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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.


Conserve batteries
If your group has more than one cellular or satellite phone available during an emergency situation, turn all of them but one off. A search-and-rescue team may need to call several times before finding you.
Tammi Hinkle

Start a fire with pitch

Add a teaspoon of this sticky substance – found on pines and other evergreens – to kindling. Your fire will start right up.
Kathryn Hess

Aim your signal mirror

Line up your hand with the helicopter or person you want to signal. Reflect the signal mirror off your hand to check alignment. Then beam the light into the sky.
Tommy Longfellow, Outward Bound

Predict a storm
In the North Temperate Zone, southerly and easterly winds frequently foretell oncoming frontal systems. But don’t pay attention to surface winds – there are too many anomalies in the mountains. Instead, observe which direction the clouds are moving.
Howie Wolke

Collect water anywhere
Dig a pit in the ground and spread your tarp over it. Weigh down the middle of the tarp with a rock and make a small puncture underneath. Place a bowl underneath this. Moisture will condense from the ground, bead on your tarp, and flow into the bowl.
Tammi Hinkle

I never leave home without…

Lots of them. I always keep three or four stashes of matches in waterproof containers in different parts of my backpack to insure against loss and wetness. Put some in your pockets, too.
Howie Wolke, Big Wild Adventures

Make sparks
Touch steel wool to the end of a 9-volt battery, and you’ll have an instant spark with which to start a fire.
Tammi Hinkle

Start a fire with your camera
The lens on your camera can work like a magnifying glass to start a fire. Remove the lens (or open the camera back and shutter) and zoom in on the kindling. Now be patient, and let the sun do its work.
Brad Thompson, Adventures Through Kayaking

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