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September 2005

Secrets of the Guides

Camp like a pro with 83 field-tested tips and techniques from experts who earn their paychecks in the backcountry.

What do you get when you fork over big bucks to hike with a guide? Someone who knows more than you do and loves to share the details. But maybe you don’t have a free week for field training this summer? If you don’t, read on, because we asked 27 professional guides to divulge their favorite tips – the little things that separate lay hikers from master bushwhackers, campsite architects, expert navigators, gourmet backcountry chefs, emergency medics, and survival specialists. Here’s their advice on pitching a tent in a storm, baking perfect pizza, drying wet clothes, and much, much more.


Pitch a tent in a downpour
Bring a lightweight tarp. If it’s raining hard when you get to camp, quickly set up the tarp, then pitch your tent underneath. Now you’ll also have a place to sit and eat.
Howie Wolke, Big Wild Adventures

Pitch a tent in the wind

Anchor the tent before the poles go up. Next, clip one half of the rainfly to the tent’s windward side, bunching it up on the ground. Then pull it over the body and attach the other side. Also, remember to stuff the fly into the stuff sack first and the body second, so you can remove the body without the fly taking off in the wind.
Mark Postle, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides

Sleep in the woods
If you have a choice between camping in the trees or in a meadow, choose the trees. Meadows are colder and dewier in the morning, and they are also damaged more easily by frequent use.
Howie Wolke

Prevent frozen water in winter
Fill a pot three-quarters full of water. Put the covered pot in a cubbyhole you’ve carved into a snow wall. Seal in the pot with snow. In the morning, the water will still be liquid.

Kurt Wedberg, Sierra

Mountaineering International
Keep the water flowing
Vary the way you purify backcountry water, depending on the situation. For instant thirst-quenching, use a water filter as you’re hiking. When you’re sitting in camp, use chemical treatments to get several potable liters without all the pumping.
Julia Cozby, Escalante Outback Adventures

I never leave home without…A multiuse pad
I carry a 1’x2′ section of cheap Ensolite pad with one side covered in duct tape. It serves a variety of purposes: a small sit pad to keep my butt (and therefore the rest of my body) warm; an insulated surface on which to put a pot that’s just come off the stove (duct-taped side up); and an instant supply of really thick mole foam for blisters and other problems. Rather than stack multiple strips of moleskin, I just cut a small section off my sit pad to treat the injury.

Molly Loomis, Alpine Ascents International

Dig for water
In spring, set up camp near a stream and dig down through the ice to running water. The quick excavation beats melting snow.
Conan Bliss, Alpine Ascents International

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