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reading and writing on UL trips
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Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
reading and writing on UL trips on 12/08/2006 17:45:25 MST Print View

Wondering what ya'll carry for readin' and writin' and o' course 'rithmetic.

Do some carry books? Notebooks? Calculators? Pen fillers or pencil stubs?

Do you keep notes on your trips as you go and if so where do you write it?

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/08/2006 17:51:04 MST Print View

I've been taking a little pen and notebook in my map bag. Doesn't we much (2 ounces?) and it's nice to have somewhere to write notes down. Most of the trips are scouting for later so I hate having to resort to memory after the trip and forget something important.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/08/2006 18:07:05 MST Print View

Little tiny notepads. Sometimes overpriced products from REI, sometimes the smallest, cheapest notepad I can find in a 7-11.

My favorites were these notepads distributed to fire crews (forest fires). Waterproof, fifth-inch graph paper small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. And the standard firefighter rules on the back.

I either use a little mini-pen or (more often) a pencil stub). Sometimes I like to take larger sheets of paper and some crayons. That can be way fun.

Why do I carry writing instruments: journals -- it is pretty lame if you just record where you hiked, how far you hiked, how much elevation you gained or lost, and what you ate (although even masters of the art like Shackleton would let their accounts degrade into something very like a cookbook. An extremely bad cookbook). Better if you add polemics about why the human race is mostly hopeless, why horses hate people, or why USFS wilderness management policies are either the first sign of the collapse of the American Empire or the death of the American Republic. Or both.

I almost always make a shopping list of things to bring on my next trip. Sometimes I consult that when I get home and go out again. I also like to make little sketch maps and take notes as I travel off-trail so I can find my way back when I am exhausted and it is foggy or completely dark.

Sometimes i carry reading material. Especially if I with a group or suspect there will be a lot of down-time. Reading material I like to carry:

_Accidents in North American Mountaineering_. 'nuff said. Makes great reading when you are tentbound and lost in snowy mountains.

_Weekly World News_. How do they make that stuff up? After a few weeks the _New York Times_ is as ridiculous. Even the ads are funny. Also makes a great firestarter.

Natural history guides. I like _Cascade-Olympic Natural History_ by Dan Matthews. 'nice to know what those mushrooms you are eating actually are.

For really, really long trips with a lot of expected downtime (like a month in Nepal, say) I'd like to carry two paperback books. Hopefully I could trade with others en route when I was done.

When I was studying for my EMT, I carried my textbooks and actually read them on long weekend trips.

Edited by david_bonn on 12/08/2006 18:08:36 MST.

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Notebooks and such on 12/08/2006 21:58:49 MST Print View

Notebook: Moleskine Cahier. Small, flexible, lightweight, and very high-quality paper.

Pen: Lamy Safari Charcoal with fine nib. It's not weatherproof or pressurized or anything special like that. It is light, easily refillable, and, most importantly, is a fountain pen that feels so good to write with.

What do I write about? Mileage and such are ok, I suppose. However, I mention them only briefly, if at all. What seems more important is the absolute beauty of being outside and the clarity that it brings to the mind. So, anything goes. Old memories that suddenly resurface, the way the stream beside your tent is gurgling, the color of a wildflower you passed, musings on teleology...

Since there seems to be an endless number of things to write and think about, I generally don't take anything to read. If I'm in a very new ecosystem, it's often nice to take a book with good summaries of the geology,biology, etc. particular to that habitat.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/08/2006 22:32:13 MST Print View

>Wondering what ya'll carry for readin' and writin' and o' course 'rithmetic.

Readin': Backcountry First Aid and Extended Care, 4th ed.; Tilton, Buck; Globe Pequot; 2002 (2.5 oz). This pretty much covers the Wilderness First Aid course material.

Writin': I'm not much into journal writing, but when my mind relaxes I'm never sure what will pop up. And if it's something boring (e.g., work I need to do) I want to write it down then forget it until I get home. Fisher Space Pen, Stowaway model (0.2oz); Rite in the Rain All-Weather Writing Paper (50 sheets bound with covers: 1.8oz; five loose sheets <0.1oz). Both are available at REI.

'Rithmetic: I work it in my head. If it's complicated, I work it twice or compare with estimates to confirm correctness. Square roots are especially fun :) I can chew up lots of hiking time this way...

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/09/2006 07:13:38 MST Print View

readin: small Bible or a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs added in.

writin: i don't - at least, when on the trail

figgurin'/rithmetic: me noggin'

Kevin Pietriyk
(pietriyk) - F

Locale: Northeastern PA
multi function on 12/09/2006 07:56:06 MST Print View

Reading: "Tiny Testament" New Testament

Writing: Pencil and 1/2 small spiral bound notepad.

Calculating: If my phone is with me, that has a calculator, I try to avoid math in the woods as much as possible. That tiny bit of math necessary for navigation, I do in my head.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/09/2006 08:36:58 MST Print View

It depends on the trip. If I am looking at tent time, I bring a thin paperback novel to waste time. I have been known to upload podcasts and books on my I-Pod and take that instead. The few time I have taken paper, it was a small notepad I found, and a mini pen.
It is the book I miss if I don't take one! Worth 3-5 ounces.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/09/2006 08:58:26 MST Print View

I love to read on the trail. For the last 2 1/2 years, I've worked full time as a teacher, part-time at REI and studied full-time for my master's degree. Needless to say, recreational reading has taken a backseat to educationally mandated text. So when I'm out there, I push my body and rest my mind.

Occasionally I read novels. This past summer, I bought the full volume Chronicals of Narnia and split it into the seven different books, each going in to a maildrop for my Colorado trail hike. It was heavenly reading, particularly in the first couple of weeks when there were absolutely no other hikers out.

Other times, I carry a small guidebook for my next big adventure, and I build a broad range plan that I can refine later on. This Christmas time on a six day trip in the Smokies, I'm taking my guidebook to cycling the Natchez Trace, and I'll form my plan for roughly where I'll stay on various days and what I can use as alternates, as well as determining important points of interest that I'll want to add time for. The Trace ride is in late March. No better time to start preparing than now.

As for writing, I like to be impractical and carry a bit heavier personal journal. It's more attractive and doesn't look like every other yellow waterproof journal on the trail. I carry a pen and pencil, in case the pen runs out or freezes.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/09/2006 12:14:59 MST Print View

Rite in the Rain waterproof paper in a refillable binder (so I can take the right number of pages for the length of trip), and a mechanical pencil.

On my Alaska trips, I write in my journal pretty religiously (every night), focusing on the story of what happened that day. Then when I get back I type it all up and stick it up on the web, along with the trip photos:

I started keeping journals on my first big trip (800 miles down the Alaska Peninsula in 2001). I found them invaluable afterwards, since you can never quite recreate the perspective of being in the middle of something when you're back in your living room. And I can use them to write stories and articles afterwards.

On my next big trip, I'm planning to post some of the journal entries to a blog every week or two (when I'm in a town) so friends and family can keep up with me. (It'll be a 9 month expedition)

Of course, all the paper may end up being not so UL. But I also carry a digital SLR and a couple lenses, which is really not UL. It's all about what you want out of the trip, I guess.


Edited by mckittre on 12/09/2006 12:22:20 MST.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Notebooks and such on 12/09/2006 16:54:15 MST Print View

Miles, very nice stuff. Both the pen and the notebook look pleasurable to use. With writing materials like that who needs to read?

Edited by romandial on 12/09/2006 16:55:11 MST.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/09/2006 16:58:36 MST Print View


What are the dimmensions of the paper you write on? Do you use pen or pencil?

Do you take notes during the day, as things happen? If so, where do you keep the notebook?

Or only at night in a review sort of way?

Do you write thinking of certain people who will be reading your notes? Who?

How do you deal with the chores if you are busy writing? I mean does Hig do dinner and you do breakfast so you can write in the evening?

And we all love your writing as you know:)

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/10/2006 11:05:12 MST Print View

Lets see... The paper is 4.5 x 7 inches, and I write with a mechanical pencil (normal pens won't work on waterproof paper).

I don't often take notes during the day unless they're logistical sort of notes. (someone's address if I'm in a town, a GPS point for a photo I need to be able to locate exactly, etc...)

Usually, I wait until after dinner or any chores, and write from inside the sleeping bag. So it's a review of the day. The result is that I get a little less sleep than Hig, but we're usually sleeping long enough that it doesn't matter much, and I can make him do more of the morning organization...

I'm not always thinking about it directly, but I guess I try to write most like I'm telling the story to a friend. (which I'm bad at in person, so I like to do it in written form...)


Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
notebook on 12/10/2006 11:32:19 MST Print View

I take a small notebook that is less than 1/4 inch thick - and has dimensions of 3.5 x 4 - for a pencil I take a small plastic mechanical pencil.

I like to take note of the temperature, weather and other little things in point form. This makes it easier to write my trip log when I get home.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
notes & writing on 12/10/2006 11:35:15 MST Print View

I write on the back of my maps, printed off the TOPO! program, if I write at all. Just in case of emergencies I carry a small, thin, pencil -- like sometimes used to come with hanging kitchen frig note pads.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/10/2006 12:22:09 MST Print View

I write on my maps; here's how:

For long treks, I usually create custom maps (with NG Topo!). I first import them into Photoshop and adjust the levels to make the colors and countours "pop" a little. Then, I add a box of semi-transparent "whitespace" to the map in a noncritical location that I'm pretty sure I won't be navigating through. That box becomes my journal for the day. Each map usually represents "one day" of trekking (~20 miles). Towards the end, as mileage increases, I will have two maps per day.

I size my maps for an edge-to-edge dimension of ~11" x ~11"*, print maps on double sided paper and order them numerically, e.g., Day 1, Day 2, Day 3a, Day 3b, etc.

* Sized so they fit into a 12x12 Aloksak with one/both map views available without opening the bag.

The maps usually get printed on regular copy paper (light!). If I'm going with heavy waterproof papers (like the plastic stuff from Nat Geo), I have a writing challenge: most writing implements smear on the plastic type papers. This bites for journaling and writing navigation notations.

I like the Rite in the Rain paper for writing, but for map printing, it's expensive and heavy. So, I like regular copy paper: cheap and light. When I'm done printing, I usually go one step further, hang the maps from a clothesline, and spray them with Rain-X or Scotchguard.

I keep my maps handy, and then write things throughout the day on the neat little half transparent boxes that I photoshopped into the map image.

Sometimes, if I can spare the weight, I'll add a tiny notebook to the mix, mainly for writing non-route-related things in camp (like comments on why a particular piece of gear wasn't working, or a shopping list for the next trip, or just to solve some DE's here and there for mental stimulation <-- "geek!"). When I take a notebook, I use a Rite in the Rain #391-M mini notebook, sold here at BPL <-- "pimp!"). BUT I also really like a little floppy Moleskine, which is about the same thickness and a little bigger, because the writing paper is nicer and it has a little pocket in the back I can use to stow a leaf or flower petal or a laminated index card that contains key phone numbers, calling card number, credit card number, resupply logistics info, whatever.

For a writing instrument, I use either the Nalgene waterproof pen, which writes on virtually any surface and bleeds less than sharpies, and a pencil. I like a pencil because I can erase and it works in the rain.

If I am trekking a new off-trail route, I always bring a set of fine point waterproof drafting pens: red, blue, green, and black, for detailed navigation notations. I use the various colors for different types of notations.

I have a short (4") mechanical pencil (0.5mm) that I picked up from somewhere (who knows?) that I really like because it's convenient and stays sharp.

But for nostalgia, I more often just carry a golf pencil or two with an eraser head and sharpen it as I go with a small sharpener.

OK, so what do I write about?

1. Lots of navigation info.

2. Animals I see - but more importantly - the unique behaviors they were exhibiting at the time. On my arctic trek, I noted not just a bear, but the groggy bear that stood up and looked yummily at Roman; or the Jager that dove down and nicked my hat becuase it was defending its nest; or the wolverine that ambled along the river bank, stopped, looked over curiously at us, and then ambled on its way. He had the same voice as Crush the Turtle in Finding Nemo. I wrote that.

3. How my gear is performing, and how it makes me ... f ... f ... feel...

4. Ailments. These are most often about my feet.

5. Unique experiences throughout the day. "High ridgetop winds - hard trekking!" or "Swampy tussocks coming out of XXX basin" or "Found spike camp - log stool was comfy!" etc.

I don't write much polished narrative. Here and there, I will, in order to record the philosophy of the moment, so to speak.

I like journaling a lot. It's a rewarding part of my trekking experience.

Edited by ryan on 12/10/2006 12:46:05 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
reading and writing on UL trips on 12/10/2006 12:29:40 MST Print View

I always carry my modified version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with me when I'm hiking. For journal I bring a 2" x 4" spiral-bound notepad and a golf pencil. I recently purchased a 1.3 oz. digital voice recorder which I'm interested in trying out as well.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/10/2006 12:53:45 MST Print View

Like Sam, I've been carrying a recorder as well. I have a really nice stereo recorder that picks up the sound of a "butterfly landing on a leaf" (sorry, not really, but I received an email this morning from somebody telling me that my product reviews were written too dry...).

I recorded the arctic wolf sound that was on NPR with the audio recorder on my Pentax WPi, but the wolf was really close. With my other recorder, I was able to pick up wolves howling around my camp in Yellowstone. They were on either side of me, but probably 1/2 mile away, and the stereo condensers picked up both channels. It was really cool to listed to with stereo headphones.

I've also been doing some "wilderness recording" for some audio shows that BPL is producing, and the stereo channels are neat, because they can pick up the two conversations (as in an interview), separately, with the wind of the trees on the one side and the burbling of the brook on another. I love this stuff.

It's an Edirol R-09 and weighs 5.1 oz with Li batteries. It has SD card storage so I can store music, audiobooks, sounds clips from my son or wife, etc.

Edited by ryan on 12/10/2006 12:55:06 MST.

Nathan Moody
(atomick) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
moleskine, japanese pens and minidiscs! on 12/10/2006 13:00:15 MST Print View

Like Miles I also journal in a Moleskine - I switch between the small reporters journal and the standard pocket notebook...trained as an illustrator, I prefer blank open pages to rules, esp. as I can sketch what I've not photographed or draw routes. I love using 0.25mm Pilot pens I get in San Francisco's Japantown...something delicate and intimate about writing...very...small...and...slowly... ;-)

Ryan's post reminded me: I am two weeks away from a sea kayaking and hiking trip to southern Thailand, so I am borrowing a friend's minidisc recorder with stereo lav mic's that clip on to your sunglasses (or similar), to get human-ear-distance stereo separation. In the middle of the jungle at night, it should be fun!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: reading and writing on UL trips on 12/10/2006 13:00:21 MST Print View


all i can say is "Wow!".

you have it all down to a science. very impressive to say the least.

solving DE's aka DiffEQ aka differential equations - you sure know how to party when on the trail, you party animal you!!

lastly, you reminded me of something that sounded very familiar...

>>"I have a short (4") mechanical pencil (0.5mm) that I picked up from somewhere (who knows?)"

been lookin' for mine for some time; thought i had misplaced it at work.