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 Ultralight Backpacking vs Traditional Backpacking

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Night Hiking and Other Backpacking Ideas

By Steven Gillman

What do you do when you need to be home instead of backpacking? Dream up new ways to backpack and new ideas for backpacking gear. Here are some of my most recent backpacking ideas for products and techniques.

New Backpacking Ideas - Products

Swamp cooler t-shirt. This is for hot desert hiking. Just soaking your shirt in a stream and wearing it wet is a great way to keep cool from the evaporative effect, but twenty minutes later you are far from the stream and the shirt is dry. The idea here, then, is a shirt that has water bags attached. Once filled, they slowly leak the water into the fabric of the shirt, keeping you cool for hours.

Solid fuel fire starter sticks. Add a strike-anywhere match head to army fuel sticks and you have an instant fire starter. It would be something like a mini emergency flare.

Rain cape tarp. Not of a poncho, but a tarp that has a chin strap and a few velcro attachments down one side. It would be cheaper and simpler to manufacture, and easier to actually use as a tarp. It would also easily cover you and your backpack. If you have ever held a rectangular tarp around you and over your head to keep the rain off, you get the idea.

Disposable water container. The idea here is to have a water container for those long hikes in the desert when you need to carry extra water. When you have used it up, the container, which is made of wax paper, doubles as a good fire starter, eliminating its weight from your pack. Existing waxed milk and orange juice cartons could be used for this.

Backpacking Ideas - Techniques

Create body heat. You can carry less cold weather wear and sleeping gear if you have more body heat. To create more, eat fats before going to sleep. Fats create heat when they are digested (this is why eating whale blubber helps Eskimos stay warm). Corn chips are oily enough to help if you can't stomach a half cup of olive oil before bedtime.

Air conditioning your tent. On hot and dry days, try wetting any large piece of cloth in the nearest stream and laying it over the roof of your tent. The evaporative cooling can lower the interior temperature of the tent by ten degrees. If you are using a shirt or other clothing that you'll be needing, allow enough time before dark for it to dry completely.

Night hiking. I purposely planned a five-day backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevadas to coincide with the full moon. Each night I slept until the cold bothered me, then easily hiked through the rest of the night by moonlight. It got to carry a lighter sleeping bag, and it was a unique experience - one of those backpacking ideas I had wanted to try for a while. However, it did mean taking a leisurely nap in the sun every afternoon.

Steve Gillman is a long-time advocate of lightweight backpacking. His tips, photos, gear recommendations and a free book can be found at

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Like this article?  You may also enjoy:  Hiking Shoes- Light & Cheap by Steve Gillman, Do Walking Sticks Conserve Energy by Steve Gillman and Breakfast Recipes by Steve Gillman


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