Sometimes, the best tips and tricks are learnt the hard way, so I thought I’d compile a list of some of mine that I’ve picked up over the last few years from hiking and backpacking through all four seasons and from valley floor to mountain top.
Tie your shoe laces properly:
This is a bit of a life hack as you can utilize it outside of hiking. If you find your boot laces start to loosen every few hours when you’re hiking you probably learned to tie a granny knot instead of a square knot when you first learnt to tie up your shoes.
I realized this mistake myself and went searching for a solution. Not only does this method guarantee you tie a square knot, but it’s also a lot quicker. I also find this method of tying up my shoes a lot easier with large winter gloves on than the usual method.
Use a Buff:
You need to buy a buff if you’re hiking and camping. It has so many uses through all 4 seasons of the year. It can be used as a; Balaclava, Face mask, Neck gaiter, helmet liner, Beanie, Headband, eye mask, wristband.
I never leave home without it.
Stuff don’t Roll:
If you roll up your tent or sleeping bag before putting it in a sack then stop. Stuff it into the sack.
I used to roll up everything and I needed to use a 65L pack to go on an overnight trip. When I switched to stuffing everything I was able to get a much lighter 32L pack and still bring the same items.
Here’s why, when I’d roll up my sleeping bag I needed a sack that had an opening large enough to fit the entire sleeping bag inside it all at once. These sacks were so large that I couldn’t compress any additional airspace out of them.
When I switched to stuffing I only needed a sack with an opening that would fit whatever part of the sleeping bag was bunched up in my hand as I fed it into the sack.
I went from using 25L compression sacks to using 8L compression sacks.
On most overnight trips, even in the Winter, I can use one 12L compression sack for all my spare clothes, jackets and winter sleeping bag.
Here is Spring @ pebbleshoo quickly unstuffing her sleeping bag from her compression sack on one of our recent trips.
Start using Compression Sacks:
I use a the OR compression sacks, the heavier ones. They’re burly and can take a beating while still being pretty light. They save you weight though by allowing you to use much smaller backpacks to carry all your gear.
Don’t over-layer up at the Trailhead:
A mistake I, and many others seem to make in the Winter is that when we get to the trailhead and step out of our nice, heated car and feel the bite of the cold we throw on a bunch of insulating midlayers and then start hiking with them on.
Invariably, 10 minutes into the hike, everyone has to stop to “layer down” from overheating. Usually by this point a film of sweat is now coating our skin and we’ll be fighting an uphill battle to try and dry it off.
Instead of doing this, keep a puffy at the ready, and then when you park, throw it on, over the layers you know you always wear when you’ve been hiking and have got your body temperature up. Then, when everyone is ready to start moving take off the puffy and either leave it in the car or bring it with you if you plan to need it again.
Look after your boots:
If you have leather boots then my best advice is to follow the manufacturers instructions and perform regular maintenance on them. This means cleaning them after every trip, especially the ones where they got muddy. Leather is animal skin, and it dries out and cracks if not cared for. I learnt this the hard way, I left mud to dry on my summer hiking boots all winter and then when I dusted them off the following Spring the leather had dried out and become so stiff that some stitches connecting the leather pieces together blew out.
Duct tape on your poles and/or Ice Axe:
Get around 1 or 2 meters of duct tape (we use the stronger variant called Gorilla Tape) and wrap it around the upper shaft of your hiking poles or ice axe. Duct tape has thousands of uses from patching clothes, to fixing tent poles… etc. Putting in on items you know you’ll always have with you will mean you’ll never forget it.
Use Snow as an insulator and a wicking material:
In the Winter, don’t forget that snow insulates like a Thermos flask, and also wicks moisture away when the temperature is below freezing. When I dunk a bottle in a stream to get water I always roll it in the snow afterwards to dry off the water on the outside. Also, to stop water in a bottle from freezing overnight you can bury it in the snow.
Well, that’s just a few tips for now. As I compile more I’ll post up subsequent lists of tips. If you can think of any you know that I should absolutely know about then feel free to comment below.