Readers' Best Advice: Hiking Tips

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Have a Cold One

I spent some time in the deserts of Kuwait while I was in the Marines, and our water always seemed to be near boiling. My staff sergeant suggested that I put my water bottle in an old sock, soak the sock, and hang the bottle on the outside of my pack. A half-hour later, I grabbed my bottle and took a drink. To my surprise, the water was a lot cooler. Now when I go backpacking in the deserts of Arizona, I carry a spare sock with me. 

Jamie Scott Leslie, Mesa, AZ

Towel Dry 

A tip for keeping dry in the rain: Fold a bar towel or synthetic chamois into a long, thin, two- to three-inch-wide strip. Wrap it around your neck before pulling up your hood. Any rain that may drip inside your jacket will be trapped in the towel instead of getting into your clothes. 

Alan Johnson, Seal Beach, CA

Photographic Memory

Pack a small notepad with your camera to record each picture’s photo number and a brief description of the location for future reference. 

Lori Garvin, Columbia, SC

Ticked Off

In my 26 years as a vet, I’ve tried every tick removal method out there. The best gadget I’ve ever seen for dogs is a small device called the Tick Twister ($4, A slot slides under the tick’s head like a crowbar under a nail; rotate it a few times and the tick pops out, mouthparts intact.

Dan Thompson, Victoria, BC


I speed up packing time by having meals prepacked in gallon bags according to the duration of the trip. They are all marked from weekend to weeklong trips. That way, I can just grab what I need and go.

John “Dehydrator” Harlan, Nampa, ID 

Dry Storage

I use a wide-mouthed water bottle to hold things I absolutely need to keep dry, as well as loose items that I don’t want to lose: matches, cell phone, ID, extra small batteries. Even my headlamp goes in there. If you’re worried about things rattling, pad the inside with a bandanna. 

Tim Smith, Eau Claire, WI 

Silent Hike

I keep a tube of lip balm in my first-aid kit to quiet the squeaks and creaks of my pack and straps. Just rub a bit on the offending grommet or pin, and voilà! You have an instantly quiet pack. 

Scott Cooper, Garrettsville, OH

Peak Performance

When climbing backcountry peaks, bring as much info (maps, route pictures, descriptions, etc.) as you can. Don’t rely on research committed to memory. Routes look a lot different in person than on topos, and it helps to have the route pictures and descriptions right with you. 

Michael “reship1” Li, Chicago, IL

Happy Feet


To keep toes from banging into the front of your boots on steep descents, tie locking overhand knots between the eyelets or lace hooks, beginning with the one in the middle of the instep (the top of the foot, as opposed to the arch on the bottom). This helps hold your foot securely toward the heel of the boot. 

Stanley Tysco, Syracuse, NY

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