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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Hiking Trail Information

Lightweight Backpacking Quick Tips
By Steven Gillman

You may have heard a few of these lightweight backpacking tips before. Chances are, though that you haven't read all of them. In any case, sometimes we need reminding.

- Lost and in danger? Want to be a survivor? Read some survival stories before you are in this situation. Recalling true stories about how others survived can be very motivating in an emergency situation. Help others in the group by telling them the stories.

- Get dental work done before taking a long backpacking trip. An annoying toothache can become an unbearable pain within a couple days. That can ruin the trip for everyone.

- Evaporative heat loss is caused by evaporation of moisture from your body or clothing (this is why your body sweats to cool off). To reduce this form of heat loss, you need to stay as dry as you can. Wear your rain gear when walking through wet bushes, and don't sit directly on snow.

- What is the best way to warm up for a day of hiking? Start hiking more slowly than your normal pace. Then stop to stretch after you have hiked for fifteen or twenty minutes. Stretching cold can injure muscles.

- How fast is too fast? To determine the pace that you can likely sustain for the most miles, try the talking test. If you can maintain a conversation comfortably while walking? If not, slow down until you can and keep it at this speed.

- For the lightest dish-scouring pad, buy a a simple flat scouring pad and cut off a small piece. A two-inch square piece should weigh just a fraction of an ounce, and will work fine.

- If you are hiking with your romantic partner, you can save weight by bringing just one sleeping bag. This works for warmer nights. Just open up and use the bag over the two of you, as a blanket. With decent sleeping pads, this can work well even on cooler nights.

-Parmesan cheese is a good high-calorie and high-protein backpacking food. Mix it with noodles and olive oil for an easy and delicious meal, or use it to thicken soups. It usually will do fine without refrigeration except in high heat.

-Want to hike more efficiently? Avoid a large lunch. In fact, skip lunch altogether and just snack as you go, keeping your body fed continually with corn chips, trail mix and other convenient foods.

- If you are short on water and unsure when you'll have more, avoid high-protein foods. They take more water to digest. Eat the crackers and save the beef jerky for after you find water.

- Wash your hands often. You can go weeks without washing your hair with no real danger, but hands transmit bacteria and viruses to yourself and others. Soap isn't necessary, but scrubbing with something helps. Use sand or spruce needles.

- To make an emergency stretcher, cut two poles about eight feet long. Use saplings that are about two to three inches thick. Lay them about twenty inches apart on a blanket or tarp, and fold the sides of the blanket over the top. They weight/friction of the patient should hold the blanket in place, but you may want to pin it or tie it together for long carries.

Copyright Steve Gillman. There are 150 more lightweight backpacking quick tips in the ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips)". For information, photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, visit:

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Like this article?  You may also enjoy:  Ultralight Backpacking by Steve Gillman, Games for Backpackers, and Breakfast Recipes by Steve Gillman


Hiking Trails:

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Superior Hiking Trail

Superior National Trails

Taconite State Trail


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