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A Complete Appalachian Trail Guidebook.
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  • Great trail tricks and Words of Wisdom for hiking the Appalachian Trail

    On a long distance hike we all learn tricks we never read about in books. Like: Hanging washed socks on my pack with a safety pin, then when they are still a little damp tossing them in my sleeping bag so my body heat dries them completely. On a wet day an excellent fire starter is alcohol hand sanitizer but watch the blue flame. Filtering water through a bandana to remove the floaties before treating it were three tricks I learned the first week out. We know there are a million more tricks backpackers use to make their hike more pleasant.

    So: Here are a few words of wisdom from white blaze. This is what has worked for the members posting these nuggets, & they may work for you as well. They may not. For the most part they are intended as hints, not hard fast rules. Use with discretion & feel free to add your own as appropriate. Also, please note that sometimes hints may disagree with or contradict each other, & sometimes posters will say don't do it that way, do it this way all such disagreements & hints will be posted regardless.

    Some posts are meant to be humorous.
    There may be times a posts has a comment from the editor, will try to keep that to a minimum.
    I tried to organize the posts by category. Most times I did, some times I may have them listed under a wrong heading, or just put it under "General" If this is wrong, I'm sorry (Doctari).
    Thanks to all of the posters for these helpful hints.
    Moxie00 & Doctari

    1. Keep your stuff in exactly the same spot in your backpack each & every trip. In my case, my tent poles are ALWAYS tucked on the front right hand corner, for example. Makes it easier to find stuff, & more important it makes it much more obvious to notice if anything is missing.
    2. A very common trick on the trail used to be to take a discarded coke can & cut a door in it to make a reflective candle lantern.
    3. When weight isn't such an issue, carry a small recorder with several owl calls & a decent flashlight. When you hear one way off in the distance, call him right into your camp.
    4. In Maine, the Gray Jays will be commonplace. Be sure to go hiking with someone who is unfamiliar with their personalities. When you see one, stop in the middle of the Trail & raise you arms to the sky proclaiming you are the Beastmaster, & lord of the Northern forest. Let you partner conclude that you are a raging idiot, but don't budge an inch & make sure she is watching you. Then get the last laugh.
    5. Open that bottle of Negra Modelo on the door latch of a VW Bug in the Trailhead parking lot. OK, so its stretching it a bit to say this is a Trail Trick. Still, you never know..
    Note: Best to wear eye protection & gear for smoke in bottle trick, too. Only normal drinking stuff, of course.

    The one trick that eliminates most issues & the need for other tricks is to carry an ample supply of Scotch Whiskey.
    Tin Man.

    Leave no Trace.

    The more I carry the more I like camping, the less I carry the more I like hiking.
    Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
    SGT Rock

    Somewhere... Wallyworld, I think... I saw a set of adapters that would let you use any size battery to power any battery-powered device (so long as you're sizing up). My headlamp & radio work on AAA batteries, but my camera takes AA. I'm thinking about getting an adapter so I can just carry AAA batteries & then follow TJ's method. Start them out in my camera, then move to my headlamp or radio. Might save a few ounces & allow me to buy batteries in bulk.

    I wear my camera on my sternum strap - makes it handy for responding quickly to photo-ops. It's a compact Nikon 3200 digital in a Lowe-Alpine camera soft case just the right size. Fastens to the sternum strap with Velcro.

    A couple of tricks that can come in handy. I'm a custom home framer so I try to incorporate some of the materials I use at work into my hikes. I can enthusiastically endorse masons string line (avail at any hardware store or home depot for $2/200ft) for hanging bear bags, guying out your tent or anything else you use a heavier rope for. The stuff is virtually unbreakable & resists abrading. Case in point, I have to string across rough concrete to measure & level steel beams, etc. Tough conditions & the stuff never breaks. Best of all, it weighs nothing & has tremendous strength.
    Another multitasking building material is sub-floor adhesive. When hiking I primarily use this as a wet day fire starter. I keep a small amount (maybe 3-4oz) in a Lexan bottle & if needed scoop out a thumbnail size serving to start my fire. This stuff is unreal...it burns for 3-5 minutes & is a no-fail option. If it dries out, it works just as well if not better than when its fresh. The down side is that it stinks when burning...could it be the Methylchlorohydrosiloxane? We may never know, but if the smell doesn't bug you it's awesome stuff.

    They have PV foam towels used for drying cars in Wal-Mart in the automotive section...come in a clear plastic tube, cost 6 bucks. It's my most useful piece of gear. When completely dry & folded it feels & weighs about the same as a Styrofoam block the size of a pack of cigarettes. It absorbs 20 times its weight in water & releases 96% of it when you wring it. Makes a great bath towel, cut up it makes great headbands & wristbands, it dries your tent off in the morning like nothing else does.
    Here is the really cool trick: If you get soaked take your clothes & roll them up in it & wring, do it a few times. It is amazing how well it removes the water, enough to put everything back on, & your body heat will finish the drying process in minutes.
    This is the best $6.00 you'll ever spend on anything that goes in your pack. I was curious to see what exactly the water content was in my pearl uzumi shirt after I'd dried it like this so I ran some tests at home. I soaked the shirt in a bucket of water & wrung it out in the PV towel a number of times then weighed it on a digital postal scale. I then completely dried it dryer & re-weighed it. The difference in weight was only 6/10ths of an ounce.
    Newspaper. Best stuff there is to dry shoes when youre in town. Stuff em full & change often. The boots/shoee can get crispy dry within 24 hours as long as you keep dry paper in them

    You say you don't have a ruler. Use a dollar bill as a template. It's so close that no one will notice, whether the blaze is painted or is simply a patch from a milk jug.
    Re: plastic bags on feet: Encasing feet is not a problem for a few hours, even an afternoon. Just don't keep them encased 24 hours or more, certainly not days at a time. Remember, a successful hike requires moderation in all things.

    I learned to strip excess boxes & packaging on the food that I carry.
    Duct tape, duct tape, duct tape not something new but I love this stuff. I use it for everything.
    Trash bags, I put everything into trash bags & even use them for a pack cover at night so that my pack does not get wet when it is hanging from the bears.
    I got rid of the Coleman lantern & the Coleman stove & went with a canister stove with an attachment for cooking & a small attachment for light. I have burned it all night at it lowest setting & I have never run out of gas on the trail yet.
    I also learned to carry my water in a bladder with a hose & I have in my pack so that I sip water all the time. I find I get better performance getting my water this way instead of drinking from my bottle.
    And when I have damp or wet clothes I throw them on the roof of the shelter & they dry very quickly.
    And one thing that I learned was I take washcloths & wrap them around the shoulder straps with duct tape for impact protection. Take the pain out of my shoulder with more protection on the straps.

    I will second Swift on the towel idea, unfortunately I paid way more than I should of buying it from REI as a Pack Towel, but these things are awesome. Twice I have had to set my tent up in a downpour & twice it has completely dried out the inside of my tent, essential seeing as I carry down bags to sleep in. This thing soaks up puddles!!!... And you don't even notice it in your pack. I always have to have it with me when I hike now.
    Here's a trick for newbies...many of you already know to do this..."Camel Up" Drink 1 to 2 liters at the source & that way you don't have to carry more than two liters to the next water source. I used to dehydrate fast as a big guy, & since I started to do this...no problems. I used to carry 3-4 when I was just starting out...never again. Oh yeah, & I only use a filter now at questionable looking water holes, saves me time, but that is my decision. YMMV.
    Almost There

    What I've learned is that there is nothing that you carry on your pack that is "virtually weightless" or "weighs next to nothing". It all adds up, and the lighter you get your pack the more important it is to be careful about adding back in a bunch of "virtually weightless" stuff. That said, I like the closed cell foam rope holder, Sean Sangree!
    Re: plastic bags over socks: My sweaty feet would just love this improvised sauna!

    This tip is for those of you that hang a sleeping pad outside your pack. The plastic bags that your newspaper are delivered in are just the right size to fit over your rolled up Thermarest. Just slide one on each end & put it in the stuff sack. It will keep the pad dry. It has worked well for my wife & I for 1,100 miles.
    Lost & Found

    You can use your sleeping bag as a dryer for damp items, but that water has to evaporate somewhere, normally into your loft.
    Two Forty

    A trick for trail maintainers; rather than paint all your blazes a good substitute is cut a white gallon Clorox bottle into 2 x 6 inch strips. To help night hikers put a small piece of white scotch reflective tape on each strip. With a sharpie you can even put a small N or S on the strips depending on which side of the tree they go on. Staple the strip to the tree. Environmentally paint is better but where trees have rough bark or on wooden rails, steps or signposts the plastic blazes seem to work just fine.

    wrt to painted blazes I wonder why more clubs don't touch up old "expanded" blazes by edging the 2x6 blaze area with black or brown to cover over the old expanded paint - I wound think that would look better & be somewhat easier than scraping the old blaze off to repaint (Weary replied: That looks okay only if you can use paint that comes close to matching the bark of the tree. Otherwise it just emphasizes the past mistake.)
    Hog On Ice

    My two 0.8oz each black diamond ion headlamps go one each prussic knotted to the inside key loop of my lid & one to the main bags inner lip, remove & wire tie to tent pole for pee lite & replace to find things & always know where my lights are. Also ,... use the space between the folds of an egg carton shape ridge rest z-light pad to keep screens, stands, stakes. And put cook pot on in pot bag, on top of foam pad secured w pot bags cord lock & one pack strap.

    If you are parking a vehicle for 4 to 6 months: Change all the fluids before you leave. Air up the tires. Put in Gasoline stabilizer. Get it at Home Depot in the mower department. Disconnect the battery. Put it on a trickle charger. About every other month, if you can have some one go over. Have them take off the trickle charger, hook up the battery, & drive it for about 30 minutes. Say, all day on Saturday to chores. This keeps everything just fine.
    Sitting 4 months is really not too bad.
    Owner of 2 classic cars that sit a LOT.

    I too use a foot or so of duck tape about only 1 inch wide around a see thru lighter... but first put a safety pin under it... this give a loop to afix a dummy cord.... now never without fire, safety pin to remove splinters, lance blisters etc & enough duck tape for blister coverage & plenty of butterfly bandages...
    Pocket knife goes on another dummy cord.
    Never lost these critical items.

    To go just a bit lighter, I know I almost never think of this but: after making ALL of your purchases in town, either leave your leftover coins in the penny jar of your last stop, or buy a candy bar. Coins can add up weight wise, & you need that candy bar anyway.
    Practice with every piece of gear before you hit the trail. Light the stove & cook a meal, set up the shelter (tent, tarp, hammock, etc) several times (even at night), change the batteries in your light while blindfolded, etc.
    Seam seal everything with a seam. No matter what the maker says about how well their stuff is made.
    A favorite quote from my bicycling days: I know my pack is waterproof, it stopped raining 2 hours ago & there is still 4 inches of water in the bottom.
    Keep a journal: Days, weeks, months after your hike, you may find that those Forever memories are firmly etched in vapor. Take pictures for the same reason.
    I paint my: tent stakes, knife, etc. Day-Glo orange. It makes them easier to find when I drop them, which I seem to do all too often.

    Not that it is a big deal, but we've avoided the sticky glue-residue on the bottles/poles by wrapping duct tape around a disposable straw (you can always trim the straw to fit)... when you are low, just throw it out & get another one from any where that sells soda.

    Here's an idea for adding an ultralight D-Ring to the shoulder straps or anywhere else you want it on your pack. No special tools required: only scissors.
    http://www.freewebs.com/jasonklass/a...lightdring.htm "Many lightweight packs come stripped down with no amenities in order to save weight. Often, the old standard D-rings are eliminated from the shoulder straps; however, there are times I miss them. It's nice to at least have the option of clipping certain things to the shoulder strap for easy access. I found this light solution. Plastic zip ties make a great substitute, fit almost anywhere & weigh next to nothing. You can buy a big pack of them for about one dollar & they come in various colors, including black. They can also be used as Hydration hose guides & you can cinch them to whatever size you want. Weight: Does not register on my scale."

    -To store your bear hanging string without it getting tangled wrap it around a scrap of closed cell foam (virtually weightless) with slits cut in it to hold the rope ends.
    -aluminum chimney flashing can be purchased at lowe's/home depot for a few bucks and is vastly superior to kitchen aluminum foil for making windscreens, pot lids, etc. It's much more durable, and springy so it holds its original shape even after packing. weight difference is negligible.
    -to keep your food bag dry when hanging use a dry sac with a roll top closure such as those made by Outdoor Research or Sea 2 Summit. A plastic bag or stuff sac will usually let water in the top.
    -A piece of a ScotchBrite scour pad weighs next to nothing and cleans pots more easily than leaves/sand, etc. I used to carry a metal scrubby but it was heavier and seemed to retain more gucky stuff from my pot.
    -WalMart flip flops are about the lightest footware you can find, cost like $2, and are unbelievably comfortable after a high mileage day.
    -If you use a hydration system, be careful about leaving the tube/bite valve out overnight. For some reason critters find the bite valves attractive (even a clean one) and will gnaw on them.
    -If you don't like to risk leaks in a down bag, a Platypus or other flat water bag under your sleeping pad isn't really noticeable and won't freeze.
    -Footwear won't freeze overnight in winter unless it's wet. If you don't fancy sharing your sleeping bag with a heavy pair of boots, then build a small fire and dry them out before going to bed.
    -The lightest emergency fire starting kit I've found is a couple of matches from a match book, and the sandpaper strip cut from the back of it, in the smallest zip-lock you can find (I have mine in with my first aid/repairs kit).
    -Learn the "PCT method" of bear bag hanging. It requires only one stuff sac & less rope than the counter-balance method.
    -If you use tent/tarp stakes carry just one of the beefiest stake you can get, and use it to create a pilot hole in hard/rocky ground for your lighter weight stakes.
    Sean Sangree

    I found a very small (@ 3"x4"), flat, zippered nylon pouch with a small plastic 'biner attached to one corner. I use it to store I.D., credit card, car keys, etc. I clip the 'biner to one of the zippers on my top pocket, stuff it inside, & zip it up. It makes it easy to get it out of my pack without a long search, & the pouch fits easily into the pocket of my pants or shorts-just like a wallet.

    To gauge remaining time until sunset use your fingers between sun & horizon. One finger=15minutes.
    Poncho uses (using army-issue as example): well ventilated raingear & pack cover in one. Tarp (if you're tall like me can put foot of sleeping bag in waterproof bag).

    For duct tape I find this small package is all I need & you don't
    have to wrap on anything.
    I use a gas level indicator cut to fit the fuel canister so I can tell how much
    gas is left.

    Re Duct tape on hiking poles: I've never understood this. The idea is to minimize weight, consistent with comfort & safety. Especially weight that you pick up & put down repeatedly - footwear & poles being prime examples.
    So, why do you want to make your poles, which you pick up & put down hundreds or thousands of times on a hike, even a little heavier?
    I just throw a few feet of duct tape in my pack. If you want it handy at all times, wrap some around your water bottle.
    C. Coyle

    Carry a Ridge Rest or something made of a similar material. Don't carry a stuff sack for it & don't worry about wetness.
    A bandana tied to my shoulder strap to wipe sweat from my brow. I also kept my journal on my maps.

    C.coyle said "wrap duct tape on pack" good idea "wrap duct tape on water bottle" IMO a not so good idea.
    The reason is condensation from the water causes the tape to be less sticky. Find some thing that you plan to keep dry to wrap duct tape around (I use a zip lock bag as a wallet, add to it several wraps of tape)
    2nd tip, I got some where, TP, find a zip lock that will hold a whole roll, put the roll in the bag & then tear out the cardboard center. If some paper also comes out it will be OK, then flatten the roll, when using, keep the roll in the bag & pull paper from the center of the roll. Keeping it in the bag will help keep your TP dry & less dirty.

    I have duct tape on my water bottle & have never had a problem with the condensation causing the tape to be less sticky. I have to admit, though, that I only ever got to the end of the tape that was attached to the bottle one time (I always add to it before every trip, replacing what I used on the last trip, if I used any of it).
    Duct tape may be the best, multi-purpose tool any person can carry.

    Lighters: wrapping your duct tape around it, for convenience of course - then add a string & wear it around your neck. You never loose it or drop it. The string can be used as an emergency shoelace or whatever other uses a string comes in handy for. The lighter for fire & the duct tape for everything & it doesn't add an ounce to your pack because your wearing it.
    A good place for duct tape storage as well - wrap it around your hiking sticks, can't get anymore convenient than that, but be sure to apply approx the same amount on each pole if you are using two.

    I have a very lightweight boat key floatie/boat registration container that has an "o" ring seal between cap & container. I use it to keep my self striking matches (you know, the ones that you can light with your fingernail or on your Levi's or trail pants) & my lighter In the small cap I keep 4 cotton balls soaked in Vaseline for emergency fire starters. I chose the fluorescent green color so it would be easy to find. Most boat dealerships carry this container. It could also be used for as a waterproof money holder, waterproof medicine container etc. etc.
    USCG retired

    When it's < than or = to freezing out, & you don't want your socks/drawers/pants to be frozen in the a.m., put them under your sleeping pad. This trick helped us out when we blew through the Smokies in the snow last Oct.
    When throwing your rope over a tree limb to hang your food bag, wrap a rock up with your bandana & tie the rope around the bandana. This insures the rope will not come off the rock. Auggie showed me this trick in the 100 mile wilderness. It works great!

    1. Carry 15 - 20 feet of twine or nylon string. Makes a great clothesline in camp & weighs nothing.
    2. Keep your camera handy - such as in your water bottle pouch - so you won't miss great but fleeting shots of wildlife, etc.
    3. Keep a journal & take tons of pictures - you'll thank yourself later.
    (Turbo Joe adds: don't forget photo logs)
    Savage Llama

    Does anyone fish on the trail? Last year I decided to try.... I wrapped some fishing line around a little 35mm film canister & put some hooks inside the canister... when I stopped at a lake for lunch or something id cut some line & throw a couple hooks out in the water with worms I found by the bank, in a matter of minutes I caught a few sunfish & fried them up for lunch. you can usually find some food in your pack to use as bait if you don't feel like digging for worms, sunfish eat pretty much anything
    Gave me something to do while sitting down & a nice meal with fresh meat that took basically no time at all & only involved putting a tiny 35mm film canister in my pack. (The fishing line also has a million other uses on the trail, great for sewing, makes a nice close line, 20lb test line is strong enough to use as a boot lace in a pinch)
    Sgt Dirtman

    Re: fishing on the trail; tried last year i converted my leki pole into a rod using a reel hose clamps & rod eyelets didn't catch anything however. The leki poles don't bend so easily.
    Turbo Joe

    Anytime I am writing in the woods I use a .03 mechanical pencil. It makes it very easy to write extremely small which lets you carry a much smaller journal. I carry one of those tiny folding notebooks like mechanics and such used to carry in their shirt pocket. You can (I can anyway) record two or three days events on one page if you want.
    Irritable Badger

    Speaking of pencils, to save weight I found these cheap pencils at Staples that don't have any paint on them.

    In the really hot mid-summer days I would be hiking by around 6:30 am. I would stop for lunch around 12.30 then have a siesta for a couple of hours. It really recharged my batteries.

    If you are in a place to score a baby diaper or two you can cram one in your boot. It makes an instant difference & if you leave it in there a while it will get 'em super dry. You can cut the diapers up for easier packing if you wanted to carry some but they are fairly heavy & only work once. (Saimyoji asks: Can't you just wring them out?) Not really. The silica or whatever they put in there turns to a funky gel when it gets saturated. I don't know how to extract it & I doubt the diaper manufacturers would put a multi-use component in diapers. They seem pretty intent on selling as many as possible.
    Irritable Badger

    I never leave without some 550 cord in my pack. It's got to be the real parachute cord with 7 strand inner core, though. That way, you have a normal cord, but when certain needs arise you can separate the cores into whatever small sizes you need. For example, one core strand is enough to guy out a tarp, & it's very light. Separate the cores even further & you can use them for dental floss or sewing thread.
    On my first trip to the desert, I picked up my (too heavy) pack by the shoulder strap & it broke off. On a layover, I sewed it back on with the 550 cord inner core & never had a problem with it again. Then I returned the pack for a new one when I got back.
    Re, keeping your water bottle from freezing: Sleep with your water bottle.
    In addition to sleeping with water, I also put my camera, headlamp & stove fuel in a stuff sack inside the bag with me. The warmth keeps the batteries from draining, & since I use a canister stove the cold can really make a difference.
    I think it isn't the cold that wrecks the batteries. I think if it gets cold & then you use it, the batteries drain. If you warm the batteries up before you turn your camera on, though, the batteries should last longer. Haven't really experimented with this, though, since I sleep with my batteries.
    I hate frozen boots the worst. I'll put my boots into a plastic bag or stuff sack & sleep with them, too.
    Just be sure not to squeeze the tick's body when you pull him out - you'll squeeze the blood back into your body...with the Lyme's baddies. Or so I've heard.
    I like a small neck pillow...it doesn't support my head, just my neck. Otherwise, it kinda strains my neck right at the base of my skull & gives me a headache. Usually a small stuff sack with clothes or my fleece stuffed into its sleeve works well.
    Just Jeff

    Regarding using a sleeping bag to dry clothes:
    The key word is SYNTHETIC, people who try this drying technique with a down bag, ends up with a wet bag that is very hard to dry (on the trail).
    If the synthetic bag gets wet it will dry, usually completely overnight, just from your body heat. I have a long bag so as to have extra space to put my boots & socks in the bottom. This keeps them from freezing, also allows them to dry. I usually tie grocery bags around the soles to keep the sleeping bag clean. I also have a down bag, I'll use it out west where their is low humidity or use it car camping. Never on the AT. Used a NF Cat's Meow for my 96 thru-hike, worked great.
    Re pillows: I use my water bladder. I turn the bag upside down & inflate it. Makes a good pillow, water won't freeze, & I can get a drink easily. I did add a bite valve with a cutoff, to protect from leakage.

    Regarding using a sleeping bag to dry clothes, loft plays an important role. The water vapor has to pass through a certain thickness. I took my new -20 synthetic bag out & put my hiking shorts in it to dry overnight. The outside of my bag was damp near the shorts. The loft on this bag is substantial, so the condensation point for the moisture may not have been outside the bag. I have used the method very successfully however with a +20 degree bag.

    A great trick that saved me a lot of money thru hiking. Group Purchasing. At most trail towns you will stay with a lot of other hikers at a hostel or trailside motel. Before you purchase fuel by the ounce or anything else poll the group. Fuel can cost $40 a gallon when purchased by the ounce at hostels or outfitters but if a group get together & purchase a gallon from a local store the price is $4.00 A gallon. A dozen boiled eggs might spoil before you can eat them all on the trail but three of you can purchase a dozen, boil them at a hostel & hit the trail with 4 boiled eggs each. More powdered Gatorade than you would want to carry can be purchased in a large container & through the miracle of zip lock bags shared by a group. A shared meal cooked at a hostel is much cheaper, & better for you than McDonalds in town. On my thru hike I saved a lot of money by group purchasing.

    You can take a zero miles day in the woods much cheaper, & perhaps less stressful, than in town. Can't spend money in the woods.

    When you come upon a Winnebago or folks having a picnic, introduce yourself & ask if you could by a few slices of bread. In no time you'll be feasting on all kinds of good stuff.
    L. Wolf

    If you like getting free stuff from tourists, carry two $1.00 bills in your pocket. They will become wrinkled & nasty looking. When you would like something for free (a coke, food, a cigar) offer to buy one holding the money out. I always got it for free, & usually got more pushed on me. In order to make this work, you should have a short interesting/funny hiking story ready to tell.

    Short on cash? Use regular Unleaded gas instead of white gas for your stove. Smells really bad & turns your pots completely black but it qualifies as a trail trick. [Editors note: This MAY clog your stove due to additives in automobile gasoline that are not usually in stove grade gasoline, aka: Coleman fuel/white gas. I have done it without ill effect, but, , ,]
    Irritable Badger

    1) When you send a maildrop to a location that is not within walking distance of stores, you'll save time if you also mail TP & anything expendables you use either to clean up there (soap & shampoo/conditioner in tiny motel bottles, disposable razor) or on the Trail (wet wipes/paper towels).
    2) In such mail drops, send a couple of cans of food (or even drink) that you enjoy, but are impractical for carrying on the Trail. You're going to be dumping the cans in a nearby trashcan before getting back on the Trail, so the main issue IMO is the expense for postage. This is a good way IMO to get some additional vegetables, too; I'm trying to stick in a can of spinach or asparagus in such mail drops in my own pre-thru hike attempt planning. I'm also putting in a couple of MRE heating units in some drops; I don't want to ever again hump them on the Trail, but there's no reason I can't enjoy a couple of conveniently-heated meals where I can dump the extra trash before I get back on the Trail.
    3) Drive to a few potential maildrop locations in advance of a long hike, & simply drop off boxes of supplies. Bulky stuff (like TP, paper towels, freeze-dried vegetables) & heavy drinks (plastic bottles of fruit juice, or a gallon or two of distilled water, say) are particularly convenient to do this way. Plus, you can preposition supplies like stove fuel/bottles that you can't legally mail, or pricey stuff (ATC maps you won't need for a while, or camera memory sticks, say). And, the mail service (UPS, FedEx, US Snail, whatever) doesn't get a chance to lose it this way!
    4) Throw in a dispo razor, motel-sized conditioning shampoo, & bar of motel-size soap into each of your mail drops. Pick up your maildrop before getting a shower. No need to worry about buying them in BFEville before you get your town shower that way

    For little batteries like for the microlite or my headlamp or watch, I always keep one of each in my bounce box. Much easier than trying to hunt them down & waste time in town, & they are so small & insignificant in weight that it's no big deal to stash them in there.

    A GOOD set of earplugs can make for a better nights sleep in: Shelters, Hostels, Motels, etc.

    I use aluminum gutter nails for stakes - cheap & light weight - the head end was painted white which makes it easy to see most times - the surface of the nails is scored to roughen them & as a result they grip well in the soil
    Hog On Ice

    If you decide to carry one of those 4 liter water bags with a spigot, you can turn it into a pillow by emptying the water, inflating through the open spigot, & covering with your fleece jacket.
    Another pillow configuration, learned right here at WhiteBlaze, is to buy a set of kid's water wings from Wal-Mart ($2). Cut one of the wings along the seam & you have a nice little two-part inflatable pillow that weighs less than an ounce.

    If you use a quilt sew little ties as corners & midpoints - tie into poncho for bedroll.
    To keep an externally packed/strapped ridgerest (or equivalent) pad dry/clean fold it lengthwise with the sleeping surface on the inside. Then S-roll it into a square or rectangle, whichever works best for your pack, with the "peak" of your lengthwise fold "up."

    I throw my extra clothing (socks, underwear, pants, shirt, etc..) in my stuff sack for my sleeping bag & use it as a pillow.
    Green Bean

    Carry a plastic tablemat for a dry spot to sit.

    If you're freestanding tent has a mesh roof practice setting it up upside down so that when you have to set up in a rain storm you will keep the inside dry.

    Never camp on the windy side of the ridge in cold weather.
    Two Speed

    This is not my idea, but I read on here some where that wood hook screws would be great for hanging stuff on when you get to the shelters or on trees to hang your water bag or semi-light stuff. They are definitely going in my pack this time. They weigh nothing & I think I would use them.

    Editor: The many responses to the wood hook screws idea above were basically that they did more damage than LNT guidelines dictate & generally not a good thing. Follow your heart in this matter. And, if you choose to use them, PLEASE remove them after use! EVERY TIME! An alternative is posted by Tinker:

    Tie a light rope around a tree with S hooks permanently attached to it to hang things on, if you must. Please don't go screwing hooks into trees. Screwing them into shelters is a good way to snag another shelter occupant, too. Not advised.

    Re: "Tie a light rope around a tree with "S" hooks permanently attached to it to hang things on, if you must." Something similar is to take a spare shoe lace & a light weight 'biner or minibiner - tie the boot lace into a loop with a bowline knot - double the loop over & hook the 'biner into the doubled loop - for small trees wrap the doubled loop around the tree & hook in the 'biner - for larger trees pull one side of the doubled loop around the tree & hook in the 'biner - fine tune by twisting the 'biner & shoe lace loop before hooking pack or whatever onto the 'biner.
    Hog On ice

    For hanging lightweight stuff head-high or so on trees carry a piece of stout cord 1/8" about 6 ft. long to tie around the tree. Carry a couple small S-hooks for hanging from the cord. No damage done to the tree.
    There are two thoughts on packing tents when breaking camp. One, fold & roll as the factory packages it. Two, grab a corner & start stuffing it in the bag. The latter method supposed to prevent any weak spots or holes developing because of repeated folding in the same place all the time. If you do yours the second way, leave the sleeping bag in the tent & stuff them together. Saves a little time packing, & unpacking too. You'll just have to get a somewhat larger stuff sack than the one for the tent or the bag alone. I can say this works OK for a week or two, might be all right for long hikes also.

    Carry an extra tent stake.... you're going to lose one every hike!!

    If you carry a Thermarest, don't roll it up slowly as you get the air out of it. Open the valve, fold it in half, then half again. Lie back on it & wait till the air all rushes out, roll side to side in order to get as much air out as possible. Close the valve, spread it out, roll it tight, open the valve, let the last air out, close & go. It takes much less time & is much easier. I thought everybody knew this, but I was surprised how often I shared the tip when I was hiking.

    My pillow is normally constructed just before I hit it by putting everything stuffable into a stuff bag, which I use for a pillow. Now I'm planning to use a hammock. Will I need a pillow?

    Instead of a pillow or a lumpy bag of clothes, I stuff my long-sleeved fleece inside its left arm. It's soft, warm & just the right firmness.

    If you're a light sleeper, try earplugs. If that with out them, I take notice of every little sound (tarp rustling, branches breaking in the distance) & I get to sleep faster. A warm bottle of hot coco in you sleeping bag keep you warm & make a nice 3am snack. (Lugnut adds: If the bears don't take it away from you first!)

    Put your headlamp around your neck as soon as you get to camp so you don't have to look for it in the dark.
    Jester 2000

    Carry an extra tent stake.... you're going to lose one every hike!!

    Re birch bark fire starter: So is the inner bark of yellow poplar & most cedars. Just take a stip of bark from a downed limb (never standing, it will not work because it's wet) & peel or better yet scrape off the fibrous strands. Rough them up in your hands, & you have a tinder bundle that you could use a little coal (or straight flame, if you are in a hurry to get somewhere) to get things cooking.
    There are over 30 ways to start a fire without matches, using only natural materials. Once you have the knowledge (which I am still working on), then you don't need the tricks.
    If you don't have the knowledge, try ping-pong balls. Just make a slice, light, & watch it go. I think they are all cellulose, not plastic. Certainly don't ever put anything plastic in a fire.
    Tha Wookie

    I found my first birch tree in the col between Georgia & North Carolina. I never was without a supply for my Zip Stove thereafter. No matter how desperate, however, don't pull or cut birch bark from live trees.
    Yellow birch is equally good as a fire starter. Some wild cherry trees also had tightly curled bark with an oil that served as a fire starter. Birch is a pioneer species, which means it rarely survives when other species overtop it along trails. That means as a now protected trail, over the decades birch will become ever more scarce. But the oils that make the bark burn so well remains for years in downed limbs & trunks.

    Re water bottle freezing: Or even better, if it's going to be that cold, boil enough water at dinner time to make a hot water bottle. Put it in your sleeping bag while you eat, then crawl into the warmth. I usually put a sock over mine. It holds the heat longer, keeps me from burning my toes, & absorbs any minor leakage.
    Pennsylvania rose

    When you get to the shelter, or stop & set up camp somewhere. First thing to do is to gather water. Don't take off your boots just yet. If the water source is uphill or down a muddy hill, the last thing you want to be doing is walking that distance in flip-flops. So leave your boots on for another 10 minutes & gather a TON of water. That way you only have to make one trip & you can relax the rest of the night

    Sleep on the floor in your house for a couple of days to get used to not being in a bed.
    Wear your hat when sleeping.
    Jester 2000

    Timing has a lot to do with the success of a rain dance.

    Wherever you go, there you are!

    Never quit on a bad day.
    You complain all the way up the mountain, but on the way home you start planning your next trip.

    Anywhere is within walking distance, if you've got the time...Stephen Wright, comic
    Tent-N-Kent AT 2001

    I learned this the very hard way.
    Don't allow another person to control your destination, stand up for yourself & be in control
    The one who blames is the one that is of blame.

    Pain is your friend, it let's you know you are still alive.
    Carry in, carry out.
    Look ahead to where you are going, not back from where you came.

    Don't try to make your hike a competition.
    There will always be someone with a lighter pack; & someone with a heavier pack.
    There will always be someone who hikes faster than you; & someone who hikes slower than you.
    There will always be someone who is more experienced & knows more than you do (hard for some to accept this); & someone who is less experienced & knows less than you do (hard for some beginners to believe this as well, but it's true!).
    Most of all, enjoy yourself! This is supposed to be fun!

    The trail dictates, you don't.
    Two Speed

    When the miles are easy taken em. When the miles get tough push back. Sounds pretty profound but I found myself mumbling those words on many occasions between Springer & Katahdin.
    During my thru I stopped into a Radio Shack (I think it was Front Royal) & bought a lightweight weatherproof radio. It had a clip on the back that was the exact size of my sternum strap. I was able to plug/unplug the earbuds when I wanted to but otherwise the little radio just went along for the ride. It used on AA sized battery that darn near lasted all the way to Katahdin. Reception wasn't always great but there were those days when the miles didn't come easy & it was nice to plug in the electronic ear muffs & zone away ...

    Early to bed & early to rise = more time avail for walking.

    It's always darkest right before it goes pitch black.
    Walk quietly, stop often, look around, & breathe.

    Keep an open mind
    Hope for the best, Plan for the worst, Take what you get

    On Pain & Feeling sorry for yourself:
    Pain is weakness leaving the body.. US Marine bumper sticker.
    No matter how cold it is, it is colder somewhere else..
    Clark Fork in Western Montana

    Always pack your sense of humor! Second only to duct tape!
    What lies behind us & what lies before us are tiny matter compared to what lies within us.

    Mental preparation is (at least) as important as physical conditioning
    You will get wet - accept it
    And the one I have to keep telling myself over & over: Respect the Trail
    It's not just what you're given, it's what you do with what you've got

    Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.
    All, & I do mean ALL! Shelters, Campsites, Hostels, Motels, Restaurants, Stores, & etc. Will have someone say something bad about them. Listen to them or not, I chose to not listen, & have had many a good experience at places I was warned against stopping at / visiting. On the opposite end, EVERY: Shelter, Campsite, Hostel, Motel, Restaurant, Store, & etc. will be SOMEONE'S absolute favorite.
    A trail guide is just that, a GUIDE. A plan if you will, to be followed or not. Let the trail dictate to you. If you plan a 20 mile day but due to terrain or weather or feeling bad or all of the above, you can only do a few miles: THATS OK!

    Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff.
    A bad on the trail, is better than a good at work.
    No matter how bad things seem, they could always be much worse.
    It is always darkest before sunrise.
    I can see the light at the end of the tunnel & it's not freight train.

    Don't let anyone live inside your head rent free.

    If you are in a hurry, why are you walking?
    SGT Rock

    A tradition I started with my brother on our first section & follow each year at the start of our 50 miles:
    Walk 10 paces from the car, stop, hold hand to right ear, Do you hear that? [pause] No whining women! Walk 10 more paces, stop, hold hand to left ear, Do you hear that? [pause] No whining kids!
    Personally, I like Sgt. Rock's No sniveling. Sort of captures it all.

    Hiker's Prayer: Lord, if you pick 'em up, I'll put 'em down.

    Climbing Katahdin is like The Final Exam. For about a mile of it, the toughest climb on the whole AT. The one that determines if you "graduate." The one that you're never gonna forget.

    No Rain, No Pain, No Maine
    Too Tall Paul

    For Hammocks: A Drip Line For Rain
    Tie a shoe string or any cord/string to the support ropes to keep the water from running down into your hammock and sleeping bag.
    Hanna Hanger

    Find two of those tiny mini-biners and clip them into the head and foot end loops of the overhead line in a Hennessy Hammock. I clip my shoes to the foot end one, so they don't ride down the line and end up in my face overnight. i put any odds and ends i want inside with me in a remaining stuff sack and clip it to the other one, over my head, so it's handy to get to at night. of course, you can always just throw them over the line outside, but you might want them closer at hand if it's raining or cold.
    Use white-out or liquid paper to mark a few 6" increments on the head and foot tie-out lines to help you center things more quickly.
    Mark the end of the head or foot tie-out lines with something (or even just knot it) so you can tell which end is which in the dark. you can also make a mark with white-out on the knot cover at one end or the other, for the same reason.
    Keep your tarp in a separate bag. you can set it up first if it's raining, and unpack everything else under cover. when you pack back up, if the tarp is wet, it won't get the hammock wet.
    If you use the stock HH tarp, sew small triangular pockets into the corners near the tarp tie-outs with a small velcro patch to keep them shut. roll the lines up and store them neatly inside.
    Tie the foot end of your tarp a little higher than the other end, so you can stand up easily underneath. gives you a place to take off your rain gear and wet boots before you get into the hammock.

    Tie your tarp directly to the trees as opposed to on the hammock lines, this will keep the hammock tight after you get in. This is an issue with the HH.
    This will help as Seeker said give you a dry place to set up and take down your hammock.
    Hammock Engineer

    these are great stakes in rocky ground and high winds neo
    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...d=40000008000& productId=12276843&parent_category_rn=4500663&vcat =REI_SEARCH

    I put Kelty trip-tease lines for my tarp lines. It really helps you find your bed after the middle of the night bio break.

    I used to use triptease, but it was TOO easy to find my campsite... I like stealth mode best... so I use some black colored triptease-like reflective cord to tie up the head and foot ends of my tarp... just enough to see to get back, but not so much that it brings any unwanted attention from the locals. I fear other people on the trail more than wildlife... i can predict what most animals will do... I can never predict what a drunk redneck local will do... with his gun, truck, horse, or ATV... had a couple close calls, and it's enough to keep me 'hid' unless I'm with other folks. I still like being alone though.
    One other tip i forgot earlier. find some of those aluminum caribiners, the bigger ones that support about 150lbs and are NOT for climbing. the gates aren't open either... they have a pin that goes across so it's harder to accidently open on you. anyway, use them to connect your tree huggers together and then run the hammock lines to them... lots easier to put up and take down than weaving it into the tree huggers... i use a red one at the head end, and a blue one at the foot end (red head, blue shoe).

    I agree with the tips posted so far, especially about tying the tarp to the trees and keeping the tarp separate from the hammock so you can set up and tear town in the rain with only your tarp getting wet.
    Lots of great tips on differentiating the head and foot ends. I always tie my head end up first and take it down last. That way, the free end when I go to set up is always the head.
    Don't forget about drip strings to keep water from running down onto your hammock in a storm. Almost anything will work on ropes, you have to be more careful with straps.
    If it's raining and not too cold and windy, I like to prop a hiking pole under one side corner of my stock HH tarp. Gives more useable room under the tarp and helps the view and the ventilation. Seeker's corner pockets do a good job of keeping it in place on the slippery silnylon. Be sure the pole is slightly lower than the ridgeline so that water will run off instead of pooling.
    I agree with Seeker on stealth setups. All my line is black or olive. I like falling asleep knowing that I'm hidden away.

    We wrap our trekking poles at the handles to form a tripod to hang our packs on, between our hammocks. Her's on her side, mine on mine. This keeps them off the ground, dry, & slug free! The rope doubles as a guy line.
    ME & U

    I put a small once wrap of duct tape on the head end of my HH so when in the snake skins, it is easy for set-up because I know where the head is.
    Cheese whiz

    My favorite tricks are hammock hanging & freezer bag cooking

    An easy way to tell the head end from the foot end if you use snakeskins is to always pull the footend snakeskin over the hammock first, then do the head end, pulling it over the top of the footend one at the center. 'Head over foot' makes it easy to remember which is which.
    Bring a trash bag and store your pack inside it underneath the hammock at night for protective storage and easy access in the morning.
    A small "sport" platypus with a doubled string tied around the neck can be clipped to the glove hooks of the Hennessy, giving quick access to a sip of water during the night.
    River Runner

    I found that to find two trees appropriately spaced for my Hennessy the distance is equal to extending my arms holding trekking poles. It also finds the center between the trees. Today I picked up some gutter nails (thanks to someone elses tip) for cheapo stakes. Home depot; come in bags of 10; 40 cents each, 7 inches long, about 0.5 ounce each, with your choice of brown or white heads.
    Neo replies: I use that with less than a foot at each end since I use an oversized tarp
    Kerosene replies: I like it. Finding two appropriately spaced trees, without too much underbrush and with no widow makers overhead, is probably the most frustrating thing about setting up my hammock.

    Tonight at the market I spotted Lipton's green tea to go. They are tiny little sleeves (10 in a box for $2.99) with the powder to make a reasonable facsimile of bottled Lipton Green tea. Goes in a bottle of water or 2 cups in your nalgene. The total weight of all 10 sleeves is 0.4oz. I had one with dinner and it was great. The other nine are in my pack awaiting April 1st. Just thought this was cool enough to mention.
    Sleep Walker

    How to pick up a hot handle-less pot (ex the grease pot) with a bandana:
    1.) Fold the bandana several times length wise (not diagonally) until you have a strap approx 1-2 inches wide.
    2.) Hold the strap with your index & middle fingers of both hands so that if the palms are facing down the strap goes over the index finger & under the middle finger of each hand.
    3.) Continuing to hold the strap, point your fingers down & bring the strap up to & around the pot until you index fingers are pressing the strap against the pot.
    4.) Put your thumbs on the strap roughly in the middle then lift the pot using the index fingers & thumbs pressing on the strap
    This idea saves weight by removing the need for a handle or other pot holder device & allows a safe way to pick up a hot pot using the most multipurpose of all gear, the bandana.
    Note this technique can also be used even if the alcohol stove is still burning since with practice it is fast enough so that you don't burn your fingers or the bandana.
    A small hint for those who like the idea of a combined windscreen & pot holder as seen on http://home.adelphia.net/~dstier/stove/stove2.html & similarly on http://www.datasync.com/~wksmith/stove.html
    If you make one of these for a grease pot don't make it symmetric - pick one end or the other to always go toward the inside when storing the windscreen in the pot & make that end closer to the first pot support than the other end. In other words have a short end & a long end. I have found about 2 inches to be good for the short end & then I adjust the long end to give me approx 1/4 inch gap around the pot (ends up approx 4 or 5 inches on long end). This permits the short end to fit neatly inside the pot without hitting the first pot support on the long end. By fitting neatly in the pot the windscreen/pot support is much less likely to be damaged in the pack.
    In addition if using the folded over ends as a clip to hold the ends together when in use - put the bend on the long end toward the inside & the bend on the short end toward the outside - this reduces the interference of the lip on the grease pot with the windscreen making it easier to remove the windscreen from the pot with one hand. If the long side hook is bent to the outside of the curve it tends to catch on the lip of the grease pot. With respect to airflow punch more holes in the bottom of the windscreen than are shown in the diagrams - the fuel will burn better with more air.
    Hog On Ice

    Tank on water to keep cramps at bay
    Use your pasta water to make a soup.
    Paint ball containers make for grreat cracker or cookie holders. Folgers coffee containers work too but are bulkier. I use a folgers container to store my Hiker pro in when I use it. It's perfect for collecting water under a trickle & the filter fits nicely.
    Oh ya...teach your honey how to use the stove
    ME & U

    When you find that you have "rice soup" add a little instant mashed potatoes - sucks the extra water up very quickly.
    Fold a bandana 4 times to make 16 layers of cloth & then you can handle the hot pots safely with the bandana protecting your hand
    Multiuse items are great - ex for a great fire starter use toilet paper & olive oil or other cooking oil
    wrapping frozen meat in newspaper lets you carry the meat farther before it thaws out & then you can burn the paper starting the fire to cook the meat.
    Hog On Ice

    The new ziplock containers with the screw on lids work well for re-hydrating food while you hike.

    Re throwing your food bag line over a branch: CAUTION: Be careful of the rock swinging back towards you after it clears the branch! I was using a larger-than-normal rock, & it came flying back at me fast enough to break my lower leg if it had hit me!
    I bring a 2'x2' square of aluminum foil for use as:
    a potholder (similar to the bandana method)
    a combination pot lid/windscreen (part serves as the pot lid & hangs down to form a rudimentary 1/2 windscreen
    insulation/lid for your pot or cup
    a trivet for a hot pot if needed
    an emergency reflector (although not as good as a mirror)
    The foil should last 3-4 weeks if you're reasonably careful & is easy to replace from a bounce box.

    Re throwing your food bag rope over a tree branch: Another option if you use soda bottles for water bottles is to tie the rope to the soda bottle neck & adjust the weight of the bottle by adding/drinking the water. I use a constrictor knot to tie the rope to the bottle - fast to tie & it does not come loose in the throwing. I find it easier to throw the bottle accurately than to throw the rock accurately.
    Hog On Ice

    Buy orange or bright colored lighters when you get to town. Trying to find a green lighter after you've dropped it can be difficult sometimes. I hiked with someone who had a brillo pad to clean her dishes with, I thought that was a great idea too. In the summer, taking a couple of Hershey bars & putting them into my peanut butter jar is delicious!

    I measured out 1 cup of water, put it in my cooking pot & scratched a line as to where the "1 Cup mark" is.
    Did the same for 2 Cups.
    This way I'm at least close to the right amount of water when cooking.
    (I used to end up with "rice soup" when I really wanted just rice)

    Practice cooking at home. Make marks on your practice fuel canister with a sharpie to keep track of many 'cooks' you get. Use a pot cozy & wind screen. Take some town food in for the first day, like a sub & chips, or Jack's excellent idea of frozen meat. Get the clear lighters so you can see how much fuel is left. My camera, head lamp, & radio all use the same size battery. (batts that won't run the camera anymore will still run a headlamp or radio) Pencils, not pens. Drink your fill at water sources. And in the 'works for me' category: I pack up & hit the trail at first light. An hour & half or so later I stop for breakfast, around mid-day I'll look for a likely spot & take a boots off nap, & I swim whenever I get the chance in hot weather.
    TJ aka Teej

    Another thing I found (probably known by quite a few others) is that some dehydrated foods don't need hot water unless you insist on a hot meal. Simply put the water in the food product an hour or so before you will eat it, time depends on the food, & hike on to camp. No extra weight since you're already carrying the food & water. Experiment with different foods you will carry to determine the minimum time needed.
    If you cook with alcohol & want to put your name on your water bottles, poles, etc. don't use a regular marker. Get a paint pen at a hardware store, about the same size but got a spring-loaded tip & filled with oil-based paint. Costs about 2 bucks. The reason is the marker ink, even the best permanent, comes off very easily with alcohol as well as some other solvents. Never know when you might have an accidental fuel spill.

    I stop sometime between 1:00 & 3:00 in the afternoon & cook my hot meal & then hike on until dark. I make better mileage this way & when I get to camp I'm ready to sleep.

    If you stop in town to get food, get a lunch meat sandwich without any mayonnaise. It's the mayonnaise that goes bad real fast. Instead get extra mustard. Ask to have it double wrapped. Even in the summer you will be able to eat it for dinner before it spoils.

    I carry a stainless cup for drinking....I attach the handle thru a loop in my backpack so that I have quick, easy access to it. When I need a drink of water I can 'dip & fly'....or drink on the run, without stopping to get the bag or bottle out....just dip the cup in the next spring, avoiding carrying the heavy bottles of water. I only do this when I know, from the guides, maps & previous experience, where & when the water is. Also, being careful about the 'condition', location & other qualifiers as to the water quality.
    Kozmic Zian

    When you've got too much water in a dish you're cooking... Adding some oatmeal works, too. It's more nutritious than are potatoes, & are surprisingly mild in taste; if there's any seasoning in the dish at all, you'll never taste the oatmeal. (Corn meal/grits also work, as does any bread/cracker product.)
    For dried food mixes that come in cardboard boxes, but are in little plastic bags inside the boxes, do this: remove the plastic bags of ingredients from the boxes, & place them in a Ziploc bag. Cut out the part of the label you need for seeing how much water, etc., to add to the dry mix when cooking, along with what dish the mix makes when prepared. Put the label piece inside the Ziploc bag with the mix bag. Ideally, do this for at least two mixes, only tossing the label piece after you have prepared the last mix.
    A related technique useful IMO for any small food cans you take on the Trail, such as tuna, oysters, clams, mussels, octopus, etc.: tear off the paper label and/or take the (probably unlabeled) can out of the cardboard box it comes in. With a PERMANENT magic marker, write on BOTH sides of the can exactly what it contains. Then, discard the label/box.

    Take a dead Bic lighter & remove the spring, striking wheel, & flint & tape them to your not dead lighter (or put them in your first-aid kit). These additional parts can be used to rebuild/fix your Bic lighter in the field. The flint in my Bic's always seems to fail before I run out of gas; especially if the flint has ever been very wet. This is an easy fix as it only takes a second to replace any part & it sure beats matches.
    Irritable Badger

    Tonight at the market I spotted Lipton's green tea to go. They are tiny little sleeves(10 in a box for $2.99)with the powder to make a reasonable facsimile of bottled Lipton Green tea. Goes in a bottle of water or 2 cups in your Nalgene. The total weight of all 10 sleeves is 0.4oz. I had one with dinner and it was great. The other nine are in my pack awaiting April 1st. I just thought this was cool enough to mention.

    I had my hubby cut the handles shorter on my Lexan flatware sets. (I have several for when we all hit the trail)
    He used a hose cutter- worked great !
    One advantage of this, besides the weight savings- is that now, when I go out solo, my spoon (Only utensil I bring) now fits nicely inside my little pot !
    Just my 2 ounces,,,

    Put a dab of hand sanitizer (contains mucho alcohol) on an Esbit tab in windy weather. Starts them every time.

    You can use the jug knot for your soda bottles which has the advantage of creating a "handle"
    TN hiker.

    If I'm staying at a hostel or a place with a freezer, I'll buy a nice piece of meat & freeze it overnight.
    When I head out for the Trail, I'll double-wrap it (so it doesn't bleed or make a mess); by the end of the day, it's thawed nicely & can be cut up & added to whatever I'm eating.
    A typical hiker-glop dinner (rice, pasta, etc.) is much improved when there's steak in it.
    If I remember, I'll also leave town or a hostel with some hard-boiled eggs; great for snacks or lunch & very good for you.
    Jack Tarlin

    Use strips of inner tubes for emergency fire starters. They burn long & really hot & will start fires even when the wood is wet. A strip that is about 2 inches by 4 inches does the trick. Another trick, line the stuff sack for your bag with a large oven roasting bag. Keeps your bag dry even in the wettest of conditions.

    A trick I learned from Diamond Doug was: purchase a pint of ice cream just as you leave town. Put it in a plastic bag & then roll it into the middle of your sleeping bag. The bag will insulate it & it will still be frozen when you prepare supper that night. I remember Doug sitting on top of Cheoah Bald on Easter Sunday, having a desert of ice cream while my Easter dinner was Lipton noodles
    I was three days into my 2000 thru & in a tent on a mountaintop in Georgia. According to my radio in was 20 degrees in Atlanta that night. Both my Nalgene bottles froze solid in my tent & in the morning I couldn't even unscrew the tops to get water for breakfast. A day later a more experienced hiker told me if it is going to freeze always put your Nalgenes upside down. In the morning turn them over & the ice will be on the bottom, water on top. And the tops will screw right off. Now when I winter hike my water bottles are always upside down. (Of course the other option is to pee on your bottles to thaw the tops out but then the water is still frozen at top when the caps come off.)

    For those of you in the northern forests, the best fire starter is the bark of the paper birch. It's light weight, all natural, & flares up as good as anything. It's also a renewable resource - unlike petro products. It also sloughs off of trees naturally, so you don't have to pull bark off of a live tree in order to use it.
    Carry some with you on your hike, & you'll have no problem starting a fire. For the NOBOs, once you hit Vermont you'll be passing Paper Birch all the time.
    A white Bic allows you to see how much butane is left in the lighter. It is also easy to spot.

    Re adding water to food before getting to camp: Alternatively, add half the water beforehand & then the other half when you stop. Cuts down on the amount you need to heat AND you get a hot meal.

    Speaking of water, I love tent camping & water can be a problem when you choose your spot. Never loose the chance to harvest rainwater when it rolls off of your tent/tarp. I remember the first time I did this. I felt like a genius. What I like about this is that it turns a potential negative (rain) into a positive (H2O).
    Ed Bell

    The best way to carry water is inside of you.

    Better in you than on you (drink plenty of water...)
    Hike Meister

    This works for me I rubber band a coffee filter over my water pump inlet to help keep out the grit etc.

    I use Skippy squeezable peanut butter. MMMMmmmmm.... less weight than a jar & no mess.

    Extra water capacity greatly extends campsite choice & can lead to great sunsets/sunrises & stargazing.

    For years I sat right down by creeks Zen-pumping water like an idjit. Now I use gallon freezer Ziploc bags to fetch water so I can filter it somewhere more comfortable than a damp rock. Ziplock bags are also good for collecting water dripping from seeps or from shallow waterholes. And you can let the bags sit for a while to settle out silt. (Fill them about half-full for easy carrying.)
    I use a OR Hydroseal bag for general camp storage--it hangs from the hammock line. This bag also doubles as a carrier for water-filled Ziplocs, although I could also just fill that directly if I needed to. Having a carrier lets you fill up the Ziplocs more.
    Doug Frost

    I go pretty light & don't carry a water filter, thus I have nothing to suck up water from a trickle source. Normally I let water run into my plastic sport drink bottle if the flow is sufficient, but sometimes it can't be done without getting sediment mixed with the water. Jewelweed is often plentiful around a water source & I have used the hollow tube of the plant to Pipe the trickle to more easily position my bottle away from the sediment.

    RE post by Deerleg: some info from USDA plants database for jewelweed: Link
    Hog On Ice

    Have one dry camp meal in your bag that takes virtually no water or fuel to prepare. I recommend a family size bag of Stove Top (It's also light). Frees you up to camp on top of things without having to eat early.
    Jester 2000

    Did someone mention mayonnaise going bad? Wendy's (Thanks Dave) has small foil packets of mayo for those of you that don't like dry sandwiches for lunch.
    Bear Bait II

    To light your alcohol stove, pick up a handy twig & dip it in the alcohol. Then light it like a match & use it to light your stove.
    When hanging your food bag on the lines in crowded shelters or gear on the bear cable systems in some campsites, use a lightweight carabineer to hook on with. You can easily get your bag or pack off without having to untangle from everyone else.

    An easy way to stabilize your canister stove...push a tent stake or two in the ground then wrap a Velcro strap (Home Depot, Lowes) around the fuel canister & stakes. Think of the time you'll save looking for that perfectly flat rock!

    For those of you that use propane/butane canister stoves (i.e. powermax, etc) weigh a full can on a postage scale & write the weight on the bottom with a sharpie. Then weigh a similar empty one & write that empty weight on the bottom as xx oz E.W.
    Then after a trip you can easily tell exactly how full the can is, & decide if you need to bring another. You can even keep a running log of weight on the bottom of the can. BTW I got this idea from reading the weight stencils on the side of military airplanes...
    I use my pepsi stove except in really cold wx, so the canister stove doesn't get used that often & this helps to know how much fuel you have.

    If it's going to be below freezing, I usually put the amount of water I anticipate needing for breakfast in my cook pot, put the lid on, & set it aside so it won't get knocked over during the night.... I usually tarp camp when it's too cold to hang. Keep the stove & pot under the tarp with me. Also makes it convenient if it gets too cold & I find I need to boil water to put in a Nalgene at my feet...
    Take a rice mix (I like the zatarin's jambalaya mix), that calls for bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. The Zatarin's dinners are for 4. I split them in half & bring with a foil packet of chicken.
    Bring a pot cozy made of ccf foam. At dinnertime, bring rice mix to boil, & boil for 5 minutes (if I fill my brasslite stove up with ~2 ozs of alcohol, it'll usually boil for 5 min or so). towards the end of the 5 minutes, put in a foil packet of chicken. After stove burns out (or after 5 mins), put pot in pot cozy for 15 minutes. You'll have a great chicken 'n rice dinner at the end! Tastes much better than the freeze-dried stuff......
    Add a little hot sauce, & enjoy!
    Steve J.

    Instead of putting a hot water bottle in your bag with you, put your oatmeal breakfast in your water bottle & add the boiling water. The oatmeal should hold the heat better, & you do not have to worry about getting your bag wet. You also have a warm meal to eat before you leave the warmth of your bag.
    Disclaimer- Without starting an argument about bear bagging, this does add food smells to your sleeping area.
    To eat: Try the widest mouth bottle you have & a long spoon. Not as easy as water, but a lot less risk.
    Hammock engineer

    Close the lid to your fuel bottle, or make sure that all connections are leak free BEFORE you light your stove! I always move my fuel bottle 3 or 4 feet away, just in case! Note: Do NOT over tighten connections, you could strip them out, then your problems will be seriously increased.
    Try to eat lunch as a walking feast instead of as a one stop (traditional) meal. Small snacks each time you take a break, & as you walk provide a more constant source of energy.
    Don't throw away that empty lighter, provided the sparking "thingy" still works it can most times still light your (gas, gasoline, alcohol) stove.

    Pour water directly into the oatmeal pouch. It will hold since it is wax lined. [Editors note: If using hot water, this MAY melt the wax, & though it is "food grade" wax it isn't Food.]
    Two Forty

    In warm weather, I ditch the Nalgene polycarbonate bottle & carry Gatorade bottles and/or Nalgene Cantenes/Platypus, etc.
    Don't pour boiling water into a white Nalgene. They get brittle & crack.

    2 ways to keep track of your lighter:
    *Mark it, I usually wrap a strip of duct or electrical tape around it.
    *Attach it to your food bag drawstring with a long piece of thin cord & some duct tape.
    Redneck Rye

    After Aron Rolston hacked off his arm with a dull leatherman I switched to a steel backed razor blade which I wrapped in a Motrin foil & stuffed into my first aid kit. I have no need for a knife now since the only thing I cut in the forest is the cheese. This should make for a swift & clean cut...
    We use rubbing alcohol for all our hygenic needs (most anyway). In the long run, we found it keeps stank at bay, toughens your feet, & the dry skin thing goes away. Also, it doubles as our stove fuel. Save it guys, tooth paste is for teeth.
    Tank on water to keep cramps at bay
    ME & U

    Re: plastic bags over wet socks after you have gotten your socks & shoes wet & still need to hike on. Socks dry quicker & the soaking wet shoes don't seem to be as uncomfortable.
    I go to subway & ask for a bunch of plastic sandwich sleeves...they're shaped like socks almost & work great. Except I put them on before my socks get wet & they stay dry...
    A little wet & sweaty is better than totally soaked & wrinkled...at the end of the day get out your rubbing alcohol & dry off your feet with it & you're good to go.
    Plus the gore-tex just keeps the water in the boot after it comes in over the top in heavy rain....

    I'd worry about Athlete's foot forming by encasing feet in plastic, esp if you're feet are wet. You don't need feet cracking & itching. They need to breathe.
    My Salomon Canyon GTX Gortex boots work for me. Love 'em!

    Another trick with tobacco: If you wear glasses & are in the rain & can't see very good rub the lenses with tobacco. This will cause the rain to run off the glasses somewhat like a RainEx treatment for an auto windshield. Not perfect, but better.
    To remove ticks easily (but this is one more thing to carry) get a very small bottle & fill it with turpentine. A little dab with a Q-tip, cloth, or finger placed on the tick's rear end causes it to back out in just a few seconds. (hikerhead asks: Would the alcohol for my stove do the same thing?) I don't know. I never tried alcohol on them.
    Editor: This MAY cause the tick to vomit, which if it has Lymes is a good way to get it into your system. Alcohol may have the same effect; good & bad.
    The Deer Tick - Lyme Disease
    This was previously posted on another thread, but I think is should be here as well. To give an idea of what you're dealing with. After you see this, take out a dime & look at it.
    The tick that causes Lyme disease (the Deer Tick) is a very small critter. Very easy to miss on a casual inspection. Here's how small they are:
    They look more like a speck of dirt than anything else.

    I used it during my last section hike & it helped. If you want to carry a sink with you & don't want to use your cooking pot for that purpose, take a 1-gallon milk jug & cut off the bottom 1 inch. That makes a very good 'sink' & its weight is negligible.
    John B

    Pain killers, the more powerful, the better.

    Getting lots of fruit in town can really help you power through the next few days. I use the outer net on my pack, this helps keep it fresh.
    Keeping plenty of talcum powder is key. At the end of the day, I always take all hiking clothes off (especially base layer in cold weather), & dry off completely before putting fresh layers on. Talcum powder is essential for drying off EVERYWHERE. I always keep a set of sleeping clothes & never mix with my hiking stuff (clothes get damper than you realize when hiking).
    Talcum powder can also be used in your hair to keep it from getting greasy & gross. Dry shampoos all have talc as one of their main ingredients. It really works.

    A small wad of damp tobacco pressed against the wound stops bee stings from hurting & cuts down on swelling. I know it sounds crazy, but it works.
    Jack Tarlin

    Compede blister dressings with athletic tape to hold them on
    Learn the rest step & use it
    Stale Cracker

    Years ago I hiked until I was exhausted & then took a break. During my thru-hike, & ever since, I have begun taking a short break EVERY HOUR (give or take a few minutes). What I've learned is that I can hiker longer & farther in a days time without being so tired when I get to my campsite for the night. I also have noticed is that I have fewer aches/pains. Coupled with the more frequent rest stops are increased snacks, which maintain more constant energy levels instead of the highs/lows I used to encounter.

    Whenever one of our goats got worms we would feed it a couple of Lucky Strikes. Cleaned them right out. I imagine Camels would work as well & could be used on thru-hikers with worms as well.

    Stop & treat all hotspots BEFORE they become Blisters!
    Learn basic first aid skills (from the Red Cross?) before your hike.

    Don't $#!+ where you eat.

    Most of the time I'll just use a plastic trash bag, but on occasion, I turn my rain jacket into a pack cover w/hood. The jacket shoulders go over the top of the pack & the arms tied around & through the shoulder straps, leaving the hood to use as needed. A poor man's Packa.

    Bucket hats will keep the bugs above your head & out of your eyes.

    Eat charcoal. White if you're tight (constipated), black if you're slack (diarrhea).
    If you're surviving, charcoal can also clean your teeth if you don't have toothpaste. Just make sure you have lots of water around...it's like stuffing a whole MRE cracker in your mouth at once.
    Just Jeff

    In another response, there is mention of putting your hot water bottle Nalgene in a sock to keep it from "burning" your feet. Good idea.
    Also, if your socks are wet, stuffing a hot Nalgene in them will dry them much more quickly than putting them in your sleeping bag on your body.

    I have a small microlite hanging in the center of my tent. If I need to go to the john in the middle of the night I leave it turned on so it acts as a beacon to guide me home. Don't laugh as I read a hiker's journal where he went to the john on a dark night & got lost & had to sleep in the open at the bottom of a gully until dawn.
    Don't laugh (I'm a male) but I regularly shaved my legs during my hike so it would be easier for me to spot rogue ticks. Got quite a few laughs from the other hikers... funny thing is that Murphy's law struck in that I got 2 deer ticks on me, one was on my wrist, the other on the back of my hand!

    Concering ticks & matches, I was always told that if you get the match to close to the tick it will explode. Leaving the head in you.
    I haven't had a tick in me, just on me. But I do not think I will try the match to get it to back out trick.
    Hammock Engineer

    If you get a deer tick in you, don't try any method to get it out except for pulling it out with a tweezers. Letting it drop off, burning it, Vaseline, etc... will cause it to expel the lyme disease spirochetes into your bloodstream. Pulling it off, it might not get the chance.
    Basically, if it backs out on it's own, either because it is done or you've made it very unpleasant, you could be in trouble.
    The Cheat

    What about dropping some DEET/bug juice on a tick after it's already attached? It looks like I have some experiments to try out. Editor: This MAY cause the tick to vomit, which if it has Lymes is a good way to get it into your system.

    Haven't seen it mentioned but; you need to light that alcohol after covering the ticks. Alcohol doesn't kill them reliably, but FIRE will. Editor: If still in you, this MAY cause the tick to vomit, which if it has Lymes is a good way to get it into your system. If not in you, a great way to dispose of the tick, try to not burn down the shelter though.

    I may be wrong but I was pretty certain lyme has showed up in wood ticks as well.....
    Sgt Dirtman

    Baking Soda
    Use it instead of smelly, bear-baiting, where-do-I-spit toothpaste. Just dab a damp toothbrush in a small amount of it & scrub away!
    Use it as an underarm deodorant. Pat it on after you clean up & you'll be set for a couple days.
    Use it to remove stains from cookware. Make a paste by adding some water & it makes a great polishing compound.

    Crush some jewelweed & rub on the itchy places after you blunder into stinging nettles. Jewelweed generally seems to be available when needed.
    Urine or a plaster of urine & mud will take the pain from bee stings. Onion also works, but I don't often have a slice of fresh onion in the backcountry.

    I sometimes have a bit of a weak stomach so I often bring along two of the chewable Pepto Bismol tablets. They're tiny & while I haven't weighed them, I assume they weigh a couple of grams or so.

    If you use a water filter, be sure to keep the outlet hose in a Ziploc so it doesn't become contaminated by the inlet hose when not in use.
    Jester 2000

    Actually I have heard of using a just blown out match to get rid of ticks. Editor: This MAY cause the tick to vomit, which if it has Lymes is a good way to get it into your system.
    Mambo Tango

    Another use for a common product, Purchase any strong smelling after-shave lotion from the dollar store. Now take a tampon, soak it in the after-shave. Now using the string tie it to your tent, food bag, or anything you wish to keep small animals away from. I don't know if it will work for bears but raccoons, skunks, & other small animals can't stand the smell of cheap aftershave & the tampon is a very absorbent carrier & has a nice convenient string to attach it. Soaked with DEET & attached to your hiking boot laces it not only may keep tics off your legs but will also give strangers something to open the conversation when you walk into a shelter at night.

    If you must leave your pack where little critters might get into it looking for goodies at night, leave all the zippers & other closures open if this is practical. Better to have a little GORP taken than have holes chewed through the pack.

    One way to keep your shoes from getting untied - use a strong cord lock instead of tying the shoes & tuck the ends down into your shoe to keep them out of the way - works best with thin flat laces. (Skidsteer responds: Or just tie the two ends of the lace as usual after you cinch the cord lock.)
    Hog On Ice

    Clothespins (plastic = better) are useful for holding bandannas in place, when used to hook the bottoms to your shirt/jacket collar, or simply as weight to discourage the breeze picking up the tips of your bandannas. The flat binder clips sold in office supply places work okay, too; look for the ones that are simply flat wires coated with plastic (similiar to some coat hangers) bent repeatedly like Ws.
    8) Boots & shoes dry faster if you take the laces out, use twigs to hold your footwear open, & put rocks under them to angle them toward any sunbeams you may have available. Expect to have to move them frequently to make maximum use of any sun, unless you are in a treeless/bushless field. If you are going to do this, make it one of the first things you do when you get to camp, especially on days there is still direct sunlight.

    If you use an external frame pack and want to lash tents, bags, etc to the lower frame, do not buy black cinch straps, they are really hard to see in dim light. I don't know why so many black ones are offered for sale. In low light any color is better than black!
    I use a blue version (that can be seen in dim light) with the squeeze-lock slide connectors. Once you get the length adjusted for your typical load it only takes about 3 seconds to load or unload tent, bag, and pad by squeezing and disconnecting.
    The Cheat

    Today I washed a Tyvek footprint that I had already made in my home top-loading washing machine. It was made of two pieces taped together using Tyvek brand tape. I used hot water with a slow agitate & spin cycle. The tape held, & the washing machine seems to have not had any adverse effect. It came out great! I appreciate that idea.
    I often carry a small 3' square piece of Tyvek that I use as a makeshift tablecloth, butt pad, & door mat.

    If you, like me, put duct tape on your bottles, use a marker to put your name on the tape. True, it'll be gone if you need the tape, but in the time being, you may be the only one in the shelter who knows which water bottle is his/hers.

    Titanium tent stakes are too expensive to lose, but easy to lose because they're so small. I tie a small flag of surveyor's tape on mine. They stand out amid the leaves & duff, making them easy to find when you strike camp.

    Get used to ALWAYS putting things back in your pack where they belong, that way you can find them even in the dark.

    Shoes & boots dry much faster on their sides than on the soles. Don't know why, but they do.
    (Tin Man adds: especially when placed near, but not too near, a nice fire.)
    Leeki Pole

    Practice with ALL OF YOUR GEAR!!!!
    Practice with ALL OF YOUR GEAR, at home, before you hit the trail. Practice even with the old stuff you are familiar with, it may be broke.
    Check all your gear, before you hit the trail! Look it over for: worn spots, tears, actual breaks & function (does your: Stove, Flashlight(s), Camera, etc. work?). When was the last time your shelter (boots, etc) seam sealed? Is now a good time to replace something? Is your fuel still good?* Lighters in good working condition / full (I get new ones each trip). Matches in good condition. NEW Zip Locks. Etc.
    Clean gear lasts longer, so clean what you have. Then seam seal as needed.
    Close the lid to your fuel bottle, or make sure that all connections are leak free BEFORE you light your stove! I always move my fuel bottle 3 or 4 feet away, just in case! Note: Do NOT over tighten connections, you could strip them out, then your problems will be seriously increased.
    I paint my: tent stakes, knife, etc. Day-Glo orange. It makes them easier to find when I drop them, which I seem to do all too often.
    I paint my tent stakes florescent orange. Makes them easier to find.
    I have a small piece of reflective (runners) shoe lace tied to my spoon, am thinking of additionally painting the handle orange.
    my Food bag is BRIGHT yellow, easy to find in the dark green pack.
    The rest of my small stuff, that will hold paint, is also orange.
    My hiking poles on the other hand, are camo. Looks cool, but 0.05 seconds after dropping them, I can no longer find them Am thinking of putting the runners shoelace on the handles.
    *My understanding is gasoline degenerates very quickly, 60 to 90 days & the octane decreasing by as much as 30% don't know about the other fuels or how this affects gasoline stoves, my lawnmower mechanic told me this.

    Everyone has probably heard about getting a scrap piece of tyvek from a building site to use as a footprint, or ground cloth. But it is usually quite stiff. Take it to a Laundromat (for the front loading commercial washer) & wash it. Hot water, don't need any soap. This doesn't change the toughness or waterproofing in any way, but it will make it as soft as a bed sheet. Much easier to handle & fold back up.
    If you cook with alcohol & want to put your name on your water bottles, poles, etc. don't use a regular marker. Get a paint pen at a hardware store, about the same size but got a spring-loaded tip & filled with oil-based paint. Costs about 2 bucks. The reason is the marker ink, even the best permanent, comes off very easily with alcohol as well as some other solvents. Never know when you might have an accidental fuel spill.
    Everyone has probably heard about getting a scrap piece of Tyvek from a building site to use as a footprint, or ground cloth. But it is usually quite stiff. Take it to a Laundromat (for the front loading commercial washer) & wash it. Hot water, don't need any soap. This doesn't change the toughness or waterproofing in any way, but it will make it as soft as a bed sheet. Much easier to handle & fold back up.
    Lost in space asks: Does washing it in a machine cause it to shrink at all? I suppose if you are taping two pieces together, you should wash it first before using the tape.
    Doesn't shrink even a little bit. Tyvek comes in 8 or 10-foot widths, on long rolls. Unless you got a really huge tent I see no need to tape 2 pieces together. But if you do I think it should be washed first so the tape don't come loose in the machine.

    If You Don't Use It Every Day You Probably Don't Need It!

    Note that if you are a northbounder when you wake up in the morning the sun will always be on your right as you are walking. Some people last year did not realize this & accidentally became a 2.5kmiler Editor: Except in a few areas, like near Standing Indian Mt, where northbounders are actually heading south.
    Turbo Joe

    Do you know how to find your way when lost using only a deck of cards?
    If you're convinced you don't know where you are, sit down, pull out a pack of ordinary playing cards & begin playing solitaire. In no time, someone will come along & tell you to play the red two on the black three.
    Pick up your cards & follow him to civilization.

    A watch can be used as a roughly accurate tool to determine the direction:
    Simply point the smaller hand at the sun. Then cut the distance between 12 & the small hand in half. There lies south.
    If you use a digital watch simply use two little twigs to mimic a watch with hands.
    If you can't see the sun ask somebody who carries a compass

    To determine how much daylight you have left: PM, locate the sun, preferably near the horizon, hold your arm out full length, put you hand in such a way as your fingers are parallel to the horizon, the thickness of each finger is approximately 15 minutes. This works for me, with less than a 1 to 2 minute error per finger. In the mountains, this guide works for where you are at NOW, as you move the time may change as you climb & descend, but you will have a rough guide.