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Batten Your Tent Hatches

Posted by treks-trips-trails on February 17, 2011 at 3:36 AM Comments comments (7857)

 Improve Tent Storm-worthiness

Anyone can camp reasonably comfortably in fine weather, but when the wind is howling and the rain is coming down in buckets, you need skill and knowledge to guarantee a good night's rest. Here are five simple techniques and modifications to improve your shelter's storm-worthiness.

A Foil for Flap

A tent that hasn't been set up tautly and squarely will flap and slap noisily in a stiff breeze. The racket can be loud enough to keep you awake all night. Tightening is par for the course with hooped tents, but even freestanding tents need their sails trimmed to achieve maximum strength and storm resistance.

The key to a flap-free tent is a taut, wrinkle-free tent floor. For most tents this requires six or more pegs inserted in precisely the correct locations.

Unfortunately, the subterranean section of the Murphy Law firm will always have buried a rock or root precisely where you want to insert the final peg! Well, you can thwart ol' Murphy with these simple attachments to the tent's peg loops:

Buy a coil of nylon utility cord (a.k.a."parachute cord") from a camping or hardware store. Choose white or a bright color — not black — to reduce the chances of tripping over your anchors.

Cut off enough 4-foot lengths to make one for each of the existing peg loops on the tent floor.

Melt the cord ends to prevent fraying by using a flame or soldering iron. Do it outdoors where you won't breathe the fumes.

Tie one piece of cord at its center to each peg loop (fold the cord in half, poke the fold through the peg loop, pass both free ends of cord through the fold, and pull tight).

Wrap the two ends of the cord in opposite directions around your peg, bush or rock, and finish with an easily released bow knot (what you tie your shoes with) or a slip reef knot.

Fly Right

You've had a long day, it's blowing and raining, your eyeglasses are fogged and your fingers are fumbly. The tent is up and now you are installing the fly over it.

You start connecting the fly, but something's wrong: it doesn't seem to fit. Darn, you've just fastened a half dozen fly connectors to the wrong positions on the tent! (or you simply put the vestibule at the wrong end!). In a rainstorm, the mistake could result in a wet tent body. Here's how to position your fly correctly every time:

Attach a piece of plastic flagging tape or bright colored synthetic fabric ribbon to, say the front left corner of the tent.

Attach a similar marker to the corresponding corner of the fly.

Line up the two marked corners and do up the connectors.

Some metal tent poles, especially the Taiwanese 7001 alloy type, have a slightly sticky or grabby surface that can make them tiresome to insert into pole sleeves. This is more noticeable when the coated side of the sleeve fabric is on the inside, if the sleeve diameter is small, and when everything is wet. And if it's tiresome getting the poles in, it's often worse getting them out! Here's how to make those poles slide!

Apply Turtle Wax or Simoniz car wax to the poles as per the instructions on the can, and shine it up with a cloth. The modern Teflon-type waxes are very slippery.

Silicone sprays can be used, but they leave more residue on the tent, your hands, etc., and it's miserable if you rub your eye with a finger contaminated with silicone spray!

Avoid getting the wax or spray on the elastic.

The wax also protects against corrosion where the original finish is damaged.

Tight Tarps, Every time

A tarp is often best supported by draping it over a cord stretched tight between two trees. Unfortunately the trees in campsites are often devoid of branches that would hold up a rope or allow climbing. To make matters worse, the distance apart of the trees often means that the cord has to be attached high up beyond your reach and stretched tight. Here's a simple solution. All you need is a long tarp cord, a hiking pole and a small utility carabiner — or a stick, a loop of cord and the 'biner.

Extend the pole as long as possible and clip the 'carabiner to the wrist loop. Thread a couple of yards of the tarp cord through the 'carbiner.

Hold the pole by the tip, and lift it up alongside the tree trunk, while holding the short end of the cord.

When the 'biner is at the desired height, pull another yard or two of cord through the 'biner and carry the pole a couple of times around the tree.

When you have wrapped the cord two or three of times around the tree at the desired height, you can spiral the rest of the cord around and down to where you can tie it off. One end's now done.

Disconnect the 'biner, reconnect it to the long part of the cord, and move out beyond the second tree.

Hold the cord at the desired height against the tree with your pole and 'biner while your partner pulls the cord taut from well beyond the second tree.

Your partner maintains tension and then walks around the tree with you holding up the cord so the initial two complete wraps are as close together as possible.

Spiral the remaining cord down the tree and tie it off with a couple ofhalf hitches.

Toss the tarp over the cord, position it, and guy it out.

Wise Guys

You can improve your free-standing tent's life expectancy in a storm by guying it down using the guy attachment loops that are often provided on the fly. But if you don't usually use guys, you'll be unaccustomed to the maze of cords that are stretched all over the place and waiting to trip you.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the cords supplied with most tents are inconspicuous black, and except in snow this makes it even more likely you'll trip. A tumble could shorten your life expectancy, either through injury or by damaging your essential weather haven! Here's how to keep you and your tent upright:

Replace those black guy line cords with white or orange nylon utility cord, “parachute cord," or thin climber's accessory cord.

Reflective guy line cord, such as Kelty's gold- colored Kevlar Trip tease Light line is a fancier option.






Dressing for the Outdoors

Posted by treks-trips-trails on February 16, 2011 at 12:51 AM Comments comments (715)

Outdoor enthusiasts have long recognized that multiple layers of clothing keep them warm in winter and from overheating in summer. Adding or removing garments is a practical way to adapt quickly to different activity levels and temperature changes during your time outside.

Many winter campers wear a system of underwear, a mid layer of polyester fleece (pants and top), followed by a windproof, water-resistant outer layer (wind pants with full zips down the side for easy on/off and a high-performance wind shell with zippers under the arms for ventilation during active sports).


While cotton was once the mainstay of long underwear and cold-weather clothing, it is no longer recommended for strenuous winter activities because it soaks up moisture. Damp clothes are heavier and, if next to your skin, can pose a chilling hazard.


Modern performance underwear, made from polyester or polypropylene, is most effective in moving moisture away from your skin and into outer layers of clothing where it can evaporate.


In addition to traditional shirts and "long johns," many other garments, including short-sleeve tops, bras, boxer shorts and briefs, are now made with polyester fabrics to wick away chilling perspiration.


Mid layer

If you are performing an active sport such as skiing, or hiking in spring or fall, a polyester fabric, such as fleece, is an ideal second layer over your long underwear. It continues to trap your body warmth while wicking away moisture. Even in warmer seasons, a mid layer is useful to have handy in your pack for those times you begin to chill (particularly during rest stops.)


Depending on weather conditions, you may want to wear wind-resistant, water-resistant pants and an anorak over your other clothes. How many layers you need depends on your level of exertion, personal preference and weather conditions.


Be prepared for severe weather. Carry a waterproof rain jacket and pants with you, even if the forecast is for sunshine.


Up to 80% of your body heat can be lost through your neck and head. Carry a hat with you for added warmth or protection from the sun.


For overnight trips, carry a lightweight polypropylene hat. It stores compactly in your pack pocket and doubles nicely as a comfortable sleeping hat in cool weather.


Winter campers often carry a hat system consisting of a lightweight polypropylene liner and a nylon shell to adjust to changing winter temperatures.


For maximum comfort and blister prevention, many hikers wear two layers of socks, a thin polyester sock liner with a thicker outer sock. On overnight or extended trips, be sure to carry enough socks to be able to change into a fresh set each day.


Protect Your Tent Investment

Posted by treks-trips-trails on February 15, 2011 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (495)


Roll it or stuff it? Reasonable people can disagree on what's the best way to put a tent back into its stuff sack.

Ted Ganio of Sierra Designs is squarely in the roll-it camp. Here's how he achieves ideal insertion:

"Get the width of your roll as close to the length of your stuff sack as possible. I use the folded pole set as my guide and find this usually works just right.

Step 1. First fold the body along it's length to a width similar to the stuff sack’s length. Folding the tent body in thirds is often close.

Step 2. Fold the fly up so that it will lie on top of your folded body with out spilling over the edges.

Step 3. Place the folded pole set, along with your guy lines and stakes, across one end of your folded tent and fly and begin rolling the tent up tightly around these parts. Use this opportunity to wipe and pine needles or dirt off the floor of your tent as you roll

Step 4. At this point, I hold the rolled up tent between my legs and fit the stuff sack over one end of the roll. My preference is to pull as much of the stuff sack onto the roll as possible before I pull the edge of the sack to the other end of the roll.

You might figure that someone who designs outdoor gear for a living would know a thing or two about making said gear last a long time. Well, you would be right.

Sierra Design’s Ted Ganio, equipment product manager at the renowned tentmaker, appeared as a GORP Guest not long ago, and imparted pearls of wisdom about the proper care and feeding of any tent, not just the innovative Sierra Designs model he's had a hand in creating. Some of his choicer recommendations


•  Never put your tent away wet. Set it up at home and air dries it before storing.” Mildew loves to eat polyurethane!" says Ted. Our warranty department receives many tents each year whose coatings were deteriorated by mildew."

•  Hose down a tent after every third or fourth trip.” Dirt and grit can wear down zipper sliders and the coatings," warns Ted.

•  "Never put a tent in a washing machine." That's a big no-no, says Ted:” If it needs a bath, do it in a bathtub with a mild detergent and a scrub brush."

•  Slide — don't snap — poles together. Rough treatment can sever the internal shock cord or snap critical pole parts.

•  "If you camp near the beach or any other salty environment, be sure to rinse your poles thoroughly when you get home," says Ted."While the aluminum is anodized to protect it from corrosion, a saline environment will accelerate a pole's demise."

•   Leaky tent flies can be revitalized with Nikwax Tent & Gear Proof.” It puts a DWR (durable-water-repellency) coat on the outside of your rainfly that helps shed rainwater," says Ted.

•  Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight. The UV radiation in sunlight — which is especially intense at high altitudes favored by backpackers — degrades nylon, fading and eventually weakening the fabric. Don't leave your tent set up in the backyard for days on end, and take Ted's tip and treat your rain fly with SnoSeal's UV Block.

•  Pitch a tent tight enough” to play drum solos on," recommends Ted. Taut tents shed weather and wind best. You don't want to overstress seams and stitching, but "don't be afraid of making it snug." Tension the tent body correctly and the rest will follow. You've achieved perfect pitch when you've staked the tent such that the floor is smooth and all ridges or wrinkles have disappeared.



Packing a Backpack

Posted by treks-trips-trails on February 15, 2011 at 12:52 AM Comments comments (63)

There's no one right answer to this question: It depends on what kind of pack you have and where you're going to hike. The general principle is that lighter-weight items go at the bottom, heavier items are at the top and close to your body. However, if you are going to be scrambling or hiking off-trail on rough terrain or snow, you might want to pack some of the heavier items a little lower to bring down your center of gravity.


Sleeping bag. Most packs are designed with a compartment at the bottom for your sleeping bag. If your pack has dividers that separate the sleeping bag from the rest of your gear, use them to take some of the weight off your sleeping bag. (Overly compressing a down sleeping bag can damage the down, resulting in less loft and, thus, less warmth.)

Clothes go in next. But it's a good idea to stash a few of your warm clothes—hat, gloves, and an insulating layer—and your rain gear in an outside pocket where you can easily get them.

Tents and tarps. There are a couple of choices for your tent or tarp. Most packs have a separate compartment (where the sleeping bag goes) that is accessible via a zipper. If your pack has such a compartment, see if you can stuff the tent under your sleeping bag. That way, you don't have to unpack everything to get your tent out if it's raining when you want to make camp. This placement also works for packing a wet tent because it won't drip on everything. Be sure, however, that the tent and sleeping bag are in waterproof stuff sacks. Tent poles go strapped to the outside: Tie them on tight!

Food, fuel, and cooking utensils. Store the fuel upright and away from your food, in case of an accidental spill. Many hikers put their bottles in an outside compartment. Some utensils can have hard or sharp edges, so be sure they're not poking at your pack.

Personal items. Squeeze these in wherever they fit.

Outside compartments. Use these for items you'll need during the day: rain gear, a few warm clothes, pack-cover, water filter, water, lunch, snacks, TP, sunscreen, mosquito goop, and your camera.

Mattresses. Most hikers roll up their sleeping pads and strap them to the outside of the packs. Some smaller mattresses fit inside a backpack, where they are better protected from accidental encounters with cactus needles and barbed wire fences.