The 10 Essentials For Women in the Outdoors: Essential #9: Hydration

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water”

-Benjamin Franklin

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 Water is an essential element of life; everything living species needs water to survive. The average human body is made up of 50-65% of water and water covers 71% of the earth’s surface. As humans, we are supposed to drink at least 2 liters of water per day however the average American consumes 0.5 liters of water a day. The majority of us also do not consume enough water while out on the trails. If you’re actively hiking, it’s good to drink about 1 liter (32 ounces) of water every two hours. You might need more or less depending on the temperature, humidity and body weight, but that’s a good estimate of what you’ll need to carry if you can’t refill on your route. So on a 10-mile hike (assuming you hike an average speed of 2mph), you will need 2.5 liters of water.

For those of us who struggle with numbers:

10 miles/2mph =5 hours/2 =2.5 liters

How much does water weigh?

1 liter of water = 1kilogram = 2.2 pounds

As a rule of thumb always bring an extra 0.5 – 1 liter of water in your pack in case of an emergency (you get lost, it's warmer than anticipated, your hiking pal ran out of water, etc.)  Many people on the trails are rescued primarily due to heat exhaustion and heat stroke because they did not have enough water with them.

If you are not peeing clear urine while on the trail, you are not drinking enough water. Urine that is plentiful, odorless and pale in color indicates you are well hydrated.

For those of us who endure long hikes and enjoy backpacking, its extremely impractical to carry enough water for 20 miles or longer, assuming there is a water source on the trail; treating or filtering your water is the way to go. Before planning a long hike or a backpacking trip, always check the water sources in the area. Where are they located in relation to the trail? Are they accessible? Is it standing water or moving water? Is the water source completely dried up or plentiful?

Once you have established that there is an adequate and accessible water source where you are planning to adventure, you have the option of filtering your water and treating your water. So what’s the difference?

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What’s the difference between a backpacking water filter and water purifier?

Simply put, the main difference lies in the level of protection they provide. Generally speaking, a water filter is designed to remove waterborne protozoa and bacteria, but not viruses. A water purifier is designed to combat all three classes of microbes, including viruses. Viruses are too small for water filters to catch and therefore water purification methods (UV light, chemical purification treatments, boiling water and mechanical pump purifiers) are used in areas where human traffic is high (popular campsites) and sanitation infrastructure is poor (developing countries).

The culprits: primary types of waterborne pathogens

Any water source on Earth could contain microscopic pathogens. Ingesting as few as 10 disease-causing microorganisms is enough to produce diarrhea and other dehydration-inducing symptoms. Pathogens, some of which can survive for months outdoors, fall within three primary types:

Protozoa include Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia. These have a hard outer cyst that protects them against certain chemicals. Their relatively large size, though, makes them easier to filter out of water.

Bacteria include Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Campylobacter and many others. Water filters can also remove these midsize microorganisms.

Viruses include Hepatitis A, rotavirus, and norovirus. Because they are smaller than protozoa and bacteria, they are difficult to filter out of water. Technically speaking, treating water by removing or neutralizing them is when you’re “purifying” water.

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When should I use a filter?

If you’re traveling in the backcountries of the U.S. and Canada, a water filter, or more accurately a “microfilter,” is considered sufficient protection. In these pristine landscapes, where human traffic is relatively low, protozoa and bacteria are considered the main threats.

Examples of microfilters:

Sawyer squeeze water filter system Great for individual, on the go, use.

KATADYN BeFree collapsible water bottle filter Great for individual, on the go, use. I just purchased this filter and I am excited to use it.

MSR MiniWorks EX water filter Pump filter system for individual use

MSR Trail Base gravity filter system Gravity filter great for large groups

Platypus Gravity Works filter system Gravity filter great for large groups

Lifestraw Play Filter water bottle Great for individual use, all in one bottle and filter

 When should I use a purifier?

If you’re traveling to less-developed countries, where water treatment and sanitation infrastructure is poor and/or people don’t practice good hygiene near water supplies, a water purifier is the safer option.

Examples of purifiers:

SteriPEN Ultra water purifier Uses UV light to denature pathogens

MSR Miniworks EX purifying system Filter pump and chemical tablets

KATADYN chlorine tablets Wait time is 4 hours. I use these for internationally traveling because they are lightweight, simple and cheap

Potable Aqua Iodine tablets Wait time is 30 minutes. I have been using these for years and they are my backup purification system. They are cheap, lightweight and easy.

Tip: Always carry a backup treatment system. A filter can be lost; batteries can drain; a device can get broken. Chemicals (Iodine or chlorine tablets) offer extra security with negligible weight. Boiling is a surefire backup option: Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute, or for 3 minutes if you’re above 6,500 feet. Chlorine tablets are more effective than iodine pills because they protect against Cryptosporidium parvum.

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The 101 of gathering water

The where…

  •  Flowing water, especially in a stream or river. This is a good option because it isn’t conducive to the growth of algae or the accumulation of microorganisms. A bonus is that mosquitoes don’t lay eggs in fast-flowing water.
  •  If no clear flowing source is available, then look for calm water (a lake, a pool, a slow-moving stream) without a lot of sediment or silt. Clearer water passes through a filter more swiftly and reduces the chance of clogging.
  • A location that allows you to reach well away from the shore, where microorganisms tend to accumulate in higher concentrations.

What to avoid…

  • Water (particularly at lower elevations) near meadows or pastures where animals have grazed or near popular, established campsites.
  • Evidence of pack animal traffic or other domesticated animal activity.
  • Signs of sloppy human behavior or a prolonged human visit.
  • Excessive amounts of foam or brown scum, which can indicate algae blooms; though algae itself is rarely harmful, it indicates a nutrient-rich environment for microorganisms to grow.
  • Dirty snow, which indicates human visitors and impacts; also, don’t assume that even clean-looking snow is “safe” because bacteria can live for months in ice.
  •  If murky or silty water is unavoidable, gather from the surface and let the pot sit so the sediment sinks to the bottom.

Leave No Trace Practices

  • Good practices are required to keep water sources pristine. As more and more of us visit wild places, we need to rededicate ourselves to Leave No Trace principles. Below are some of the key principles related to preserving the quality of backcountry water:
  • Camp at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Properly dispose of human waste at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Carry water for cleaning at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Never use or toss soapy water directly into backcountry water sources. It can help spawn a population of microscopic pathogens in the water.
  •  Dispose of soapy water by dispersing it on soil rather than rocks. Soil microorganisms help metabolize the pollutants.
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Scenarios

  • Backpacking in Washington’s North Cascades National Park: Microfilter
  • Camping on a holiday weekend at very popular lowland lake: Purifying agent
  • Hotel stay in Peru: Purifying agent
  • A quick method for domestic use: Microfilter
  • A quick method for international use: An ultraviolet light purifier like the SteriPEN. Caution: This handheld device works best in relatively clear water (strain with a bandana first if it's not) and requires batteries (pack spares).
  • The lightest possible treatment: Chlorine dioxide tablets
  • The best method for silty water: Good old-fashioned boiling works everywhere, but it's perfect for ultra cloudy rivers and sediment-choked puddles.
  • An easy, speedy method: Pump filters use microscopic pores (.2 microns or less) to snag bacteria and protozoa while allowing water to flow through the filter at one to three liters per minute.
  •  A hassle-free method for big groups: Gravity filters are quick and trap everything a pump model does, but handle larger volumes of water.

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails,

xx

Kristen

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,

xx

Kristen