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This article describes the added precautions hikers should take when hiking in the winter to avoid injury and to maintain safety.

LED Flashlights: Preparing for a Winter Hiking

LED Flashlights: Preparing for a Winter HikingWinter hiking can be a tranquil even surreal experience when done properly. The peace of walking through cold and wintry scenes captured in the outdoors is considered by many to be a great way to spend a day. Additional precautions are needed when hiking in the winter, however, as winter weather can create a number of issues not typically a problem in the summer. It is important to protect yourself from both colder temperatures and potential winter hazards this time of year. Making sure that you have the right equipment for your hike and taking extra time planning so that you can avoid many potentially dangerous situations are important to winter hiking safety.Essential EquipmentProper equipment is a winter hiking essential. Your biggest priorities are going to be making sure that you have light and warmth when you need it, as well as food and water to keep you from becoming dehydrated or hungry. A basic multipurpose tool or a pocket knife is important for any hiking situation. A small first aid kit is too. LED flashlights are the smartest choice for a light source. They use very little energy (batteries) and therefore will last much longer than a standard light. Pack both thermal blankets and chemical heat packs to ensure that you and your companions will be able to stay warm enough if caught out in unexpected bad weather. If youll be camping during your hike, invest in a sleeping bag thats designed to keep you warm in low temperatures. Make sure that you pack all of the necessary equipment that you would bring in warmer weather, and be sure that you put an extra emphasis on safety and first aid.Careful PlanningWhen youre planning your hiking trip, take extra time to plan out your route. Do your research and see if you can find out about any safety advisories in the area where you want to hike, and adjust your equipment list as needed to accommodate for any special circumstances that you might encounter based on these warnings. If youre planning a multi-day hiking trip, you might want to have an "LED flashlight" that has a lantern function as well so that you can illuminate larger areas with it. Begin watching weather reports several days in advance of when your trip is planned for so that you can make any necessary adjustments to your plans. Once your plan is set, make sure you notify two to three people of your expected route and plans for return so they can alert the proper authorities if you do not return as scheduled. Being Mindful of TemperatureTemperatures often drop quickly during the winter, and it can be very easy to underestimate the effects of these temperature shifts. You must also be mindful of the amount of sweat that your body can produce even in cold weather, as it can not only lead to you having wet clothes and skin in cold weather but you can also be in danger of dehydration. Quickly dropping temperatures can increase your likelihood of becoming sick and can also put you at risk for hypothermia. Because of this, in addition to any blankets or heat packs that you bring, its important that you dress appropriately for the projected temperatures on the day or days that youll be hiking. Dress in layers and bring extra shirts, jackets, pants, or other clothing that can be added with relative ease if necessary. ~Ben Anton, 2008

Introducing Your Kids To The Joys Of Camping

Introducing Your Kids To The Joys Of Camping

Taking your kids camping the first time can be a daunting task, if you're not well prepared. But a well prepared camping trip with your kids can be a great joy for everyone involved. Here are a few considerations and preparations you should make before leaving home.First of all, choose an easily accessible location. You may want to choose a camping spot that is accessible by vehicle if your kids are relatively young. If you want to hike in to the camping spot, keep the distance pretty short. Also, remember that younger kids may not be able to carry all of their gear and food in, so you'll end up with one very heavy pack if you're not careful.Here are a few tips for minimizing the amount of stuff you have to take in, if you're hiking to your camping spot.First, choose a spot with easy access to water. That way you can take in dehydrated foods, and use the water at the camping spot to cook your food with. That will save you a lot of weight.Also, try taking one or two larger tents to hold everyone, rather than several smaller tents.A camp fire is another consideration. Campfires and s'mores are a must when you take your "kids camping" . Be sure you choose a location that allows campfires, and that has a readily available water supply to put the fire out.When you take your kids camping, be sure that they have the same essentials that you take camping: extra clothing, a coat or rain jacket, food, water, a tent, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, etc.One last thing: before you go camping be sure you give your kids a few basic safety instructions, such as safety with fire, snakes, bears (if applicable), etc. Safety first!

Survivorman - A Review

Survivorman - A Review

Survivorman is a television program about wilderness survival. It can be seen on the Discovery Channel (and others?). It's all about one man against the elements, and the man in this case is Les Stroud. He is put in various environments to survive for seven days while filming himself.Having no camera crew may be the most novel idea in the show. You are sure the danger is real - there won't be a cameraman slipping food or water to Les when the camera is off. Stroud is alone, and really does get into trouble at times. His challenges are made tougher by the fact that he has to lug around camera equipment, and then use it when he might like to get straight to gathering food or building a shelter.One creative feature of Survivorman is that each show has a "theme." The episode in the Canadian arctic, for example, has Stroud left with a broken-down snowmobile, which he cannibalizes for various useful items, including the seat cushion, which he uses for a insulating sleeping pad. In the Sonoran desert episode, Stroud is in the middle of a desert wilderness with a broken dirt bike. He uses wires from this to weave a blanket of grass.This "scenario" aspect makes Survivorman more realistic than if it was just a man in the wilderness with nothing. It has the viewer thinking about ALL the possibilities. If a plane crash puts you in a survival situation, you'll be remembering the "Survivorman" using plane fuel to start a fire, and you'll be looking at every part of that plane for useful items. If your boat sinks, leaving you on an isolated island trying to survive, you'll think about how Stroud used plastic containers from washed-up beach debris to hold water, and you'll look at all the debris with a eye towards using it in some way.Can Survivorman Be Dangerous?A few reviewers point out that Survivorman may give viewers a false sense of confidence and even spread some bad ideas. In the desert episode, for example, Stroud does drink water straight from a stream. It's a good way to get sick, and he could have used the gas tank from the dirt bike to boil the water in. In the Canadian boreal forest episode he uses his one match the first night. Then, rather than keep the fire going, he starts the second night's fire without matches. This is extremely hard to do for those without experience, and a better lesson might have been to keep that fire alive.Those are minor flaws, however, compared to the wealth of useful knowledge the show teaches. They may be in part due to the nature of doing a television program. Stroud wouldn't get to show us how to use a bow and drill to start a fire if he didn't need a fire started. There are often times in various episodes when he may have been better off doing something else, but the point of the show is to show all the possibilities. It might be more efficient to keep gathering one type of food, for example, but then how do the viewers learn about the others?This is a creative and informative show. Of course there are all the specific techniques of survival that Stroud shows us. In addition to that, though, is the inspiration the show provides. Survivorman lets you know that you can survive - and it gets you in the habit of thinking about how to use everything around you.

Florida Camping

Florida Camping

Florida camping can be expensive. My wifa Ana and I paid $23 to camp in our conversion van one night. Of course, it was at a beautiful state park on the beach, and in the morning we saw a dolphin swimming near shore. Florida camping can be inexpensive too. While at the beach, we heard we could camp for free at the isolated campgrounds which dotted the Apalachicola National Forest. Naturally, our frugality sent us into alligator country.We camped two nights in the dark woods, next to the dark waters of a slow river. There was was an old guy who seemed to be living there, and a young couple with their two-year-old daughter. Lester was from England, Kari from Texas, and Indya was born in Guatamala. They met in India, of course.No crowds, and the price was right. March nights can be chilly here, so the six of us circled the fire at night, trading stories, and sometimes sneaking down to the water to look for the eyes of alligators. Unfortunately, we saw nothing, but we did hear splashes in the night.Lake TalquinThe old guy told us that camping was also free at Williams Landing, on Lake Talquin, about twenty minutes west of Tallahassee. We moved up there, looking forward to the hot showers. Lester, Kari, and Indya followed the next day in "The Beast," which was an old RV that had carried them there from Texas.For eight days, we continued trading stories around the fire each night. We saw all kinds of wildlife. Packs of armadillos walked through camp, and giant grey herons fished offshore from the van. There were racoons, owls, squirrels, ducks, and turtles. Then there was the "monster."I was poking around near a corner of the lake, when I heard the splash. We had already seen two small alligators sunning themselves the day before, but this one had to be a giant. I returned with Ana the next morning, and again heard the splash, but it was under the water before we could see it.Every morning we visited the monster once the sun was high enough for him to come out and soak up the heat. We caught glimpses, enough to know he was at least ten feet long. Lester and Kari made a "Crocodile Hunter" movie of us stalking it. Soon it no longer panicked, but just slowly lowered itself into the water, as if getting ready to hunt us properly. After that we stopped trying to get so close to it. The five of us went to view alligators safely after that, from the tour boat at Wakulla Springs. I even got the chance to jump off of the big diving platform there. We eventually said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, but we hope it wasn't our last time in Florida, camping.

Camping Food Suggestions For Your Camping Outings

When camping, it is important to take plenty of food and water to remain nourished. These items should be easy to store, easy to carry when out on the trail and easy to keep fresh. Non perishable and dried items are best to take, but perishable items can be used if you have access to a refrigerator or cooler that will maintain the cold for the duration of your trip. There are specialty stores that carry food supplies specifically meant for camping. However, these items can be expensive. They usually consist of pre packaged food and meals that are freeze-dried. Often the food is bland and may not be as nutritious as a fresh meal.With a little planning, however, it is possible to have nutritious, easy to prepare meals right from the grocery store. There are many foods that are light weight, easy to store and non perishable. Cereals, nuts, dried fruit and candy are great snacks and can be mixed for an energy boosting trail mix. All those ingredients are readily available in a grocery store and can be made up before leaving and stored in an airtight container. Adding some packets into your backpack will provide a healthy snack while on the trail.Always bring plenty of water for hydration and cooking. Dont forget youll also need water for cleaning dishes after cooking. You can also bring drink mixes and coffee or tea to mix with the water for a pick me up in the morning. Any foods that require simply adding water are great. Cup of soup packets where you just add some water and let it steep are great for a quick and easy warm meal or snack. They are great for cold weather to help keep warm. Canned meats, meats that do not require refrigeration and canned vegetables are a good source of nutrition. Tuna fish and canned chicken can be used in numerous recipes. Making stews out of canned meats and canned vegetables will provide you a hearty meal that is easy to prepare and easy to clean. Salami does not need to be cooked and is great on crackers for a snack. Beef jerky is a traditional camping snack that will provide nutrition and boost energy while on the trail. Just remember though that if you take any canned goods to also bring a can opener. For sweets, candy and dried fruits are excellent. But who can resist a traditional smore? Marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers are lightweight and can be carried and stored with ease. Sitting down to a fire while roasting marshmallows and melting chocolate onto the graham cracker is a fun way to satisfy the sweet tooth. Remember that when you are camping you will need to carry items with you on hikes and nature walks. Choose items that are lightweight and do not require a lot of cleaning. Bring a variety of meats, cheeses, breads, snacks and sweets. Camping is a temporary state and you should concentrate on ease of preparation and fun. Do not worry that you may not be getting the most balanced meal or gourmet food. Theres plenty of time for that at home. Enjoy the campfire, keep your energy level up and have fun.

External Frame vs. Internal Frame Backpacks

Long and frequent has been the debate amongst hikers and campers regarding the use of internal or external frame backpacks. Many old timers insist that external frame packs are the way to go, mainly due to years of utilizing externals, and reluctance (like all of us), to change. The younger generation tends to gravitate toward the trendy internal frame packs. It seems that the new wave of hikers are as much concerned with form as they are with function. In my experience, having owned and used both types of backpacks, I have compiled some recommendations based on experiences on (and off) the trail.External Frame Backpacks Pros-- Generally less expensive, more compartments, pack doesn't rest directly on back, increasing ventilation. Cons-- Usually more bulky than internal frame packs, can impede hiking, and storing in tent.Internal Frame Backpacks Pros-- More streamline, more compact. Cons--Can be expensive, few compartments, pack rest against the back.In closing, in a normal hiking environment, (on trail), I clearly prefer an external frame pack. I find them more comfortable, affordable, and much easier to organize pack items. Internal frame packs make it difficult to retrieve items, as most items are stored in the same compartment. Internal frame packs do have their place, generally in off-trail adventures. External frame packs tend to get snagged on branches and such easily when off-trail. Isn't it time to plan your next hike? What are you waiting for?

Summary

This article describes the added precautions hikers should take when hiking in the winter to avoid injury and to maintain safety.