Sweating the Small Stuff, Thru-Hiker Style

Often it is the small stuff, like a hot meal, dry socks, and especially a good night’s sleep that can make or break your hike.  For us, attention to small stuff has served to make our backpacking adventures a little more pleasurable. Our upcoming adventure on the CDT is no exception. Here are a few small things we do that have made backpacking and sleeping outside (on purpose) all that much more enjoyable.

It’s all about the socks, ’bout the socks… no blisters

Before we began walking long distances, we never really thought about socks.  Heck, in our former lives we rarely wore them, or shoes for that matter.  I take that back.  We had to wear shoes for work, but that really doesn’t count. But I digress.

Sock selection is key, and once you figure out what works for you, it’s all about the maintenance. Life on the trail can become more than uncomfortable when one’s socks aren’t, dry, clean, or worse yet, there.  To solve this problem we have added three “hacks” to our “sock life.”

Change your socks. Regularly: We rotate between two sets of socks. We change them at regular intervals (unless it’s raining) to keep our feet dry and free of debris that can cause blisters. We have found, through trial and error, that if we change our socks at regular intervals (especially when we detect a hot spot starting), our feet are much happier.  Which means WE will be much happier! Even though calluses will still happen, dreaded blisters can be minimized, if not avoided all together.

Two large safety pins: These things weigh next to nothing, and have many uses. You could fart and free up the “weight” these extremely versatile pins take up. We mainly use them to attach changed out (and/or recently washed out) socks to our pack. This also ensures we don’t lose them (because we have), while they dry and/or air out.

Laundry line: In our tent we have created a laundry line using para-cord tied to the loops inside our Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2.  From here we hang our socks (and often underwear) to air out, and/or dry, overnight.  They may stink, but then so do we.  So, in effect it’s a wash (pun intended).  By hanging our socks overhead, inside our tent, we also keep them from being “stolen” and chewed on by critters in the night.

The Dots Have It

Similar materials generally slide upon each other. Our air mattresses and sleeping bags (or quilts), and tents are no exception. This becomes painfully obvious if one has set up their tent on a slope in the middle of the night. (Been there. Done that.)  Even if we do set up on level ground, we are mostly roller sleepers and often end up off our mats.  As such, we found that we were spending entirely too much of our time  reorienting our sleeping bags to our mats, and our mats to our tent floor (or Tyvek in the event we were cowboy camping).

While Big Agnes has solved a good portion of this problem with their sleeping bag sleeves that slide over their air mattresses, not everyone is using their sleep system.  We have somewhat solved this issue with a $4 tube of silicone sealant.  And no, we are not gluing sleeves to our sleeping bag.

By putting dots of silicone at regular intervals on the top and bottom of our air mattresses, we have practically halted the nightly migration of our mats and sleeping bags.  This hack has resulted in a significantly better night’s sleep. I’ve attached a short video of our hack. Check it out.

Grommets for Everyone!

There is nothing worse than watching your Tyvek sail away with an errant gust of wind.  Being caught in a downpour with no cover or time to set up your tent as refuge, can be problematic as well.  A simple solution exists. Grommets!

In the corners of our Tyvek we have placed re-enforced brass grommets.

This allows us to stake down our ground cloth, and keep it in place.  Having grommets also allows us to create a measure of shade (for both of us) with our Tyvek, in the absence of, or in conjunction with, appropriate vegetation.  This will be especially helpful in New Mexico and Wyoming.

Another use is for my pee rag.  Yes, my pee rag.

A simple grommet in the corner of my “danger” orange bandanna, attached to my pack with a carabiner, allows me (or my husband, because he loves me) to retrieve my air dried pee rag without soiling the hands.  If my husband retrieves it for me (which really isn’t that often), I don’t even have to take off my pack to pee.  Pretty nift,y huh!

Ziplock Bags

Ziplock freezer bags, how do I love thee. Let me count the ways.  We especially love them when reinforced with Gorilla or duct tape. They become practically indestructible.  Gallon or quart size, we use them for quite a few things, to include storing a spare freezer bag… or two.

  • Hiker wallet: Nothing screams hiker trash like a quart-sized ziplock wallet.
  • Poop kit: Trowel, wipes (new and used, separate bags of course), hand sanitizer, A&D ointment (nothing keeps a pooper from becoming inflamed like a preventative dose of A&D, which also works on pack rash and dry, cracked skin).
  • Dividing out food for a day, or category (ie., breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack foods, and condiments).
  • Dirty clothes: Namely socks and underwear that you don’t want commingling with your cleaner clothes in your clothes bag.
  • Water collection for filtration, when/if our CNOC 3LVECTO bag dies on us.  And water condensation collector for worst-case scenarios.
  • Ice: At some point we will need to use a bag for some ice to reduce swelling somewhere.

These are just a few of our tried and true hacks that we’ve employed over the years.  If you have any hacks that you think may be useful, let us know in the comments below.

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Comments 5

  • Jeff Stone : Feb 28th

    Some great tips here. Going to try the sealer dots on my pad!! Thanks.

    • OneSpeed : Feb 28th

      Hope they work out for. We’ve certainly been happy with them.

  • Jill : Feb 29th

    Great post! Thanks for sharing what you have learned!

    • OneSpeed : Feb 29th

      You’re welcome.

  • David Leoboldt : Jun 26th

    Gallon size bags can also be used as improvised washing machines – 1 or 2 garments with small amount of camp soap, with just the right amount of water and space left in bag can allow the bag to manually massaged and manipulated to effect some modest laundry cleaning.


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