Posts Tagged ‘backpacking’

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dan Crane: Blisters Suck

Hikers’ sweaty feet are one of my favorite things.  Especially, when their hiking boots do not fit correctly or are not properly broken in.  Their soft, damp skin rubs against the sides of unyielding boots, giving birth to my nascent self.   Layers of skin separate, and the space between these layers fills with liquid.   This is when I take control.

I am a blister.  And I want nothing more than to ruin your outdoor experience.

Let’s face it, blisters suck.  There is just no getting around this fact.  Anyone who has ever suffered through a long hike with one or more on their heel or toe knows this all too well.  Once they begin to form there is almost nothing that can be done to reverse the process, short of several weeks of rest and an absolute absence of rubbing.  These conditions are nearly impossible to be had in the middle of the Adirondack backcountry, days from the nearest trailhead.
» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gear: Credit Card Sized Backcountry Reading Glasses

Ever return from an Adirondack backcountry trip with a headache, sore eyes or a painful neck? Do you find yourself squinting while reading a map or compass? Have you ever found yourself somewhere totally different than where you thought you should be? Are you reaching, or firmly established in, middle age?

If any of these are even remotely true, then a pair of lightweight, durable and inexpensive reading glasses is in your future. Luckily, I recently discovered just the pair of backcountry reading glasses even your ophthalmologist would approve. That is, as long as he or she is an outdoor enthusiast.

Middle-aged outdoors people often find it difficult reading maps, compasses, handheld GPSs or anything else with fine print. This is no cause for panic though. The loss of close focusing ability is a natural part of aging. Now, panicking about reaching middle-age, that is perfectly understandable, and extremely warranted.

The loss of close focusing ability is called presbyopia. This condition is caused by the hardening of the lens inside the eyes, which occurs with age, and just coincidentally begins around the time most reach their mid-life crisis.

Presbyopia results in the slow degradation of the eye’s ability to focus on things close, including unfortunately, maps, compasses, GPSs, and a whole host of other contraptions backcountry explorers relay upon during their recreational pursuits in the woods. Also, it results in backcountry enthusiasts’ sore necks when they wear contraptions on short lanyards around their necks.

Presbyopia became a real problem for me when I found myself getting a sore neck at the end of every day of bushwhacking through the Adirondacks. The frequent sore necks went without explanation, until I found myself holding my GPS and compass beyond the length of their lanyards while they were still around my poor neck.

After that, I always carried a pair of folding reading glasses to deal with presbyopia. And I obtained some longer lanyards too, since I hated constantly getting the reading glasses out to figure out where the heck I was located. The glasses were still convenient for those increasingly frequent moments when it was necessary to read fine print or almost anything this side of a billboard within dim light. These folding glasses proved useful, but they were fragile, so I always took great care not to break, and thus rarely took them out while navigating. If only there was an inexpensive pair of reading glasses that I could carry in my pocket without the risk of them breaking right when I need them.

Luckily, Christmas came early this year (or was it late?), when on a recent backpacking trip down in the Adirondack’s little sister (i.e. the Catskills), I was presented with a remarkable solution to reading glasses in the backcountry. These reading glasses are smaller than a credit card, nearly indestructible (within limits) and require absolutely no folding.

Advantage Lenses, LLC manufactures the i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses perfect for use in the backcountry. They are actually less than the size of a credit card (and just a little thicker), flexible enough to fit a wide range of noses, durable, shatterproof and highly adjustable. What else could one want in a pair of backcountry reading glasses? That is, not to have the need for them, of course.

The i4uLenses reading glasses have no frame to break of bend. They are simply pressed onto the bridge of the nose about mid-way down, where they just pinch onto the nose.

Getting used to looking through the i4uLenses may take some time. Unlike regular reading glasses, the lenses are not right up near the eyes, but are down closer to the tip of the nose, like an old person’s bifocals. Wearing them may seem even more awkward to those who were born with excellent vision for most of their life – until now.

The i4uLenses make reading maps, compasses, etc. in the dim light of a headlamp in a tent or lean-to convenient and carefree. Just do not drop them onto the forest floor, or you may just find yourself sweating through minute of searching on your hands and knees to find them, especially without your glasses to assist you.

With the i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses, fragility is no longer an issue. Their plastic nature makes them nearly indestructible (but do not try too hard). Now, they can be carried easily in the front chest pocket, and whipped out in a moment’s notice to read a map, GPS device or anything else with print ill-suited for a middle-aged person.

Careful handling of the i4uLenses is necessary when the hands are covered in bug repellent residue. The lenses are plastic, and therefore repellents may damage them. Touching the lenses is a bad idea regardless, since that is the part typically looked through.

A plastic carrying case is available to protect the lenses from scratches, dirt and other assorted ill conduct.

i4uLenses credit card size emergency reading glasses are relatively inexpensive, they retail for $6.95 here.

For those suffering through the effects of presbyopia, i4uLenses are a convenient solution. These credit card size reading glasses are lightweight, about the size and width of a credit card, and are nearly indestructible, making them a perfect optical solution for backcountry enthusiasts. The only bad thing about them – you will look like an old fogie wearing them.

Photo: i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dan Crane: Backpacking with Duct Tape

The day has been long, and the trail treacherous. Mosquitoes feast on fresh blood due to a tear in a headnet. A water bottle leaks, the dribbling down a pants leg appearing like a non-stop accident. Equipment lies strewn along the trail, spewing from a rip in a backpack. Blisters, covering each foot, scream in agony with every step.

If only there was some product that could fix all these problems and save this trip from certain disaster. Something like, duct tape, for instance.

Duct tape is one of those universal, jack-of-all-trades tools, like the hammer and the crowbar. Since the 1940’s, this tape has had more uses than any other invention known to man, with the exception of fire, the internal combustion engine and the Internet. This wondrous invention is not only useful at home though, but in the backcountry as well.

Duct tape has a myriad of uses for backcountry enthusiasts. These range from the practical to the down-right zany. It can be used to repair damaged equipment, prevent frequent hiking injuries and even, in some cases, cure sleepless nights.

Duct tape can often be used to fix equipment in the field. A leaking water bottle? Slap on some duct tape over the hole. Ripped stuff sacks? Tape it up. A rip in some insect netting of a shelter? What could mean a very uncomfortable night in the Adirondacks, can be easily repaired with a little duct tape when needle and thread are just not plausible.

Duct tape is a great addition to even a well-stocked first aid kit. Although it can be used as a bandage, its greatest utility is in preventing blisters. Covering “hot-spots” on the feet with duct tape can forestall a painful blister from forming. And if the preventive care is not taken, covering a broken blister with a bandage followed by some duct tape creates an effective barrier that might just be still on the feet a week after returning home.

In addition to the conventional uses of duct tape, there are some more inventive uses.

For those in tick country, duct tape makes a useful way of neutralizing these disease-carrying parasites. Since the exoskeleton of ticks makes them nearly impossible to crush, sticking them on duct tape is an effective way to remove them from the field. Just stick their backs on the tape and watch their legs continue to wiggle, sometimes for months afterwards. The same can be done for fleas too, but taking a bath once in a while is probably just as effective for these little pests.

Under some circumstances, duct tape is useful when sharing a lean-to with someone who snores. If yelling, stamping your feet or poking the offender fails to bring the desired results, then a small piece of duct tape just might do the trick. Just do not tell the irate snorer where this idea was obtained upon their awakening.

Even equipment and clothing can be made with duct tape. These are inexpensive, waterproof and somewhat durable. In an emergency, wrapping duct tape around oneself can result in a fully insulted and waterproof barrier to the environment. Those of Italian decent or others with lots of body hair should refrain from this except in the most dire emergencies though.

Plans for equipment can be found on the Internet, such as this one for a backpack. Despite the stated advantages, I think I will stick to a store bought backpack, just to be on the safe side.

Carrying duct tape is always an issue. Some throw lightweight hiking to the wind and simply toss a whole roll into their backpack. This is pure folly; I have never heard of anyone so unlucky to require an entire roll on a single trip. Carrying only the amount likely to be used is a better strategy. But, where to put it?

In the past, I use to wrap some duct tape around my Nalgene water bottle. When I abandoned the use of these water bottles, wrapping duct tape around collapsible water bottles became impractical. And wrapping the tape around sport drink bottles led to the tape picking up dirt and other particles due to the bottles unsmooth surfaces.

These days, hiking poles make convenient places to wrap a sample of duct tape. Just wrap some tape up as far on the pole as possible below the hand grip. Placing the tape higher on the pole prevents it from getting dirty and insures it is ready to use should it be needed.

Duct tape is one of the few inventions whose brilliance suggests divine inspiration, like Velcro and Gore-Tex. No backcountry adventure should head out on the trail without some duct tape squirreled away, just in case it comes in handy. And I assure you, it will eventually.

Photos: Backpack, with duct tape on hiking poles, at the intersection of the Five Ponds and Sand Lake Trail in the Five Ponds Wilderness by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Adirondack Backcountry Invasion

A war is raging in our wilderness areas, and the Adirondack Park is slowly becoming ground zero. Invaders from faraway lands are gaining a foothold in the Park’s interior, where the native inhabitants are woefully unprepared for the coming onslaught. Unfortunately, backcountry enthusiasts are the unwitting foot soldiers for these invaders.

Exotic invasive plants are sprouting up far away from their usual haunts on lawns and along roadsides. Exotic invasive species are non-native species, typically introduced to an area by humans, either purposely or accidently. These species exhibit traits allowing for fast growth, rapid reproduction, swift dispersal and tolerance of many different habitats. These traits facilitate colonization and eventual subjugation of much of the native vegetation. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dan Crane: The Art of the Adirondack Dump

Imagine hiking for hours, and the nearest thing passing for a restroom is miles away. And then you feel it. Some call it the spike, others the turtlehead. It means one thing; it is time to answer nature’s call and there is no other choice but to poop in the woods.

One of the most awkward aspects of enjoying the Adirondack backcountry, and consequently one that elicits the most curiosity, is just how does one poop in the woods. My answer is always the same with regards to the Adirondacks: very carefully and as quickly as possible.

Pooping in the woods can be a dangerous endeavor, as it leaves one vulnerable to a whole host of possible attacks. A mischievous fellow hiker with a camera, a black bear with poor judgment in search of something good to eat or even an innocent snake minding its own business but in the wrong place at the wrong time. Worst of all, and probably the most common hazard, is a horde of any of the assortment of biting flies.

A bare butt hanging out as one takes care of business is like a giant bull’s-eye in the forest to a hungry female mosquito, black fly or deer fly. For that reason alone, it is of the utmost importance to get through the entire process as quickly as possible. Always wait until the very last minute before going, as this minimizes the amount of time where one’s butt, and other stuff, is exposed for as little time as possible. Prevent any possible biting by waving a free hand around the more sensitive parts to scare off any hovering flies. Take it from experience; getting bit on one’s privates is definitely something to be avoided!

The mechanics of taking a poop in the Adirondacks are pretty clear. If an outhouse is available then do your business there; it is way more comfortable and a lot more convenient. Keeping the door open while going may be necessary given the popularity of the area, and the time and potency of the last occupant. Afterwards, throw a handful of leaf litter onto your deposit to facilitate decomposition and control the aroma.

When no facilities are available, find a private place 150 feet from water, trail or campsite, and dig a cat-hole 6-8 inches deep. Do your business, throw a few leaves on it and then bury it with the soil from the hole.

Throwing leaves in the hole helps to aid decomposition, especially in the slight case where the mineral soil may be close to the surface. This is usually not likely within the Adirondacks unless you happen to be in an area where the mineral soil is located near the surface (e.g. an old tip-up mound or near a rockslide).

Luckily, no special equipment is necessary for pooping in the Adirondacks backcountry. Some outdoor enthusiasts swear by using a plastic trowel for digging the cats-hole, but this is usually unnecessary with the deep, damp organic layer typically found in the Adirondack soils. A nice sturdy branch, located as I scramble to find an adequate place, always works well for me, except for the few times they break during the my furious digging.

Once the wiping is finished, the toilet paper can be tossed in the hole with your waste. Following strict leave no trace guidelines, the toilet paper should be packed out. In the Adirondacks, I find carrying out the toilet paper to be unnecessary with the moist conditions present in the Adirondacks; toilet paper should decompose rapidly. It is best to use white, cheaper, 1-ply paper, preferably without all the added chemicals of the popular brands. Peeing on the used toilet paper afterward, or poking it with the digging stick, helps to compact it and prevent it from working itself up to the surface.

The best place to deposit your waste is a raised area with little vegetation in an upland habitat. A raised area avoids the possibility of the waste sitting in a pool of water after a heavy rain, and therefore retarding decomposition. Digging your cats-hole in an area devoid of vegetation reduces the amount of disturbance, which is always a good thing in the backcountry.

Positioning during the dirty deed is crucial. There is nothing worse than getting waste on yourself, or falling back into it. My preferred position is the traditional squat. This position requires strong ankles and a good sense of balance. Without those two, there can be some disastrous results. For those needing additional support can position themselves in front of a small tree, holding the tree’s stem for added support. Unfortunately, this limits the number of possible sites. Using hiking poles, stuck in the ground, can be substituted for the tree stem and therefore providing my choice in locating an adequate place.

Some people swear by using a log as a seat, with their butt sticking over the log and the cats-hole dug below. This really limits the number of possible places to go, and in an emergency situation could be a real problem. Sitting on a wet log or having the log break or fall apart in the middle of your bathroom break are just two of the additional hazards that could possibly upset what should be a relieving experience.

Most of these suggestions are only applicable during the warmer months of the year; a winter dump is a whole new ballgame. With the ground usually frozen, and most likely buried under feet of snow, makes a different method of fecal disposal necessary. And unfortunately, it requires packing out the poop.

A good choice for packing out your fecal material is a commercial product such as a WAG bag. These kits are often required in very high use areas where rich, moist soils are rare or nonexistent. The kit consists of an outer, puncture resistant zip-closed plastic bag, a poop bag with a gelling substance for those runny occasions (it also facilitates decomposition and reduces odor), toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Another option is to make your own waste disposal system. Sometimes this method is referred to as a poop burrito. Twenty inch square pieces of waxed paper and brown butcher paper are placed on the ground with the waxed paper between yourself and the butcher paper. After doing your business, roll up the paper burrito style and place the burrito in a paper bag.

A perfect container for this fecal package is a piece of PVC pipe, threaded at both ends with screw-on caps. Just screw off one cap, place the fecal bag inside and screw the cap back on. This prevents the contents from coming into contact with any other equipment. The PVC pipe can be carried strapped onto the outside of one’s backpack too. The contents can be conveniently disposed of upon returning to civilization.

There is no denying that pooping in the woods is one of the least appealing aspects of spending time in the backcountry. But, unfortunately, it is a biological necessity that must be attended to and planned for if civilization is to be left behind for a few days. Instead of dwelling on the negative, imagine the sweet relief afterwards, not to mention it is the only time it is socially acceptable for an adult to play with their own waste.

Photos: Shoulder of Greenfield Mountain in the Five Ponds Wilderness by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Mysterious Northwestern Adirondacks Noise

The Adirondack backcountry can generate some very peculiar sounds. A bobcat crying, a coyote howling and a pine sawyer chewing are just a few of the strange natural sounds of the remote wilderness. These sounds are often easily identifiable as having a natural source. Unfortunately, the sources of many others remain a mystery.

I heard one of these mysterious sounds several times in different locations in the backcountry of the northwestern Adirondacks over the years. This strange sound turned up again this summer at Cracker Pond, located in the remote part of the Five Ponds Wilderness.

The unexplained sound is a soft modulated hum. It is a subtle sound; often it is difficult to tell whether it is a sound or just a feeling deep down in the pit of the stomach. It is sometimes muffled, as if in the background, and therefore easily overlooked. The nature of the sound is hard to describe, but it is similar to the noise made by a boat crashing through a wave or wake of another boat.

This is not the first time I have heard such a sound. Similar sounds intruded upon several different backcountry trips over the last few years in the northwestern Adirondacks. The sound is not constant, as I have returned to the same locations multiple times without hearing it.

I heard this sound for the first time while visiting the Threemile Beaver Meadow in the western part of the Pepperbox Wilderness. At this time, I presumed the sound was from the turbines at one of the dams to the south along the Beaver River.

Unfortunately, my turbine theory appeared incorrect as I heard the sound at the top of Cat Mountain last year in the northern portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness. This mountain is way too far from the Threemile Beaver Meadow for such a sound to carry that far.

What could this sound be? Where is it coming from? Is it just in my head? If not, is it from a man-made source or a natural one? Does anyone have any theories about this sound? Unidentified flying objects? Clandestine hydrofracking operations? Any explanation from the absurd to the practical would be appreciated.

Strange sounds are a part of the backcountry experience in the Adirondacks. Usually these mysterious sounds have a natural source. Occasionally, an eerie noise is difficult to attribute to a natural phenomenon. Most of these remain a mystery; let us hope this is not one of them.

Photos: Cracker Pond, Threemile Beaver Meadow and View from Cat Mountain by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adirondack Lean-to Etiquette

Lean-tos are three-walled shelters scattered throughout the backcountry of the Adirondack Park. Typically, they are conveniently located near picturesque lakes, ponds or streams. They are often convenient substitutes for tents (except during bug season) and especially popular with backpackers on a rainy day. Unfortunately this popularity often leads to overuse and sometimes downright abuse.

For example, this past summer I visited and revisited the Sand Lake lean-to within the Five Ponds Wilderness during a bushwhacking trip. Over the eight-day period the lean-to went from clean and well-kept to having garbage strewn within the fireplace and abandoned equipment scattered all about.

Obviously there is a need for some rules of lean-to etiquette. These rules need to be adopted and promoted by all backcountry adventurers. They should be posted on an attractive sign in a prominent place on each lean-to to remind those users that seem to forget their obligations when visiting the backcountry. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Essay: Wintertime Backcountry Sanitation

What follows is a guest essay by Jim Muller, a regular Almanack reader and an avid winter camper who edits the site Muller noted that Dan Crane’s recent post on Adirondack Backcountry Hygiene assumed summertime conditions and he wanted to provide us his take on camping sanitation in winter.

Let’s face it – it is tough to contemplate washing up when winter camping, but that doesn’t mean that sanitation should be ignored. Especially keep your hands clean. Backpackers are more likely to become sick from improper hand sanitation than from contracting Guardia from untreated water. Use a multi-purpose soap or hand cleaner. Don’t touch shared food. Pour snacks and trail mix into your hand as opposed to reaching in a bag to grab a handful. Use food utensils when portioning out dinner rations. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Diane Chase: Hurricane Irene High Peaks Closures

It is difficult to believe that a week ago my husband led two different groups over Marcy Dam bridge to climb into the Adirondack High Peaks backcountry. I joined him on a day hike up Marcy and lingered on the bridge to admire the view of Mt. Colden. Now the iconic bridge has been washed away by residual flooding from Hurricane Irene.

With this backlash from Hurricane Irene Adirondack campgrounds are closed and extensive damage continues to be assessed throughout the High Peaks, Catskills and lower regions of the Adirondack Park.

DEC Region 5 Citizen Participation Specialist David Winchell says, “We closed down the trail systems for the Eastern High Peaks, Giant, and Dix Mountain Wilderness regions and continue to evaluate other areas. We want people to understand that by willingly entering the forest preserve hikers may encounter massive blow-down, washed out foot bridges, and landslides.”

Winchell states that the first bridge on the Klondike trail is gone, the Duck Hole Dam has been breached and the trails along the shoreline at Lake Colden are under water. He admits that at this time the number of new slides are too numerous to count. He does list new slides at Wright, Colden-north, Trap Dike, Haystack, Wolfjaws, Dixes and Giant.

“When hikers encounter a bad situation we encourage people to turn around and not press on over treacherous terrain, says Witchell. “We don’t want to be searching for additional people. Our focus is on helping the communities and existing stranded hikers and backcountry campers.”

According to Winchell, the Western and Central Adirondacks have not been as severely impacted by ramifications of Hurricane Irene. Trail closure and campground information will be updated and posted on the DEC trail website.

Marcy Dam bridge has been a landing point for many backcountry hikers as well as a day hike destination for those just wanting an easy 2.4 mile walk from the Adirondack Loj. Phil Brown of The Adirondack Explorer, filed an extensive High Peaks area damage report, places to hike and pictures of the missing bridge.

Remember the first rule of thumb when venturing into the backcountry is safety. There is so much damage around the towns of Jay, Keene, Keene Valley and AuSable that emergency personnel is needed to pursue the necessary clean-up to aid those communities while the DEC continues to do what is necessary to be able to open Adirondack trails for all.

For those wishing to enjoy a family-friendly wilderness experience there are many smaller hikes not part of the Eastern Adirondack High Peaks that are open.

Photo of Marcy Dam bridge used with permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities including short hikes, swimming holes, historic sites, events, activities and trivia. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dan Crane: The Year of the Mosquito

Biting insects are the price of admission for playing in the backcountry of the Adirondacks. But this year these pests seem to be more plentiful and ferocious than in years past. This is particularly true for the blood-sucking scourge known worldwide as the pesky mosquito.

Last month I experienced the large number and ferocity of mosquitoes first hand during an eight-day trek within the remote interior of the Five Ponds Wilderness in the northwestern Adirondacks. Saying mosquitoes were plentiful would be a vast understatement given the near-Biblical proportions of the blood-suckers encountered there. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Extreme Adirondacks: Surviving the 1995 Microburst

During a recent adventure into the heart of the Five Ponds Wilderness in the northwestern Adirondacks I found myself struggling through some blow downs and thinking about the 1995 Microburst. This devastating storm occurred on July 15, 1995 but its impact on the northeastern Adirondacks is still evident today and will remain so for a very long time.

But the storm’s impact is not on the land alone but on the people who experienced the storm as well. Since I was one of those individuals trapped in the backcountry on that day, I thought I would share my memory of the experience on the storm’s sixteenth anniversary. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Outdoor Gear: Bug Season Head Nets

A recent weekend in the northwestern Adirondacks during May gave me a new perspective on surviving black fly season in a year with a prodigious amount of rainfall. The size and intensity of the swarm continuously hovering around my head not only necessitated a plethora of insect repellent but the frequent use of a piece of equipment that rarely sees the light of day: the head net.

Although a good head net is a necessity during black fly season, it probably should be carried at all times during the warmer months. A head net can sometimes come in handy beyond black fly season when camping in a mosquito-frequented area or anytime no-see-ums congregant on your head in large numbers.

An effective head net should be black in color and have mesh small enough to keep away even the tinniest of blood sucking insects. An elasticized closure at the bottom of the head net is helpful to seal off the mesh around your neck. In addition, it should be compact and lightweight enough to easily and conveniently fit within an overstuffed backpack on a multi-day trip.

The dark color of the mesh has little to do with making a fashion statement. The dark color reduces the amount of glare from the sun when wearing the head net. This can be of critical importance if you plan on doing any birding while wearing the head net.

Despite their porous nature, head nets can be very hot when worn. Although this can be an advantage on cold days when a hat is not available, it is usually an added annoyance on warm days especially with a swarm of ravenous blood-sucking insects about your head.

On those days when the swarm is especially intense, drinking and eating can be done without taking off the head net. Drinking should be done right through the mesh but it is best to refrain from drinking anything other than water since any residue left behind may attract larger, and potentially more dangerous, wildlife.

Eating is also possible while wearing a head net. With the right type of head net, eating can be accomplished by placing the food inside the head net and then manipulating the food article with your hands from outside the head net. This is an excellent technique for keeping the swarm of insects from landing on and potentially ruining your meal as well. Take care not to attempt to eat anything sticky this way though, as any residue left behind will create the same problem as non-water drinks.

A lightweight head net will alleviate any associated anxiety of carrying a potentially extraneous piece of equipment for the extremely weight-conscious backcountry explorer. Compactness ensures the fine mesh does not get ripped during the packing process, preventing a potentially painful breach in your insect protection barrier (repairable with duct tape, if necessary).

Head nets tend to come in two different types. One resembles a mesh hood while the other tends to incorporate one or more rings into the mesh so as to keep the mesh away from one’s face. The hooded type should be avoided as the mesh tends to end up resting on one’s face more often giving the ingenious little buggers an opportunity to do some blood-sucking.

The head nets using rings are definitely superior to the hooded type. The rings, made of hard plastic, foam or metal, keep the mesh away from the face and therefore provide more effective protection. The rings’ material should not be too easily bent or anyone with even a moderate case of obsessive-compulsion disorder may spend many hours attempting to get them back into their original shape.

Two head nets made by popular outdoor manufacturers are the Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net and the Outdoor Research Deluxe Spring Ring Headnet.

The Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net is a perfect example of the hooded type of head net. It is a very lightweight head net with a true black mesh that packs up into its own very small stuff sack. This head net weighs only 1.3 ounces and the typical prices online range from $8 to $10.

Unfortunately, this head net has one crucial flaw. With 500 holes per square inch the head net is completely ineffectual for no-see-ums. This flaw became painfully apparent to me on a trip to Big Shallow Pond in the Five Ponds Wilderness several years ago. This flaw makes the Sea to Summit head net ineffectual for use in the Adirondack for all those who do not enjoy no-see-um bites.

In contrast, the Outdoor Research Deluxe Spring Ring Headnet is one of the better ring head nets available from the major outdoor equipment manufacturers. The mesh is very finely woven; not even the runt of a no-see-um litter could possibly penetrate it. This head net packs down to a small size and is very lightweight, weighing a mere 2.2 ounces. This head net has a manufacturers suggested retail price of $19.

An important feature of the OR Deluxe Spring Ring head net is the aluminum ring sewn within the mesh located about chin-level. This ring keeps the mesh away from your face and therefore keeps the little bloodsuckers from biting you where the mesh rests against your skin. Unfortunately, it needs to be worn with a hat otherwise the blood suckers can easily bite your scalp through the mesh (and your hair) on the top of your head. When twisted this aluminum ring collapses into a smaller size so it can be packed within the attached stuff sack and stowed away in your pack.

One minor flaw of the OR head net is the color of the mesh. Although the mesh is dark in color, it is not quite black. It appears to be more charcoal in color and therefore does not provide all the reduction in glare possible. Unless the head net is going to be used in direct sunshine where glare can be an issue (e.g. birding), this should not be a major concern.

During the height of bug season it is important to use any means available to maintain your sanity when surrounded by hordes of blood-sucking insects such as black flies, mosquitoes and deer flies. A head net can be one of the best ways to protect your head and maintain your mental health during this time of the year. Just be sure to use one that is effective against all of the possible pesky blood-sucking insects present.

Photos: Outdoor Research Deluxe Spring Ring Headnet by Outdoor Research and Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net by Sea to Summit.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

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