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Some general hiking questions
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Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
Some general hiking questions on 04/14/2013 13:10:12 MDT Print View

Hi folks,

Some questions I thought of but never asked...

0) if you hike with your wife, would you bring 2 FAK/Emergency kit and 2 repair kits?
1) The emergency kit should be on you (pockets) not in the pack, right? [for the cases when you fall and your pack is taken by water to a near waterfall...]
2) Folks are carrying button compasses in emergency kit. Do some of you take a tiny map of surroundings and put it into the kit too?
3) UL'ers hike in trail running shoes. What about cold weather? Are thick socks sufficient for shoulder seasons?
4) Is it a good practice to wash your body with degradable soap in a stream/lake?
5) Do you use some special toothpaste for hiking that does not harm environment?
6) Is it OK to bury degradable food (say bananas peel)?

Thank you!

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Some general hiking questions on 04/14/2013 13:35:14 MDT Print View

Yes, you should have an emergency kit on you at all times, especially if you are going to be doing water crossings. The most important emergency tool is something to start a fire with. If you are stuck overnight in below freezing temperatures with wet clothing, you probably aren't going to make it. If you can start a fire it will keep you warm and save your life. I carry a neck knife, firesteel, and tinder on a cord around my neck. You might want to add some kind of emergency shelter if it's likely to rain, but in a dense forest you can usually find natural cover or improvise something quickly.
If you are hiking in an area that doesn't have any wood to burn, an emergency bivy or space blanket would be your most important item.
Some people on this forum are going to say that carry emergency items is silly and paranoid, but I strongly disagree.

Thick wool socks will keep your feet warm while wet if you are actively moving in surprisingly cold temperatures. But when you start walking through snow your feet can get dangerously cold. Gore-tex socks are supposed to work well.

I don't think that spitting toothpaste on the ground even if it's toxic is going to do anything significant. Just don't spit it into a stream.

Edited by justin_baker on 04/14/2013 13:35:49 MDT.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Some general hiking questions on 04/14/2013 19:41:16 MDT Print View

4) Stay out of streams as much as possible. Back in the day before chemical engineering (or large population sizes) the amount of impact that people had on water ecosystems was minimal. Now though we put so many chemicals on and in our bodies that we unwittingly can poison pristine watersheds. From fragrances, to triclosan, to heavy metals and hormones...we have tons of chemicals which are all technically "biodegradable" on us that still interfere with plants, animals, and especially microorganisms before the chemicals actually break down into inert compounds.

These issues are of particular concern in pristine alpine lakes where trace chemicals are starting to build up since these lakes lack microorganisms necessary to "biodegrade" man made products. Of note are soaps and sunscreens.

Will an individual foul an entire stream? Unlikely, but one person can make survival harder than it needs to be fore the ecosystem.

So best practice is to sponge bath yourself 200+ feet away from a water source...or just embrace your natural funky self for the course of a won't kill you.

5) Toothpaste usually has triclosan in it and triclosan can take 180 days to biodegrade if not longer. It's an antimicrobial. A little spit likely won't hurt, but a hundred people spitting in the exact same spot over a year may kill off the soil microbes. If you want to minimize your impact find a non triclosan/triclocarban toothpaste. I believe Tom's of Maine is supposed to be all natural and it's anecdotally reported as more effective than regular toothpaste so that may be a decent alternative. Probably don't have to worry too much about toothpaste though.

6) Pack it in, pack it out. Fruit peels usually decompose fast but depending on your hiking are they can persist in recognizable form for decades (like in my orange peel littered deserts of the American Southwest). The only thing you should leave behind is foot prints and some poop (some places even make you pack out the poop because the ecology is so sensitive, check your local regulations). I pack out any food trash I bring in with me, even if it's biodegradable, as far as is reasonable. A dropped goldfish cracker or M&M I don't fret about. Toothpaste I don't worry about so much either.

Nelson Sherry

Locale: Mid-Willamette Valley
Re: Some general hiking questions on 04/14/2013 19:42:31 MDT Print View

0) Depends on the outing, and if there is much chance of getting separated. I generally care all the first aid and repair stuff to keep my wife's pack lighter and force me to stick with her. She'll still have a few bandaids and some duck tape though.

1) Yes.
2) I've never taken an emergency map. I generally have a pretty good idea of where any exits are in my head, but I like the idea.
3) Thin socks are fine for shoulder seasons. Thick socks and some plastic bags a work for full on winter.
4) Never! Biodegradable doesn't mean not harmful!!
5) Dentists generally suggest that toothpaste is actually not all that important. It's the brushing that matters. Don't even take toothpaste unless you want it for the pleasant taste and good breath.
6) Heck, some people even pack out their poop and a large if not majority of us either burn or pack out our TP. I try not to ever leave any of my food or biodegradable waste behind, except my poop.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
no soap in water on 04/14/2013 19:48:49 MDT Print View

4) Is it a good practice to wash your body with degradable soap in a stream/lake?

NO!!! It is not good practice, hopefully this question is as near as you have ever come to doing that, read the soap label, it tells you not to do that. Trail head instructions also frequently tell you not to do that. Do NOT treat wild streams, and, worse, lakes, as if they were your local sewer system. The stuff degrades, yes, but slowly, over time, not instantly. That means if you put it on the ground, it will eventually biodegrade into the surrounding soil, over time, that's all it means, and it should never be taken to mean anything else. So that is what is known as a 'bad practice', one of the worst, it's disgusting seeing that type of soap scum floating down a pristine mountain stream, polluting it for all other users downstream. You don't need soap to get clean anyway, you can just use sand to scrub yourself off, that works really well, try leaving some of the ideas of what you 'need' at home, it's educational, you don't need much that you think you do.

That of course also goes double for washing pots etc, no soap in water. Sand/dirt works very well to wash off pots, as long as you avoid too many animal fats, which are very hard to get off without hot water and some soap. Dry dirt will lift off fats decently too, then you just rinse it out. I know it seems counter-intuitive to clean with dirt or sand, but it works really well, in my opinion, much better than soaps for cleanup of cooking stuff.

It's easy to wash using a pot as a pouring thing away from the stream, or a dirty water bag for a sawyer filter if you use one of those.

and 6)

Depends on the fruit, orange peel basically for all practical purposes does not degrade, and isn't natural to most environments you would ever hike in, I think it varies fruit to fruit.

Of course the real question re bananas is, how on earth do you plan on carrying a banana on a hike and not having it turn into brown mush by the end of the day, unless I guess it's in a bear cannister? That's quite a challenge. However, dried banana chips are pretty good and have no skins, and also weigh much less. Apples are good and are somewhat natural to most areas around the world, or are now anyway, and they degrade really fast, that is, if a mouse doesn't find it first and celebrate its great luck.

Edited by hhope on 04/14/2013 19:56:23 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
forgot, re toothpaste on 04/14/2013 19:53:23 MDT Print View

If you use toothpaste, you only 'need' a tiny fraction of what most people use, a light dab on the tip of a toothbrush, that's all you need. I see huge sprays of white toothpaste spit surrounding campsites all the time, and it's obvious they put on a long dab of it, probably close to 100x more than needed. Some say you don't need it, but I like it in tiny amounts. A 3 gram or so container, 1.5 grams of toothpaste, give or take, that's 6 brushings for me, roughly. If I filled it, it would probably hold enough for 2 weeks plus I'd say.

Re winter shoes/trailrunners, it's a very simple test, you don't have to overthink it, next time it starts raining and it's cold and miserable, go for a long walk around your town or area, how does it feel? That's how it will feel when you do it anywhere. When you get home, leave the shoes on, how does that feel? Put the shoes outside on the porch, and then put them on the next morning, with your socks you wore, without having anything be dried indoors, and walk around again, in the cold. How does it feel? How it feels to you is how it will feel, so that's how you decide what to wear, it's irrelevant how it feels to someone else, in a different climate than you, or with different ideas of comfort or what is tolerable.

going for such walks is also a good way to test your rain gear, make sure it actually is rain gear that keeps you reasonably dry. One such walk was where I discovered that some old goretex hiking shoes I'd found used in fact weren't water resistant anymore over about 30% of their body, better to learn such things during a nice day hike than when you need the stuff to work.

That's all you need to do to answer that question for yourself.

Goretex socks are pretty neat, but I can't see hiking all day in them, but for a few hours, yeah, no problem.

Edited by hhope on 04/14/2013 20:17:18 MDT.

Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
Re: Some general hiking questions on 04/14/2013 20:15:10 MDT Print View

my two cents is:

0) I usually do not, chances of two failures are low
1) My pack spends most of its time on my body, but sounds logical if you are crossing above a waterfall or some raging torrent
2) Not a bad idea, but I have not
3) I wear thin liner socks down into the the 20s usually. I have not really backpacked in anything colder.
4) Use soap like Dr. Bronners but stay 100 yards away from streams and lakes
5) Baking soda
6) LNT - pack it in, pack it out

edited for a spelling error

Edited by AZajac on 04/14/2013 20:16:35 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: questions on 04/14/2013 20:19:43 MDT Print View

No to all questions.

On two occasions have I removed select emergency items from my pack and put them in my pockets; a high, solo river crossing in Yellowstone in May, and packrafting across a 120,000 cfs river in Alaska.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Some general hiking questions on 04/14/2013 20:34:51 MDT Print View (Leave No Trace)

Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
Great! on 04/15/2013 00:02:19 MDT Print View

Thank you guys!

I got everything I wanted.
So for now on:
0) won't take another FAK
1) Will still carry it in the pocket.
2) Not sure. Maybe will not.
3) Great advise to just test it (R) :)
4) Will never do it (actually done so and thought it was OK to do). Thank you on that one!
5) Will look for toothpaste without triclosan + very small amount. I already use very small pieces of dried toothpaste.
6) You are right, bananas are not that convenient for carrying around. I talked about bananas just for example. Orange peel is quite natural in the area I hike. Anyway I got your idea. LNT.

Thanks for the helpful info!

Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
Consider your wife's safety requirements on 04/15/2013 05:34:39 MDT Print View

I agree with the various pieces of advice above but I think your issue 0 deserves a response. I now do some hikes with my partner who is far less experienced than me having only just started to do multi-day walks. She has a bad back and so carries only a minimal amount - her sleeping gear, head lamp, clothing and toiletries. For safety reasons I always ensure she has a map (photcopies), compass, lighter, minimal 1st aid and emergency blanket (less than 100g total). I also ensure she has some of the food - she is in charge of her breakfasts and the snacks. If we become separated then she has the ability to survive a night or two. This also ensures that there is backup of the main emergency requirements if we are together. I don't think it is necessary for her to carry a repair kit or too much additional gear.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Personal first aid kit on 04/15/2013 08:08:57 MDT Print View

I agree with Mark! Each person should have a small amount of basic first aid stuff; everything else can go in a group kit.

As for the others--please do read carefully that Leave No Trace link that John Shannon provided. Maybe read it twice! Thank you!

Baking soda is dentist-approved and doesn't leave stains or nasty chemicals on the ground after you spit it out. (There's also the question if you even want those nasty chemicals in your mouth, but that's a separate topic.) You can also brush without any toothpaste; it's the toothbrush and floss that do the job.

I don't even bring soap (biodegradable or other) because it's extremely harmful to aquatic life, especially amphibians. Sunscreen and bug repellent on your body are also extremely harmful to aquatic life, so please rinse it off at least 200 feet from water sources before taking that swim.

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/15/2013 08:16:59 MDT.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Some general hiking questions on 04/15/2013 08:35:32 MDT Print View

0 Sounds like much of my input has been previously covered but I think it's best for everyone to carry their own first aid kit.

1 I'm of the belief that the emergency kit should always be on you for reasons previously mentioned (water crossing gone wrong, etc). You don't have to go overboard with it; it's possible to put one together for less than a few ozs.

2 A way I carry extra copies of my map is to scan it and upload it to my iPhone. I always have a hard copy in my ruck or on my person somewhere. Most of my routes aren't all that complicated but I perform frequent map checks during the day to keep myself on track. If I were to lose my map, I'd probably be ok heading back to the TH by memory but it's nice having it on my phone.

3 In winter/shoulder seasons, I like to throw a couple bread bags into my ruck for my feet. Rarely use them but they will help warm my feet as a vapor barrier. I used to wear traditional wool socks but now I'm transitioning to the light weight socks. Wear one, carry one, and carry an extra pair of thick wool socks for sleeping or unexpected freezing temperatures.

5 Re: Biodegradable toothpaste, I haven't but I probably should. I've used baking soda in the past and I'll probably go back to it after reading this thread. I don't mind forgoing normal personal hygiene when I'm backpacking but as a general rule, I think neglecting oral hygiene when backpacking is a bad idea. Another area of importance is carrying soap to wash your hands with. I carry hand sanitizer as well as an extra measure of caution.

LNT everything else. Thanks for your concern and taking the time to research the proper technique for those issues.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Some general hiking questions on 04/15/2013 09:04:34 MDT Print View

Actually you do have a mini map. It's in your mind. Knowing a few baseline features in the area (highway, ridge line, major river etc) plus general direction from a button compass can be very effective. Off trail in an area with complicated spurs and draws it can be surprisingly difficult to keep track of general direction without a compass.

Of course most hikers don't cut cross country routes so it probably doesn't matter.

Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
Map in FAK on 04/15/2013 13:15:52 MDT Print View

Thank you for valuable replies.

When I talk about emergency map it's not just a tiny map. It has also escape routes for places where it is likely to be trapped. Marked closest areas with cell phone coverage, nearest roads/villages. Etc, etc... You got the idea. Emergency map.