Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Many seasoned backpackers are aware of this.  This might just be a review or reminder for many.  To those new to the joys of walking off into the woods, or into a remote canyon, this may be a life saver.

In addition to leaving itineraries with rangers, and making entries on trail logs or at trail check points, 2 things are normally stressed. 

#1  Leave your itinerary and contact info with a loved one.  Provide them contact info for rangers, park personnel, etc.  Have an arranged time that a call is made to notify that loved one you have completed the trip, or a leg of a trip safely.  Stress that they call someone in authority if you fail to call in at your designated time.  Then stick to your plan.

#2  Number 2 is the point of this article.  Make a "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY CARD" you carry on your person.  Some phones have a app for this but I would not depend on an electronic device when backpacking or hiking.

There are bracelets available that can be engraved.

There are new bracelets that have a code.  The code gets called into an 800 number to retrieve details you keep updated.   Bad in my judgement for many of us.  You have to depend on phone service with some of these options.  So they may not be feasible for many "remote" Backpackers/Hikers.

Nothing works better than good old fashion paper.

Remember you may become unconscious due to an injury or medical episode.  This can happen not only on the trail, but also while traveling in a vehicle, or just going about your normal day.  Medical and Police first responder's will need this info and may look through your things in an attempt to care for you.

So the advice is; Don't leave home without it! You are a rookie if you do.

I create a card using card stock grade paper, using my computer and printer.  It is a front and back thing.  As small of font as possible that is still legible.  I make it slightly less in size than a credit card.  When I am satisfied with the info I laminate both sides and allow a little of the laminate to extend past all edges.  It is then trimmed to the size of a credit card.  You can use the self sticking type of laminate on both sides.  Or the heat type if you are fortunate to have a machine for that. If you have more info you think should be known you may have to create multiple cards.

In my case it is carry mine in my wallet, or with my ID.  I carry it 24/7 even when I am not out in nature.  I have to replace it from time to time.  Check its condition and readability prior to each trip.

I have altered my card over the years.  I once had a signed statement spelling out who was authorized to make legal, medical, and life support termination decision on my behalf should I become Incapacitated.  That was before I was married. 

Things to consider having on your card:
Your Full Name
Social Security Number
Emergency Contact Telephone Numbers, the persons name, address, their relationship to you
     (The more the better in case someone doesn't answer)
Medical Insurance Info. Tel#. Policy #, Group #
Medical Conditions  Such as being diabetic, Seizures, Anemic, on blood thinners, etc
        Perhaps what a first responder needs to do if you are having a medical episode and can't talk
Allergies to Medications/Food
Medications you take, amounts, intervals

Thursday, March 31, 2016


No two packs are the same in comfort or in weight.  Often times comfort is sacrificed to reduce weight.  In my experience reducing weight is far more important in the long run.  Especially kicking through gravel trails, doing switchbacks at high altitude or in the heat, stepping up endless rock stairways, and just clicking away 10 miles or more a day.

I have backpacked many years, many miles, and with a wide selection of gear.  In a pack I look for 5 major things. 

(1) Weight is my main factor.  The dry weight must be in the 2lb or less range.

(2) The pack must have accommodations for a bladder.  i.e. a compartment or pouch, and a slit in the pack to extend the bite valve and tubing through.

(3) Pack must contain many external pockets.  Preferably zippered compartments to prevent loss.  Also enough external compartments that I can access most of my items without digging through the pack.  If my tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag, can fit in the main compartment, and I can spread my other items to the external pockets, that is ideal.

(4) Must have a padded hip belt for distributing most of the load on the hips.

(5) Must have padded shoulder straps and a quick-release breast strap.

As a comparison of the packs I morphed from and to.  My carbon fiber external from pack was extremely comfortable short term. (Which is very deceptive when trying on in a sporting goods store)  I even had extra quick connect straps attached all over to strap down my tent, bag, and pad.  But long term, and long miles, the extra weight takes its toll.  Simply changing choice of packs, and no other gear, shaved 6.5lbs off my total carry weight.  I then went to a ultralight bag and tent.  It was easy to drop 15 lbs.

Taking this approach to everything you stuff in your backpack, will soon reward you in carrying a pack of 25lbs verses 40 or 50 lbs.   Believe me....after 10 or 12 miles of backpacking you will definitely notice the difference.

My current personal recommendation on backpacks is a GossamerGear Mariposa 60. They have a unisex ergonomic harness for both men & women.  The pack itself is less than 2 lbs.  It is capable of carrying gear for 3 to 7 day trips.  They also make a small version for kids. GossamerGear website.

Friday, March 11, 2016


A new docuseries is looking to showcase stories of every day heroes.

Specifically, they are looking to feature the story of a young man who was rescued after a cliff jumping accident at Havasu Falls on May 25th of 1998, which was Memorial Day Weekend.

This man wants to thank the unsung heroes that helped save his life that day.

They are hoping to locate someone who may have been there at the time, so that they can track down the good Samaritans who helped this man until emergency services arrived.

If anyone has any information at all, please do not hesitate to contact the production team.

Even the tiniest bit of information would be a tremendous help in their search!

Please contact Katie Hance at KTCastingTV@gmail.com

Monday, March 7, 2016


One year in an effort to go light, and go cheap, several of use built what is commonly referred to as a beer can stove.

They are virtually weightless if you are only talking about the stove.  They burn denatured alcohol which you have to factor in.  Also the weight of a leak proof fuel container.

There are plans all over the internet.  So we will not go into the details of construction.  Build and use at your own risk.  The flame from the alcohol is virtually invisible especially in bright sunlight.  But they put out some incredible heat.

Wind makes them difficult to light and maintain.  Carry some type of wind screen even if that might be folded up aluminum foil.  Lighting is a bit tricky until you get the hang of it.  Burn your fuel before you hike out and you carry nearly no stove/fuel weight on your return trip.

Regardless of whether you end up using one, they are fun to make and try out.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Twice a year we have a local group out of Las Vegas that camps at one of Nevada's Ghost Towns.  Our spring event will take place May 12 through the 15th.  The core group camps with anything from RV's, Teardrops,  to Tents.  RV spots are limited to 11 and normally all get reserved.  There are also a limited amount of rustic cabins for rent.  There is endless dry camping where you can camp out of your car and set up a tent.

We also have an October trip scheduled for October 13-16.

If you want the experience and car camping is your thing.  This would be a unique opportunity to attach to your Havasu Falls trip if you are coming in through Las Vegas. 

Gold Point, Nevada is about a 3 hour drive north out of Las Vegas.  It is remote but offers a rewarding experience.  The Saloon is opened for our group.  There is also some prepared meals available for fee's. 

This is rustic camping for the most part.  Pit toilets, but there is a shower.  No tables.  No tree's.  Don't expect comforts and you won't be disappointed.  A shade/rain fly is recommended but not necessary.

Hard Luck Mine Castle
There are no services or store.  The nearest small town is about 40 miles away.  Be sure to bring everything you need.  Water is available.

The area is full of photogenic buildings, old iron, mining equipment, and machinery.  A handful of people live in the town and are restoring buildings while maintaining the old dilapidated look.

The town sits at an altitude just above 5000 ft so during spring and fall expect chilly nights and pleasant days.  Some years its rained and  we spent the day in the saloon sitting around the wood stove with a roaring fire.

One of the Las Vegas Dutch Oven cooking groups does a Saturday Potluck. Cost of admission to the potluck meal is; bring a dish or food of some sort.

There are endless gravel roads going off into the mountains in all directions.  One snakes over a hill to another Ghost Town called State Line...though 4 wheel drive may be required for that one. 

Or head over to the Hard Luck Mine Castle.  If you can get the owner to give you a tour (donations required) you will be amazed at what someone built in some very unforgiving terrain.

The Ghost Town of Rhyolite, Nevada is about a hour and a half drive one way from Gold Point (On paved roads).  It is another photographers dream. Totally awesome at sunrise or sunset!

You are pretty much on your own as far as food.  Though some meals can be arranged in advance.  Sheriff Stone (one of the proprietors will do breakfast, lunch, and dinner if arranged for in advance)

Come joins us around the campfire!

Sponsored by: "The Las Vegas Dutch Oven Enthusiasts"

The Saloon

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Here is a concept to help lighten your load.  Freezer grade Zip Lock Bag cooking for virtually no clean-up eating.

I have tried several brands of freeze dried meals over the years but my favorite is Mountain House.  There are several meals that are truly my favorites, but none I would turn down.

I buy the 4.8 oz size meals that are in the $6 to $7 range.  You can often get a 10 pack for around $40 to cut down on your expenses.

If you check the label, these are the 2.5 servings size bags.  When I was younger I could down the whole meal.  Now I find half is very satisfying.  If you are a couple backpacking or camping together it is easy to cook the one bag and share. 

I solo backpack, or travel with friends that have a partner to share their own with.  So I have found a great way to handle the meal sizes, plus cook in such a way I have no dishes to clean up.  I am also not pitching part of the meal and wasting it.

At home before a trip, I take the 2 1/2 serving size bags and open them.  I pour them out on foil and divide the ingredients in half.  Paying attention to make sure equal amounts of seasoning, noodles, veggies, and meat are roughly equal in both piles.  I pour one of the two piles into a gallon size freezer grade zip-lock bag.  I pour the second pile into a second gallon size zip-lock.  I take a sharpie and mark the zip lock with the appropriate amount of water (half remember) and the cooking time.  I only open just enough for the trip. Once opened these no longer have the shelf life they originally had.

Each one of these zip-locked meals get put inside an additional gallon zip-lock that I have placed one clean paper napkin, and a folded up piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to fold a complete pocket over the "cooking" zip-lock bag. You could actually skip the double bag and napkin if you need to cut weight.

To use, I boil water in my Jetboil stove (No food ever goes in my stove/pot).  Once boiling I pour the appropriate amount of hot water into one of the zip-lock food bags, seal the bag, slip that into the foil pouch and seal the foil all around.  The foil helps retain heat and re-constitute the food.  Shake and knead the bag several times while being re-constituted with the hot water to make sure the freeze dried food all gets mixed with the water.  Let the foil pouched zip-lock "cook" for the prescribed time.

Once ready to eat, remove the zip-lock from the foil,  open the zip lock bag and eat directly from the bag.  Save the foil for the next meal if need be. Your dirty spoon can be cleaned with boiling stove water.  You don't need to carry soap, dish cloth, or dish towel.  Your napkin can be used to dry your spoon and stove pot.  Any cooking/food waste goes in the used zip-lock including the now used napkin.  Seal it and place inside the other zip lock.  This trash can be put in the bottom of your pack and packed out for "Leave no Trace" camping. You won't be dumping soap or food particles on the ground.  Save your foil for the next meal if you only brought 1 piece.  I usually make sure I have at least two meal packs with folded up foil in them.

Bon App├ętit !


Monday, February 29, 2016


A true ultra-ligh backpacker shaves off weight where ever it may be found. While looking at your toothpaste may seem utterly ridiculous, you can save well over a 1/2 ounce.   A 1/2 ounce may seem minuscule, but it all adds up to pounds.  Add this weight savings to sawing off your toothbrush handle and you will cut over 1 ounce with this little project.

A little travel tube of tooth paste, including the tube itself, weighs 1 ounce.  What is marked on the tube is .75 ounce, others .85 ounce, but that didn't factor in the plastic squeeze tube.

Toothpaste dots can be made using the below method.  Once dehydrated store in a small zip lock such as a 3 inch size.  The type of ziplock jewelers, or people selling beads or small gemstones use.  Some arts and crafts stores carry them.  Once you have the dots made count out how many you need to carry.  Don't take extras.

This also avoids a ruptured tube of tooth paste messing up items in your pack.  Squirrels and mice are famous for chewing holes in the tube and making a mess.  Plus remember you are dehydrating the past so it will even get rid of the weight of the moisture.

To Make
Squeeze out a little dollop of toothpaste on a piece of wax paper.  Continue and make as many as you need.
Some people sprinkle with a small amount of baking soda to make them non stick
Place uncovered in your refrigerator for 3-4 days, or until dried out.
Once dry, pull off wax paper and store in a zip lock.
They will look like a white chocolate chip  (don't start baking with them LOL)

To Use
Place one Dot in your mouth and chew
Wet your toothbrush with water
Start Brushing

Watch for more weight savings ideas.  Send us your favorite hacks and tips.