Typical Causes of Shoulder Pain Caused By Backpacks

Over the years, as both a hiker and a backpack designer, I have tended to come to the conclusion that there are four or five primary issues for shoulder pain caused by a backpacks.

I thought I would go into a brief bit of explanation of each of them, to give some insight into the cause and how to perhaps resolve them.

Continue reading “Typical Causes of Shoulder Pain Caused By Backpacks”

Applicational Hiking: The True Weight of Dehydrated/Freeze-dried Meals

A typical graph for my long distance hikes. Showing the high percentage of how consumables (food mostly) is such a huge part of my overall backpack weight.
A typical graph for my long distance hikes. Showing the high percentage of how consumables (food mostly) is such a huge part of my overall backpack weight.

Greetings Hikers,

For me the weight of food while out on a long distance trail is typically 60-65 percent of the total weight of my backpack. This revelation has been causing me to evaluate the wisdom of some of the food I have been using the last few  years.

As with all of my “Applicational Hiking” articles, what I do within these articles is purpose a few ideas, none of them any better or worse then another, and try to draw out thoughts and ideas from other hikers, so that we as a world-wide hiking community may be able to gain wisdom and insight into better methods of how to approach hiking.

Within this article I am going to take a very simple example of how dehydrated or freeze-dried food can potentially result in a heavier backpack, and a greater ounce-to-calories weight ratio than off-the-shelf food bought in just about any local trail-town.

What I have is a single serving pro-pak bag of Mountain House ‘Chili Mac with Beef’ – a freeze dried meal of chili, beef, macaroni and beans. By far not the best meal out there, but one that stays in my food back for one of those long hard wet trail days. On my scale it is 136 grams (4.797 ounces) for the entire package.

Now, here is where I want us all to stop and go “hmmm” for a moment.

Is 136 grams, or 4.8 ounces, really the true weight of that meal?

No, am not talking about the weight of the bag…

Rather, I am talking about the weight of the water and water container required for us to carry for potentially miles and miles, so that at the end of the day we can enjoy that hot cooked meal of chili mac and beef.

Stop and ponder on that a moment. It is not just the weight of the bag of food that we have to take into consideration, but we also have to take into consideration, as long distance hikers, that we typically do not have a nice creek, river, or water source sitting right next to our campsite every night out on the trail. We might have to carry the 14 or so ounces of water needed to hydrate the meal, for potentially miles and miles.

The weight of the water to cook your single meal, carried inside of a smart water bottle is around 500 grams, or 17 ounces.

This just took a single meal from around 136 grams to around 636 grams (4.8 oz to 22.5 ounces).

Seriously, think about that for a moment. Continue reading “Applicational Hiking: The True Weight of Dehydrated/Freeze-dried Meals”

Applicational Hiking, Sleeping Bags or More Clothing?

hikeGreetings Hikers,

This is my fourth blog in a series on applicational hiking, where I purpose a small number of different situations and ask my readers to consider what works best for them, to get them to ponder on different approaching and techniques to hiking, and to offer my readers the ability to provide their own thoughts on feedback on how they approach the situation.

I would like to start off this article by saying that this will mostly apply to those who are XUL hikers. Please review this article for how I define the different weight categories if you are unfamiliar with how I define XUL.

A couple of summers ago I was preparing for a summer three day hiking trip, the day time temperatures where expected to be in the high 60’s(f) and the night temperatures where expected to be in the mid 50’s(f).

At these temperatures I gave a great deal of consideration to leaving behind my lightweight quilt (279 grams / 9.841 ounces) and instead taking slightly heaver base layer tops and bottoms.

It was an idea that is far from new and rarely done for a whole lot of reasons. On this specific trip I knew I would be within five miles of a road at any given time so if there was a drastic weather change I knew I could quickly bail out and get back to my truck and get home.

After a whole lot of pondering on the wisdom of it all I decided to give it a go and see how it worked out.

I would say that the strangest aspect of doing this was that most of us are so use to having a blanket/bag/quilt over us at night, that not having that blanket/quilt to reach for on a psychological level was a bit odd to experience.

Thankfully I never found myself shivering, I never found myself wanting to start a fire to get warm, and throughout the night my core temperature was able to stay consistent thanks to thermoregulation and the slightly heavier clothing.

The weight of the heavier base layer clothing was 181 grams (6.4 ounces) so I was able to save myself 98 grams (3.45 ounces) by not taking my 279 gram quilt, which is a significant percentage of total base pack weight when my total base pack weight was 872.64 grams / 30.78 ounces / 1.923 pounds.

I have given a great deal of thought on this matter over the last few months and I think that it was a great option, knowing that the weather would be close to what it typically is inside of my house, and with the knowledge that I could easily and quickly get back to a safe location and warm myself up should my core temperature fall below a safe level – keeping it mind it would have needed to drop 15+ degrees below the expected night time temperature before my base layer clothing was no longer able to help keep my body thermoregulation under control.

This is something I would only do in the summer time, with a firm understanding of the stability of the weather that we have where I live, and the ability to be back at my truck (and thus a heat source) within thirty or so minutes.

There are, of course, a lot of risks in doing this. If I were to injury myself, and if the weather where to all of a sudden fall below that 15 degree threshold I set with my clothing, than I would have found myself in a situation that I would now be looking back on and saying “that was really stupid John”.

Thankfully most XUL hikers have hundreds of nights spent on the trail and are at a point where they understand how to read the weather, have a very firm understanding of the limits of their gear, and hike in known areas. I am not sure I would attempt to go without a sleeping bag in any situation other then when those aspects are fully known and under as much control as is possible.

So that is my thoughts and experience on going out on a three day hike without a sleeping bag/quilt. If you have done it, I would love to hear about it, and what you have learned from doing it. Please be sure to list what the temperatures where at night, if the temperatures got colder then what  you expected, and if you found you needed to do something to stay warm please share what you did to do so.


Applicational Hiking: Cold Weather Sleeping Ditty Bag

Greetings Hikers,

Recently I was working on putting together a new micro-list of items that I knew I would need to make sure is within a small ditty bag that ends up inside of my sleeping bag when I am hiking in sub-freezing conditions. While I have been known for developing some of the most in-depth research on ultralight shelters (solo / 2p) and even though I have some very detailed gear lists, I rarely find the need to build lists beyond those. I have never made it a secrete that I am not a cold weather hiker. While I truly love hiking in the rain, when the rain turns to that white powdery stuff, I tend to call the hiking season to a close and spend the rest of the winter planning my next seasons hikes. For two or three years I have been getting invitations from folks to go on winter hikes. One local hiker goes out hiking every full moon – regardless of whether it is summer or winter – and he sent me an email a couple weeks back asking if I would hike to go with him anytime this winter. I think he remembers from last year that I am a woosie when it comes to winter hiking. That is ok though, I accept the fact that I do not like being cold and have the utmost respect for those who love being out in that white stuff that shall not be named. It seems like almost all the bloggers out there right now are posting trip reports and they are all filled with pictures of sno… err, that stuff that shall not be named. For me, I am sitting at home planning next year trips and staying nice and warm.

Anyway, this is my third “Applicational Hiking” article and today I want to focus on what it is I am planning to put into my sleeping bag ditty bag. By that I mean a small bag that stays inside of my sleeping bag at night in order to make sure that things that should not freeze, do not freeze. Like my other two Applicational Hiking articles my goal is not to convert hikers to my methods, nor promote specific pieces of gear, but rather try to try to put my own thoughts into words and hopefully bring up subjects that I am personally facing, with the hopes that other hikers are willing to come forward and share their own thoughts and insights into the topic being discussed. Not being an experienced winter there is a whole lot to winter hiking that I have not learned yet. Yes, I have spent my time hiking in the snow, I do not want to make it sound as if I have never done so, but compared to many hikers I know, the hours spent in sub freezing conditions is nothing. It is my hope that with this Applicational Hiking article I will be able to share some of my own thoughts and experiences, and even more so, gain a lot of knowledge from other hikers with a lot of experience hiking in sub freezing conditions.

The primary purpose of this, my first winter time hiking related article, is going to be on the contents of my sleeping ditty bag. This is one of those things that is probably a “duh” issue for a lot of sub-freezing hikers. Over the years I have, honestly, given this issue very little thought. Thinking back on the times when I have been out hiking in sub-freeing conditions, I often times ended up forgetting a thing or two to bring into my sleeping bag when me at night. This got me pondering a few days ago that I should probably try to build a micro-list of items that I can burn into my brain in hopes of not having this happen this winter hiking season, should I get the opportunity to go hiking in sub-freezing conditions.

Items I Already Have In My Sleeping Ditty Bag:

Perhaps most important to me is my Sawyer Squeeze water filter. Because it is a hollow fiber membrane filter it absolutely cannot ever freeze. Should the Squeeze filter freeze up inside it will cause the 1.0 Micron Absolute it will become totally worthless as the pores will become larger then 1 Micron due to the water freezing expanding the micron sizing. Read up more on Absolute vs Nominal Microns and you will understand why I am always trying to get hikers to understand that just because a water filter says “1 micron” does not mean it is actually safe – the CDC states it requires a 1.0 Absolute Micron filter in order to properly filter water. So without a doubt making sure that my Squeeze is inside of my sleeping ditty bag goes without thinking.

I also try to make sure that I remember to put the next days socks inside of my sleeping bag. Hopefully they are clean and not all dirty and stinky, eh! Putting on frozen socks, first thing in the morning, is something I have had to do a few times, but it is never fun.

My PossumDown gloves, if I am not wearing them, also make it inside of my sleeping ditty bag. It makes them easy to retrieve should I need to put them on, and they take up very little space.

While it might break the “all things that smell like food go in the food bag” rule, I tend to like to put my toothbrush and toothpaste dots inside of my sleeping ditty bag as well. Unless you feel like boiling water in the morning to unfreeze your toothbrush, having a frozen toothbrush to use when you can finished eating breakfast is no fun.

I also include my potty bag inside of my sleeping ditty bag. Main reason is to help make sure that my liquid based AME hand sanitizer does not freeze. It also makes it easier to find if I do have to go poopoo in the middle of the night for some odd reason.

Also near the top of my list to make sure I always get into my sleeping ditty bag is my Suunto MC-2G Global compass. I really have no idea at what temperature the liquid inside of a compass will freeze at (anybody know) but if for some reason you have to get up in the middle of the next and relocate or hike out, think about how much it would suck to have your compass frozen.

Electronics are also inside of the bag. This includes my ACR ResQLink 406 PLB, and my GPS device if I happen to have one with me, and either my iPhone or my Iridium Extreme depending on how deep into the woods I am going. I also make sure that I include my flashlights/torches so that the batteries to not freeze up.

Speaking of batteries, they also have to make it inside. I have started to buy the Energizer Ultimate Lithium (not to be confused with Lithium-ion, which are the rechargeable ones) which are suppose to handle -40 degrees F temps, but why risk it, and not all of them are Lithium yet.

And lastly, of course, is a bottle of water. I like to use a Hunnersdorf bottle that I bought years ago and just before I go to bed I can fill it up with boiling hot water and then shove it into a sock toss it down at the bottom of my sleeping bag and it helps me stay warm for awhile and gives me some non-frozen water to use first thing in the morning.

Items I Am Considering Adding: Any Feedback?

I have been thinking about putting my small med kit inside of my sleeping ditty bag. For the main reason that it contains a few liquid medications. Hydropel, Hydrocortisone cream, a little Neosporin, and a very small bottle of clear eyes. I am not sure what continual sub freezing temperatures will do to some of these liquids.

I also carry a heavy duty one gallon ziplock with me on my hikes, which has inside of it a micro-bottle filled with bleach. I use this ziplock and bleach to wash my cloths – mostly my socks and briefs. If you are able to find and carry 12% Sodium Hypochlorite then expect it to start freezing at around 5(f) and if you are using regular household bleach (3-8% Sodium Hypochlorite) expect it to freeze somewhere around the 19 or 20 fahrenheit mark. What I am wondering is whether or not bleach becomes in effective once it freezes. This is something I have not been able to determine, so if anybody knows that would be interesting to know myself. If Sodium Hypochlorite can freeze and not become in effective than it could stay in your backpack and who cares of it freezes.

Going Overboard or Just Being Extra Cautious?

This being an Applicational Hiking article it goes without saying that this article is designed to get you to ponder on your own system, to analyze my system, and to share with each other our thoughts. So it also goes without thinking that I have to ask myself (and all of you as I am sharing all of these thoughts with the world) of whether or not I have gone overboard with all of this. Does it really make sense to put all of this stuff into a bag that then goes into my sleeping bag, thereby taking up precious space inside of my sleeping bag, and adding items into my sleeping bag which will likely not help my down insulation do its job, and potentially disrupting me at night because some foreign object is inside of my sleeping bag flopping all around each time I toss and turn all night. Obviously some of these items have to be kept as warm as possible (water filter, compass, phone) but just how much effort should we put into making sure all of these items are stored inside of our sleeping bag when it is time to crawl into it and call it a day.

Applicational Hiking: When bulk matters more than weight

Greetings Hikers,

Here recently as I prepare my gear for the 2012 winter season, and starting to plan for the 2013 hiking season, one of the issues that I have been facing is that of the overall bulk of my gear. A few years back when I broke the 10 pound BPW and I sold off my three beloved ULA backpacks because they were all too big for my needs at the time, I took myself down a path that lead to me buying gear that was less bulky. As somebody who has always been an advocate that you buy your backpack based on the bulk (cubic inches) of your gear, this is one of those many decisions I made that helped me down the quest to go lighter and lighter, but also resulted in the (at the time) unforeseeable consequence of some day needing to carry more gear for longer hikes in a myriad of conditions.

In this article I want to do yet another article on “Application Hiking”, with my first being my article on “Pocketless hiking” – which was an article to get people to think about their backpacks and the importance of the gear that they carry – and by no means an article to try to convert hikers to going pocketless. It has been my desire to write more about the day to day life of a long distance hiker, rather than just writing gear reviews. In this second article on application hiking I want to address the issue of when I have personally made decisions to carry larger and heavier gear, over lighter weight and smaller gear. This might not make sense to those who know me as a sul/xul hiker, but as much as I enjoy helping others learn about what there is to learn as a sul/xul hiker, I enjoy just as much talking about heavier weight gear when it serves a greater purpose. There has been a lot of discussion on the internet as of late about weight classifications and I have stay quite about it. Reason being, the vast majority of it I fully agree with. As I hopefully make clear (or try to at least) on my “how I define base pack weight” article, the focus and goal needs to be about self-education and experience, not about grams and ounces. The quest to have a lighter backpack is always a good thing – doing so without the necessary levels of experience and education is something I absolutely do not believe in. That is, and will hopefully continue to be, why I write about application hiking and why I will continue to stress that experience on the trail leads to education, and education is what will hopefully keep you from getting yourself into a situation that no hiker should have to face. This self-education includes learning when carrying something that is so small, and so light, that it potentially puts you at risk when you need that piece of gear to actually perform.

I want to use the following three pieces of gear as an example:

The compass
The cup
The whistle

Continue reading “Applicational Hiking: When bulk matters more than weight”

Applicational Hiking: Pocketless Hiking

Greetings Hikers,

This article has been inspired by “Jeremy” who contacted me a short while back to let me know how much the HikeLighter website has been a tremendous help to him in his quest to become a lighter weight hiker. He indicated that over the last year my articles had helped him loose over 30 pounds from his TPW. How awesome is that – and huge congrats Jeremy!

One of the topics he mentioned within our correspondence was how I go about being a pocketless hiker.

I responded to him with a quick three or four paragraph initial-though on the matter and promised him I would post an article going into more detail on it. I have also made promises to others that I would stop talking about gear reviews and focus more on what I am going to call “Applicational Hiking”, which will be where I talk about issues that all of us face as hikers… a “where the rubber meets the road” type of articles where I just share from my experience and personal thoughts on issues. They will be very loose in nature and writing style – very little about in-depth details but a whole lot about actual hiking knowledge and experience – at least my style.

What is a pocketless hiker?

For some long distance hikers I suppose it can mean they are a hiker that does have not have any money to make it to the next town so they have to keep stopping at every trail and getting a temp-job in order to get money to make it to the next town. Sounds like a pocketless hiker, eh!

Ok, so I probably just made that up out of nowhere… sorry about that ;) Continue reading “Applicational Hiking: Pocketless Hiking”