Thursday, June 30, 2011

the DINKY STUFF - a video tutorial in two parts

Part ONE is above, and part TWO is below.

The Dinky Stuff (tip 61) is an area where too many campers go completely overboard. When you get right down to it, there actually isn’t that much you really need. All the dinky stuff should easily fit in one ziploc baggie. This items in the video may fluctuate a little between an overnight and a 10-day expedition, but not much.

Simple first aid kit (tip 55) is required. The stuff in the video is pretty much what I would take on any moderate trip. You have minimal gear, so your ability to improvise with what you might have on hand is drastically different than the traditional camper with their extra gear. The stuff in the kit reflects items that would be impossible to improvise. All stored in a ziploc baggie. Weight: Less than 3 oz.

This spartan little kit is not a substitute for proper first aid training. There is a professional certification titled Wilderness First Responder, and I would strongly advocate this course to anyone who travels in remote environments. Please, use your brain to avoid the kind of accidents that would make you need a first aid kit in the first place.

Simple repair kit (tip 56) is important 'cuz stuff breaks. And (mostly) it’s easily fixed. Here’s a simple list of what I would carry on the model trip. All stored in a ziploc baggie. Weight: Less than 3 oz.

During the video, I reference a stove made by Andrew Skurka, the easy to create Fancy Feast Cat Food Can Stove is an engineering marvel!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Can you drink un-treated water? (video tip)

TIP number 105

Is it water safe to drink water straight from a mountain stream? The answer is an unequivocal sometimes.

Please be aware, drinking un-treated might have serious gastro-consequences. The text book signs and symptoms of Giardia read as follows: “Explosive diarrhea with a foul sulfurous odor.” That sounds gross, right? Knowing what is reliable in the backcountry is critical here, and making an informed decision is a combination of experience and a working knowledge of the hazards.

My pal Phil carries a cute little 500ml plastic juice bottle in his hand during all his mountain travel. It’s never on his back, so it adds zero to the pack weight. When he gets to a trustworthy water source, he fills up and drinks. Nothing to treat, no pumping, no hoses, no boiling, no mixing chemicals, no time waiting for anything. Phil has achieved a sort of mastery when evaluating the safety of water, and this came from years of experience in the backcountry. I’m a little more cautious than Phil, but I regularly drink un-treated water.

I realize I am outside of the perceived norm of camping practices to even suggest that it’s okay to sometimes drink water straight from it’s source. It might even come off as heresy in a world filled with filters, pumps, chemicals and weird glowing ultra violet batteries operated gizmos. These tools serve a purpose, but not all the time. In my opinion, it is entirely appropriate to do what we as humans have done since the dawn of time.

I only drink from springs and very small streams. And I’ve found that a lot of the small little streams are easy to follow uphill to their source, where the water bubbles up out of the ground. This is actually very easy to do, especially with a UL pack. If you are aware, and looking uphill, you’ll quickly gain a good sense of where to find the quality springs. Before drinking directly from any un-treated water source, I run through this simple check-list:


~ Are there any zones above this water source that could impact the quality? (popular camping, mine sites, moose mating grounds, etc)

~ Is this a popular camping zone?

~ Is the water running from an outlet of a lake or pond?

~ Are there any wildlife feces near the water or upstream?

~ Is there a dead elk in the stream?

If I answer NO to all these questions, I happily drink up, most of the time. I’ll add that if I find a spring bubbling straight up from the ground, I will always dip my cup as close as I can to the source.

My advice, carefully factor in all available data before drinking ANY water in the backcountry. For questionable sources, I carry Aqua-Mira, a chlorine based treatment.