Ten Essentials For Women in the Outdoors: Essential #7 Repair Kit and Tools

“One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop”.  G. M. Weilacher

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When the word “tool” comes to mind, I cringe at the thought of Home Depot or laugh at the thought of a guy with a hugely over-inflated ego. To be honest, “tools” and “repair kits” are not in my vocabulary, which should be expected when I grew up with a dad who used duct tape to fix everything, from broken door handles, cracked side door mirrors on cars and damaged bicycle tires, to ripped tents and shredded bags; duct tape was always the answer. I sometimes joke my mom divorced my dad because everything in their home was fixed with duct tape (love you both mom and dad). When I moved away to college, my parents gave me one gift: a simple toolkit that consisted of a hammer, some nails, two screwdrivers, and a measuring tape. I had no idea how to use any of this and I secretly hoped I would never have to. Clearly, the apple did not fall too far from the tree when it comes to “fixing things”.  I stopped using tools after my first and last experience assembling IKEA furniture and after putting some rather large holes in my wall trying to hang artwork. The lessons I learned from both of these experiences were 1) never shop at Ikea or a furniture store that requires assembly and 2) always ask for help when I have to use a hammer or a screwdriver. In fact, I could probably write a blog post dedicated to my most embarrassing stories that have happened while in Home Depot. Thankfully repair kits and “tools” in the outdoors are simple and minimal. So let’s keep this simple, shall we?

 Solo backpacking trip with my dog. Big Pine Lakes, California 

Solo backpacking trip with my dog. Big Pine Lakes, California 

Repair kits in the outdoors

Realistically repair kits are only needed when you are backpacking or car camping. Repair kits are generally used to fix tears in material such as sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tents, and jackets. Thankfully most repair kits are bundled together and contain Seam Grip, Tenacious Tape patches, mesh patches, zip ties, and elastic shock cord. With these simple products, you should be able to patch a burn repair or repair a leaky tent or air mattress. Since I am terrible at repairing anything, I always YouTube any videos after I buy any new repair kit products. I would rather feel dumb at home than dumb and out of luck in the outdoors. I carry the following in my repair kit bag when I spend the night out in the wild:

  • Seam Grip seals seams and repairs nylon, vinyl, rubber and more
  • Tenacious Tape aggressive adhesive that sticks to almost any surface and repairs ripped outerwear, waders, sleeping bags, and tents; it sticks to polyester, nylon, plastic and more
  • Duct tape
  •  Bug Mesh Patch Kit
  • Tenacious Tape Repair Patches repairs camping gear, sleeping bags, and pads, tents, clothing, vinyl rafts, down jackets, netting and more.
 America is beautiful. Chiquito Falls, California. 

America is beautiful. Chiquito Falls, California. 

Tools

Personally, I keep tools simple, I carry a foldable knife. Some may consider rope, tweezers, scissors and a flashlight other tools however these are two other ten essentials (check out my light and emergency kit posts). I don’t carry nail clippers on the trail as I always trim my toenails before a trip. In my opinion, all that is left is a knife. However, I have a lot of friends that prefer a Multi-tool. Multi-tools are an all-in-one tool that includes scissors, a nail file, tweezers, knife, bottle opener, a screwdriver and more and are often generally lightweight and can range from $20-$100 in price.

What’s your favorite repair kit item or tool that you use while in nature?

I would love to know.

See you on the trails xx,

Kristen

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The 10 Essentials For Women in the Outdoors: Essential #6: Fire

Everything you ever wanted to know about campfires such as how to light an emergency fire, how to build a campfire and how to get that campfire smell out of your clothes. 

“Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire…”

-The Doors

 Joshua Tree National Park 

Joshua Tree National Park 

Lighting a fire is relatively easy when you are in a confined environment with wood, a fire starter, a lighter and maybe even some lighter fluid, but when you are in an emergency situation and possibly battling some unyielding weather conditions; starting a fire and easy should not be used in the same sentence. A fire can save your life in a dire situation. It can prevent hypothermia and can also be used as a way to alert others that you are in danger. Fire starter, as the name implies, is an element that helps you jump-start a fire. The ideal fire starter ignites quickly and sustains heat for more than a few seconds.

The following are common useful fire starters that can be used in your daypack and/or overnight pack:

Windproof/waterproof matches (keep in a plastic bag)

Magnesium strike able fire starter

Windproof lighter or pocket torch (See First-Aid kit post for my person recommendation)

Example of kindle that can be used to aid in starting the fire:

Tinder (not the dating app): Small materials that will ignite easily with a spark kindling such as dry grasses, shredded bark, fungus, or mosses. To spark, this material needs to be as dry and finely shredded as possible.

Kindling: Medium sized materials that will catch flame from the tinder quickly such as dry leaves, small twigs and sticks, or larger pieces of bark. For the kindling to catch fire, it must consist of small, dry items.

Dry tinder/kindle tucked away in a plastic bag (pine needles, pine cones etc.)

Priming paste

Heat “nuggets” (chipped-wood clusters soaked in resin or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly)

Lint trappings from a household clothes dryer (my personal favorite)

Commercially prepared wood soaked in wax or chemicals. 

How to build a campfire

Although you may not have access to wood, I am often amazed how many individuals do not know how to start a campfire even with all the proper ingredients (wood, kindle, a fire starter). The "teepee method" is the go-to method for starting a campfire or a backcountry fire in an emergency.

To build your teepee, wad the tinder (dry leaves, pinecones, pine needles) into a ball about fours inches in diameter and then stack larger dried kindling (sticks, branches, wood shavings) around the ball. If logs are available lean the logs on the kindle in a teepee-like fashion. Light the tinder from the bottom and allow the tinder to catch and spread to the kindling and eventually the wood. You may have to blow on the fire to allow oxygen to reach it in order for it to spread to the wood.

 Death Valley National Park 

Death Valley National Park 

How to get that campfire smell out of your clothes

Long starry nights in nature, evenings around the campfire filled with stories and songs. Unfortunately, after such a wonderful night around the fire, a lot of us wake up with the question of how to get campfire smell out of clothes. It can often linger far longer than anyone would appreciate, and with multi-day trips, or non-machine washable clothes, this can be a big issue.

For clothes that can be washed in the washer and hung to dry:

Cleansing With White Vinegar:

White vinegar works in cutting through complicated odor and deodorizing the odorous residue in your clothes. Start the detergent rinsing cycle by pouring a cup of vinegar into the warm water. Don’t forget to cover enough surface area on the clothing for the best results.

Applying Baking Soda:

Just like white vinegar, baking soda is another basic kitchen ingredient that is known for its ability to deodorize in the washing cycle. Begin the routine washing cycle by applying detergent first and then pouring at least half a cup of baking soda after five minutes.

For clothes that cannot be washed in the washer:

Vodka spray:

Aside from being a fantastic party drink, vodka is also used as a deodorant for undesirable odors. All you need to do is mix warm water and vodka inside a spray bottle. Spray on the inside of your clothes and expose them to the heat of the sun.

While vodka evaporates, it will neutralize the campfire odor and get rid of the residues.

Lemon juice spray:

A lemon juice’ citric acid is very effective at getting rid of unpleasant odors. All you need to do is mix eight parts warm water with one part lemon juice inside a spray bottle and spray it on the whole exterior of your clothes until it becomes sufficiently moist. Expose your clothes to sunlight by hanging them for 3-4 hours. The whole process should dry your clothes and get rid of the campfire odor completely.

 "Only you can prevent forest fires"- Smokey the Bear

"Only you can prevent forest fires"- Smokey the Bear

What are your favorite fire hacks you use in the wild?

We would love to know

See you on the trails xx,

Kristen 

The 10 Essentials for Women in the Outdoors: Essential #4 Illumination

“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” 
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

 Snow hike to San Bernardino peak 10,649 feet with two dogs in tow! We started before sunrise and finished after sunset, therefore our headlamps were a must. 

Snow hike to San Bernardino peak 10,649 feet with two dogs in tow! We started before sunrise and finished after sunset, therefore our headlamps were a must. 

Headlamps are, by far, one of the dorkiest items I own (next to my stethoscope and otoscope), but these nifty lights have saved me countless times, especially when I fail to finish my hike by sunset. Whether you plan to hike in the dark or not, you should always keep a headlamp in your emergency pack, just in case. There have been so many times I was not planning on hiking in the dark but due to accidents, too many bottles of wine, a slower pace, or a late start back, I have ended countless hikes under the night sky. I also start the majority of my long hikes before sunrise and will use a headlamp to guide me along the trail until the sun rises. Also, night hiking, especially when there is a full moon, is a great experience. It is incredibly important to hike with your hands free (with the exception of trekking poles), therefore using flashlights and/or cell phones for illumination in the outdoors at night are not an option. Please keep your flashlights at home and your cell phone in your pack. Headlamps can range from $10 up to $50 and beyond however a decent headlamp made by a quality brand will run you about $20-$25 and much cheaper if you can score one on sale. Check out the REI online garage for sales everyday of the week, all year long.  In terms of brands, we recommend sticking with Black Diamond or Petzl.

 Blood moon/lunar eclipse/supermoon in Laguna Beach, California. This is a series of photos that were taken during the gorgeous lunar eclipse event. Although we did not use our headlamps while shooting the moon, we used them to help guide us to the perfect spot to set up the camera gear! 

Blood moon/lunar eclipse/supermoon in Laguna Beach, California. This is a series of photos that were taken during the gorgeous lunar eclipse event. Although we did not use our headlamps while shooting the moon, we used them to help guide us to the perfect spot to set up the camera gear! 

Let’s go over some common features you need to know when shopping for a headlamp.

Flood light vs. spotlight

  •  Flood (or Wide): Useful for general camp tasks, up-close repair work and reading. Flood beams ordinarily do not throw light a long distance.
  • Spot (or Focused or Narrow): This tight beam best enables long-distance viewing. In most cases this is a better choice to navigate a trail in the dark.
  • Flood / Spot: Adjustable headlamps are the most versatile.

Brightness does matter

Lumens are a unit of measure that gauges the total quantity of light emitted in all directions by a light source, therefore in MOST cases, the higher the lumens, the brighter the light. 200-300 lumens is a good rule of thumb to stick with when purchasing a headlamp. 

Light modes

Most headlamps have at least 2 modes: low and high.

  • Low is the standard mode used for most tasks such as camp chores or walking along an easy trail at night.
  • High (or Max) is a good option for situations where you simply need or want more light

Some headlamps have additional modes such as flash and red light mode

  • Strobe (or Flash) mode acts as an emergency blinker. A few models even offer a choice of flash rates: slow and fast.
  • Red light mode: Red light does not cause our pupils to shrink the way white light can, so it's good for nighttime use so others are not blinded by your bright white light. I literally had someone yell at me once because I accidentally shined my headlamp on their tent when they were "sleeping" (clearly they were not sleeping). Just to be safe, always get a headlamp with a red light mode. 

Batteries: AA or AA or lithium?

Take your pick. Some headlamps are designed to work with lithium batteries, which are a good choice for cold-weather usage, since lithium batteries outperform alkaline batteries in cold conditions.

 Goat Canyon Trestles. Hiking through one of the long tunnels, headlamps (and apparently sunglasses) were needed 

Goat Canyon Trestles. Hiking through one of the long tunnels, headlamps (and apparently sunglasses) were needed 

The following are a few great headlamps:

Petzl Tikka Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

Lanterns

Sometimes it is nice to have a mini lantern when backpacking or camping to place in your tent or on your table/the ground. They make some really cool ones that are super small and lightweight and some that are even collapsible. Some are solar powered and can hang on the outside of your pack to charge whereas other are battery powered. (Don't forget your batteries)

MPOWEERD Inflatable Solar Lantern

LuminAID PackLite Solar Lantern

Black Diamond Moji Lantern

“And God said, ‘let there be light’: and there was light.”

Thanks so much for reading and see you on the trails,

Kristen and Erika