Hiking Articles

Communication While Backpacking

Communication in the wilderness is possible, and there are several good options.

Communicating while backpacking might seem like the last thing that you would want to do. After all, we leave technology behind to embrace the wilderness and to focus on nature. Technology can interfere with this– there’s no better feeling than being completely “off the grid” for a week, completely disconnected from the outside world. However, there are exceptions to this- you may be backpacking alone, have health problems, or have family that needs checking on. In these circumstances, communication while camping in a remote location is not only a good idea, but a need. Thankfully, there is more than just one option when it comes to backcountry communication, and the price tag on one of the options will work with almost any budget. Continue reading “Communication While Backpacking” »

17 Feb 2018

Hiking with Ham Radio

In this remote alpine setting, ham radio communication is still possible.

One of the biggest challenges with amateur radio, or ham radio, is communicating over mountainous terrain in remote regions. Natural obstacles, lack of other nearby repeaters, and logistical limitations make backpacking or hiking while operating a ham radio difficult. For someone who is new to ham radio these technical challenges can be daunting. There is plenty of information on radio specifications, repeater frequencies, and ways to overcome natural barriers on the Internet. However, the majority of resources are spread out, requiring a new ham radio operator to spend dozens of hours on research before deciding if they should bring a ham radio on a backpacking trip. This article will discuss the different ways you can overcome the many challenges that hiking with a ham radio brings. First, I’m going to cover the most important step to operating a ham radio- licensing.

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07 Feb 2018

Using Cross Band Repeat While Backpacking

Narrow canyon walls can make operating a ham radio difficult.

Cross band repeat is a nice feature that many ham radios have– it gives the ability to transmit on one band to a more powerful radio and then, in turn, send that transmission from the more powerful radio on another band. Cross band repeat is typically used for a handheld radio to communicate with a more powerful radio, and to expand the communication range of that handheld radio. This is important when backpacking- if you can transmit using 5-8 watts to your vehicle at the trailhead, the radio in your vehicle can easily re-transmit the same message at 50-75 watts. You’ll need to do your homework with this solution, but it will easily enable you to communicate while backpacking.

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04 Feb 2018

Backpacking with APRS

APRS Position and Course Data

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) was developed in 1992 with the purpose of giving ham radio operators a way to transmit their location, allowing them to view the locations of other ham users, and send messages to each other. APRS is a mature technology, which is widely implemented in the ham community. Odds are good that there is a digipeater within range of your home. For backpackers, APRS presents an easy way to keep in touch with loved ones, while camping and hiking in the wilderness. Although APRS might sound like a hard system to operate, modern enhancements have made communicating via APRS an easy solution.

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04 Feb 2018

Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (2 of 2)

<– If you haven’t read part 1, click here to read Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (1 of 2)

My Raspberry Pi

A computer with a sound card interfaces to your radio via two 3.5 mm audio cables. An interface cable will be required for this, which you can either make yourself or order one from Clifford Wareham (https://www.ebay.com/usr/cliffordwareham?_trksid=p2047675.l2559). Once you have your interface, you will need to determine what hardware (computer) and what software (the APRS digipeating software) you will use. For my setup, I went with a Raspberry Pi 3– a well documented and reliable miniature computer that runs Linux. The Raspberry Pi 3 does need a USB sound card in order to work as a digipeater, since the Pi only natively supports audio out. The Pi 3 and a USB sound card should cost no more than $50.

Continue reading “Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (2 of 2)” »

29 Jan 2018

Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (1 of 2)

My handheld radio, running APRS thanks to the Mobilinkd Bluetooth adapter.

At times, you may find yourself unable to reliably use APRS while backpacking. Broken terrain and natural barriers can degrade your APRS transmission just enough to result in the total loss of packet information. Since APRS does not have a way to detect or recover dropped packets, some hikers get frustrated when they cannot use APRS on a backpacking trip. One way around this limitation is to setup a dedicated APRS digipeater that is located at the trailhead. This way, your weaker handheld radio can transmit an APRS message to a more powerful radio in your vehicle, which then transmits your original message at approximately ten times the power of your handheld. If you’re willing to invest a little money and time, this is not only an effective solution, but it’s also fairly easy to setup.

Continue reading “Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (1 of 2)” »

29 Jan 2018

Easy Day Hikes in the Beartooth Mountains

Easy Day Hikes in the Beartooth Mountains

The Beartooth Mountains in early June

If you’re looking for a quick hike in the wilderness, the Beartooth Mountains have much to offer. Located near the busy towns of Billings, Red Lodge, and Cooke City, the Beartooth Mountains are a popular destination for day hikers that want to only spend only a few hours in the wild. For those hikers, here is a short list of popular day hikes- most within the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

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19 Jun 2016

Safely Hiking and Backpacking in Bear Country

Hiking in Bear Country

For some, hiking or backpacking in bear country is a truly terrifying experience. Hiking down a trail in the wilderness has its hazards, and bears can certainly be one of those hazards. Camping in bear country is even more dangerous- extra precautions need to be taken to prevent an attack at night, and to keep food scents out of your tent. Knowing how to safely hike or backpack in bear country can prevent a bear attack, and save your life.

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08 Jun 2016

Planning a Backpacking Trip

Planning a Backpacking Trip

Planning a backpacking trip takes time, but the rewards are worth it.

Planning a backpacking trip is the least exciting part of backpacking. Figuring out where to go, what gear to carry, what to eat, and transportation is the backpacking equivalent to working in an accounting office. However, as an accountant is invaluable to the company that he or she works for, proper planning of a backpacking trip is equally important. Not to sound over-dramatic, but planning a backpacking trip properly can literally mean the difference between life and death. You can survive without food for weeks or drink contaminated water for days, but if you plan a trip poorly, you can die within hours.

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10 Apr 2016

Hiking with Kids- Tips 6-10

Hiking with Kids- Tips 6-10

<–Click here to read Hiking with Kids- Tips 1-5, if you haven’t already.

Young kids can carry a few pounds- and every pound helps!

Young kids can carry a few pounds- and every pound helps!

6.) As a kid becomes more familiar with hiking, share the weight.

Kids like to help adults, let your child start helping out with carrying gear, when they are ready. That’s a tough decision- how do you know when your child is ready to start carrying a pack? For starters, the child shouldn’t have any weight the first couple of trips. If they’re young enough (younger than 9), you should be carrying all of their gear, with the exception of their water bottle. As the child grows older (and is more experienced with hiking), you’ll know the right time to start adding weight to their pack- they’ll ask for it. Kids love to help out, and as they grow older they’ll want to be increasingly more independent. They’ll thank you for the added responsibility, and your back will be thankful as well!

Continue reading “Hiking with Kids- Tips 6-10” »

10 Nov 2015

Hiking with Kids- 10 Tips for Hiking with Children

Hiking with Kids- Tips 1-5

Hiking with your kids forms memories that last a lifetime.

Hiking with your kids forms memories that last a lifetime.

There’s no greater joy than sharing the outdoors with your family. Hiking with kids adds a whole new perspective to a day hike or overnight hike, allowing you to see the mountains through their excited eyes. Hiking with children is no easy task- it will test your patience, and theirs as well. Special considerations will have to be made, adding extra weight to your pack. The extra weight and hassle is definitely worth it-you will build memories that last a lifetime, provided a few extra precautions are made, and a few extra provisions carried.

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10 Nov 2015

What to do When You’re Lost in the Woods

what to do when you're lost in the woods

You feel your chest tighten up, your heart races, and your eyes dart back and forth trying to find a way out. You’ve become lost in the woods, and you just realized that you can’t find the way out. As the terror subsides, there’s the urge to just run- your adrenaline starts pumping, and your body tries to fix the problem by telling you to go as far as you can in a single direction. When the adrenaline wears off, you realize how hopeless your situation is. The landscape seems alien to you- did you cross this path before? The woods close in on you, and the trail seems miles away. What do you do, now?


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19 Mar 2015

How to Make a Hobo Stove

Completed Hobo Stove with Soda Can Pot

Completed Hobo Stove with Soda Can Pot

There we were- ten miles from the trailhead, and even further from civilization.  We were all staring down in disbelief at what we saw.  Our only pot for boiling water had a large crack in it, rendering it worthless.  We tried to patch it together with tin foil, but the truth of the situation was that we were in trouble.  We were in one of the most remote places in the Beartooth Mountains, and we were without a method of boiling water.  Since our freeze dried foods required boiling water to make, we could not use much of the food we had brought on that hike.  We had to leave early, and quickly.

That hike out was a death march- 12 miles in one day, through a huge rain storm that lasted over 6 hours.  When we arrived to the vehicle I had parked at the trailhead, we were exhausted, soaking wet, and hungry.  This all could have been prevented, if we just had a reliable backup method of boiling water.  This was an easily preventable emergency, and I’m now going to show you how to make one of the easiest stove/pot combinations to make, in case you are in a similar situation.

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19 Mar 2015

How to Start a Fire

We’ve all been there- you’re down to your last match, and you want to start a fire.  You strike the match, only to be left with disappointment, when the match burns out.  Building a fire is not an easy task- but it’s a crucial one.  Campfires bring warmth, morale, and a way to cook your meals.  Whether if you are starting a fire for survival, or for entertainment, all fires are built the same basic way.  Read on, if you want to know how to properly start a fire.

The first step of starting a fire is to find good quality firewood.  This is relatively easy, since you’re usually in a forested area, if you are trying to start a fire.  The general rule that I use is simple- gather a lot of little pieces of dry firewood, and a little of the larger pieces.  You’ll have plenty of time to gradually gather more firewood once the fire is started, and you’ll conserve energy for the important part- building the fire.  Remember that even if you cannot find a dry source of firewood, you can always split dry dead standing trees, and burn the insides of the trees (which will usually be dry).  In a desert/dry environment, dead stems and roots of bushes can be used, in lieu of wood.
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19 Mar 2015

How to Build a Backpacking First Aid Kit

We’ve all been there- you’re 50 miles from home, and you forgot to bring your contact lens solution with you.  Worse yet, you may have needed something like medication for a heart condition.  Wherever you’ve been, and had a medical emergency, you’ve wished that you had the right medical supplies for that emergency.  It’s this exact reason that experts recommend packing a first aid kit in your vehicle, when you take long trips.  When you hike into a wilderness area, or other remote area, and are miles from civilization, there is even more of a need for basic first aid supplies.  Often times, you’re days away from civilization.  You don’t have the convenience of being able to walk into a store and buying supplies, when you’re in the wilderness.  It’s for this reason that having a backpacking first aid kit is crucial.  Once you’ve come to the realization that you need a first aid kit for backpacking, you have to determine what contents that kit will contain.  When I build a first aid kit, I like to first examine what unique specialty items to include in the kit.

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19 Mar 2015

Winter Hiking- Gear for the Weather

I have always loved winter hiking.  Nothing beats the feeling of snow under your boot, and knowing that you probably won’t see another person all day long.  These once busy mountains are now devoid of any sign of human influence, and the scenery this time of year is absolutely amazing.  Hiking in this alpine paradise has one major drawback- the unpredictable and deadly weather.  If you want to enjoy the beautiful winter views in relative safety, you need to plan your hike ahead of time- and that plan will include extra gear.
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18 Mar 2015

Hiking Gear List

We’ve all been there- you’re standing in front of your backpack, and you sigh while looking at it’s contents.  “Do I really need all of this crap”, you say to yourself.  Well, let’s break down what you need, and what you don’t need.  Even if you travel light, you’ll still want to check out this list.  This is a list of all the hiking gear you need to hike with, whether if you are doing a day hike, or an overnighter.  This is some essential gear that can save your life one day, if you need it.  I’m also going to talk about some of the things that I’ve left off of this list, so you can also see what I don’t put in my pack.  Just for fun, I’ve also included a list of the treats of modern life that I haul up mountains.
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18 Mar 2015

Emergency Supplies to Take Backpacking

One of the best reasons to go backpacking,  is to get away from society.  To me, there is no other feeling that is greater than the peace and tranquility achieved in the wilderness.  The down side of this nirvana is that if you need something in the wilderness, it had better be in your backpack.  You have to plan to have every possible supply that you need, because there are no retail stores in the wilderness.  This is why the planning stage of a hike is the most important- you have to plan ahead for your needs and supplies.  As an example of some of the supplies you should carry in your backpack, let’s take a look at what I carry in mine:
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18 Mar 2015

Day Hiking Gear

Hiking gear can be a very sensitive topic- some hikers believe in being prepared for even the most unlikely of catastrophes, while others prefer to pack little more than a water bottle.  You can load 40 pounds worth of gear in your pack, and be prepared for anything, but what’s the fun in that?  Likewise, you can just take a few items in your pockets, but what happens if it rains?  When you’re hiking in high elevations, you need to take extra precaution.  So, here is a short list of gear that you should absolutely bring with you while hiking.

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18 Mar 2015

Backpacking Water Purification

We all know that you can’t safely drink water out of a river.  Sure, you might know someone who swears that they don’t need to filter their water, but let’s face it- that “one guy” is always at least a little bit crazy.  Water purification when hiking is absolutely a critical need on the trail.  It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a couple mile day hike, or if you’re planning a multiple day hike- you need to always bring at least one method of water purification.  Let’s talk about backpacking water purification, and specifically what I carry in my backpack.

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18 Mar 2015