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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.


Keep your map handy
Each morning, I fold my map so the area I’ll be traveling through will fit on one side of a zipper-lock bag. I carry the map in my hand or around my neck, rain or shine. In tricky terrain, I hold the map with my thumb firmly on the last known point, allowing me to quickly update my position as I travel.
– Dave Anderson

Play leapfrog
When you’re off-trail and visibility is low, stand in one spot with a compass while your partner follows your bearing, correcting course as she goes. Before she’s out of visual range, catch up with her and repeat.

– Kathryn Hess

Judge slope angle
Slope angle can be tricky to judge with the human eye, especially if the hill is covered in snow. Tilt your head 90 degrees to the side, and you’ll be able to visualize it better.
Molly Loomis

I never leave home without…
A digital camera

You can use it for more than hero shots. Document your route with a digital camera. These pictures are great for future reference and help reveal some of the terrain’s secrets. If you’re retracing your route, you can consult the camera’s LED display for visual cues. When you get home, paste the pictures on the opposite side of your map and then laminate.

Peter Amann, IFMGA Mountain Guide

Leave breadcrumbs
When traveling a new off-trail route, mark your way with temporary rock cairns at key turns. Be sure to knock them over as you return so other hikers don’t accidentally follow your path. (Obviously, this doesn’t work for loop hikes.)
Paul Knight, Wild Horizons

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