There is no substitute for experience when it comes to setting up camp and surviving in the wilderness. Some skills and techniques can only be learned by years of careful experimentation and experience. However, you don’t have to spend a lifetime of tramping about to have a few life-enhancing tricks up your sleeve. No matter your experience level, a few simple tricks can be, at best, time saving and helpful and at the very least, novel or fun. Here are some tips and tricks that are easy and quick, but can make the wilderness a bit more manageable.
Tips for your Gear
• Removing sticky pine sap from your gear: Use warm water and mineral oil to remove stubborn pine sap from fabric.
• Minimize condensation in your tent: Keep your vents open and clear of large packs or piles of clothes. For better circulation, keep a top and bottom vent open so that cool dry air is sucked in as the hot moist air leaves.
• Organize your pack to keep your balance. Make sure your heaviest equipment is packed in the lower middle of your pack. Pack medium-weight gear around or above the heaviest gear. This will keep the weight centered and natural feeling.
• Dry your boots quickly. At home, hang wet boots upside down and fill them with crumpled up newspaper to dry them overnight. In the field there are two really effective boot driers; the sun and your feet. If you have the time, put your boots out in the sun. If you need to travel, walk your boots dry.
• The temperature doesn’t matter to a sunburn. You can still get sunburned in cloudy or cool weather. Also remember that UV rays are stronger at higher elevations even though it may not feel like it, as the temperature drops. Always take lip balm and sunscreen to protect from sunburn.
• Always know where your bandana is: A bandana is one of the most versatile items you can take on the trail. You can use it for washing, wear it as sun protection, strain water, keep the sweat out of your eyes, and even use it as a makeshift, first aid tool. Of course, it can still be used for its original purpose of nose blowing – just be sure to give it a good wash before using it for any of the above listed uses!
• Natural mosquito repellent: In a pinch some plants will provide repellency to mosquitoes. While it might give a bad tempered French knight something to taunt you about, the leaves of the elderberry bush make a great natural mosquito repellent. Crush the leaves and rub the liquid on exposed skin. There are also manufactured repellents that utilize active ingredients found in plants that will provide natural repellent.
• Prevent blisters: Some people advocate the use of foot lubricants like Hydropel or Bodyglide to avoid blisters. Powders such as Gold Bond or BlisterShield will also help keep sweaty feet dry.
• Use greasy snack food if kindling is wet: Oily chips like Fritos or Lays potato chips can be used as back-up fire starters if your wood is too wet.
• Don’t get caught in the dark: For a rough estimate of how much sunlight is left in the day, find a clear view of the horizon and the sun. Extend your arms in front of you, with your fingers parallel to the horizon. Count how many finger widths are between the sun and the horizon. Each finger width indicates approximately 15 minutes. So for example, four fingers between the sun and horizon indicate 1 hour of sunlight remaining.
• Don’t be a sucker. Remove ticks properly: Use tweezers to grasp the tick tightly, as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out in a slow, steady movement. Do not twist or jerk the tick as it comes out. Doing so will cause the tick’s head to break off in you skin and can become infected. (Gross!)
• Protecting a hot spot: If you start to feel a blister coming on, place a piece of moleskin or a bandage between the skin and your sock inside the shoe. If the skin has already begun to blister, use a blister treatment like GlacierGel to create a buffer and keep the wound stable, moist and clean.
• Use physics to warm your feet: You can use the force of inertia to get the blood flowing again to your cold feet. Simply swing your legs back and forth like a pendulum. This will force extra blood down into your feet and will keep them warmer.