I was reading a Facebook post on one of the hiking groups I belong too just a little bit ago. I don’t frequent the message boards like I used to, it seems Facebook has some pretty good hiking groups, and the information flows much faster. However, the problem there is, you lose a lot if you don’t keep track of it every day. It also get repetitive pretty quickly. I must have taken part in about 30 “Hey what’s the best stove?” discussions.
The post that caught my eye was:
“So you know you’re thinking about hiking when you’re saving dryer lint for fire starters”. And I thought, Wow, she’s right…
I DO save dryer lint for starting fires. It’s one of the stranger things hikers might do, but there are a host of things we do that might seem odd to people.
Dryer lint makes a GREAT fire starter. If you have a fireplace, go grab some lint, open the flue, and light the lint in the fireplace. It burns up REALLY well. Which goes to show you, clean your dryer vents once a year! That stuff burns great. But, it’s gone in a flash, so you can slow it down by putting in a form (like a cardboard egg crate or cupcake tin with a paper liner), and pouring some wax over it. I use the spent scented wax cubes from the little ceramic things with the light bulbs in it.
So, you wind up with a hairy wax blob in a paper wrapper, that smells vaguely like blueberry cheesecake or pumpkin spice. That, and a jar of nasty looking fur on top of the dryer.
We do other weird stuff, too. I have a shelf in the closet dedicated to hiking food. There are little bowls of Idahoan potatoes in various flavors, boxes of Special K protein bars, Nutri Grain bars (the apple cinnamon ones are Da Bomb!), and little drug-dealer sized ziplock bags with single servings of instant coffee, teas, chai latte, and cappuccino. Then there are the meals I thought I would eat, but haven’t brought myself to eat yet, like the Mountain House New Orleans Style Shrimp and Rice. I can’t remember buying it, but evidently it was prepared REALLY well, since it expires in April of 2019. Maybe I’ll get around to eating it before then. Mountain house meals are BIG, so I need a food-partner before tying into that one. But that’s my HIKING food. It’s like a secret stash that everyone else knows not to touch. Some people hide liquor or sweets from their family members, I have dried potatoes and instant grits.
I buy more lithium batteries than Walter White.
Im sure I’m on a list somewhere, because they think I’m making meth. But no, lithium batteries work great in my GPS, almost twice as long as regular batteries. AND they weigh about half as much, so you can carry more of them on a hike. AA batteries are a standard grocery list item at my house. Bread, Milk, Lithium AA batteries.
There’s the special clothes and crap drawer…
My limited clothes space has been hijacked by my “hiking crap” drawer. In the drawer go my sock liners (who knew there were such a thing? They are just thin polyester white socks that go inside your normal hiking socks), and my Ex Officio underwear. One pair of underwear for $20? They better be paying those sweat shop kids in Thailand pretty well.
You can also find my hiking hood, which is just like the hood part of a hoodie, with a drawstring to close up the face hole, and a long neck. Great for winter, but a little weird looking. I got it to replace the ax murder/rapist ski mask with the three holes for mouth/eyes. Movies have ruined the Ski Mask for any legitimate use. I can’t even use one when I go skiing… people flee in terror. But I have to know where my hiking clothes are. I don’t want to be looking at the last minute for something like a sock liner or a polyester shirt or my hood thing, it need to be where I can get it on a friday evening.
Also you’ll find my extra stove parts, two or three half-used canisters of propane fuel, a windscreen for the stove, the empty drug-dealer sized ziplock bags, and various lengths and diameters of paracord.
Hikers buy cord by the pound. Paracord is popular, but there’s also Amsteel, zing it, whoopee slings, and a few other favorite brands in various diameters, for all sorts of uses. But add the coils of paracord to the ski mask (and the giant Bear Grylls knife I thought I would need when I got into this, but never take with me), and it looks like Ted Bundy stays at my house sometimes.
Of course, the closer it gets to time to go on a hike, the more the stuff spreads out.
Its a lot like packing for a cruise or a trip to Disney World. The backpack comes out, and all the weird collections of things are packed away in their little bags, and jammed in the pack in certain ways. It looks a bit haphazard to the uninitiated, but for the hiker thats been doing it for a little while, a pattern forms.
My raincoat and fuel bottle for the stove are always on the left. My water bottle and filter stuff on my right. Snacks in the pack’s brain. Hygiene kit just inside the brain (because when you’ve got to take a dump in the woods, you don’t want to be searching for the equipment), food bag on top of everything, and tent/sleeping bags and such at the bottom.
The question was posed to me yesterday, “Do you take a gun?” I told my friend “not usually when I go with a group”.
“Oh, so they have guns?”
“No, no one has a gun. When there’s ten of you, you’re pretty much okay. If I was alone, or with one or two people, I’d take a gun”.
Why not take a gun? I like guns. Guns come in handy for doing the things that guns can do. But guns have a disadvantage. They’re heavy. And that’s another thing backpackers obsess over. Weight.
Much like a supermodel right before bikini season, hikers obsess over weight. Not their own, really, although for some that’s a major deal, but the weight of the various STUFF in the pack, as well as the pack itself. Hikers often have scales at home that weigh things to the gram. They’re known to cut the handles off their poop-hole-digging trowel, not only to save room and make it fit in the damn bag, but to save the half ounce that the plastic handle weighs.
People will sell or replace perfectly good stuff, and pay twice as much, just to save a few ounces or a pound here and there. A conversation among hiking buddies may go something a little like this:
“Hey nice sleeping bag. What happened to that orange thing you had last season?”
“Oh I had to get rid of it, it just weighed too much. I paid $200 for it. It was a 20 degree bag, and weighed 32 ounces.”
“What’s that one?”
“Oh this is the new ultra down, with nano fiber micro baffles, and 10D taffeta nylon semi permeable oxy-resistant coating. Cost me $500.”
“Whats it weigh?”
“This one weighs 28 ounces.”
“Wow, four ounces lighter, huh?”
“Good find. I need to get one of those, I bought it last month, and it weighs 30 ounces.”
And thus the weight wars continue. Take my hammock tarp:
Very respectable. Nice, big tarp, keeps me dry. A little heavy at a pound and a half, but at 80 bucks, its a good tarp. BUT – check this one out:
See, thats another thing hikers do – lets pay $235 for a tarp, and pick out the bits we can make lighter, before we even use it.
Cuben fiber is sort of the newest thing in hiking gear, its not really a woven fabric like you think, but a series of threads just going perpendicular to each other, held in place by being bonded to a plastic membrane. Its sort of a giant version of that irritating scotch tape with the fiberglass threads in it, that you can’t break, you HAVE to get a knife out to cut it.
So – those are a few weird things hikers do. If you know of any more, feel free to comment!