Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

I thought this was a really good article. It was simple with only a few bullets but had some things that people often overlookHow to Prepare for a Strenuous Hike

Hiking is a great form of exercise and a fun way to mix up your workouts.

Whether you’re headed uphill or staying on a flat course, long-distance hiking requires good preparation. The key is planning ahead and packing smart.

Here are five tips to prepare for a long, strenuous hike.

Read the whole article:


Im seriously going to do this… Might be a great hike with the wife and gramma can watch the kids.

Dweeb's Diatribe

After completing the 800+ cache Route 66 series last year I didn’t think that I’d go back to the area for a long time. Then Team Stevecat hid the all-hiking, 200 cache Route 66 Shield geoart series just North of the mid-point. And then Buka2 (Roxanne) scheduled a hiking event there. Donuts in the Desert (GC41ZQE).
How could I NOT go? I stayed overnight in Barstow and then met f0t0m0m (Jim) and foomanjoo (Josh) at their motel’s parking lot. We left Barstow in 2 vehicles, in total darkness and saw the sunrise during the easy 80 mile drive to the Kelbaker Road offramp.
From there it was a 1 minute ride to the event. I knew that the group assembled there planned to split into 5 subgroups to find 40 caches each. And then everyone would log all 200 caches as found. I understand that people play the game…

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There are times, when caching I have that ‘duh’ moment where i forget something and wish I had made a list… Here are the 13 things I make sure I pack when I go off for a long adventure. Again, I do wilderness and outdoor hikes, and dislike the urban so the list might change for otehrs. Im sure there are more but these are the ones that keep me out of a precarious situation.

Why 13? Why not?  10 seems awfully cliche as do 3 5 and 7. I chose not to do 11, because that is reserved (et al Spinal Tap) for stereo’s so the next prime number is 13.

Ok here it goes. Not in any order other than the jumble of voices in my head.

1. Clothing

      This should be a no brainer, but after 20 years of marriage my wife still tells me I do stupid things and I say “Yea Ill change” and I never do… After years of being infected with poison oak, yucca spines, bugs and sunburns, I have learned that the right attire will make your trek MUCH more enjoyable, as well as the days after. Here are three words that should be associated with what you wear.
  • Comfortable – Forget those brand new hiking shoes for long runs.. They will only lead to pain. Same tight pants like denim. Yes you want the right equipment but blisters and rubbing rashes should NOT be part of the equation. If you want to wear this stuff in, do it on smaller hikes. Not only will it adjust to your body better after use and a few washes but it will separate you from the newbs who are wearing flashy colors.
  • Covering – If you are out for hours, you will get sunburned no matter how dark you are… As we age, skin cancer is really something to watch for and I would rather take a small extra step to prevent it rather than taking chances. Furthermore, covering clothes help you retain sweat which will cool you off faster. What is covering? Long pants rather than shorts, hiking shoes rather than VANs, and a long sleeve shirt rather than short sleeves. Also cotton is your friend. The jury is out on whether wicking fabrics are better for you but personally I like being a sweaty mess during a hike, its a mark of honor. This is also the rule I defy to hypocrisy. It seems like a great idea to hike with shorts, until you are all scratched up by a bush you are trying to get through. With a sturdy pair of lightweight cotton hiking pants, you can take that bush like a Marine and never look back.
  • Protective – One thing I always carry with me are gloves.. Far too many times I have found myself feeling around a hole in a tree and touched something else, or wound up in a dark area with sharp stuff… If you can’t see something you can’t avoid it, and the things you need to protect the most are you feet, eyes and hands… Everything else will heal… Bring a pair of gloves, a hat, and a pair of sun glasses. They will pay for themselves instantly vs. having to go to the doctor to get a cactus spine removed from your eye, a spider bite on your hand, or slipping from a steep gravel slope because your shoes don’t have any tread.

2. Pen / Pencil

Product DetailsWe are geocaching not picking flowers right? You need to sign that log and some of them just don’t have one. Its not the obligation of the cache owner to provide you a pencil and often what is included is broken or non functional.

Personally I like the Pilot G2 pens because they are a roller ball that gives you that nice smooth line, but its a gel pen so it always works. You can buy a box of 6 for roughly a buck a piece and they will actually last until the ink runs out.

Others will swear by pencils… Nope, not for me, for a couple reasons…

When pencils are sharp, they poke through pockets and can ruin nice bags. Once they poke through, they fall to the ground never to be seen again. Pencils break and get dull… A pencil that doesn’t work is about as useful as a snow ball in a snow storm.

Stick with a pen. They are retractable and usually have a clip you can hang on your shirt or a lanyard.

3. Camera

Product DetailsWhen people ask my ‘why i geocache’ the first thing I always tell them is “Because it brings me to the most amazing places”. Remember, most caches are in GREAT places, whether its an amazing view, an oddity, or something unique. If they weren’t people would sign the log, leave and never come back. There are places where caches live that are worth taking pictures of and showing your friends.

Do NOT invest a lot of money in a trail camera. You can find really good ones at Costco or even target for around a hundred bucks. Make sure they have an SD card or some other sort of removable media, because there is nothing worse than wanting to take a picture, your memory being full, deleting a picture, only to have your wife yell at you when you get home for erasing something important. If you are a serious hiker / geocacher, get a camera just for your pack, with a few extra SD cards and be happy.

As far as features, you want a basic zoom, all in one camera with no extra gadgets. Also make sure it has a lanyard strap. This is vital if you want to strap it around your hand or neck in hairy situations.

Lastly, new cameras will have a GPS built in. When my wife bought me one, I thought, big deal, its got a timestamp. What these cameras allow you to do is attach a picture (with coordinates) to a program like Garmin Connect (which is free) and tie your trail with pictures and create a Garmin Adventure , like this one:

4. Food & Water

Really, does this even need to be mentioned? Yes and does and Ill tell you why. I live at the base of Boney Mountain in the Santa Monica Mountains, and it is really a wonderful place for a quick lunchtime hike. Once a week, the Evergreen tour bus will drop off a bunch of tourists who also say “Wow!” who then decide to visit the cabin half way up (which is only ~3 miles but very vertical). On the way down, they realize there is neither a 7-11 serving big gulps up there or a Pinks serving hot dogs. As they come down, I am amazed at the amount of people who are dehydrated, in various stages of heat exhaustion and just need a bit of water and a bit of something with calories to get them back. I always bring extra just in case.

So how much water? Lets put it into perspective… A BRISK walker goes about 4 mph. If it is new terrain, you can easily double or triple this time while geocaching. So a 8 mile hike which should take 2 hours at full speed can take 8-12 depending on how lucky or how tough the terrain is… Add heat and humidity to that, and you can see why they have been pulling hikers out of our mountains via helicopter for the last few months.My recommendation here, is plan to drink 8 ounces of water and at least 100 calories of food for every hour (minimum). I thought this calculator was really cool, although the water volume seems excessive at the higher end:

If at any time you start to feel weak, have tunnel vision, excessively sweat or stop sweating, get to a cool shaded area ASAP, drink water, and take it easy. Ask for help if you need to.

5. Light weight hiking pole

Not so much for what a cane does but for those tight areas you might not want to stick your hand into at first, or that ammo can with a rattlesnake sitting on top of it. I but a cheap retractable walking stick from REI and keep it lashed to my backpack for when i need it… When I don’t bring it, I wish I had it, and when I have it, I often use it, so its a great investment considering the weight.

Some of them will cost more for built in compasses, or the starfish feet for snow.. Don’t buy any of that stuff… If you are using this for anything other than hiking, you will want to invest in gear that is proper for that outing. All in one gear often mean that something is left out and vendors try to grab you with that extra feature for 10 bucks when it costs them $0.25.

Don’t get the dual walking poles.. I laugh at those people because those products offer little to no assitance with hiking, are a crutch and lead to bad posture and pain in the arms, when where you should feel it is in the butt. Your butt is the strongest and largest muscle in your body (I wish that were otherwise, being a guy) and you will be greatly advantaged using it as a hiker than supporting yourself on two ski poles.

And lastly, for god sakes, unless you are on a easy stroll though the park don’t bring Gandalfs big heavy walking stick… What you carry with you, you have to carry out with you and a pound of dead weight wood is really nothing more than something to keep you company. It doesn’t even fold up when not in use.. Well, i guess you can fold it…. once…

6. Suntan Lotion / Bug Spray

Product DetailsI bring both, but have recently found that suntan lotion often keeps the bugs away also oddly enough. I do carry an aerosol can of suntan lotion and the bug repellent pads. Whats nice about the bug pads is that when you are done, you can tie it to your hat or lanyard and they often continue working.

For the eco-freaks out there, your gonna want to slap me but here it comes.. When it comes to suntan lotion (and bugspray but again i use the pads), get the aerosol.

Don’t get the lotion because its a pain in the butt to put on and it coats the palms of your hands.

Don’t get the pump spray thing, because they ALWAYS break, and broken bottles LEAK in your pack or wherever you keep it.

What you really what you want to protect is your neck, and your hands (you won’t be wearing gloves the whole hike, only when you need them). Sunburns are 100% avoidable, and keeping a small can of bug spray or even the bug repellent wipes, will keep those nasty bugs away from you… Remember, bugs are attracted to the CO2 you exhale. The more tired you get, the more you breathe, and the more bugs will be attracted do you. I have also tried the dog collars (and put them on my pack) and those work well, but they don’t last long and can be expensive.

7. Paper Towels

A fellow geocacher told me this once and I laughed, until I drank a bunch of coffee before a trip,a and an hour later, marked my territory the in the messyest way possible. To top it off, I didn’t have anything to wipe with so i had to use my map which was about as useful as a hand full of plastic wrap. I then had to use my water to clean up and had to use much more that I wanted to because the map broke while wiping. I cursed myself on this 104deg day and remembered this conversation and PROMISED I would put a small package in my fanny pack…

At some point in your life, you are going to have to take a crap in the woods. For a woman, they have double trouble but for a guy we have it easy for half of our evacuation needs. Story’s about wiping your butt with leaves or dirt is bullshit (no pun intended). Remember after your duty you need to continue hiking… Hiking with a messy butt is NOT FUN… This is easy to take care of since a couple sheets of a roll of paper towels is utterly weightless, and takes very little room….

On the not so dirty side, I said Paper Towels and not tissue/toilet paper. Reason is tissue/tp isn’t very strong. One advantage paper towels have is that they are still pretty rugged when wet, which makes a great first aid kit to clean up scuffed knees or hands when used with your already provisioned water.  They can also be rolled up to help stop bleeding, remove mud (or worse) and if need be, makes great kindling to start a fire.

This is one of the great multi- taskers of your kit. If you don’t use them in any of the aforementioned scenarios, you can always use it to apply mud to your face, so when you do get home, and get yelled out for staying out too long, you can make up a story of how you were attacked by a bear or something and had to fend for your life. The paper towel adds that authentic texture that you can mimic with your hand.

8. Trash Bags (ala CITO)

As far as I am concerned, EVERY geocacher should know what CITO means, should practice it and consider it payment forward to nature. If you don’t know, you might be too new to geocaching or live in the cave. Either way, click on the link to learn more.

I am a HUGE fan of this. People are freakin pigs when it comes to their trash. Someone would bring a single bottle of water, and don’t want to carry it with them so they toss it, hoping that the street cleaner that services the wooded in wilderness will find their crap and kindly pick it up… An ignoramus might claim that everything is biodegradable… In time, everything is, but the fact is, for a SINGLE plastic bottle to biodegrade takes a whopping 450 years.

Furthermore, (most) people who bring their dogs on hiking trails can kiss my ass… Dog crap is NOT biodegradable (although horse is) and is nothing short of a HAZMAT site. It is harmful to the environment, and does all sorts of bad things to our water supply. And guess what, if your dog shits on the path, and you are good enough to pick it up and put it in a bag, PICK UP THE BAG and put it in a trash can!  Again, leaving a poo bag on a path fixes NOTHING. The plastic bag will more than likely degrade much faster than the poo inside and bring you right back to step one, as if you have never used the bag to begin with.

Nothing makes me feel better than passing a fellow hiker on a path when I have a plastic trash bag full of other peoples stuff.. People are just lazy, especially trail bikers, who will have a refillable bottle in their bike frame, and plastic bottles and energy bars in their fanny pack.. Where do those energy bar wrappers end up? You guessed in, in a bush, which can be eaten by an animal, or eventually find itself in a water supply or the ocean.

Where I live in California, wilderness hiking is a free privilege and it seems to be the very least I can do to pick up after myself and more than often others. You’ll also need something to store #7 so bring 2.

9. Batteries

Product DetailsLots to talk about here. All GPS vendors will say you should get somewhere between 8-12 hours of life with a freshly loaded battery. Thats true, if you keep the backlight and display off, otherwise you are looking at 4-5. If you are doing a 10 hour hike you can see the problem. BRING EXTRA BATTERIES. In geocaching, our GPS is our main tool and it needs batteries for power. No power. No fun..

If my GPS takes 2 batteries, i bring 4 extra since thats what fits in the little rechargeable plastic case that my batteries use and it gives me a safety net.

Now the big debate, rechargeable vs. disposable batteries. From an ecological standpoint, there is no discussion. The time for a battery to decompose: NEVER. Due to the nature of the elements in a battery, it will corrode in a landfill but will take CENTURIES to fully decay… It may be a crap toss (no pun intended again… well… ok its funny) between what takes longer to decompose, a battery or the stuff mentioned in #7 above. If you want to control waste, use rechargeable batteries, which at least will curb the amount of product in our landfills.

Additionally, rechargeable batteries are MUCH better for geocaching in my opinion. Without getting into the physics of these things, the net-net is this. Alkaline batteries (for the most part) provide more voltage than a NiMH (rechargeable Nicad) battery. In the case of a GPS (unlike a flashlight), more voltage does not equal better performance. It means wastage. In a flashlight its nice because you can get a brighter light, but in a gps, which is a far more complex piece of hardware than a flashlight, there are resisters and capacitors which only allow certain amounts of ower through. Voltage that is resisted, is released as heat and heat is bad for electronics. NiMH batteries have lower voltages which means that they last longer, and more efficiently used.

Another aspect of NiMH batteries that I like is that they tend to give all or nothing.. When i NiMH is dead, its spent, whereas an alkaline always has a residual charge that is just low enough for a GPS not to work properly or constantly give you low voltage messages. From my experience, a NiMH runs at a constant level and when its out of charge, there is nothing left..

If you don’t believe me, I have several ziploc bags full of AA batteries, that the GPS registers as low voltage, which work fine in cheap flashlights.

Spend the extra money up front, and safe the planet and make your caching experience much more enjoyable.

10. Map

This seems like a no brainer but a GPS is not enough. Does it need to be a 1:24k topo map.. No

Often you will need to know where you are, and despite the claims of paperless geocaching, a little 4″ screen often will not cut it.

What I will typically do prior to a hike is go to, look at the route i want to take, and print out the portion of the map I am going to cover… I use this a LOT. Often, the basemap on the GPS isn’t very accurate or you just lose track of where you are.. A simple print out of the map will pay for itself in the first 10 minutes of your trek. Not only will it show you your path, and the geocaches on that route, but satellite maps are really useful when you are looking for a cache and your GPS signal is bouncing all over the place. I also use it to check off the caches I have found, not found, or are in need of maintenance, so when i get home and log it, i can check to see that the caches I found are actually marked found on both the map and the GPS

One important aspect of being a responsible hiker is to do the route you set out with. All too often, you see that shortcut to a couple of near caches, and one cache turns into two, and then tree, and then you are a mile or two off your plan. If you end up getting lost, having friends know what your route is can be helpful, but if you stray, you can be anywhere… So when you are printing the map, make 2 copies, one for yourself, and one for someone that is not on the trip with you.. just in case..

11. Cell Phone

Im not a fan of this one, but a marriage demands it and I’m kinda warming to the idea.

There will be times when you tell the wife you are going on a 5 hour hike, and you spend 8 hours.. She freaks, calls your friends, and suddenly you are the topic of conversation. Then when you get home, its not a “hug and I missed you”, its more like “you are such an ass”…. Take the phone, call every hour just to say “Hi, I love you, and Im alive”.

On the other hand, certain technological features have made smart phones a really neat aid. One of which that I have used on several deep outback capers are these apps that will email your coordinates to someone, to track your progress. There are many uses of this and can be a much cheaper alternative to a SPOT device, although, not as reliable, and its only as good as your cell carrier’s coverage is.

This is also a nice utility to get a quick terrain or satellite map… There will be times as aforementioned, that seeing the bush you are standing next to in its relation to where the GPS says the cache is, will be really helpful. You can zoom in and out of a smart phone, which is not an option with a map.

The only downfall here, is every time I have used a cell phone, the battery is near dead. So word of the wise.. If you have one on you and will be participating in either of the above two scenarios, make a plan with anyone who might be waiting for you, and turn the phone OFF until you need it, or are going to use it for a check in. It will make the battery last MUCH longer and in the scheme of weight:use, it will be a valuable partner when the battery has charge.

12. LED Flash Light

Not all caches are in sunlight. They can be in tree trunks, caves, storm drains, trees, under bushes or other places that human eyes aren’t acclimated for.. A small flashlight will make these places that are often skipped REALLY neat adventures. I was in Tahoe once looking for a cache in a storm drain… I was fine until i got 10 feet in, and then guess what, it was totally dark, i couldn’t see a foot in front of me and I stepped in a puddle of goo…

Note also I did not just say Flashlight.. I said LED Flash light. LED has come a LONG way in a few years and provides much more value than the C or D cell mag-lites that you carried and justified its weight since it doubled as a metal shillelagh. The bulbs in these lights can last in excess of 100,000 hours (11+ years) and for the couple of bucks you spend on one at Home Depot, you will lose it far before anything breaks on this. For that reason, I advise the following. First, buy a flashlight that uses single (no more than two) AA batteries. Most of the AAA battery versions require 3 batteries, and since your GPS uses AA’s, why not use the same battery. After all, if you run out of charge in the batteries in the GPS, swap them with the ones in the flashlight, since the flashlight will run MUCH longer on lower voltage batteries.

Secondly, I would advise using regular (no rechargeable batteries) for these. Because a good LED can be cheap (don’t buy an expensive one), you are going to lose them due to their size. Losing a rechargeable battery is a much bigger expense than an alkaline. Additionally, flashlights are used far less often, for shorter amounts of times, which means you won’t be burning through batteries like you will on the GPS.

Having a cheap LED flashlight is a lightweight, long lasting investment that will keep out of trouble when you are in it, and allow you to get into trouble when you have the opportunity.

13. Paper

Before you read on, re-read #7. #13 is not an alternative to #7. From personal experience, it DOESN’T WORK.

If you did #10 you can always do the backside, but often, I want to jot down information like the information from a travel bug, geocoin,  a cache that needs to be serviced or just a reminder about something..

Often on long hikes, ill just daydream, and think about random stuff like birthday gifts (which I can never seem to get right with the wife), or just random million dollar money making ideas.

Keying information into a gps can be painful, but having #2 and a #13 will make life a lot easier…

This is also a great use for that printer paper that you are going to throw away. Aside from usign paper for compost (which I just started doing), using the back side of laser or ink-jet paper is a great ecological re-use for it instead of just throwing it away.

Im sure there are other thinks like first aid kit and trail plans, but honestly I didn’t feel like mentioning those because everyone else does.