Each hiking season, we read about hikers who are lost for days. One way to prevent this glitch in your backpacking trip is to learn how to navigate in an unmarked area or over trails that may be poorly marked. What is a baseplate compass? What do all those markings on a topographical map mean? How can you find direction without a compass? What navigational tools should you bring on every backpacking trip? These are the types of questions the Wilderness Navigation articles attempt to answer.
When you are miles and miles from any emergency response system, you must rely on your own skills. Prevention is a big part of reducing the risk of injury. What are common causes of accidents and injuries on the trail? What can you do to prevent injuries? How should you treat injuries when they happen? How clean is clean water? Each month, the Newsletter gives hints on these topics.
Even though you may never have to depend on these plants for survival, they are fun to study. Native Americans lived on these plants for thousands and thousands of years, and they used many of the same plants for other purposes. The authors indulge their preference for wild foods as often as possible, and they have a "growing" collection of native wild plants in their back yard garden. In fact, the yard is more garden than anything else. Learning to identify these plants can add a whole new dimension to your backpacking experiences! Each month, this Newsletter article focuses on one plant, its identifying features and its uses. An illustration accompanies each article.
Backpacking is sort of a combination of camping and hiking. You need some of the same types of equipment that you take camping, but (since you must carry it) you are limited in how much you can take. Some equipment is for shelter. Other types are for protection from injury (everything from scrapes to broken bones to hypothermia). The Newsletter authors take into account such things as weight, usefulness, size and cost of each item discussed.
Trail etiquette is nothing more or less than respect. Respect for the environment. Respect for the myriad of life forms (plants and animals) that make their home in that environment. Respect for other people who will follow us down that same trail or through that same wilderness space. We are guests, and we should show consideration for our hosts. How can you practice low-impact camping? What can you do to make the outdoor experience more satisfying for yourself and other backpackers? Each month, the Newsletter focuses on a different aspect of trail etiquette.
Articles in this section cover such things as cooking methods, open fires, camp stoves, foods available commercially, cooking equipment and recipes you can put together for better nutrition and more variety in your backpacking meals.
The authors find pre-packaged meals boring, expensive and loaded (often) with artificial ingredients and preservatives. Drying foods yourself will give you a much greater variety, and it's fun! Based on their years of experience drying foods, the authors have written a book on the subject. (See Melton Publishing Home Page) Each month, they share a bit of their knowledge in this section.
Ah! Modern humans! So technically advanced (in comparison to our ancestors, at least) and yet so untutored in basic survival skills! Knowing basic survival skills can give backpackers more confidence, even if they never have to use them in an emergency situation. The authors both worked in the medical field for many years. So often, they saw serious problems develop after a minor trauma, problems that could have been avoided if someone had known and applied basic skills. In the middle of a crisis miles out in the wilderness, you may not have time to learn survival skills. It's better to prepare in advance, and this is what the Newsletter tries to do each month in this section.
Trail closures, hearings on issues affecting the wilderness and backpackers, trail conditions, backpacking clubs and many other things are of interest to backpackers. Articles in this section give hints on how to contact the people and agencies that have the information readers need.
Now, this is where the readers get to comment on the Newsletter, share their experiences, ask questions or express themselves on any other topic. The youngest reader published in this section was 7 years old. The oldest was in her 80s. The authors love to hear from people around the country, and anyone is invited to submit a letter!