Hiking The Trail’s Top 25 Posts from 2013

Here is a look back at the 25 most popular posts of 2013.

1. 35 Reasons to Hike The Appalachian Trail

2. 2014 Backpacker Gift Guide – Hydration

3. Whats inside my emergency Kit

4. Asolo FSN 85 Boot Review

5. Armchair adventures 50 great documentaries 1 – 10

6. Gear Review – Hi-Tec Sierra Trek WP Boots

7. Adventures in Dehydrating – ground beef

8. Gear Review: RIBZ Front Pack

9. Timberland Radler Camp Shoe Review

10. 5 Reasons Why Hiking is Better Than Going to the Gym

11. 7 Types of Campers [InfoGraphic]

12. Backpack has been chosen: ULA Catalyst

13. Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Videos

14. A Guide To Cold Weather Winter Camping

15. Alps Mountaineering Lynx 2 First Look

16. 10 things I learned about and from the Appalachian Trail

17. Gear Review: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2

18. Gear Review – Columbia Conspiracy™ OutDry Shoe

19. Gear Review: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1

20. 2014 Backpacker Gift Guide – Gadgets

21. On The AT Day 3

22. Trail Ready Fancy Raman – Recipe

23. My Tent and Sleeping Kit

24. On The AT Days 8 and 9

25. On the AT Days 24 – 25 – Headed Home


Failure is simply just a change in plans.

I was having a hard time coming up with something to blog about today. I was reflecting on all of the crazy that was  my year. I had thought that I could write  a summary of my entire year.  I began to think of everything that happened and the largest lesson I learned this year. I thought about that lesson for awhile and decided to write about that. I learned that one does not fail. Instead you just end up with a change of plans.

While on my train ride back from California I was reading the book No Opportunity Wasted by Phil Keoghan. I came across this quote “If you set out on a particular journey and get diverted onto another path because of unforeseen circumstances, that’s not a failure-it’s simply a different experience (and maybe a better one).”

It sunk in particularly hard because i was headed home from the second “failure” of the year.  I had spent the better part of that day and the day before feeling bad about how I had “failed”.  Looking back on those trips now. I learned a lot of things not only about myself but also about society as a whole.  People will celebrate you when you accomplish something huge but they also celebrate you for “failing”. They do this because you went out there and you tried.  Too many people fail before they ever get started because they never start.

So the next time you start a project, trip, or adventure and it does not work out the way you thought it should. Just take a step back and look at the entire situation. Look at what you learned from the adventure. Look at what happened and how it was different than the outcome you had hoped for.  There is always something to take away from everything and there is always a good reason why things happened the way they did even if you have no idea why at that exact moment. In time the whole picture will be presented to you. It is up to you to allow yourself to see these moments.

A beginners guide to base layers.

As the name implies a base layer is the inner most layering of the layering  system that helps regulate your core temperature in both warm and cold conditions. A base layer helps regulate your core by pulling or wicking the moisture away from your body. It is worn so that the layer is touching your skin and is typically tight or form fitting. Base layers can be used in both cold and warm conditions.  One thing to note is that each persons tolerance to the elements is different so this post will provide some simple general information. Depending on your level of activity as well as your tolerance to the elements will determine how many and what types of layers you might need.

Base Layer Materials


  •  CoolMax® or Polartec Power Dry®.
  • Breathable and moisture wicking.


  • Wicks moisture away from skin
  • A durable polyester-based fabric available in several weights


  • A polyester-based wicking fabric that is treated with chemicals to help spread out moisture to help it evaporate.


  • Natural fibers
  • Wicks moisture away from skin
  • Has a natural antimicrobial called lanolin which prevents stink.

Suggested synthetic base layers  



Suggested Merino base layers

Terramar Sports 


I have both Merino Wool and synthetic and will use them independently or together depending on the weather or activities I am doing. Which type and brand of base layers do you use and why?

A requested blog post about pickles

picklesI sent out a tweet “Working on blog post ideas. I am open to requests. What would you like to learn more about?  One of the requests was simply stated “Pickles”.  I understand that this post has nothing to do with hiking, but it never hurts to stray way from the trail.  This also gives me a chance to stretch my creative writing skills so please hang in there with me.


The Christmas Pickle!

The history is unknown and depending on who you ask the stories are quite different. Here are a few of the most common histories.

Story 1. Started in the 1800s by Woolsworth.

Some claim that it was started in the 1880s by the Woolsworth company. “In the 1880s Woolworth stores started selling glass ornaments imported from Germany and some were in the shape of various fruit and vegetables. It seems that pickles must have been among the selection!” (Source: http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/christmaspickle.shtml)

Story 2. The miracle pickle of the civil war.

Another variation is that it started in the south during the civil war. “Libby prison, had become so overcrowded that another one was opened in Georgia. It was called Andersonville.  Richmond began transfering her prisoners in July of 1864, among them a Union soldier by the name of John Lower. Not being in the greatest of health when he left here, he soon was near death in Georgia.  As he lay dying on the dirty ground of the prison encampment in Andersonville, he begged the guards for something to eat, even if it was just a pickle. A pickle was found for the dying man, and miracle of miracles, he was given the strength to live. After the war and his release, it became a tradition in the Lower home to hide a pickle in the Christmas tree. To John Lower, the pickle was worthy of being ‘miraculous’, because it saved his life.”
(Source: http://www.examiner.com/article/the-legend-of-the-christmas-pickle)

Story 3. It started in Germany.

Like many stories or traditions the history has become lost in translations and or left out of stories that are passed down through the generations. The most common story of the Pickle is that it started in Germany. No one really knows why or how. Also most Germans will say they have never heard of the tradition. (I have not asked any Germans but that is what the internet says ;-) )  (Source: https://www.google.com/#q=christmas+pickle)

Story 4. 2 Spanish boys traveling  home imprisoned in a pickle barrel.

“One story claims that the tradition of the Christmas pickle begins in the Middle Ages. According to this version of the Christmas pickle legend, two boys were traveling home for Christmas. When they stopped for the night at an inn, the innkeeper imprisoned them in a pickle barrel. That night, St. Nicholas also stopped at the inn, heard the boys, and freed them from the pickle barrel.”
(Source: http://voices.yahoo.com/the-mysterious-origins-christmas-pickle-an-708451.html)

I am sure there are several more stories running around about how this tradition started and I would love to hear your versions. The ones I found were simply the most commonly told around the Interwebs.  but what really is the tradition. There are several variances as to  what the tradition is but the most common is that after the Christmas tree is decorated and the kids go to bed an adult will place the last ornament on the tree. A blown glass pickle. The pickle will blend into the branches and needles making it hard to find. When the children rise the next morning the first one to find the pickle will be given an extra present and be blessed with a happy and healthy year. Other family traditions have family members hiding the pickle in the tree or house during a family gathering not necessarily  on Christmas. The participants hunt for the pickle and the one who finds it first wins a present. What are your family pickle traditions?

Fun Fact: The Christmas Pickle Capital of the World

Berrien Springs, Michigan is the self proclaimed  Christmas Pickle Capital of the World. This town celebrates with a Christmas Pickle Festival held in early December and a parade led by a Grand Dillmeister, who gives the visitors fresh pickles.The local residents who participate in and  promote this Christmas Pickle Festival claim the tradition originated when two Spanish boys traveling home from boarding school for the holidays were stuffed into a pickle barrel by a mean innkeeper and later freed when St. Nicholas took pity on them and tapped the barrel with his staff.

There you have it folks a creative pickle post the relates to the season. Join us next week for more random requests from the interwebs. This your host Adam signing off. Remember folks it’s all fun and games until someone smashes the pickle.


10 Tips for surviving a winter backpacking trip.


As a warning these are simply tips.  The author of this site is not responsible any damage, personal injuries or death as a result of the use of any advice, gear or techniques discussed on this blog. All outdoor activities are carried out at your own risk.

1. Always take toilet paper with you.
If you are one who like to pack only baby wipes with you to clean once completing natures calling you might want to reconsider during winter trips. Baby wipes will freeze, and once thawed they will most definitely wake you up in the morning.  I once had to hold my pack of baby wipes in my armpits to thaw them out in order to wipe.  True story. This is why I recommend always taking toilet paper and baby wipes to use just in case your wipes get frozen.

2. Take water into your tent at night.
Some say that you take your water in with you at night. Some people will even sleep with it in their sleeping bags.  This is all fun and games until you forget to tightly close your hydration bladder and it leaks everywhere.  There is always one person in every group that this has happened too. Thankfully it was not me.  I typically will place my water bladder or bottle up near my head as that is the safest place for items in my tent as I tent do roll and shift a lot in my sleet.  If you are using a hydration system that has hoses also take those in with you. Having frozen hoses is also no fun.

3. Take your water filters into your tent at night.
Many of the filters on the market today if frozen can cause harm to the filter. A frozen filter is not what causes problems but instead it is what happens when it thaws. It can seize up or crack  creating the potential for you to become sick after drinking contaminated water. If you use a chemical treatment make sure that freezing does not harm its effectiveness.

4. Pick up fuel canister immediately after turning off.
When you are in near freezing or below freezing temps fuel canisters can become frozen to the ground or objects after use.  These fuel cans  are used by many light weight backpacking stoves and contain isopro gas cool down instantly after use. When in cold temps they cool down so much that any air or moisture that might be trapped under the can will create a seal against the object it is sitting on. I have seen them get stuck to the ground, wood tables, and metal objects.  To fix the problem simply remove your pot of boiling water and sit it down. Pick up the stove and fuel canister before turning it off. Turn off the stove and hold for 30 seconds or so. The canister will quickly accumulate to the outside temps.

5. Start Moving it will warm you up.
We wake up all warm in our sleeping bags and dread having to get up and out. Just remind yourself that the more you move the more you will warm up. You might be silly dancing around waiting for your water to boil in the morning but you are creating body heat.  Do several pushups, run in place, or even do a little dance. All will get your blood pumping and your body warming up.

6. Eat a cold breakfast and stop to have a warm snack down the trail.
Many backpackers will have some type of cold breakfast such as a energy bar or a pop tart. They will then hike long enough to warm up some let the water thaw out and then stop  on the trail for a warm beverage and warm food.  This can get you out of camp and onto the trail quicker since there is no time needed to prep food and boil water.  This is not a strategy for everyone. Some folks simply do not like to stop and cook once they have started.

7. Use your body heat to thaw out water or keep items warm.
Similar to taking your water into the tent simply place any item you need to keep warm or thaw out inside your inner most layer against your skin. It is going to be super cold at first but as you continue to move whatever you are warming up will gradually thaw or stay warm. Keep in mind however that you need to make sure that your core is warm because if it is not this could push you into hypothermia if you are not careful.

8. Electronics can freeze keep them warm.
Batteries and your electronic devices can freeze and exposure to the cold can cause them to stop working. A large percentage of the time the devices stop working  due to the energy being sucked out by the cold.  Keep your electronics especially ones you may need to reply on in an emergency such as phones, GPS devices, or locator beacons in pockets closest to your body. Make sure to put them in waterproof bags to ensure your sweat does not hurt them. Also keeping them with you at night in your tent or even inside your sleeping bag is also a good idea.

9. Layers are you friend.
Layering your clothing  is a must for cold weather activities especially backpacking and hiking.   Each persons natural thermostat is different so you will have to experiment with which layers work for you. The most common layering system is to use is broken down into 3 parts. A base layer, mid layer, and shell.  I typically will use the following:

Base layer:  merino wool or synthetic base layer pants and shirt.
Mid Layer:
A long sleeve hiking shirt and hiking pants
Mid Layer:
A light weight down jacket or fleece.
hard shell / rain coat to shield from wind and moisture.

10. Keep yourself hydrated and full of energy.
No matter the time of year or the temperature you need to keep yourself hydrated and your gas tank full of much needed calories. Many people think that because it is cold you will not sweat or become dehydrated but it is very easy to become dehydrated during the winter months. You will need to also stock up on those much needed calories during your meals and snacks because your body is working overtime to keep your body warm and your blood pumping.

Do you have any winter backpacking and hiking tips?  How do you keep yourself and your gear warm during the cold months?