PICK THE RIGHT CAMPSITE >> Opt for established sites to concentrate impact. Otherwise, camp 200 feet (about 70 steps) from lakes or streams and on a durable surface, such as a gravel bar, slickrock, sandy beach, or forest duff, instead of delicate grassy meadows or alpine tundra, >> Look for widowmakers. Pitching your tent beneath old, dead trees or large, suspended branches can lead to a nasty wake-up call in high winds. Also, avoid rockfall zones, such as beneath steep, loose cliffs. >> Avoid depressions where rain might pool. Pitch on flat, well-draining surfaces. >> Don’t set up shop near a patch of poison ivy, oak, or sumac. If you do contact them, you have about 10 minutes to remove the urushiol (an oily resin on the leaves and stems) before it binds to your skin, triggering an itchy rash a few days to a week later. Wash the affected area with biodegradable soap and lukewarm water, then wipe with an alcohol pad to get every last bit. When you get home, thoroughly clean everything. Urushiol can linger on tents, boots, clothing, and even your dog for up to a year after initial exposure.
SLEEP ON THE BEACH
Choose a spot well above the high-tide line, advises Hutchins: It’s usually marked by a line of washed-up debris. Then securely pitch your tent. “I tie the guylines around big rocks at every corner of my shelter,” he says. You can also tie them to sand-filled stuffsacks or sturdy sticks. Bury them about two feet down at every corner. Secure guylines with a tautline hitch well above the sand.
STARGAZE LIKE A PRO
>> Choose an area away from smog and lights and with low humidity (dry air is more stable and transmits starlight better), such as Big Bend National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument.
>> Go on the night of a new moon (June 1, July 30, and August 29 in 2011).
FIX A SLUGGISH WATER FILTER
If the filter isn’t drawing water at all, turn the housing upside down and try pumping again, which often does the trick. If that doesn’t work, it could be a dry or cracked O-ring. Remove the rubber O-ring from the piston, wipe it clean with a soft cloth, and lubricate it with saliva, lip balm, or silicone grease to restore the seal.