Sunday, October 10, 2010

Glossary of Terms

I wrote a new page for this blog, called Glossary of Terms, because it occurred to me that I use words in ways many people may not be used to. I take it for granted that everyone knows what "stealth camping" means, or what the difference between a stuff sack, compression sack, or ditty bag is.

Well, no more. Check out the page attached to this blog. The link is on the right, in the list of pages under HOME.

If you'd like me to cover something, please leave a comment, or e-mail me. It would be my pleasure.

This short clip is part of a longer video I did for youtube.

It demonstrates why chosing colors for gear is important. Blending into our environment is a safety issue as well as an astetic one. If backpackers chose colors that blend, even on a crowded trail like the John Muir Trail in California, a level of wilderness can still be felt. When groups are camped in bright colored tents the human presence is unavoidable and detracts from the natural setting.

I first learned about the idea of stealth camping from Ray Jardine's books over ten years ago. He felt the easiest way to avoid unwanted bear encounters at night was to pick a place just before dark with no signs of human presence: no campfire rings, no traces of garbage, no cut down vegetation. Bears which are acustomed to the backpacker's food sack will revist areas where these smells may linger. A bear with these habits is not afraid of humans, and therefore much more dangerous.

I used these tactics on all my trails. One afternoon, hiking alone just north of Glen Alden Campground in Yosemite National Park, on the Pacific Trail, I left the trail in the grassy field, with a stream running through it. I climbed a hill, checked around to be sure there were no signs any human had ever been there. After setting up camp and arranging all my ultralight gear inside the tent, I noticed another backpacker come into view and sit down on a log near the stream. I waited. I knew him as Patch.

My tent was gray, and most of my other colors black or green. He ate a snack, and relaxed as the sun began to set. I carefully made my way down behind him, and tapped him on the back. He'd never seen me. Thats stealth.

Backpacker Magazine published a study which showed how bears would stop what they were doing to investigate strange colors, especially bright blue, in their environment and that bear bells were perceived as birds.

Having something bright in your pack comes in handy when hunters are out. Then, I strap my blue pad outside my pack for visibility. A bright bandana can be used as well.

Thinking about colors before buying gear is a sensible thing to do.

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