From hot showers…to cold feet!

Cold feet….don’t you just hate it?

Picture it….you’re wrapped up in your sleeping bag, out in the wilds od Alaska, Oregon, oe what-have-you….your upper body is nice and snug and warm, but darn it, can you get your tootsies warm? Like hell you can, as John Wayne would say!

I’m sure you’ve been in that position many times when trying to get a decent night’s sleep after a hike. I usually find that adding extra blankets or coverings over the bag, or even inside it, ends up making you feel too hot…..result? The same as before…no sleep!

Having experimented with different sleeping methods over the many years I’ve been hiking, I found very few sleeping bags that can accommodate me and my cold-feet problems.

One of those bags was given to me as a birthday present and was used for many years, until it finally gave out through natural wear and tear…I don’t even recall what the make was or where it was bought.

Anyway, I recently bought a 2nd back up bag for myself…..what do you need a back-up bag for, I hear you say? Well, with the rigors of dirt and dust, there comes a time when you have to wash your bag out, in which case you’re gonna need another one! That’s why I paid a visit to my local MEC store.

There I was regaled by a very knowledgeable salesperson about all the bags within my budget and for my type of hike. I finally settled on the Mirage sleeping. It cost me only around $108 all-in, which I think is great price.

As with all things, the proof comes in the pudding, as they say, so the first thing I did was to plan a hike that would take me to a cold part of my area, partly to get away from the city, partly to try this new bag out.

I found it to be very roomy indeed, with plenty of space in it allowing you to move around…..I always need to shift myself around many times before I settle down to sleep….I know, it’s a bad habit that I grew up with and often results in little arguments between me and the wife, as she gets sick and tired of me moving around on the bed when she’s trying to sleep!

But back to the original problem of cold feet. This bag was the only one, aside of that old one that I threw away after many years service, which warms me up from head to toe…..no need for extra covers etc.

I slept like a little baby, all snug and sound, in temperatures down to around -10C, which for a light bag like this one is simply fab. What is it like to pack? Easy as pie, even though it is a little heavier than some bags. The zips are good and strong, and as a bonus, the bag doubles up as a comforter in warmer weather.

One little addition I found really handy…was that the zipper pulls glow in the dark…handy, eh?

See this bag here

😉

 

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Cooking in the wilderness…where do we go from here…?

Like hikers and walkers the world over, all of us rely on lightweight cooking utensils that are easy to carry and easy to wash.

And unfortunately, these characteristics are only available, at present, with aluminium (or if you’re in the USA…aluminum!) cook ware.

All my pots, pans etc are made out of this stuff, aside of one or two stainless spoons I carry, out of habit more than anything else.

But what I noticed a few days ago when I was drying my pots gave me one hell of a fright….take a look at those photos below….it’s a paper tissue that I used to wipe dry my cooking pot.

 

Picture 779 Picture 778

 

And no, that isn’t dirt or anything else on that tissue….the pot was sparkling clean, with just a little water left on it’s surface……that is aluminium residue coming off with every wipe! So every time we cook in our pots, a little of that aluminium gets mixed into our food….

And you should know that aluminium residues coming off during cooking have been implicated in several problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.

So what do we do? In short, that’s a damn tough one to answer!

Throw away all our aluminium pots and pans, and what do we cook in then?

Unless we buy stainless steel stuff, but of course, that’s gonna make a change to how much we can carry, as I think I’m right in saying…correct me if I’m wrong somebody….that steel is heavier than aluminium, weight for weight.

Did someone mention Teflon? That’s been implicated with cancer recently…!

Anybody have any ideas?

:0

The single most precious item in my backpack!

Hardened hikers and outdoor people will agree with me when I say that one of the most important things that can save your life, and bring you instant comfort and feeling of safety, is a fire.

Whether you light that fire with a fire lighting kit, an old cigarette lighter, rolled up tissues or whatever, once it gets going, you somehow feel so good.

I carry a proper fire lighting kit with me at all times when I’m hiking, but it’s always a good thing to err on the side of safety, and have a standby method as well.

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

For that, I carry storm-proof matches. The pack has 25 matches in a totally waterproof container. There is a striking surface on the outside of the container, but just in case that gets damaged, there are 2 more surfaces inside as well….forward thinking!

The matches are very long-lasting, burning for around 10 to 15 secs and here’s the thing…they will relight after COMPLETE dunking in water!

See them here

 

What kind of bag should I take on my trip?

I always get questions from readers asking about equipment, hikes, general travel, etc but it gets difficult answering them all, as well as keeping down a job that’ll pay the bills!

The most common question I get seems to be……”I’m flying off to India (or Asia, Africa, S America etc), so what bag can you recommend that will allow me to carry everything I need on buses, trains etc? I need something small, light but strong!”

There are as many answers to this as there are…I dunno…tea leaves in a pot of tea!

But the best bag your money can buy, has to be, in my opinion, the Fast Track 40 Roller from MEC.

This bag is very well made, is light but strong and has the ability to withstand any hard knocks or grazes it will most definitely get during it’s lifetime!

The 40 stands for it’s capacity, which is 40 litres.

It also has a mean set of wheels…ok, not alloy mags like on your car but good, strong ones that roll really well with the minimum of fuss.

Price is a reasonable $99.

As always, I speak from experience…..I’ve had one of these myself and it has been to India, Europe, Africa and back to Canada I don’t know how many times, and it still goes on rolling and working as it should!

 

Here’s news for wilderness walkers!

Yep, this should surprise you guys a little!

Yes, I’ve done dozens of walks…yes, I’ve become lost sometimes…yes, I’ve almost become a meal for wild animals…yes, I’ve burnt my shelter to the ground…etc etc.

But I’ve never, ever been able to overcome one thing. What’s that?

Well…er….I’m afraid of the dark…! No jokes, it’s true.

If anyone tells me to walk to the end of my garden at night…in the pitch black darkness, I’ll run a mile.

I don’t know how I came to be like this, but I’ve a fair idea that some of my mother’s stories she told us when we were kids did not help at all…like telling us not to leave our arms hanging out from our beds when asleep, as a spirit would pull it down.

Or not to talk or watch or read about ghosts, death or wild animals before going to bed, as they would haunt you in your dreams.

Those used to be our bedtime stories…and after telling us the stories, she used to laugh with a half, friendly-half maniacal grin…we never knew if she was laughing or planning to be the next axe-murderer, you know!

So, whenever I’m in the wilds alone, I always have a fire burning to provide light and comfort to a scaredy-cat mind! Even at home, if I’m alone, I sleep with the light on….!

Nobody has been able to cure this fear….I’ll probably die with it!

Best fire lighting equipment

One of the most important things we hikers need to have with us at all times, is the means of making a fire.

I don’t need to tell my readers about it, but fire is the one thing that can boost our morale when we are at an all-time low, be it through being lost, injured or just plain cold!

But factor into this the fact that you may have just climbed out of a cold, freezing river, that could well have rendered your matches etc totally useless. And let’s assume that you are so tired that the last thing you want to do is to rub 2 sticks together to make a fire.

In that scenario, you need to have an ultra reliable fire-making mechanism with you.

In the years that I’ve been hiking, I can fairly say I have tried most everything under the sun that is used to make a fire..but sadly, many of them fail miserably. However, here are a few which have been proven to work in almost any adverse condition. I have tried them myself as well, so you have my proof on that!

 

Here they are:

Ultimate survival Fire starting tinder–even burns when wet    $7.00

Firefly fire starter     $4.25

Light My Fire FireSteel 2.0      $11.25