Last But Not Least (Ten Essentials)

Last but not least…… (Ten Essentials #10)

The last thing on my personal list of Ten Essentials is a small ditty bag that I think of as my “McGuyver Bag”.  In addition to other Essentials like fire starter, a lighter, and a head lamp, I carry a small assortment of things that I might need to repair my gear and keep myself safe.

Number one in the bag is duct tape.  I wrap a long strip of it around a small pencil so that it is always accessible.  The pencil has come in handy many times when I have needed to leave messages for other hikers in my party, and unlike a pen, will always work.  If the tip breaks off? Well, that is just another use for my knife, right?  J  As for the duct tape, I use it to repair gear, cover hot spots on my feet and close up tears in my rain gear.  It really is true….you can do a million things with duct tape!!

The other thing that always lives in my backpack is dental floss.  I take it out of the plastic box that it comes in and throw it in the ditty bag, where it takes up no room and weighs next to nothing.  Why dental floss?  Because it is really, really strong and can be used to repair just about anything.  Add some duct tape and you might just be able to save the world!!  J

No emergency kit is complete without a space blanket.  We have talked about these before, but you truly cannot beat them for warmth and, in a pinch, extra shelter.  My tent site once flooded in on a cold November night, drenching everything I owned, (including my down sleeping bag).  I spent the night shivering wrapped in my black trash bags and space blanket.  Would I have actually died without them?  I have no idea, but they truly made a difference in my experience that night!

Finally, I always carry iodine tablets for an extra source of water purification.  I usually don’t believe in carrying more than one item for a particular purpose, but when it comes to starting a fire and making water safe to drink, I always carry backup.  Iodine tablets and fire starter are just too small and light to not carry.

You might want to extra medication that you are taking to your emergency bag, as well as small things that you personally find necessary.  The most important thing is that you carry these along with the other 10 Essentials each and every time you go out on a hiking trail.  Like they say, “an ounce of prevention” and all that.  Carrying these items and taking the extra precautions listed here go a long ways towards showing yourself and the rest of the hiking community that you belong out there and that you are doing everything in your power to be a responsible outdoors woman.

What did I leave out?  What else do you carry in your emergency bag?

Send me a message and let me know!

Anna aka mud butt

I.C.E. (Ten Essentials)

I.C.E. (Ten Essentials #9)


Most of you have probably received the email floating around out there asking you to add an ICE entry in your cell phone address book.  I.C.E. stands for “In Case Of Emergency” and gives emergency workers an idea of who to call if you are in trouble.

Well, in the back country it is always essential to have something in your pack that has your pertinent information on it.  What exactly is pertinent?  It should have your name and address to start, and a couple of people that you would want contacted in case you need help.  Also, put any known allergies you have, including medications that you are allergic to.  Finally, put any medical conditions that you have, including whether you wear contact lenses or not.

This card, like so many other things in your backpack, falls under the category of ‘karmic insurance’.  I mentioned this in the post regarding headlamps and flashlights and it is fairly self-explanatory.  If you carry it, you might not ever need it!  J  But it is definitely something that every responsible hiker should carry.  Assume that you cannot speak for yourself….this card needs to speak for you.

This card works in conjunction with the hike plan that you filed with someone back home. Between those two items, if you should become lost or injured on the trail, you will have the quickest chance of being located.  And finally, consider throwing your driver’s license, a little money and your insurance card in with your ICE card.

Here is to never needing a card like this, but to being a responsible hiker that does the right thing!!

Anna aka Mud Butt


Pole Dancing

Elachee Nature Ctr-East West Lake Trails 11-23-08-061The summer was 1989 and North Carolina was a riotous green.  I was spending a few months in Brevard and one fateful day, my friend John asked if I would like to go hiking   I call it a ‘fateful’ day because it changed the trajectory of my life dramatically and was the first step, (no pun intended) towards a future full of mountains, trails and adventure.

On that particular day, I enjoyed the hike despite the fact that I fell into the mud.  It wouldn’t have been any big deal, except that the trail was dry, the day was dry and there was only one small muddy section on the whole hike. I fell into that small puddle and begun a long history of being the clumsiest hiker that I knew. If there was mud or water on a trail, I would fall into it.  That was the day that Mud Butt was born.

My trail name came about amid a storm of laughter and beer at a party that summer, and I embraced it wholeheartedly.  I might be balance-challenged, but at least I had a cool name to show for it!  And in the years to come, in the midst of cries of ‘are you ok?’ and ‘there is a stream over the next hill that you can wash the mud off with’ I became a hiker.

Several years after my less-than-graceful beginning, I discovered the joys of hiking poles.  I purchased two sticks that telescoped to the perfect height and proceeded to extend my hikes further and further.  Years went by and I became so attached to my poles that I wouldn’t even go to the water source without them.  They provided balance, confidence and, on occasion, less need to do laundry.

It wasn’t til a decade later when I was talking about my trail name to some friends that I realized that I hadn’t fallen in the mud in a really long time

When it occurred to me that I wasn’t quite as clumsy as I used to be, I had a momentary existential crisis. Who was I if I wasn’t Mud Butt?!  Could I still be Mud Butt if I didn’t actually end up in every single mud puddle?!

But the moment was short lived and I realized that anything in the world that makes my hike more enjoyable, is here to stay.

The question is, should you use hiking poles?  If you are a new hiker, I would encourage you to give them a try.  They save your knees, provide great balance, help you cross streams, and give you a way to clear brush away from the trail ahead of you.  When used well, they even help you pick up the speed and find your stride.  You will be faster, more efficient and safer.  What more could you want?  I suggest starting with one pole to see if you like it and then trying two.  Most poles do telescope so if you get out on the trail and don’t feel like they are working for you, you can throw them in your pack.

Here are some of my random thoughts on pole use:

1. There are lots of ‘official’ ways to use your poles.  My advice is, don’t get caught up in the right way and the wrong way.  Just find your own way.

2.  The telescoping element on many poles becomes loose as you are hiking. Before going down a descent, check and make sure your poles are locked tight.  This would be a bad time for them to telescope in on you!!

3.  If you are a backpacker, consider having your poles do double duty.  There are lots of tents on the market that don’t use actual tent poles.  Instead, they use your hiking poles for set up.  It saves you weight and room in your pack.

4.  Last but not least, don’t exert a lot of extra energy leaning on your poles when you don’t need to.   I had an honest moment of panic on the Incan Trail last summer when the guide tried to take my poles away.   He said that in using them to support all of my weight, all of the time, I was using a lot of excess energy.  I listened to him and started treating them more as accessories them actual crutches.  I rely on my leg muscles to power me up now, rather then my poles and arms to drag myself up.  Now I am a more efficient hiker!

I will finish by saying, consider renting a pair, or borrowing a pair to try before you actually buy some.  Hiking poles are expensive, so you don’t want to spend $80-$100 on a pair unless you will truly use them.  And please, please, please do not buy the cheap poles that you find at the big box discount stores.  I know that they are shiny, red and $10 a pair, but you truly get what you pay for.  Remember that whole “going downhill is a really bad time for your poles to telescope” thing I mentioned earlier?  These have a BAD tendency of snapping, breaking and just not working.  And you could really get hurt.

Good luck with your poles and get out there and hike!!

Do you use hiking poles?  I would love to know why or why not?  And do you have any other helpful hints for other hikers?  Please click below and share your comments with the rest of us!

Anna aka Mud Butt

Note: When it comes to a particular brand of pole, I am a real Leki fan.  My experience with their national customer service has been pretty poor, but you cannot deny the quality of the product.  And the rep that they have for the South East is wonderful.  His kindness and helpfulness has kept me a Leki customer and it is partly because of him that I recommend their product.