink more water.

The symptoms of dehydration are pretty obvious: Excessive thirst, dry mouth, headache, nausea, infrequent urination, and fatigue. If anyone in your party starts exhibiting these symptoms, have them sit down in a cool, shaded location and drink plenty of water (have them do so slowly).

12. Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The symptoms are unfortunately quite similar to those caused by dehydration (fatigue, headaches, dizziness, etc.), but they may also include mental confusion. Accordingly, you’ll always want to keep an eye on the mental status of your companions when hiking in hot weather.

Understand that heat stroke is a serious condition that can quickly become fatal. If you suspect that you or someone in your group is exhibiting the signs of heat stroke, call 911 and immediately move to the coolest location you can find (such as a shaded grove or creek). Have the afflicted person drink plenty of water and do whatever you can to reduce his or her body temperature.

You may want to spray the person down with a bit of water, fan them with a towel or have them wade in a creek or lake. Cold compresses can also be helpful for cooling down someone with heat stroke.

13. Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is always a concern anytime you hike at high elevations, where the air carries relatively little oxygen. This can cause a range of symptoms, including headaches, fatigue and nausea; it can also make it difficult to breathe. In a worst-case scenario, altitude sickness can be fatal.

Some people begin feeling the effects of altitude sickness at relatively modest elevations, but others only start experiencing symptoms when they begin nearing the tallest peaks. Generally speaking, it can occur as low as 5,000 feet, and most people will experience problems once reaching 15,000 feet or so.

There are medications that can ease the symptoms of altitude sickness, but the best way to treat it is by simply descending and seeking medical assistance. You can sometimes prevent the symptoms from starting by ascending slowly (over the course of several days), so that your body has a chance to acclimatize.

Injuries can certainly throw a wrench in a hike, but if you do your best to prevent them from occurring and learn the best ways to treat them, you’ll likely be able to avoid serious problems. Just be sure that you always carry a fully stocked first aid kit with you and that you bring a cell phone or satellite phone in case of emergencies.

The post Common Hiking Injuries and How to Treat Them appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/common-hiking-injuries-and-how-to-treat-them/

How to Prevent Injuries While Hiking

Camping/hiking is fun and I love it. Like any other person who has got the zeal and passion for the paths to amazing views and high alpine trails, I sometimes forget that the activity is strenuous and has several potential dangers. I have been hiking for quite some time and I won’t sugar coat things by assuming and declaring that it is a safe haven since I have had a taste of what it is to get an injury from hiking. An injury from hiking can be severe and I am sure most people have had all sorts of stories about fatal hiking accidents. In this post, we discuss ways to prevent injury while hiking.

First, I am going to mention common injuries that occur during hiking. They include;

  • Sunburns
  • Blisters
  • Bug Bites
  • Poison ivy
  • Chaffing
  • Twisted ankle
  • Scrapes and abrasions
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swollen feet

So, how can such injuries be prevented from causing havoc during hiking?

Dress Accordingly

Dressing properly for hiking is quite important. I remember one time I went hiking on a hill adjacent to my place with my normal rubber shoes putting no much attention to other pressing factors. I had to deal with blisters on my feet for a whole week. Thank God they never got infected otherwise; I could be in for greater problems leading to endless hospital visits. Injuries such as blisters, sunburns and twisted ankles are often caused by inappropriate dressing while hiking. Don’t go hiking with yoga suits or tennis shoes and workout tops. I usually go for synthetic clothes that keep me dry as I start to sweat during the hike. I also avoid short-sleeved shirt since they expose my skin to the poison ivy. I pick shoes that are durable and make my feet comfortable to avoid spraining my ankles. When I am in a mountainous and rocky terrain, I prefer boots that come slightly higher on the ankle to improve support

Checking the Weather Patterns

This is among the most important element in one of my hiking principles “Know Before You Go”. I usually play it safe by checking on the internet or consulting with weathermen about the weather pattern that day. Poor weather such as rain leads to slippery leaves and rocks which make it very easy to slip and fall. Lighting is a common phenomenon in mountainous places hence I pay close attention to weather forecasts to avoid getting trapped in the ridges during electrical storms. If I find the weather unfavorable that day, I calmly return my hiking boots to the house and patiently wait for another favorable day. I hate getting injuries due to ignorance or defiance.

Taking a Break to Rest

Taking time to rest during hiking is a basic way that makes the trip safer, enjoyable and refreshing. As long-distance runners pace themselves to avoid getting tired, a good hiker needs to take it slow and take some time to rejuvenate. I usually rest after 2 kilometers of hiking to reduce stressful exertion on my body which usually leads to muscle cramps. I normally find a slump and sit on it in solitude while I take some time to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature before I resume.

Using Hiking Sticks

When I was still a novice, hiking sticks came in handy to help me complete the activity as safely as possible. For instance, I really enjoyed using trekking pole which assisted me on the trail. The trekking pole helped me a lot in offloading work on my legs and arms making them work significantly less. An overstrained leg or arm can snap up or suffer muscle cramps. The poles also help in ensuring better balance while climbing a steep hill. However, you need to use the poles with appropriate technique to achieve the safety benefits mentioned above.

Good Knowledge of the terrain

A thorough research on the prospective place for hiking is quite essential for a good hiking experience free of injuries. As an experienced hiker, the first thing I do before hiking in a new place is carrying out an extensive research that includes reading guidebooks, using online resources, Topo maps, Google and satellite images. This makes me have a good insight of the terrain and helps me avoid obstacles such as cliffs and deep holes that can cause injury.

Staying Alert Always

When I talk about staying alert during hiking, I am simply referring to the importance of watching every step. A single wrong step can mean spending days in the hospital. A slippery rock or a clay soil can cause a serious accident while leading to injuries. To stay safe, I normally avoid slamming my foot and varying my steps to mitigate the chances of getting an injury from falling.

Adequate Preparations

It is important to start off the day on the right foot. Even though many people think it is simple, hiking is like a workout and thus needs certain body tweaks. Before embarking on hiking, I make sure my muscles are adequately prepared for the activity by doing some warm-ups. This prevents incidences involving muscle cramps.

Eating well

A good overall diet is essential to overall health. It is also an important factor that plays an integral role when it comes to preventing injuries while hiking. When hiking, our body and bones are usually under a lot of workloads. As a result, we need certain nutrients such as calcium for strong bones that cannot break due to work overload. The absolute worst thing that I will never do to my body while hiking is to deprive it of essential nutrients that enable it to optimize its functions. While hiking, one can lose between 3000 to 6000 calories which need to be replaced immediately.

I also need to get properly hydrated when I am hiking. That is why I never part ways with my pack of water bottles. Like any other person, if I am not properly hydrated, I will start experiencing incidence of muscle cramps, reduced alertness, and lethargy which makes very easy for me to fall and injure myself.

Being aware of Animals

Giving animals their space can help get rid of injuries such as bug bites and stings. Hiking in the wilderness is risky due to the presence of wild animals. It is thus important that a hiker stays in his or her trails always to avoid injuries caused by such animals.

In conclusion, hiking can only be an exhilarating activity if it comes out as a safe adventure if only the above safety measures are taken into consideration. I usually feel good when I sit around the fireplace safe and sound with all my three children eagerly waiting to tell them stories about my hiking adventure.

The post How to Prevent Injuries While Hiking appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/how-to-prevent-injuries-while-hiking/

The Trip Home: A Little Extra Preparation Can Make the Car Ride More Comfortable

No matter how great your camping trip was or how much fun you had, most campers love the first glimpse of their car, waiting at the trailhead to ferry the group back home. After a week of eating dehydrated food from a pouch, sleeping on the ground and going without a hot shower, the creature comforts of home begin to beckon.

But reaching your car is not the same thing as being home – you’ll still have to endure a several-hour-long car ride with your companions before you can truly put the trip behind you and begin washing off a week’s worth of campfire and dirt. This can often be a bit miserable, but fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can employ to make your trip home more comfortable.

We’ll cover eight of the most helpful below:

1. Stash a spare set of clothes in your car.

Few things will help you feel better upon arriving at your car than a clean set of clothes (including a pair of comfortable shoes). You don’t need anything fancy – just a comfortable pair of shorts or pants, a t-shirt (and sweater if it’s chilly), a pair of socks and a change of underwear should suffice.

2. Keep a sealed package of unscented wet wipes in your vehicle.

Wet wipes are always helpful for cleaning yourself off when you can’t take a proper shower, so they’re great to keep in your car. However, because scented versions may draw the attention of bears and other creatures, you’ll want to be sure to select unscented varieties to leave in your car. If you aren’t sure if the wipes are truly scent-free, just pack a few in a sealed plastic bag and keep them with you when you initially head out on the trail.

3. Leave a few snacks in the bear box by the trailhead.

Most campers will be eager to chow down on a few tasty snacks upon reaching the trailhead, but you don’t want to leave edible items in your car in bear country. But, many trailheads provide bear-proof storage boxes in which you can cache food. Stick to ready-to-eat foods, as you won’t want to go to any trouble to prepare your food – you’ll just want to grab it and eat.

4. Bring along a few folding chairs.

It’ll often take a while to get everything packed in the car and situated before you are ready to drive off. Additionally, if you are camping in the summertime, you’ll likely find that your car is hot and must cool off for a while before you feel like getting inside. A couple of folding chairs won’t take up very much space, and yet they’ll give you a comfortable place to sit while you’re waiting on everyone to store their gear and the car to cool off.

5. Store a few gallons of water in the car.

Because water is heavy, you’ll often want to limit the amount you carry on your hike back to the car. Plus, many trailheads are at the high point of the trail and carrying water uphill is a chore. But, you’ll likely be thirsty upon arriving back at your car, and a few gallons of water will be a welcome resource. Additionally, you can use some of the water to clean up before getting into the car or changing clothes.

6. Stash a few garbage bags in the car.

You’ll often have a number of smelly and wet items with you (primarily clothes) when you arrive back at your car. To help prevent odors and limit the mess created, keep a few garbage bags in the car to contain these types of items. Of course, you may carry garbage bags with you while camping, in which case you probably won’t need to leave any extras back in the car. But, it’s not as though doing so requires great effort, so many campers will do both.

7. Leave a charged cell phone in the vehicle.

If you like to bring your cell phone on the trail, and your trip lasts more than a day or two, you’ll likely find that your battery will die at some point. So, it is a good idea to leave a fully charged cell phone in the car, so that you can make emergency calls or touch base with friends and family when you arrive back at the vehicle. A cell phone will also let you catch up on the events of the last few days, which you may have missed while on the trail. Don’t leave a several-hundred-dollar smartphone behind in your car, as it’ll be vulnerable to thieves. Instead, use an inexpensive, pre-paid model, in case something happens while you’re on the trail.

8. Bring a few plastic storage bins or crates and leave them in the car.

While most of the tips outlined above are designed to help you achieve a bit of comfort upon arriving back at your car, it is important to prepare for the moment you make it back home, too. Unloading the car and hauling all of your gear inside is quite a chore for weary campers, so you should try to make the task as easy as possible. One way to do so is by packing all of your equipment into storage bins when you arrive back at your car. This way, when you get home everything will be easy to grab and carry inside.

Try to implement these tactics during your next camping trip. They’ll not only make you more comfortable on the way home, they’ll give you something to look forward to while hiking back to the car. Don’t hesitate to leave other items in your car or make other plans for your return.

Just be sure to keep bear safety in mind and avoid leaving any edible or odorous items in your vehicle – you don’t want to make it back to your car and find that one of the doors has been ripped off! It’s also wise to keep potential crime in mind. Don’t leave any valuables behind, as thieves often target trailheads.

 

The post The Trip Home: A Little Extra Preparation Can Make the Car Ride More Comfortable appeared first on Montem Outdoor Gear.

from Montem Outdoor Gear https://montemlife.com/the-trip-home-a-little-extra-preparation-can-make-the-car-ride-more-comfortable/