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GEAR CHICK - KRISTIN HOSTETTER - ASK THE EXPERT
Submit Your Question

Guns & Backpacking

Q.} I am new to backpacking and have only made a few serious trips. Everyone I hike with always carries a gun. Do you carry a firearm when in the United States? Or am I just paranoid?
Submitted by: Damian - Alamogordo, NM
A.} First off, there’s no easy answer to this question–and no real consensus in the hiking community. Smart, responsible backpackers on both sides of the debate hold reasonable positions (see Bruce Barcott’s great essay on the hiker/hunter debate in "Killer Hike").

Unfortunately, discussion around guns in the backcountry almost always gets hijacked by the most partisan voices and disintegrates into unproductive name-calling. Backpacker tries to hew a middle course on the issue: The magazine’s official position is this: If you're a responsible gun owner with proper training and permits, and if carrying a weapon enhances your backcountry experience, and if you respect other hikers who might be uncomfortable around firearms, then by all means, carry them where they are legal.

But you’re asking me, personally, if I carry a gun. The answer is a definitive no. I’ve never carried one, nor have I ever hiked with anyone who has. Frankly, it would freak me out a little. I was not raised with guns, and have no need or desire to bring them into my life, particularly my wilderness experience.

I once took a 10-day trip into grizzly-thick Wrangell-St. Elias NP with my friend, Annie, and nothing but a couple cans of pepper spray. Everyone we met en route to our remote camp (including our bush plane pilot) was amazed that we weren't packing heat. Two girls headed into the Alaskan bush with no guns? They thought we were crazy. To us, it wasn't even something we ever considered. Did we see grizzly? Yep--two at once. Was it scary? Yep, but in an exhilarating, unforgettable, all good way. (We would have been sorely disappointed if we ended that trip without a bear encounter.) Did we for one split second wish we had a gun? Nope.

Damian, what do you feel you need protection from? Animals? Highly unlikely. The odds of you getting attacked by any animal are slim to none, unless you do something really dumb, like bring a T-bone steak into your tent in grizzly country. Even grizzlies will leave you alone if you follow proper protocol and keep a clean camp (Check out our "Ask a Bear" section for all the dos and don'ts in bear country.)

As for protection from criminals, I do, personally, think that’s being paranoid. I’ve been hiking for 20+ years all over the country–many times alone–and I’ve never once felt uneasy or threatened by any person I’ve ever encountered. Yes, I know it does happen on rare occasions–although almost always in frontcountry settings–but I believe that having a gun in pocket could potentially turn a bad situation worse, especially if you're not fully trained on how to use it. (On the remote chance that you do run into a weirdo on the trail, read these tips on how to deal with it.)

There are also practical reasons for not carrying a gun: They’re heavy and bulky and awkward. And if everyone you hike with is carrying one (as is their right), yours would only be redundant, weighing you down both physically and mentally. I’m assuming your hiking partners are well-trained in gun use. If a situation arises and a gun is necessary, let them deal with it.

Bottom line: Unless you’re hunting, I personally see no reason to carry a gun while backpacking. For me, one of the main joys of backpacking is escaping from stress. Guns require serious responsibility and serious responsibility causes stress. To reiterate: This is my personal opinion, but you asked!

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READERS COMMENTS

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Ryan
Aug 03, 2014

I am getting ready to take my first trip into the Tahoe National Forest early in the fall, and have asked myself the same question? When you truly look at all the factors involved, and of course try not to allow bias to interfere, it really seems to be 100% percent personal preference. Sure there are people that carry a gun, and others that have no interest in having a gun with them, most reporting that they have never needed to use a gun, or even been in a situation that would warrant using one. Considering the testimonials from other hikers, there's really no reason to make it a hard decision since there is no right or wrong answer. If you feel better having a gun with you, or if you prefer to not be around a gun, then there is your answer. One thing I refuse to do, is base my decision from the details of any single event that has been in the media, told around the campfire, etc... If you live your life in a manner that is influenced or dictated by the media in any capacity, you are simply refusing to think for yourself and letting the media create an obvious bias in your perception of people, the world, what's safe, etc... More people are killed falling off of ladders or drowning in buckets every day in the US than there are horific murders or animal related deaths. Don't get me wrong, if you like to carry a gun, by all means enjoy, but at least make an informed decision based on facts and true reality, not some scare tactic perpetuated by the media to keep you watching for the next story in complete and total paranoia.

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Laguna Hiker
Jun 25, 2014

Kristin, thank you for your thoughtful response to this thorny issue. It's unusual to see good, common sense in the midst of the noise from both sides of this issue.

I hike the California backcountry extensively, and one of my concerns is with other hikers who may be carrying firearms. I know they are well-intentioned, but most lack the training and practice needed to be able to use firearms safely and effectively.

To those who are considering carrying firearms on the trail, please--be professional and take firearm safety seriously. Many law enforcement agencies offer civilian training, and from what I have seen, it is quite good. If you ever need to defend yourself, training will increase your odds of survival, and it will reduce the risk of an accident that may cause injury or the loss of life.

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NorthernCanuck
May 20, 2014

Legal and safe operation of a firearm is considered a must. I hike in familiar areas with just a knife. But when I go further out I take a survival rifle in the pack. It weighs less than 3bls and takes up next to no space. It has a 325 foot pound cartridge and is sufficient to survive and protect. It's never come out of the pack. If ever there was a time it was needed I would be very happy indeed it was there. I fully respect the choice others make, you have a right to live as you see fit for yourself. And so do I. If I were not welcome in a group because of something they would never see if never needed I question their stance and over inflated need to push their belief system onto me, or what is more common, accuse me of being 'less than' or 'paranoid' or any other derogatory term as I am not like minded or the 'same' as they are. I'm certainly not trying to "convert" you. If something did go wrong, your welcome to fend for yourself. I will be well fed, sheltered and warm.

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Backpack
Apr 19, 2014

The best person to ask is someone with experience, I recommend Meredith Emerson, ask her what she thinks. Oh, that's right, you can't because she's dead. In 2008, she went for a hike on the Blood Mountain section of the AT, one of the most populous sections on the trail. She went for a day hike with her dog Ella as a companion and for protection.

She was raped, murdered, dismembered and beheaded by her attacker, Gary Hilton. He's now sitting in prison for the murder, awaiting parole in thirty years so he can do it again. But don't be afraid, I'm sure it won't happen to you. After all, that's what Meredith thought.

Carry a weapon and give yourself a fighting chance of survival. There ARE predators out there wanting to do you harm. Those who say they are not afraid are naive about their own safety. Where will they be when you are attacked? Protect yourself, no one else will.

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Jane Fairfax
Mar 17, 2014

When hiking, my preference is to just have a knife. I have never really encountered anything that requires more than that, but then I tend to stick to more popular trails because I'm with a group and going where they do. Most animals are more afraid of you than you are of them, and other hikers are likely to be safe bets as well. Criminal activity is more likely in urban areas, not out in the sticks. However, if you hike in an area where you think you could seriously face danger, and it is legal, by all means carry a gun. If you are worried about weight, a tactical backpack might be a good investment, since it's lighter and has the shape and construction to help you carry more. Here's a good site for them:

http://www.wegotbetterdeals.com/back-packs-back-packs-c-920_921.html

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Jay
Mar 02, 2014

TJ, you don't own a gun not because you're not afraid but because you're afraid. You'd rather if attacked roll over and die than fight back because fighting is too hard right? Do you carry a first aid kit in your long hikes? Of course not, you're not afraid right? Do you have a whistle? Why bother if you're not afraid? From my experience people would rather carry a whistle and hope someone within earshot has a gun or a first aid kit on them. After all why worry about yourself when you have others that can take care of you right?

Having a weapon on a long hike is a necessity and it's quite simple. Do you have life insurance? Do you have health insurance? Do you have auto insurance? I've driven for 25 years and never needed auto insurance but guess what I still have it above the minimums of my state. It is NOT a matter of being afraid or not. It is all about being prepared for worst. Recently coyotes have been getting more and more aggressive and I enjoy hiking alone. I'd be a fool not to have at the bare minimum a large knife on me.

If you've been hiking for years and never had a problem with animals just cancel all your various insurance plans. Surely if it never happened to you it never will right? That kind of mindset is astonishing to me. Don't wear eye protection while doing work that requires it. If anybody reading this has never had cavities before, don't brush your teeth! You don't need to since it never happened before why would it happen now?
Makes no sense.

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JB
Jan 29, 2014

When people traveled the 'back country' by foot back before people turned it into a leisure activity, not carrying a firearm was nearly unthinkable. This notion of being afraid of firearms carried by other people is just as nonsensical as being afraid of their skin color. Every park ranger I have ever seen wears a sidearm. I do find it rather inconsistent that after stating rather bluntly that being attacked by man or critter in the outback is such an unlikely event as to be paranoid to think otherwise that you would bother to carry spray of any kind... after all its for protection, not seasoning your eggs, and you just got done telling us that protection is unnecessary. For the couple 'avid' gun owners on here who would 'never even dream' of taking them into the outback forgive me if I doubt your sincerity for you are surely a specie of gun owner I have never encountered. I don't carry a firearm to impress you or to bother you, I am not afraid nor do I lack my manparts. I carry because its one of the tools I choose to carry. Its very likely that outside of leisure or the taking of game that I will never need it (like your spray) and that sits just fine by me.

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Amazed
Jan 12, 2014

Wow! The amount of spelling and grammar mistakes made in the comment section is what scares me the most. How can we communicate effectively if we don't have the tools? My eleventh grade English teacher would weep.

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Mountain Joe
Dec 27, 2013

First of all, if you wish not to carry a gun while hiking, fine, no problem but don't put others down for doing so. Don't talk about them when you have no clue like stating how it's so much responsibility and heavy to carry guns. You obviously don't know about handguns and lighter type and the list goes on. I always carry a knife small and large, great tools and if needed for self defense against man, beast or whatever, glad it's there. I personally do carry a firearm when hiking I am not afraid or feel lost without it. I love this saying which applies to so many things in life. "Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it." Pepper spray, fine if you wish but don't rely on it, I have seen it not work on people, including myself and on some it did. I would rather avoid bears or whatever creatures then use that on them and pee them off by using it, but if you have no choice do what you have to do. I am pro gun, but don't talk negative of those who don't want to carry a firearm or claim it is so scary or scared of those who do carry a gun. If you are that uncomfortable about guns, knives or about those who carry, get over your fears, don't push them on the rest of us. Rediculous.

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Mountain Joe
Dec 27, 2013

First of all, if you wish not to carry a gun while hiking, fine, no problem but don't put others down for doing so. Don't talk about them when you have no clue like stating how it's so much responsibility and heavy to carry guns. You obviously don't know about handguns and lighter type and the list goes on. I always carry a knife small and large, great tools and if needed for self defense against man, beast or whatever, glad it's there. I personally do carry a firearm when hiking I am not afraid or feel lost without it. I love this saying which applies to so many things in life. "Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it." Pepper spray, fine if you wish but don't rely on it, I have seen it not work on people, including myself and on some it did. I would rather avoid bears or whatever creatures then use that on them and pee them off by using it, but if you have no choice do what you have to do. I am pro gun, but don't talk negative of those who don't want to carry a firearm or claim it is so scary or scared of those who do carry a gun. If you are that uncomfortable about guns, knives or about those who carry, get over your fears, don't push them on the rest of us. Rediculous.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mountain Joe
Dec 27, 2013

First of all, if you wish not to carry a gun while hiking, fine, no problem but don't put others down for doing so. Don't talk about them when you have no clue like stating how it's so much responsibility and heavy to carry guns. You obviously don't know about handguns and lighter type and the list goes on. I always carry a knife small and large, great tools and if needed for self defense against man, beast or whatever, glad it's there. I personally do carry a firearm when hiking I am not afraid or feel lost without it. I love this saying which applies to so many things in life. "Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it." Pepper spray, fine if you wish but don't rely on it, I have seen it not work on people, including myself and on some it did. I would rather avoid bears or whatever creatures then use that on them and pee them off by using it, but if you have no choice do what you have to do. I am pro gun, but don't talk negative of those who don't want to carry a firearm or claim it is so scary or scared of those who do carry a gun. If you are that uncomfortable about guns, knives or about those who carry, get over your fears, don't push them on the rest of us. Rediculous.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mountain Joe
Dec 27, 2013

First of all, if you wish not to carry a gun while hiking, fine, no problem but don't put others down for doing so. Don't talk about them when you have no clue like stating how it's so much responsibility and heavy to carry guns. You obviously don't know about handguns and lighter type and the list goes on. I always carry a knife small and large, great tools and if needed for self defense against man, beast or whatever, glad it's there. I personally do carry a firearm when hiking I am not afraid or feel lost without it. I love this saying which applies to so many things in life. "Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it." Pepper spray, fine if you wish but don't rely on it, I have seen it not work on people, including myself and on some it did. I would rather avoid bears or whatever creatures then use that on them and pee them off by using it, but if you have no choice do what you have to do. I am pro gun, but don't talk negative of those who don't want to carry a firearm or claim it is so scary or scared of those who do carry a gun. If you are that uncomfortable about guns, knives or about those who carry, get over your fears, don't push them on the rest of us. Rediculous.

Star
Sapper
Dec 01, 2013

Wow, what a bunch of unmitigated stupidity. Question, how about bringing a rifle to get FOOD? Dumb asses. Not everyone goes hiking for an afternoon and then goes home. Secondly, I live in the Houston area where we are treated to muggings, home invasions, etc. Couple of months ago a guy chased me all over the place because I passed him and he didn't like it. Am I to believe that these kind of people are not sometimes in the woods? I'm a combat vet who has been all over the world. I've seen the worst in people and I trust no one. I find it pretty damned funny all of the focus being on bears. How about cougars, wolves, gators, even elk can be deadly. You would look pretty damned stupid trying to fend off a pack of wolves with your stupid pepper spray. Recently saw a headline on drudge about a woman who called to tell her mother goodbye as she was being EATEN by a bear. I bet she wished she had a good 30.06 that day instead of her cell phone. You people need to grow a brain. I don't give a crap if someone is offended by my guns. To hell with them. When they start paying my bills I'll give a damn.

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Ry'
Nov 22, 2013

I've been backpacking/hiking for thirtyfive years and have never carried a gun. One trip a paranoid friend brought a sawed off shotgun. I think it was more to look cool then anything else!
That was also the last time that goof was invited along on a backcountry trip.
ps, I don't even carry pepper spray and have seen many a bear and other wildlife.

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TJ
Nov 21, 2013

I think Kristen delivered a perfect response.

It comes down to if you feel afraid and powerless. And as most people who carry guns in to the backcountry, (or even keep them in their homes) are fearful, it makes sense for them.

Me? I don't own a gun. I'm not afraid.

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Jacob
Sep 15, 2013

A solid, balanced answer. I've never carried a gun in the backcountry though I've done a lot of hunting and feel perfectly comfortable handling firearms. I agree that it's an unnecessary weight and evidence suggests that pepper spray is at least as effective. However, I do take issue with her "bottom line." She equates the serious responsibility of looking after a gun with the stress she tries to escape by backpacking. But any backpacking, especially in bear country, is a serious responsibility. Some of the most dangerous, stressful experiences of my life have taken place while backpacking without a gun. For my part, the rewards of backpacking are only increased by facing stressful situations and coming through them. I go into the backcountry fully aware that I might face a grizzly or rock-slide or hypothermia, but learning to face and overcome danger is part of what I find so alluring. I don't need to carry a gun while backpacking, but if the only reason I didn't was because it caused me stress I would hope that I could learn to overcome my fear. Fortunately, Kristin has given us good reasons to not carry besides her "bottom line."

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Josh
Jul 15, 2013

Great reading.. especially the comments! My brother & I have walked into MJ grows here in CA. Once while hunting with his friend, my brother startled a "guard"- luckily for them, they had their rifles at the ready (they were stalking a deer), and his shotgun was a few feet away.

For this reason, we carry pistols whenever we backpack... though I am looking into a way to carry a rifle w/ a bullpup stock depending on how far out we go. Sometimes it's easier to hunt for food along the way instead of humping in everything we need.

In National Forests & BLM land, totally legal without Carry permits. Also legal whenever hunting (at least in CA) to carry concealed (of course.. you already have a rifle or shotgun). As was mentioned before, 99.9% of the time, if you are observant & aware of your surroundings the wildlife will leave you alone. Be safe, and only do what you are capable & comfortable doing. If you don't like firearms, or are freaked out about their presence... you won't even know others have them if they're being responsible.

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Bill in Lexington, NC
Jul 05, 2013

I am licensed to carry a pistol concealed. I could never forgive myself if one was needed to defend another human from an attack and I had left the pistol at home. Yeah, it adds to the weight ... but so does my Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter.

My wife and I have found a range we can afford and we make it a practice to practice our marksmanship often -- 3 or 4 times a month. We usually burn through $20-$40 worth of ammunition each time and consider this the price of acquiring this particular skill, just as we considered the $50 each we spent on earning a CPR certificate.

Safety in the woods consists of mindset, skills and tools ... in that order. Barring careless accident, a firearm is not dangerous unless the person holding it is.

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Bill in Lexington, NC
Jul 05, 2013

I am licensed to carry a pistol concealed. I could never forgive myself if one was needed to defend another human from an attack and I had left the pistol at home. Yeah, it adds to the weight ... but so does my Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter.

My wife and I have found a range we can afford and we make it a practice to practice our marksmanship often -- 3 or 4 times a month. We usually burn through $20-$40 worth of ammunition each time and consider this the price of acquiring this particular skill, just as we considered the $50 each we spent on earning a CPR certificate.

Safety in the woods consists of mindset, skills and tools ... in that order. Barring careless accident, a firearm is not dangerous unless the person holding it is.

Star Star Star Star Star
Bill in Lexington, NC
Jul 05, 2013

I am licensed to carry a pistol concealed. I could never forgive myself if one was needed to defend another human from an attack and I had left the pistol at home. Yeah, it adds to the weight ... but so does my Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter.

My wife and I have found a range we can afford and we make it a practice to practice our marksmanship often -- 3 or 4 times a month. We usually burn through $20-$40 worth of ammunition each time and consider this the price of acquiring this particular skill, just as we considered the $50 each we spent on earning a CPR certificate.

Safety in the woods consists of mindset, skills and tools ... in that order. Barring careless accident, a firearm is not dangerous unless the person holding it is.

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I have a Snowpeak stove that uses those small pressurized fuel canisters. Is there a good way to estimate the burn time left in a partially used canister?
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I've heard that DEET is bad for sleeping bag fabrics and can even melt some materials. Since I use DEET on my body on most camping trips, should I always wash my sleeping bag after every trip? And if not, how often should I wash it to protect it from DEET?
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What are the best quick-dry pants to use in cooler temperatures? I will be in Alaska in late August and will be out in the backcountry for 11 days. I wanted to find a good multi-purpose pant that will keep heat in and is also quick to dry.
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Is Gore-Tex still the #1 all-time best waterproof material you can buy? Or are other brands' waterproofing just the same with a different name? Just wondering if it's worth paying the extra money for the Gore-Tex brand? Thanks!
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I am new to backpacking and have only made a few serious trips. Everyone I hike with always carries a gun. Do you carry a firearm when in the United States? Or am I just paranoid?
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My friend and I have a debate going about how to pack a tent: He says stuffing it is better, but I say folding and rolling is better. His thought is that folding and rolling creates seams that will eventually let in water. Who's right?
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How can I be sure my water treatment equipment is doing it job. Is there a way to test this?
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Tents have warnings to "maintain adequate ventilation. Death by suffocation is possible!" My tent has lots of mesh. What's the story here?
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I am planning a thru-hike on the AT. Can you give me insight into the pros & cons of ultralight poles vs the old standbys? How necessary are shock absorbing poles for the AT?
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If a rain fly has a few areas of mildew will it still work to repel rain, or do I need to get a new fly? Is there anywhere to purchase just the rain fly, or do I have to go all in and get a new tent?
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For a summer trek at Philmont, which is better, a wool sweater or a fleece garment?
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Dear Kristen, I have a down sleeping bag that I forgot to place in my "storage" bag. I left it in my "stuff sack" for about 2 years. How will this affect its performance, and how do I remedy this situation? Do I just "air it out" for a few days?
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I have been away from backpacking for a while, why the shift away from external frame backpacks?
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What's the best way to patch a tear in a siliconized Cordura pack cover?
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I need prescription sunglasses, but can't afford them. I've had to cut snowshoeing trips short before because I couldn't cross any open meadow due to the sun. Do you have any cheap sunglass solutions that won't make me look like a geriatric?
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Is there a rectangular sleeping bag that can compress as small as a mummy bag?
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What is the best way to clean your hydration pack and tube? I sometimes get a moldy smell in my hydration bladder if I don't air it out thoroughly.
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The instructions on my gravity filter say you should "backwash"–reverse the flow–whenever the filtration rate slows. My question: What do you do with the water that is "backwashed" into the "dirty" bag? Discard the water or re-filter?
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I've noticed that the label on all of my baselayers say to not use fabric softeners. Do you know if this is just referring to liquid softeners or does this also mean dryer sheets? No dryer sheet = major static.
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Can rechargeable batteries be used in LED and non-LED headlamps and flashlights?
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I am wondering how the GPS apps for smartphones compare to a regular GPS? They seem to be the latest thing but are they as reliable?
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Dear Kristin, I'm in the military; for deployments and long field ops, I am unable to wash my sleeping bag. I have adopted the practice of spraying the inside of my bag with Lysol and drying it in the sun. Do you see this ruining the bag in any way?
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The rubber from the sole of my boots is starting to separate from the leather. Is there something I can do to mend this or are my boots toast? (I LOVE these boots...)
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My GPS works great in the Walmart parking lot, but in a steep valley, next to a mountain, or in the woods it can't get an adequate signal. How can I solve this problem?
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Does campfire smoke degrade the properties of DWR or breathable laminates?
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With chemical water purification tablets, almost all of them give instructions for a full quart or liter. If I want to clean just 8 ounces, could I divide the dose by breaking tablets into quarters (or cut the number of drops by 1/4), and would the treatments still be effective?
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Any suggestions for small, leakproof containers for carrying cooking supplies such as oil, syrup, sauces etc.?

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What is the best way to repair a tear in my fleece?

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What is the best way to add down to areas of a sleeping bag?
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Does a down sleeping bag go bad? I have an old The North Face expedition down bag. It has been in storage for 35 years. It looks good still, but will it fall apart?
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I am looking for a hydration pack for day ski trips this winter–need to attach skis, shovel, probe, food, and a few pieces of clothes. What are your favorites?
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I am considering retrofitting my old Kelty external frame backpack with new shoulder straps. Should I also replace the hipbelt?
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Is it best to put gaiters on over or under rainpants?
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If I spray a DWR finish on clothing, will that also increase its wind resistance? Specifically I'm thinking of a pair of light gloves and a headband that I use to meet an early morning chill, but are not much help in a cold wind. I find most windproof items too bulky.
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What are the pros & cons of a single-wall tent to a double-wall?
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Are there standards tents must meet to be designated "3 season"/"4 season?" A pole on my new Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 snapped after a full night of strong winds below Longs Peak, plus there was a punctured rain fly and snapped shock cords. A defect or design limits exceeded?
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Do you know of a good pair of beginner crampons for use in the Rockies? What's the price range?
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What's the low-down on rain gear? I'm a novice who's weary of spending his cash in the wrong places. Should I go with a softshell jacket or something with a sturdier outer shell?
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Hi Kristin, I was wondering if wearing two pairs of socks really helps prevent blisters/toe damage? If so, what do you recommend for the second sock? I usually use a merino wool blend, heavy cushion sock with my boots, and occasionally will get some blisters.
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I've been doing more hiking in sandals vs. my hiking boots. I have found hiking in the sandals good because I can also use them as camp shoes, they dry fast, and they're so much lighter than my boots. Do you see any safety issues with do this?
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Kristin, do you ever bring "backups" of your important items? On one hand it seems logical to bring an extra compass, flashlight, knife etc., but on the other it usually just turns out to be dead weight. What's your take on it?
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What is the earliest age at which we can start tent camping with a child? We were hoping to start thru-hiking the AT when our child reaches age two and half, but is that too young?
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Which should be applied to clothing and gear first? Waterproofing or Permethrin bug spray?
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How can I stop the elastic on my underwear from chafing me under my hipbelt?
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How can I recycle old polyester fiberfill sleeping bags to keep them out of the landfill?
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I have high arches so bad that the top of my right foot hurts. Is there any one brand of hiking boots that you recommend that has excellent arch support? Currently I use an insole in my hiking boot which helps but I still have issues.
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How can you tell if your water filter is still working properly?
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Can you wash a tent?
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When water comes over the top of Gore-Tex boots it can't seep out again like in regular boots, right?
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While rummaging around my basement I found a can of stove fuel. Does this stuff go bad like regular gasoline?
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We are taking our loaded backpacks on an airplane and are looking for protective sacks that we can put the backpacks in so they don't get destroyed during baggage handling. Where do I find this type of protection?
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I’m getting ready for summer and have been really interested in the soda can stoves. The only concern I have is whether the alcohol fuel can stand up to the South Carolina heat. Any thoughts?
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Stupid question time, what is the best way to wash camp dishes without hauling extra gear and wasting water? Do you have to boil/filter the water used for cleaning? Are dishes detergents bad for the environment? How do you dispose of dirty dish water?
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My wife and I are going to take our baby (born in December last year) hiking and camping with us and our dog this summer. Do you have gear recommendations for the main gear: baby carrier, baby sleeping gear, dirty diaper containment, etc?
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I am having a very hard time finding the right pair of trail pants. I've searched online and found what seems to be a thousand pairs and none are the right pair. Do you have a favorite?
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I love my sleeping bag/pad combo, except for one thing. I can't stop sliding off the pad! Is there anything that I can do to my pad to cut down on the sliding
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I am confused about the capacity figures that backpack manufacturers claim. With particular regards to daypacks it seems that the figures advertised are always about 20% higher than what the pack actually holds. What gives? And how many cubic inches do I need for a daypack or a week-long pack?
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My friends are getting married in a month and I want to give them a piece of gear specifically for couples. I looked into couples sleeping bags, my first choice, but I can't spend more than $200. Can you suggest something thoughtful and high quality?
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I need a new winter sleeping bag. Should I choose a sleeping bag with or without a waterproof laminate? Can you explain the difference?
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Dear Kristin, What is the ideal way to rig your 4-season tent for cold weather? My tent has zip in/out panels and I'm not sure what the right balance is between keeping the heat in and getting the condensation out.
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Kristin, do you have any tips for winter cooking? How should I set my backcountry kitchen up differently? Can I cook in my tent?
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When walking around the neighborhood or out walking the dogs usually duringwinter the streets are most times icy. Are there any shoes or hiking boots that are studded or ones that would be best for ice?
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Dear Kristin,
I love being outside when it's cold, especially hiking, and I wear glasses.
I have a hard time wearing face masks or balaclavas because my warm breath fogs up my glasses as I breathe out into whatever is covering my face. Any suggestions on being fog free?

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I am going on a week-long trip at around 10,500 feet elevation and we'll be using mules to carry our gear. Any suggestions on how to keep our food cold so we can carry perishables such as steak/chicken etc?
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How do I get rid of cold feet while in my sleeping bag in the middle of the night? The rest of my body is fine but my feet are freezing.
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Hats: Is there a secret to finding/wearing a great one as it gets colder out there? Synthetic? Wool? Is there one that's better than the other?
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I'm a sweaty sleeper. Any tips?
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I'm a cold sleeper. How do I sleep warmer?
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What's your method for storing and hauling your trash on a multi-day trip? I usually just use plastic bags but there's got to be a more packable way.
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Kristin, can you recommend a good glove system for colder hikes? Should I bring one pair or two? What should they be made of? Oh, and with longer gloves that bungee up my wrist, should that portion go over or under my jacket sleeve?
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What's the proper teeth brushing procedure in the woods? Is there one?


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It's getting cold out there--when do I need a hardshell and when do I need a softshell? I've never really understood the difference and when to use which jacket. Help!
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What's a good set of on trail eating utensils--fork, spoon, etc?
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Hey Kristin, this doesn’t seem to come up very often but should I be wearing a different kind of underwear in the backcountry than I do every day? Any recommendations?
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I'm having trouble deciding upon an insulating layer. I can't decide to go with fleece or PrimaLoft. What are the downs and ups of the two?


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How should my daypack fit? Should it fit differently from my weekend or week-long pack?
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Hey Kristin, I've got a great sleeping bag but I can't sleep without a pillow. Do you have a recommendation for a lightweight pillow or so kind of trick for making one with my gear?
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I've read many outdoor books to get up to speed on camping, cooking, hiking, etc. I would like to hear what your choices of books might be in the outdoor education area. One of my complaints is that they all start to sound the same.
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Going to the bathroom in the wild. What do I need? Do I need to pack out my waste? How? I'm going on a multi-day trip and am not sure what I need.

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How do I remove pine sap from my down sleeping bag (and other gear for that matter)?
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I love hiking and camping, but not alone. I'm one of those people who think about running away when I hear one stick break in the woods. Is there any way I could mentally prepare myself for sleeping alone in the wilderness?
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Hey Kristin, I'm a navigation newbie. Basically, I just head to the trailhead, look at the map there, and go. Is there essential, basic navigation equipment that I should have at all times, even on a dayhike?
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Dear Kristin,
Time and miles have taken their toll on the knees with one total knee replacement recently. I am getting back to limited hiking and some of the folks I pass on the trail are very high on the use of trekking poles. I would value your advice as to tips on how to adjust them to the proper length and techniques for most advantageous use of the poles to both reduce stress on the knees and ensure stability (twisting artificial knees is very painful!). I sure hope these poles are a benefit and not just an equipment fad?
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Kristin,
My wife and I are becoming more serious backpackers and l am shopping around to replace the tent that I've been using since childhood.  Could you explain what “minimum weight,” “packaged weight,” and similar terms mean? Thanks, Rick

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I know I'm supposed to use a bear canister all the time in bear country but they can be bulky. If I'm going on an overnight trip, do I really need one? And if I do, is there a sealable bag option that might work?
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What's the best way to keep pack contents dry. Pack covers and pack liners have failed repeatedly. Should I just rely on zip lock bags?
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Baselayers. I need a good one. I know wool is great but frankly, I itch and get pretty hot when I'm mid hike. Any suggestions?
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How do I get the campfire stench out of my gear? I tried washing it but no-go.
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What can I feed my dog throughout the day while we are hiking to keep his energy up?

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Can a water purifier purify pee?
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Alas, pain in my shoulders and hips is destroying my ability to camp. I can no longer sleep on the ground, even with a thin mattress underneath. What is the best, most cushioned, and lightweight pad that might help solve this problem?
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I commute by bicycle to work 15 miles one way. Where can I find a backpack for clothing and hydration that is visible to vehicles?
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Is it really necessary to have big hiking boots with really sturdy ankle support? I've always used trail runners on multi-day trips without a problem.
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Times are rough, and I don't have the spare cash to blow on top-dollar gear for every essential. If I have to skimp on one, which one should I cut corners: tent, sleeping bag, pack, or boots?
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What would you suggest for a windproof lighter that is simple and dependable?
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I am going to summit Kilimanjaro, but I only have summer weight sleeping bags good to 40 degrees. Given the high cost of lightweight, warm bags and that I don't winter camp, would it be effective to double bag a couple of my summer bags?
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How should a shell fit? I can't decide between a large or an extra large. Is it best to have ample layering room or should it be tight and form fitting? I can't decide whether to go up or down.
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Does Talc powder block the GoreTex Membrane of my boots? And what is the best odor killers for GoreTex Boots?

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Do campfires deter bears?

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I have been backpacking for 15 years and I have not been able to find a way to stop black toenails. I have changed my lacing especially going downhill, always trim toenails and had several different types of boots. Help!
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On a recent backpacking trip, the sole of one of my hiking boots came loose. I was able to use a tent cord to tie it on and hike back to the trailhead. How do you repair loose soles on hiking boots?
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I'm an extremely heavy sweater no matter what the weather. Should I really trust my hi-tech clothing to be absolutely dried by my body heat? Or is it better to carry extra clothing to change? I can't imagine risking the chance of sleeping damp.
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What is the best way to clean my down bag? Should it be dry-cleaned or can I just throw it in the wash?
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I have been backpacking for a little over a year and would like to try some cold weather backpacking. I am wondering how to keep warm in the tent at night. Is there a such thing as a backpacker tent heater? Any suggestions are appreciated.
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How do you remove poison oak or ivy sap from boots?

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I am tired of iodine for water purification and I am considering a filter (like the Hyperflow), but I see that it doesn't filter viruses. If I only backpack in America, do I have to get a filter with a purifier, or will a filter for bacteria only suffice? Going to Big Bend in 3 weeks and I'm clueless...
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Kristin, I was wondering about your thoughts on waterproofing your own
clothes, particularly pants. I have never used any sprayon or wash in
waterproofing product. Would something like that work to waterproof your
pants or would that be a waste of time?


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Is steel better than aluminum when choosing crampons?
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When camping in subzero temperatures whats the best way to keep my food warm long enough to eat it and whats a good way to clean the pot once the food has frozen itself to the sides?
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My favorite trail is snowed over now but I still want to get out there. Should I use snowshoes or crampons? Or is there something in between?


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I'm an amateur hiker/backpacker and I'm wondering how much gear I should pack. I don't want to bring too little, and I don't want to be overexerting myself with too much. What's in the ideal pack?
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What are the best products for re-waterproofing Gore-Tex rain jackets?
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Is it safe or advisable to use Febreeze or other "fabric refreshers" on my down sleeping bag?
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Dear Kristin, I just started hiking through mountain trails in the last year or so. I'm ready to take on full weekend backpacking trips. My main concern is food. What are some important tools to take along for good food prep?
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Dear Kristin,
How do I prevent chafing? I have been on many long distance hikes in the last year and seem plagued by raw spots. I have tried talc, shaving and even gone commando to the summit of the South Sister. What's the deal and what really works?
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Should I be worried about hiking in bear country when menstruating?
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Dear Kristin
I've never really understood the principles of layering. For cold weather treks, should my baselayer be cotton or wool? What about my midlayer? Wool? Fleece? What are the basics of layering for any occasion?
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Dear Kristin, How can you carry on trekking poles when flying a commercial airline?
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I take long dayhikes (20-30 miles) and am looking for an emergency shelter to use in case I don't make it out before nightfall. I don't want to carry a tent. I have been considering a bivy sack - something just to keep me warm and dry. Will a waterproof bivy sack on its own be sufficient in case of rain?
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Is it okay to keep your backpack in your tent at night? There seems to be two opposing camps (no pun intended, or maybe it was)on this issue.
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I wear size 11 EE boots. I have tried to get hiking boots via mail order without success because they are always far narrower than marked. Do you know of a boot maker who makes really wide boots that are true to size? Thanks.
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Canister backpacking stoves are becoming so popular, but I have a concern about them that I can't find much info about. Are the canisters refillable or recyclable? Or are we just creating more waste when we purchase these stoves in the quest of lightness?
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Is there a multipurpose helmet out there I can use for skiing, climbing etc. or should I just plan on getting one for each season/sport?
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I'm confused about the capacity figures that backpack manufacturers claim. With daypacks it seems that the figures advertised are always about 20 percent higher than what the pack actually holds. What gives?
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Is it true that mummy bags should not be stored in a stuff sack, but rather hung in closet between trips? Seems like a waste of space.
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When camping in frigid temperatures, what's the best way to keep my food warm long enough to eat it? And how can I clean my pot once the food has frozen itself to the sides?
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Dear Kristin,
I plan on backpacking Europe for about a month. What is the most suitable backpack for me to use?
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I do a bit of camping on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I am looking for a 3-person tent that can withstand the howls and gusts of the winds without collapsing or flapping so loud it keeps me awake. No $3,000 tents please.
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What is the best way to wash my fleece so that I get longer use out of it?
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I just returned from a trip to the High Sierra and found a 1/2 inch tear in the bottom of my Big Agnes tent. The fabric is silicone treated nylon. How do I fix it?
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My wife and I have decided we want to hit the trail and take some overnight and weekend trips.

The trouble is, I'm a big guy: 6 feet tall and 325 lbs. Big. Since no amount of vertical stripes and black cloth can conceal that fact, I'm not going to wait for the flab to fall off so I can enjoy nature, so I've already begun to accumulate equipment. Unfortunately, I've come to an impasse; that being the distance between the clips on the hipbelt of every pack I've tried. My question is, are there any companies that make packs for bigger guys, and a 54" waist? I'll avoid going for a Krispy Kreme while I await your suggestions.


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In your video on Camp Stoves, why do you keep one of the gas canisters in a pan of water?
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I bought a pair of Swiss Gear poles from Wal-Mart for $17.00 just to see if I liked using them and have been very satisfied. I learned I do like using the poles and I've seen much more expensive ones in my local outdoor shop. What's the difference? Should I step up and buy the pricier ones? Thanks
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The plastic buckle on my pack's hip-belt slips. Is there a way to make it stay in place, or a better buckle? I have to cinch the belt really tight to keep it on my hips, but in 20 minutes or less, I'm adjusting it again.
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Dear Kristin,
I've been told that when using a down sleeping bag, sleeping in the buff will keep you warmer than sleeping in clothing. Is this true? (I've yet to do my own experimenting, as I like to wear long underwear to bed in order to keep my bag cleaner.)
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We're an experienced group of backpackers/fly fishermen here in Colorado. We will be camping in tundra this summer and we were wondering about our food bags. Since there are no trees to hang the food, what are our options? Thank you.
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Some friends and I are planning to backpack the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail over spring break. We are all Eagle Scouts, but we have concerns about travel speed. We have 106 miles planned and are trying to figure out a good distance to travel each day. We are novice backpackers and one member of the party is rather out of shape. What is your mileage recommendation?
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Dear Kristin, I want to start going ultralight. I've looked at tarps and bivy sacks but what do you think about hammocks? They look nice, but do they really work?
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What is the best way to get rid of leftover white gas, before I get on the plane to fly home?
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Do you have any suggestions on camp shoes? After backpacking all day in my hiking boots I don't really feel like wearing them around anymore.
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What causes–and how do you prevent–air bubbles from showing up in liquid filled compasses? Just about every liquid filled compass I have used usually gets a small air bubble in it.
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Over the years I've hoarded a lot of dehydrated food. Does this stuff ever go bad?
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I'm looking at down jackets. Some labels say 650-fill, some say 700-fill–what does it mean? Is it a unit of density of the down material or is it the quality of the down material or is it something else? How does it relate to the degree of insulation of a jacket or a sleeping bag, for that matter?
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Dear Kristin, I am getting ready to buy a new tent and I've heard that bears are attracted to brightly colored tents, but that they ignore dull colors. Does it really matter whether the tent is bright or subdued?
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Dear Kristin,
After reading many of your ultralight articles, I am seriously going to give it a try, starting with my kitchen gear. How good are the alcohol stoves at high elevations and/or any elevation?
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What's the best way to re-attach seam seal tape that is pulling away from waterproof fabric items such as a waterproof stuff sack or tent fly?
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Down versus synthetic sleeping bags: What's the deal?
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