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Monthly Archives: June 2022


Post-Trip Cleanup: Caring for Your Gear

The return from a trip is usually just as chaotic as the frenzied packing. Inevitably, we get home late at night with commitments the following morning. Post-trip cleanup simply doesn’t happen the way we intend. But take a step back from the bedlam, slow down, and think about how you care for your gear when the trails have been trekked and the rivers run. After all, properly cleaning and storing our equipment will keep it in prime condition for our next adventure. If you’ve thrown out the care guide for your latest investment, here’s what I recommend for post-trip cleanup and long-term care.

 

  • Tents

Tents are often packed up still holding the morning dew and promptly forgotten about in our rush for hot showers at home. It’s important to set your tent up or hang it to dry completely once you return, which will prevent mildew. Shake it out well, or turn it inside out to remove the sand and dirt that you tracked in. Those particles can result in punctured or worn fabric if they’re not removed. Take care not to leave your tent in direct sunlight while it dries; those UV rays are as harsh on nylon as they are on our skin. After most trips, this routine will be enough.

Once a year, it doesn’t hurt to dive into some deeper maintenance. You can wash your tent with a mild soap or use Nikwax Tech Wash, and I find it best to wash by hand. Use a soft sponge to scrub any mud or stains off. This may also be a good time to seam seal your rain fly if it’s been a while, and while you’re at it treat the rain fly with TX Direct to re-waterproof it. Take a minute to check the poles— is the shock cord still intact, or is it time to revitalize the old? If your tent is more than a few years old, it may be due for solar proofing, as well. Finally, inspect your tent body and fly for pin-sized holes that need patched, and cover those with a combination of seam sealant and repair tape.

 

Tech Wash is a versatile essential for post-trip cleanup.

  • Backpacks and Stuff Sacks

Backpacks don’t need much care, but on the rare occasion they become salt-stained and hold onto a foul odor at trip’s end. Dunk your pack in a tub with a mild soap such as Dr. Bronner’s and agitate it. A brush may be needed to remove pesky stains. Make sure you let the pack dry completely before storing it, since hip belts and harnesses can harbor water well after the rest has dried.

Stuff sacks, compression sacks, and dry sacks can also be dunked in a mild soap solution. Again, air dry is best. These don’t need washed often but should be hung up to dry after every trip.

  • Sleeping Bags

When you have to hold your breath before you crawl into your sleeping bag, it’s time for laundry. Sleeping bags don’t need washed often, but a yearly cycle will extend the life and comfort of your bag. Sleeping bags are delicate, however, and improperly washing a bag can damage it. Care options differ for synthetic- and down- filled bags. Synthetic bags are easy to care for—toss it in the washer with a mild detergent and let it run.

For all the benefits of down, it requires a little extra care when laundry day comes. I recommend washing your down bag with a special detergent like Nikwax Down Wash to keep your bag in the best condition. Down bags will need washed in cool water on a gentle cycle, and you’ll need a front-loading machine without an agitator. The agitator on your machine can tear the lining between the baffles, meaning all the bag’s down will end up clumped in one spot. Take care when transferring a wet bag from the washer to dryer, and never hang a soaked down bag to dry. The weight of wet down can tear the lining between baffles as the bag hangs. Bags can be dried on low heat, which may take several cycles. Adding a few tennis balls to the dryer will break up the clumps of down and return your bag to maximum loft.

 

  • Sleeping Pads

When you get back from a trip, lay your sleeping pad out to dry. If it’s inflatable or self-inflating, leave the valve open so any moisture inside the pad can dry. With self-inflating pads, it’s best not to store the pad compressed. When the foam core is consistently compressed, it doesn’t inflate on its own next time it’s used. Rather than rolling it up, self-inflating pads can be left open and tucked in a closet.

Like most gear, sleeping pads should be washed with a mild soap every few months. Inflatable pads are especially important to clean, since packing them away with sediment can result in punctures. Strong detergents and cleaning products can wear down the airtight seal on inflatable pads, so take caution when cleaning.

  • Clothing

I shouldn’t have to say this, but yes, you should do laundry after a trip. That’s not where most people run into problems. Rather, improperly washing garments is more likely to result in damaged fabrics. Most outdoor clothing has care instructions that differ slightly from what you may be used to. Whether your clothes are synthetic, bamboo, wool, or hemp, they’ll do best washed in cool water on a gentle cycle. As for drying, most apparel will last longer and perform best if you let it air dry. Wool takes special care, since heat will quickly transform your base layer or sweater into a child’s size. Bamboo, hemp, wool, and all mid-layers and jackets should be hung to dry.

Caring for outdoor apparel takes extra effort; wool, bamboo, hemp, and synthetic fabrics are delicate.

  • Down Jackets

Over time, the fill in your down jacket will begin to clump together due to dirt, grime, and oil. When this happens, your jacket loses much of its insulating power and it’s time for a restorative wash. Like down sleeping bags, your garment should be washed with a specialized down treatment. Wash in a front-loading machine, or hand wash in a bathtub. Once again, adding tennis balls to the dryer will break up those clumps and return the fluff to your winter jacket.

  • Rain Gear

If your rain jacket starts to leak, it can often be given a second life just by cleaning it. As oils and particles clog the rain jacket’s pores, it becomes less breathable and prone to leaking. A simple clean can work wonders, but be sure to use a mild detergent such as Tech Wash that won’t degrade the waterproof membrane. Household detergents can sometimes ruin an expensive jacket. Rain jackets usually only need washed every few months, depending on their use. Once a year, it’s a good idea to treat your jacket with TX Direct wash-in waterproofing to restore the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating.

 

 

The right gear care can keep your rain jacket working properly for endless adventures.

  • Boots, Shoes, and Sandals

Inevitably, the smelliest piece of gear is our shoes. While that smell can never be fully extinguished, cleaning your footwear can provide some temporary relief. The same lesson as before rings true for footwear: use a mild soap. A scrub brush is essential for really cleaning the soles. Wash your shoes in a sink until the water runs clear. Remove the insoles before you let them air dry to prevent mildew from forming. Once clean, your shoes may need re-waterproofed, depending on the material. Leather boots and shoes can be treated with mink oil or a Nikwax product, which not only restores the water-repellency, but also extends the life of the leather. If the sole is separating from your shoe, a quick dose of Shoe Goo will keep you on your feet.

When sandal sweat becomes unbearable, a thorough washing is in order. Use Nikwax sandal wash—equipped with a scrub brush—to remove the foul-smelling bacteria in your sandals. Don’t forget to wash and scrub the straps, too! And if your sandal of choice happens to be Bedrocks or Chacos, you can send them back to the maker for a new sole or straps when the time comes. Keep your favorite sandals on your feet and out of the landfill!

 

 

If you have questions on how to care for your favorite piece or aren’t sure what cleaning product is best, stop by RRT or give us a call (513-248-7787) to chat with an expert. Likewise, our repair services are available for any tasks you’re not up to, from seam-sealing a tent to patching a leaky sleeping pad.

 

by: Will Babb

The Appalachian Trail teaches many lessons which are applicable well beyond the trail.

From Goatman to Fathermule: 5 Lessons from the Appalachian Trail for (New) Dads

Imagine: you’re so tired that your brain has gone from autopilot to system crash, then back to the semi-normal waking dream of reality. You haven’t had a sit-down meal in a week. You only shower when necessary for social decorum. Sleep comes in fits: was that a noise? What noise was it, and what does it want? That can’t be the sun already, can it? I wonder what day it is?
Welcome to the Appalachian Trail. Or, alternatively, welcome to fatherhood! A few years before I became a new father, I was Goatman, AT LASHer (Long-Ass Section Hiker) and editor of this very blog.
Join me as we explore how my experiences on long distance hikes have prepared me for the journey of fatherhood.
The journey of fatherhood, like hiking, comes with challenges.

1. Hike Your Own Hike

It is a trail cliché, but like most over-used terms, it’s overuse stems from its basis in truth. When you begin your journey on the Appalachian Trail, you will be getting a lot of advice, told a lot of tales, and asked to process a lot of new information. The same is true when you announce your impending fatherhood. Take it all in. Now, step back and breathe. This is your journey, new dad. Though other feet have tread on this dirt and other people have blazed this path before, now it is your turn. No one has ever been you, so make it your own.

2. Your Mind is your Most Important Piece of Gear. Take care of it.

Humans have been raising children for way longer than the Appalachian Trail has existed, obviously, but both endeavors have changed in our modern world due to the technology available to help along the way. While good gear is important and gadgets are fun, keep in mind: Grandma Gatewood did not have the latest trail runners and your grandma did not have warm baby wipe dispensers. What they did have was a human mind capable of flexibility, endurance, patience, and kindness. Just as most hikers can’t push marathon miles every day, remember, new dad, to take time for yourself. While “zero days” may be a thing of the past, a good “near-o day” does a world of good. No technological fix will ever take the place of good mental health practices.

3. Plan. And Plan to have Plans Change.

Loki. Coyote. Eris. There’s a reason the gods of trickery are ubiquitous across human culture. Planning is an integral part of both parenthood and long distance hiking. Not being prepared can lead to terrible situations, of course. Quick grocery run sans diaper bag? Poopy diaper apocalypse in aisle 23. Cut weight from your pack by bounce-boxing your puffy and base layer? Mountain top snowstorm in June. These things will happen, but you cannot let them ruin the experience. Be flexible. Ride the waves of chaos and they may just lead you somewhere great. In the end, no plan will ever survive reality, so learn to improvise. They don’t call it Murphy’s Hypothesis for a reason.
At times, the journey of fatherhood merges with that of hiking.

4. One Foot in Front of the Other, One Mile at a Time.

There will be tough times. Boy, will there be tough times. Whether you are summiting your third peak of the day on wobbly legs or holding your screaming child for the third time that night on wobbly brain, you will reach a wall. This wall is not the wall that you cannot scale. You may have to stare at it for a while until the holds appear, but they will appear. Slow down. You were built for this. Sleep will come, Virginia will end. Perhaps not tomorrow or the next day, but keep your feet moving, and look, here it comes. Just around the bend.

5. The Hardest Days are the Best Days. Later.

Tired. Filthy. Hungry. Time starts to crawl away from the edges of your vision and all goes on forever. And then something happens and it breaks. Breaks into smiles, laughter, cuddles, a good night of sleep, a well cooked meal with family and friends all around. You look back and say, “What a ride!” This is what it’s all about- life, raw and unfiltered. Every blister a story, every spit-up-ruined shirt a fond memory. And it doesn’t stop here, dad, oh no. The trail never really ends. Enjoy the journey.
by: Craig Buckley
Photos courtesy of Katherine Buckley

International Thru-Hikes: Hiking Abroad

Most people are familiar with the United States’ various long trails, but did you know the trail system here was the inspiration for hiking trails all over the world? These are international thru-hikes ranging in length from 50 miles all the way to gargantuan 2,000 milers, both island-traversing long trails and age-old pilgrimages.

 

Trail #1 – The Laugavegur Trail

Country: Iceland

Length: 34 miles

Duration: 4-5 days

Northern Terminus: Landmannalaugar

Southern Terminus: Þórsmörk

Best months: June – September

The Laugavegur trail is a world-renowned route with European amenities, rustic charm, and wildlands like the American West. The trail starts in the glacial highlands of western Iceland and gradually flows toward the coast. In 2012, National Geographic listed the Laugavegur as one of the 20 best trails in the world. The trail is interspersed with huts containing kitchens, showers, and other utilities. The weather on the route can be incredibly diverse, ranging from beautiful sunny days to cloudy ones with wind whipping down from the highlands. It’s a beautiful route if you find yourself in the North Atlantic. Add a day to hike the spectacular 16 miles from Þórsmörk to Skogar, which passes nearly one hundred waterfalls in the last ten miles.

Head abroad to hike Iceland's fabulous Laugavegur Trail, an amazing exhibition of the Land of Fire and Ice.

Trail #2 – El Camino de Santiago

Country: Spain

Length: 500 miles

Duration: 30-40 days

Western Terminus: Santiago de Compostela

Eastern Terminus: Pamplona

Best Months: April to September

The Camino is a spiritual pilgrimage stretching from several towns south of the Pyrenees Mountains west to its terminus at Santiago de Compostela and the shrine of Saint James. Along the way, the route is marked by scallop shells, a symbol of the apostle. The route winds its way through small villages, historic sites, and beautiful vistas. People have been walking this route since the first century, but its popularity exploded after it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Over 300,000 people were recorded walking portions of the pilgrimage in 2019. The lodging along the trail is upscale by US long trail standards; it is dotted with hostels, dormitories, and refugios.

The Camino is an international thru-hike like no other, a spiritual pilgrimage and cultural experience fused together.

Trail #3 – Te Araroa

Country: New Zealand

Length: 1,900 miles

Duration: 90-100 days

Northern Terminus: Cape Reinga

Southern Terminus: Bluff

Best Months: September – April (if traveling southbound)

Te Araora is the closest trail on this list to a North American thru-hike rivalling the Appalachian, Continental Divide, or Pacific Crest trails. It traverses both of New Zealand’s islands and opened in 2011 after a patchwork of tracks and walkways were linked together. Tramping (as the Kiwi’s refer to hiking) the whole route takes four to six months and is most often done from north to south. The North Island (Te Ika-a-Maui) is characterized by long beach walks and a patchwork of trails, roads, paddocks, and plenty of towns— as well as the city of Auckland— to travel through. The South Island (Te Waipounamu) becomes more rugged as you traverse the spine of the Southern Alps and the Richmond Ranges toward the end of your journey at Bluff. A chain of huts, small towns, and mountain vistas links your route south.

Te Araroa is a gargantuan international thru-hike, nearly 2,000 miles long.

Trail #4 – The Great Divide Trail (GDT)

Country: Canada

Length: 700 miles

Duration: 30-45 days

Northern Terminus: Kakwa Provincial Park

Southern Terminus: Waterton Townsite

Best Months: Late June – Late September

Our good friends to the North came up with the idea for the Great Divide Trail in the 1970s, but the idea largely faded until it was picked up again in the early 2000s. The trail is still partially incomplete and sometimes resembles more of a wilderness route than a well-marked long trail. The GDT picks up where the US Continental Divide Trail leaves off at the US-Canada Border in Waterton Lakes National Park. It traverses north through the backbone of the Canadian Rockies; past multiple provincial parks; and through Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks. The trail stays at or below 8,500 feet in elevation, although that is still high relative to the surrounding peaks. The Great Divide is a major undertaking and wilderness route but an adventure in every sense of the word.

Canada's Great Divide Trail is barely international, but certainly a thru-hike.

Trail #5 – The Sinai Trail

Country: Egypt

Length: 340 miles

Duration: 40-45 days

Terminuses: Various

Best Months: February – May; September – November

The Sinai Trail is an experiment between eight Bedouin tribes attempting to share their culture and lands with the outside world. In 2015, they established the first portion of the Sinai Trail, with 155 miles linking multiple villages. Today, it stretches 340 miles and wanders through wadis (dry valleys), low plains, winding canyons, and interior highlands. Typically, the trail is done with a Bedouin guide, someone who knows the land, the route, and the people. They bring your gear along on camel as you wander from village to village and oasis to oasis. It’s important to note this route is as much about the hiking as it is about the culture; men and women should wear long pants and shirts with sleeves, and in holy areas a head scarf is appropriate for women. Additionally, alcohol is strictly forbidden, but be prepared for Bedouin flower tea served with camel milk.

Experience Bedouin culture and beauty on the Sinai Trail, one of the world's newest and best thru-hikes.

Hiking desert and mountains of the Sinai Trail in Egypt

by: Ben Shaw

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