Not All Who Wander Are Lost: A Blog for Adventurous Women

Jan Latham

Recent Posts

AGC meets GoodReads: The Booklist from our latest women's hiking trip

Posted by Jan Latham on Apr 28, 2015 7:06:02 AM

One of the many pleasures of women's hiking trip is that often the talk turns to books that readingwe're currently reading or that we particularly enjoyed. With any luck some enterprising soul volunteers to write the list down and then share it with everyone. And if the stars align, it actually happens. 

We've decided that when that happens, we should share it with you. This list was compiled by the hikers on Wildflowers and Waterfalls: Exploring the Great Smokies.

  1. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love by Lisa See

  2. Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

  3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

  4. Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

  5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

  6. A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown (This is a memoir.)

  7. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett 

  8. Five Days at Memorial Life: Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

  9. Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown

  10. Elephant Company by Vicki Croke

I love the variety of fiction and non-fiction and definitely see some new books to try! Thanks, hikers.

Topics: books

Getting ready for your next backpacking trip

Posted by Jan Latham on Feb 26, 2015 4:31:33 PM

I'm sitting here looking at a lot of snow and dreaming about being on the Appalachian Trail instead!  It does seem like a long time from now but it'll be here quickly.    So, to satisfy that urge to backpack, this time of year is when I begin to take a look at my 'stuff' to see what needs repair, replacement, or maybe just some CrossBridgegood old fashioned cleaning and rehabbing!  

If you're like me, even though I clean everything after each trip I don't always rehab it.  So, if you haven't throughly cleaned/rehabbed your clothing/equipment/boots lately --- especially your rain gear and down jackets/vests --- it may be a good idea to consider doing that.  The accumulation of oils from our skin and dirt/dust (from everywhere) does decrease the ability of our garments to function well --- they don't keep us as warm or as dry as when they were new. 

The best way to insure their continued efficiency is to throughly clean them occasionally --- how often really depends on how often you use them.  Doing this will definitely increase the longevity and function of your clothing and your equipment.  It is best to use products for cleaning that are recommended by the brand you own.  If you don't know what your brand coat for example recommends you can find out either online or by calling their 800 number. 

The other part of cleaning is the rehabbing -- waterproofing.   Just so you know, you can apply an after market waterproofing product on any garment even if it didn't start life as a water resistant or proof garment.  The after market product doesn't completely waterproof the item but it does give it more resistance to moisture which is sometimes all you need.  I don't recommend using this after market product on the more intimate items of clothing such as under garments or socks though.  

Here are a few websites that give both specific products and walk thru methods for cleaning/rehabbing.  I especially liked the YouTube video 'speed up' of washing clothes --- wish my clothes washed that quickly!  

Dreaming of the Appalachian Trail!

Ten ways to lose weight from your backpack - click here 


Topics: backpacking tips and trips

Boots for hiking vs boots for backpacking

Posted by Jan Latham on Oct 21, 2013 5:34:00 PM

Hi Jan!
I’ve been looking into boots and I was checking out the Keen’s Targhee II Mid Hiker that you prefer. The guy at REI suggested I go with something a bit more stout (backpacking boot vs hiking boot) since it is a multi-day backpacking trip, rather than just a day hike. Do you have an opinion on that mindset?
Let me know what you think.

Hi Beth

Wow --- asking me if I have an opinion is sometimes quite dangerous --- and (surprise, surprise) I do have an opinion.

The Grand Targhee II mid hiker is actually a pretty 'stout' boot and is considered a backpacking boot and not just a hiking boot.   Unless you have some medical issues with either your feet or your ankles the lighter you can go, still maintaining support both in the ankle area and on the sole of the boot --- the better.

My preference is to have some ankle support  (so the mid height is perfect) and have a sole with at least a 1/2 shank support and thick vibram (or vibram-like) soles.  Many backpackers are good with the lower shoe-like profile of other boots that are even more lightweight.  The Keen company has actually added a great innovation to their Grand Targhee II hiking shoe  --- a tightening mechanism that holds the heel in place much better than before.  You may even want to give them a try.  

We will also be carrying 30 pounds or less which makes a difference.  Perhaps the guy at REI is not familiar with Lightweight Backpacking and is thinking heavier loads?  I've actually not heard of anyone thinking the Grand Targhee II is not a backpacking boot.  

I'd also like to interject that recently a couple of the women who have taken the Intro trip and have continued to do the Appalachian Section trips with me have gone from the heavier, full leather (really stout) boots to either the Grand Targhee or the Asolo boot that is similar.

Best scenario --- buy the boots that feel the best in the store and take some hikes in them.  If you find that for some reason you feel you need a heavier (or even a lighter) boot then REI will take them back as trade in.  

Remember --- no matter which boot you purchase to get at least 1/2 - 1 size larger than you normally buy and do purchase a pair of Superfeet (or the equivalent) to use as the inner soles.  The inner soles of even the best boot are not sufficient for comfort --- just toss 'em!  You'll love the Superfeet!

I love these kind of questions!  --- can't wait to hear more of the story.


P.S.  Just so you know, I checked with my local REI store and spoke with their 'shoe person' and she was quite surprised that you received this advice.  Their training is in line with what I also advocate --- the lighter the better (barring any medical/physical issues) and the 'stouter' boot is generally recommended only for carrying 60 pounds and/or for winter and over and even then, they still feel that you should purchase the lightest weight boot your feet can handle.  I would take this guy's advice 'with a grain of salt' though.  

Have a gear question? Ask Jan, our very own gear head!

Ten ways to lose weight from your backpack - click here

Topics: lightweight backpacking, clothing and gear, backpacking, hiking

Choosing Trekking Poles for your Next Hiking Trip

Posted by Jan Latham on Oct 9, 2013 4:43:00 PM

We are all huge fans of using trekking poles on almost any hiking, trekking or backpacking trip. They so clearly contribute to your safety (by improving your balance and stability) and health (by saving stress on your knees), plus conserve your energy by transferring some of the work to your arms and chest, that we can't imagine why anyone would choose not to use them. Yes, they may take a little getting used to and instruction is helpful when you're first starting, but that should not deter you.

But there are so many options, how do you choose the right pair?

If you're just starting out, our advice is either to purchase an inexpensive pair or borrow a pair of poles from a good friend - and then come on one of our hiking trips where you can not only learn what they are all about but the correct way to use them.  You’ll also see what others have chosen and after gaining a bit of experience, you can make a more informed decision regarding the ‘perfect’ pair of poles.

If you're ready to commit to a pair, below are a few details to pay attention to.  I have listed them in the order of what my experience has led me to believe are the most important.  I dare say that you can find these same details on most any internet site you search regarding hiking poles although they could be listed in a different order. (But mine is the correct one!) 

1.  Weight

2.  Pole adjustment mechanism

3.  Sections

4.  Material

5. Grips

6. Baskets

7. Shock Absorbers


 1.    Weight: 

Being the lightweight backpacker I am, this has to be at the top of my list.  The lighter the better!  Remember, you will be picking these poles up and down hundreds (or thousands) of times during your hike/backpack and weight will be an issue. 

There are several factors that influence the weight of your poles including the following: 

  • material they are made of  
  • the locking mechanisms
  • whether they have ‘shocks’ on them
  • if they have baskets
  • what the handles are made of

Each of these details will be discussed below.

 2.     Pole adjustment mechanism:

There several types of locking mechanisms for pole adjustment. My favorite for many years has been the ‘twist’ type of mechanism because it was less ‘weighty’ and was quite reliable.  Unfortunately most of the companies have turned to newer technology – currently I use what is called the lever locking mechanism.  The types of adjustment mechanisms are:

  • Lever Locking system
  • DuoLock,
  • Super Lock System
  • Stop Lock. 

All of these locking systems weigh in about the same so just make sure you understand your particular locking system and can operate it well under the conditions you will be using the poles.


3.   Sections:

You can get poles that separate into either 2 or 3 sections.  My preference is for a 3 section pole for hiking and backpacking which allows the poles to be more compact in it’s collapsed (or broken down) position and fits into my luggage easily for travel.  The 3- section pole is what almost all hiking/trekking/backpacking poles are.  A 2- section pole is a stronger pole and I would suggest this  if you were using your poles for mountaineering or ski-ing where there may be more stress exerted on the poles.


4.  Material:

The most common types of material for hiking poles is aluminum or carbon fiber.  The lighter weight material will be carbon fiber but that will be reflected in the cost of the poles as well. 


5.  Grips:

This is definitely a personal issue, keeping weight in mind as the top priority.  Options are:

  • Rubber, which is good in situations where you don’t want your handles to absorb water such as mountaineering or winter sports --- it also insulates the hands from cold.  Rubber is not generally recommended for warm weather hiking simply because rubber can be more abrasive to bare skin (when used for cold weather activities you are usually wearing gloves) 
  • Cork, which ends up ‘molding’ to the shape of your hand/grip.  Cork tends to not absorb moisture which can result in slippery handles if you have particularly sweaty hands.  
  • Foam, which is softer and many hikers/backpackers feel keep your hands cooler.  Foam does absorb moisture but does not become ‘sodden’ or misshapen with just hand moisture. 


6.  Height:

  • Make sure that the poles you purchase are for your height --- yes, some of them come in regular and tall, plus some have weight recommendations.
  • If purchasing one of the newer (and extremely lightweight) Z-type poles please make sure you understand their limits.  Many of these poles DO NOT extend for downhill hiking.  My personal opinion is that my knees really do want the extra support for those downhills so I would not choose this type of pole. 
  • If the brand you are considering has a ‘woman’s pole’ do check this out.  These poles are often shorter (decreases the weight) and have smaller hand grips (comfort) 


7.  Wrist straps:  Using your poles correctly is very important and having wrist straps that are adjustable are fundamental in learning to and using your poles correctly.  

  • Make sure that the wrist straps are adjustable and that you understand how to make those adjustments


8.  Baskets:

My suggestion for hiking/trekking/backpacking is no baskets unless you are planning on doing your trip in the snow.  If your poles come with baskets they can be easily removed and saved for a trip you may need them for. 

9.  Shock Absorbers:

This particular detail can be a bit more controversial.  They do definitely add to the weight of the poles and the vast majority of hikers/backpackers feel that the shocks do not make a difference in comfort.  In fact, poles with shock absorber can actually create a feeling of instability due to the movement of the poles and especially create that feeling in situations where you need to have good balance (rock hopping, narrow ledges, crossing streams, etc.)  My personal opinion is that they are un-necessary weight and that the small amount of give in the poles is not sufficient to make a difference in comfort.  So --- I do ‘nix’ shock absorbers. 

10.  Use:  What will you be using your poles for?  Will they be multi-use poles for both hiking and snowshoeing for instance or are they just for hiking/trekking/backpacking.  Personally I have different poles for different uses but often you can get away with using the same poles for multi activities. 

 My personal preference for poles currently is the Komperdell C3 Carbon Powerlock.  These poles fit my basic criteria, lightweight, reliable locking mechanism, good grip and collapses/separates into a size that fits into my luggage. 

Topics: lightweight backpacking, clothing and gear, hiking trips

Sweet Dreams on the Trail Part II: Sleeping Pads for Lightweight Backpacking

Posted by Jan Latham on May 30, 2013 5:00:00 AM

Sufficient rest is a main ingredient of a safe and enjoyable hike. While sleeping on the ground may not seem enticing, a proper sleeping bag and sleeping pad can make all the difference on camping and backpacking trips. This blog is part two of two. In part one, we gave recommendations about how to select a sleeping bag and in this blog we will focus on sleeping pads.

Purpose:  Insulation and Comfort

Comfort may initially seem like the most useful function of a sleeping pad, and it does usually have the biggest effect on a good night’s sleep, but this is actually a secondary purpose of using a sleeping pad. Insulation, in terms of bodily function and survival trumps comfort in the purpose arena.

How Do Sleeping Pads Work?

Sleeping pads are your 'layer' between your body (inside your sleeping bag) and the ground or shelter floor.  Sleeping pads trap and hold a layer of dead (non-circulating) air between your body and the cold (the ground and/or shelter floor). Your body heat will gradually warm this layer and it becomes another insulating barrier. Keep in mind that any part of the sleeping bag you are compressing (while sleeping) loses all its ability to keep you warm. Underneath your body it's the pad that will keep the ground or shelter floor from sucking all that precious body heat you've built up inside you sleeping bag.  That's why you need a pad to buffer you from heat-depleting contact with the cold ground (this is known as "conductive" heat loss). The insulation property of a pad depends upon how much air it holds inside and how free that air is to circulate.

Types of Sleeping Pads

Air Pads pad1 resized 600

These pads use air for comfort and must be manually inflated. There are models that are just air filled and others that do add a bit of insulated fill and/or reflective materials to increase the warmth factor.

Pros: Comfortable and lightweight.  Air- filled pads are great for backpacking or camping in warm conditions; insulated models can be used year-round.

Cons: Can puncture, though field repairs are not difficult.

Self-inflating Pads

self inflate resized 600 These pads were originally created by Therm-a-Rest®, and offer a combination of open-cell foam insulation and air. They come equipped with a unique type air valve that, when opened, allows air to enter the pad and thus are self inflating.  It is important to blow in additional air to inflate them completely.  There are several sizes, shapes, weights and women specific models. 

Pros: Comfortable; excellent insulation; firmness is adjustable; compact

Cons: Heavier than simple foam pads and more expensive. Can be punctured or ripped (field repairs are not difficult)

Foam Pads foam resized 600

One of the original backpacking pads that feature dense foam-fill with tiny closed air cells.

Pros: Lightweight, inexpensive and durable; excellent insulators; won't absorb water.

Cons: Less comfortable.  Stiff, firm, more bulky. 

Air Mattresses

These pads are the 'king' of sleeping pads and are designed for car-camping and comfort!  Many of us use these in our own homes for those unexpected 'extra' guests we have once in a while so they are as close to a real bed as you can get and use regular sheets.  (Yes, we know they would be wonderful on some of those nights backpacking when you’re dreaming about your bed back home, but they are way too heavy for backpacking!) 

Pros: Very comfortable. Easy and quick to inflate with a hand/foot/electric pump. Suitable for car or boat camping, or as a guest bed at home.

Cons: Relatively heavy and bulky. Pump required for proper inflation. Can puncture or leak. No insulation; for mild conditions only.


Want some more lightweight backpacking tips?

Ten ways to lose weight from your backpack - click here

Topics: lightweight backpacking, clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips

Choosing a tent for lightweight backpacking

Posted by Jan Latham on Feb 27, 2013 12:11:00 PM

If you're making the switch to lightweight backpacking, one of the easiest ways to decrease weight is to get a new tent. Yes, it can be hard on the wallet but it can make a big difference. describe the imageSo here are some things to consider.

When do you intend to use the tent?  It's hard to get a tent that's suitable year round in any condition but also lightweight. But if like most of us you're mainly thinking of backpacking during the spring, summer, and early fall,  you don't need the heavy duty, double wall 4 season tents. A good three-season tent can be quite lightweight.

How much do you want to pay? The hardest part is balancing the weight with the price.  Unfortunately the lightest weight tents are usually the most expensive.  That being said----any solo tent that is 3 pounds or lighter is a good tent and often you may be able to find a really good deal in a very unexpected place.  I found a Eureka Spitfire on sale at Gander Mountain one year for $50.  The tent weighs in at 2 lbs 12 oz and is a great little tent!

Be aware that occasionally the tents come in pieces.  For example, the top and the floor may be sold separately.  Not many are like this but there are a few, and when you first look at the specs, they may seem really lightweight. But in actuality there is no floor and often no rain fly so they would need to be added.

What kind of shelter do you want? Tents aren't the only option. There are basically 4 types of shelters:

  1. Tents  These have enclosed sides, floor, and a rain fly. There are 2 types of tents.  
    • Freestanding, which means they do not require stakes to set up and are 'stand alone' type shelters  These shelter are usually the easiest and fastest to set up.
    • Non-free standing which means they need to be staked out to stay erect.  These tents take a bit more 'practice' to set them up quickly.
  2. Tarps These are really just a big rectangle of fabric that you set up as a shelter.  This is actually fun to do but does take practice.  Tarps are not generally completely enclosed shelters and do not have a floor.
  3. Hammocks  Yes, they are hammocks but they are completely enclosed (with mesh), rear entries, and a rain fly.  
  4. Bivy Sacks   This is a waterproof, breathable 'tiny' tent that is just big enough for you, inside of your sleeping bag.  There is a structured part of the bivy sack that elevates the fabric from about your chest to over your head.  These structures fit closely around the sleeping bag and there is no space for gear or sitting up.

describe the image

What features do you want? There are a lot of really cool features that come with some tents.  However any feature is usually going to add weight, so a really good lightweight backpacking tent is pretty devoid of features. If the tent you end up purchasing does have extra features (such as gear lots, extra ties, extra loop, etc) you can eliminate them and reduce the packed weight of the tent.

Additional things to consider when purchasing are the following:

  • how do you get in and out
  • how much head room is there
  • same for foot room
  • make sure that you 'fit' in the tent.  Not all 1 person tents are created equal!
  • is there room for gear in the tent or is there a vestibule (this is not a necessity)
  • how easy is it to set up
  • what kind of rain fly is there
  • are there mesh panels or vented flys for ventilation to reduce condensation? Condensation is created by breathing inside the tent, which warms the air. When that warm air hits the sides of the tent, which are exposed to the chiller night air, the moisture in the air condenses out. Keeping this to a minimum reduces the moisture build up inside of your tent and keeps you and all your gear dryer. 

Below is a list of great websites and tents.  Each has a bit of a different twist on design and set up but these are definitely the lightest 1 person tents out there right now.  A couple of the websites for the tents also have other lightweight gear as well so I'll tell you from experience it's really easy to get sucked in and end up spending lots of time 'looking'! 

1.  My personal solo tent is a Tarp Tent and the model is the Contrail, weight 24.5 oz. They have another tent that I am hoping to purchase shortly----the Sublite at 19.5 oz

2.    A great website---business is owned by a woman who designs and makes all the stuff.  (although I think she is now into production)  Her tent, Lightheart Solo Standard, is 24.5 oz and a beautiful tent.  A bit pricy but good tent! She also has a Cuban Fiber LightHeart Solo  tent (the newest fabric on the lightweight market and usually quite expensive)  

3.  Six Moons Designs can be found at Their Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is 23 oz . They also have a cuban fiber one at just 15 oz.  

4. REI  They carry several mainstream tents.  The following weigh in at 3 pounds or just a bit under and are excellent tents as well.  

REI quarter dome  (excellent value and can be under 3 pounds)
hubba by msr
northface Mica
NEMO (unique structure---air filled chambers are used for supports)
Big Agnes
Marmot EOS

5.  Finally----another type of shelter that many really like is the Hennessy Hammock.  These are very lightweight and only require 2 trees for set up.  You can see the Hennessy at  

Happy (lightweight) backpacktng!

Ten ways to lose weight from your backpack - click here

Topics: lightweight backpacking, clothing and gear

The Art of ‘Un-packing’ after Active Vacations

Posted by Jan Latham on Aug 2, 2012 5:00:00 AM

describe the imageWe all talk about and have our systems for packing for active vacations, hiking trips and other adventures; following a packing list, packing in ‘cubes’ or bags, having our underwear in the zippered compartments, taking a laundry bag for soiled items – to name a few. But---what is your system for un-packing?

Mine is usually wheeling in my luggage, placing it in the entry hall and leaving it for at least 4-5 days before finally getting tired of either tripping over it or continuing to live out of it. Yes---I thoroughly dislike un-packing!! It doesn’t help that I live with someone who, no matter when we return, un-packs immediately! I used to believe that my aversion to un-packing was in retaliation of the efficiency of un-packing I had to watch---but no! Even when I’m the only traveler returning my bag still sits for the next week awaiting attention!

So, if you are like me----what do we do? Well, we can accept that part of our personality and be comfortable with it or we can follow the ‘un-packing’ list.

Suggestions include:

   When re-packing to return home place all soiled items into one bag or cube. This can be easily tossed into the washer upon getting back home.

   Re-pack all hygiene items in one bag or cube so that upon return home you only have this one item to take out and place back into the proper spot.

   If possible---keep clean clothes on hangers so that when un-packing all you have to do is grab the hangers and re-hang in the closet. (This is by far one of my favorites!)

   Travel REALLY light so that there is very little to un-pack!

   Put un-packing at the top of the ‘to do list’ either the day you return or the morning after.

Of course---the best plan is to have more active vacations planned so that it is actually a re-packing rather than an un-packing! Now that’s a suggestion! What trip can I go on next?!

Topics: clothing and gear, travel tips

Part II. Cleaning gear POST Active Vacations

Posted by Jan Latham on Jul 3, 2012 5:00:00 AM

You may be able to wash you sheets or even comforters with one hand tied around your back... but a sleeping bag may seem a little less familiar.  Seasoned AGC guide, Jan Latham, shares a few tip on how to handle your outdoor gear with care...

sleeping bag resized 600


The following guidance applies to both down and poly fill sleeping bags. Be sure to know what the manufacturers recommendations are (translate – read the labels OR google your brand/product).

The best care of a sleeping bag actually starts while you are using it! Consider your sleeping bag to be the ‘clean area’ of your backpacking experience. That means:

  • No food in or around the bag

  • No shoes

  • Wear clothing when in the bag to reduce body odors and soil to the sleeping bag

  • Have something between the bag and the ground when in use

  • Keep your bag as dry as possible!!

  • Whenever possible air/sun out your bag before placing in your tent—even if you are amazing at keeping your bag dry from the weather our bags absorb moisture through the air and from our bodies as we sleep

  • When taking out of the compression bag, give it a shake to help with decompression

  • Always stuff your bag rather than folding or rolling when backpacking

Upon returning home:

  • Put sleeping bag outside in sunshine to dry and air out. Turn inside out and right side out

  • Shake out to remove any dust, dirt or other debris

  • Store in large bag (never compress your bag for storage, this reduces the loft sometimes permanently) hang in as cool and dry an environment as possible.

  • Some women like to store their bags with a fabric softener sheet enclosed in the storage bag to help with odors and to smell nice and fresh next time they go out.


There will be times that your bag will need cleaning. Body oils, odors, insect repellant, etc. will eventually build up and a thorough washing is all that it needs to restore the cleanliness of your bag. The number of times you use it per season will dictate how often it gets washed.

  • Check out the manufacturer labels, be sure you know the recommendations for cleaning and the fabric content.

  • For most bags you can either take to the dry cleaners or you can wash yourself at the Laundromat.

  • If washing yourself:

  • Use a front loader---no other items in the washer except the sleeping bag.

  • Use a mild detergent, one designed for your sleeping bag or one recommended by your local outfitter.

  • Dry in the commercial dryer on low heat. This will take a while but it is better to dry with low heat to eliminate any damage to the bag materials. There are two schools of thought on drying. One is to allow the bag to dry in the dryer alone and one is to add tennis balls or tennis shoes to add a bit of agitation to ‘fluff’ up the material inside. I use the tennis ball method.

Now you've got a clean place to lay your head under the stars! Sweet Dreams!

Note: For tips cleaning tips on hydration systems and backpacks see Jan's last post Part I: Cleaning gear POST hiking trips.

Topics: clothing and gear, how to

Cleaning gear POST hiking trips

Posted by Jan Latham on Jun 22, 2012 3:54:00 PM



hydration systemYou may be a whiz at cleaning your kitchen floor or toilet bowl... but a hydration system, backpack, or sleeping bag may not seem so instinctual.  Seasoned AGC guide, Jan Latham, shares a few tip on how to handle your outdoor gear with care...

Just got back from one of my favorite hiking trips for women—Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking with a wonderful group of participants who are now ready to do lots more backpacking and plan more active vacations! One of the questions that come up is ‘how to care for gear when you return home’. And---I have some answers!

Hydration Systems:

  • Fill the bladder and hose with warm water and no more than a teaspoon of chlorine bleach.

  • Soak overnight

  • Rinse very well with warm water

  • Separate hose from bladder and hang to dry. If possible hang outside in sunshine.

Never store a hydration bladder wet or partially full. Always empty and dry thoroughly. If, after storing, you find that the balder has grown mold follow the above procedure and soak for about 12 hours. There are also inexpensive kits, which can be purchased to facilitate the cleaning of the hoses. The kit includes a small brush on a long flexible metal rod that allows you to ‘scrub’ the inside of the tube. The mouthpiece can be detached and cleaned as well.


  • First---always read the labels! Yes, I know---I’ve encouraged everyone to cut all labels out but you should have somewhere you’ve saved them or written down all the information! Make sure there are no specific instructions or cautions concerning the care of your backpack.

  • The easiest method:

a. Hang outside

b. Use a soft scrub brush to initially eliminate topical dust, mud and/or debris both inside and out.

c. Soak with your garden hose.

d. Use a small amount of neutral ph soap (liquid hand soap works) or one of the commercially available detergents made specifically for outdoor products. One is called “Sport Wash” but your local outfitter will probably have a selection. Dissolve in a large bucket and use sponge and soft scrub brush to wash.

e. Rinse thoroughly with garden hose.

f. Hang to dry---I initially start out in the sun but then move to a more shady area where the bag can dry slowly with the air currents. This decreases the exposure of the bag materials to heat and the breakdown of the fabric by the sun’s rays.

g. The above process can also be done in a bathtub. The bag can be submerged (place something heavy on top to keep submerged) and soaked before rinsing and continuing as above.

h. If there are stains that do not come out using this method you can use some of the commercial stain removers keeping in mind what the fabric requirements for your particular bag are.

i. Ideally backpacks should be stored with all zippers open, all straps loosened and hung in a dry environment.

j. Proper care of zippers, buckles, etc. includes inspection and cleaning. Look at the Zippers to make sure the teeth are straight with no missing teeth. If zippers are difficult to zip use a bit of soap to lubricate. When zipping try to always use one hand to zip and the other hand to hold the portion being zipped to reduce stress on the zipper. Buckles and rings should be inspected to ensure they are working properly and are clean. Replace if broken. Replacement buckles, rings, etc. can usually be found at your local outfitter or contact the maker of your backpack.

k. Patching of any holes or tears can be done using heat sensitive materials or seek professional help.


Next post... we'll talk about cleaning sleeping bags!

Topics: clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips

Backpacking for women: Multifunction keeps it light

Posted by Jan Latham on Jun 8, 2012 9:45:00 AM

One of the keys to lightweight backpacking for women is to look at everything we want to take and see if anything can be used for more than one function. This is especially important if we have a choice between two items - ask yourself, could one of them have more uses than the other. Here are some examples:

  1. Wind jackets are nice but they won't help if it rains - and rain is something you always need to be prepared for. A lightweight rain jacket can do double duty as a wind jacket.

  2. stuffsacks instead of a pillowCamping pillows are comfy and lightweight - but you need a stuff sack to keep your clothes organized anyway. So why not take most of the clothes out at night, just enough to have the size pillow you find comfortable.

  3. You need a wool cap, don't you? Maybe not! A buff will serve much the same purpose and has so many other uses I cbuff instead of a hatould (and will) write a whole separate article on them.

  4. I always bring gloves, lighter or heavier, depending on the season. But if they get soaked, I know my wool socks can act as back up mittens and keep my hands toasty.

  5. I used to carry a trowel for those times when nature called at inconvenient times but now I just use my hiking poles. And talk about a multifunction piece of equipment! We wrote an article on 10 uses for hiking poles.

  6. Do you need a bowl and a cup? Only if you insist on drinking and eating at the same time. I have a lightweight foldable bowl. After dinner I use a little hot water to clean it out and then make my evening tea in it.

There are other possibilities, of course, depending on how "hard core" you want to be. But I guarantee that every ounce you leave at home will be appreciated.And if you want to learn lots more tips and techniques of lightweight backpacking, join us this September for our Intro to Lightweight Backpacking course.

Do you have suggestions of multifunction clothing and equipment? We would love to hear them!

Topics: clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips