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A gear explosion in Amanda's 600 square foot apartment. It did not go over well when she arrived home from work.

A backpacking gear list: Its importance and core functions

On a trip planning checklist, what’s the most time-consuming task? Making travel plans, preparing food, selecting a route — yes, they can all rank up there. But gear selection probably tops the list, especially for new backpackers and for veteran backpackers without experience in a particular location or season. A gear list will make this process much easier, for current […]

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The permit station at Road's End in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

Permit directory: Wilderness & backcountry camping in the Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada mountains are world-class, encompassing two National Parks (Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings), the John Muir Trail, and a half-dozen Wilderness Areas like Desolation, Golden Trout, and Emigrant. The heart of the range extends from the Kern River in the south, to Lake Tahoe in the north. Backcountry use is accordingly significant, by residents of […]

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How-to || Pack a backpack: Load distribution, organization, waterproofing, & canisters

When packing my backpack, I have two primary goals: Minimize its effect on my center of gravity, and Keep oft-needed items easily accessible so that I can hike uninterrupted. I’ll start by discussing these goals in-depth. Then, I will address special considerations like bear canisters and backpack styles. Center of gravity When not wearing a […]

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Cold Spring Shelter, May 2002

Five-star campsites || Part 4: Four examples of classically bad campsites

In the previous two posts I discussed the ideal features of backpacking campsites, on both a zone- and spot-level. There are many of them, probably too many to remember. So in this final installment I will discuss four classically bad campsites. Despite having multiple and severe problems, I regularly see backpackers camping in these types of locations. If […]

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A room with a view. Gore Range, Colorado.

Five-star campsites || Part 2: Ideal features of camping zones

Recall from Part 1 that I assess backpacking campsites on two levels: zones and spots. The zone-level features of a five-star campsite never change. But spot-level features depend on whether I am sleeping on the ground or in a hammock. In this post I will discuss zone-level features. Safety This one should be obvious, but it’s […]

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An excellent camp near West Virgina's Spruce Knob. Warm, well protected, insect-free, cushioned, and flat and level.

Five-star campsites || Part 1: Intro, regs, planning, zones & spots

Campsites are not created equal. Where possible, I seek out locations that are relatively warm, dry, private, aesthetic, and free of bugs, rodents, and bears — “five-star campsites,” I call them. A high quality campsite makes a difference: It is more conducive to a night of quality sleep, and It enhances my backcountry experience. Sadly, […]

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Tie-off to a horn-like growth on a cottonwood tree

How-to video || My guyline system for tents, tarps, and hammocks

The guyline and tensioning systems normally found on backpacking shelters (including tents, tarps, and hammocks) share two flaws: Insufficient cordage is provided. This limits stake-out locations, which is especially problematic in rocky or hard-packed ground. Natural anchors like trees, downed logs, exposed roots, and large rocks cannot be used, nor can deadman anchors in the winter. These anchors […]

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After getting wet, my waterproof shoes dried extraordinarily slowly. After 24 hours of dry conditions, the exterior fabric was only partially dry. Meanwhile, moisture was unable to escape from inside my shoe.

Complete failure: I gave “waterproof” Gore-Tex hiking shoes a second chance

My skepticism of waterproof-breathable fabrics (like Gore-Tex) and products that utilize them (like rain gear and “waterproof” footwear) is no secret. For a history, read: Why I’m hard on Gore-Tex, the King of Hype Breathability: an explanation of its importance, mechanisms, and limitations Core 13 Clothing: Rain Jacket & Rain Pants Occasionally, however, it’s healthy […]

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