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April 30, 2010

The Happy Wanderer
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:40 PM * 215 comments

Summer is nearly upon us, so it’s time to talk about walking in the woods!

Everything will go well. Perfectly! You’ll have a great time!

Now to talk about the times when it doesn’t. We do a bit of preparation.

1. Plan your escape route. If you get lost, what will you do? An escape route is a direction that, no matter where you are on your hike, will take you to an unmissable boundary (e.g. a road, a river). If you always have an escape route planned, you can go bushwhacking.

A boundary is a long linear feature. If you aim in that general direction, even if you’re off by a point or two, you’ll still hit it, and you’ll know in general terms where you are and which way to head.

If I’m hiking around the Dixville Notch area, and I’m north of Rt 26 (east-west road, runs from Vermont to the coast of Maine), I know that if I head generally south, sooner or later I’ll hit route 26. On the other hand, if I head north, I may not find anything until I’m well into Canada. So south is my escape route.

Once you’ve decided on an escape route, how will you follow it?

A. Compass bearing. You do know how to use your compass, right?
B. Topographical feature. Is there a mountain peak you can always see?
C. Sun/moon relative to your body. Remember that the sun and the moon move.
D. Sounds (e.g. road noise)

Pop quiz: Which
way is the stream

2. Terrain Association. The night before your hike, while you’re looking at your topo map, visualize the terrain. Will you be going uphill? Downhill? Through a flat region? Along the side of a hill? (If so, will the slope go up to your right, or to your left?) Look for catching features (a road, a river, some other long and unmistakable feature that’s roughly perpendicular to your line of march) that will tell you if you’ve gone too far.

Know if you’ll be crossing streams. How many? Which way are they flowing? At what angle do they cross your path? Linear feature intersections are great aids to navigation. On a topo map, streams make little V-shapes where they cross the contour lines, and the V always points uphill (against the direction of flow).

3. Time. Know how long it should take you to reach significant features on your hike. If you have a good idea of how long it should take you to reach certain places (a river, a road, a saddle between two peaks), you may get an important early clue that you’re lost. (Determine your rate of hiking on flat terrain. Add 1 hour for each 600 meters of descent or 300 meters of ascent along your path.)

Before you head out, double-check your map’s scale. Is it in feet or meters? What is the contour interval?

Always take a whistle (I recommend a Fox 40) and more water than you think you need. It’s best to take a friend, too. Even if you are going with a friend, let someone (who cares) know where you’re going, when to expect you back, and what route you’re planning to take.

Comments on The Happy Wanderer:
#1 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 07:56 PM:

Like most streams, it's flowing downhill.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:01 PM:
Everything will go well. Perfectly! You’ll have a great time!
I've been reading Jim's public service entries long enough to be familiar with the form, so when I read that line, I flinched.

And then nothing bad happened! I've been got.

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:04 PM:

NOTE: The board from Outdoor Survival is not a substitute for an actual map of the locality.

And ponds are not castles.

#4 ::: Michael H Schneider ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:13 PM:

"Remember that the sun and the moon move."

Or so the Copernicans would have you believe.

It's flowing right to left, east to west. The crick, not the Copernican.

#5 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:34 PM:

In addition to your whistle and your water, I urge hikers to carry a sweater or jacket even if it's a nice balmy afternoon. If you get lost or injured, you'll be glad of the warmth.

My friends in SARA (Southern Arizona Rescue Association) recommend always carrying an emergency bivy bag and a small first aid kit.

#6 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:37 PM:

Did you see about the guy who thought he was sailing down the coast, but ended up going around and around an island? Turned out to have some other problems, too.

#7 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:48 PM:

Why did I expect this to segue into an exposition of tick-borne infectious diseases?

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:55 PM:

Teresa, you're not the only one.
(First thought: Uh-oh. Someone's going to be getting lost.)

#9 ::: Elaine ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:58 PM:

I always found that dropping the reins and letting the horse go home worked well, until the day we discovered that my friend's mare (whom I was following riding my husband's gelding) had no sense of direction. Poor Rags, he kept trying to tell me we were going wrong.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 09:16 PM:

Thena, when Jim told me he was writing about this, I immediately though of (and mentioned) tick-borne disease. Which I have had. I also mentioned poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, to which I appear to be immune, but he isn't.

IMO, Jim's central statement on woodland safety is best experienced in its live version as The Blair Witch Project Rant, in which he explains in detail how the film students screwed up, why they shouldn't have been there in the first place, and what they should have done to salvage the situation at every step along the way.

#11 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 09:26 PM:

If you're following a set of blazed trails (such as the Appalachian Trail and its surrounding network of local trails) find out what color blazes to expect for the various segments you'll be following. Double blazes typically indicate that your trail is changing direction; look for the blazes indicating your trail. The AT also has regular guideposts, originally courtesy of the WPA projects; but they don't help if you don't look at them.

Also, be aware that sometimes trails get washed out or otherwise damaged -- be realistic about where you can go. (Says the guy who. not so long ago. followed an 86-year-old along a cliff face for a quarter mile or so.;-) )

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 09:42 PM:

No mention of a handheld GPS in the main post. Are they unreliable in the mountains, Jim? Or have some other drawback?

You still need the low-tech fallback if you drop the GPS in the creek, of course, but that's no reason not to have one at all.

#13 ::: CathyP ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 09:50 PM:

May I add the following:

4. Always tell someone where you are going.

5. Carry a powerful torch (wait until dark and use it to signal the search party).

OR, even better

6. Carry an emergency GPS beacon and don't hesitate to use it - the search and rescue folks appreciate finding you before dark and bad weather set in.

#14 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 10:38 PM:

Based on experience...

Make sure your boots are broken in.

Carry Band-Aids or moleskin for blisters.

Hiking 3.4 miles down a steep rocky trail is NOT advised when you've rubbed the blister raw on the way up. Conversely, going off on a 7 mile hike in Keen water sandals on a rocky trail may lead to later complications with feet, especially if you're middle-aged and spend lots of time on your feet at work.

Sunblock Is Also Good.

And pay attention to your landmarks.

I've enough background bushwhacking around in Northeastern Oregon in cars and on foot to respect the terrain. Always a smart thing to do.

#15 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 11:05 PM:

Biological dangers can be larger than ticks and more mobile than poison ivy. Know what else might be out on the trail, even endangered species. For example, here on the Iowa prairies, rattlesnakes are now rare. But I still came pretty close to stepping on one.

Be aware of the weather forecast, including anywhere upstream of where you will be.

#16 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 11:53 PM:

It was only a couple weeks ago that I finally had poison ivy pointed out to me clearly enough that I could nod and really understand. A few years of Girl Scout camp and people trying to point it out to groups never helped; I could never tell what plant they were pointing to, if indeed they were pointing.

#17 ::: Tracey ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 12:00 AM:

I think the smartest thing to do is avoid all the dangers and not go in the first place.

Then again, I use a walker (on bad days) and a cane (on good ones), so I'm not going for a hike in the woods any time soon.

#18 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 12:12 AM:

Sunblock Is Also Good.

Especially if you are closer to the equator or further from sea level than usual.

#19 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 01:25 AM:

My key point, even walking on supposedly flat sidewalks, is that gravity doesn't give a shit. You goof, you go down. (speaking from the position of someone who stepped twice in the very same hole, and did a full body splot, once on the sidewalk, once into the street and landing on my laptop)

#20 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 04:32 AM:

I'm really talented. I fell off flats on a flat sidewalk. There may have been a crack, but not a big one. Really loose ankle from an old untreated soccer injury. So I'm careful where I put my feet.

Also, pay attention to what locals tell you. Is that rock really friable, with a tendency to crumble under hikers, with sometimes fatal results?

#21 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 06:17 AM:

Seconding beth meacham @5, my rule is: always carry one layer more than you think you need. With modern lightweight materials, there's no excuse not to, and when you need it, you need it. Also, in areas where the weather changes quickly, take at least an "emergency" waterproof. In the Lake District (UK), I -have- been known to go out without one, but only when all the locals said there was absolutely no chance of clouds coming over for a couple more days!

ALSO: Know when you're on enough granite that the compass direction may be off by a few points.

#22 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 06:21 AM:

Vitamin C and proper clothing helps. And sled dogs. If you get hungry enough, you can always eat the dogs.

(Sorry - I've been reading polar exploration books this week)

#23 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 08:22 AM:

When you're in more thickly settled areas than northern New Hampshire, it's often feasible (and useful) to remember boundaries for all directions. (E.g. "The area I'm exploring is bounded by interstate highways, route 263, and the Delaware River.") I've done that when I've felt like randomly exploring on my bike-- then I could "get lost" as much as I wanted, knowing that I wouldn't go too far afield if I stayed within those clearly-recognizable bounds.

I do this more often for biking than hiking, but a similar plan works for hikes in smaller woodland areas too (though for hikes I do tend to have a planned route). Parks in Pennsylvania tend not to be that large, for the most part, and if you know what the bounding roads and rivers are, and know enough not to go in circles, you won't go too badly wrong.

#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 08:34 AM:

I don't have anything against GPS units (other than people who go in the woods with nothing but a GPS and a cell phone and think that ... anyway, bad plan there) but consider what you'll do if it gets broken or the batteries die.

You'll want a map and a compass.

But consider what you'll do if they get lost/broken. Get yourself into a state of mind and a level of comfort where you'll be able to self-extract with nothing.

Teresa has heard my Blair Witch rant. For example, at the point where they lose the map: "What the $##%!? What difference does it make? You didn't know where the #$&) you were anyway!"

#25 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 09:35 AM:

Most of my woodland adventuring takes place on Forest Service land, so I make sure I've eyeballed the appropriate FS map and know what the main roads are (here in the PNW, unless you're in actual wilderness--and even then--there will Always Be A Logging Road).

The most dangerous place I go is up on Mount Hood at Timberline, and I don't leave the ski area boundaries, for a very good reason--Hood is notoriously deceptive and it's far too easy to be drawn off course and end up someplace you don't want to be (or dead). Hood's a killer. I respect that.

The second most dangerous place I go is the breaks around Hells Canyon, and again, we have a FS map in hand, know our landmarks where the car is, and don't hike downhill any further than we're willing to hike back uphill (serious consideration in that rugged country, where the roads tend to be on top of the ridge).

#26 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 09:42 AM:

Someone has to promise me a tempting view or waterfall or something to get me to consider tromping around in the woods. Nature is full of biting bugs, itchy plants, and things that get you dirty and tired -- and, as Jim points out, you run the risk of getting lost with nothing around you. I much prefer doing my walking on city sidewalks, or inside nice, air-conditioned museums, where there will be restaurants and shops and all sorts of amenities close to hand, and the big precaution is "have cab fare."

I'll leave the hiking to those who appreciate it. Me? I like strolling.

#27 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 10:29 AM:

We always manage to find ourselves when we get lost, at least thus far. (Although one time my hubby missed a fork in the trail. He stopped at a cabin. The owner got out his coat and told his wife he had to take some guy back over to the other side of the Continental Divide AGAIN. My hubby was impressed he'd crossed the divide without even noticing.)

If you are hiking in the Colorado Mountains, buy a fishing license. Unless they've changed the policy, the fishing license carries rescue insurance, so the poor slobs who have to save you get reimbursed.

#28 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 10:41 AM:

Using an analog watch as a compass

You need to click orient yourself using the sun to get the popup with the info.

My dad taught us this as soon as we were old enough to want to go hiking in the mountains.

#29 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 11:58 AM:

I am also a birder. My "hikes" are punctuated by "stop, listen, crick neck, watch bird fly away just as binoculars come up."

#30 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 12:03 PM:

VCarlson @20

I have no such handy excuse. If I don't watch where I put my feet, or pay attention to actually lifting my feet, I find shadows to trip over. I despise stairs, and hate down escalators with a passion.

Also, pay attention to what locals tell you.
Oh so familiar:
Listen to the locals. They’re the ones who are going to have to go haul your dumb ass out if you run into more trouble than you can handle.

I quote it often.

#31 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 12:07 PM:

trip over shadows ... check.
trip over shadows on carpet ... check.
can't chew gum and walk at same time ... Oh yeah.

#32 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 12:13 PM:

Pop Quiz: The stream's in the bottom of a streambed, which means it hits any given contour line before the rest of the hill when going downwards. Therefore the stream's flowing right to left.

#33 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 12:36 PM:

#30-#31: One of my hiking buddies has a strong tendency to trip on the trails. Apparently, he tends to not lift his feet high enough, and didn't even when he was a kid.¹ This last hike, for a change, he got a cut on his hand (probably by a thorny branch). I finally got to use my first-aid kit! I'm considering adding "liquid bandage" to my pack, if I can find a small can. (Both of my H.B.s complain that the asprin they take makes any small cut bleed "like a stuck pig", but this one would have been messy regardless. Not too serious, but messy.)

¹ I had a temporary version of that for a while, when the Vorpal Rabbit was perpetually underfoot.

#34 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 01:25 PM:

Rikibeth, #26: Hear, hear! So of course I've ended up with two long-term partners who are serious Outdoorsy Types. We compromise... heavily.

#35 ::: Betsy Dornbusch ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 01:26 PM:

Here in CO, it's helpful to tie bells on your kids' shoes if you're taking them in the mountains. Makes it harder to wander off, and it scares mountain lions away, which tend to track small children as prey.

#36 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 02:10 PM:

ah, one of my pet peeves.. here in the lower 48 it is impossible to get lost unless you really are trying. It doesn't stop dozens of people from managing it each year, but if they'd just pay attention to Jim it could all be avoided. ;-)

Backpacker magazine recently did a stunt where they took J. Random Hiker into the middle of the Bob Marshall wilderness, with a map and compass but no indication of the drop point. He found his way out in 3 days. I backpacked through the Weminuche, the biggest wilderness in Colorado, and found to my distress it was difficult to get out of sight of a road. Wyoming has some good howling wildernesses, but even there, just pick a stream and go down it to reach uncivil-ization within a day. Or, just turn around and hike out the way you came in. It might take a bit longer but it's fairly sure.

The worst place for route finding I've been in is the piedmont forest areas in N. Carolina: no significant topography and plenty of trees to shut out the sky. Once in a trail race the front runner went off the course, after ten minutes the whole pack of us had to turn around and I led the race for a few glorious minutes. Hah.

#37 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 02:15 PM:

In these parts (Western Washington and Oregon), the most important survival tool for back country hiking and, especially, hiking or climbing above 3,000 feet, is a willingness to bag your plans if the weather turns bad: people die every year on Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier, especially, because they've scheduled a climb (or a ski tour, river float, traverse of any of the Olympic Mountain ridge-crossing trails) during their vacation time.

And remember, when looking at your topographic maps, that a whole lot of difficulty and danger can get lost in a ten meter contour interval; the worst off-trail hiking I ever did was crossing the face of a thirty-foot near vertical and mostly liquid exposure of the Salmon Springs Formation in April: the seep was not mentioned on any maps (although the feature was noted in the field notes of the first person to survey the Willamette Meridian), and I'd hiked it in other seasons with no difficulty.

And don't underestimate the danger of domesticated animals whether you're hiking BLM lands in the West where you might encounter cattle or in any number of places where stray dogs run in packs. Again, talk to the locals: they can at least give you an idea of places where you may encounter trouble.

#38 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 04:03 PM:

Funny how much of this applies when doing your navigation planning for VFR flight. Especially the bit about checking whether your map is in feet or meters. That can be a *bugger* if you get it wrong.

#39 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 04:56 PM:


I hear those cumulogranite clouds are a real bitch.

#40 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 05:07 PM:

Reminds me of summer backpacking with my mother, wherein we learn How to Repel Bears, How to Repel Snakes and What to Do After the Third Time Someone Falls Off the Log Bridge (answer: turn around and camp somewhere else). Also, Why You Should Not Believe the Hiker From Texas When He Says It's Too Hot for Rattlesnakes.

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 05:29 PM:

Ledasmom, too many words in that last one.

#42 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 05:59 PM:

Marilee@6: That story is really very odd. The channel between Sheppey and the mainland is quite narrow, and has a bridge crossing it, so it's hard to see how he failed to notice the actual coast.

#43 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 06:25 PM:

I remember one getting-lost experience (though not a problem because it was in town and I could ask directions.)

I was in Oxford, UK, on a morning run on a path along the river. I sort of assumed that if I crossed an even number of bridges I would be on the same side of the river. This turned out not to be true because the river branched.

So rules of thumb may not apply, depending.

#44 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 07:01 PM:

If I can't see the sun, I can't orient myself and everything gets confused. Thus I have embarassingly gotten slightly lost at least twice, although all it meant was half an hour more walking. When I use a compass rather than not bothering, it feels really weird and disorientating to be following the compass rather than what feels like the right direction, but of course the compass is always right.

Except on the black Cuillins, when it was a little off target due to the rocks...
That was a long day.

I remember reading stories of ridiculous escapades had by under equipped walkers in Scotland a decade or two ago, but the rise of cheap outdoor shops, magazines and the internet, as well as the drip drip of Duke of Edinburghs aware, Scouts, guides etc, seems to have helped a lot and I don't recall reading of any odd incidents for years. So that is good.

#45 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 07:25 PM:

Ah, getting lost. I did it with the Girl Scouts on my first backpacking trip. There were more of us than usual, I guess, so we were released in small groups with leaders. Our leader had never been on this particular trail. Our first landmark was a lake, at which we were suppused to turn. We walked and walked, and eventually (after about 7 miles) saw a lake in the distance. We decided that was probably not the right lake, and hiked back. Turns out the lake in question was a dry one, looking remarkably like a pasture (complete with fencing), within a few hundred yards of our start. We got to the overnight camping spot after dark - there was a nice moon, and I spent the night on my glasses case. I was wearing Mom's clodhoppers, using a borrowed pack with Dad's WWII or maybe Korea sleeping bag (down, but heavy and smelly), which I had attached to the frame with twine, which stretches. Since I still managed to have fun, we did invest in boots, pack, bag, and straps.

Since the official route was in the desert, and our detour was into the Sierras, the detour was the prettiest part of the hike.

#46 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 08:24 PM:


I don't suppose you can send your partners off hiking together and stay quietly at home with the teakettle and a good book? Or convince them of the merits of exploring city neighborhoods with you? (The latter works pretty well for me.)

#47 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 10:38 PM:

Betsy Dornbusch @35 (OT):

With the bells on the kids' shoes, the only major risk is that they'll be recruited by roving bands of Morris Dancers.

Happy May Day, all!

#48 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 11:49 PM:

With the bells on the kids' shoes, the only major risk is that they'll be recruited by roving bands of Morris Dancers.

And you consider that a risk, rather than a potential benefit of them learning about a potentially fun social activity that might also provide some inadvertent physical exercise without the drawbacks of competitiveness?

#49 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:07 AM:

Ursula L @ 48 ...
I'm guessing you don't have one of the 'harder, faster, longer' Morris teams near you ...

#50 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:17 AM:

I used to hike a fair amount in the White Mountains in northern New England, and I made a point of reading the accident reports in Appalachia, the annual mountaineering journal of the Appalachian Mountain Club (see Every fatality of the year is presented as a case study, and analyzed in terms of what went wrong. Reading those accident reports helped me to learn that people die in the mountains at all times of the year. Knowing how to get out of the woods before hypothermia sets in could in fact save one's life. Appalachia is a great learning tool.

Another great learning moment for me was when I helped out with a litter carry while dayhiking near Franconia Notch. A young man had fallen and badly sprained his ankle, so he had to be carried out on a litter. It takes six people to carry a litter down a steep mountain trail, and because it's tiring you need to rotate 3 or more teams of six people, so a litter carry can take upwards of 18 people. That young man was pretty embarrassed that he tied up 20 people for two hours, especially because the sprain was preventable (he had been goofing around, and he was not wearing adequate footwear). I decided then and there that if anyone was going to have to carry me out on a litter, it was going to be for something that really was an accident, not something totally preventable.

Another Franconia Notch story: my buddy and I were backpacking on the back side of Cannon Mountain, on a little-used, poorly maintained, fairly steep trail. We meet two young parents and a five year old child coming down the mountain. They had ridden up to the peak of Cannon on the tramway, then thought it would be fun to wander around, then they got lost. No water, no map, no nothing, wearing sneakers, and walking *down* a pretty tough trail. We pointed them back along the trail, and told them they needed to keep going *uphill* until they reached the peak -- simple and reliable directions for that part of Cannon, and just general common sense because if you come in at the peak of the mountain, if you get lost go uphill. This is a rare case where a boundary feature was not a long linear feature.

Arg, this post is bringing back memories of all kinds of backcountry stupidity (including a fair amount of my own stupidity), so I can't resist adding a comment about GPS devices. Any navigation tool -- GPS device, map, compass, sextant, whatever -- only works if you are using the navigation tool to relate yourself to the surrounding landscape. And you should never trust maps, GPS devices, compasses, or any tool if it contradicts what you're seeing in the surrounding landscape. I own a top-notch brand of GPS device, I got a top-quality map to go inside it, and when I checked the map against a landscape I knew well, I found error after error (which is true with all maps, by the way; one of the reasons I like paper maps is that I can make notations on it when I find errors). Back to the GPS device: then when I checked the compass, I found it to be less accurate on known bearings than my old Silva Ranger compass, for the simple reason that the GPS doesn't have a sight on it; and you do need to take bearings because when you're hiking, you don't want to be spending all your time peering down at the GPS device in your hand. Oh, and any navigation tool only works if it works, so you have to keep fresh batteries for the GPS, and you have to keep that map dry and clean, and you have to make sure that compass is kept away from strong magnets, and better keep your sextant in its case when you're not using it.

Didn't mean for this to turn into a rant, but I do get annoyed by people who go into the backcountry without having taken the time to learn the basics of navigation. Actually, I get annoyed by people who venture onto the freeways without having taken the time to learn the basics of driving, but that's a whole different story.

#51 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:59 AM:

There was one memorable Girl Scouts hike that I went on in the middle of July. In California. Which meant it was over 100º. It was around Folsom Lake, so it was impossible to get lost if you had any sense, but there were a few problems along the way. Some of the girls thought that a 2-liter bottle of water was sufficient (I had a 2-quart canteen and was sharing it out until it started boiling.) Most of them hadn't been on long hikes before.

I think the most problematic point of the hike was that the Boy Scouts said the trail was seven miles long. And it was— dead-ending well away from any reasonable stopping point. So the last three miles of the hike were cross-country. Not too bad (pretty level) until we had to cross a giant sticker patch to get to the final parking lot. This was the late 80s, with sneakers that had the interior spilling over to the exterior, perfect to grab foxtails and rub them against your skin. Not to mention the multiple colors of shoelaces. I actually walked the last quarter-mile barefoot, having determined that my tough skin was far preferable to the chafing of stickers— and I piggy-backed another girl as well.

I think it took me several hours to remove the stickers from those shoes, and I don't think I ever got all of the traces.

#52 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 01:04 AM:

One story about my brother in regards to hiking—

After his college graduation, he spent a summer as a camp counselor at a camp in between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. This was a "high adventure" camp, which among other things means backpacking and the possibility of snow. One troop got into trouble, dumped their packs, and came back to camp, and my brother tracked down their stash with nothing more than a map, a compass, and some vague directions.

The reason this is incredible is that this is the same guy who cannot give car directions to save his life. He'll have you turn the wrong way, go around three sides of a square, skip steps entirely... we once figured out there was a problem when his directions required us to drive into the ocean. I mean, serious directional problems in a car. But put him on his feet with a map and compass and he always knows where to go. It's bizarre.

#53 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 07:41 AM:

Here in Britain I don't think I've ever found a real error in the OS maps. Sometimes they mark a path when there is one, sometimes when there isn't, but I'm talking paths that are a foot wide and hardly visible anyway.

On the other hand when I've used 30 year old inch to the mile maps there have sometimes been roads where they aren't marked, in once case cutting off my route since they put the A1 straight through the narrow road I was using. I'm sure i have heard of OS errors, but do not recall anyone ever pointing them out, although the perpetual debate about naming features in English or Gaelic goes on.

#54 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 08:11 AM:

I do know someone who inadvertently took a twenty-mile hike, rather than the seven-mile one she intended, a couple weeks back in Arizona. Had a non-hiker with her, too. They did have CamelBaks, but I'm still not sure how they didn't wind up as little desiccated husks of themselves, lying alongside an Arizona trail.
She doesn't think her friend will go hiking with her. I said I thought that was likely.

#55 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 09:06 AM:

If you go down to the woods today...

When we lived in Alberta, Parks Canada used to hand out a leaflet when you drove into the Rockies:  YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY.  I see they’ve updated it.  It looks prettier, and it doesn’t feature the stark message that I think I remember:  this is their country, not yours.  If you mess up and get mauled, it’ll be your fault, not theirs (or ours).

General points:  before you go for a hike in a new area, check out the local wildlife (animal, insect and plant) and what it can do to you – if you’re not careful.  And never feed the animals.

#56 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 10:07 AM:

@Betsy Dornbusch, #35

Ooh, the old black bear vs brown bear scat joke. Thanks for a fond memory.

#57 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 10:56 AM:

Xopher @12 --

GPS is fine for road travel. It's fine for airplanes. It's fine for ships on blue water, well clear of coasts.

For somebody walking in the woods, it's a snare and a delusion, because "go this way" is intermittently terrible advice, and the device has no way to tell.

Compasses also suffer from this; I used to have to fish mother's little darlings out of swamps because if you're new at following a compass course you tend, all unbeknownst, to head downhill, and what's downhill? Well, in most of the habitable parts of central Canada, downhill gets you a stream if you're lucky; if you're not lucky, it's hello, post-glacial bog, cedar swamp, beaver pond/swamp, pseudo-organic clay lens/muck trap, or generic wet terrain full of unhelpful vegetation.

If the GPS is telling you "go through the cedar swamp", the GPS is trying to get you killed. If you know enough to not do it, and how not to do it, you don't need the GPS (though it might, admittedly, be handy for things like route records); if you don't know enough not to do it, you're not going to have a fun time.

Doug K @36 --

Very probably good advice for the lower 48; in parts of Canada, that follow-the-stream advice delivers you (in some weeks) to the desolate shores of Hudson's Bay, where folk are few and polar bears are starving. Even in places where you just wind up on the upper Ottawa, it can easily be the wrong thing to do.

B. Durbin @51 --

2 litres = 2.11337642 US quarts

(I think your general point is sound, I'm just being very metricified).

I carry water by experience, but, generally, at 20C, 3 ml/kg/hour. At 30 C, 6 ml/kg/hour. At 40 C, you had better be being pursued by the hounds of hell to be out there at all. (110 x 3 x 4 = 1.32 L, which is about right for a morning birding for me.) And remember that water mass always decreases.

Throwmearope @56 --

Black bears are actually more likely to eat people than grizzlies. (Grizzlies attack people because of territory issues; black bears attack people because they are hungry and feel like ground-ape today.) Neither is all that likely, but presuming black bears are harmless is A Mistake.

general comment that I haven't see yet --

For the love of iron and weasels, wear a hat. A real hat, that covers your ears and shades your neck and has a strap or string that will keep in on when gusts of winds or errant tree branches hit it.

#58 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 11:00 AM:

Let me add: Weather. Check the weather, and if it's possible to update on a weather report while you're out on a longer trek, do so. Very bad weather can come up from a clear sky, and weather in the mountains is never reliable at any season. It does not take much bad weather to put someone on foot in a world of trouble.

She said, sitting in Nashville where they have closed interstate highways and pulled the city buses off the roads.

#59 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 11:03 AM:

@Graydon, #57:

I'm terrible about retelling jokes. But the old joke is about avoiding contact with black bears.

They recommend carrying mace and a big whistle and wearing bells on your shoes, just in case you run into a black bear in the wilds of Colorado.

Examining bear scat can tell you what kinds of bears are nearby. Brown bear scat is full of berries and leaves.

Black bear scat smells like Mace and has bells and whistles in it.

I warned you I suck at retelling jokes.

#60 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 11:12 AM:

I didn't know a quart was so small. I've been on hot days walking where 1.5 litres was drunk within the first 4 hours (And thats in the UK) leading to a rather thirsty next couple of hours and 2 more litres of liquid when civilisation was reached.

The offical advice back in the 1990's on GPS was don't use it on Ben Nevis because the accuracy was so poor that it would lead to you having a very short flying lesson. I know accuracy is better these days but suspect more people rely on it than is sensible. The whole point about walking in the mountains of Scotland is that Alpine experts come here and get knocked out by the weather, which goes from sun to rain to snow to wind to rain to sun to wind in one day. Whereas they are used to nice predictable weather which stays the same for days on end. Many times I have applied sun screen then 15 minutes later put on my waterproofs, then later seen mists rising from the hillside, very pretty it was too.

#61 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 11:45 AM:

A quart is a bit more in the UK, since a US pint is only about 473 ml whereas a UK pint is 568 ml, so 2 litres = about 1¾ UK quarts.

#62 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:00 PM:

'If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes' is one phrase used to describe such places.

#63 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:13 PM:

On the GPS vs compass issue--in the rough mountain areas I've gone into, GPS has not been that reliable. In the deep canyons of Northeastern Oregon, for example, you can't always get sufficient satellites to line up and give you a bearing (and by deep, I remind folks that Hells Canyon is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon, and neighboring canyons such as Joseph, the Imnaha and Big Sheep aren't much shallower).

Hats. Urm, how did I forget that one? I always have a hat in the woods, and not a mesh gimme cap either. At the very least, if I wear a ball cap, I have a solid one which covers my ears. Which reminds me that I need to get a new brimmed one this year.

Don't forget your ears when applying sunblock, especially the top of the ears.

And bears--away from human habitation, my experience is that even black bears tend to be shy. Best to be cautious about them in the early season especially, though, as they're trying to make up for hibernation.

Never seen a cougar in the wild. Yes, I've been around them and seen cougar sign. Never spotted them, though. I fondly recall one hiking trip in Tucson where there were warning signs all over the place. DH and I were careful and watchful, but not particularly noisy. We got overrun by a large, loud group that were spooked by the notices and very vocally worried about the cougar--and carrying rocks and sticks. All the time, they were marching under excellent cougar ambush sites without looking around.

We waited until they'd moved on before we went on the rest of our hike.

#64 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:14 PM:

Modern GPS is supposed to be accurate to about +/-10m, provided the US Air Force (or whoever it is now) doesn’t put back what was called Selective Availability which degraded civilian accuracy to about +/-100m.  But there are factors that can give you up to 30m error, such as not having direct view of enough satellites because, for example, there’s a mountain in the way.  That’s one of the reasons why Graydon (#57) is right about sensible uses of GPS.

Your car ‘satnav’ may be a special case if it’s smart enough to assume that you’re on a road if there’s one within the margin of accuracy of where GPS says you are, so that as you move along, it can continually correct itself by comparing the GPS position with the map.  Off-road is a different story.

#65 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Given what's just happened in Boston: is there a Jim Macdonald posting about emergency water purification?

#66 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:27 PM:

There's 'Eat Shit and Die'

#67 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:40 PM:

John Meltzer 65:
I second that. I still need to figure out dishwashing.

#68 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Erik @67

After washing the dishes to remove solids, put them in a tub, bucket, or sink with bleached water. 1/2 a teaspoon of bleach is enough to purify five gallons of water for drinking; for rinsing dishes you could (and probably should) get away with a stronger solution.

#69 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 12:48 PM:

The times we camped in Hell's Canyon, we went in by boat. The main problem that we had (well, that I had) was due to the relative scarcity of dense vegetation down around the bottom of Hell's Canyon. It is a popular place for those nice, slow-moving rafts. The campsites are without pit toilets. Nearly every spot within a fast walk of one's tent is visible to anyone on a raft for a good five-ten minutes.
For those of us with shy bladders, this resulted in a certain amount of pain and a lot of late-night (in the summer, if one wants darkness, very late-night) sprints out of the tent.
The worst camping-with-my-mother incident, though, was in the Wallowas, car camping, before my mother replaced the tent with the sticky zipper. The stomach bug that had already hit the children hit me in the middle of the night. If I say that it was immediately after this trip that my mother replaced the tent, you can probably figure out what happened. Also, the road out of there is long, and bumpy, and quite close to tremendous drop-offs a lot of the time. We had taken two cars and only two adults. It was not fun.
My main piece of outdoors advice: Avoid squatting over poison ivy. Especially avoid doing this at a summer camp where you are expected to ride horses and paddle canoes.
If you are attacked by a black bear, the current wisdom is to fight back - they can be driven off, whereas trying the same tactics with a grizzly is considered fairly unwise.

#70 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 01:09 PM:

@66: Thanks; I just posted to that thread to reopen it and we can move the Boston discussion over there.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 01:10 PM:

Is there a Jim Macdonald emergency water post?

Not yet.

Your four basic choices are boiling, distillation (which you might think of as boiling with fancy additions), filtration, and chemical purification (usually iodine or chlorine; choose your poison).

Fresh drinking water is going to be a major world problem moving forward. Watch for it.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 02:00 PM:

Graydon - I was mainly thinking of GPS as the answer to "where the hell am I?" rather than to "how do I get out of here?"

Might help you find your place on the map. As long as it's working, works better than a compass for telling you which was is North when you're near a lot of granite. Stuff like that.

#73 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 02:22 PM:

Xopher #72 - that reminds me of 8 years ago or so, when I was walking across Kinder Scout in the Peaks District. It was winter and the mud was frozen, and the clouds were below the top, so I just took a compass bearing across the central part of the diamond shape, not too bothered about how accurate, because the thing about Kinder Scout is that it is a giant diamond of bog that is 150 metres or more above the surrounding countryside. So you know when you have reached the edge of it because there's a big drop.

Maybe 25 mins later (I walk fast) I reach a path, see the drop ahead of me, and a gap in the cloud lets me see another cliff at right angles, which put me here x.
Then this guy approaches me and asks where we are. I pointed out the spot on my map and he thanked me. Meanwhile behind him his two companions were struggling with a fully unfolded 1:25,000 scale map, and one was reading what sounded like a 6 or 8 fig grid reference off a hand held GPS. These people looked exactly like they had no real idea how to read a map, how to guage the terrain and match what they see with what is on the map (which is a learned skill and mines a bit rusty) and I didn't see a compass. Plus a 6 fig reference when standing on a path between bog on one side and cliff on the other seems a little redundant, because you've got two choices of where to go, and it should't be too hard to work out whether to go forwards or backwards to the nearest path off the hill.

(And actually I took the wrong path off the hill myself later in the day, because it was getting very dark and I ended up misreading the landscape. But it was a path downhill to the road and that was the main thing)

#74 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 02:31 PM:

Xopher @73 --

"Where the hell am I" is necessarily in relation to terrain. 30m off (or even 10m off) can put you, for instance, on the wrong side of a stream on the map you're using to relate the GPS information to the terrain. This can be very bad. (And if you think it's easy to get stream flow direction in all circumstances, you need to spend more time in the woods in August. The wrong-side mistake from a GPS receiver can easily turn into a "Oh, I'm pointed exactly opposite of the direction I thought" mistake, which is why it's bad.)

If you're going into actual wilderness there is absolutely no substitute for being good with a topo map, able to rapidly and reliably relate the map to the terrain and the terrain to the map, and having the map.

GPS as a technology only knows where you are; it doesn't know where north is. It gives you heading only when you're moving; it's a pure positioning system, and gets bearing and speed from comparing a history of time-stamped "where I was" values. You generally have to walk 10 or more meters at a reasonable pace (1 m/s or faster) to get a handheld GPS device to give you a reasonable bearing.

"Electronic compasses" are still magnetic compasses; they use a field sensor rather than a needle. So they have all the accuracy problems a traditional compass does, and eat batteries, which the traditional compass doesn't.

There is a completely accurate electronic compass, the Fiber-Optic Gyroscope, but those don't, so far as I know, come in sizes small enough to carry casually; they come in sizes down to 10 kg or so, which is dandy for even small vessels on the water, but not what you want to carry on a hike, even without considering the power supply.

I keep hoping someone will figure out how to make a decently portable one; it should, in principle, but possible to make a single chip design.

#75 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 04:34 PM:

Compasses: before setting out, check (somewhere where you know which way is north) that the red end of your compass actually points north. I was once in a party where the main compass which was to be used actually pointed south. Not really a problem, so long as you know about it in advance...

I have no inate sense of direction. I'm reasonably good at retracing a route. But I try to always have a compass on me even when in a strange city, never mind countryside.

Also, in hill fog/low cloud with say 10 ft visibility you discover that when you thought you were navigating by compass direction, actually you were navigating by landmarks confirmed by compass direction. The time I got lost in low cloud/hill fog on Scafell Pike (granite, compass direction sent me off on a small path which stopped after a few hundred yards) I knew that if I went too far one way, there was a large drop-off, while too far the other way I'd end up in the wrong valley with a 20 mile walk back to the car. Not fun. I was very relieved when I dropped down below the clouds and was able to get properly orientated.

guthrie @ 60: similarly changeable weather in the Lake District of course. And people don't always bother reading the weather reports (available in the windows of numerous outdoor-gear stores) telling them that while it's 24 C in the valley, it's 0 C (with windchill) on the tops.

And even in such a relatively small area as the Lakes, people can get very lost. Although the bloke who (in perfect visibility) started off at Buttermere/Crummock Water, intended to go up one peak and back down again, and ended up in the Duddon Valley (about 20 miles away, if I recall correctly) still astonishes me (he has to have passed Wastwater, which is a fairly recognisable).

#76 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 06:33 PM:

I grew up in the Yukon river valley. It's a big river and a big valley, but I would read in books about people getting lost, and be baffled. No matter where you go, it's impossible not to know which way the river is.

"Toward the river", "up-river", and "down-river" were all the directions we ever used. We had USGS topo maps, but we used them to figure out tricky routes to stalk game; nobody ever carried a compass, because magnetic north was off just a bit north of east in Canada somewhere and why would you need it anyway? The river's right over there.

#77 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 09:20 PM:

VCarlson @ 20
Engrave it if you are in a place where you are Not From Here. Check with the locals, ask the locals, check with the locals.

Iowa is relatively flat and very cultivated compared to most states. Doesn't matter. Every year someone either tries to climb the very friable cliffs at Backbone State Park or the very friable cliffs at Maquoketa Cave State Park, or the very friable cliffs at Palisades State Park. There's a theme here - limestone formations with intermixed shale and a relatively moist climate get you some fairly friable limestone.

If you don't know whether something that sounds really cool is as cool an idea as you think, ask someone who knows the area, first.

#78 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 09:40 PM:


Know, too that there are ways to confuse compasses; I was walking transects for a plant species survey, and found that the four-wire barbed wire fence that ran east and west was really attractive for about 48 hours after it was hit by lightening. This is where the BS detector part of your navigational skill set needs to be put to use: does the use of your instrument according to plan keep putting you in places which make no sense?

#79 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 09:59 PM:

WRT bells on shoes - in the days BV (Before Velcro), specifically the '60's, Mom had my sister, and later my brother, in little contraptions that slip under the knot and had (just) room to stuff the bow, with a screw-on lid to hold it all together, finished off with a bell on top. This kept one's laces contained and tied, as well as furnishing an aural clue to location. By the time you had the strength and dexterity to unscrew the end, you were (presumably) also sensible enough to not untie your shoes.

In public, she also kept the current little one on a harness and lead - particularly useful for kids who see something interesting and just head for it, paying no attention to anything else - like cars. It was also useful for car travel - there was a strap that could go around the back of a bench seat with a traveling ring the harness could clip to. This was in the days before cars routinely had seat belts, never mind real car seats. Since my sister, especially, liked to see where we were going, which meant standing up, this was one less thing for the driver to be thinking of.

#80 ::: paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 11:27 PM:

my most frequent random hiking was on family land which was basically 1/2 mile wide by 1 mile long. Which did not present too much excitement.

When I went hiking up in Jackson Hole (where my family went every summer from my 8 years old or so until after I'd left home) I took all precautions with water, etc. because of common sense and Girl Scout training.

Except for one time almost being able tp pet a bull (in velvet antlers moose on the muzzle my training served me well. He was swathed in a willow treelet and I did not see him until he sneezed and the outflow hit me.

We were both very conciliatory, I backed away respectfully and he stayed in place to use the willlows to keep the mosquitos from feasting on the in-velvet antlers.

#81 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 11:50 PM:

Note: if you are going for a walk, do not go to visit your mistress in South America.

#82 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 12:27 AM:

In regards to the canteen size— it might have been a gallon— old-style round canteen with a shoulder strap. (My dad has since gotten hip-carry Army surplus bottles, very nice.) The two problems I see with carrying a water bottle (probably not 2-liters even; newborn mom syndrome means I'm screwing up details due to lack of sleep*) is 1) they're not very big or well-secured and 2) you're tying up a hand.

*Don't go into the wilderness on lack of sleep unless you've got somebody else looking out for the details. You'll forget something vital.

Oh, and just from personal experience, don't be the only female in a group of adolescent boys on a fourteen-mile hike, and not from any gender issues. "Why are you so slow?" "Why are you running uphill?" That was an interesting experience, as was the drive back. [call for pickup gets reply] "Are you okay?" "Um, yeah." "Nobody's sick or anything?" "... What happened?" Half the staff and a third of the camp was down with a stomach bug while our group— from the two hardest-hit sections— was hiking into the trackless wilderness...

#83 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 06:41 AM:

When you're walking, or setting up camp, keep your eyes open for the Five W's:

Wood, Weather, Water, Wigglies, and Widow-makers.

Know where the fire wood is. Is the weather changing? What situation will you be in if it does change? Are there bugs, germs, or snakes around? And not just dead trees or branches, but dry washes and crumbling rock.

#84 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 06:59 AM:

dcb 21

In the Lake District (UK), I -have- been known to go out without one, but only when all the locals said there was absolutely no chance of clouds coming over for a couple more days!

Thereby freeing up space for a large net with which to catch any pigs that might have been flying overhead?

#85 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 07:28 AM:

B. Durbin #82: The two problems I see with carrying a water bottle...

My day pack has two net pockets on the sides, just right for 24-ounce water bottles. Since it got hot here, I've been partly filling and freezing them the night before, then refilling them in the morning. Adds a fair bit of weight, but even for our day hikes, I usually need both of them.

#86 ::: Nickp ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 09:17 AM:

I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but at least in the eastern US, it is helpful to carry a small stick to wave away spiderwebs blocking your path. A mouthful of web and an orbweaver dangling from my nose is something I don't particularly enjoy.

#87 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 09:34 AM:

In western Europe, there really is no such thing as absolutely no chance of rain for days. With sophisticated meteorology you could maybe guarantee a couple of hours on a good day, but usually not. It is by far the easiest solution to always plan on rain, in some way. This, by the way, applies everywhere, not just in the wilderness.

Actually, most of the risks, and therefore the advice, applies to some extent in urban areas as well.

I don't think it is granite which confuses magnetic compasses, but some ferrous mineral which is strongly correlated with granite. All of Finland is within a few metres of trillions of tons of granite, the country being on top of the largest single piece of granite on the planet (larger than the country, fwiw), but only about a quarter of the country has magnetic anomalies. They are very intricate though, you might go from an anomalous area to normal and back every couple of kilometres when walking a straight line.

#88 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 09:45 AM:

B. Durbin @82 --

Carrying a water bottle in your hand is indeed an act of madness.

(Though you can get shoulder straps for 2L pop bottles these days; these make for a fairly decent cheap canteen for strolling along the boardwalk, traversing the zoo, or giving to those who have not yet achieved the age of responsibility, just as long as you don't use them to lug the pop that came in the bottle.)

I normally carry (this time of year) 2 1L water bottles in dedicated water bottle holsters on a belt pack. In high summer (which is fixing to start around May 20th this year from current temperatures) I carry two 2L collapsible water bottlesin the same dedicated holsters. I also carry Gatorade powder in 60ml jars.

If I was actually going anywhere, rather than toddling around birding, I'd carry more than that. I go through water pretty fast.

#89 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 10:02 AM:

Things you can do with GPS:

Get a numeric bearing and direction to your starting point (like where you parked the car). (You still need a map and compass.)

Record a track of where you've been (approximate, but potentially useful).

Let you record where interesting or important things are. Worst case, you have a casualty, but part of your group can get to where rescue can be summoned from. GPS coordinates combines with a description of the location, much better than either alone. And the dumb mistakes are different to map and compass work.

(If you can't afford to split the group, why? Bad weather is one thing. Lack of skill, quite another.)

Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome, includes an example of the mess you can get in on the moors, when the clouds roll in.

#90 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 11:23 AM:

Dave Bell@89: Yes, that's a good case for how a GPS is useful in addition to the other tools, if you know how to use all of them. I think people with real outdoors experience (not me; I don't explore the Big Room much) have seen too many people who don't have the other tools, and don't have the skills to use even their GPS sensibly, and are starting to consider them a snare and a danger to idiots.

GPS tracks can be auto-correlated to timestamps on photos from the hike. Or you can buy a little GPS that mounts to my camera (not every camera supports this; but some have it built-in) and feeds in the location for each picture, so the data is in each image file right from the beginning. I think some models have a compass or something, because they claim to record the direction the camera was pointing as well (obviously this only works if they attach to the camera in a standard orientation; mostly they slip into the flash shoe).

I'll have to buy something in this area next time I go on a big trip; mostly I'm shooting all weekend in one building (SF convention), and GPS isn't a useful way to record which room I'm in at any given time.

#91 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 11:38 AM:

Thought before jumping up and chasing this day, which is already getting away with me: the most lost I've ever been on foot was between the Library and the beach at The Evergreen State College, a trail with which I'd been familiar since childhood (my father's Aunt Myrtle having lived in the neighborhood) when I was befuddled by the first fall of Bigleaf Maple leaves, which smoothed away small landmarks and created false trails into the middle of a devil's club patch.

#92 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 12:28 PM:

DDB @ 90 -

Some time ago on a newsgroup, Lucy Kemnitzer responded to my remarks about weather with words I remember as being like "observe the Canadian assumption that the weather is just waiting to obliterate you".

It's not that people are idiots; it's that a lot of people go into wilderness without the expectation that it is purely indifferent to their survival and well-being. It's not malice, but then again it doesn't need to be.

No human society is anything like that; even really rough and nasty ones fail to be indifferent to human concerns. So the mindset is very different, and a very great many people don't have it.

#93 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 12:39 PM:

But GPS for your pigeon is just fine.

#94 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 01:05 PM:

Graydon@92: Going into an environment you don't know, without finding out about it, and without limiting your degree of adventure to your level of knowledge, is getting up near "idiot" territory by my standards. But I'd be willing to settle for some less-emotional term conveying "in danger of making a common and yet still potentially fatal mistake".

I'm getting echos of Niven's Belters' attitudes towards the planet-bound -- we're used to an environment we've spent millions of years evolving to survive in, which means we're incurable optimists (I first said "billions", but really, it's changed so much in that time that the first few billion don't count). And here it turns out to be true even right here on the home planet.

Pamela and her mother and I did about 5 miles of the Wye Valley Walk in 1987, ending up at Tintern Abbey, which was fun, if unexpectedly strenuous (the UK idea of a 'trail' seems a bit skimpy to me). Then in 1994 Caroline Stevermer and I got up to the old Roman road along the crest of the ridge our rented cottage in the Lake District was at the bottom of, and walked along it and came down behind our cottage. But I don't do it enough to really be in shape for it, or have my habits all in line, so I have to think it through a lot. Clouds definitely come down and obliterate visibility on those Lake District ridges.

#95 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 01:08 PM:

The question that raises in my mind, Jacque, is how stable is the role of "leader" over time, and how does it change? Is it context-dependent?

#96 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 02:10 PM:

Tom, I think that's covered under the "further investigation." :)

Speculating based on my observations of guinea pigs, it's probably somewhat stable, but varies depending who's present. If Tiny is around, she's always alpha. If it's just the babies, alpha probably is going to be Fox. Whoever's in heat calls the shots, because she's the one with The Attitude for the day. Like that.

#97 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 02:29 PM:

Tom Whitmore #95: I think humans are the only creatures that do "context-dependent" hierarchy. (Defending territory doesn't count, and pigeons aren't territorial anyway.)

#98 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 05:36 PM:

Graydon @92: There's an easy way to spot the Japanese tourists in Yosemite, as opposed to the Japanese-Americans: The Japanese are wearing sandals. Pretty consistently. Odd, but probably an offshoot of that mindset.

#99 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 08:46 PM:

Expanding on the weather forecast advice:

If you're considering hiking in slot canyons, you need not only the weather forecast for your immediate area, but for everywhere upstream. And in deserts, the forecasts are often local and unpredictable enough (of the "it will rain somewhere in the area this afternoon, but don't ask us where" variety) that the only reasonable precaution is "don't hike slot canyons during the rainy season". If there hasn't been rain anywhere in the general area for a month, and won't be any for another month, you're probably safe, but clear blue skies overhead can be accompanied at the wrong time of year by thunderstorms over the horizon that have produced a flash flood, and in a slot canyon that will kill you. (Remember, more people drown in the desert than die of thirst. Not quite fair, since heatstroke isn't included under "thirst", but still worth remembering.) That said, as others have emphasized, bring more water than you think you could possibly need.

#100 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 10:01 PM:

Vicki, #46: Oops, bad phrasing on my part -- said partners were in series, not in parallel. :-) My ex did have a group of friends that he could do outdoor stuff with, while I was happy to accept the role of "the person who knows where you're going and when you're supposed to be back, and will call the rescue line if you're seriously overdue". My current partner... well, we don't have time to do much outdoor stuff anyhow, and he doesn't mind cutting back to a level that I can live with, which mostly means nothing really strenuous.

fidelio, #58: Glad to hear you're okay.

#101 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 08:09 AM:

Guthrie@73: Kinder Scout is by no means a doddle in any weather, even if you know it well.

When I were a lad, there was an urban (rural?) myth that a compass was useless on Kinder because of iron ore deposits. I think it was put about by either a) gamekeepers concerned about the grouse shooting, or b) wiser adults wanting to keep city kids like us away from danger.

#102 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:26 AM:

Lee #100--Thanks.

The water plant has been saved!

Now, here's hoping my office building makes it through as well.

#103 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:22 AM:

One of my hiking buddies looked at this page, and suggested I mention: Wearing two pairs of socks under your boots can make a huge difference in keeping your feet from blistering. (The layers rub against each other, rather than your feet.)

#104 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:24 AM:

B. Durbin @98 --

Disbelief in thistles!

I see that in urban Canadians, too. It won't hurt you in an urban park, or even a lot of the conservation areas. But get into anything even resembling actual wilderness -- such as a field-border or hedgerow or un-managed forb and the nice lightweight shoes or sandals are a mechanism of suffering.

#105 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 01:48 PM:

praisegod barebones @ 84: There -have- been occasional UK heatwaves where this was applicable. Very rare, admittedly*. I did take only a windproof on a little walk over Loughrigg from Ambleside to Grasmere back in 1995, when I stopped on my way driving up to Glasgow for Worldcon. So hot I swam in Grasmere, was dry by the time I got to Rydal Water, swam again, was dry enough to get back in the car when I got back to Ambleside.

The next day, of course, the weather broke and we kept having to explain to the Americans that, really honestly, we'd just had several weeks of hot, sunny weather before they arrived!

ddb @ 94 Clouds definitely come down and obliterate visibility on those Lake District ridges. They do indeed, but from my experience, it's not the ridges that are a problem - keep following the ridge (which often has a worn path along it) and you know where you are. It's the flatter tops, generally with less obvious paths (because people have spread out more while walking) that are more of a problem for getting lost on.

Teemu Kalvas @87: In western Europe, there really is no such thing as absolutely no chance of rain for days. As Brits have been known to say to Americans: you have climate, we have weather.

Teemu Kalvas @87 (again) but some ferrous mineral which is strongly correlated with granite That makes sense. However, as a warning, knowing that if you're on granite, your compass might be messed up, is better than nothing.

Graydon @ 104: I hike in Teva sports sandals all the time, including 20-mile plus hikes, going up Striding Edge (Helvellyn) etc.. Yes, you have to be a bit careful with e.g. thistles, but I still prefer them to boots (more comfortable, less weight, greater flexibility, and you can cool your feet off in any stream on a hot summer's day walk). In wet/cold weather I've been known to wear them with waterproof socks. And when I stepped in a bit of bog a few weeks ago, it would have been above the top of my boots, but was not above the top of my waterproof socks.

* Okay, "for the next two days" was hyperbole, but I have been known occasionally to trust the locals if they all say no, it's definitely not going to cloud over the rest of today.

#106 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:29 PM:

dcb @104 --

I am going to risk much ire and point out that there has been no wilderness on the Isle of the Mighty for a thousand years. I can well believe you could get away with that in those conditions, especially the long-term presence of pathways. I suspect it might be less successful in any long-established forb or field margin absent the paths, even so.

(Note that while I do not myself wear sandals, I have nothing against them as footwear for walking; many people obviously get fine results from them.)

The intensity with which I would dis-recommend such a practice anywhere on the Shield, well. Not enough ankle support, complete absence of puncture resistance, you can get stuff caught through them (this is bad enough with boot laces; the experience of reaching into thick black water to untwine strong, sharp-ended, slime-coated, arbor vitae roots from your boot laces in the freezing dark is one I could wish more fantasy authors had had), ants, ticks, a variety of biting flies that are entirely delighted to attack ankles (goretex socks might slow them; knit ones won't), lack of even very modest crush resistance, and a further variety of unpleasant plants (diversely toxic, sharp, and clinging) are all reason to prefer sturdy footwear that rises at least over the ankles.

#107 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:19 PM:

Dcb #105 As Brits have been known to say to Americans: you have climate, we have weather.

Within America, Easterners (and probably Mid-Westerners) say it to West-Coasters, and especially to Southern Californians.

#108 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:58 PM:

dcb, David Harmon, I thought it went "Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get?"

Climate tells me I'm probably safe to put the snow shovels in the basement THIS weekend. The vagaries of weather kept me from being willing to do it before the middle of last month.

#109 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:39 PM:

Graydon #88: If I'm carrying just one water bottle, I do carry it, generally, in my hand (provided it is the type made for hiking and not, say, a converted soda bottle). I hate the feel of something swinging from my belt or pack. But if I'm somewhere where it's necessary for safety to have both hands free, I do clip it. This includes the path to my currently-favorite coffee shop.
I prefer a good pair of hiking sandals to nearly any other sort of footwear, even in situations when they might not appear to be ideal (light snow,heavy rocks). I cannot recall ever having had a blister from hiking sandals.
The organization and planning necessary for camping/hiking safely in anything even approaching wilderness are why we only do such things when visiting my mother, who is capable of organizing. She just bought a second pair of Limmer boots, having resoled the first pair enough times that there was nothing left to attach another sole to.

#110 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 02:49 AM:

dcb@105 That makes sense. However, as a warning, knowing that if you're on granite, your compass might be messed up, is better than nothing.

Probably useful everywhere else in the world. Here, your government agency topographic map will actually include detailed information on the magnetic anomalies on it, because otherwise compasses would be useless. There is another huge granite shield below the Hudson bay and surrounding areas. I don't know what Canadian mapmakers do.

#111 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 02:13 PM:

Teemu @110 --

In Canada, every single official government topographic map has a section for magnetic declination -- the magnetic north pole moves pretty quickly, so this is "when we made the map, plus a per year adjustment". Actual mapped magnetic anomalies happen, but we don't have all that many, relatively speaking. (There's one in Kingston Harbour, frex, and as I recall the map basically says "if you're standing in these parts of the map, assume your compass is drunk".)

Ledasmom @109 --

My objection to carried-in-the-hand water bottles comes from the "oops, dropped" problem. Bottles dropped in inaccessible places leave you out of water and the landscape stuck with something else that won't rot. I don't like anything swinging, either, so I don't use clips, I use bottle holsters, which I find work pretty well for preventing the bottle from achieving independent motion.

#112 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 03:02 PM:

I don't believe I've ever dropped a purpose-made water bottle. Finger through the loop that holds the cap on, thumb on top of the cap. Thumb pushes down on the cap while walking to keep the bottle from swinging at the end of its arc (that is, when the arm finishes its forward motion and pauses; I find this makes a better walking rhythm). If it's in my hand I drink more. Just the effort of unholstering or unclipping makes me less likely to drink as frequently as I should.
This doesn't, of course, apply to systems where one has a straw from the water supply to near one's mouth. I admit I've always wondered about cleanliness with those.
The one thing I don't like about stainless bottles is that they aren't as nice to hold; one can stick a finger through the loop on the cap that a clip is supposed to go through, but they tend to jam my fingers when I do that.

#113 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 03:35 PM:

This seems as good a place as any to ask an unusual question: What non-spoiling (or spoils slowly enough without refrigeration that it doesn't matter) liquid do you carry for hikes/travel when someone in your party cannot tolerate plain water?

What is good or bad about non-diet soda, hot or iced tea, Gatorade (or pre-mix packets with real sugar to make same), Kool-aid (or pre-mix packets with real sugar to make same), etc. for maintaining/restoring hydration? Sparkling or non-sparkling, flavored or not, "mineral" or not, water is right out. We've tried them.

Seriously, for the person I'm thinking of, "plain" water administrated orally in quantities larger than about 4 fluid ounces US per half hour or hour (ie, not nearly enough volume to keep from dehydrating) will cause severe nausea and will sometimes cause vomiting. This has been true for this person for at least a decade or two, regardless of water source or temperature. They are otherwise a reasonable and competent adult - the problem is at least a deep psychosomatic issue, if not an outright physiological phenomenon. This person won't consume alcohol, so beer isn't an available substitute even if it wasn't already proscribed.

#114 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 04:22 PM:

cajunfj40@113: I'm not that bad; when thirsty I can even drink plain water if it's cold enough. What I do when I can is squeeze about 1/4 lemon per liter in, including dropping the squeezed pieces in. I also fill my bottle with ice at the beginning of the day; cold helps a lot for me.

Since this is probably a personal idiosyncrasy in both cases, I'm not particularly confident the same things would work for both of us!

Lemons don't do anything nasty in several days even without refrigeration; I don't do multi-day trips so I don't know how I'd handle that.

#115 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:08 PM:

cajun #113: Have they tried Emergen-C? I think that'd be ideal in a lot of ways--it already comes in small, flat, premeasured packets, in several different flavors, and if I remember correctly, one or more of them do the electrolyte recovery thing as well. I find them to have more of a taste than flavored waters, and the ascorbic acid content makes them a little fizzy-tasting too. I have an outdoorsy friend who swears by them.

They might not be the thing if it's a hot day and they need to drink lots, just because of the vitamin content. And they may not be un-watery enough (I don't mind plain water, so I can't give a 100% thumbs-up). But it may be a thing to try.

#116 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:13 PM:

Teemu @87 is certainly correct to say that you can't guarantee no rain for days in western europe, however I disagree on the couple of hours thing. In my local hills when I was growing up, the Pentlands, it was pretty obvious when it was going to rain or not for most of the day, that is if you were local and read the signs. The fact that I always had a waterproof in my rucsac was habit, there were many days when I looked at the weather forecast the night before, looked outside at breakfast and thought yes, a nice dry day to go for a walk. Lo and behold, no rain.

#117 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:36 PM:

cajunfj40: TruLemon and TruLime. Concentrated lemon and lime juice, respectively, with added citric acid. Comes in convenient takealong packets, in shakers, and in larger bulk packs intended for cooking.

I don't have a problem like your friend, but I drink a LOT more water if it's got a little flavor. This is apparently a common trait of the elderly. Which I am. Dammit.

Anyway, a packet of these in a liter of water does the trick for me. I wish they would put in less citric acid, actually, but it's pretty good anyway.

#118 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:47 PM:

TruLime looked hopeful to me, but I found I needed more than two packets in a GLASS of water; it seems like it's pretty weak. The flavor was good enough when I got the quantity up. I suspect putting the rind and pulp in when I use actual fruit helps me a lot.

#119 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:58 PM:

ddb, given the amount of citric acid in that product, I don't think you're doing your kidneys any good. You won't get UTIs, but my urologist told me a long time ago that if everything that goes through you is acid it increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood that calcium oxalate crystals will form (that is, you'll get kidney stones).

#120 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:58 PM:

Thomas #18:
Sunblock is also highly recommended (mandatory even) if you're outdoors in New Zealand. The UV levels are high; we are close to the Antarctic ozone hole & there is relatively litle air pollution. We have one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world.

Lin D #30:
Just this week, not listening to local advice led to a death. New Zealand lacks large predators, the fauna mostly benign; it's the terrain & weather that's more likely to do you in. Mountain weather can change very quickly. But the Department of Conservation websites provide much useful information for persons intending to experience the various tracks.

#121 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 06:26 PM:

#41 ::: Xopher

In re "the hiker from Texas:" we (Ledasmom, her mother, and I) were trudging along and we ran into said luninary from the Lone Star State, being sociable we were discussing what we had seen, what we were going to watch for and what we were going to try to watch *out* for.

Which brought up the question of rattlers, where the Texan stated that this weather was simply too hot for the rattlers to be out of their dens.

about 15 minutes latter, sedately slithering across the trail was one of those rattlers.

My mother-in-law's sole comment was "Well, so much for our Texas correspondent." Which phrase has occasionally served as both an in-joke and in lieu of pithy comment.

(Actually, there have been a couple of times we *have* taken automobile-navigable roads into Hell's Canyon, but the majority have been by boat.)

#122 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 06:31 PM:

cajunfj40: The old guy I used to go hiking with, who was a master of the art, would make stuff he called "punch". To a quart of water he would add a couple of heaping spoonfuls of Tang, and a slightly smaller amount of instant coffee crystals. I tried some and it wasn't bad, but it was a distinctive taste. It suited him. This is after he went sober. Before that he drank more Jim Beam and Old Overcoat.

#123 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 09:14 PM:

I used to take even thirds cold strong black coffee, grapefruit juice, and homemade unsweetened cranberry juice to fencing tournaments.

Replaced electrolytes, picked one up, and no one would steal it. (I thought it tasted pretty good, myself, but the colour put people off.) Not suitable for hiking, though; too much coffee.

These days, I carry around 60ml HDPE jars of gatorade crystals; one will do for a litre of water. That's more an afternoon thing than a morning thing, though, since I'm usually drinking plain water.

If around 100ml of water could make me vomit, I'd be seeking medical advice, myself. But in the specific case, what matters is "what, that isn't a diuretic or prone to rotting, will this person drink at a rate around a litre an hour?" Whatever that is, that's what you use.

#124 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:11 PM:

ddb@#114, TChem@#115, Xopher@#117, Tom@ #122, Graydon@123:

Thanks for the suggestions, but lemon and lime are out unless combined with copious sugar. Coffee is right out.

Graydon@#123: "what, that isn't a diuretic or prone to rotting, will this person drink at a rate around a litre an hour?"

Aye, that's the angle I'm tackling.

Hideous as I think the stuff is, the answer to that was, at least recently, McDonalds' Sweet Tea. (My tastes would require maybe 30/70 sweet/unsweet to make McD's tea drinkable...) Before that, it was Mountain Dew - but I'm very happy that the consumption rate of that particular stuff has gone down to maybe 1 can per one to three days or more. The recent carbohydrate restriction (hopefully temporary as it is part of a condition with a definite due date, and the restrictions are making eating way more stressful than they need right now) has shifted things to plain Lipton tea sweetened with Splenda. Crystal Light and similar products are considered disgusting. Diet soda as well - Sprite Zero is somewhat tolerated, not sure how long that will last.

So, as well as any other "not plain water" suggestions, how do I tell whether something is a diuretic? Google searches tend to turn up the "everybody knows" type info that I find unreliable - the Flourosphere has been consistently better on other topics, so I figure I'd try this one.

Thank you all.

#125 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:17 PM:

It isn't just the granite (or magnetite in granite). The magnetic north pole and the north pole are not in the same location, so magnetic north and true north are not the same in most locations. This is called declination and it varies depending on where (and when) you are. It is written on some maps. Really fancy compasses* will have a way to reset the needle to account for it.

*The third most useful tool to a geologist in the field is a Bruton survey compass (after a rock hammer and a hand lens). My mother ended up with one from her sister and my father (a survey archeologist) had been borrowing it. I tried to get it from her, and was told I had to ask my father. Foolishly, I tried to convince him that I needed it by telling him about all the cool awesome features, including the inclination adjustment. That made him want it even more. He does have a point about how he does more field work than I do.

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:36 PM:

Thanks for the suggestions, but lemon and lime are out unless combined with copious sugar.

Does it have to be sugar? Can it be Splenda or something?

#127 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:10 AM:

Someone's offering a Brunton survey compass that seems to need repair on eBay currently -- just started, six days remaining, no bids at a $20 minimum. Might be cheaper than talking your father out of it, affreca. Url is

#128 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:30 AM:

cajunfj40: My preference is to go to the supermarket and get bulk powdered lemonade mix, looking carefully to at the ingredients to make sure it has real sugar and is not artificially sweetened. In your case, it seems like you just need something with flavor, so it could be anything. Also, you can dilute it more or less to taste. Caffeine is a diuretic and therefore is not recommended for hydration. Alcohol is also a diuretic but you already ruled it out.

#129 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:38 AM:

I don't think anyone has yet mentioned the value of carefully applying sunblock to the underside of one's chin (and ears, etc). I have conducted controlled experiments and when walking across areas with lots of granite or snow, or when boating. It turns out that the sunburn potential of reflected light can be quite significant. (Note, these were controlled, which means I tried it both ways, not planned. I wasn't going for the Ig.)

#130 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 04:21 AM:

guthrie and others,

I wonder how much we Brits have been corrupted by socialised weather forecasting?

(More seriously, our wilderness areas are quite big enough to kill you, but too small for the weather there not to hit the populated places before the next forecast.)

#131 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 09:47 AM:

Caffeine is a mild diuretic and would require consumption of very large quantities of coffee or tea to cause dehydration. The problem is, people get sloppy with the use of "diuretic", because technically, it's anything that causes diuresis, or urination. Water, then, is a diuretic. What you need to keep in mind is hydration. You can drink coffee or tea and maintain hydration quite well; in contrast, alcohol does dehydrate the body.

Rehydration solutions -- as Marilee can tell you -- contain not just water but also sugars and salts, to keep the body from just passing the water through the kidneys and out. Your friend needs something that's a more concentrated solution, which is why the McD sweet tea was so beneficial. With the carbohydrate restriction, your best bets are the teas sweetened with Splenda. Your friend might consider making his/her own tea using tea leaves or bags, controlling the level of steeping to give more or less concentrated flavor, then adding sugar substitute to taste. There's a lot of differently flavored teas available in bags.

#132 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 10:45 AM:

Ginger (131): My understanding of caffeine as a diuretic is that one retains less of a caffeinated drink than an uncaffeinated one but it's still a net gain. In other words, caffeinated drinks won't dehydrate you, but you do need to drink more tea (e.g.) than water for the same hydration level.


*medical practitioner

#133 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 11:36 AM:

Mary Aileen @ 132:

I don't quite understand that conclusion..a diuretic causes diuresis. There's been no statistical significance in urine volume following caffeine vs non-caffeinated drinks. In the Armstrong paper of 2002 (see below), the summary indicates that consumption of caffeine drink resulted in 0-84% retention of volume ingested, whereas consumption of water resulted in 0-81% retention. That's not enough to label caffeine as retaining more.

I can't link to the studies because the journal is behind a paywall, but here are the three interesting papers:

International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2005; 15(3):252-265 -- three levels of caffeine consumption; no signs of dehydration or hypohydration. [Armstrong, et al.]

same journal, 2004; 14(4):419-429 -- studied rehydration with Coca-Cola vs Caffeine-Free; found no difference in hydration status [Fiala et al.]

same journal, 2002; 12(2):189-206 -- a review article of the literature; found no one had reported any physiologic basis for dehydration with caffeine consumption. [Armstrong, LE]

#134 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 11:57 AM:

Ginger (133): My understanding was that caffeine made one retain less, not more. The figures you cite make it sound like something of a toss-up, however.

In any event, I learned this "fact" in the context of refuting the oft-seen claim that drinking caffeinated drinks will dehydrate you. (Unlike alcohol, which actually does. Or am I wrong about that, too?)

#135 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 12:23 PM:

Caffeinated drinks won't particularly dehydrate you; what they will do is make you optimistic.

Optimistic is a good way to cause suffering in a wilderness context.

#136 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:04 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 134: Well, we both agree that drinking caffeinated drinks will not dehydrate the consumer..and yes, alcohol is known as a dehydrator.

Graydon @ 135: The point I'm making is that recent research has clearly shown that caffeinated drinks do not dehydrate the consumer. There's no difference in urine output or electrolytes between groups consuming caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks.

#137 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:32 PM:

Ginger @136 --

No argument with respect to dehydration.

Caffeine (or any other stimulant) still tends to make you functionally stupid. ("of course I have the energy to walk that far!", etc.) This is one reason to stick to slow-to-digest trail snacks, too. (Better nuts and dried fruit than bread, sort of thing.)

#138 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:38 PM:

Graydon @ 137: No argument there!

#139 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:33 PM:

This entire thread is convincing me to never set foot on a nature hike not confined within, say, a fenced lot where one edge can be seen from the midpoint at all times. Which is probably a good way to live longer rather than dying hideously in the wilderness, Yay?

#140 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 03:22 PM:

Fade, simply walking down a city street can put you at all sorts of hazards--including brown recluses dropping out of trees and taking bites.

#141 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 04:30 PM:

joann #140: "walking down a city street" -- never mind the spiders, worry about the traffic! :-)

#142 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 06:07 PM:

David Harmon #141:

I minded the spider big time, believe me. Residential street, middle of block, *no* traffic. I had thought the only possible hazard would be some abandoned tricycle, that being all I'd ever encountered before in those precincts. But then, no one expects the reclusive imposition.

#143 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 06:47 PM:

Ginger@#131, 133, 136, 138; Graydon@#135, 137:

Thank you! Especially for #131 and 133 with actual info and cites (which I can probably access through my library's very extensive access list), this will make the individual concerned *very* pleased. Finally, actual numbers so they can say "I can drink whatever I damn well please, so long as it is mostly water." Yes, limit caffeine and sugar for other reasons, but for hydration purposes virtually anything wet will do. Sounds like I need to find Gatorade packets in the "approved flavors" (I'll have to ask...) and try an experiment with Splenda.

Xopher@#126 we're already experimenting with Splenda, with mixed results. Tea is OK so far, the first Kool-Aid experiment was put down the drain.

TomB@#128 also thanks - lemonade is good sometimes, usually the "pink lemonade" stuff. In any case, it has to be full strength.

Note to all: I'm generalizing heavily from this backwoods info to "regular day to day life" on the basis that "if it is OK to drag along for hiking hydration, then it is very likely OK to drink on a regular basis, absent other proscriptions or problems".

Looks like I've got most of the info I need: look for electrolytes if possible, try to limit caffeine, sugar is OK unless contraindicated for other reasons (ie current carb restriction, future tooth health, etc.).

The takeaway that pleases me most? Cited notes that caffeine makes no measurable difference for hydration purposes.

Semi-final clarifying question: Why are soda pop/soft drinks/etc. bad, for general day to day hydration purposes, other than because it has caffeine, lots of sugar/calories and the acid content plus the sugar can cause tooth problems? (For the moment, treating HFCS as "the same thing as sugar"). I'll treat the dental health/calorie intake bits as "issues to be dealt with after satisfactory hydration takes place".

Optional area for musing, though I'm afraid I'm leading the thread onto well-paved roads leading away from the main topic: Why would sweet liquids seem to satisfy thirst more reliably than non-sweet liquids? (I dunno, I'm a water drinker.)

Thanks again.

#144 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:20 PM:

joann @140, I do not deny that cities are hazardous! But the repeated refrain, in the post and this thread, of how very much Mother Nature wants to kill me, and how us idiot city folks go out into the wilderness and do idiot things (which then kill us idiots) because of not realizing this... well, it convinces me that, all told, I'd rather stick to the city, where I'm at least aware of the dangers. And, frankly, where if I get killed by a car turning left on a red light and killing me-the-pedestrian, I at least won't have everyone's comment on my death be "What an idiot for not preparing properly for entering that environment!"

#145 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:34 PM:

cajunfj40, #124, my body is strange at handling water and electrolytes and I use Sqwincher Quikstik packets. They come with sugar, but I use the Lite. Renal patients tend to get diabetes and I plan to stay away from that.

#146 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:52 PM:

cajunfj40 @113, I do not know about trail conditions, and I scrolled down directly from your question to post this answer, but I do have some experience with this, as I don't enjoy plain water.

Things that actually contain natural sugars tend to spoilage, and this includes herbal teas. Camellia sinensis unsweetened a bit less, but it still can happen, and the diuretic effect of the caffeine will somewhat offset the hydration benefits.

What I've been using, lately, is 4C brand flavoring packets designed for 16.9 ounce water bottles. I like them because they're sweetened with Splenda rather than aspartame, and thus don't taste vile to me. (I bought some Crystal Light ones in an emergency and they made water move from unappetizing plain to undrinkable doctored.) My palate thinks that half of a packet designed for a 16.9 ounce bottle is more than enough flavor for a 1-liter bottle -- that's what I have, in stainless. Klean Kanteen, I think -- good design for my needs, as it is narrow enough to fit in the car cup holder, and indented at the neck for grip.

This mixture does not spoil, even in a hot parked car, and remains palatable even when the ice I stick in my bottle melts and it comes up to tepid or warmer.

4C offers a variety of flavors. I only use the lemonade, but I would be willing to give the others the benefit of the doubt if they sounded appealing by name. (Strawberry-kiwi holds no charm for me, no matter the brand.)

The Celestial Seasonings similar packets, sweetened with stevia, are also at least somewhat palatable, but I like lemonade better than Berry Burst or Tangerine whateveritis, so 4C gets my business. I have not heat-tested the Celestial Seasonings packets.

Red punch flavored Gatorade packets make palatable red punch flavored Gatorade, even out of sulfurous Florida tap water, and even for a supertaster (not me, my housemate) but it IS calorically-sweetened and electrolyte-added Gatorade, which may not suit your friend.

#147 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:56 PM:

joann: "But then, no one expects the reclusive imposition." Owwww!

But OK, I hadn't realized you were speaking from experience! (And I have to wonder, "why would it do that?")

Cajunfj40: Soda has way too much sugar, and quite a bit of salt as well. A little sugar and salt in your water helps with absorption, but commercial sodas can reasonably be called "a candy bar in a bottle".

At that point, you start seeing countervailing effects -- the body needs to commit water both to dilute the sugar (and salt) and to metabolize it. Also, the blood sugar spike will heat you up (metabolism again), then the crash will sink your energy levels -- neither good for hikers.

#148 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:56 PM:

also, cajunfj40, is the person 'song? I know what I suggested for everyday hydration -- adding Ribena to her water. I might not take Ribena-flavored water into a strong heat situation, because of the high sugar content.

Maybe unsweetened Kool-Aid mixed with a reduced proportion of real sugar?

#149 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 08:05 PM:

cajunfj40, another problem with soda is that unless you pre-flatten it, it will tend to explode any bottles you transfer it to for trail purposes. Ask me how many times my day camp fluffernutter was destroyed by raspberry soda - Cott's or Sun Glory brand, Stop & Shop's old value-conscious house brand, remember that? in glass quart bottles, before the metric age? -- which I had wheedled my mother into putting in my little Thermos. More than once, anyway -- I was not a fast learner.

#150 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 09:36 PM:

#142 ::: joann

I minded the [brown recluse] dropping out of trees and taking bites big time, believe me. Residential street, middle of block, *no* traffic. I had thought the only possible hazard would be some abandoned tricycle, that being all I'd ever encountered before in those precincts. But then, no one expects the reclusive imposition.

But aren't brown recluses painfully shy, hence the name? What are the chances yours was rabid?

#151 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 10:09 PM:

cajunfj40@143: Well, David Harmon beat me to it, but I can add that most sodas also have too much phosphate as well. If diluted, they'd be acceptable.

I've trained my son to think of carbonated water plus fruit juice as "home-made soda". He prefers Perrier and something fairly sweet, like grape juice or blueberry juice. I buy juices that are mostly juice (and not HFCS), so we're starting off with good things.

Of course, he likes to then add Grenadine to make a "Shirley Temple". Sometimes he uses actual soda for this. I like to mix Ginger Ale with orange juice, a combination my mother taught me.

I find the best use of soda is mixed with crappy beer, which we call a shandy, although technically a true shandy is lemonade and beer. Even with bad soda and crappy beer, it turns into a surprisingly refreshing drink.

#152 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 11:08 AM:

David H #147, Carol K #150:

Special circumstance involving a younger tree and night strolling near a construction site across from a prairie greenbelt (creature could originally have come from either). So OK, maybe not totally the best example of pure city-type hazards. I brushed against a low-hanging branch, and the next thing I knew, I was swatting something incredibly painful off my arm. Pain levels and bite mark pattern suggested recluse or near offer.

#153 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 11:56 AM:

(a little disappointed at not being taken to task for rabid arachnids)

So, how bad was it? Did you lose mass/flexibility around the bite?

#154 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Carol K #153:

Could have been a lot worse; there was a dime-sized dimple on the back of my arm in a fleshy part above my elbow that looked pretty gucky for a week or so and then rapidly got better; healing process took a couple months total. We credit cleaning it out thoroughly as soon as we got back to the house, 10 minutes or so away.

So I lucked out. But I really do not recommend the pain, which was like inserting a white-hot wire down the nerve.

My husband's always had a revulsion for spiders that I never quite got. Now I do.

#155 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 01:05 PM:

Fade @139 --

Keep in mind that my viewpoint is heavily informed by having done some remarkably dumb things in my misspent youth. (Eg., walking on the ice of the Ottawa River in the dark; deciding to go through the ~km of cedar swamp; night running in deciduous forest; night movement in pine forest, in the rain, in the dark-like-a-coal-mine middle of the Mattawa plain.)

If you don't do remarkably dumb things and don't decide you're invincible, walking moderately wild spaces is a very pleasant thing to do, much of the time.

#156 ::: katster ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 01:37 PM:

On the GPS issue, I've recently gotten into geocaching.

One of the first things I was shown was this t-shirt, which serves as a reminder to be aware of your surroundings and the danger of following the little line on your GPS to where you want to go.

Figured it tied into this discussion.


#157 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 02:43 PM:

Marilee@#145: Thanks for the Sqwincher suggestion, I'll have to see if they are available locally.

Thanks for the 4C suggestion - Splenda is on the "Yes" list - I'll have to find some. Not many teas other than plain black/pekoe Lipton meet the taste-acceptance criteria when cold, unfortunately. Black Currant, which I happen to like, was found disgusting. The Celestial Seasonings with stevia sound interesting to me - I like the stevia flavor - but it is contraindicated currently for the person in question, under the general "Nobody's tested it properly" heading. Gatorade is already in the "like" column, I may play around with mixture strength after the sugar restriction is past, but "weak" anything tends to get put down and forgotten.

David Harmon@#147: Yes, the high calorie problem, we're both aware of it. The Splenda experiments brought on by the current carb restriction are helping me attempt to foist substitutes. Interesting about the "heavy sugar and electrolytes impedes hydration" bit, I hadn't know that. Any guidelines as to how many calories per given liquid volume marks the point of diminishing returns and/or reverse of desired hydration effect?

Rikibeth@#148: is the person 'song?

Eh? This is not an abbreviation/acronym/other construct that I'm familiar with. Google insists that the ' does not exist when I ask it to search, too.

As for the erupting vacuum bottle/exploding glass bottle problem - BTDT, though it was my shirt that caught it, not my lunch. Nissan brand vacuum bottles (at least the old, dented, scarred one I have) have a tight enough seal that they don't leak soda even upside down - but unsuspecting persons unscrewing the lid will get showered. Actually, thinking a bit harder I think the problem is that it has a double seal - one down at the bottom of the screw-top, plus an o-ring between the underside of the screw-top and the top of the bottle neck. Some soda would leak past seal #1 and get caught in the unpressurized space, on top of seal #1, ready to be spewed out when the seal allows the pressure to get out.
Shame about the Fluffernutters - though I've never had one, I hear they are quite good and most foods aren't rendered "better" by being made soggy.

Ginger@#151: Thanks for the "too much phosphate" bit as well - I assume that's from the phosphoric acid content, or are there other ingredients on the label I should be on the lookout for?

Our daughter already gets watered juice instead of full-strength most times it is offered, but she guzzles plain water without complaint most of the time anyway.

I'll have to try the Shandy thing for myself when it finally gets hot around here. Low grade beer and soda are available cheap.

Again, thank you all for your suggestions - time for me to get shopping!

#158 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 03:29 PM:

I've found a lot of Gatorade flavors to be cloying and mucousy to the point of hair-trigger nausea. It's been off my list for a long time.

#159 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 03:47 PM:

Earl @ 158: I worked at a summer camp for several years, and one discussion that came up a few times was the "trail food" discussion. As in, some foods taste really-really good while you're hiking, but appalling in any other circumstances. Gatorade was often cited as something that tastes a lot better when you need it.

Another one that came up was a competition-winning concoction— for creativity and simplicity. It was dried ramen noodles and Lawry's Seasoning Salt. The staff member who told us about it— he'd been a judge— said that yeah, it was pretty horrible to contemplate, but he'd had some on a hike and it actually worked.

And on that note, summer camp is the only place where I've actually liked sugar cereals such as Lucky Charms and Honeycomb at breakfast. As part of that near-mythical "balanced breakfast" with juice and eggs and sausage and toast... you use a lot of calories when you're on the job all day at 6000 feet.

#160 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 03:49 PM:

Graydon @ 155: This is moderately reassuring to hear! ...but I suspect that by this point, I've been frightened off trying to do anything more nature-related than walk on a sedate, flat, quarter-mile trail with a fence all around the outsides of the property.

It's not so much the danger that scares me off; it's the way I keep running into people who, knowing a lot more about the wilderness, view those who don't with scorn. To the point of telling amusing anecdotes along the lines of "We took a friend out on a hike, and she expressed surprise at X, so we roundly mocked her for it for the rest of the trip! And played jokes on her to trigger her uncertainty about being out in the wilderness! Ha ha! Stupid city folk!"

I can deal with "Mother Nature wants to kill me, so I'd better do research." I'm a little too socially uncertain to deal with "People who know what I should be doing will laugh at me if I expose my ignorance, and then mess with me." When I was a kid, not knowing about how to handle the outdoors usually meant people would tell me, but as an adult, it seems a lot more likely that they're just going to make fun of me for not knowing.

#161 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 04:55 PM:

B. Durbin #159:
As in, some foods taste really-really good while you're hiking, but appalling in any other circumstances. Gatorade was often cited as something that tastes a lot better when you need it.

I happily drink tap water so have nothing useful to add to the discussion about flavouring water. That said, the most delicious water I ever had was from an Alpine stream after several hours hiking. If you're thirsty enough... I also find that during multi-day walks, I prefer my food to be more highly salted than normal.

#162 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 05:45 PM:

Carol 153: (a little disappointed at not being taken to task for rabid arachnids)

I typed a response to that, then decided you were joking and that it was obvious that you were, and that I'd only look like a pedantic wretch if I corrected you.

I am, in fact, a pedantic wretch. But I try to avoid showing it in public.

Fade 160: I can deal with "Mother Nature wants to kill me, so I'd better do research." I'm a little too socially uncertain to deal with "People who know what I should be doing will laugh at me if I expose my ignorance, and then mess with me." When I was a kid, not knowing about how to handle the outdoors usually meant people would tell me, but as an adult, it seems a lot more likely that they're just going to make fun of me for not knowing.

Ding! Ding! Ding! That's the paragraph above ringing major bells for me. Why would I want to go anywhere, at any time with people who will make fun of me and play tricks on me? I had my fill of that before I was 15, and I expect adults to have grown out of such behavior.

#163 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 06:00 PM:

Xopher @ 162: I am, in fact, a pedantic wretch. But I try to avoid showing it in public.

There's a Pedantic Wretchery NIght every Tuesday at the Prescriptivist Cafe!

...or there should be, damnit. Why is there no Prescriptivist Cafe in my neighborhood?

#164 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 06:01 PM:

It's not so much the danger that scares me off; it's the way I keep running into people who, knowing a lot more about the wilderness, view those who don't with scorn. To the point of telling amusing anecdotes along the lines of "We took a friend out on a hike, and she expressed surprise at X, so we roundly mocked her for it for the rest of the trip! And played jokes on her to trigger her uncertainty about being out in the wilderness! Ha ha! Stupid city folk!"

Yeesh. IMO, the problem is not the wilderness, it's the people you're dealing with. I doubt I'd want to walk down a city street with people like that.

*gets evil glint in eye* OTOH... if they're not city-savvy, maybe I would like to walk down a city street with them. All that mocking and let-me-play-on-your-fears business? I think I could manage some of that. I know a number of places here in Oakland that read to outsiders as sketchy and unsafe, but where I feel quite comfortable walking around. And maybe my thuggishly-dressed neighbors down the block with the pit bulls would be willing to play a part in the skit. That might actually be fun...

#165 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 06:03 PM:

Lexica @ 164: To clarify, because I can see it being read otherwise, these aren't good friends of mine, or anything like that. It's more like "When the topic comes up in social places that I hang out online, various people step up to express those views." I don't think my friends would act like that... But then, I didn't think anyone would act like that to a friend! And yet there they were, posting it as a charming anecdote, and having people laugh about it. So it makes me nervous.

#166 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 06:18 PM:

B. Durbin, #159: I hear that a lot about Gatorade, and I don't buy it for a minute. That stuff is so vile I can't imagine even drinking it out of desperation; I'd throw up, and what good would that do me? [Further comment redacted out of consideration for those who, like me, have ultra-vivid imaginations.]

Fade, #160: Good point. Why are some things safe to be uninformed about, while other things are considered fair game for junior-high-level behavior?

#167 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 07:04 PM:

#153 ::: Carol Kimball @ 153: (a little disappointed at not being taken to task for rabid arachnids) Sorry to disappoint you. I would have taken you to task (complete with cites!) but was away from the thread for the last day or so, due to attending my brother's wedding.

#168 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 08:18 PM:

cajunfj40 #157: Any guidelines as to how many calories per given liquid volume marks the point of diminishing returns and/or reverse of desired hydration effect?

I'm not sure about the numbers, but ISTR that the issue is at least part of why Gatorade includes polysaccharides (instead of straight sugar) -- to reduce the osmotic backlash. But again, it's not just sugar that's the issue, there's salt and (as Ginger points out) phosphate. The key issue here is that soda manufacturers want you to drink more, so if you finish the bottle and you're "still thirsty", that's all to their good.

Earl Cooley III #158, Lee #166: The point is that you need to be not just "thirsty", but actually low on water, electrolytes and blood sugar. It's just one of those cases where your bodily condition can dramatically change your tastes. That said, gustibus non disputandum....

Fade Manley #165: I can understand where you're coming from there, but I'd put that under "the assholes come out online". You can certainly flag the authors of such comments as people you'd rather not go hiking with!

#169 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 08:30 PM:

David Harmon @ 168: You know, you're probably right. That's a much more useful reaction than going "Augh, if I ever set foot outside a city everyone is going to be MOCKING ME! I must stay within city limits at all cost!" ...I mean, the latter may well be true--especially in the state I'm living in--but it's not a particularly helpful attitude for getting things done.

#170 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 09:34 PM:

Carol @153; Xopher @162: Disappointed at not being taken to task by rabid pedants.

#171 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 09:58 PM:

Carol @153; Xopher @ 162; Rob Rusick @ 170: Am phobic of spiders, could not be anywhere near post. Luckily, am vaccinated against rabies.

#172 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 11:11 PM:

If you ever want to learn far too much about hydration, hang out with people training for marathons. The really annoying thing is that if you drink too much water, it's also very dangerous, and the symptoms are easy to confuse with dehydration. The condition is abnormally low blood-sodium levels -- hyponatremia. You're unlikely to hit it outside of an environment where people are pushing water at you every 2 miles.

If it's not particularly hot, and you're not pushing yourself further than usual, drinking anything remotely sensible should be fine. If you are pushing, anyone can get nauseated. Marathon training programs have you start using the same beverage and snacks at short distances early in the training, to find out what you tolerate best. Different things work for different people. The energy snack that worked for me was Sharkies, which is rather bizarre, because I can't say I like them. Think gummy bears, shaped liked sharks, that don't taste particularly good and that have electrolytes in them. But I could keep them down.

#173 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 03:31 AM:

When I was in high school in the 60s we got handed salt tablets when we were in PE class. I'm guessing that changed when sports drinks were invented, since the tablets probably didn't break down as quickly in the body as the liquids did.

Anybody else remember those?

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 04:03 AM:

I remember the giant popsicles of salt for the cows in my grandpa's fields.

#175 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 08:11 AM:

I remember the giant popsicles of salt for the cows in my grandpa's fields.

Sigh. I remember salty popsicles too...

#176 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 08:14 AM:

One of the treats of my youth was to sprinkle salt on an apple's flesh just before taking a bit out of it.

#177 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 09:36 AM:

Whereas the flesh I liked to taste produced its own salt.

#178 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 09:58 AM:

Anyone wants to come to northern New Hampshire, I'll take you walking in the woods and I promise I won't mock you, no matter what. We'll have a great time.

#179 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 10:18 AM:

Xopher, like this?

#180 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 10:19 AM:

What they said, variously, both about Gatorade being nasty and being drinkable if you really need it.

We keep it around in the wintertime for rehydration after snow shoving sessions. The local rule is "Drink the Gatorade until it tastes gross."

#181 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 10:22 AM:

Xopher, have you been working on your writing again?

The SCA fighters I used to run with at Pennsic made a concoction of Gatorade and cheap powdered sweetened iced tea; there may have been a third element in the water but I forget. It was sweet enough to curl your tongue, but I never noticed any deficiency of hydration. Must have been the absence of phosphates.

#182 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 12:33 PM:

There's three separate sugar/salt/water issues that are perhaps being conflated.

1) If you are sweating more than usual, you are losing sodium. If you do this enough, you need more sodium. This was the rationale for salt pills, in Ye Days Gone Bye.
The body actually needs only very small amounts of dietary sodium, but it takes a while to adjust -- Israeli army research, IIRC, shows that 2g/day sodium (less than the US daily recommendation) is still sufficient for people exercising vigorously in the Negev as long as they adapt to it slowly.

2) There is a specific molecular pump that transports two sodium ions and a molecule of glucose, and the water associated with them, out of the gut. This pump still works during diarrhea, hence the success of oral rehydration therapy, and it provides faster water absorption even in healthy people. A low concentration of dissolved stuff is important: if there aren't many spare water molecules per dissolved ion, then the sodium and glucose that you absorb don't get to carry much water with them. Also note that if you eat a candy bar and then drink your sports drink, the sugar from the candy bar still counts towards osmolarity in the gut.

3) Exercise uses up calories.

Commercial sports drinks target all three problems. Particular homemade analogues may be specialised for one of the uses. It sounds as though Mark's SCA fighters were looking for energy as the main priority.

One problem with the sodium/glucose cotransporter is that hypotonic salt/glucose or salt/oligosaccharide solutions don't taste good, so sports drink manufacturers add acid to improve the flavor. Unfortunately this tends to be phosphoric acid, which as Ginger said supplies more phosphate than you might ideally want, but it's cheaper than citric acid or ascorbic acid.
Actually, if you might be dehydrated then large doses of ascorbic acid may not be a wonderful choice either. There is some (modest) evidence that high levels of ascorbic acid increase the risk of kidney stones.

All that said, if you are just taking a pleasant hike through the mountains, rather than running a marathon or crossing the Simpson desert or cycling up an Alp, the question of plain old water vs anything else mostly reduces to de gustibus non disputandum

#183 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 12:46 PM:

When I'm hiking in Morrowind, I try to stay away from Red Mountain unless I absolutely have to. Too much time spent there will ultimately give you blight storm silicosis.

#184 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 01:32 PM:

Thomas #182: Thanks for adding more details!

#185 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Fade Manley #169: That's the spirit!

#186 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2010, 01:01 PM:

Mark @181, I was the one mixing that tea-and-Gatorade concoction in the blue 5-gallon Thermos dispenser, and I can vouch that the only other ingredient was water. It was mixed at half the tea powder for volume plus half the Gatorade powder per volume, so full strength and sweetness when done but a little lower on official electrolytes -- unlike the half strength Gatorade mix we put in the water-bearer canteens, to get more water than other stuff into the silly buggers heavy list fighters.

Yeah, the Gatortea would curl your tongue from sweet, but it went down pretty easy at Pennsic.

#187 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 01:59 AM:

@ Fade: That hike I cited, where I was the only female in a group of adolescent boys? I found out later that I'd become a bit of a joke in that regard— one of the coordinators was joking with a bunch of scoutmasters how I'd taken along "books" (as in, one pocket tree guide) and way too much water (a gallon jug pressed on me by the program director, in case one of the scouts fell short.)

It made me mad, but since I hadn't heard this directly I couldn't confront the guy. (I dislike reacting to hearsay.) I did, however, talk to one of the other staff members who had been on the hike, more of a hard-core hiker, and he agreed that I hadn't done anything stupid on the hike and shouldn't have been the butt of a joke. ("Girls are stupid," is what it really boiled down to. The guy was engaged; wonder how long it took before she decked him.)

I won't make fun of you if you come hiking with me. Especially since I'm out of condition and will probably be panting after the first half-mile.

#188 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 07:43 AM:

B. Durbin @187 --

I have a propensity to over-packing.

I haven't needed the space blankets yet, nor the rope (3.2kN/4mm line is remarkably willing to pack densely, and while I hope I never need to fish a fellow birder out of a stream, rope is one of those impossible to improvise things), nor the (teeny, nicks-and-blisters) first aid kit. They're still in there, and likely to stay, and even if they were needed, I doubt the general amusement would go away.

Can't say as it bothers me much; this is one of the contexts in which optimists are idiots, inescapably and by definition.

#189 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 09:51 AM:

188: "Rope! I knew I'd want it, if I hadn't got it!"

rope is one of those impossible to improvise things

Not true. If you're a Hero, you'll find that there are always handy creepers or vines lying around or hanging off branches within arm's reach.

Anyone wants to come to northern New Hampshire, I'll take you walking in the woods and I promise I won't mock you, no matter what. We'll have a great time.

Anyone who accepts this invitation is not nearly genre-savvy enough... :)

#190 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 10:41 AM:

ajay @189 --

It is not my custom to throw books. Nor is it my custom to hurl them, propel them, to fling them with malice and violence, to launch, flip, toss, or trebuchet them, nor to cast them wrathfully to the substrate and don the sort of heavy, clompy, thick-soled boots most satisfying for leaping-up-and-down-upon-the-deserving purposes. But that kind of nonsense with immediately useful load-bearing vines? It does rather awake the impulse.

Enough rocks, stream, arbor vitae bark, sticks, and stubbornness and you can make rope, and it will let you do something decidedly artsy for the poor sorry soggy corpse's grave marker when you finally find it and contest possession with the coyotes. (Contesting possession with the snapping turtles is a special equipment sort of situation.) Whereas, well, aside from the painful to the servants of darkness properties and the self-unknotting aspects, your modern synthetic fiber line is getting mighty close in mass, capacity, and utility to that elf-rope Sam had.

#191 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 10:48 AM:

Graydon, 190, gives us further proof that not all of ML's genius lies in poetry.

#192 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 12:19 PM:

188/189: I love this place. If only because by the time I read the comments, someone else has already made the appropriate literary allusion.

#193 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 03:05 PM:

Lee @192: I was only thinking about (was this only my campaigns?) the tendency for D&D character inventory sheets to include a 20' chunk of rope, 'just in case'.

#194 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 03:20 PM:

ajay @189, Lee @162, Elliott Mason @193

Then there's the inappropriate cultural reference:

Connor: [picking out weapons and gear] Do ya know what we need, man? Some rope.
Murphy: Absolutely. What are ya, insane?
Connor: No I ain't. Charlie Bronson's always got rope.
Murphy: What?
Connor: Yeah. He's got a lot of rope strapped around him in the movies, and they always end up using it.
Murphy: You've lost it, haven't ya?
Connor: No, I'm serious.
Murphy: Me too. That's stupid. Name one thing you gonna need a rope for.
Connor: You don't fckn' know what you're gonna need it for. They just always need it.
Murphy: What's this 'they' sht? This isn't a movie.
Connor: Oh, right.
[picks up large knife out of Murphy's bag]
Connor: Is that right, Rambo?
Murphy: All right. Get your stupid fckn' rope.
Connor: I'll get my stupid rope. I'll get it. This is a rope right here.

#195 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 05:03 AM:

194: i can haz citation pls?

#196 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 06:46 AM:

@#195: 194 is The Boondock Saints.

#197 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 06:53 AM:

BTW, for the self-unknotting thing with elf-rope, it's a fairly simple trick. But you need a lot of confidence if you're doing it over a significant drop.

#198 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 09:58 AM:

Macdonald@197: Is there a name for the knot used for the self-release trick? I've got references, but don't recall one obvious choice (and I'm not very good with knots, I study it periodically but don't make regular practical use of it). Don't worry, I won't go over a significant drop counting on having done it right; I'm just curious.

#199 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:15 AM:

ashley #1119 has been a traditional choice for self release.

and it comes with a life-time guarantee!

#200 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:55 AM:

It might be worth looking up the history of Rogers' Rangers, and the WW2 use of the toggle-rope by British Commando and Airborne forces.

Incidentally, for a proof that you don't need a rope to climb a mountain, see the Verdon Gorge video here (BBC America page).

#201 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:27 PM:

#198 Is there a name for the knot used for the self-release trick?

I'm certain that there is, because it's in Ashley. Alas, I can't lay my hand on my copy of Ashley right at this minute.

#202 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:38 PM:

Well, if it's in Ashley, I've got it; I can probably find it by poking at uses or such and looking around a bit.

#203 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:39 PM:

@198, 199, 201--

in order to avoid potentially lethal confusion, i should say explicitly that ashley #1119 is definitely *not* the knot you want. it's the hangman's noose, which is the opposite of self-releasing, except in the sense of duke vincentio's line:

he hath released him, isabel, from the world

whether we can gain any self release by that means is entirely unknown to us--for all we know, it may be a self-binding to troubles worse than any we have here.

sorry--it was just a silly joke at 199, but then i got to worrying about doing some actual harming by leading someone astray.
don't play with nooses.

#204 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 01:11 PM:

kid bitzer@199,203: Haven't been home to look it up. But I use it for wrist lanyards on pocket knives and flashlights, if that's what it is. Because I can adjust the tension of the loop slipping fairly easily, and hence adjust the lanyard size without really messing with the knot. Did a couple of new ones, in a new black cord I got, just the other week, for the new flashlight, which come to think of I learned of first here on ML.

As I said before, but in more detail, I will not be suspending myself or anybody else from knots recommended in cryptic comments on ML :-). Well, unless unrelated research convinces me it's actually a good idea, and ideally I've practiced it with somebody who knows what they're doing.

#205 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 01:28 PM:

Rikibeth @108: Just heard a new one today: "You know you live in Colorado when you use your heat and your ac in the same day."

#206 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 07:15 PM:

Jacque, #205, I started doing that recently. I used to keep the condo at 70F all the time, but I've been diagnosed with Raynaud's and have to keep my hands and feet warm. Now I have the heat on until I go to bed, when I turn the AC on. When it gets hotter, I think I'll just have the AC on and change the temp.

#207 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:58 AM:

There was a reference to such a knot in Edmund Crispin's "Swan Song", which I quote approximately:
"It's called the Hook, Line and Sinker."
"Because," Fen said, "the reader has to swallow it."

#208 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:17 AM:

Some notes on amounts of water: I've been taking weekly hikes in the Virginia Appalachians (near the Shenandoah Valley). For the last few hikes (August), I've been packing a good two quarts of fluid, in three bottles averaging 24 ounces each -- one each water, ice (soon to become water), and Gatorade.

On last week's 9.5 mile hike, we had 90°/90% weather. I finished the water (sharing some) plus most of the Gatorade, and didn't piss until we got back to the car (and then not much). That's how much I was sweating.... Meanwhile, the hiking buddy who was borrowing water had to bow out 2 miles short, and wait for us to drive back and pick him up afterwards.

#209 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 08:42 PM:

I have little to say about hiking, but I'll post here using my sturdy boots to stomp a residual spam message.

#210 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2012, 11:17 AM:

A recent story from up in my neck of the woods, with a happy ending.

Short version: Person gets lost in the woods. Has food and water, shelter, and fire. Stays put, sets up camp. Fish and Game comes and gets her as soon as the word gets out that she's missing. It's all good.

#211 ::: Kandy Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2012, 06:53 AM:

As with any outdoor adventure, don't forget your panties, you never know when you might get rescued from the tower.

#212 ::: Tom Whitmore wonders if it's spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2012, 09:43 AM:

First time poster, but actually relevant (though with a comma splice, unfortunately common these days). No link. Really hard to tell!

Poetry, Citizen Hammer?

#213 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 05:24 PM:

Do you guys know how charmed I am that all three of you are watching the recent comments that closely? Almost like you're waiting for an interesting conversation to develop further or something.

(The speed of unpublishing should tell you that you're not alone watching that closely...)

#214 ::: Men's adidas Samba Primeknit FG ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2017, 06:39 AM:

This review is for the design that doesn’t have metal eyelets for the lacing holes (photos to follow. .having trouble with uploading) . The lacing holes are in double rows. The sneaker alone is a really nice looking AND very comfortable shoe before you even add the LED factor. The toebox is soft,adidas NMD originals Mid City Sock PK Boost very stretchy, and roomy.
Men's adidas Samba Primeknit FG's-adidas-Samba-Primeknit-FG.html

#215 ::: Cadbury Moose hoists the spam flag ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2017, 07:16 AM:

Spamfighting crew to Bldg. 214, please

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