Thursday, June 29, 2017

Campfire Talk

Okay, let's talk campfire lingo. Snap. Spark. Heat. Glow. Entertainment. S'mores. People-pleaser.

Fires seem to be the mainstay of an evening sojourn in the woods. Done properly and with care, they can add to an evening. Who doesn't like to share tales around the embers? Or roast marshmellows? Or take the chill out of a cool evening?

Unfortunately, more often than not, campfires are tools of abuse. There are an overabundance of campfire pits and rings built in the woods. Sometimes they scar the beauty of rocks at an overlook or are scattered all over the forest floor. They surround a single tent platform at such close proximity, I often wonder why the occupants' tent hasn't burned. I've seen woods totally devoid of downed limbs used to replenish the soil of the woods because it's used to feed the hungry flames of a large fire.

But more often than not, campfire rings are used as garbage containers in the wild. As a ridgerunner, I have cleaned out burnt cans, paper, numerous "hobo" meal wrappers - IE foil, from the pits. Some just leave whole garbage bags in them. Some have tried to burn their trash, only to have the burnt remains littering the pit and sinking in ash. I see lots of tn cans left in there. Why do folks think a tin can burns? Others toss used toilet paper and other unsavory items into the ring. And fire pits consistently used as an ashtray where hikers leave their cigarette butts.

So if we are to salvage anything good out of having a campfire - please do the following:

- Do NOT burn any garbage!! Not a scrap. Pack it all out. If you can carry in the food wrappers, you can pack out the empty ones!! That includes the foil from the "hobo" campfire meals. Pack it ALL out.  

- Don't build new campfire rings. There are plenty to be found in preexisting campfire rings out there. Share a ring with a neighbor. Or gather around the principle campfire ring at the shelters or established campsites. Who knows - you may develop friendships for life and save the woods from another scarred campfire ring.

- When you have a campfire, keep it small. Huge bonfires risk the vegetation, can cause a forest fire if they get out of hand, sterilize and damage the surrounding soil, and eat more of the wood in the area needed to replenish the soil. Huge fires also cast annoying light and smoke on other fellow hikers and campers who may want to sleep or who don't care to light a fire. Respect your neighbors.

- Some like campfire cooking. I'm not sure I like the idea of a blackened pot to stow away in my pack. I find a canister stove works very well. I've used a pocket rocket for 7,000 miles of hiking. But if it works for you, go for it.

- The flames of a fire can be entertaining but I've seen hikers use other methods. Like a candle lantern. I saw two hikers do it and were perfectly content.

If you choose a campfire, please be responsible so others can enjoy the beauty of our woods. And be sure to put out the fire completely. DO not leave it smoldering when you go to bed at night or leave in the AM.

With care and consideration campfires can be an enjoyable part of the hiking experience.    

Related Blogs:

Plan and Prepare for that Trip

Town Etiquette for Hikers

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Preventing Heat-Related Ilnesses while Backpacking and Hiking

Reposting this after seeing an article about a hiker with failing organs due to sunstroke. Be careful out there, esp with the humidity also!!

It’s the height of summer and time for great hikes. But it’s also time that heat-related illness can affect you while exerting yourself in hot temperatures.

The two heat-related illnesses one needs to look out for are heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Heat exhaustion can be managed on the trail, but sunstroke is a life-threatening emergency where the hiker must get to a hospital.

Heat Exhaustion can occur in hot, humid temperatures when the body becomes depleted of fluids necessary to cool itself - (severe dehydration). There may be heat cramps involved. The skin may be pale, cool, clammy, the hiker slightly anxious, pulse and breathing are basically normal. However, if the hiker is not cooled down, it can advance to the life threatening sunstroke as the core body temperature begins to rise. Seek rest in a shady, cool spot. Sometimes resting on rocks that are in the shade or beside stream beds are cool. Or find an area next to water or in a wet environment. Breezes can also help you cool down by allowing convection to happen. Drink! – Especially replace lost salt and water. Having an electrolyte type mix in your hiker bag is crucial to helping replace sodium and potassium lost during sweating. When you get to town, eating a banana helps with heat and muscle cramping due to imbalances.

Sunstroke occurs when the mechanism to keep yourself cool begins to fail and your internal body temperature rises. Your skin becomes red, hot and dry. You can become disoriented, confused, and irritable. Your heart rate is rapid and there may be a seizure. Cool immediately by immersing into a cold stream or river or pouring water over the body. Give fluids if still awake and you can massage limbs to draw out the heat. Call for help. Sunstroke can kill!

How to prevent heat-related illnesses from happening on a hike: 

  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool, shady areas
  • Drink plenty of water and eat salty foods. Carry electrolyte replacement (like Nuun)  to add to water. Be sure to carry plenty of water in desert environments. You can also over-drink and deplete your sodium levels, leading to other potentially harmful conditions. When you drink, don't overdo it either! Do NOT drink Alcohol which can lead to quicker dehydration as it pulls water from your body.
  • Wear lightweight clothing and light colors. Wear a lightweight hat. Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn. 
  • Carry maps and guidebooks so you know where the water sources are. If you pass a source, no matter what, fill up. You can also collect water off your tent, etc. during storms. Check for areas too where you can take a dip and cool off. 
  • Never go off on a hike, no matter how short it is, without water.
  • Use common sense, if you are prone to heat related illness, choose a different location or wait for a better time to hike (such as early AM or late PM)
  • Carry a phone for emergencies and hike with a buddy.
  • If you feel hot, dry, your urine output is low, that means you are severely dehydrated and your core body temp is rising. Especially if you STOP sweating when you should be. That means DANGER. Stop immediately, rest, and rehydrate.  

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Bear Facts of the Trail

I photographed this bear in a tree in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
And this bear up a tree in Shenandoah
Bears can be a hot topic in the hiker forums. After the recent events where a bear tore up a hiker's tent at a hut in Shenandoah National Park, it makes good sense to learn the facts when encountering these
Bear damage to a tent
animals in the woods.

Most bears are skiddish when encountered on the trail, but a mother with her cubs can and will attack to defend her young if she detects a threat. It's prudent, therefore, to know the basics of bear safety when out hiking. And it's wise also to be aware of their scent to let you know they are nearby. I was taught the scent of a bear from a hiker/former ranger, and she said it smells like a wet dog. Once you recognize a bear's scent, it will alert you to their presence and avoid surprise encounters.   

Below are some general bear safety tips taken from the Shenandoah National Park website. If you are out west in grizzly country, that's a more dangerous area, and bear spray, bear bells, and other protection are needed, as well as bear canisters in many places (such as Yosemite National park which requires it). Check your local areas for updates on aggressive bear activity.

Avoiding Bears While Hiking
  • Stay alert to your surroundings and the presence of wildlife while hiking.
  • Make your presence known by keeping the wind to your back (your scent will alert bears), if possible hike in groups, and make noise.
  • When you spot a bear, stay 300 feet or more away and never linger or take photographs for long periods.
  • Slowly back away and leave the area or take a detour. Making noise during your retreat is appropriate. Keep children close to the group. Do not turn your back on a bear. Do not make eye contact.
  • Do not pursue and NEVER surround a bear. Give it room to escape.
  • DO NOT run from a bear. Bears will pursue prey and flight is a signal to them to start pursuit.
Encountering a Black Bear
If an encounter occurs …
Remain calm and don’t run. Like dogs, bears will often chase fleeing animals. You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph! Climbing a tree is futile since black bears excel at climbing trees. Jaw popping by the bear is a signal to you that it is uncomfortable.
Let the bear know you are human. Talk to it in a normal voice and wave your arms. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious – not threatening.
Move away slowly, but don’t turn your back.
Avoid eye contact with the animal.  If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Black bears may approach at a measured pace and attack the human as prey. The calm appearance of the black bear may have lure some of their victims into a false sense of security.  If leaving the area is not an option or if the bear gets too close you should make yourself appear as large as possible. Lifting your arms and a pack over head, moving to higher ground or, if in a group, huddling together will help discourage the bear. Make louder noise by banging pots and pans or using other noisemakers, but never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal. If need be, throw rocks. A black bear calmly and steadily approaching who is not bothered by yelling or thrown objects should be considered extremely dangerous.

If a bear charges…
Don’t run! Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Usually if you hold your ground they will back off.

If a bear actually makes contact…
Fight back! In rare instances black bears perceive humans as prey – if you are attacked by a black bear fight back. Try to focus your attack on the bear’s eyes and nose.
Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
In camp...

Eat away from your sleeping area. Never store food in a tent or vestibule. Use bear poles or bear cables or hoist your food in a tree ten feet off the ground and four feet out in a bear bag. Better yet, learn the PCT method of hanging food.  Cookware and trash should be similarly secured as well as anything scented such as toothpaste, toothbrush, medications, bug repellent, soap, etc.

In some places where bears are known to be aggressive on the Appalachian Trail, carry a bear canister to store your food. Canisters are also required in the Adirondack region of New York State. A Ursack may be used but also use an odor proof barrier with it and hang it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rain... Part of a Hiker's Life

Blissful in the fog of PA before descending down to Palmerton

I felt like tonight I should blog about rain, since many hikers out this year are going to encounter rain. And not just any rain, but sometimes major events or even tropical systems later in the summer. There can be downpours and strong winds. Heavy stuff. There isn't much weather protection that can keep you and your gear dry in that kind of extreme weather, except a good ol' warm hostel or other place of refuge.

But rain is a fact of life on the trail. And you must protect your gear and yourself. In some conditions it can be a life saver, especially if you hit the 50 degree temperatures with a wind that can actually cause hypothermia to set in rapidly. Hypothermia is a condition where your core body temperature begins to drop. Symptoms include shivering, clumsiness, poor decision making, weakness, drowsiness - if it progresses further you are in serious trouble. In the case where the temperatures warrant it, I always don my full gear - rain jacket, rain hat, and my rainpants. In the summer I don't bring rain pants as its warm enough that a good shower can actually feel good. But in colder conditions they can help prevent you from getting soaked to the skin and having real issues.

This is a picture that a fellow hiker took of me atop Springer Mountain during my southbound hike a few years back. It shows me with full rain gear in action as it is November. Because of my glasses issue, I prefer wearing a rain hat. I have tried both the Marmot and Outdoor Research brands and has served me well. I am wearing a Marmot precip rain jacket (the orange color here came in handy when I hiked through the states of TN and NC in the fall and full hunting season with hunters out actually carrying their rifles - slightly unnerving). I did switch to DriDucks for a light weight option in the summer and it served me well on the Long Trail, but note - it is NOT durable if pine branches snag it! You can purchase rain gear made of simple silnylon or cuben fiber but remember they do not vent well and you may find yourself wetter on the inside than the outside. My son disliked rain gear and carried a lite umbrella for the summer rains on our thru hike of the AT.

In the above photo I am also wearing Marmot precip pants. On warmer days, a rain kilt such as the ones sold on Lightheart Gear has done well to keep the upper part of me dry. I only have regular trail runners on, not waterproof, but on a nice sunny day afterwards, I find they dry out amazingly well. But I did use a pair of the Gore Tex waterproof trail runners to test them out in the spring snow-like conditions. And I must say, having dry feet at night sure felt good.

As for pack protection, in this photo my husband sewed for me a sil nylon pack cover (we also made our own stuff sacks). You can get kits to make your own covers like this at Thru-hiker Gear which sells kits and materials for that creative person. I have met hikers that have made many of their own gear items, including a backpack, a sleeping bag, a vest, etc. Just recently I purchased a Sea to Summit pack cover and it has worked out well. But in heavy downpours, no pack cover keeps a pack dry, so it behooves you to keep the contents dry.  On the inside I have lined my pack with a trash compactor bag. The thicker the bag (in milliliters), the better. After a heavy storm though, I found the Z packs cuben fiber pack liner a must-have, esp as I still got water inside the trashbag line.  Nothing gets by this - it's bombproof. They also make a variety of stuff sacks for clothing and sleeping bag (which must stay dry no matter what). Worth the $$. I tend to go overboard and double bag my camp and clothes and sleeping bag. if all else fails and you are wet and cold, these can really save you and make you comfortable. Be sure also to have a working stove to heat up water for hot soups and drinks, and carry a good tent to protect you at night.

These are a few ways I have coped with rain while hiking. Sometimes its hard to see the fog rolling in and know you are missing some good views. But there is also good to be found on a rainy, foggy day. Clean fresh air. Plenty of water at the springs and streams when you need it. And knowing the sun will eventually come out.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Be Inspired to Overcome Challenges and Hike!

I am reposting this great blog on hiking, even when facing physical challenges. It's good to reflect on others and their amazing ability to enjoy life with determination, inspiration, and grit. 

My name is Brandi and I am a hiker. I am visually impaired. First I will explain my vision acuity. I was born with a rare eye condition that doesn’t have a name. Only about one hundred people have my condition in the United States. The condition is incurable. The eye condition I have closely resembles Cone Dystrophy. For the longest time I was diagnosed with Cone Dystrophy. I will not be able to drive. My vision is very blurry. It is hard to make out objects. If I am sitting in the front row of any show or lecture I still can’t see what is on the projector. I also am color blind, although I can see colors I just can’t tell the difference. If someone were to line up a yellow and green pen together I wouldn’t be able to point out the green one because they would all look the same to me. Even though I cannot see well, I do not let it stop me from doing the activities I enjoy. I love to hike and camp. I’ve been hiking ever since I was able to walk, way before anyone knew I had a vision disability. 

I love to hike because it helps me to relax. I enjoy being outdoors with the beautiful foliage and animals. I also get a chance to experience and go places I have never been before. I love to travel to new places. When I was fifteen I hiked Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. That was a tiring hike for me but I did it! I hiked Mount Jefferson in New Hampshire when I was eighteen. Last year I hiked up to McAfee Knob in Virginia. I can climb rock scrambles. I can hike any trail with little assistance. The only assistance I use is a hiking stick which basically takes the place of my sight cane. I use that to poke around for roots and loose rocks.

 I have hiked around Europe for a month with my student ambassador delegation. Well, not really hiked, but I was on my feet more then I was sitting. The only time I had to sit was when I was on the bus which was almost never. It was difficult traveling on my own in the enormous city of Paris France. I had to navigate the busy streets of Seville Spain in the dark, never fearing the worst. I am not afraid to do anything on my own. 

While on the trail I face many difficulties. I have fallen. The worst that has happened was when I was hiking with my dad on Mount Jefferson and there was a crevice that was hidden by vegetation. I stepped in it and banged up my knee. On that same trail I got temporary disorientated. I couldn’t figure out where the trail was.  As I hike I face a lot of challenges. When I hike I cannot see the roots or the trail. Everything camouflages. The sun is a challenge for me too. I am sensitive to light. I will sometimes wear sunglasses when I hike. Sometimes I will just have them off to marvel at the trees. I haven’t hiked in the dark, but I would like to try. Flashlights don’t help me much. When it shines on an area I just see blurry images. If a flashlight is shone on a root I wouldn’t be able to make out details such as length or depth.  

Although I can’t see well, most people who meet me will never have guessed. On the trail I show no signs that I have vision impairment. Over the years I have acquired special adaptations that help with hiking. Having great balance is the key for me. When I trip over something I act quickly. However, sometimes I do stumble over, but I recover quickly by regaining my balance. I have adapted to being quick on my feet. I often memorize my natural surroundings, much like a human GPS. Having been on a trail once, I have an innate ability of remembering where it goes and how long it is. As I mentioned earlier I carry a hiking stick, one which is the length of my sight cane. 

Hiking has helped me develop patience for myself and others. I regret that I don’t do it enough. Unfortunately, I do not yet have a trail name; certainly it will come with time. I would like to start hiking again more frequently once this college semester is finished. In the future I would like to hike Katahdin in Maine and feel the exhilaration of yet another accomplishment. In the near future I plan to go hiking with my dad in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Feel free to contact me and ask me questions. If you see me on the trail make sure you give me a holler.

 Hope to see you on the trail soon. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Town Etiquette for Hikers

It happens every year on the Appalachian Trail.

Yet another trail provider has discontinued its use to hikers because of bad behavior. Some businesses like motels no longer offering discounts to hikers due to ill practices. Or others have simply closed their doors to hiker traffic altogether. Just a few years ago the Appalachian Tail Conservancy implemented the trail community program to foster relationships between towns and hikers. As noted on their website:

“The Appalachian Trail Community™ program is designed to recognize communities that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).  Towns, counties, and communities along the A.T.’s corridor are considered assets by all that use the A.T. and many of these towns act as good friends and neighbors to the Trail. The program serves to assist communities with sustainable economic development through tourism and outdoor recreation, while preserving and protecting the A.T.
Designation as an Appalachian Trail Community™ and participation in the program is aimed to:
·         Engage community citizens, Trail visitors and stewards
·         Recognize and thank communities for their service to the Trail and hikers
·         Act as a catalyst for enhancing sustainable economic development
·         Aid local municipalities and regional areas with conservation planning
·         Help local community members see the Trail as a resource and asset”

This is a way to foster communication and relationship between towns, the trail, and hikers. Yet each year there are hikers that abuse the services towns provide. Because of the actions of a few, several of these communities have found their ties with the trail and hikers strained. We as hikers needed do our best to foster a good relationship with towns as well as educating them on hiking and trail life.

With this in mind, here are a few things to consider while in a town on a long distance hike:
Trail town of Hot Springs, NC

In towns -
Be sure to clean up as soon as you can when arriving in town (hiker funk to the public is not fun or funny). Saying please and thank you goes a long way. Don’t use foul language in public. This is a town with families. Greet townspeople with a smile. Say hello. If they ask questions, talk about your hike but also ask them questions, too. And be sure to thank them for what they do for hikers.

Practice Leave No Trace Principle, yes even in town. And that means, showing respect, courtesy to others and to businesses. Respect the town, the people, and law enforcement. No drunkenness or drug use (the main cause of trail providers closing their doors!). You’re hiking a trail, committing yourself to discipline each and every day. You can also be disciplined while in towns. If you can’t get off the mind-altering substances or limit drinking, then get off the trail. Trails and towns are not for partying, nor do folks want to be subjected to it. Towns are where people live and work. They want peace. 

In hostels and motels - don’t trash the rooms, leave copious amounts of trash everywhere, leave dirt, blood etc. in the sink, floor or tub. Don’t use the motel’s white washcloths to wash dirty stuff. Clean out the sinks and tub after use. Pick up the room before you leave. If there is a NO PET policy, abide by it (that includes NOT saying your dog is a service animal when he/she isn't!). If there is a hiker limit to the rooms, abide by it. And don’t take the extra toilet paper rolls. If you can’t afford to buy a roll, then you shouldn't be out hiking because you can't afford it. If you do need a roll, ask management if you can pay for one. Be sure to tip the housekeeping staff and leave more than enough money when staying at donation-basis hostels - least $20 for your stay plus $5 for laundry.  

In restaurants – abide by the policies of the restaurant by not hording food, coming into the restaurant unbathed, or wearing dirty footwear. Tip for your meals. Don’t assume you can walk in and charge electronics unless you are a paying customer.
Towns are great places to eat.  

In Laundromats – don’t leave trash, dirt or other debris in the place. This is a public facility where townsfolk also do their laundry. Please clean up before you come with your laundry. And wear clothes. If you need to, bring or mail or bounce a box with a pair of lightweight shorts and t shirt you can use while in town. Or use your rain gear like your jacket and pants (NOT a poncho with nothing underneath!). Also, don't do laundry with just a towel wrapped around or something else. Kids go into laundromats too, as does Grandma.

By being respectful, we hikers can go a long way in protecting a valuable asset to the trail experience – the trail towns. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sickness on the Trail

It's that time of year once more - when hikers head for the trails and disease follows. The chief complaint on the trail like the Appalachian Trail is the Norovirus, which seems to strike every hiking season.

Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on infected surfaces that have been touched by ill people. Outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small area like hostels, shelters and privies contaminated by sick hikers.

How noroviruses are spread
People can become infected with the virus by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids infected with noroviruses
  • Touching surfaces or objects infected with noroviruses and then touching own mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Having person-to-person contact (with a norovirus-infected person) by
    • being present while someone is vomiting
    • sharing food or eating from the same utensils
    • caring for a sick person
    • shaking hands
    • (also) eating out of contaminated food bags or food contaminated by the virus
  • Not washing hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.

Norovirus infections are not usually serious
Noroviruses are highly contagious, but infections are not usually serious. People may feel very sick and vomit often or get diarrhea, becoming dehydrated if lost liquids are not replaced. Most people recover within 1 or 2 days and have no long-term adverse health effects.

What to do if you get norovirus (I am adding more to this)

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids as you tolerate it. Start with clear fluids first - like broth from Ramen, Gatorade, weak tea with a little sugar, just plain water, jello and popsicles (if you can get it). As your stomach allows, eat bland foods like crackers, white bread, Ramen noodle soup, jello if you can get it. Advance your diet very slowly. Avoid greasy and fried foods. When you can tolerate it, replace electrolytes and bacteria lost with bananas and yogurt.
  • Wash hands often.
  • Baby wipes can help clean irritation left from the "runs"

How to prevent getting and spreading noroviruses (and other illnesses)

  • Wash hands often. Wash hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Wash hands more often when someone in your hostel/shelter is sick.
  • Avoid shaking hands during outbreaks
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer along with handwashing or if facilities for handwashing are unavailable. Make sure the sanitizer is at least 70% alcohol. I recommend Purell Advanced.
  • Do not eat out of another hiker's food bag (like passing the bag of GORP or bag of chips around the campsite or shelter) Be careful where you are accepting food at hiker feeds and by generous trail angels. Packaged food is best. use had sanitizer whenever possible.
  • Avoiding shelter areas and other communicable spots, esp during the disease season.
  • Carrying packets of Emergen C to add to water helps replace vitamins lost and can boost your immune system.
  • Boost your immune system by eating good healthy foods while hiking. A balance of proteins, fats, carbs, supplemented by dried veggies and fruits is best. Avoid empty carbs and sugars. Consider also taking a vitamin supplement.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lessons Learned on What Works and Doesn’t Work on a Long Distance Trek

Things I have heard to take on a long distance trek that just don’t work for me. Sorry.

Case in point -

1. Duct Tape – this is the proverbial go-to for first aid on all types of blisters, holes and / or broken gear, 

I’ve used it for years with poor results. I’ve put it on only to have it fall off, rub my other toes or skin, bunch up, causing more issues. I’ve tried to repair gear with it to have it fall off or bunch up. 

The stuff stinks. Period. And can leave glue marks on gear, sometimes negating a warranty

Solution: For hot spots I have been using moleskin which does pretty good, doesn't irritate like duct tape, can though it can also come off if it gets wet.
For bombproof Rx of blisters, my treatment is the Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister bandages.
There is nothing like it out there (including stuff I have seen sold in outfitters)! I used them in the swamps and sand of the Florida Trail. They are awesome. I tried other blister brands too. They fell off. Not these. Well worth the money and may save your hike. They are waterproof. When they begin to peel back after a few days, remove the bits slowly, a little at a time. When they fall off, the blister area is healed. Amazing.

As for gear? Tear-Aid Type B works for holes in tents. Carry some. Dental floss and a needle could repair tear in a pinch. Wait for an outfitter or call the manufacturer from the trail to have gear replaced up the trail (lots of manufacturers will work with you).

2. Trash bag liner to line your pack and protect gear from getting wet.

Forget it. Been there, done that. A cheapo version that protects in light rain, sure. But if you are a long distance backpacking, you’re gonna get soakers. As a ridgerunner I have seen hikers pull out their wet stuff from a trash bag liner in their backpack after enduring a heavy thunderstorm. I’ve had my stuff soaked on the Long Trail in a heavy, three inch all day rain. 

Solution: I went to the Z Packs cuben fiber liners and /or stuff sacks. They are awesome. I have had a puddle inside my pack and the stuff in these is dry. Worth the money.

3. Sawyer Mini to filter water.

TOO slow for me. The Sawyer squeeze filter is bigger and works faster – letting you quench that thirst for an ounce more. And I also used the Evernew water bags. They work awesome with the Squeeze filter. No more blowing out Sawyer bags!

Conversely, things I said – “Nah” only to find DO work -

4. A map app on a cell phone. 
I’ve argued – Inaccurate. Wastes your phone charge. Hard to read. May fail.
I used it exclusively for the Florida Trail. Worked great. You do need to know how to work it and read a map, though. On recommendation from hikers, I got a good Anker charger for my phone so I can now keep it charged (the cords are light too for recharging everything when in town). I love phone map apps. They are awesome.

5. Darn Tough socks. Everyone raves about them. I’ve used all kinds of other socks. Are they really that great?
YES they are.
These socks are Bombproof. And they have an unlimited guarantee. They dare you to wear them out. No joke. Amazing.

Anything you care to share about gear you now like or don’t like?