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Camp Tricks

Hiking In An Area With Bears

September 14, 2017

Some of the best hiking trails in the U.S. are in areas populated by bears. Despite this, a chance of a bear attack isn’t too likely. In general, bears tend to avoid humans, and the likelihood of a bear attack is miniscule.

Beyond packing bear spray, there are a few other things you can do to reduce the chance of a bear encounter. Here are some useful tips for anyone who is planning on hiking in an area with bears.

©istockphoto/Umkehrer

Grizzly Bears
Grizzly bears are commonly found in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska. They are less common than black bears, but they’re also larger and more dangerous. A grizzly has a smaller snout than the black bear, and they can run very quickly. For this reason there’s no point in trying to outrun them, as they will be able to catch you quickly. Grizzlies can’t climb trees well, but they can reach up to grab things in trees—such as yourself!

©istockphoto/KeithBinns

Black Bears
Black bears are more common than grizzly bears, and they’re found in most parts of the US. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, including black, brown and cinnamon. The black bear is around 7 to 10 feet tall, and males can weigh between 125 and 550 pounds, whereas females tend to weigh between 90 and 300 pounds.

When are bears are most active?
Bears are generally shy animals that prefer to keep themselves to themselves, so they normally avoid humans if they hear them or smell them. However they do become more aggressive during mating and birthing season, and they will also be more aggressive if they’re injured or protecting their young. They are most active during the cooler hours of the early morning and evening, and during the daytime they tend to seek shade in the under bush.

©istockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

Tips For Hiking in Bear Country

  • Hike in a group instead of hiking alone, and try to make as much noise as possible as you go. You can whistle and sing as you walk, or you can carry bear bells to create a sound.
  • Stay in open areas as much as possible, as this minimizes the chance of you surprising a bear and scaring it.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid the underbush during the day as it could be a bear’s bed, and look out for running water or lush vegetation as this could signal a bear’s home. If you’re in an area that you think could be a bear’s home, leave immediately.
  • Avoid going off-trail, as you’re more likely to encounter a bear in an area that’sn’t regularly used by humans.
  • Don’t wear strong perfumes, soaps or hair spray, as a bear will be able to smell it and they may think it’s a food scent.
  • Make sure that your cooking area is at least 100 feet away from your tent. Bears are attracted to the smell of food, even if it’s just a dirty pan, and this can increase the risk of an encounter in the night time. If you’re further away from the food the bear is less likely to notice your presence.
  • Make sure all of the food is properly packed up before you go to sleep to minimize odors.
  • Change your clothes before you go to sleep, especially if you cooked in the clothes or kept snacks in the pockets.
  • Consider all personal items as food (such as your deodorant and your toothpaste). Pack them away securely and keep them away from your sleeping area.
  • Be careful if you’re traveling in a windy area, as a bear may not smell you before you arrive so they’re more likely to be startled by your presence.
  • If you come across an area with berry patches or dead animals leave immediately, as you could be hiking through a bear’s food source.
Camp Tricks

How To Repair A Ripped Tent

September 11, 2017

©istockphoto/freemixer

One of the most frustrating things when overnight backpacking is a rip in the tent. Maybe you pitched your tent on a sharp rock, or a stray branch fell on your shelter and ripped a hole right through it. A rip can even be caused by strong winds if you’re camping in an exposed area.

But you don’t need to throw the tent away—and if you have the tools, you won’t even need to cut the trip short. Here is how to repair a ripped tent in the field.

Small Tears
Little tears are much more likely to occur than a big rip, but they can be just as difficult to repair. Normally little rips occur when the tent is dragged against a stone or a rock, and this small hole can let wind and water into the tent. It can also release your scent and that of your food, so likely attracting wild animals.

For a quick fix, duct tape works. It will stay for a short amount of time, but when you get home from the trip you should take the time to fix the hole with tent repair tape.

For a more permanent fix, you want tent repair tape. Start by pulling and holding the rip in the tent together, then apply tent repair tape to one side of the rip. Let go and apply tent repair tape to the other side of the rip. This will help to reduce the chance of the tear re-opening.

Once you have done this you should cover the inside and the outside of the rip with seam sealer. This will help to guarantee that the rip won’t re-appear the next time you put strain on the rip area.

Big Tears
A bigger tear will take longer to repair. It is possible that you will be able to temporarily fix the tear using tape so that you don’t have to cut your trip short, but if you don’t have the right tools you may need to head home to do a proper repair.

A proper repair starts with you trimming away any loose threads, as they could make the rip worse further down the line. You can simply use a pair of sharp scissors to get rid of any loose threads.

Then clean that area of the tent. If your tent is dirty it will be very difficult to repair since dirt will get in the way. Clean the tent using warm, soapy water and then use rubbing alcohol to clear the tear.

An optional third step involves steaming the area around the tear, as this will help to iron out any creases in the fabric. This may seem unnecessary, but creases in the tent can make it very hard to effectively sew the tear up.

Once the tent is clean and crease-free you can start to repair the tear. Hold both sides of the tear and pull them together, folding the top side slightly over the bottom side. When the fabric is in place (you may need a second set of hands to hold the material) you can tightly sew the tear together. Use waxed thread as this is durable and strong (sturdy floss can work, too), and once you have finished sewing apply seam sealer to reduce the chance of the hole ripping open again later.

If the hole is too big to be pulled together you may need to buy a new tent. Alternatively you can buy patches of tent fabric that you can use to cover the hole. Simply iron or sew the patch over the hole using waxed thread and then apply seam sealer.

©istockphoto/SolisImages

How To Avoid Tears In The Future
Tent tears are one of the most frustrating things about backpacking, but you can reduce the chance of them happening in the future if you follow these tips:

  • Don’t pitch your tent too rigidly; instead make sure that it’s able to flex a bit in the wind.
  • Check the campsite for rocks and sticks before pitching your tent.
  • Use shock cords and guy lines to stabilize your tent.
  • Don’t go to bed with sharp tools on your belt.
Camp Tricks

5 Things to Put on Your Overnight Hike Checklist

July 21, 2017

©istockphoto/DieterMeyrl

For some obvious reasons, overnight campouts are very different animals than day hikes. You don’t need to turn around and retrace your steps after hours of hiking or worry about getting back to the car before dark; instead you can sit down and enjoy the stunning views for even longer. There’s nothing better than relaxing at the end of a long hike with a hot drink and some food, knowing that you can spend the evening relaxing in nature. You can lie beneath the clear night sky, and in the morning you can watch the sun rise as you enjoy your breakfast.

Now is the perfect time to go for your first overnight hike as the weather is warm and the sun is shining for longer. Here are 5 tips for an overnight hike.

Appropriate Shelter
Your shelter should be determined by your region. If you live in a wet, cold area you’ll need a proper backpacking tent with a waterproof floor. But if you live in a warm, dry area without too many insects, you can try a tarp between two trees and a bivy bag; or put the tarp underneath your sleeping bag and sleep out under the stars. Most people are happy to invest in a quality camping or backpacking tent as it provides the most shelter—especially important if the weather is unpredictable.

Enough Food
Going on an overnight hike you’ll need to pack plenty of food and water. Some people prefer to pre-cook meals, some utilize dehydrated backpacking food, while others are happy to eat packaged food, snacks and sandwiches. The most important thing is to pack high-calorie food that will give you energy to keep hiking, as well as lots of water to stay hydrated.

You should also remember to hang the food from a tree so that it doesn’t attract insects or wildlife. If you are hiking in an area with bears, you should use a bear-proof bag or a bear canister.

Proper Clothing
The clothing you pack will depend on the temperatures and weather. You must also consider trail time and sleeping when you are getting dressed for your overnight hike. The temperature will drop at night time so you should wear some long-sleeved, thin shirts as they will help to keep you warm. You may also want to pack a warm fleece jacket and some spare socks; most people struggle to sleep in the damp socks that they spent all day hiking in!

Sleeping Options
Consider your sleeping bag options carefully before making a purchase, as you need to find a sleeping bag that is lightweight, warm and well fitted to your body. For instance, lots of people choose to buy women’s sleeping bags as they are smaller so it they warm up quickly. You can choose between a synthetic sleeping bag or a down sleeping bag; synthetic is normally cheaper but heavier, while down is fairly expensive but it is easier to carry and packs down much smaller. You should also buy or borrow an insulated sleeping pad—for comfort and so that the coldness of the ground doesn’t keep you awake.

Heading Home
When it’s time to head home, clean up your campsite properly. Hikers are normally very respectful of the wilderness, but it can be more tempting to leave rubbish behind after an overnight hike, if only because you’ve got much more garbage. Keep your overnight campsite clean, and when you leave in the morning, leave no trace of your presence. Pack garbage bags you can use to dispose of your waste when you get home.

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

How To Dress For A Day Hike

July 14, 2017
How To Dress For A Day Hike

Day hikes are a great way to get some fresh air while taking in stunning views, and you can even bring along friends for a chat as you wander. And let’s not forget one of the main benefits of going on a long day hike: you will sleep like a log afterwards.

It’s important to wear the right clothing head to toe when embarking on a hike. Weather conditions can change quickly, so be prepared for the mood swings of Mother Nature.

This guide will cover all of the essential apparel you’ll need for a day hike—and be sure to customize, ensuring your hiking wardrobe is suited to any temperature, climate or weather condition.

Here’s how to dress for a day hike:

Layer Up
The way you dress will depend on the weather, but you should always dress in layers. In cold weather, lots of layers will help hold your body heat and will also protect your body from the wind and rain if you wear a top layer that is windproof and waterproof. If you are hiking somewhere very cold you should wear at least one insulating layer.

Even if you are hiking in warm weather you should still wear a few layers—just make sure to wear loose clothes that ventilate using zippers. You may initially think that layers will make you warmer, but in reality a few thin, light-colored layers will help regulate your body heat. The layers will also help protect you from sunburn.

Choose The Right Fabric
Hiking specific clothes are made in a variety of different fabrics, typically synthetics, and each fabric is designed to do a different job. You should definitely invest in a good raincoat made from waterproof-breathable material. And if you live in a hot or humid area, buy hiking clothes that help to move moisture away from your skin. Look for apparel that feature wicking and anti-microbial properties. And don’t be afraid of wool, even for warm weather activities, modern Merino is packed with performance benefits.

HatHats are critical for both sun and rain. Most people don’t wear hats on hikes at night time in summer as the sun isn’t out so it can’t burn them, but during the day time you will need to wear a hat so that you don’t burn. A wide-brimmed hat is recommended as this will protect your head, shoulders and neck. Hats also keep sweat from running down into your face!

If it is likely that it will rain during your hike, pack a waterproof hat and a jacket with a hood. You can even buy hiking hats specifically designed to repel water so that the rain doesn’t run down your face in a storm.

Jacket
A jacket is an essential piece of hiking gear, pretty much year round. Even in the desert, temps can drop, morning air is crisp, and the wind can howl. If you are hiking somewhere warm you should pack a lightweight jacket that is windproof and that has UPF protection. When hiking somewhere cold, layering becomes even more important, and you should invest in a jacket or coat with a removable fleece lining to keep you warm, or a shell that you can layer down or synthetic fleece underneath.

Footwear
One of the big debates among hikers is the best choice of footwear. Some hikers will only wear hiking boots, while others prefer hiking shoes or trail running shoes. Boots are heavier, more durable, have better ankle support, and are more often waterproof. Better traction means they are well-suited to wet, rocky or slippy trails. However, they add weight, so many people prefer to wear low top hikers or hiking shoes instead. Boots are also preferred when hiking with a pack. Equip yourself with breathable wool and synthetic socks to help prevent blisters and increase comfort when hiking.

Essential Extras
You should always pack water, snacks, sunscreen/lipbalm, a map, compass and a headlamp. Refer to the “Ten Essentials” and customize this list to your own situation.

Camp Tricks

How To Dress For A Hike In The Sun

July 5, 2017

©istockphoto/pixdeluxe

While hiking in the sun is fun (and a great chance to get a tan), it can also be quite dangerous. The sun can leave the ground baking hot and some trails have no shade, so you and your four legged friends can quickly end up overheating. This can turn an enjoyable hike into a stressful situation, but you can help avoid this situation if you wear the right clothes.

This list might be simpler than you were expecting, but it’s all about preventing the sun from even hitting your skin. Here’s how to dress for a hike in the sun.

Long Sleeves
Hiking can be a strenuous activity, so many people assume they should wear short sleeves in the summer so they don’t overheat. Sadly, arms that are exposed the sun are much more likely to burn, and they will probably feel just as warm due to the bare sun beating down on them.

This is why it is best to wear woven long sleeve shirts on a hike, just like the cowboys do in the Texas sun. Make sure that the top is loose fitting so that warm air can still easily escape your clothes. It is also advised to wear clothes in light colors, as light colors trap less heat and reflect heat more than dark colors. There are plenty of synthetic fabrics out there with built in SPF protection.

Long Pants
Shorts are another popular hiking option, but it is likely that they will leave you with sunburned calves and thighs, and a few itchy insect bites for good measure. Loose fitting, lightweight long pants are your best option for a summer hike, as they will protect you from insects, thorns, scrapes and the sun, while still providing you with some ventilation.

Some people swear by cotton as it is so light and comfortable, while other people prefer wool due to its natural temperature-regulating properties. And these days, synthetic blends are all the rage. Try on a few options in a store to see which material you prefer.

Hat
One of the most important things you need to wear for a hike in the sun is a hat. Your head is getting the most contact with the sun and your face and scalp are extremely sensitive. This could leave you feeling thirsty, achey and nauseous, so it is very important to wear a hat, especially if you have thin hair on top or fair skin in general.

Lots of hikers favor baseball caps, but these hats don’t cover your ears, your shoulders or the back of your neck. They are still better than no hat, but a better choice is a wide brimmed hat that will cover your whole head, neck and shoulders.

If you’ve decided to wear a baseball cap, add some extra protection by tying a bandana or wearing a Buff to cover your ears and the back of your neck.

Sunglasses
If you’re going out on a sunny day sunglasses are always a good idea, and that rule applies to hiking. You will be spending a lot of time in the sun on a hike, sometimes with nowhere to escape, and you will want full visibility even if you are walking toward the sun. A setting sun can be blinding without protection.

Sunglasses will do more than just make it easier for you to see: they will also protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. You can actually sunburn your eyes if you’re not careful. If you regularly hike in the sun, make sure to invest in a pair of sunglasses with 100-percent UV protection.

Spare Socks
Hiking in the sun your feet will soon be sweaty. This might not seem like much of a problem—after all, you are doing physical activity—but sweaty socks increase the chance of blisters. Make sure to pack a spare pair of socks so that you can swap them out if you notice they are sweated out and causing hot spots or blisters. Clean socks will also be less appealing to bugs.