Hiking Tips

Always set a “Turn Back Time.”
Forgetting to turn back in time for the trailhead and the warmth, comfort of your vehicle or campsite is a recipe for unplanned bivies or hiking in the dark. If you haven't reached your goal by the turnaround time, go back and promise to try again. While descents often takes half as long as an ascent, the hike back time depends on the terrain and hike profile. If you’re not sure how long you’ve got before nightfall, you can estimate how much daylight is left by holding your palm at arm’s length and count how many fingers fit between the horizon and the sun. Each finger represents about 15 minutes. The example shows one hour, 15 minutes until dark. If darkness descends, don’t hesitate to break out the headlamp. You did bring a headlamp with you, right?

Carry a Reserve Bottle of Water. Or maybe two.
Camelbak and other reservoir-style hydration packs make carrying and drinking plenty of water on the trail much easier and convenient. However, it's sometimes hard to determine how much water you actually have left without dropping your pack and actually looking at the water bladder. Camelbak has come out with an electronic flow meter but I'm not sure I want to deal with one more battery-operated gadget on the trail.  Generally speaking, you should carry/consume about 1 qt of water per hour of hiking. Variables such as air temperature, sunny or shaded trails, body type and other such things will affect how much you'll actually drink. In the event that my pack's reservoir runs dry before anticipated, I carry a few extra bottles of water in the bottom of my pack.  Knowing I've run out of water might help me make decisions to cut a hike short, slow my pace or seek out alternate sources of water immediately. I've used the extra water only once, but the peace of mind it provides has always been there.

Make a Fire Starting Kit. And carry it with you!
Emergency fire kits are readily available at your friendly, local outfitter but it's also an easy matter to create your own.  My kit includes: Home-waterproofed matches, a small bit of steel wool, a few pinches of compressed dryer lint (some of it dipped in paraffin) and a few birthday candles or a small household candle stub. Dipping "Strike-Anywhere" wooden matches in paraffin will waterproof them and actually make them burn faster once the wax begins to melt. I prefer these homemade versions to the commerically available waterproof matches. They actually work. Once a small spark hits steel wool, it will briefly glow and smolder hot enough to get most tinder to ignite. The dryer lint and candles will also aid in getting a stubborn fire to start.

All of this is kept in a waterproof container and carried in the bottom of a day pack.  Consider carrying a Bic lighter (or two) as well, especially if you're going to be hiking longer than just a short day hike. I occasionally use a few of the matches to light my camp stove to keep the emergency stock fresh and ready to go when needed.

PBJ Sandwich Construction
When making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your day hike, put a smear of peanut butter on both slice of bread with jelly in-between those layers.  This prevents the jelly from soaking into the bread, making the sandwich mushy by the time you enjoy it later one.