Hiking Forward is pleased to announce the winner of our First Hiking Forward Essay Contest.
Mr. Trent Vickers of Hernando, Mississippi
Trent is 11 years old and spends the large majority of his time outdoors involved in a host of outdoor activities including but limited not to hiking, camping, fishing and biking.
As winner of this years essay contest Trent will be receiving the following items from our two essay contest sponsors Teton Sports and Tribe Provisions. Hiking Forward would like to thank both Tribe Provisions and Teton Sports for their continued support of Hiking Forward and our contest to get youth engaged in the outdoors.
The backpack and hammock are both items that we here at Hiking Forward use on a regular basis and enjoy. In addition to winning these awesome prizes for his efforts, Trent has been provided the title of "Junior" Hiking Forward Correspondent. Trent will be utilizing the gear providing by Hiking Forward and our sponsors and writing reviews on them. These reviews along with the stories of his upcoming adventures will be displayed on Hiking Forward for all too read, so stay tuned for more from Trent our first Junior HF Correspondent.
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From Teton Sports
From Tribe Provisions
Outdoors is the Place for Me
What would you do if someone gave you $100 and said you could use it to celebrate your birthday any way you wanted? You would put a lot of thought into it, right? The way you decided to spent that money would show a lot about your character. For my 10th birthday, my mom and dad actually handed me $100 to plan any activity to celebrate my own birthday. I planned a weekend camping and fishing trip for my entire family. Why? Outdoors means that much to me.
To me, the meaning of outdoors is adventure. Once our Trail Life group went cold weather camping and hiking. While we were hiking, it started snowing harder and harder. When we were still four miles away from the campsite, we came to a marker that said our trail turned. Now I must tell you, we were on a trail that forbid horseback riding, but it was near horse trails. As soon as we had turned right, we saw horse tracks. Then we came to another marker saying to go straight into a muddy pool of water. One of my adventurous friends climbed a log and just as he jumped onto the other side of the water, the log cracked into two. He just barely made it without getting wet. That would have been bad news as it was getting colder by the minute, but there was now no log for him to walk back across. At the same time our leaders looked at the map and realized someone had switched the marker that told us to turn, and we were on a horse trail. We found a different log and put it over the pool, so my friend could scurry back over. After putting the markers in their correct places, we happily made our way back to the campfire. Conquering those icy winds to cook great food around a warm fire was an amazing journey. What an adventure!
The outdoors also means a huge assortment of activities. Backpacking and fishing are probably my favorite activities because in both you see a lot of animals. I also enjoy rollerblading and for several years I have been able to win a skating 5k. Mountain biking is fun because you run over lots of roots and hills and sometimes see some animals. There is always something enjoyable to do outdoors.
My last meaning of outdoors is challenge. It can be very challenging to get up at 5:00 in the morning to break camp or fish when you would much rather lay in bed. One example I have is I was on a camping trip with my dad, and we had planned to wake up at 5:00 to get a early start on fishing. We learned it is easier said than done. When 5:00 arrived, we were pondering whether we wanted to go. Even though we felt exhausted, we went anyway and were rewarded with two of our first catfish ever. There is always a challenge outdoors waiting for me to conquer it.
Outdoor activities and adventures always create great challenges. When my scout troop went canoeing, there was a fantastic rope swing, but my only great fear is heights. Overtaking the challenge for the adventure, I jumped. The outdoors has provided me so many opportunities similar to this one to willingly overcome my fears for the rewarding experience. There is no better place for me to be than outdoors.
In the backcountry, sleep is a luxury, food is a nicety but water is imperative. When in the wild, one is exposed to the elements and likely exerting themselves in a manner outside the norm. Knowing where to locate water and how to treat it so that it’s safe to drink is a critical skill to offset these realities. Locating the water is only half the challenge however. Having done your map study and read trail notes all over the interweb you know what your route offers regarding water sources (don’t bet on this however) and as you move where to expect the next stream, spring or river. Treating said water to ensure you don’t have any microbes that will give you “the mung” (giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidium, etc.) is the other half of the equation.
Ounces equals pounds and pounds equals pain. For every 1 liter of liquid add 2.2 pounds. This forces us to carry only a finite amount. Any multi day trip or emergency scenario requires a plan to replenish your supply. As a “best practice” in the backcountry, we each carry at least three liters and weather, terrain and consumption dependent do everything we can to stay “topped off” during our trips. Water carry and management is also a consideration. To ensure we can accomplish this, we also carry multiple methods of carrying liquid (Camelbak, Nalgene and collapsible Platypus bottles) and just as importantly pack out redundant water filtration options.
Below are some of the options you have that are proven and all under $100 USD:
A popular method of filtration is the pump like water filter and the 11 oz.Katadyn Pro Hiker is my preference. Easily employed, the activated-carbon core filter is contained in a robust plastic case with a pump handle at the top and two hoses. The bottom hose offers a teardrop like supplemental filter at the end that you drop into the source that is capable of filtering larger contaminants before it runs through the main filter. The other hose is where the filtered water flows through one of a number of adapters that fit different water collection receptacles. From a level of effort perspective, the Katadyn pumps 1 liter of water every 48 pump strokes so it takes no time to fill a larger Camelbak or Nalagene.
For cleaning the filter after repeated use, Katadyn offers their own cleaning solution, but we simply use 1 tablespoon of bleach in one liter of water and run it through the pump. We leave it out in the sun to dry after. Katadyn also sells a replacement element for the Pro Hiker that works with other filters as well. The original filter is effective to up to 1150 liters filtered.
As with all gear that is life sustaining, redundancy is key. Having two Pro Hikers is obviously an option; however, it adds weight and bulk and we have other less bulky methods available. Using ultraviolet technology, the SteriPen Ultra is a good alternative or complementary tool to the pump method. The SteriPen is powered with an internal, chargeable battery capable of filtering up to 50 liters without recharge. The operation of the SteriPen is simple in that you scoop water into a water bottle and place the device into the water and turn it on; stirring the filter for about 90 seconds. The LED screen on the SteriPen will tell you if when it is complete (with a big smiley face). You can set the device to filter 1 liter or ½ liter.
The SteriPen Ultra can be used up to eight thousand times and is 99.99% effective against a host of bacteria and protozoa. It also protects against cholera, dysentery, typhoid and botulism.
Two points that make this not my “go to” option are that fact that it is electronic, thus requiring a charge (car, solar panel, etc.) and an even larger concern, it requires “clear water.” The SteriPen is not effective in “cloudy” water or with high levels of sediment. For the amazing water sources offered at Yosemite, not an issue; however, we have filtered springs that were far from “clear” with positive results using a pump that would have been a non-starter for the UV technology of SteriPen.
To mitigate weight, maintenance and potential breakage or malfunction, one can simply avoid a pump or device and use tablets for water purification. The days of the gross halzone tabs used in the military are over, making way for products like Katadyn Micropur Purification tablets. Promising the same level of protection from the creepy crawlies in your water that UV or pumps offer, the 30 count pack weighs .9 ounces and equals a filtered output of 30 liters (equal to 10 fills of a large Camelbak). One tablet is needed per quart. The biggest obstacle to the tablet option is the wait time for it to take effect. Thirty minutes for Giardia and four hours for Cryptosporidium, so the end user should plan accordingly when thinking of when to “top off” and gauge water stops on their route.
This option is also an excellent “Go Bag” addition due to its three year shelf life, weight and lack of maintenance. Thinking of extreme situations like Katrina, one can find themselves like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” When natural or man-made disaster compromises sewage and water supply simultaneously, one can understand the need to have a simple, light option available to care for your family and pets.
A few other options in water treatment include life straws, gravity filtration bags and bottles with filters installed. Numbers of reputable companies have products that fall into one of these type collection/filtration methods.
Water filtration through gravity is a thru-hiker favorite and allows for multi-tasking. Popular models are the Sawyer Complete Water Filtration System and the Platypus GravityWorks Filter system, although there are plenty of others on the market as well. Boasting all the same capabilities to combat bacteria, giardia etc. the end user simply fills one bag and hangs it up as he or she continues setting up camp. The water runs from the “gray” water bag to the reservoir bag completely filtered and ready for use. It can provide up to 1.3 liters of clean water a minute. We haven’t personally used this system but would love to try it soon.
The Life Straw, which is a back up option on our packing list, is incredibly light and packable. Another “Go Bag” must have, the Life Straw is a mere 2 oz. and easily used. It is also one of the most inexpensive options we found. Simply pull the straw out and drink directly from the source or collect water in a Nalgene and drink. The filter offers the 99%+ protection level against all the same creeping crud the other filters do and is able to clean up to 1000 liters without replacement. To clean and avoid clogs, simply blow into the straw. Cons of the Life Straw include the inability to use with water bladders, cannot filter quantities of water for cooking, inconvenient “on the go” and not helpful for four legged friends.
Several companies offer a water bottle with internal filter system loaded within. The Katadyn MyBottle is a good example of this technology. Just shy of 10 oz. empty, the MyBottle filter acts almost as an Life Straw system within the bottle itself. The filter is married with the mouthpiece, so the user fills the bottle from the source and drinks. Like the Life Straw, this method doesn’t offer the ability to filter clean water for cooking or topping off your bladders, etc and there is a great deal of complaint from people regarding the squeezing required to drink. The MyBottle holds 24 ounces of water and can be used 155 times before the filter needs to be replaced. As all filters reviewed, the MyBottle and other like models prevent the wide majority of bacteria and protozoa.
Taste may be a chief complaint for any filtering options discussed when dealing with backcountry water. This might sound like a small consideration, but if you don’t “want” to drink, you won’t and it WILL cause you issues down the trail. Consider supplementing your packing list with something like Mio FIT or Powerade drops to add flavor and electrolytes.
Water collection, carry, filtering and conservation are all terrific topics for any outdoor person to read up on and research. Go beyond this short blog and dig into the topic. See how it applies to your sport, activity or planning needs, then share with others.
Hope you found this helpful. Stay safe.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike & Melanie
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“Distrusting our capacity to be alone, we too quickly look to others to save us, often from ourselves,” writes Sarvananda in Solitude and Loneliness: A Buddhist View.
Hiking alone often gets a bad rap. What if something bad happens? Well, what if it doesn’t? Some of my most memorable and meaningful hikes have been solo. In the wilderness, with only yourself and the land to think about, you quickly master the art of “being present”, something that is way too easy to avoid these days.
The upsides to hiking alone are many, and powerful. I didn’t realize this until after my first major solo hike. That experience came about largely by accident, when I was sent to Phoenix on a business trip. I had been doing quite a bit of day hiking with friends, and figured while I was in the area that I would take advantage of it and do some hiking in Arizona. I quickly decided I wanted to see Sedona, a place I had always heard great things about. Once I started consulting maps, I realized that I would also be within reach of the Grand Canyon, another place I hadn’t yet been.
So I planned and executed a trip and my trip went exactly as planned, maybe even better. I chatted with people along Bear Mountain in Sedona who told me their son was working at the Grand Canyon and did the route I was planning. They bolstered my confidence that I could do it. Along my hike up Bright Angel Trail, I met another solo hiker who was doing the same route I was. We started chatting and ended up finishing the hike together. If I had been hiking with others, I doubt we would have stopped to chat with other people and I would have missed the opportunity to connect with someone doing the same unusual thing I was doing at the same time on the same day.
So, based on personal experience, here are my top 5 reasons you should (sometimes) hike alone:
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With temperatures climbing into the 40's here in Wisconsin, it was either time to hit the beach or trek the trail. We opted for the latter.
Heading out to one of our favorite area segments, Loew Lake, our daughter started the hike a bit whiny and requesting to be held. Of course, that all changed when the first blaze came into sight. Even though it has been a few months since she last visited the Ice Age Trail, bopping blazes for her is like riding a bike.
We enjoyed checking out the tracks, investigating the pine needles, and testing out different walking sticks. I am also glad our mandatory pit stop at every bench now consists of only a snack rather than a diaper change.
We weren't the only ones out on the trail. In our hike, we met a stunning Siberian husky, stepped to the side while a dad pulled two boys on a sled, and enjoyed giving love to a dachshund named Huck and a black lab named Hank. Huck and Hank on a hike. Love it!
Luckily for us, the blaze bopping season has only just begun.
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It's the dead of winter here on the East Coast, and we are spending a lot of time planning and daydreaming about our upcoming backpacking season. With so much down time, we have had the opportunity to test some items to see if they will make it into our packs this year. We camp too far away from civilization to carry anything we don't love, so anything that we bring has to have a purpose and make our lives better. Here are a few of my favorites so far!
Lifelements Healing Honey Stick
This is a great product that I actually got to test out on the trail at Mount Rogers on our last trip there. It's a lip balm, it's a salve, it's a moisturizer. There's not much these sticks can't do. I tested both the chapstick size and the larger 2 oz size. The chapstick size is perfect for backcountry trips where weight is counted in ounces and every bit counts. I am a bit of a chapstick addict, I have Burt's Bees in pretty much every backpack and jacket pocket and at home I have an Eos collection that could fill a shelf at Target.
I like this because I can put it on in the morning and I don't find myself reaching for it constantly to reapply as I do some other chapsticks. I also really like that it is a multi function product, and I've used it on dry skin, bug bites, and other small annoyances with good results. I also love the fact that it is paraben free and cruelty free. It does contain nut butters though, so if you have a nut allergy, this is not the product for you.
Crispy Green Crispy Fruit
After years of just existing on apples and strawberries that I dry myself in my dehydrator, I was excited to see some freeze dried fruit at the local grocer that was a bit different. I immediately fell in love with their tangerines. They have 6 other flavors, including pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, asian pear, apple, and banana. I've tried most of them and while I'm not a big fan of the cantaloupe (not their fault, it's good, just not for me!), the others are amazing and I can't wait to bring some along this season. They are super lightweight and delicious. One thing to consider is that most of the flavors are only around 40 calories per package, so they won't fulfill much in the way of caloric needs, but they will still be a welcome snack and a nice little blood sugar boost out on the trail.
Snotty Brat Handkerchiefs
These aren't exactly new to my kit, as I've been carrying them for a couple of years now, but I finally broke down and ordered more for me as well as some for Mike. After spending time and money looking for soft hankies, these fit the bill and they come in great colors too. She will also customize them with a number of fun designs or your initials. I have used these for their intended purpose, blowing my nose, but they have also been super handy at wiping sweat, drying my feet after a soak in a cold creek, washing trail dirt off my legs, drying out our collapsible bowls, and more. They are reusable and have held up perfectly to many washings. They are also a much greener option than using baby wipes for everything. Baby wipes still have their place, but we use a lot less of them thanks to these babies.
Have you found any favorites this winter that you will be putting in your pack? Let us know in the comments!
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Mike and Melanie
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