The answer to almost every beginner backpacker question!

5:04 p.m. on October 22, 2011 (EDT)
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I just read Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. There is so much amazing stuff in it! I haven't finished it yet but I've had it checked out of my local library for quite a while now.

The whole first section is just basic outdoor how to stuff. I've always felt like I was missing some sort of knowledge that is why I have turned to Trailspace to figure out how to do some things. My posts aren't long or super detailed, but I've lurked quite a bit and learned so much. This group has a lot of knowledge and quite a few unique characters. As I was reading it I imagined quite often having Bill S in my backpack and being able to pull him out and ask a question then put him back again.

Freedom of the Hills has been awesome to read. It has tons of detailed information about whatever you are curious about. I don't think I'll ever be a first class mountaineer. The best I've ever done is hike to Kings Peak, it was great, but I really didn't know what I was doing.

I'll list out a few of the cool things I read about in this book:

  • Descriptions of clothing layering systems
  • How to pack your pack
  • Advantages and disadvantages of different tent types
  • How to navigate with a compass
  • Stove types and their advantages
  • Waste disposal
  • How to navigate difficult terrain like scree, talus, boulder, snow and rivers,
  • Food planning (not just ramen!)
  • Chapter 22: How to stay alive
  • Leave no trace

I've been restraining myself and deleting all the exclamation points I wanted to put in this. It really has a ton of information. The middle sections on ice and rock climbing are pretty cool too but I don't do that much.

I thought that this book made me a better backpacker and has given me a good foundation to have a lot of fun in the future.

5:34 p.m. on October 22, 2011 (EDT)
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@ C4B7 :  There appears to be two books with the same or similar titles:

 

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills by Don Graydon

ISBN-10: 0898863090  --ISBN-13: 9780898863093

 

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, Kurt Hanson

ISBN-10: 1840370017 --ISBN-13: 9781840370010

 

Just wondering to which book your refering to,  though there both most likely good books?

6:56 p.m. on October 22, 2011 (EDT)
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Same book, different editions. Graydon and Hanson are co-authors.  093 is the older of the two, but there is an 8th edition out and available from The Mountaineers.

http://www.mountaineersbooks.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1564

I have an old edition somewhere.

Another book I highly recommend for backpackers and hikers is The Complete Walker by the late Colin Fletcher and now Chip Rawlins, considered by many to be the "Bible of Backpacking." I have the 3rd Edition of that somewhere too.

10:25 p.m. on October 22, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Tom!

7:11 a.m. on October 23, 2011 (EDT)
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Yep. I've read and reread that book a dozen times.

But just one thing. Remember nothing ever takes away from actually being out in the woods and actually learning from the elements. And as much as you'll get from reading books you will always learn more by being out there and encountering every situation yourself and learning how your equipment works for you and what feels the most comfortable for you.

7:36 p.m. on October 23, 2011 (EDT)
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Tom D said:

Same book, different editions. Graydon and Hanson are co-authors.  093 is the older of the two, but there is an 8th edition out and available from The Mountaineers.

http://www.mountaineersbooks.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1564

I have an old edition somewhere.

Another book I highly recommend for backpackers and hikers is The Complete Walker by the late Colin Fletcher and now Chip Rawlins, considered by many to be the "Bible of Backpacking." I have the 3rd Edition of that somewhere too.

 Current editions are MFOTH is 8th (9th is due out probably in late 2012) and Complete Walker is 4th. However, you can save some bucks by getting an earlier edition (except the original Complete Walker, which has become a collectors' edition).

5:30 a.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Yes everyone should have a copy at home, I've bought a few copies for friends.

The Avalanche Handbook is equally invaluable for winter escapades.

9:26 a.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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FOH is THE book. If you are interested in getting in the high lonely places in the world, here is where you start. 

The only problem I have with it is that it makes climbing seem very doable and draws you into the sport more and more. 

zum beispiel:

I used to say that I would backpck only and never rock climb.  Then it was just rocks but not mountains.  Now I am saying just easy mountains but not mixed alpine and rock routes.  We'll see how that goes. 

My 2 cents.

 

 

 

 

Jeff

1:28 p.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Thank for this book recommendation.  I look forward to reading it.

9:03 p.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Even the older editions of Freedom of the Hills have useful tips, though some are quite dated. The late Harvey Manning authored/edited the early additions.

10:56 p.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Perfect post for me!  I've been working on a "book list" to get started on and this will help.  I'm also searching for people near my area to show me/help me with some of these things hands on, as I agree with Rocklion that nothing beats experience.  I'm very hands on, even more so with things like this that don't come intuitively to me out of a book.  How are the navigational chapters, are they helpful?  Any other recommendations for someone with no background in map reading or any sort of navigation short of a gps?  I'm hoping one day I'll just have an "aha" moment...cheers!

11:55 p.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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RJones -

The navigational chapters in MFOTH and Complete Walker are good, but a bit brief. Navigation is definitely one of those skills that requires getting out and doing it - book learning is not enough to develop a real feel for finding your way and staying found (to borrow the names of two good wilderness navigation books). A very good way, and lots of fun, is to try orienteering. Go to the Orienteering USA website. Unfortunately, the nearest clubs to you are in the eastern part of Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Timpson - that's close to Shreveport, LA) and in Albuquerque.

Start off learning the basics of map and compass. Get yourself a USGS topographic map of an area near you that you have an interest in (the 7.5 minute series, scale 1:24,000) and an inexpensive baseplate compass, such as a Brunton 7DNL (abt $16) or Suunto A-10 (abt $15). You will probably get a lot of posts swearing by much more expensive compasses with mirrors, military "lensatic" compasses, and so on. But with a simple base-plate compass, you can learn all the basics of using a compass with the map and get around the wilderness just fine. Over the years, I have acquired specialty orienteering compasses, mirror compasses, a Cammenga lensatic (the Rolls Royce or Ferrari or Humvee of military compasses), a Brunton Pocket Transit (a surveyor's field compass), and special southern hemisphere compasses. But I find that for wandering in woods and hills, including in whiteouts in the Arctic and Antarctic, the simple baseplate compass does 99% of what the other far more expensive ones will do (a little secret - navigation skills are far more important than any compass or map). I worked for many years in the aerospace industry, developing the next generation of the Global Positioning System, and have the latest greatest of GPS receivers (about 8 in total right now). The simple baseplate compass has no batteries to die, and with the navigational skills you learn, you will know where you are and where you are going more accurately than your GPSR. Combine that with a map and basic mapreading skills, and you can find your way anywhere in almost any conditions (ok, if you suddenly find yourself on a life raft in the middle of the ocean, with your compass and a watch, your position will not be as accurate, but you can figure out approximately where you are).

Get Bjorn Kellstrom's map and compass book. Kjellstrom is no longer living, but he and his family invented the baseplate compass and founded the Silva company in Sweden (the Silva compasses in the US, sold by Johnson Worldwide Associates, are made by Suunto, while Brunton compasses are made by the original Silva of Sweden). Kjellstrom's daughter did the third edition and is keeping the book up to date. Another good book is the one published by Mountaineers Press, named Wilderness Navigation (it's an expanded version of the navigation chapters in MFOTH), and the one published by National Outdoor Leadership School. These all have enough to give you the idea, especially if you actually get out and practice.

Go down around Ft Davis or Big Bend or up to New Mexico in the hills east of Las Cruces. Good places to learn map and compass.

10:55 a.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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RJones, Welcome!

Hope you enjoy the site and community!

Bill, +1 on the Kjellstrom book.

I taught BASIC (very basic) orienteering to High School kids and this was my text book, along with a few others. 

1:33 p.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Welcome to TrailSpace, RJones! 

I know I had that "Aha!" moment  with maps and navigation. It came about from taking a USGS quad topo out with me to some of the mountain canyons I had hiked before. Suddenly seeing how the the map matched the formations and geography in right there in front of me was what it took. I had looked at and studied 7.5 minute maps before, and read about orienteering, but until that moment it was all purely academic and abstract. 

I haven't had trouble understanding maps since, and can visualize the physicality of the land by looking at the representation on the paper. 

So for me, curiosity, enthusiasm and getting out to a familiar spot with map in hand was the key. Having someone who can help point things out and familiarize you is very helpful as well! 

Feel free to start new threads on anything you want to know!

11:43 a.m. on October 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for the welcome guys!  Bill S, awesome info, thank you so much!  I've been building up a list of things to acquire, including a regular compass (all I have now is an app on my phone :/) but like I said, I didn't want to rush out and buy something marketed as awesome and spectacular with an equally awesome price tag (as much as I hate the stereotypes, I do get caught by pretty things sometimes, haha).  Is there a website(s) you'd recommend for checking out some of these things?  All I really know about is the big names, like REI, etc., and all we have here in EP is an Academy.  I have family and friends all over this area, so I'll check out the orienteering website anyways, maybe something will pan out.  El Paso is nice, but frustrating in that it's so far away from everything.  I'll start around here in the Franklin Mts., which I'm pretty familiar with, and then Las Cruces and Ft. Davis will be good, I like the drive out to Ft. Davis and had family there at one time.  I've been frustrated for a very long time at my lack of map/gps reading skills.  I do have a sort of intuitive sense for navigating, like I can get lost but eventually find my way back out, but not because of skill haha!  Thanks again for the tips.

Gonzan, I actually met with an army guy yesterday, and he suggested that very same thing.  So he's going to show me some basic stuff so I understand the topo maps and send me out on my own to see how I do.  It should be fun!  It's definitely one thing to read about something and another to do it.  I'll be digging my way through the previous threads for a while I think, so I don't ask any redundant questions, but I'm sure I'll have some.

Cheers!

2:53 p.m. on October 26, 2011 (EDT)
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RJones: You might try Mountain Gear, Eastern Mountain Sports,  and Back Country. Also, Back Packer Magazine provides online issues and they rate all sorts of gear and apparel. Look through the product reviews here as well. BillS and Rick-Pittsburg...and Whomeworry are all so very helpful...most of the people here really use the gear and can give you their real world outcomes. I know that it has already proved invaluable to me.

8:47 p.m. on October 26, 2011 (EDT)
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I had a fun little game with a topo map just a few months ago. Me and a buddy had a quad spread out in front of us and he was trying to figure out what terrain we would encounter and what the trail would be like.

In my mind, I could see the whole thing in 3D. I sat there explaining how we'd hit a steep climb here, we'd hit a flat spot there and run along a ridge. We'd have to cross a creek there in a small gorge.

He was just looking at me awestruck and said "how do you know that?" Just told him I could see it. After we got on the trail, the whole time he just kept asking me what was next because everything I said came true.

That was the first time in a long  time I  realized not  everyone sees a map the same way. I'm just so used to it.

2:28 p.m. on October 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Off to REI today

440

7:16 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Mine came in the mail today. I am POURING through it wishing that I had gotten it much younger...maybe then I would not have "retired" from the outdoors for all those years. Woulda Coulda Shoulda!

5:15 p.m. on October 30, 2011 (EDT)
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I've really been enjoying this book. I've got the complete walker on my Christmas wish list.

In Freedom of the Hills it was nice to see some of the things I already do described, such as the scrambling. It was nice to finally learn what scree or talus was.

5:17 p.m. on October 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Does anyone have any books about orienteering?

12:24 a.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Look at the Orienteering USA website. Among the publications they list at the link is the Bjorn Kjellstrom book, Be Expert with Map&Compass, that I mentioned in another post. There are a bunch of books and videos in their list, all good, some great.

5:36 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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giftogab said:

Mine came in the mail today. I am POURING through it wishing that I had gotten it much younger...maybe then I would not have "retired" from the outdoors for all those years. Woulda Coulda Shoulda!

 Now doing it

11:49 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I've ordered mine, along with a slew of others, haha!  Can't wait till they come in.  Thanks for all of the tips and advice everyone.  I'll be trying out my map reading skills (lack there-of) this weekend so we'll see how it goes.  I plan on making my compass my best friend.  One of my army friends mentioned something about pacing or a pace count, to keep track of distances, have you guys done that?  I'm one of those who can't judge 30 feet from 500 feet (you know when you're behind a firetruck or EMT vehicle?!), so I'm also going to try his suggestion this weekend and keep doing it until I get a more intuitive feel for distances.  I'm going to also break down and in my spare time (hah), make myself learn the metric system.  

1:59 a.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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it was not at the store, so still looking

2:25 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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RJones said:

... One of my army friends mentioned something about pacing or a pace count, to keep track of distances, have you guys done that?  I'm one of those who can't judge 30 feet from 500 feet (you know when you're behind a firetruck or EMT vehicle?!), so I'm also going to try his suggestion this weekend and keep doing it until I get a more intuitive feel for distances.  I'm going to also break down and in my spare time (hah), make myself learn the metric system.  

 Metric system is trivial to learn. Can you make change in US dollars? Then you already know most of the basics of the metric system. Everything is a multiple of 10. None of the multiples of 12 (inches), 3 (feet in a yard), furlongs, 2 (pints in a quart), 4 (quarts in a gallon), .....

Pacing - yes, use it all the time, at least for distances less than a mile. I do a fair amount of competitive orienteering, where the maps are in meters and oriented to magnetic north (no declination arithmetic - lessee, now, do I add or subtract the declination? No, wait, I'm in Peru, with 0 declination. Whew! Just read the compass!).

The way to learn pacing is to measure out 100 yards or 100 meters on the ground (go to your local high school on a weekend and use the football field). Walk your normal hiking step between the goal lines and count the steps. Do this both directions several times and average the number of steps. You can count either steps (1 for each time your feet strike the ground) or paces (1 for each time your left foot strikes the ground, so half the number of steps). Then remember (or write down) the number. Try this on a hill as well (get the distance from a map or use the posted mileage if you are in a park where they have maps or signs). Count paces for a known distance on several trails and do the division to get paces per mile or km. Do it uphill and downhill (people tend to take more steps going uphill).

Sounds complex, but do it a few times, and it just comes naturally. As a rough rule of thumb, most people have a pace of 2 to 3 feet on the level, a bit less than 2 uphill, and 3 plus a little downhill.

You can get a pedometer to keep track of the number of steps - they are pretty cheap, though somewhat inaccurate because your step will vary somewhat.

1:01 p.m. on November 5, 2011 (EDT)
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learned map reading in the army, and had to teach it quite a bit to new troops.  One of the best teaching experiences I had was in Yakama, WA.  The country is so open and visual.  The guys picked up the scale and topographical information really fast.  If you can get to a place where you can see a lot of the topography while comparing it to the map, you can grasp the concepts, scale & information much faster.

11:43 a.m. on November 7, 2011 (EST)
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does anybody make attachment accessories for skis&poles to backpacks?and how do most people carry their boots,in the pack or external?i cant imagine a boot holder dangling from a pack constantly changing your center,plus conventional boot holders are spring loaded i would imagine all the shocks would dislodge your boots from the holder.also,ive skied for 43 of last 47 yrs. and have never even seen a weight on a ski,binding,boot or pole(never been significant)im sure some of the mountaineering people ski and know where to look,any advice will be appreciated.lightweight powder skis?

1:20 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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I can give some help here. Both my Karrimor and Millet Goliath have straps on each side for holding skiis and poles. In the case of the Karrimor, the skis go through a slot behind the side pockets. In the case of the Millet, the pockets are removable so I can use the straps sans pockets. The poles I usually use when ascending a slope. As far as the boots, I wear them. If you are talking about hiking on trail, etc to get to snow, I would strap them to the top of the pack. Many mountaineering packs have fittings on the top of the pack for tying rope and these can be used to strap on a pair of boots. You are right, they are heavy. I used to use my climbing boots as ski boots, in my case Silvretta bindings and Super Guides. The bindings tended to be hard on the stitching on the welts.

11:43 p.m. on December 9, 2011 (EST)
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If you use a Roman Pace (left to left or right to right) AND your stride is near 5 1/4 feet, you can figure out how fast you are hiking on near flat ground.  Count the number of paces in 35 seconds.  Dividing the count by 10 gives an approximate mph.   If your pace is a bit longer or shorter you will have to adjust. In Roman times they had a distance pacer who, after 1000 (Roman) paces would have walked a mile - hence the name for that measure.  He was, in a way, the legion's odometer.  In a 1000 seconds I walk fairly close to a measured mile - close enough.

I find that I can judge distance close enough for my means, by noting the time I've hiked and what I consider to be the speed I am hiking for the terrain, altitude, pack weight.  That should come with experience and in mountains mine is usually 1.0 - 2mph.  You can, over time, gauge your mph/kph by how long it takes to go a known distance.   Then carry that knowledge over to unsigned trails.

I find it a bit boring to have to count steps.  My daughter used to count down the switchbacks on the return trip driving us all to distraction.  Our son's ever pleading  request of, "Are we there yet" was only slight less onerous.  My wife's intuition of how far we had covered amazed us all when she would announce that she smelled  the campsite about 10 minutes before we would actually get there.  She didn't really know, she said, but only that it just felt about time for it.  Maybe she got lucky with wishful thinking.

5:16 p.m. on December 10, 2011 (EST)
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Checked it out and an amazing detailed book.

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