Lighten Your Load

Lighten Your Load / Repackaging your products

It's all those little things, those micro moments, micro seconds, micro bottles, that really matter in life. ;-P That's why you should repackage what you can.

Case in point
On the left, I have a bottle of REI's travel sized sunblock. I bought this years ago and have refilled it for my backpacking trips. It weighs 2.2 oz (for a bottle half full) and even that amount is plenty to last me a few trips. Way to go Liz! 

But wait, what's that on the right weighing only 0.6oz?
It's sunblock, repackaged into a tiny container with just what I need plus extra. In fact, it was more than I needed! The awesome thing about repackaging the sunblock was that it's more likely to fit inside the waist belt pocket of your pack (assuming you have one), which means you're more likely to apply it at the frequency you need.

Let's look at another example. 
I reused an old micro bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted some castille soap in there to use as toothpaste and anything else I'd need soap for (there isn't much). As small as this bottle is, it was overkill for the amount I needed. I only use 1-2 drops of soap as my toothpaste to avoid over-sudsing. Next time I'll use an even tinier dropper. Can't wait.

Next time you get a tiny bottle, consider saving it and reusing it to repackage for the trail. Doing this will give you such an appreciation for how little we need, and of course, a lighter pack. 

Lighten Your Load / Towels: It's not really about towels

I've gotten a few questions recently about what kind of towel to take on a backpacking trip, so I want to share my take on towels in the backcountry. But the towel question isn't really about towels, it's about getting clean. So here's my take on "what towel you should take." ;-)

First, we need to redefine showers 
When you're going backpacking, you'll need to let go of your notion of a shower. You will not have a clean shower with warm flowing water, suds all over your head and body, a plush bath mat to step onto and a large cotton towel to wrap yourself in afterward. This is okay though, because nature's showers are way simpler, more exhilarating and saves water!

Everyone has different standards of cleanliness in life, and this is definitely true in the backcountry. For me, I can tolerate getting dirty, sweating, and all that, but it's important for me to get that feeling of clean at the end of the day. It helps me wind down, relax, and sleep better.

My "showers" are typically standing under a waterfall, jumping into an ice cold alpine lake, splashing around in a river or trying to dunk my head in a small creek to just get a refreshing feeling on my scalp. If it's a few days on the trail, I don't use soap because it's slightly more complicated. (And I'm all about SIMPLICITY on the trail.) Simply rinsing myself off in a body of water makes me feel clean and refreshed - especially if the water is ice cold!

What I use
Tiny REI towel (15.5"x15.5")
Water source (river, lake, creek, whatever!)

A tiny towel? But how will I cover my valuables?
Since I'm not getting completely naked, there's nothing really to cover up. I used to have a larger lightweight towel because I thought I needed it, but I've gotten along fine with the tiny towel. Notice the size and weight difference.

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How I use my towel
I drench my tiny towel and rinse off my arms, legs, pits, neck, face, etc. (I'm usually down to my sports bra and underwear at this point.) I'm not using any soap in this process because I'm typically standing in or near a small creek or river and using soap in a water source is a HUGE NO-NO. After I'm done wiping down all those sticky/dried sweaty areas, I'll wring out the water from my towel and dry myself using the same towel. Even if I'm just rinsing my feet, I feel a thousand times better washing my feet, drying them, and putting my dry & clean sleep socks on. [Ahhhhh....] This is obviously nothing like drying yourself off with a plush towel after stepping out of a steamy warm shower, but it works! You get dry and that's the point. 

Getting clean (even if it's just washing my feet and face) at the end of the day helps me sleep better. If I'm sticky or dusty, I tend to wake up at night feeling uncomfortable. Good sleep means a refreshing new day and a matching good attitude. 

A couple notes worth mentioning

  • I don't use moist wipes/towelettes because it's more trash to pack out. I've replaced those with this reusable micro towel.
  • If you need to wash your vjayjay, I wrote a quick how-to here. Personally, I don't rinse my vagina in non-potable water because I'm weary of the risks. If I don't drink non-potable water, I definitely don't want it near anything so private. Ever since I got giardia, I'm extra cautious about channels for those little critters to get inside me! 
  • If I do need soap, I use Dr. Bronner's castille soap (repackaged into a tiny container) and will only use a tiny amount, away from the water source. "Biodegradable all-natural" soaps used directly in water is actually harmful to the environment. It was meant to be absorbed directly into the dirt, at least 200 feet away from water sources. 

In conclusion...
Get a highly absorbent micro towel that functions as a cleaning rag AND your drying towel. Because when you can get clean after a hard day's effort, you'll feel better, rest better and therefore your life will be awesome. Haha, something like that.

Oh and hey, some the links above are affiliate links. This means I earn a tiny bit of change if you end up buying something using that link. #MakinSomeChange

Backpacking Hacks / A tiny hair tie hack

It's the tiny things that make a difference - in life...in backpacking.

When I first saw this one, I was a bit skeptical, but I'm now a believer. This one's another one from Trenton from the time he taught survival during my WEMT class. 

All it is, is a hair tie and with a small duct tape flag on it. It's great for: 

  • Keeping gear organized without taking extra bags
  • Pulling the tab to get the hair tie off, when your fingers are cold and don't move well
  • Finding your hair tie if you drop it

Tiny hair tie hack
Weighs 0.1oz for three
Made from this hair tie and some bright orange duct tape

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I used to use a rubber band and keep it around my wrist in case I ever needed it right away. It would eventually break down and become a piece of trash I'd have to carry around. This hair tie hack provides a bit more reassurance of it's effectiveness. Plus, it's always a back-up hair tie in case your hair tie breaks. 

CASE STUDY
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 Footprint with Bag vs. Hair Tie
5.2oz vs. 5.0oz

0.3oz vs. 0.0oz
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 Footprint Bag vs. Hair Tie

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PRODUCTS USED to make hair tie hack

Lighten Your Load / Why I always carry duct tape

There are thousands of ways to use duct tape, aren't there? Plenty of those include using it in the wilderness. For example, if you get a tear in your clothing, duct tape it! If a small critter eats through your tent because you accidentally left food in there, duct tape it (and don't do that again)! If your buddy breaks an arm and you're improvising a split, duct tape it! If you need to bandage someone up, but don't have medical tape, duct tape it! You get my point. Duct tape it!

I used to carry just a tiny bit of duct tape around my sharpie pen, but after taking my Wilderness-EMT course, I feel way more aware of the dangers of getting injured while out in the backcountry. Having a sufficient amount of duct tape feels more pertinent now, in case of an emergency. Don't get me wrong, duct tape probably won't save anyone's life in it of itself, but if it's going to aid me in trying my best to help someone, I'll take it. (In fact, I'll share more about my evolving attitude toward first aid kids in a later post.)

With that said, I'm still interested in minimizing weight and packing efficiently. So here's a tiny tip on duct tape: Buy a small roll, take out the inside cardboard roll and squish it. It saves me 0.2oz, flattens down nicely, and it's a good supply.

I learned this trick from my friend Trenton, who taught my WEMT class some awesome gear-related tips. I'll share more as the days go, but for now here's Trenton-tip #1.

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Do you carry duct tape? What have you used it for in the backcountry?

Lighten Your Load / Classic BIC vs. Mini BIC

My packing mantra is: Every ounce counts.

When you're packing for a trip, it's important to scrutinize every single item you're thinking about taking. Know exactly why you're taking it and make it worth the weight (i.e. is it multi-purpose?). We'll cover this topic more as the #100daysofwilderness project progresses.

For now, here's a simple way to reduce some weight and space with one kind of fire source: lighters.

Classic Bic lighter vs. Mini Bic lighter
WEIGHT COMPARISON

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Classic Bic lighter vs. Mini Bic lighter
SIZE COMPARISON

Bonus Tip: Choose bright colors so it's easy to find when you put it down. Forget camo. You want your lighter to be found.