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An expert panel on how to solve various problems.
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An expert panel on how to solve various problems.

First Aid:

Expert

Tod Schimelpfenig, Curriculum Director, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute

Problem

Injured Toenails after big-mile days

Solution

“The best prevention is well-fitting boots. Your toes can strike the front of too-small boots, and untrimmed toenails can make the damage worse. On the trail, there’s not much you can do about boot size, so try thinner socks and trim your toenails to decrease pain. Lace boots snugly to help keep your heel locked in place, especially on downhill stretches of trail. If you have a subungual hematoma (blood in the nail bed that causes painful pressure), use a sharp knife point, needle, or paper clip to drill into the nail and relieve pressure. Clean the drilling instrument and nail with an alcohol swab (best) or soap and water, then make a small hole by twirling the instrument directly over the dark part of the nail. Allow the blood to drain for instant relief. Prevent infection by applying antibiotic ointment to the toenail and covering with a bandage.”

Gear Repair: 

Expert

Kristin Hostetter, BACKPACKER Gear Editor

Problem

Slow leak in my inflatable sleeping pad.

Solution

“Nothing ruins a backcountry night like waking up repeatedly to blow air into your leaking mattress. Field fix: Completely inflate the pad, then place it in a clear lake or slow-moving stream (with turbulent water, just get the pad wet and inspect for bubbles). Squeeze the pad from one end to pressurize it and follow the trail of bubbles to the leak; mark it with a pen or duct tape and let the pad dry completely. To patch it, mix Seam Grip ($7; mcnett.com) with a few drops of water on the back of a Tear-Aid Type A patch ($10; tear-aid.com) and firmly press the patch over the hole in the deflated pad. Weigh the patch down with a rock; let it cure for at least 6 hours. No repair kit? You can try duct tape in a pinch, but replace with a patch when you get home.”

Fitness: 

Expert

David Clair, Founder, Fitness For Living

Problem

Calves burning on long climbs.

Solution

“Strengthening your lower-leg muscles does more than reduce pain; it can also prevent injury, as calves help stabilize your ankles on uneven terrain. Incorporate these calf-focused exercises into your workout routine to prepare for steep trails. Aim for three times per week, and be creative: Work the exercises into your daily life by doing a set of calf raises while pumping gas, waiting in line for coffee, or showering.

Beginner: Double calf raises. Standing on the ground with feet parallel, slowly lift your heels until you’re on your toes (a count of two). Lower your heels for another count of two. Do 15 reps twice in each of these positions: feet parallel, heels together/toes apart, and toes together/heels apart. Isolate one leg for added challenge.

Intermediate: Squats with heel raises. Squat down in a wide stance with thighs parallel to the ground. Slowly lift your heels for a count of two, then lower back to the ground. Do 30 reps three times.

Advanced: Box jumps. With control, jump on and then off an 18- to 24-inch-high box or bench, landing softly and bending knees to absorb impact, for one minute. Repeat three times; rest 30 seconds between reps.”

Navigation: 

Expert

Erik Kulick, Founder, True North Wilderness Survival School

Problem

Expected water sources are dry in late summer/early fall.

Solution

“Terrain association is your best bet for finding water. Look at your topographic map: A solid blue line represents a continually flowing stream and a dashed blue line represents an intermittent stream. Depressions, areas under cliffs, and undercut banks of dry streambeds often contain standing water. Water flows downhill, so follow drainages (low terrain between two high points) to look for a larger source. Drainages that drop steeply into a relatively low, flat area are the likeliest spots (try digging into the dirt if the surface is dry). If you don’t have a map, head downhill, look for increasing vegetation density, or follow animal signs like game trails. You can often find ice and snow for melting on the north aspect of a slope long after the surrounding area melts out.”

Get more great tips in our comprehensive skills books: Trailside First Aid; Trailside Navigation; and Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair. Find them all at falcon.com.