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10 Hacks for Winter Backpacking

So you’ve decided that your love of backpacking is so great that not even Old Man Winter himself can keep you cooped up when the temperatures drop. Good. Welcome to the club, fellow maniac. Whether it’s the beautiful, snowy vistas, the refreshing chill of the air, or the solitude of the trail during the winter that draws you out, here are a few things that you can do to make your excursion into the cold even more enjoyable (and safe!)

1. Flip your water bottle upside down.

Water at the top of a bottle freezes first (due to the fact that ice is less dense than liquid water) effectively shutting off your access to the water below. If you flip your bottle, the ice will then form at the top of the upside down bottle, meaning that when you go to drink it, and flip it right side up, you are still able to access the liquid, drinkable part of your water.

2. Keep snacks in a warm pocket

There’s not much liquid in most snack bars, but what little there is will freeze and become tooth-shatteringly hard to eat. Figure out your snacks before hand and keep anything that you plan on eating on the trail that day in a jacket/pant pocket. Your body heat will do the rest.

3. Less is more when it comes to  sleep wearDSC_0495

The best thing to wear to bed inside of your bag in the winter is a dry base layer. And that’s it. Wearing too much clothing is counter-effective in that the extra clothes can compress the insulation of your bag and cut off circulation to your extremities. A sleeping bag is designed to work as a single unit, the warm parts of your body heat up the cold parts of your body. If you wear your warmest coat then there is no passage of warm air to travel to your toes. Also, if you’re wearing damp clothes inside of your bag, this moisture will get trapped in your bag and make you colder.

4. Warm your clothes before getting out of your sleeping bag

If your hiking clothes are moist, take them off before bed and change into something dry. In the morning, your moist clothes will be cold if not frozen. You can avoid a chilly start to your morning by placing your hiking clothes in a plastic bag (to keep moisture out of your sleeping bag) and warming them up inside your bag before putting them on.

5. Don’t hold it all night

I won’t go too far into this, but having a full bladder impedes kidney function which is important in keeping your organs (and thus your whole body warm.) Added to this, if you can’t sleep because you have to go, then just go and get it over with! Being well rested is important on any hike. We won’t talk about the other option, but let’s just say that a wet bag is a cold bag.

6. Warm up before crawling into your bag

Right before you get into your bag, its good to have your blood flowing. This will help in creating heat for your bag to trap, which will make you warmer more quickly once inside. So go for a short walk or do some jumping jacks before turning in. Don’t get sweaty, of course, but get the heart pumping and the heater going.

7. Calories = Energy = Warmth

Most hikers don’t need the encouragement, but: don’t forget to eat! Keep in mind that you’re not just replacing lost calories from the hike, but that you are also adding fuel to your inner furnace. Bring extra snacks for the hike and make sure to eat something filling and warm in the evening (preferably not too long before lying down for the night.) Carbs and fat work best to keep the fire going. Plan on an extra 500 calories at least when the weather gets cold.

8. Bring an insulated buDSCN1601tt pad

Cutting a piece off of an old insulated foam pad to use as a seat in the winter will save you from a wet, cold bottom when you stop for a pack break halfway up the mountain, not to mention keeping you warm as you eat around camp in the evening. It can also double as extra insulation under your mat, pillow, or even as a sleeve to keep dehydrated meals warm as they cook inside of their bag.

 

9. Layer, layer, layer (and pack your layers intelligently)

If you’ve been backpacking in the cold before then you know that layering is the only way to go: a base layer under a mid fleece layer under an insulating layer under a wind/waterproof shell layer (or some combination that works for you.) As you warm up, you ditch layers. When you stop or when the weather turns, you put them back on. Just remember to pack your layers in a way that they are easily accessible while on the move . This includes, of course, hats and gloves.

10. Add traction to your shoes

You won’t always need full crampons, but on slippery, steep surfaces, some sort of after-market traction added to your boots can keep you moving vertically without ending up horizontal, face down in the snow (or, worse, creating a giant snowball by rolling down the side of a mountain.) This is obviously terrain dependent, but on any winter hike where the elevation changes, you can bet that the amount of ice and snow on the trail is also going to change.

So don’t let the weather keep you down! With proper gear and smart planning, you too can be pointed at by folks from the comfort of their cars as you head out on the trail into the beauty and serenity of the winter landscape.

 

 

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The Sleeping Bag Breakdown

by Goatman

So you want to sleep in the wide open world of nature without freezing to death over night. This is a rather typical human concern.

Based on my experience, folks gearing up for outdoor adventure often think of a sleeping bag before they think of anything else, even their footwear or their backpack. Quite understandable. I can walk a few miles in any shoe with some snacks and a water bottle in an old school bag and head out into the woods for the night. When I get to my camp, however, if I plan on sleeping, I am going to need something to keep me warm if I want to get any shut eye at all. Shivering and snoozing do not go hand in hand.

The sleeping bag, unlike much of backpacking’s more esoteric gear, is a common item to have lying around whether or not it has ever been used in the open air. You may have one sitting around from your childhood or have placed one in the trunk of your car for emergencies. But now you’ve gotten the itch for adventure and you’re wondering about wandering a bit. Is your old Batman sleeping bag going to cut it when the winds start whistling through the pines? To tell you the truth, probably not. If you want to get out and stay out, a good sleeping bag can be the difference between an enjoyable morning sunrise hike and a sleep-deprived slog back to car.

That being said, there are a lot of sleeping bags out there, made for different purposes, and at a variety of price levels. This blog will serve as a map to guide you to the correct bag for your situation.

EN Temperature Ratings

First off, let’s talk about ratings and standards. Understanding the modern method of rating sleeping bags for warmth will be important while choosing your new bag. You may have been in this situation before: you’ve borrowed a friend’s bag and the tag claims that it is a 0 degree bag, so you take it out when the temperature drops down to 20 degrees and end up clacking your teeth all night. Such a situation would leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth concerning so called “ratings”. When it comes to survival, you need to know the capabilities of your gear. If companies are labeling their products with misleading information, how are you supposed to know what you are actually getting?

Enter the EN Rating, more accurately known as the European Norm 13537 Standardized Ratien_tested_templateng for Insulation. In 2005, a standard testing and rating system was established in Europe and, soon after, reputable sleeping bag companies across the world began to follow suite. Utilizing a standardized, third-party system to test the insulation of sleeping bags (involving metal dummies and such. Read more), the EN rating tests how a sleeping bag retains warmth while keeping in mind that different human bodies will produce different levels of heat while sleeping. Instead of a bag being rated with a simple number, such as 0 degrees, an EN rated bag will have a range of temperatures: Upper Limit, Comfort, Lower Limit, and Extreme.

Upper Limit refers to the temperature at which a standard man* can sleep without sweating.

Comfort refers to the temperature that a standard woman* can sleep comfortably, in a relaxed position, all night.

Lower Limit refers to the temperature that a standard man* can sleep for 8 hours without waking because of the cold.

Extreme is the minimum temperature that a standard woman* can remain at for 6 hours in the bag without incurring hypothermia.

*A standard man is described as 25 years old, 5’7″, and 160 lbs. A standard woman is described as 25 years old, 5’2″, and 130 lbs. Obviously, this does not describe everyone. The EN rating should be used as a guide more than a guarantee. If you sleep hotter or colder than others, adjust accordingly. As a general rule, the larger you are, the more heat you produce. They are assuming in these ratings that a standard man is larger than a standard woman and thus produces more heat as they sleep.

For example, my sleeping bag has an EN rating of 41 degree Comfort, 32 degree Lower Limit, and 5 degree Extreme (note: many bags do not include the Upper Limit. I guess they assume that you know when you are too hot and can unzip the bag and cool off in that case). I am a fairly hot sleeper, being 6′ and 215 lbs with huge muscles and a grizzly beard. The 32 degree Lower Limit is rather on the money for me, though I can stretch it a few degrees below freezing without suffering much sleep loss. The 0 degree bag mentioned before could have been marketed that way to advertise its extreme rating only, meaning its lower limit was probably more around the 25 degree range.

Keep in mind that this rating takes into account the user’s sleeping clothes, a ground mat, hydration levels, food intake, and even the few degrees of warmth a tent may provide.

Heat Flow and Bag Shape

While we are on the subject of insulation, let’s step back for a moment and consider how sleeping bags work in the first place. When you are out in the woods, away from your furnace and fireplace, you are your own heater. More specifically, the calories you eat metabolize into energy which is given off as heat.  Your body can’t help but heat the air around you. The nature of heat is to move. Without insulation, the heat you are giving off will move away from you to a colder place and will continue to do so as long as the air outside remains colder than your body. The goal of insulation like your sleeping bag is to trap this heat and form a buffer around you from the cold air. You produce heat, the bag catches it, and you feel like the air around you is warm.

talusDifferent bag shapes allow you to customize how efficient you are at capturing this warmth. In cold temperatures, you want as much of your body ensconced in your bag as possible. Enter the Mummy bag. The most efficient of the bags at retaining heat, many modern backpacking bags use this shape. With a mummy bag, you are able to cover all of your body except for your mouth and nose (which you don’t want covered. Breathing is nice. Not filling your bag with the liter of water you breathe out at night is even nicer). The Mummy Bag is a tight fit. This is a part of its design. The less air between your body and the bag, the less air you have to warm before it gets caught in the insulation. This can be uncomfortable for some. It takes some practice for most to sleep in a fetal position with little room to move inside of a bag. Despite this drawback, the Mummy Bag remains popular and this is why: unmatched heat retention.

You don’t see as many Rectangular bags in backpacking these days. The heat you loose from hamityliteving such a free, open style is enormous. That being said, when the nights aren’t so chilly and you simply need something to cover up with, a lightweight rectangular bag can be just the thing. Rectangular bags can also open up into a convenient blanket. Little to no restriction of movement is the big seller here. Some companies have begun the manufacture of insulated quilts that serve a similar function. If the Mummy style is so uncomfortable to you that you are not able to sleep, the loss of a bit of warmth may be worth it depending on the weather.

Luckily, people cSea-to-Summit-Trek-TkIIan be smart and inventive. There is a compromise between the two styles and it is called the Semi-Rectangular bag. With this style, the user can customize the bag depending on the temperature. The body of the bag is looser fitting than a mummy, allowing more room for movement within the bag. The top is open like a rectangular bag, but with a hood and drawstring, letting you “mummy up” in the middle of the night if the temperature drops. The ability to unzip the entire bag is also present for warm weather conditions. The Semi-Rectangular bag is the best of both worlds in many ways, though not as much a bag of extremes. A Mummy bag will be capable of greater warmth. A Rectangular bag will be looser and allow more movement. The Semi-Rectangular bag is a great compromise, however.

Big Agnes has bags that contain a sleeping mat sheath on the bottom, meaning that instead of the insulation on the bottom of the bag being compressed while you roll around on your mat at night, the mat fits down the back of the bag. They contain a hood like a mummy bag, but are more roomy in the middle to allow for movement. With this style, rolling off of your mat at night is not an option. However, this requires that you always use your sleeping mat (which is a good idea anyway).

Down v. Synthetic

The great argument rages: do you want a down insulated bag or synthetic? I have no answer for you, only information. Behold:

DOWNSYN comp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you might expect, people are divided on this subject and for good reason: both types of insulation are useful in certain situation. Guaranteed to be soaking wet? Synthetic might be a better choice. Going for fast and light? Go Down.

These days, a few companies are also utilizing Hydrophobic Down, which resists being saturated with water, retains its loft even when wet, and remains lighter and more compressible than synthetic. For more information on Hydrophobic Down, click here. To read more about down in general, including info on different fill weight, click here.

Liners

Say that you have a 30 degree bag which will be great for the first few days of your hike, but on your third day, you’ll be sleeping at elevation and are afraid that your bag won’t cut it when the temperature drops. Do you have to take two bags rated for different temperatures? No! Enter the sleeping bag liner. These are micro-fleece liners for your bag which come in a variety of weights. Liners can drop the temperature rating of your bag up to ~20 degrees and also help to keep your bag clean (which helps with the durability of the insulation and saves you a lot of effort). Read all about it.

Choosing the Right Bag

Now that you’re familiar with the way sleeping bags work, how they’re shaped, what they’re stuffed with, and how they’re rated, it’s time to choose your bag. When making your choice, consider the following: price, weight, packability, durability, comfort, and appropriate temperature range. Know what adventures you’re planning, what weather you can expect, how long you want your bag to last and how light and compressed you need the bag to be. There is no right bag for every adventure, unfortunately. If you are into winter camping in Alaska, your bag probably won’t do for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and vice versa. At RRT, we carry a variety of different sleeping bags for a variety of purposes. To read more about the different styles of bags we offer, click on any of the links to the brand websites below. The best thing to do, of course, is to stop in the shop, talk to one of our knowledgeable staff members, and actually crawl into a few bags to see which one is right for you.

Big Agnes                   Sea to Summit                        Western Mountaineering                       Mountain Hardwear

 

 

RRT’s Live Inventory now on Locally.com

 

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Pisgah National Forest: Mt. Mitchell

 

Trip Report

Pisgah National Forest: Mt. Mitchell

By Kayla “Clover” McKinney

 

 

 

Trip Length: 3 days, 2 nights (includes driving time)

Total Mileage: ~23 miles

Date: Late September 2015

Conditions: Mix of cloudy and sunny during the day, foggy in the morning, highs in the mid-60s to low 70s and lows in the high 40s – low 50s at night. I hiked in a long sleeve synthetic shirt and pants mostly. I was warm and snug in my ~30 degree bag at night.

Highlights: Tallest summit in North Carolina and the tallest summit east of the Mississippi, stunning scenery, challenging trails, diverse forests, wildlife, Mountain to Sea Trail.

Distance from Cincinnati: Approximately 6.5 hours by vehicle. GPS directions to the Black Mountain Campground, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina. The directions are straight forward.

Permits: There is a fee for camping at Black Mountain Campground and is first come, first serve. There is no permit required for camping at Deep Gap (also first come, first serve).

Description: The Black Mountains are the highest mountain chain east of the Mississippi river with Mt. Mitchell being the tallest summit at 6,684 feet above sea level. The entire ridge is mtmitchellapproximately 10 miles long and contains 14 peaks, all over 6,000 feet, and is known as the Black Mountain Crest.* A large portion of the hike coincides with the Mountain to Sea Trail. For our hike, we did not explore the entire Black Mountain Crest, but instead started from the Black Mountain Campground at the base of Mt. Mitchell and hiked to Deep Gap, a large established campground in Pisgah National Forest. Do not underestimate the Black Mountains! The hike from Black Mountain Campground along the Long Arm Ridge to the Mt. Mitchell summit gains approximately 3,700 feet in elevation over 5.6 miles and is steep and technical in many areas. For most of the hike, you are on an exposed, narrow ridge above the clouds. Once you’ve gained the majority of elevation, the elevation change between the 5 additional peaks is relatively small. The lowest elevation is Deep Gap, which is at approximately 5,800 feet. On this hike, you summit Mt. Mitchell (6,684ft), Mount Craig (6,647ft), Big Tom (6,580ft), Cattail Peak (6,584ft) and Potato Hill (6,475ft), all in one day.

Trip Breakdown:

Day One: Drive from Cincinnati to the Black Mountain Campground and stay there for the night. There are flush toilets and showers. Note: the trail head for Mt. Mitchell is located inside the Black Mountain Campground. There is a large Pisgah National Forest trail head across the street but it is NOT the correct way to go (trust me, because I ended up admitchellsignding ~3 miles to my trip by starting out at the wrong trail head).

Day Two: Start at the Black Mountain Campground and follow signs for Mt. Mitchell and immediately begin ascending for 5.6 miles. You will pass two junctions along the way, one for Higgin’s Bald, which is an alternative trail that will take you to the same place, and one for Commissary Ridge. Follow the signs for the Mt. Mitchell summit. You will eventually reach the paved and suddenly civilized summit of Mt. Mitchell.The summit was crowded and full of people who drove up for the view. Take the opportunity to fill up on water at the Mitchell summit area and enjoy the panoramic views. Continue from the summit to the Deep Gap trail head and to Mount Craig. From Mount Craig, follow the trail to Big Tom and down along the trail. At some point, you will transition from the Mt. Mitchell State Park to the Pisgah National Forest, right around Cattail Peak. At a few points in this area, there are a series of fixed ropes to assist in navigating down the steep terrain. The last peak of the day is Potato Hill (I still have no idea why this steep mountain was called a hill). You are exposed on a narrow ridge and high above the clouds. Continue downhill until you reach a large clearing with an established fire ring and set up camp for the night at Deep Gap. Be sure to hang your food for the night because you are in a bear sanctuary*.

Day Three: Start climbing up the way you came from Deep Gap, back up Potato Hill and Cattail Peak. You will re-enter Mt. Mitchell State Park (there will be signs posted on the trees) and shortly after you will arrive at a junction. Turn onto the trail marked 191A and continue on down. This part of the trail is very steep and rocky, but beautiful and exposed. You will come to another junction, and you’ll want to turn right onto Maple Camp Ridge. This trail is flat, open and easy. You’ll be able to move quickly along it until you meet up with the Long Arm Ridge once more. From here it will be a steep and steady descent. We refilled our water once more along the Long Arm Ridge. Consider doing the Higgin’s Bald side trail to add different scenery along your way back to Black Mountain Campground. The side trail only adds about .25 miles.

Water: I carried 3.5 L of water (a 2.5L reservoir and 1L Nalgene.) We filled up at the Black Mountain Campground, the Mt. Mitchell Summit, and at a stream located along the Long Arm Ridge Trail. There is a water source near Deep Gap, but it is a .5 mile hike away from the campsite.

Options: To save mileage on the second day, consider hiking up the Long Arm Ridge and staying the first night at the Commissary Ridge campsite approximately 4 miles up. Another option is to drive to the top of Mt. Mitchell and hike to Deep Gap from there. There is camping near the Mt. Mitchell summit as well, though you will need a permit for these spots.

*Additional Notes: As mentioned, part of the hike to Deep Gap is through a bear sanctuary. Please practice proper bear awareness through these areas such as properly hanging all of your food, food packaging, cooking equipment, and other scented items. Also, make a note to be somewhat loud when hiking, so as to potentially warn any nearby bears of your presence; simply raising your tone higher when talking should work. The occasional “HEY BEAR!” is a good idea, too. Additionally, these trails are steep and rocky and I highly encourage the use of trekking poles and boots with ankle support.

https://cloudman23.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/more-contrast5l1.jpg

*An image of the entire Black Mountain Crest.

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Hiking in the Heat: 10 Tips for the Summer

Seasonal Safety Series #1

by Craig “Goatman” Buckley

                 The heat is coming! Or it’s already here for some (I don’t pretend to know the weather across time and space). Either way, as summer sets in with its long, hot and sometimes brutally humid days, getting out for a hike can become an obstacle for some…but not for the Goatman! All seasons come with their challenges and all challenges can be met with knowledge, preparation, and some good old-fashioned human willpower. We’ll go ahead and take care of the knowledge part here with ten tips for keeping safe in the heat. The rest is up to you. So read up and get out there!

  1. Hydrate

Nothing fancy about this one. Drink water. Drink extra water the day before you are going out. Drink water on the way to the trail. Drink water as you hike, when you eat, and before settling in for the night. On a hot day, you will sweat between 1/2 and 1 quart of water while moving. You also lose water breathing out when you sleep at night. With proper hydration, there’s no reason to feel thirsty. Keep in mind that water sources can be unreliable in the summer. Make sure to check with the rangers to see how the water is flowing and where.

  1. Refuel

So you’re drinking a lot of water, enough to replace what you’ve sweated out. summersunSweat, however, isn’t just water. Lick your arm. Does that taste like water? Nope. Tastes like sweat. Sweat is water, yes, but it is also salt, salt that needs to be replaced. Don’t believe me? Look up the term “hyponatremia”. Never thought you could drink too much water? Take time for proper nutrition and you won’t. Companies advertise electrolytes in their sports drinks. This is what they are talking about. The best way to replace these is to eat salty foods: trail mix, peanuts, pretzels, etc. You can also drink sports drinks, but if you do so, make sure that you aren’t only drinking sports drinks. Replace your salt and while you’re doing that, replace some of those calories that you’re burning out in the sun.

  1. Dress for the Heat

You may have heard about the 3 L’s of summertime clothing: lightweight, loose fitting, and light-colored. This is great advice, for obvious reasons. Depending on your destination, you should also remember to wear clothes that are wicking and quick dry. There’s nothing worse than sweating out your cotton undies and having your shirt stick and rub on you as you hike. Quick dry and wicking can prevent chaffing. That being said, if you are going to a dry and hot environment such as the Grand Canyon, the moisture that cotton retains won’t be sticking around for very long and can help cool you off as it evaporates in the dry climate. Keep in mind that light-colored clothing reflects the sun’s heat and loose fitting clothing will help with breathability and is less restrictive. I will go ahead and add sunscreen as a clothing item. Treat it as such and you’ll save yourself a nasty burn.

  1. Wet Your Clothing

But my clothes are all sweaty! Why would I wet them further? I don’t know about you, but my sweat on a hot summer day isn’t coming out as cool as a mountain stream.summerfalls The easiest way to benefit from this advice is to simply dip your Buff or bandana in a cool stream and wear it around your neck (the site of some major blood flow between your heart and brain. All of it, to be exact). This will cool you off for a bit. If you want a bigger dose, get on the quick dry clothing and jump right in (leave your socks and shoes off, naturally). Your cool, wet clothes will dissipate the heat you’re building up while hiking and the sun working with your own body heat will have you nice and dry by the time you reach camp.

 

  1. Go Swimming

You don’t have to tell me twice on this one. If it’s hot and there’s a pool big enough to dip my hooves in, I’m all over it. A nice, cool dip in the heat of the day can definitely put some bounce back in your gallop. I like to combine a few of these tips at the swimming hole: hydrating, eating a snack, swimming, and wetting my clothes all at the same time. That leads me to my next tip.

  1. Slow down

For some of you, this doesn’t seem like a tip at all. This one goes out to my laser-blazing GoBos, my long-distance hiking buddies who are out there to make miles, smiles or not. I’m not just suggesting this one because the Goatman likes to take it nice and easy (which is no secret). This is important. When the heat is blasting, slowing down your pace can be the difference between spending time on the trail and time in the hospital. Taking rest stops in the shade by water isn’t a decadent luxury in this case. If you are hiking through the heat of the day, you need these stops so that you don’t overheat. Hot days aren’t the time to push those big miles.

  1. Get Up Early, Finish Up Late

If you do plan on covering some ground, adjust accordingly. As much as we all adore the sun, in this case we are looking to avoid its beautiful face and the sun gets up pretty early in the summer and stays out a bit late. To beat the heat, avoid exerting yourself in the middle of the day. The danger zone is going to be between 12 pm and 2 pm. On really hot days or in desert climates, this extends to 10 am and 4 pm. So get up early and get hiking, but when you stop for lunch, do it somewhere with some shade and water and take a few hours off to catch up on some lounging time. Finish those last miles in the evening when the sun starts to dip back down. Remember your headlamp in case your hike takes you into the dark hours.

  1. Camp in the Shade

summerdesertThis one is pretty self-explanatory. Staying out of the direct sunlight is a good idea anytime of the day, even while on the move. I only mention this in relation to camping to remind you to plan out your site in relation not only to where the shade is when you stop, but where it will be in the morning. Try camping low, by water (but not too close in case of flash flooding), and in a good patch of shade that doesn’t move about all willy-nilly. This means not camping above tree line, or on ridges, or by overlooks. Boohoo. You shouldn’t be camping there anyway, but that’s a different article. Stay in the shade!

  1. Beat Bugs and Watch Your Step

Summer is the most active time for creepy crawlers and buzzing menaces. Make sure to pack out some bug spray, a bug net, and possibly light-weight long sleeves and long pants, if not to hike in, at least to sit around camp in. While you’re hiking, watch your step. This is a good idea in general, but this time of the year you need to watch for snakes out sun-bathing the morning away. They are sluggish when they’re in this state and might not get out of your way, so get out of theirs’ instead.

  1. Keep an Eye Out for Your Buddy

It’s never a good idea to hike alone. This goes double in times of extreme heat. Heat exhaustion is hard to diagnose on your own, seeing that the symptoms include becoming disoriented. Other signs include a pale face, clammy skin, nausea, headaches and cramps. If you see these signs in your buddy (or yourself) take a rest in the shade, put a cool cloth to the head, drink some water, and eat a little bit. If symptoms get worse, time to get off the trail and to some medical care. It takes a team to stay safe and have fun, so don’t forget that friend of yours!

Trail Runners Dominate Long Distance Hiking by Eli “Shinbone” Staggs

At RRT, we see a lot of folks looking for a shoe to wear on an assortment of outdoor excursions. From my experience as a long distance hiker I try to sway them towards a non-waterproof trail runner, whether it’s for an overnight trip to the Red River Gorge or a long section of the Appalachian Trail. No matter where you go, moisture management will insure happy, blister-free feet.
The trade-offs between a high top boot and a trail runner are numerous. In my opinion, the benefits of a low top shoe that is not waterproof outweigh those of a waterproof high top boot during three-season hiking. Although sacrificing ankle support and warmth, a trail runner provides better breathability, cost efficiency, flexibility, and weight.

Support:
One of the first concerns I hear is that the low top shoe will not provide adequate support. The support a high top boot provides that a trail runner does not is in the ankle and stiffness of the shoe. The high top boot keeps your ankle from moving as much as a trail runner, which in certain terrains can hold you back when you want full range of motion (i.e. bolder scrambles). Backpacking boots are good for absorbing the shock that comes with walking with a heavy pack. These days, a pack in the 30 pound and under range is more common and the support of a boot can be overkill. As you get out and hike more, your ankles will strengthen and the extra support becomes less necessary.
Weight:
For every pound on your foot, you spend the amount of energy equivalent to 5 pounds on your back with each step. So every time you walk with the two to three pound boot, you are essentially adding 15 pounds to your back! A typical trail runner weighs just under a pound. On a short day hike this may not be noticeable, but on a week long trek you will definitely notice the difference each night.
Breathability:
Calling a waterproof shoe breathable implies an absolute. Every waterproof shoe is breathable to a degree. Different fabrics allow better air flow, but pale in comparison to a completely non-waterproof material. As a result of limited breathability, any water that enters the boot will not leave until you take the shoe off to dry. A trail runner will flush the water out with each step and dry on the move faster than the waterproof boot.
Warmth:Booot
The warmth that a shoe provides is a result of its breathability. A waterproof shoe will be significantly warmer than its counterpart, but this is only beneficial in the winter. During warmer temperatures, waterproofing can cause sweat to build up inside of the boot. In the cold, movement itself can keep your foot comfortable through freezing temperatures no matter what shoe. So a trail runner can keep you moving through cold snaps, although keep in mind that a waterproof boot will keep you more comfortable through sustained freezing temperatures or heavy snow.
Cost Efficiency:
A solid pair of hiking boots run in the price range of $200 or more while a pair of trail runners cost around $100. While it’s true that the boot may last twice as long, by that point, the boot will be damaged, it’s waterproofing compromised, the insole broken down, and the tread worn thin. Repairing the boot can cost upwards of $100. At this cost, you could have replaced your trail runners almost twice over.

In conclusion, trail runners will keep you on the move, help maintain drier, happier feet and maintain their value longer. Whether you are wearing waterproof or not, your feet will get wet during an extended backpacking trip. It may be from your own sweat or water entering through the giant hole your foot goes in. Having the proper footwear to combat prolonged moisture is key. The trail runner is the proper footwear that I use to manage moisture on long distance hikes. Waterproof boots are very specific in their use and should be saved for extended cold weather, snowy trails, or use with heavy loads. So weigh the pros and cons against your needs. No one knows your foot better than yourself!DSC_0444

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Red River Gorge

Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is world-famous for its rock climbing and is a popular destination for camping, hiking, and backpacking as well. Nothing new there. So what don’t you know about the Red? Goatman shall elucidate:

1. RRG could have been turned into a lake, but was saved by a protest hike.

Back in the 1960’s, there was a dam proposed in the area for the purpose of flood control. A group of concerned citizens with the help of the Sierra Club arranged the Dam Protest Hike of 1967. On November 18th, groups were led on a hike of the Red to showcase its unique beauty.

2. RRG is registered as a National Natural Landmark.

The fight to keep the gorge from being drowned led to its inclusion as a National Natural Landmark, as well as being included on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a National Archeological District and the Red River itself, as of 1993, has been declared a National Wild and Scenic River.

3. RRG is home to one of the earliest examples of agriculture being utilized by prehistoric peoples.

With unique rock shelters, RRG is the home of approximately 664 prehistoric and historic archeological sites, some dating back 12,000 years. Examples of early seed gathering and storage have been found in the gorge, as well as everyday items such as baskets and moccasins. For this reason, RRG is a National Archeological District.

4. RRG is one of many supposed sites of John Swift’s Lost Silver Mine.

You may be familiar with the campground bearing his name and the beautiful trail named Swift Camp Creek, but did you know that John Swift was a real man and, according to his journals, he found and consequently buried a fortune in silver. The directions he left are vague (with markers like “by a creek”)  and many other sites claim his silver for themselves.

5. RRG is home to an endangered plant that is unique to the rock shelters of the area.

  That’s right. Real treasure does exist. Namely, the White-haired Golden Rod (Solidago Albopilosa). This flower only grows in one place and that place just happens to be right at RRG. Unfortunately, the number of plants is declining due to human trampling. Take a look at it, memorize it’s shape and color, and please, keep your big feet off of them!

6. RRG is also home to three endangered animals.

The Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) , the Virginia Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), and the Red Cockaded Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis) all make their home in and around RRG and are all on the endangered species list. Unfortunately, the bat population is being decimated by White-nose Syndrome, a fungal infection that can infect entire colonies of bats. However, you can do your part by not disturbing the caves in which the bats make their home, especially in the winter. If a bat is awakened from its hibernation, it may lose enough body fat in being active to not survive the winter. Be mindful!

7. Kentucky has its very own long trail, the Sheltowee Trace, that goes right through the heart of RRG.

You may have seen the blazes on the trees of a white turtle and wondered what that was all about. That, my friend, is the path of the Sheltowee Trace, a ~300 mile long trail leading from Morehead, KY in the north all the way down to Big South Fork on the KY-TN border. A hike on the trail will take you through Cave Run, Cumberland Falls and, of course, RRG. Don’t have time to hike all 300 miles at once? There’s a group that meets to do it 30 miles at a time over the course of a year.

8. The Clifty Catman is stalking you.

The Clifty Wilderness encompasses the eastern and northeastern sections of the gorge and is home, according to legend, of the Clifty Catman. This creature is the size of a horse, has the skeletal structure of a large cat, the skin of a human and a beautiful baritone singing voice with which he leads hikers astray. Be wary! If you catch a glimpse of the Clifty Catman and live to tell the tale, please comment and let me know what sort of warding talisman you had in your possession.

9. The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition is buying property to preserve cliff line.

Thus far, two areas have been purchased: the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP),  750 acres, and The Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP), 309 acres. They also host trail building days during the summer which are a lot of fun with a great group of people. Get involved here!

10. The Red River Gorge Trail Crew hosts trail building/clean ups every second Saturday of every month.

A great way to give back to the area that has brought so much joy, RRGTC helps preserve and maintain the gorge so that it will be beautiful for generations to come. They work with the U.S. Forest Service and information concerning volunteering can be found here!

 

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21 Things I Wish I Knew on My First Backpacking Trip

By Kayla McKinney

We all remember our first time out there. The first time we strapped up, laced up those boots, and set off for what was supposed to be a rewarding, life-changing event. Only…the pack was so heavy, you smelled for days, and you just felt so unprepared. Someone told you what to expect, but you didn’t really know. It’s only after we experience mistakes that we learn from them and this is especially true for backpacking. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look for advice from those who have been there before.

Below is a list compiled by some friends and me as a memento of what we wish we knew before our very first backpacking trip.

  1. You don’t need 4 pairs of pants.
    1. If you have the right pants, you should be able to wear the same pair for several days in a row. You might not even need two pairs of pants, realistically. The idea is to lighten your pack by only bringing what is necessary.
  2. Cotton is Rotten/Cotton Kills.
    1. Cotton will pull heat from your body if it’s wet. It will smell horribly and won’t dry very quickly. It will chafe and you will be uncomfortable. This includes your favorite pair of jeans and your snuggly soft hoodie. Save them for the city.
  3. There’s no point in bringing razors. You’re not going to shave out there.
    1. Backpacking is not a beauty pageant. Who are you trying to impress? To tell the truth, you can leave the deodorant in the car as well (but don’t forget your toothpaste!)DSC_0194
  4. “There’s no such thing as bad weather! Your discontent is due to improper gear!” – John Ferree
    1. Good gear is important. You don’t have to go overboard, but you want gear that holds up to the elements. Different gear is appropriate in different situations. Gear can be the difference between staying and leaving, a good time and a bad time, or sometimes even life and death.
  5. Footwear is the most important piece of gear you have.
    1. When backpacking, keeping your feet happy is rule number one. A good pair of hiking shoes or boots coupled with merino wool socks will make a world of difference. The soles on these shoes are designed to protect you from rock bruising and support the muscles in your feet differently than other shoes. Merino wool wicks sweat, prevents blisters, and is anti-microbial. If there is one piece of gear that will make all of the difference, it is proper footwear.
  6. “They’ve started making lighter weight tents since 1994 when I bought mine.”– Aaron Boyd
    1. They’ve started making lighter weight versions of nearly everything. Sometimes it’s really worth it to upgrade your gear. These days, you can turn your 50 lb. pack into a 25 lb. pack without sacrificing much of anything.
  7. Modern backpacks come in various sizes and are adjustable to fit the contours of your body.
    1. Everyone is shaped differently, whether it is torso length, hip width, or shoulder girth. Backpacks can and should be customized to fit your body appropriately. Look to someone who knows what they are doing to help you be as comfortable as possible with your bag on. If you borrowed a bag, make sure it is the right size and ask your friend or local outfitter to help you to adjust it to fit you specifically.
  8. “Bring food you like! 7 days of oatmeal for breakfast is better when you end the night with a tasty dinner.” – Todd Cline
    1. Vary your snacks as well. Save something special for a hard day to reward your accomplishments.
  9. You’re going to eat everything you have. Bring more food than you think you’ll need.
    1. Once again, hiking takes a lot of energy, so be mindful and put in the fuel you need so that you’re not running on fumes all day. A long distance hiker can burn up to 5,000 calories a day. Skip low-cal, low-fat foods. Calories and fat are code words for energy.
  10. There’s no bathroom.
    1. No bathroom for days.
  11. If you’re going to use leaves as TP, plan ahead. Make sure there are appropriate leaves where you’re going.
    1. Sometimes I grab nice leaves as I walk past them knowing that they will be useful later. You want large, smooth, and abundant leaves.
  12. Bring sunscreen.
    1. If you are outside all day, the sun will burn you. This goes especially for times when you’re above tree line, right up in the sun’s business. Sleeping in a sleeping bag is terrible if you are sunburnt.
  13. “…it’s good to hike early in the morning, but not to be first on the trail. Spider web clearing is a creepy job.”– TJStatt
    1. If you do have the job of being first in line, first thing in the morning, consider waving a stick in front of you as you walk to clear the spider webs. Trekking poles work great. If you’re afraid of spiders, perhaps let someone else lead.
  14. Marmots are cute, but can be evil. Same goes for mice, raccoons, porcupines and chipmunks.
    1. If you let them, they’ll eat everything. Your food, socks, hip belts, etc.
  15. Snakes, bears and other dangerous animals rarely want anything to do with you.DSC_0610
    1. You are a bear’s only predator. They want to be far away from you. Let them be and obey proper bear country safety tips.
    2. Most snake bites occur when the animal is handled. Give them space and they’ll give you space.
  16. Waking up to watch the sunrise is always worth it no matter how cold and tired you are.
    1. The sun will warm your body and getting an early start will ensure that you enjoy all that nature has to offer. Every day starts with a sunrise. Enjoy them.
  17. Never try to cross an exposed ridge or summit after noon if possible.
    1. Afternoon storms are the real deal and should not be taken lightly. Never underestimate a big cloud. Things can escalate quickly and there’s little to no protection up above tree line.
  18. It is worth it to climb out of your tent and urinate in the middle of the night.
    1. You will sleep better. You will be warmer not having to keep waste fluid at body temperature all night. Plus, you will get the chance to appreciate the night sky in all of its glory.
  19. “Carrying firewood into the forest is unnecessary weight.” – KurtGaerther
    1. Surprisingly not as obvious as it should be: there’s usually a lot of dead wood in the forest (and only use dead wood! Live, green wood doesn’t burn well). Pay attention to the regulations in place if you plan on building a fire. Also note that bringing in firewood from another area can spread parasites and is forbidden in many states.
  20. Duct tape is extremely useful.
    1. You can repair gear, prevent blisters, make a belt, and find a hundred other uses. Wrap it around your water bottle or trekking poles to save room. It is a multifunctional tool.
  21. Cameras will never do it justice.
    1. If you really want someone to see the place, take them there.

Nobody knows it all. Even the most experienced backpacker makes mistakes now and then. Despite all the things it seems like you need to know before you go, go anyway without knowing it all. Take chances and learn from your mistakes. The only thing you really need to know is that it’s always worth it.

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DIY Dehydration

DIY Dehydration

Trail Food with the Goatman Installment #2

Contents:

1. Introduction
2. Materials and Tools
3. Key Factors to Success
4. Storage and Trail Preparation
5. Tips and Tricks
6. Resources

1: Introduction

Dehydration is easy. Just hike into the wilderness without any water, lie down in the hot sun, and wait for a day or two. Oh, this blog is supposed to be about dehydrated food? Well, I can do that too, I suppose. The principle is the same.

So, you’re going on a backpacking trip but you don’t want to starve. Typical human urge. You would also like to cut the weight in your pack to a minimum so that you don’t get super strong and grizzled like the Goatman, who town folk whisper about dreadfully in the night (though I am usually out cold at sundown and miss all the late night small talk). Or maybe you just don’t enjoy hauling around 50 pound packs for some reason. Either way, a simple, effective way to cut down on pack weight is to bring dehydrated foods. Backpacking 101, right? Well, this blog entry isn’t just a list of prepackaged foods that you can buy at the store (though they do come in handy on those really long hauls). What I aim to do here is to lay out the basics of DIY dehydrating from your own home with a focus on preparing weeks, if not months, ahead of time for backcountry adventures.
To be honest, my interest in dehydrating goes beyond backpacking. Sure, I love the fact that foods with moisture removed become lighter and easier to pack. I also love that I can supplement store-bought noodles and instant rice meals with veggies and meat that I myself prepared, adding not only to the flavor of the meal, but also to the nutritional value. Good food equals good health and that goes double for hard-working backpackers whose options are limited.

That, however, is but the beginning of the usefulness of dehydration. When water is removed from food, you are also preserving that food by denying bacteria a foothold. Just like us humans, those little food spoilers need water to live and to reproduce. Dehydrating increases the shelf life of food to a great extent (exact numbers depend, of course, on the properties of the exact food itself). So, when fruits and vegetables are in season and relatively cheap, I can stock up, knowing that the portion I don’t use immediately can be dehydrated and kept throughout the winter. Have a garden? Perfect. Plant some extra rows. You’ll be making stews all winter with dehydrated vegetables. There is a lot of money to be saved with DIY dehydrating, money you could be using to plan your next trek.

2: Materials and Tools

   That brings me to the meat of it: What do you need to get started? Behold, the basics:
1. Dehydrator. These can run you anywhere from $50-$300. In its most basic form, this is a box with a hot air fan blowing through ventilated trays on which food is placed. Opting for a model that has both a timer and a thermostat will make dehydrating a variety of foods a lot easier.
2. Colander. There are times when you will need to blanch food (we’ll deal with this in a moment). This handy tool makes it easy to remove excess moisture from food before it is placed into the dehydrator.
3. Heat-proof metal strainer. Again, for blanching.
4. Fine mesh tray liners. These are normally sold specifically for dehydrators by the manufacturer. They allow you to dry food that becomes tiny when dehydrated without it all falling down into the bottom of the machine.
5. Parchment paper. For dehydrating wet items such as fruit leather, soups, or chili. Can also be used to prevent sticking (in the case of high sugar fruit such as strawberries, for example). Alternatively, the manufacturer of the dehydrator may also make a specific “leather tray” that is a reusable alternative.
6. Sharp knives. The more precise you are when cutting food, the more evenly that food will dry. This is huge and we’ll talk more about this later, but don’t count out the importance of a simple, sharp kitchen knife.
7. Vegetable peeler. Sometimes, the skin of a vegetable or fruit needs to be removed before dehydrating. Make sure you have a sharp one. No use wasting food by peeling too much of it away with a dull peeler.
8. Air-tight Containers. Glass or metal containers with air-tight lids work the best for long-term storage. Plastic bags are great when packing for your trip, but let in too much air and moisture to be effective for long-term storage.
Some other things you might consider having around would be a food processor or blender, a jerky gun, kitchen scissors, or a mandolin. These items are used very specifically. As a first time dehydrator, I wouldn’t worry about these until you’re ready to branch out.

 

3: Key Factors to SuccessIMG_1833

 

So you’ve got your kitchen ready. Before you get to chopping and waiting patiently, there are a few things to consider that, if done correctly, will save a lot of time later on.
First, you must prepare the food to be dehydrated in the appropriate manner. Not all food dehydrates equally. There are ways to deal with stubborn food that we will get to in a moment. Here, I simply want to state a few basics that apply to all and any food being dehydrated.
The act of dehydrating goes something like this: hot air moves over the surface of object, carrying away moisture. As the outside of the object loses moisture, water from the center of the object moves to the outside (this is called diffusion). When all of the moisture is diffused, the object is thus dehydrated. Diffusion itself is a slow process, however, and can be helped along by cutting food into the appropriate thickness, thus revealing extra surface area over which air can move and moisture can escape.
Cut your food evenly into 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) pieces. This thickness helps foods to dry quickly and evenly while being thick enough to prevent over drying.
Once cut uniformly, you will want to spread the food as uniformly as possible. This prevents uneven drying. You may also need to rotate the trays within the dehydrator as food closer to the fan may dry faster than that further away. It’s all about balance here. You want all of your food to dry equally in order to prevent over drying of some and under drying of the rest.
Other factors in successful dehydration are all tied up together. For every food product, there is an appropriate time and temperature:
1. Most fruits and vegetables do well at 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Meats must be set at a higher temperature to ward off bacteria. 155-160 degrees Fahrenheit will do the trick.
3. Herbs can be more delicate than other foods. 110 degrees Fahrenheit will work for these tasty treats.
For a more comprehensive list of drying temperatures, as well as times to expect, see the list of resources at the bottom of this article. I don’t have room here to go into great detail, unfortunately, but there are a lot of great books on the subject.
Consistent temperature is important. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that cranking up the temperature in order to speed up the dehydration process will work well. In a lot of cases, this will actually slow down your drying time due to a little something called “case hardening”. Basically, a higher temperature than what is recommended can dry out the outside of your food to an extent that it hinders the process of diffusion from the inside. Think of searing a steak to lock in moisture. We are going for the opposite of that. Consistent, correct temperature will in the end not only dry food faster, but will also retain the flavor of foods once re-hydrated.

 

4: Storage and Trail Preparation

 

I have already mentioned the fact that air-tight containers are ideal for long-term storage of dehydrated food. These can be made of glass or metal. You will want to store these in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight such as a pantry or cabinet. Foods can also be refrigerated after drying to increase the shelf life. Another common practice is to obtain a vacuum sealer and to freeze the food once sealed. For long-term storage, this is obviously the best option. However, if you know that you will be using the foods within 6 months to a year, such measures are not required.
There are a few things to look for when storing dehydrated food:
1. Again, make sure all of the food is evenly dried. If some food contains moisture, this can leach out into the rest of the food, allowing bacteria to spread or mold to grow.
2. Some foods turn strange colors when dehydrated raw (cauliflower turns purplish black. Yum.) This can be avoided by a process called blanching. Blanching is boiling a vegetable or fruit for a short of amount of time, mainly to kill the enzymes that cause discoloration. Blanching can also loosen cells in tougher foods, such as broccoli, that allow for a tenderer re-hydration.
3. If oxygen permeates your container, even well dehydrated food can develop off flavors. Make sure those lids are on tight!
When preparing for a backpacking trip, take your food out and put it in a plastic bag. Make sure, however, not to mix foods that are not meant to be together (onion flavored blueberries anyone?). If you dehydrate ingredients separately, you can combine them before leaving for a trip into single meal packets. For example, I have dehydrated onions, peppers, kidney beans, tomato sauce, and ground beef. Throw it all in a bag and I’ve got some backcountry chili. It only gets more elaborate from here. Below, in the resource section, I have listed a variety of great dehydrated food cookbooks that are more decadent than you thought possible.

5: Tips and Tricks

I am going to get specific here for a section and troubleshoot a few common problems one might come across while dehydrating different styles of food. Obviously, this list is not comprehensive, but is meant as a good starting place for beginners.
1. Produce

Fruits and vegetables are traditionally the easiest type of food to start dehydrating. In fact, starting out by experimenting with some basics will teach you a lot your first time through. So go ahead and slice up those apples (evenly). That brings us to our first tip: color preservation. Food you buy in the store has all sorts of preservatives to protect color. One point of DIY dehydrating is to avoid such things. This one is easy. Take a 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of water, mix them in a bowl, and soak your apples in this solution as you slice. This will prevent browning.

Another common problem with produce is how to dehydrate “tough” fruits and vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, green beans etc.). I have already mentioned the answer a few times: blanching. The rule here is, if you don’t typically eat the food raw, blanching will help with re-hydration when the time comes. Take your food and cut it up while boiling enough water to cover all of your food. Place the food into a heat-proof metal strainer, dip it into the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute, and remove from the water. Throw in a colander to drain and you’re ready to put it in the dehydrator.

Some fruits have a thick casing, such as blueberries and cranberries. This is nature’s way of preventing dehydration, so we have to be smarter than nature (or at least a bit clever now and then). The case must be broken to allow diffusion to occur. This can be done by heating until the case breaks (the fast, easy way, though flavor may be affected) or you can pierce the casings individually with a toothpick or other pokey object (tedious, yes, but makes for better tasting fruit).

2. Starches and Beans

I put these together because they share a common method. Both starches (rice, pasta, barley, etc.) and beans must both be cooked prior to dehydration for fast and effective re-hydration (Canned beans are ready to use and don’t require extra cooking). We’ll use an example that involves both: red beans and rice. Delicious, nutritious, and filling, this makes a great trail meal. Although both beans and rice are dry when you buy them at the store, both take a long time (hours in some cases) to cook as to be edible. Instead of wasting fuel in the wilderness, cook these ingredients at home, either separately or together, and then dehydrate the meal afterwards. When you get out on the trail, fire up your camp stove, boil some water and you’re done. The meal should only take a few minutes to rehydrate, saving you both time and fuel when such things are a precious commodity.

3. Jerky

Jerky takes a while to perfect and I don’t have the space here to treat it as in-depth as I would like. Luckily, there are a lot of great books and recipes out there that take the guessing out of jerky making.
Here I will simply mention the basics of choosing an appropriate cut of meat (you’re on your own for finding a recipe that you like!). The general rule with jerky is that the leaner the meat, the longer the jerky will last. Fat and oil are enemies of dehydration, unfortunately. Any fat left in a piece of dehydrated meat (or anything for that matter. I’m looking at you, avocados) will eventual turn rancid and ruin your snack.
That being said, you want to look for meat with less than 2% fat content. Cooking your meat and draining the excess fat is the first step (which also kills any bacteria within the meat). While dehydrating, you will need to periodically test your jerky with a paper towel. If oil is absorbed, take your meat and press it between paper towels to remove the oil. Do this a few times on and off and, once the meat is dried to your liking, do one last test. If no oil comes out, you’re good to go.

4. Leathers

I’m not talking about cow hide here. Leather, whether fruit or vegetable, is a pureed, dried form that is great for snacking, among other uses. Basic fruit leather can consist of nothing more than applesauce and your favorite berries, mixed together and dried into strips. This is where a food processor or blender can come in handy.

A few tips for good leather: Press the fruit mash down when placing it on your leather tray or parchment paper. Avoid spreading, especially spreading thinly. Once again, the magic dimension is 1/4 inch. This thickness is more important than covering the whole tray. 1/4 inch, pressed uniformly, will make for leather that doesn’t over dry and crack. Leathers will firm when cooled, so don’t worry if it’s a bit wobbly when first removed. A good indicator is the stickiness of the leather: too mushy means underdone, not sticky at all means overdone.

If making veggie leather, it is better to powder the result after dehydrating than to leave it in its leather form. The whole point of veggie leather is to add flavor and nutrition to meals. Powdering makes this easy. A food processor works best for this.

Don’t forget: leather doesn’t have to be all fruit snacks and veggie powder. Take some tomato sauce and follow the instructions for making leather. Ta da. You have backcountry pasta sauce that doesn’t weigh much. Try this with salsa or barbecue sauce and suddenly your bland backpacking meals aren’t so bland anymore.

IMG_70526: Resources

Goatman didn’t invent dehydrating food. Caveman did (or cave woman. I don’t know. I wasn’t there). The point being this: I have tried to lay out some basics for DIY dehydrating, but there is a lot more to learn. The best way to learn, as in all things, is through trial and error. To start out on the best foot, however, there are some resources that have been a great help to me and my friends as we prepare for our trips, treks, and rambles across this wild planet of ours. Below are a few specifics I have found helpful (I left out internet resources simply because there are too many to include and a simple search will pull up more than you will ever need). We stock a lot of these at RRT, so stop in for some knowledge.

MacKenzie, Jennifer, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. The Dehydrator Bible. Ontario: Robert Rose, 2009. Print

March, Laurie Ann. Fork in the Trail: Mouthwatering Meals and Tempting Treats for the Backcountry. Birmingham: Wilderness Press, 2007. Print.

March, Laurie Ann. Another Fork in the Trail: Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for the Backcountry. Birmingham: Wilderness Press, 2011. Print.
Meredith, Leda. Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More. Woodstock: Countryman Press, 2014. Print.

Water Safety Along the Little Miami (and Surrounding Rivers) – Part Three

As in all things educational, you had to begin somewhere, but in a world so full of information, where does one start? Look no further! We have compiled a list of books and local experts (the same ones we pester for our information) that will serve you well throughout life.

***

 

 

Books – All books are available at Roads, Rivers and Trails.

Kayak: A New Frontier

by William McNealy

ISBN: 0897325893

Sea Kayaking: Safety and Rescue

by John Lull

ISBN: 9780899974767

Boundary Waters Canoe Area: Eastern Region

by Robert Beymer and Louis Dzierzak

ISBN: 9780899974613

Canoeing and Kayaking Ohio’s Streams

by Rick Combs and Steve Gillen

ISBN: 0881502529

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail

by The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Inc.

ISBN: 9781594850615

A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to Kentucky: Fifth Edition

by Bob Sehlinger and Johnny Molloy

ISBN: 9780897325653

 

Local Liveries: Your (and our) source for the most up to date information and some pretty kick-ass river-fun-time! Liveries are listed north to south along the Little Miami.

Morgan’s Outdoor Adventure

Ft. Ancient Canoe Livery

5701 St. Rt. 350

Oregonia, OH 45054

1-800-WE-CANOE

www.morganscanoe.com

 

Green Acres Canoe and Kayak

10465 Suspension Bridge Rd

Harrison, OH 45030

513-353-4770

www.greenacrescanoe.com

 

Little Miami Canoe

219 Mill (SR 123)

Morrow, OH 45152

513-899-3616

www.littlemiamicanoe.com

 

Loveland Canoe and Kayak

200 Crutchfield Place

Loveland, OH 45140

513-683-4611

www.lovelandcanoe.com

 

Scenic River Excursions

4595 Roundbottom Rd

Cincinnati, OH 45244

513-576-9000

www.scenicrivercanoe.com

 

Mariemont Livery

7625 Wooster Pike

Cincinnati, OH 45227

513-479-0337

www.mariemontlivery.com

 

Water Safety Along the Little Miami (and Surrounding Rivers) – Part Two

Today’s topic will be water safety gear, but first a PSA…

Floodwater is NOT Whitewater

We’ve all heard the awesome stories (or even lived them ourselves) about the instant rock-star status involved in running whitewater. Just you, your boat of choice, a helmet, life jacket and a prayer against the awesome power of the river! Hoo-rah! We’ve taken trips out to the New River, the Gauley or any of the hundreds of other whitewater rivers in the U.S. and come back with some great memories. Now you’re working again, kids have games and recitals, in-laws are visiting, and you really need a time-out. It rained really hard a few days ago and the river is up but the sun’s out now and you want some action. It only stands to reason that fast-moving water is fast-moving water, no matter where you go, right?

Wrong!

In whitewater, it’s just you and the river (and rocks.) With a flooded river, even the featureless albeit quick calm of anything above seven feet, you have to contend with uprooted trees, vegetation and other miscellaneous out-wash come down the banks with the rain. Furthermore, while the river may not initially tear up a grove of trees, if you find yourself on the water, it will carry you into said grove of trees. Roots and debris act as “strainers,” a collection of fallen branches or other vegetation which will catch a kayaker up while the river keeps them pinned. Needless to say, this isn’t a position anyone wants to be in, seasoned or fledgling. In addition to this, the river never loses steam. One cubic foot of moving water is roughly 69 lbs of pressure. If we go back to our original 1,700 CFS, that equates to 106,080 lbs of force per second that never stops pushing. As in almost every case, common sense will help you throughout the decision-making process. If it is beyond your comfort zone, either don’t do it or find someone who is better versed than you are in these matters to guide you.

***

PFDs – What Floats your Boat?

One of the key components to water safety is the Personal Floatation Device (PFD), growing up, these were simply called life jackets. They came in bright orange, sandwiched their wearer between a huge layer of foam and made it short of impossible to move either your arms or torso. Luckily for the world of water sports, the PFD has seen a redesign and revitalization in the realms of mobility while still maintaining their safety. The U.S. Coast Guard provides the following table to showcase the classes of PFDs:

Type PFDs

Minimum Adult Buoyancy

in Pounds (Newtons)

I – Inflatable

33.0 (150)

I – Buoyant Foam or Kapok

22.0 (100)

II – Inflatable

33.0 (150)

II – Buoyant Foam or Kapok

15.5 (70)

III – Inflatable

22.0 (100)

III – Buoyant Foam

15.5 (70)

IV – Ring Buoys

16.5 (75)

IV – Boat Cushions

18.0 (82)

V – Hybrid Inflatables

22.0 (Fully inflated) (100)
7.5 (Deflated) (34)

V – Special Use Device – Inflatable

22.0 to 34.0 (100 to 155)

V – Special Use Device – Buoyant Foam

15.5 to 22.0 (70 to 100)

 

The human body is naturally buoyant, considering we are 65 to 75% water, and our bodyweight doesn’t apply in the water as much as you may believe. In the above chart, the weights are in addition to the buoyancy of our bodies. For instance, in the Little Miami, PFDs up to a Class III rating are sufficient.  According to the chart above, that is only an additional 15.5 to 20 lbs of buoyancy, how can that be? Think back to the days of summer when you were a kid. No matter how deep you tried to dive in the pool, it was harder and harder to reach the bottom. When you fill your lungs with air, you are literally turning yourself into a flotation device! We are designed to float from birth, the PFD just gives us a little more pick-up.

Foam vs. Inflatable

Reading the chart, one would be inclined to grab an inflatable. Inflatables are effective, but their one Achilles heel is leaking. In the Little Miami area, the river is full of jagged corners, sticks, rocks and other miscellaneous hazards that would present an issue to inflatables. Foam may break down over time but we’re talking decades, and it can take a beating the likes of which an inflatable would never survive. Choose which PFD you will, so long as you choose one and keep it on during your trek. We’ve seen, too often, the jacket strapped into the boat and that boat go floating away down a wave-train sans paddler. You don’t want to end up in this situation (again.)

Helmets!

For the love of all things wet, if we haven’t made the power of the river apparent by now, I’m not sure we can. It’s really simple; you wear a helmet for everything from rollerblading to cross-country motorcycle touring, why would you not do the same for kayaking/canoeing? Your skull can take anywhere from 15 to 170 lbs of force before it cracks, depending on where and how you are hit. How many pounds of force are in the river? Get the picture? Put a helmet on.

Part three: at the feet of the masters, click here