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Backcountry Prep

When Wildlife Interferes with Our Love of the “Wild Life”

By NCOAE Headquarters August 13, 2019

Backcountry Prep

Even if you’ve never participated in scouting, you probably know that “Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout Motto. It’s a maxim that still holds true for today’s outdoor enthusiasts — perhaps more so than back in 1908 when founder Robert Baden-Powell adopted it for the scouting movement.

Baden-Powell wrote that Boy Scouts in the field should consider beforehand, “any situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment and are willing to do it.” He also oddly mentioned that the motto was founded on his initials (BP), but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is this. It has been estimated that more than 8 billion people visit protected “wild places” each year — areas that encompass national parks, national forests, and wildlife areas in the United States and around the world. What that means is more people are heading outdoors, which results in more people coming into direct contact with wildlife.

And that’s not always a good thing. As the signs illustrating this post show, more and more of us are introduced to the backcountry and wild places with posted warnings concerning the “fulltime residents” of these remote and natural areas.

On Cape Cod beaches, for example, there are (more…)

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Sleeping Out: From Cowboy Camping to Luxury Tents, the Choice is Yours

By Stephen Mullaney June 21, 2019

Backcountry Prep

Few things on Earth can match the unsurpassed contentment of sleeping outdoors. “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night,” Bill Watterson once wrote, “I bet they’d live a lot differently.” Amen to that!

The stars above, the clouds floating by like sailing vessels, the trees whispering in the breeze. And, of course, there’s the mosquitos, the rain, the crawling critters, and Mother Nature. Like I said, nothing better, with the only caveat being what comes next.

If you want to sleep under the stars, you’re going to need a plan. And coming up with that plan entails understanding what types of shelters are out there and what fits your personal or group shelter profile. During this tour of common shelters, we look at the most basic/minimal shelters and work our way up to more complete shelters.

Let’s hit the trail!

Cowboy Style

Here’s how this one works: You get tired, you make a fire, and you fall asleep under the stars. That’s it. Welcome to ‘cowboy camping.’

Why cowboy? You wanted an experience in nature. This style of camping places you cheek-to-cheek with (more…)

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Fire it Up: How to Plan for and Make a Campfire in the Backcountry

By NCOAE Headquarters May 14, 2019

Backcountry Prep

Most of us have caught at least an episode or two of “Survivor,” the original reality show that has cast members “outsmart, outlast and outwit” each other in order to win a million dollars at the end of 32 days in a wilderness environment.

Inevitably on this popular TV show, two finalists are forced to build a fire, with the winner moving on and the loser going to the jury. And you’d think after 38 seasons, that all contestants would find it advisable to practice building a fire with flint and kindling BEFORE arriving on that season’s desert island or jungle outpost. But they don’t.

Campfire in the backcountry

What we’re going to do in this blog post, is show you how to plan for a campfire in the wilderness, what to bring, what to source onsite, and how to avoid setting your tents, sleeping bags — or the entire backcountry afire.

Fueling the Flames

Oh, and if you’ve never learned how to build a fire — or cooked over an open fire — you should. It’s an amazing, freeing experience. Here’s what you’ll need: (more…)

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Lighten Up! Don’t Carry All That Weight into the Backcountry

By Stephen Mullaney April 23, 2019

Backcountry Prep

Secure in my shelter and listening as the rain dances on my tarp, I pull out my alcohol stove and relax, waiting for the water to boil. Twenty-seven miles of hiking in one day — a personal distance record. It’s been a good day.

Reflecting back 20 years, I remember purchasing a first-edition copy of Ray Jardine’s “Beyond Backpacking,” a book that completely reshaped my thinking on how to pack for travel in the backcountry. It wasn’t that long ago that the philosophy of Wilderness travel was to get a big bag and fill it up. Since then, the mindset of “more is better” has changed.

Packing ultra-light — once considered the mantra of wild-eyed survivalists — has now become firmly embedded as a philosophy among those in the multibillion-dollar human-powered outdoor recreation industry.

In my own case, I have moved beyond packing light to achieve big miles, and more toward doing it just for the comfort. Carrying less weight is better on the body, mind — and pocketbook. That’s primarily because I now cover more ground in the backcountry, spend less money on costly gear, and I find it much easier to pack and unpack at the beginning and end of each day. 

First things first: Get thyself to a bookstore and pick up a copy of “Beyond Backpacking.” Then read it. After that, break out your gear and (more…)

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How and Why to Remove Junk Food from Your Backpack

By Stephen Mullaney June 6, 2017

Backcountry Prep

“What’s fructose? What’s GMO? What do these words mean?

These are some of the questions my 9-year-old daughter asked me last June as the family shopped for good snacks for a backpacking trip. By July, my daughter had vowed to stop eating food with “junk” in it. And to date, she has kept her word.

Take a tour of your local grocery store, and peruse the list of ingredients on the back or side of the packaging of many of those so-called healthy snacks. You might be unpleasantly surprised to find that an abundance of these products tout themselves as containing all natural ingredients, when in actuality they contain just the opposite.

It’s a bad habit, but often when we shop for those “in-between foods” (between meals), we’ll grab up what looks good or is easy to pack. Or we find ourselves purchasing items out of habit or convenience. But the truth is on the trail:

Sugary, high-calorie snacks never translate into positive energy.

Time for Change

We’ve all experienced the benefits of using (more…)

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Assessing Seasonal Gear Leads to a Trip Down Memory Lane

By Stephen Mullaney April 14, 2017

Backcountry Prep

Spring has sprung and it’s the beginning of another fine season of outdoor adventure, which means it’s time to start unpacking, inspecting, cleaning up and then repacking your gear.

As you start pulling out the dusty Tupperware containers crammed with camping gear you’ve had since your first journey beyond the pavement, take some time to reflect. Revel in the moment as you remove each memory from the box. Think about where that tool or boot or piece of canvas has taken you, and the gifts you in turn received by being able to use that equipment with confidence.

Dig deep and you’re likely to find a piece of gear that appears — to the uninformed — to be broken and unusable. But to you, a broken cam that you’ve had for years has meaning to it. In fact, you’re pretty much convinced that, in the event of an emergency, you could set that passive piece to save your butt.

As you’re reading this, one of you might be thinking about an unusual rock you and a buddy picked up on a particularly fantastic trip. It’s never left your bag. Maybe it reminds you of (more…)

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