Posts Tagged ‘hiker’

By Chris Miller

 

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Backpacking Gear for the Florida Trail

Usually I try to keep my pack weight down, though I don’t really consider myself an ultra light hiker. I can live comfortably out of a pack weighing no more than 20 pounds for months at a time. And that is including food and water. My base weight, the weight of my gear not including food and water, usually hovers around the ten pound mark, though I have a tendency to carry multiple paperbacks at a time which can push that weight up a bit.

So what’s in my pack?  Let’s start with what I consider the essentials, sleeping gear and clothing.
I sleep in a cheap Walmart $30 40 degree sleeping bag made by Ozark Trails. It is one of the smallest sleeping bags around which means it packs up into a very tight space. This is one of those occasions when you don’t need to spend a ton of money on a top of the line sleeping bag.  Is it warm enough? Probably not for a lot of winter activities, and even in Florida it can get cold in January. But the sleeping bag is always slipped inside my REI Minimalist Bivy. This adds a few degrees as well as allowing me to easily stealth camp. I also usually sleep in my Under Armour base layer.  My base layer is one of my most trusted pieces of survival equipment. I probably wouldn’t have survived the week of 20 degree nights stealth camping in Austin Texas that I went through a few years ago if it wasn’t for them and my winter hat and gloves. Also something which is always in my pack.
Other than that, a change of socks and underwear, my Petzl headlamp, a 5×7 tarp, a Thermarest Prolite sleeping pad, a Nike Storm Fit rain jacket, an REI Revelcloud packable jacket, a Sawyer mini water filter and a pair of what I call sleeping socks, socks which only get worn at night when I’m in my sleeping bag rounds out most of the rest of my gear.

Sure there are a few other things, random assorted things clipped inside my pack or stuffed in Ziploc bags near the top where they are easy to get to. The toilet paper and first aid kit, the mini Bic lighter and fire starter cubes. I also have a clip with several safety pins, a GSI plastic spoon, some rubber bands, a small set of nail clippers and a P-51 can opener.  You’ll notice that I didn’t mention a knife of any kind.  Airlines are pretty picky about letting you bring knives on board and I have found that when you are stealth camping in urban environments it is very likely that you will at some point be stopped by the police. Usually when I’m hiking I’ll carry a small Swiss Army knife. I’ve never needed anything more serious no matter the situation but have recently added a Buck Paklite Caper to my gear. Mostly for batoning wood for fires.  But for the Florida Trail I wasn’t able to pack a knife and in the rush before leaving I had failed to mail them ahead to myself. So I was without a knife in the swamps and back country of Florida.

Backpack Gear List

REI Lookout 40 backpack 53 oz
With 3 Liter Camelback water bladder and insulated drinking hose
Ozark Trail 40 degree synthetic mummy bag 32 oz
REI Minamalist Bivy 15 oz
Thermarest Prolite Small Sleeping pad 11 oz
Blue patched Silnylon 5×7 tarp with ropes 11 oz
Nike Storm Fit Rain Jacket 16 oz
Winter hat and gloves 3 oz
Underarmour bottoms lg 6 oz
Underarmour top xl 8 oz
REI Revelcloud Jacket md 12.5 oz
2 Extra Pair socks 6 oz
Petzl Headlamp w/batteries 3 oz
4 tent stakes w/stuff sack 2 oz
Sawyer Mini Water filter 2 oz
32oz Gatorade bottle 1 oz
Toiletries, First Aid Kit 8 oz
Notebook, Guidebook, Pens 32 oz
Swing Trek Umbrella 7 oz
Tent – Freestanding cheap Ebay tent 31 oz

259.5 oz or 16.2 Pounds

Much heavier than I’m normally used to and this is mostly because it is a new, heavier pack with the ability to not only carry more food but which also has a larger water carrying capacity. Florida is notorious for having bad tasting water which no amount of filtering or flavoring would cover and I wanted to be able to camel up when I found clear water.  Also, the cheap tent was a last minute add on. I wasn’t sure how I felt about sleeping in a bivy on the levees in Florida knowing that alligators were so close. As it was one of the hikers ahead of me woke up to the sound of one snoring next to their tent.  So how did the gear hold up?  Most of the gear are old standards that I’ve lived with for years so I knew what to expect. But there were a few newer items that hadn’t been extensively tested before.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

The first was the Sawyer Mini water filter. Coming in at 2 oz I had used this on only one other two month long backpacking trip along the Oregon coast and it had held up well under the minimal water filtering I had done.  It comes with a squeeze bag for forcing water through the filter as well as a back flush syringe for cleaning out the filter when it becomes clogged. It has a 0.1-micron filter which means I never really have to worry about Giardia, e. coli or salmonella. And the best feature, at least for me, is the threaded end which can be screwed onto most soda and water bottles. This lets you fill your bottle from any source, screw on the filter and squirt the water directly into your mouth.

The biggest drawback, at least on hiking in the Florida swamps, was that the water often had enough silt suspended in it that I had to back flush the filter on an almost daily basis. I’ve heard this complaint from other hikers as well and they say for the slight difference in weight they carry the full Sawyer water filter which doesn’t seem to clog as easily.  This year the swamp was little on the dry side and at least one long stretch had very little in the way of drinkable water. Another hiker had gotten so low that he decided to drink his own urine. He turned around, filled up his Smartwater bottle, screwed on his Sawyer filter and shot a good healthy stream into his mouth.  “Hmm, still salty,” was his only response.  That’s because the Sawyer filters were not meant to filter the salt out of water. Just an FYI if you are thinking about drinking your own urine anytime soon.

Cheap Ebay Tent

I liked this tent mostly because it was freestanding and cost about $20 shipped directly from China.
The problem was that those also seemed to be the only good things about it.  The tent was listed by a few different Chinese Ebayer’s under titles like “Camping Tent Single Layer Waterproof Outdoor Portable UV-resistant Army green” or “Portable Camp Camping Tent Single Layer Waterproof Outdoor UV-resistant 1 Person.”  It was a one person tent that weighed just under two pounds and it could easily be stuffed in a side pouch or rolled up and strapped to the bottom of my pack. I wanted to make a few modifications to it to make it more camouflaged and perhaps add a rain flap over the zipper on the door but there wasn’t time before the trip.  It help up fine in decent weather and even light rain. That’s when I noticed that the floor wasn’t waterproof. This wasn’t a big deal until some of the heavier thunderstorms rolled in. Even though they lasted less than half an hour the wind would force the rain through the walls of the tent and I would end up sleeping in puddles for a while. Thankfully I had my bivy.  The storms also brought out another drawback of this tent. That the poles were weak. In the mornings I would notice that section after section of the poles were splitting and had to be repaired with Gorilla Tape.  But I was glad to have even this cheap tent to keep the hoardes of mosquitos at bay. Even then, sometimes just after sunset, the cloud of them would be so thick outside the tent that I thought they might be able to collectively break the flimsy tent and suck me dry.  Walmart used to sell a Junior Dome freestanding tent for about the same price that was only slightly heavier. It was meant for kids but I used that thing for years before passing it on to someone else. An act I sometimes regret as Walmart has discontinued their production.  Let’s just say that the cheap Chinese tent didn’t make it back from Florida.

No Cook

This hike I decided to go No Cook, meaning that I wouldn’t be packing my pot and stove and that I’d be eating everything cold.  For me this works out really well though I can understand how some people would prefer hot meals.  It meant that I’d never have to resupply fuel and I would have more room in my pack for food.  So what did I eat?  Bagels, cream cheese and sliced salami were most of my big meals. Protein shakes and Multi-Grain breakfast bars were usually my breakfasts and Snickers, Chia seeds and Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies were my snacks throughout the day.

Drinks, besides the protein drinks, were powdered Gatorade for the electrolytes and Crystal Light packets to flavor the water.  The big comfort food for me was the protein shakes. They have become a standard backpacking food for me. I carry about a pound of vanilla whey protein along with roughly the same amount of either non fat dry milk or Nido which is powdered whole milk. I prefer the Nido not only for the extra calories but because it doesn’t foam up as much when shaking the shake.  I make the shakes in my 32 oz Gatorade bottle, great because of its wide mouth. Usually I’ll drink some of the water off the top to make room for the powders. Personally I don’t measure what goes into the bottle. I’ll simply add a roughly equal amount of spoonfuls of powder, mixing it in gently at first to make room for more powder. When I think its ready I’ll just put the cap on and shake violently for a while.  The whey protein is great for repairing the damage to my muscles caused by hiking and generally this is just a tasty shake that I never seem to get sick of, which is pretty important in any foods you carry.  The only drawback was going through airport security. I was pulled aside for a security check and they emptied the contents of my food bag. When the TSA agent pushed everything aside he picked up the ziplock bags of what looked like kilos of cocaine. Luckily he laughed.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t swab down everything I owned looking for traces of drugs though.

All in all the gear held up well.  The tent though was left in a dumpster somewhere in Florida.  I’ll stick with the Sawyer Mini and I may start going No Cook on more of my travels.  The pack was a bit heavy for my tastes. Leaving the southern terminus of the Florida Trail I was carrying four liters of water, roughly 8 ½ pounds, more than I’ve ever carried before, and way too much food. I’ll probably go back to the 30 liter pack I usually use for the next adventure, which will probably be hitchhiking across the US.  And next time I go hiking in Florida I’ll probably pack some bug spray.

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By Cameron McKirdy

Scary GoPro Black High-Definition video footage at Devil’s Cauldron from Survival Bros.  Shot with my HD Head Camera on, while walking above a rocky cliff near the Oregon Coast Trail.  This state long hiking trail follows the shore, and includes sections on paved Highway 101.  These cliffs are close to the Neahkahnie Mountain trail head.  More GoPro videos coming soon on this blog.  Exciting, I know!

Be safe outdoors.  And remember, it didn’t happen unless there’s video proof of it.  Email me at thesurvivalbros@gmail.com if you have questions, comments, or would like to share an article/something you’ve produced.  I’m always looking for EDC pictures.  So let’s see the pocket dumps, and which items you find useful daily.  Thanks.large_Oswald-West_map

Map of Oswald West State Park in Oregon

This weekend my buddy Mac and I biked from Astoria to Fort Stevens State Park located along the Oregon Coast. It was dumping rain. Nearly two hours later, we checked into hiker biker camp, and begun another wild Survival Bros adventure.

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Luckily, Mac’s wife Shauna was kind enough to drop our gear off at camp. Riding in with a 50 pound backpacking bag would have been brutal, and unsafe since we had to negotiate the narrow shoulder of the Astoria bridge. Semis were seeing how close they could get to clipping us. Setting up the massive 8 person tent was easy. The only break we got in the weather occurred when we made camp. After our gear was setup, lantern hanged, and sleeping bag unrolled, we tightened up our boots and peddled deeper into the state park.

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Along the path we stopped to identify many mushrooms. The park was exploding with life. Fungi hunting season is far from over. There were huge patches of fresh Amanitas everywhere. One had a bite taken out of it, as we could see teeth marks. Must have been a deer, or a crazy person.

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Over the last few weeks, my pals and I have scoured a good chunk of Fort Stevens. It’s incredible how many types of terrain there are. From Coffenbury Lake, to the dunes near the Pacific Ocean. I finally found King Boletes just south of the jetty, west of the road. I hunted down the biggest King growing under a tree branch, in pine needles. I got video of me cutting it, but the power is out in Astoria now, so I can’t edit the HD footage. Here’s a photo of the big boletes we found. The choice mushroom nuggets are going in an omelette immediately, and spaghetti tonight for dinner.

Due to my phone about to die, and the power being out, I’m uploading this blog now. I will complete the story, and add more pictures and video very soon. Stay safe out there. We are getting blasted with 98 MPH winds right now. Peace.

– Cameron McKirdy

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This is a picture of Seaside, OR taken today!

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Update: Back to the story. Mac and I spent one night in hiker biker camp. It’s $6 per evening. Fort Stevens actually moved the spot, because where they usually stash the gypsies floods this time of year. When we got into our tent we were soaked. I quickly changed my clothes, then we started making dinner. I busted out a Mountain House lasagna, and boiled the water for it in my Jetboil Zip. After sitting for a good ten minutes in the bag, it was ready to dish out. Mac prepared 8 beef hotdogs on his Coleman stove. The warm grub was much needed. We biked around 15 miles that day.

After mushroom hunting on day one, it poured back at the tent. Luckily the spot we pitched our tent didn’t flood. We didn’t realize how bad of a storm it was until we were in it. Thank God we had shelter. The stoves kept the tent warm for awhile, until we passed out. I was also glad I brought my small windup lantern. It was bright for maybe 25 minutes in between cranks. After that, it cast just enough light to not stumble over our gear and dirty dishes.

On day two in Fort Stevens we ate another Mountain House freeze dried meal for breakfast. I love their blueberry granola with milk. I added freeze dried apples too. We had two more hotdogs each, then set out on our bikes again. This time we went out toward the South Jetty. That’s where we found the King Boletes. I was so amped to find those monster mushrooms. We saw other mushroom pickers out there, and duck hunters too.

We smashed through the brush for a few hours, but the storm kept getting crazier. Mac and I were totally drenched. But the trip was well worth the suffering. We put food on the table, and learned a lot along the way. Foraging is so fun! Supermarkets are for suckers. Our ride swooped us, and we made a clean getaway, and broke camp. You know Survival Bros will be out there again soon. Cheers.

Cameron McKirdy Mushroom Hunting at Fort Stevens State Park

Video of our mushroom foray on the North Oregon Coast

Slideshow of photos taken during our fungi hunt