Readers' Best Advice: Our Most Prolific Tipster Ever - Backpacker

Readers' Best Advice: Our Most Prolific Tipster Ever

Reader Leon Nelson has shared literally hundreds of tips gleaned from his 60-plus years on the trail. Here's a sampling of his best.

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» Backpackers who buy gear from smaller manufacturers have a little-known advantage: These companies will often modify their products upon request. For example, Mountain Laurel Designs added extra guyline ties to a tarp for me.

» To rent a PLB, simply place an order at, get the unit in the mail before your trip, and return it in the prepaid box. It costs just $59 per week.

» Many years ago, I started adding an extra sternum strap to my pack, just above where the padded portion of the shoulder strap meets the webbing. This makes it easier to alleviate pressure across the chest and shoulders and lets you fine-tune the pack’s fit. You can buy an extra strap at most retailers or online; my favorite is Outdoor Research’s Sternum Strap ($8.50,

» I use three 33-gallon, clear plastic trash bags (held in place with small rocks) as a ground cloth for my sleeping bag. They’re very durable, lightweight, and easy to clean—just rinse them in a lake. I always take three extra on my trips: They come in handy for protecting gear during major storms.

» Wigwam’s Ultimax Outdoor Liner Socks are by far the best socks I’ve ever used. They’re heavier and more ribbed than most liners, so I wear a single pair in my boots. They never bunch up, they wick sweat well, and they dry very quickly. In fact, I wade through creeks with just these socks on and change into a spare pair when I’m on the trail again. At home, the white ones are perfect with Birkenstocks!*

» The best hygiene method I’ve found? Three feet of TP per day in zip-top bags. To use, take two folded squares, pinch them in the center with your thumb and fingers, and apply to “you know where.” Dab (don’t rub) two squares at a time until success is achieved.