Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Important Lesson's You've Learned the Hard Way
Display Avatars Sort By:
Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Things I have learned the hard way on 11/20/2007 16:33:30 MST Print View

1. When sitting around the campfire, my current position is always downwind.

2. Smoke hurts my eyes.

3. But there is still little else as comforting in this world as a nice fire on a cold, dark night.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
more insights, they are insights aren't they? on 11/20/2007 16:48:13 MST Print View

1. It will always be better then you think, or it looks, up in the mountains but if you don't go you'll never know.
2. The reason they called him Shortcut Bill is he wasn't.
3. If I just brought a bivy sack to cover my bag with I'd be dry right now.[greg child]
4. If I'd just brought a bag to cover me during this bivy I'd be warm right now. [greg child]
5. Dehydrated green cabbage flakes do not reconstitute into coleslaw.
6. The US Forest Service and National Park Service measure trail miles in klingonese. Mountain weather reports are in Romulan.
7. Like your friends, dislike your enemies,and regard strangers with tolerant indifference.[edward abbey]
8. I always wanted to be Norman Clyde but I couldn't carry his pack, walk in his footsteps, or climb in his shadow, everytime I thought I'd found a remote untrod summit or ridge in the Sierra he'd been there first with fifty more pounds and twenty more years in age so I decided to be Fred Beckey and after tackling a few northwest classics realized I wasn't going to be Fred either. Currently I've reinstalled a new brain and I'm trying to be me.
9. All this really still doesn't mean sand....

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
down under perspectives on 11/20/2007 18:40:51 MST Print View

From a New Zealand perspective, many of the things I've gained insight into revolve around the weather.

1) The weather forecast is wrong more often than right

2) Therefore never cancel/postpone a trip because of a bad weather forecast

3) Never leave the house unless you are fully prepared for four seasons in one day

4) If you DO pull out of a trip because of a bad weather forecast, DO NOT ask the people who went anyway "how was your trip?" The answer will always be "Great. Fine and sunny."

5) Look forward to wet feet. If you dread the idea of wet feet, you will not have a good time. become one with the water. Whatever you do, DO NOT take your boots off to cross a creek or river. If you do this for every water crossing it will double the amount of time it takes to cover the distance. And other people will laugh at you.

6) Knee high gaiters are you closest friends.

7) "Spaniards" are your worst enemies. They're what make gaiters your closest friends.

8) On second thought, sandflies are your worst enemies. At least spaniards don't ruin your evening while you're sitting around trying to cook dinner, or wake you up at crack of dawn, or keep you scratching all night...

9) Just because there is a track or hut marked on the map, do not count on it being there when you walk it. This also applies to 'route descriptions'. One man's 'route' is another man's 'lost in space' nightmare.

10) No, there is no cell phone cover, so don't even think about it

10 insights is enough for today.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
nuggets on 11/20/2007 21:13:02 MST Print View

Hmmmm... Very interesting topic.

- Don't camp in a depression.
- Long miles can lead to stress fractures.
- All trail runners are not created equal. I buy stiffer trail runners to avoid stress fractures.
- Milage on trail signs is often innacurate.
- Durable gear is important to me. I'm not into disposable gear.
- It's worthwhile to carry more water than I think I'll need. I feel more thirsty if I'm worried about my water supply.
- In some regions, you can go many, many miles with no camping.
- Sleeping in the wind SUCKS, windproofness is a high priority in shelters for me.
- For early season trips, be prepared to get shut down by heading in to the high country before the snow melts.
- Carry more clothes to the trailhead than you think that you'll need, it might be colder up there.
- Packcovers are not waterproof.
- Advice on the internet is often dubious, provided by "experts" who go out only a few times per year.
- All gear is a compromise: don't get caught up in spending too much money because something isn't "perfect". Nothing is perfect.
- Always look back at a rest stop or camp after you've taken a couple steps away from it. Loosing stuff in the backcountry sucks. If you do loose something, completely dump your pack. I've found maps at the bottom of my pack two days after I've lost them and had completely redefined my trip.
- Don't leave food in your pack, EVER. In bear country, take your bear canister out of your pack as your first order of action once getting to camp.

Lennox Nichols
(blue_grendel) - F
Acclimate on 11/21/2007 08:43:27 MST Print View

Coming from near sea level, I would always get a terrific headache on my first day backpacking in the mountains. I found that if I went to the mountains a couple of days early and did easy day hikes and sightseeing, I didn't get the headaches when backpacking. I also got to learn a little more about the environment and history of the area.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: I've learned on 11/21/2007 11:28:05 MST Print View

*A small ziplock of candy placed in the bottom of the pack and forgotten about later makes for an amazing boost! It's like finding a $20 bill in your pockets, only you can eat the candy. I've actually shouted with joy that I found 2 pieces of Jolley Ranchers.

Unless the bear gets to if first!

George Gagesch
(Coolbreeze) - F
Lesson's learned on 11/22/2007 05:16:12 MST Print View

When you haven't hiked in the mountains in a while, don't pick the hardest trail and expect to walk long miles.

A mile is always longer then it seems.

Everyone likes the equipment that they own. Find many reviews before purchasing gear.

Never climb down a tree off a 100' bluff. The branches will soon run out and the tree will be too wide to hug.

Edited by Coolbreeze on 11/22/2007 05:22:12 MST.

Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
Re: RE: The 10 Essentials on 11/23/2007 20:19:32 MST Print View

Quote from Aaron Sorenson:
1. Map
2. Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
4. Extra food and water
5. Extra clothes
6. Headlamp/flashlight
7. First aid kit
8. Fire starter
9. Matches
10. Knife

Woops, I rarely carry more than 4-5 of these.

Learning the knowledge of the area before hand, I don't carry a compass or Map, (If on trails).

I usually go cold food and there aren't too many places in California that you can start a fire at any way, so no matches or fire starter.

I never carry a knife; never use it, maybe to clean my fingernails.

Extra clothes- Not really necessary if you have a warm enough sleeping bag along with good rain gear, right? (and you don't do anything stupid).

Extra food- Only if I am in the middle of nowhere.

First aid kit- Same as above, maybe some tape for the feet if I'm out for more than 3 days and I'm pushing some technical trails.

I only 2 things I consider essentials that aren't on the list are.
1. Insulation for head.
2. Water purification.

People are too needy.


I am sure you are an experienced backpacker with much skill. However your line of thinking is dangerous. You may have gotten lucky over the years but one day the stuff will hit the fan and the items you poo poo could save your life. If you are not an experienced backpacker you are really dangerous. My $.2, take it for what it's worth.

Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
Re: Important Lesson's You've Learned the Hard Way on 11/23/2007 21:13:53 MST Print View

The following is based on 19 years of backpacking, I turn 31 in 9 days.

1. When camping on the snow an open cell foam pad will not keep you warm. A closed cell foam pad is the minimum, closed and open in nice.
2. With in safe reason, quiting because you are tired will haunt you. You will forget how tired you were and only remember that you quit. (See a previous post about the 70% rule when deciding to quit.)
3. Just because synthetics will keep you warm when wet is no reason not to put on you rain clothes.
4. Don't expect to use a filter the next morning if temps are below freezing and your filter is left out in the cold over night with water in it.
5. Don't drink tea or coffee at night. Try warm water and Cytomax or other electrolyte replacement instead. Caffeine and the excitement of a big day will keep you up.
6. Bring ear plugs. Wind, animals, noisy camp mates combined with .25 inches of padding makes it hard to sleep.
7. Wear all your cloths to bed and carry a lighter weight sleeping bag.
8. You don't have to be having fun to have fun. Sometimes the agony of the moment is the memory you will cherish the most in hindsight.
9. Clean feet make happy feet.
10. Sleeping bags aren't just meant for sleeping. They are great for staying warm while sitting around camp before bed.
11. Don't try to climb some rock feature, alone, when you have no business trying to climb said rock feature.
12. Camping alone when conditions are deteriorating is scary and just plain sucks.
13. Being too close to lighting is scary and just plain sucks. Plan you day and trip so as not to be caught in exposed areas if lightning threatens.
14. That sound you hear outside your tent is likely MUCH smaller than it sounds. Now go back to sleep.
15. Don't carry water to a dry camp very far. Turns out water is heavy and you need more than you think.
16. Heavy sunglasses that slide down your nose cause strain in muscles in your head.
17. 2 trekking poles are the only way to fly.
18. Don't try to look over really big cliffs. I still get the willies from sitting on the edge of Half Dome with my feet dangling over the edge when I was like 16. Stupidity of youth.

Edited by MtnFiend on 11/24/2007 08:41:56 MST.

Donald Segretti
(Dick-Nixon-in-72) - F
Re: Re: Important Lesson's You've Learned the Hard Way on 11/23/2007 21:28:49 MST Print View

Wow, Mtnfiend, 19 years of backpacking. Most sound like overt common sense to me. $20 says maybe in another 19 some of these might change, maybe even one with some wisdom!

Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
godly omnipotence? on 11/24/2007 00:13:54 MST Print View


Thanks for the complements chief. We don't all become wise overnight. If you do the math I started backpacking as a 12 year old. Overt common sense is built over a lifetime. I assume you ran out of the womb with godly omnipotence?

Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Don on 11/24/2007 01:15:35 MST Print View

Not sure why you are trying to start trouble in such an insightful thread.

A good 3rd post on this forum... from someone who is still trying to figure out the difference between a softshell and a hardshell:
2nd Post

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Good point Douglas on 11/26/2007 10:43:21 MST Print View

A hardshell is what you get when you wear your softshell crosscountry skiing in below freezing weather in our Northwest. It will return to its soft condition upon thawing.

Jim Cook

Locale: Land of Cotton
Lessons Learned on 11/26/2007 13:56:40 MST Print View

1. Choose your campsite wisely. Camped once at site #71, Whiteoak Branch Trail (horse + hiker), Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It began raining early in the evening. By supper time, rivers of horse... em, waste were flowing everywhere. Only two flat spots for tents, both downhill. By morning, everything was covered in a film of manure.

2. Try your food before going. Same trip, I whipped out a package of MSR mashed potatoes. They were awful, and going to bed on a less-than-full stomach did not help my already manure-induced lousy mood.

3. Take extra snacks and water. Learned a few weeks ago that even one extra Hershey's bar or a handful of peanuts can give you some extra zip at the end of a long day-hike.

4. Get your food bag line ready before sundown. Nothing like trying to fling a rock over a dimly flashlight-lit branch at 10:00 PM. There's also nothing like hearing that same rock whiz by your face after you actually got it over the branch and it turned into a 90 MPH pendulum coming straight back at you.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Lessons Learned on 11/26/2007 20:33:29 MST Print View

Man of Wisdom spaketh "and it turned into a 90 MPH pendulum coming straight back at you."

I saw that one last year! The adrenalined kid tried to impress all when threw the line with a heavy rock over the bear bag line, saw it coming back at him, ducked and SCHWAKKK/THUUDD!, beaned and dropped his helper, who apparently forgot to bring his night vision goggles....

I think there is another lesson learned there, be it use something soft for ballast, or clear the area before launch...

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
More lessons learned - including one very important one about an MSR XGK stove on 01/16/2008 20:11:00 MST Print View

- Do not forget your eating utensil when you will be camping above treeline in the North Cascades and there is no dry wood available to make chopsticks out of. I hunted for quite a while and only found two short, crooked twigs that weren't completely rotted out. They worked, but eating was quite a chore.

- VERY IMPORTANT: be absolutely sure all the O-rings on your MSR XGK are in good shape, and carry spares.

Once the one at the pump got nicked and started leaking, but only after I turned it on (no leaks when just pressurized, and I followed the MSR safety procedures). It was dark and I didn't see the leak, and the only thing that prevented a BIG explosion was that that the fuel bottle was downhill from the flame, so the stream of fuel running out did not catch.

I shudder to think what would have happened if the fuel bottle was uphill and the fuel ignited...I suspect there would have been a fireball as the heat increased the pressure in the fuel bottle, causing more fuel to flow out, increasing the temperature even more, until BOOM.

Edited by ewolin on 01/16/2008 20:12:47 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: RE: The 10 Essentials on 01/17/2008 14:26:21 MST Print View


Why do you say Aaron's line of thinking is dangerous? Where and how you hike obviously affects what you consider essential, but not all of us hike on well formed trails, in the predictable weather of California.

I would not consider water purification to be essential, and in fact I've NEVER carried water purification. I also don't usually carry insulated headwear, though I do have a raincoat with hood for wind protection, and a hood on my sleeping bag.

I carry a first aid kit, and it includes stuff like migraine medicine and reflux meds. Essential? No. But lying around for a few days waiting for a migraine to pass is just not fun. Being unable to swallow because of bleeding ulcers, a real drag. Blisters? Great fun! I don't carry sunscreen, but I DO carry a broad brim hat.
I could leave the stove at home and just eat cold food, but I mainly hike for pleasure, and some of the best pleasure I have is a hot cuppa coffee to start the day, and a hot meal to finish the day. Not essential, and maybe "needy", but where do you draw the line? Why carry a sleeping bag or shelter? Just make it out of what's available like our predecessors. A nice bed of pine needles should do the trick.

There is no harm in any of the stuff that Aaron considers essential as long as he knows how to use it if needed...

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: RE: The 10 Essentials on 01/18/2008 14:00:50 MST Print View

Thank's Allison,

You have to remember that 95% of the trails that people hike see other people at least once an hour.

Unless you plan on carrying enough 1st aid gear for a serious injury, (a few splints and enough gear to stop major bleeding), then what good is more than a band-aid?
If you get hurt, someone will come across you within the next hour.
If you are hurt bad enough and have all the crap from above, then you probably wouldn't be able to administer it to your self anyway.

Carrying all the extra crap is probably what would be responsible for injuring that person in the first place.

If you are in a big group, then I would agree to the essentials, but if you do not put your self in the situations or know how to go with out then I feel that carrying the rest of the essentials I normally wouldn't carry would only be used if I happened to pass by someone else that was injured, (probably from carrying too much gear).

Just my 2 cents.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Lessons learned at altitude and on glaciers on 01/18/2008 19:42:09 MST Print View

A few more thoughts about hiking high up, say greater than 10,000 feet, and on glaciers:

- it is particularly important to regularly eat and especially drink. What worked for me high up on Mount Rainier and other places was to stop about every hour or so, even if roped up, and eat and drink until I was satisfied. Then I ate and drank the same amount again, forcing myself if needed. As much as I urged my partners to do the same, they didn't, and although as a rule I felt fine on the summits, they (and many others up there) often felt rotten.

- the sun can be fierce, and the snow reflects in every direction, including up from the snow...make sure every bit of your face and lips is either covered with sun-blocking fabric or really strong sunscreen. I once had to hike down on a hot day with my face completely covered by my wool balaclava, very uncomfortable. Don't forget about the backs of your hands and all kinds of other exposed spots.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: RE: The 10 Essentials on 01/20/2008 13:04:23 MST Print View

I absolutely agree Aaron. To me, if I'm thinking in terms of survival pieces, I'm assuming that I will only need them if I'm NOT in one of those 95% situations.

I do not believe there is such a thing as and absolute list of what you need to carry for survival. It sooo depends on the person, the place/climate, how sparse the track is (IF there's a track) and a thousand other little things. I don't think it's justified to tell someone else that THEIR list of "must haves' is ignorant or dangerous.