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Backpacker Magazine – November 2008

How to Do Everything - Camping

Find water anywhere, make a fire in five minutes, learn secrets for battling mosquitoes, and more.

by: Annette McGivney

Hiking | Packing & Planning | Camping | Gear | First Aid & Health | Cooking

Water 101 | Build a Fire | DIY Grommets, Windscreen | Master Three Knots | Set Up Camp | Beat Bugs & Bears | Two-Second Tips


  • Keep your catholes at least 200 feet from camp, trails, and water sources.
  • Stash your bear bag or canister at least 200 feet downwind of camp.
  • Cook at least 30 feet downwind of your tent to minimize odors that could attract wildlife. Minimize impact by choosing a durable surface (rock, sand). If fires are permitted, use a fire ring or fire pan.
  • Pick a spot 200 feet (70 adult steps) from lakes and streams.
  • Pitch your tent on a durable surface like a meadow, slickrock, gravel bar, or sandy beach. Choose an established site whenever possible.
  • On rock: Find flat, saucer-shaped rocks weighing at least 25 pounds each. Tie 4- to 8-foot pieces of nylon cord to all of the tent's primary stake-out points. Using a taut-line hitch, loop the other end of the cord around a rock and pull it tight. Place another rock on top of the first rock to keep cord from shifting in the wind.
  • On sand: Make a deadman anchor by tying cord to one of the tent's stake-out points; tie the other end to a thick stick, trekking pole, or sand-filled stuff sack. Bury the deadman (sticks and poles in a horizontal position) one to two feet below the surface and tamp down the sand. Repeat for all stake-out points.
  • On snow: Same as with sand, but don't use stuff sacks. Snow that melts and refreezes is hard to remove, and your stuff sacks might not survive the process. Best bet: Mountain Hardwear's Tent Anchor ($8;
  • Campsite Seek protection in low-lying, dense forests. Avoid spots among trees that show obvious signs of frequent wind, like stunted growth or bent trunks. Above treeline, scout for sites on the lee side of a rock outcropping or ridgeline.
  • Tent If it's not raining, wait for the winds to die down (often at sunset) before pitching your tent–setup will be easier, with less risk of big gusts bending poles or ripping tent fabric. Fully stake and guy the tent out, regardless of conditions when you make camp.

Tie small overhand loops at both ends of a nylon cord (use 4-foot pieces to anchor the base and 6- to 8-foot pieces for the top guy loops). Pull one end through a guy loop on your tent's fly, then pass the other end through the loop in the cord to fasten it. Anchor the other end to a grounded stake. Or tie cord to a stake, using an adjustable taut-line hitch knot (see right) or a rope tensioner. Guy lines can also be tied to fixed points, such as tree trunks, but not to anything that moves in the wind, like a branch or small rock.

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Sandi P
May 31, 2014

This is a great magazine when i received it but only got three issues and was charged twice for the subscription.

Star Star
Sandi P
May 31, 2014

This is a great magazine when i received it but only got three issues and was charged twice for the subscription.

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Sep 04, 2010

Exelent thanks from Argentina

Feb 05, 2010

use yankee clipper, then paste

May 14, 2009

copy and paste dude.

Apr 03, 2009

Does anyone know how you can print anything from the

Backpacker customer service said to contact a company they do busines with in reference to the website. I called and the guy I spoke did not have a clue and/or could not care less!

John Viehman
Apr 03, 2009

A finer compliment I've seldom received, Richard.

I second what Dan said about the taut line vs trucker's hitch. My thinking exactly. I still use the taut line but the trucker's hitch is my knot of choice for cinching something down or making a line taut. I first saw the trucker's hitch demonstrated on a PBS "Trailside" program with John Viehman. Thank you John for opening up a whole new world for me.
Posted: Jan 14, 2009 Richard McFadden

John Viehman
Apr 02, 2009

I second what Dan said about the taut line vs trucker's hitch. My thinking exactly. I still use the taut line but the trucker's hitch is my knot of choice for cinching something down or making a line taut. I first saw the trucker's hitch demonstrated on a PBS "Trailside" program with John Viehman. Thank you John for opening up a whole new world for me.
Posted: Jan 14, 2009 Richard McFadden

You're welcome, Dan. A higher compliment doesn't exist, imho.

Old Scout Master
Mar 07, 2009

A Taut line hitch is to create a taut line as in pitching an old style tent or tarp. It is easily adjusted as say opposed to two half hitches. Last turn is opposite to first two in order to create a good lock. A truckers hitch is to secure a load by creating tension on the line and to release easily. Totally different purposes and both great if used properly{:<).

Patrick Foley
Mar 01, 2009

Sea to Summit makes a solar shower that compresses down to its own little pocket. It holds 10 litres, can be used as a shower or running water for camp chores, is inflatable as a nice pillow, doubles as a dry bag and I can lash it to my pack to tote a whole days worth of water far from the source.
I won't camp without it. Even if I don't shower it's nice to have running water at camp to wash hands/ do dishes...

(The dry bag trick is my favorite... My "Survival Kit" is in a small 2 or 4 liter dry sack. Same reason, keeps stuff dry, doubles as a bucket...)

Feb 25, 2009

Great piece, I always love reading info topics like this. It is important to learn because lets face it who wants to carry gallons of water on trips?

The other Anonymos
Feb 24, 2009

I 'gree with anonymos

Tyler O.
Feb 24, 2009

I've found that tying a plastic bag around a healthy branch and then securing it with string works well. The water evaporates and condenses in the bag.

Perry Clark
Feb 24, 2009

The tautline hitch is illustrated here incorrectly. The final hitch passes in the same orientation to the standing part as do the previous hitches.

There is another, more secure, version of the tautline hitch favored by some. This one is well-illustrated on the site "Animated Knots by Grog".

FWIW, I've used the tautline hitch for more than thirty years without problems--when tied correctly!

Jan 19, 2009

Better re-check that taunt-line hitch. Somebody will lose a merit badge.

Rick Woods
Jan 16, 2009

The counterbalance method is ok, but takes more gear. As above, attach a line to your food bag, and a mini-carabiner at the same attachment point. Toss the line over a 15-foot or higher branch. Here's the difference. Find a short stick, about 3-4." Pass the line back down and through the 'biner, and haul the bag up as high as it will go. Substitute a clove hitch around the middle of the stick, ease of on the line and the food bag drops until the stick locks across the 'biner. I coil up the excess line and tie it off above my head, and walk away. The bag will be swaying in the breeze at least 8 feet up. Check local regulations. Hanging anything on a live tree may be illegal. In that case use a canister.

Chris Hvid
Jan 15, 2009

Try the "adjstable grip hitch" - it holds better than a truckers hitch or a taughline hitch and is easier to tie...

Jan 14, 2009

The trucker's hitch is very useful and easy to tie, tighten and untie however it does not stay when the rope does not have any load on it and can become tangled and lock itself easily. The taut line hitch is recommended for creating a loop at the end of a rope that you can adjust the size of the loop without having to untie the hitch. I have broken off most of the little plastic tabs that allow you to do this on my rain fly, and the taut line hitches I have tied years ago still work as good as ever.

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