Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Great Questions In Backpacking

What do you do about legs?

Legs are often used in backpacking. True! Just go watch sometime.

What you see on almost any trail where there are people is that they are walking (the people, not the trail, though sometimes you see animals such as dogs, hermit crabs, migrating beasts, ducks, and, if you are in Australia, wombats at times).

You might ask then – hey, what's the thing that is common here?

Legs, my friend – they all have some legs.

First, when you have legs, your clothes stay clean because you are not always on your belly wiggling around. Snakes do this but nakedness is not an option since no one makes decent clothes for snakes any more, so they are off the table.

That leaves the rest of us, and we rely on our legs to keep our clothes clean, which is very important when we want to be served at such fine dining establishments as Taco Gong and Burger Doodle.

Snakes can't eat there because of the no-shirt/no-shoes rule, but dirty people are refused as well. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to walk or slither – you may regret a wrong choice.

Legs provide needed proportion to the rest of your body.

Remember the height-weight proportional rule? It is connected to your legs, usually as a small tag hanging from your butt crack area.

You have seen this tag on others when it peeked over their pants, but you probably haven't seen your own because your eyes are on the opposite side, and you are on the lookout for cougars and free-range wombats (if you are in Australia). Or maybe your tag fell off.

If it did, you lack the proof required to date legally, but on the other hand you have another reason to stay alone in the woods, so there is an up-side.

Legs also help you maintain a proper height.

Without legs you would be much shorter. Much, much shorter. Think about how hard it is now to get your food up in a tree for safety overnight. Now imagine getting it down again, and you can't reach the string at all because of no legs.

Bummer? You bet, so keep your legs stretched. Include regular exercises so your legs continue to reach the ground whenever you stand up.

Here is a telltale sign that something is wrong – whenever you stand up you fall down again. Sure, some people do this naturally. It runs in families, but they are not backpackers, so what do you care? That is no excuse.

You may be naturally klutzy, or your legs may be shrinking because you don't stretch them enough. Then they don't reach the ground any more. Find a mirror. Look. You may be surprised.

Stick with a good exercise plan.

Beyond stretching, here are other good ideas to keep your legs fit.

  • Jumping: Use a shorter and shorter string to hang your food, so you have to jump to pull it down. You will find yourself able to jump ever higher as you lose weight from lack of calories, so don't worry if you cut too much off, if you are current on that stretching.
  • Running: There is nothing better for legs than running. If you are not a self-starter then try throwing a few stones at the nearest large animal, or at fellow backpackers if no other animals are around that day. When charged, just run like crazy. Works every time.
  • Riding a bike: This is cheating. Much better to steal a bike so someone chases you. Then you can practice more running.
  • Swimming: OK for some, but generally it is better for the legs to ford deep rivers while wearing a full pack. Look for foamy water. Sometimes you can hear it calling your name from afar.
  • Aerobics: This is from the 1980s and no one remembers what it was about, but the result was buns of steel – useless. If anything, you want cinnamon buns, or a few nice caramel rolls, none of which require heavy breathing or wiggling your behind while wearing funny tights.
  • Squats: You should be doing this every morning anyway. Don't forget the toilet paper. After a while it will come naturally.
  • Wait training: This is what most people do, figuring they'll catch up later. These are the ones that get eaten first.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Uses For String

Theory meets practice.

If you're a cat, you know about string – that mysterious substance that stays still while moving, and moves when staying still – endlessly fascinating, and irresistible, like mice, which is saying a lot.

If you're a backpacker, things aren't that different. String is fascinating for you too, because it's both useful and spooky. And on those days when the weather is bad – bad enough to keep you in your already-stinky sleeping bag – string is a doorway to entertainment if handled properly.

For example, instead of lying there and picking your nose all day, you can practice your knots.

Knots are essential. They keep your shoes attached to your feet. Keep tents attached to the earth. Provide that critical last line of defense in food hanging – forget that knot and your food comes crashing down again and again – haven't we all been there?

You need knots, so get some string and play until you know all you need to.

Say you got up at night to water the shrubbery and lost your tent? Well, my friend, you probably tried winging it without string, and ended up in the wrong county. That is seriously wrong. If this problem persists, sign up for one of our easy-peasy seminars, like "String Basics", or "Intro to Whizzing".


Free tip: Tie one end of a string to your tent, and the other to any handy body part. If you feel a painful tug, you've gone out to the far edge, so reel yourself back in. If you feel dumb doing this, you're definitely a noob. All the pros do it, so wise up and get with the program.

How do you think people hike the Intercontinental Divide Trail without disappearing in the dark like campfire sparks? String. And we can teach you effective string technique.

Course requirements.

  • String (Provided.)
  • You (Bring yourself. If you can't get up, we'll send a guy to poke you with a stick.)
  • Ignorance (Handy, but optional.)
  • Willingness to learn (Also optional but helpful. See next item.)
  • Cash (Only $299.95, and you get a framed certificate. Course may be repeated as often as you like, as long as you've got the dough.)

Too advanced for that one? Try our week-long retreat on String Theory.

What's covered:

  • What is string anyway?
  • Where did string come from? (A short history that ties up all the loose ends.)
  • What kinds of string are out there?
  • String colors and the knots that work with them.
  • Which end to tie where?
  • Buying tips.
  • Bosons, quantum chromodynamics, and entanglement – the real story.
  • Shoelaces: Special case, or variation on a theme?
  • String and pegging: For tents only, or fun adult entertainment option?
  • Effective swearing. (When all else fails.)

To summarize, We're here for you, whenever you give up and admit that string wrangling really is above your pay grade. For info, email:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

EPA Bans More Fun Stuff

Life as we know it to end soon.

Say you want to go backpacking and you kind of think about taking your uncle Fred's cast-iron wood-burning stove along because you like flapjacks.

Forget for the moment that the stove weighs 400 pounds and won't quite fit in your pack, even though your pack is a Kelty Tioga that you bought in 1983, and they said it could haul anything.

Also forget that you might be stupid.

For right now, let's focus on more important things, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying that Uncle Fred's stove, and other stoves like it can't be used no more, even in Uncle Fred's cabin.

They're doing all this because they like meddling, and they just about have ran clean out of other ways to meddle, so now they're going to come on their black mountain bikes in their shiny stretch pants and confiscate your onliest way of making breakfast.

What does this mean, really?

For one thing, maybe more backpackers will try the FrickStove, recently patented by Elias Horff. It looks like a two-pound coffee can. Inside is a powerful spring and a spool of heatproof and fireproof titanium wire. You just pull on the wire until the spring is wound (takes only an hour or so), set your pot on the top, and flip the switch.

From then on, environmentally-healthy friction from counter-rotating plates inside the stove creates heat, and that creates super-heated air, which shoots out the top of the stove like an F-22 on full afterburner, and your noodles are cooked in seconds.

It's mostly silent too, except for an occasional friendly sonic boom if a stove should tip over. In that case its massive thrust vector can power it into the upper atmosphere at supersonic speeds. (One early FrickStove prototype was clocked at Mach 2.17 on a cool day with light southeasterly winds in early autumn – data about production models is still classified, so we can't tell you that.)

Hey – maybe it's worth a look.

Meanwhile, back inside the Beltway, the pointy-headed EPA has banned production and sale of stoves used by about 80 percent of real men. You know – men who enjoy inhaling "airborne fine-particle matter" at a rate of over 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. No real man knows or cares what a meter is, let alone a microgram, and most of them are just fine using a bit of fine-particle stove scale as seasoning.

The whole deal is govmint encroachment, and most of us don't like that, expecially when it comes to having safe streets and highways, fecal-free food, and socialist, tax-supported police and fire departments, which would be privately owned in a true free-market system.

Rumor has it that next year the National Socialist Park Service will require all overnighters to carry a change of underwear and wash their armpits daily. We all know where that might lead.


EPA Bans Most Wood-Burning Stoves

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Class Act

Want to sleep on that?

Let's hear it for ideas. Ideas, and not much else, separate us from other monkey-like creatures and possibly some of those things that live in the basement and mutter about Creeping Socialism and Britney Spears being so disappointing these days.

Well, in keeping with that, how about developing a difficulty rating for backpacking trails?

I've got nothing else to do, and maybe you don't either, so it sounds like we have a committee, and since all good ideas come from committees, we'd better get started.

Class 1: Getting out of bed.

This sounds really easy but does take practice. Most accidents occur in the home, and home is where you spend most of your free time, and no one likes getting out of bed, even if there is fun stuff going on somewhere, so we have issues to work through here, right?

Getting out of bed works reliably only after lots of practice, by developing a dependable routine with a smooth, flowing, and supple follow-through.

Luckily, few route-finding skills are needed in moving from a horizontal in-bed position to a vertical near-bed stance. The path to the bathroom (which comes next) is commonly well-marked, free of obstacles, and should already be familiar. This is also good.

We mention the bathroom here because getting to it is a common and often critical first step after climbing out of the sack, so it's a great (and easily recognizable) destination for beginning backpackers.

Most Class 1 hikes take place in urban or suburbans areas, and indoors. There is nothing wrong with that, but after a while you get tired of pancake breakfasts and a view of the Motel Five parking lot.

Which means it's time for...

Class 2: Extra-Pavemental Movement Activities.

I know – scary – but we've all gotta do it sometime.

Class 2 is defined as hiking that could require some level of conscious effort, or at least consciousness, and a taste for adventure. After all, you don't really know what's out there in the weeds besides the neighbor's cat, and you never did get along with him anyway.

Unpaved ground is also strange. It's oddly uneven and consists entirely of dirt. These are things you'll eventually need to come to terms with. Counseling may help, and be sure your vaccinations are up-to-date before you do anything bold.

If you see things sticking out of the ground, they're probably plants, unless they are moving. In that case there is either wind or who knows what. Remain vigilant but affect an air of casual confidence, even if you wet your pants the first few times. (Many report that adult diapers help.)

Bouts of vertigo or minor panic are not unusual. Some find it helpful to tie one end of a string to the car, and the other end to their pants, making a quick retreat possible. (Note that this does require a special two-ended string in order to work properly.)

But it's all too easy to trip over string, so forming a human chain might be better. Everyone holds hands, which is reassuring, and then you can throw a few expendables at anything dangerous while beating a hasty retreat for yourself, if necessary. (Keep this in mind.)

Class 3: For the real thrill seekers out there.

First, leave town. Seriously. You have to do it.

Then, find a trail.

To find a trail, first buy a map. Inspect said map for telltale lines. Any line you see may be a trail, or not. (This is where experience really pays off.)

If your chosen line is a trail, try walking on it. If it wiggles it's a big snake and you are dinner, so here's hoping you brought your (waterproof, bite-proof, and squeeze-proof) camera for a once-in-a-lifetime photo-op.

But if it isn't a snake you may have found the long-lost route to the mysterious and sought-after Fountain of Youth. If you do find something that looks like it may be the place, check your diaper for confirmation.

Well, that's about it for now. There are other, more advanced levels of backpacking, but I need a nap. How about you? Time for a little rest after all this exertion? I thought so.

Just kick back for the rest of the day, and we'll let 'er rip next time.