Water Treatment for Hikers, Vol. 2 – Water Treatment Methods

Water Treatment for Hikers, Vol. 2 – Water Treatment Methods

When I was a kid, I ran all over the mountains and foothills of the Mid-Atlantic drinking water out of streams and other running bodies of water. When I got in the military and got into the medical field, I REALLY learned about the importance proper hydration and water treatment. In the military, the most common method of treating water is water purification tablets (Iodine) or Aquamira.


In this episode, I am going to talk about the different popular methods of water treatment and try to hit their pros and cons. I will also try to give some examples of each where applicable.


Pump Water Filter/Purifier – A mechanical filter works by pumping water through microscopic pores in some sort of filter element. The downside to mechanical filtration is that the filter is going to get clogged up, requiring you to clean out the system and eventually replace it. Mechanical Water Purifiers work in a similar fashion to filters, but can remove Viruses.


  • You can get water from pretty much any source
  • You can get your water quickly
  • You can replace the filter element
  • You get exactly as much as you need


  • Heavier than most of the other options
  • You must clean the filter
  • You must pump the filter
  • Price

MSR Guardian – MSR’s flagship, it pumps up to 2.5 liters per minute and 10% of every pump stroke serves to backflush the filter, saving you from having to clean it like other filters. This purifier filters particles down to 0.02 microns… small enough to filter out viruses. The filter cartridge is rated for 10k liters and is replaceable.  $350

Katadyn Pocket Water Filter – Katadyn’s flagship, it is effective only against bacteria and protozoa due to it having a pore size of 0.2 microns.  Good for 1 liter per minute, the filter cartridge has a life of 13K liters . $240


Gravity Filter – Gravity filters work like pump filters. The difference is they work via…. you guessed it, gravity. You place dirty water in a dedicated dirty container and then let it flow down via gravity to a clean container.


  • Easy to replace cartridges
  • Good for a large group
  • You don’t have to do much, just let gravity do the work


  • Slow
  • Requires you to clean the filter frequently
  • Hard to get water out of shallow sources

MSR Autoflow/Platypus GravityWorks – Similar offerings from two different companies, both are easy to use to filter large quantities of water. About $100. MSR Autoflow


Squeeze Filter – Squeeze filters work similar to gravity filters but instead of waiting for gravity, you force the water through the filter cartridge by squeezing water from a dirty “source” bag/bottle to a “clean” reservoir.


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy way to quickly filter a small amount of water
  • Small and light


  • Frequent backflushing is generally required
  • Can only filter in small amounts generally due to reservoir size

Sawyer Squeeze/Sawyer Mini – both are very popular among hikers. Easy to use, pain in the butt to have to regularly backflush, they are a readily available, inexpensive option. $20-$40 Squeeze Mini

MSR Trailshot – MSR’s answer to the Sawyer Squeeze, this is a nice little filter. Weighing in at only 5 oz, it fits in a pocket and efficiently filters one liter per minute. $50

Chemical Treatment – Effective against bacteria, protozoa and viruses, chemical water treatment is a cheap and easy to use option. Mostly chlorine or Iodine based, they usually come in pill or drop form.


  • Easy to use
  • Cheap
  • Ultra-light weight


  • VERY slow. Usually you have to wait 30 minutes or longer for them to work
  • Can leave a chemical taste
  • Can be some concerns with different medical conditions
  • As we mentioned in Vol. 1, not as effective vs Cryptosporidium, you MUST use the proper amount and wait the proper time or it is useless.

Aquamira – a binary system, you mix part A and part B then add to water. No taste. Works well on Cryptosporidium. Kit treats up to 30 gallons. $15

Potable Aqua – Iodine based tablets. Awful aftertaste. Not good vs Cryptosporidium. $7, plus $5 for the taste neutralizer tablets.

MSR Sweetwater Solution – For use with the Sweetwater Pump Filter, this adds virus protection to a popular MSR filter. $15 for up to 80 gallons.

UV Treatment – Stick your little battery-operated wand in a bottle of water, press and hold the button and 60 seconds later you have drinkable(ish) water. Effective against bacteria, protozoa and viruses.


  • Ease of use
  • No cleaning required


  • Doesn’t work as well in water that is cloudy or silty
  • Batteries necessary
  • One bottle at a time
  • After treatment, cloudy water is still cloudy water, just drinkable now.

SteriPen– able to purify about 50 liters per set of 2AA alkaline batteries. Prices range from $60-$100 depending on model.


Boiling – You gather some water and bring it to a boil for at least 1 minute, longer at altitude.


  • Easy to do
  • Very cheap
  • Cloudy water still boils


  • Water needs to cool down
  • Water must boil
  • Fuel is required
  • If open flames are banned, you are screwed.



Tips :

  • Because more people and livestock live at lower elevations, water at higher elevations is generally cleaner
  • That cattle stock pond over there? Don’t drink from it unless you must, and if you do, treat for viruses
  • Avoid stagnant ponds in heavily logged area. Heavy metal run off is a real thing.
  • Use LNT principles and do not camp, use the bathroom or clean dishes within 200ft of water sources
  • Seek out clean running water over stagnant murky water
  • Follow all product directions. If you don’t you might just be wasting time and inviting disaster.
  • Source clean water activities upstream of dirt water activities
  • After a heavy rain, wait a short while before gathering water from a ground source. Water washing over surface areas stirs up mud and increase bacterial load.
  • Use a prefilter if you have one, or make one with a bandana
  • Get water from the surface, sediment and other gunk sinks
  • Wash your hands
  • Keep dirty water and clean water separate

Water Treatment for Hikers, Vol. 1 – Why we treat our water

Water Treatment for Hikers, Vol. 1 – Why we treat our water


One of the most important resources for a hiker is water. Without proper hydration, any hike you have planned is pretty much doomed. Without clean water, any efforts you make to maintain proper hydration are going to end poorly. Bacteria, viruses and parasites can be real problems and can have a real, sometimes life-threatening, impact on your hike.



What do you think was the biggest killer of soldiers during the US Civil War?

According to research done by historians for every 3 soldiers killed in battle, 5 died from disease. The diseases with the biggest death tolls were dysentery and typhoid.  According to records Dysentery was by far the biggest killer. Think about that. In a war where roughly 620,000 Americans soldiers died, approximately 65% died from disease, with dysentery being the biggest culprit. Dysentery is a type of gastroenteritis that results in diarrhea with blood. The diarrhea is so severe that your bowels are being evacuated faster than you can hydrate your body. This is a serious, life threatening situation and medical treatment is a necessity. 

                Dysentery can come from bacterial, viral or parasitic causes, so  let’s examine what lurks in our water that can affect our health. Amng the thing hikers will face, the 4 we will most likely encounter are bacteria, viruses, parasites and chemicals. Of those 4, here in the US we will be LEAST likely to encounter viruses and that will have an impact on how we treat our water as we will discuss later. The 5 most common things found in streams/ponds/lakes are Giardia, Cryptosporidium, E. Coli, Cholera, and Typhoid Fever (Salmonella Typhi).


Bacteria are single celled prokaryotic organisms. Prokaryotes are organisms without a cell nucleus, or any other membrane-bound organelles. What does this mean to you? Nothing. I am just being all sciencey. Bacteria can be beneficial or harmful. In the human body, bacteria are everywhere but since your immune system limits their growth in many systems, they are found in the largest numbers on your skin and in you GI tract. In a milliliter of fresh water, expect to find a million bacterial cells.  Common bacteria that concern hikers are E. Coli, Cholera (Vibrio cholerae), and Typhoid Fever (Salmonella Typhi).


A virus is an infectious agent that only replicates INSIDE the living cells of other organisms. Viruses found in water include but are not limited to Hepatitis, SARS, Polio, and Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease caused by Coxsackievirus or Enterovirus. Much less common in water sources in the United States (actually VERY rare), we aren’t going to really cover them.  Quick story. This past summer (summer of 2017) I was volunteering as a camp nurse for my church’s kids camp. We actually had a couple cases of Hand, foot, and mouth disease among the campers. These were the first cases of the disease I have ever seen in the US, but I suspect they came TO camp with the disease since they presented with symptoms in the first 2 days of camp. We immediately isolated them and sent them home for treatment.


Protozoa and Cysts are single-celled organisms, usually found in food and water that is contaminated by animal waste. Common protozoa encountered by hikers are Giardia Lamblia (giardiasis) and Cryptosporidium parvum (cryptosporidiosis).


Chemicals in water are extremely varied. The most common sources of chemicals in water is industrial or agricultural runoff. So many different varieties of chemicals are pumped into our water that I am not even going to get into them. Let me just say that you should exercise caution when drinking water from a source near any factory or farm, even more so from water that isn’t flowing. High concentrations of chemicals can NOT be reliably removed by either portable filters or purifiers, so again, be VERY cautious.


Below I list the 6 most common contaminants hikers might encounter. We are going to cover general signs, symptoms, and how to treat.


  • Giardiasis – Giardiasis is a parasitic infection caused by a protozoa, Giardia Lamblia. Giardia is one of the most common waterborne pathogens around the world and is transmitted via the fecal-oral route from ingested cysts. Also called Beaver Fever, it is caused by contaminated fecal matter entering a water supply. Unless you are one of the lucky who are asymptomatic, you will experience-
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain
    • Weight loss secondary to the infection blocking nutrient absorption in the small intestine
    • Less common are vomiting, blood in the stool and fever

Since Giardiasis usually resolves on its own, treatment involves treating the symptoms via hydration. Prevention is a matter of hygiene, to include hand washing and proper water treatment. All traditional water treatment methods are effective vs Giardia


  • Cryptosporidiosis – Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a cyst, Cryptosporidium parvum, that can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illness. Cryptosporidium is also a very common pathogen. Like Giardia, transmission is generally via a fecal-oral route, but unlike Giardia it can also be transmitted via a respiratory route.
    • Watery diarrhea with or without a persistent cough

Treatment of Cryptosporidiosis is similar to Giardiasis, meaning you treat the symptoms via re-hydration and electrolyte therapy. Prevention is also similar, combining hygiene and proper filtration, but Cryptosporidium is highly resistant to chlorine disinfection, so if going that route make sure you use the proper concentration and that you treat the water for the correct length of time.


  • E. Coli infection – Most strains of Escherichia Coli are non-pathogenic to humans. As a matter of fact, I GUARANTEE you have E. Coli in your GI tract right now. While there are also virulent strains of E. Coli that can cause sever life threatening illnesses, as hikers we focus on strains that cause gastroenteritis. Symptoms include-
    • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Treatment once again includes treating of symptoms and in since it is a bacteria, properly prescribed and administered antibiotics will effectively shorten the course of the illness. Since transmission occurs through the fecal-oral route, prevention comes down to proper hygiene, cooking of food, and effective water treatment. All the traditional forms of water treatment are effective.


  • Typhoid Fever – is NOT Typhus. Typhoid fever is cause by Salmonella Typhi, a bacteria. It is generally a 3rd world disease, transmitted via the fecal-oral route in contaminated food and water. Due to poor hygiene, it is a SERIOUS problem in India. INITIAL SYMPTOMS include
    • Fever (primarily a fever that rises in the afternoon), bradycardia (slow pulse), malaise, headache and cough.

Symptoms that occur as time goes by are progressively worse and involve more body systems with serious complications. Typhoid Fever is usually spread via a fecal-oral route, but can be spread by flying insects feeding on feces. Proper hygiene is necessary to prevent Typhoid Fever and all traditional water filtration forms are effective. Prevention is possible via vaccination and treatment includes treating of symptoms and antibiotics.


  • Cholera – cause by some strains of Vibrio cholerae, Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine. Symptoms can range from none to mild, to sever, and can include-
    • Watery diarrhea that lasts a few days
    • Vomiting
    • Cramps

Transmitted via a fecal-oral route through contaminated food and water, with under-cooked seafood being a common source. Prevention includes vaccination, hygiene and water treatment, with all common water treatment forms being effective. Treatment includes treating of symptoms to include re-hydration and electrolytes therapy and antibiotics.


  • Norovirus – I am including Norovirus because of recent outbreaks on the AT. This is the outlier in the group. The general rule of thumb is that viruses aren’t an issue for hikers in the US. Every spring lately, at about the NC/TN line on the AT people are coming down with the virus. The symptoms include…you guessed it, GI issues. So now you have a bunch of people puking and crapping all over the trail, further contaminating the environment and spreading the virus to each other from the Smokies all the way up to Maine. Prevention includes good hygiene and water treatment, BUT since a virus is WAY smaller than the bacteria and cysts that filters are designed for, thus a water filter won’t do squat for a virus unless it is also a purifier or has a chemical purification component. Treatment involves treating the symptoms and giving your body time to heal itself.


In the next installment, I will discuss Water Treatment options.

Why is my hammock suspension too tight/too loose?

When you first start hammock camping getting your suspension set right seems impossible. Once you start to understand some of the “physics” of hammock suspensions, it will become easier, and hopefully start to make more sense. Below are some terms you need to know


Sag is how your hammock hangs from your suspension. Looked at simply, it is the curve in your hammock.

structural ridgeline is a cordage line on your hammock that allows you a consistent starting point to set your hammock’s sag. They come in both adjustable and non-adjustable. The consensus rule of thumb for a ridgeline is 83% of your hammock’s length.

30 Degree hang is the angle at which your suspension hangs from the tree you are using. 30 degrees is the “sweet spot” because at that angle, the stress you are applying to your suspension and ultimately the tree is about equal to your body weight.

How does the distance between your trees and strap height correlate. This is simple but has a profound impact. The further apart your trees are, the higher you will need to place your straps to achieve a 30 degree angle. For example, if your trees are 15ft apart your strap height would be 70 inches, or almost 6 ft. Now if the trees you use are 20ft apart, the strap height changes to 87 inches or over 7ft up the tree.


When you hang your hammock, you will find it feels a bit like Goldilocks, but it will be too flat/tight, too steep/saggy, or just right.

A suspension that is too flat has a hang angle of less than 30 degrees. This will be apparent in the ridgeline because when you are sitting in the hammock, the ridgeline is tight and hard to flex. Also, when you lay in your hammock, it will have a noticeable ridge running down the center of the hammock. To fix, either lower the sit height of your hammock, lengthen your suspension or raise your straps on the tree.


A suspension that is too steep has a hang angle of greater than 30 degrees. This will be apparent by the ridgeline sagging when your weight is in the hammock; it will either flex excessively easy or just be a limp noodle hanging over your head. When you lay in this hammock, it will feel “floppy” and will be like hanging as a banana. To fix, either raise your hammock sit height , shorten your suspension or lower the straps on the tree.

When your suspension is just right, sleeping in your hammock will be a true pleasure. Your ridgeline will be tight, but you will be able to easily flex it with your hand. There shouldn’t be a ridge in the hammock when you lay in it.


Here is how I hang my hammock:

  1. I look for a set of trees about 15 feet apart. I have found this to be ideal for me as it allows me to get a good sag without having to place the straps too far up the tree. For trees 15ft apart, I place the straps at about 6ft high up the tree.
  2. I connect my straps to the tree and my hammock to the straps
  3. I pull the suspension tight and center the hammock between the trees.
  4. I drop the head end of the suspension 6-12 inches.
  5. I now start lengthening the suspension, this in turn lowers the sit height and increases the hammock sag.
  6. When the hammock angle looks right, i place my weight in the hammock and test the ridgeline to check if it is tight or loose. If too tight, I generally lengthen the head end suspension or lower that end, depending on the sit height of the hammock. If too loose, I generally shorten the foot end suspension or raise that end, once again depending on the sit height.
  7. I then proceed to sleep, after hanging my tarp of course…



  • I try to always carry one 15ft tree strap. This allows me to use it to easily measure three spacing.
  • place your hand in a “shooting an imaginary gun” shape. the angle from the tip of your index finger to the top of your thumb is roughly 30 degrees. Use this placed along your strap to roughly measure your hang angle.
  • having your foot end higher than your head end keeps you from sliding feet first into the end of your hammock

Hiking with guns

This is probably going to be a controversial topic. If you don’t like guns, just do everyone a favor and stop reading now. I will continue below








Ok, if you are still reading, you were warned.  What follows below will be a talk about things like shooting happy little unicorns with big mean guns and other mean people shit.


I carry a gun everyday, almost everywhere. There are some places in Texas (and on Federal property) where it is illegal to carry a firearm. I sometimes follow those rules. The pistols I carry vary, but generally are one of the following three:

-A Ruger LCP, in .380. Good pocket gun, carried when i wear lightweight athletic shorts.

– A Sig Sauer P225A1, in 9mm. A “compact” gun, this is my everyday carry pistol.

-A Sig Sauer MK25 in 9mm. Customized quite a bit, with Nite Sights, Threaded barrel, custom Hogue grips, and a TLR2g laser/light combo. This is my  “tactical” gun. If I could only have one pistol, this would be it.

Do I carry a gun when hiking? Damn Skippy. In Texas, we have poisonous snakes, coyotes, feral pigs, big cats (rare but growing), bears (moving west from Arkansas and Louisiana), and meth-heads. I carry because feral pigs REALLY are a big problem in Texas and I would prefer not to have myself or my dog get gored. I carry because I trust people as far as I can throw them, until they prove themselves trustworthy. I carry because I can.

Where do I carry?

When I am hiking, I generally carry in my Ribz pack. That keeps the gun easily accessible, but secure and concealed. Texas allows open carry, and I do occasionally, but most times it is just easier to conceal. Wherever you decide to carry, make certain you secure it, and it is stored safely.

Where do I store it at night?

Generally, I store my pistol in my gear hammock. That way it is stored securely, and within easy reach while I am lying down. My main concern at night is coyotes, and I have had to draw it before. One fall hike on the LoneStarHiking Trail, we heard coyotes in the distance when we turned in. Later that night, I was woken by Faith. She usually sleeps under my hammock and when she stands up she bumps my butt. She was growling pretty hardcore and I grabbed my pistol, turned on the mounted light and looked across the logging road we were camped along. Across the road (about 20ft or so) were more than 10 eyes glowing back at me. After engaging in a stare-down for a few minutes, the coyotes decided they had seen enough, and left. Most times, coyotes are purely opportunistic scavengers, but you starve any animal long enough and they will act in an aggressive manner. I refuse to be a snack.

Is carrying a gun the right thing for you?

Maybe. Maybe not.

-can you legally carry a gun?

– are you comfortable around guns?

-do you know how to use a gun? Safely?

-if necessary will you use the gun?

If you answered no to any of the above, then you probably shouldn’t be carrying a gun. If you answered yes to ALL of them, then you need to think long and hard before you take any further steps.

A gun laying on the ground is no more dangerous than a paperweight is. Pick up that gun and point it at something and that gun has not become a damn bit more dangerous. But you have. Gun ownership is still a protected right in this country, but the responsibility to carry and use it in a safe manner is all on you. Don’t go out and buy any old gun you see at your local gun shop.

-Find a friend who owns a gun and have them take you shooting to see if you like it.

-Try out different guns, most good ranges also rent guns. Try as many as you can and find what suits you best.

-Take a concealed carry class.

-Know your State laws. Is open carry legal? Concealed carry? Constitutional carry? Find out and follow the laws.

-Take a pistol class. Many ranges and shops offer classes on how to shoot, clean and carry a gun. Generally less than $100, it is money well spent.


Let me close by saying if you do carry, I hope you never need to use it. If you use it, I hope you hit what you aimed for. If you hit it, I hope it was a furry little animal. If it wasn’t, I hope you have a damn good defense or a damn good lawyer.

Hiking with dogs.

This is one of those things that is like politics or religion. You’ll get people on one side of this issue or another, and they will be passionate in their view or opinion. If you go to a popular forum dedicated to making money the Appalachian Trail, and start a thread about hiking with your canine friend, you will start a brawl. That said, I am not here to debate the merits of hiking with a dog; my blog, I am right, you are wrong.


Hiking with a dog requires more than just grabbing Fido and bringing her along while you walk. Not only do you HAVE to bring along some supplies for her, you also need to ask if she is physically and mentally ready for the hike you are undertaking.

  • Physical
    • Does your dog have the legs to make the distance you are planning to hike? Has she ever done that distance?
    • What is the temperature going to be? Not just when you start the hike but throughout the hike. How about overnight if it is a multiple day hike? Yesterday, July 12 2017, a dog died and 3 people were hospitalized in Arizona due to heat after hiking in Arizona.
    • If your dog is carrying a pack, how much weight can she comfortably carry for the distance you are hiking? Most “experts” say an adult dog should carry no more than 15-25% of their body weight. My dog Faith weighs about 85 pounds, and she usually carries 10-15 pounds MAX. A heavy load for her is 2 one liter water bladders (4.4lbs total), a couple bags of dry food (about a pound of food per day), her fleece coat if it is cold (1/2 pound), her dog sleep pad (13 oz 3/4 length Klymit Static V pad). This load is about the heaviest she will carry and is well within her weight limit.
    • Will there be enough water available? Faith carries up to 2 liters and I carry a liter or 2 for myself, then i carry a filter. If we cross a flowing water source, I generally let her drink her fill at every crossing while I drink my carried water then fill up my containers. Her containers are used if we go more than a mile or 2 without coming across a water source.
    • Where will she sleep if it’s an overnight? I hammock camp but don’t want an 85 pound furball sharing my hammock while I sleep after a long day of hiking. Until recently, Faith generally slept under my hammock on my ground cloth. In colder weather she carried a small blanket to keep her off the cold ground. Recently I bought her a 3/4 length Klymit pad. It weighs less than a pound, provides insulation under her to keep her warm and dry and is easily carried by her on her pack. I still need to make a Hex 70 pillow case for it so she doesn’t puncture it, but that is on my lengthy to-do list.
    • Is your dog physically developed enough for the hike? Don’t take a puppy on a long hike. In experience with bigger dogs (60-100 pounds is the weight range for all my dogs I have had as an adult) you shouldn’t take them on a REAL hike if they are younger than a year. This is advice from all the vets I have had and is sort of conventional wisdom on the interwebs also. Under a year, your dogs bones are still developing to the point where you can do lasting damage if you go to far too young. Most people consider their dog an “adult” after a year or so, just wait til that milestone before you take them hiking.
    • On leash or off? Faith generally hikes off leash. Her voice control is pretty good and she doesnt tend to wander off. Usualy when hiking, she stays within 20 feet of me, in front of me on the trail, stopping when she comes to a bend in the trail. She will stand there and look back, waiting for me catch up. Occasionally her prey drive will kick in and she will chase a rabbit bu generally only a VERY short distance and will come back when called. In crowded areas, she will go on leash. I wear a riggers belt with a D ring, I just clip her leash to that and we are good to go. 1-75_3-ply_d-ring_coyote_black_480x
  •  Mental
    • Does your dog even like to go on hikes? Start small. Faith’s first real hike was in winter in south Texas. It was abut 5 miles on the first day, long enough to be a real trial, but short enough make it easy to bail on if necessary.
    • How will the weather affect your dog? Faith is a thunder chicken. Guns are ok, but thunder makes her a quivering mess. I love taking her camping with me, but if storms are in the forecast, I think real hard before I take her along.
    • Does your dog behave well around people/other dogs? If your dog is going to growl aggressively at every other person or dog they come across, do everyone a favor and leave them at home.
  • Supplies
    • Collar. Does it have your name on it? Is it reflective or does it light up?
    • Leash. I prefer a leash that is 6-12 feet long. Non retractable. If your dog is a lunger, think twice before getting a bungee leash. Consider getting a leash with a traffic handle ( a handle close to the where the leash attaches to the dog, for positive control in traffic/crowded environments). A leash that can reattach to itself to make a belt is convenient for attaching to yourself while hiking or to a tree at night to secure Fido. Below is a popular option that has bungee, a traffic handle, and converts to a belt. An added plus is the latch is VERY easy to engage/disengage.

      Ruffwear Roamer Leash

      Ruffwear Roamer Leash

    • Dog Booties. On the LoneStar Trail in Texas where I hike the most, the ground is generally soft so boots are un-necessary, but if you hike where it is rocky, you might consider a good pair of boots like red-bark-n-boots-grip-trex-dog-boots-by-ruff-wear-set-of-4-222
    • Dog eye protection. Don’t laugh, this is serious. You wear sunglasses to protect from the bright ball of fire in the sky, don’t you care about your dog? They also protect from branches and other crap getting in your dog’s eyes. I swear by RexSpecs. If it’s good enough for our Military Working Dogs, then it’s good enough for me.  rexspecs_f
    • Pack/Harness. The Ruffwear Palisades is a VERY nice option, as the packs separate from the harness for versatility and includes 2 one liter water bladders. palisadesanother good option is a working dog harness with MOLLE panels, this allows you to add pouches that fit your needs.
    • Clothes. Rain coat. Cold weather coat?  When it gets cold, Faith wears buror
    • Bedding. Faith uses  the 3/4 length

      Kylmit Static V Jr

      Kylmit Static V Jr

    • Food. Carry enough for at LEAST one extra day, just in case.
    • Water. Don’t be a jackass, keep your dog hydrated.
    • Food/Water bowl. Like humans, dogs need water and food to survive. Dogs are often fine drinking out of a stream or lake, but you might need a bowl at other times.
  • First Aid- I recommend the following:
      If your dog is sprayed by a skunk or a seed, insect, dirt or other foreign object gets lodged in its eye, rinse it with saline. The saline bottle should squirt so that you can get the liquid into the corners of your pet’s eyes if you need to. Available at most pharmacies.
      Carry it in a capped 10ml syringe, used to induce vomiting.
    •  BENADRYL (DIPHENHYDRAMINE)Like humans, dogs can have allergic reactions to plants as well as bites and stings. Give your dog Benadryl orally if he shows hives or a strong allergic reaction. The rule of thumb is 1-2mg of Benadryl per pound of body weight every eight hours—more than a normal human dosage. Benadryl is also recommended for snakebites (worked wonders when uor youngest dog Lady was bit by a copperhead)
    •  STRETCHY BANDAGES/GAUZE PADS If you need to bandage one of your dog’s legs, stretchy wrap will make it possible. Stretchy bandages can also be used as a tourniquet in case of a snakebite or a heavily bleeding wound. Check your wrap job to be sure it isn’t so tight it causes paw swelling. Can be used for a muzzle in an emergency.
      Certain minor dog injuries, like badly broken nails, bleed a lot. A styptic pencil, often used to stop shaving cuts, is generally made of powdered crystal from an alum block and a waxy binder pressed into a pencil shape. Dab it on, and it seals small cuts and nicks, usually in a few minutes.
    •  MULTITOOLThere are a hundred possible uses for a multitool in the field, and you probably already have one in your pack. When traveling with your dog, make sure you carry a tool with a good pair of pliers. You’ll need them if your dog has a run in with a porcupine. Quills need to be pulled as soon as possible—left alone, they work their way in deeper and can get infected. Multitool pliers can also be useful for pulling thorns, and for removing a hanging toe nail or dew claw.
    •  SLIP LEAD OR MUZZLEMost dogs, when injured, frightened or in pain, revert to animal instincts—they bite, even their most beloved owners. If you need to pull porcupine quills, staple a wound or treat a significant injury, it’s important to have something you can fashion into a muzzle on hand. Try carefully laying the lead over the bridge of the nose, tying an overhand knot under the chin and then tying a knot at the base of the dog’s head on its back. A lead is also essential for walking your injured dog out of the woods in a controlled manner.
      In an emergency, this compact and nearly weightless sheet can be your most important tool for helping an injured dog (or human) maintain body heat. Also called a space blanket, wrap it around an injured dog to help it stay warm, and if your dog has open wounds, lay him on the blanket to keep him from getting dirt in his cuts.
      Another way to prevent snow build up between pads in winter is musher’s wax—the stuff that sled dogs use. It also moisturizes cracked pads without interfering with your dog’s sweat glands (dogs only sweat through their feet and their mouths). $15; musherssecret.net.
    •  PAIN MEDICINE/ANTI-INFLAMMATORYFeed your dog over-the-counter human anti-inflammatories like Aleve (Naproxen), Advil (Ibuprophen), Tylenol (Acetaminophen) and you can cause cause bleeding ulcers, kidney damage or worse. Buffered aspirin is the safest non-prescription anti-inflammatory pain medicine for pets. CONSULT YOUR VET!!!
      Dogs, like humans, can contract Lyme disease. The sooner you get a tick off your dog, the better.
      It’s easy to panic when you’re in the field and your pet has a problem. Carry a quick guide to ailments with detailed directions on how to treat the most common ones.

Here is a good graphic of pet friendly medications I found on the interwebs.14045729_10154124163458110_6848030201431306144_n


A lighter pack. What, why and how.

When i first started hiking as a civilian, I stuck with what I knew from the military; a large external frame pack that could comfortably carry everything plus the kitchen sink. The military teaches that two is one and one is none, so you rapidly end up carrying a ton of stuff. It’s basically the same as what civilians hikers call packing your fears; you may never need item x, but you feel that you NEED to bring it, just in case.

Hiking has a couple different levels of “lightness” when it comes to gear. Lightweight is generally defined as below 15lbs of BASE weight, Ultralight below 10, and SuperUltralight below 5. Base weight, is your gear MINUS food and water. With the introduction of lighter fabrics like CubenFiber and light weight wool  or synthetics, gear weights have dropped drastically. But lightweight comes with a cost. For example, Down is lightweight, and fluffy and warm, but costs significantly more than synthetics when it comes to insulation.

My first hiking trip in Texas was the Hiker’s Thanksgiving a few years ago with Sarge, The Hueys and others. My pack was an Osprey Xenith 88. It was huge and I packed that mother FULL!!! My gear consisted of a Dream Hammock Thunderbird, a Warbonnet Superfly, 20 degree quilts from HammockGear, and 40 or so lbs of other stuff. It was a mixture of LW stuff and heavy crap. Cooking was a White Box alcohol stove, a toaks Ti pot, toaks Ti coffee mug and a bottle of everclear for fuel and drinking. Sensible items, light weight, and practical. I also brought along a machete, a Bahco Laplander saw and a small hand axe. I brought enough clothes for 3 or so days instead of for 2 nights. I brought way too much food and I brought along a 100 liter hydration bladder, full in the pack.

After that trip I returned the pack to REI ( membership has it’s privileges)  and got an Atmos, which i returned for an Atmos AG 65 when the AG line was released. Great pack, smaller lighter and well laid out. I also started packing less gear. Less clothes, less food, no water bladder, one wood cutting implement, if any.


My next step in my evolution was to start weighing my gear and keep lists of what gear i took on what trip. I used a few different apps/spreadsheets before settling on Lighterpack. Just my personal preference. When you start weighing your gear and doing gear lists you REALLY begin to see where you are carrying excess weight or can shed a few pounds. The down side is lighter gear is in many cases, much more expensive than it’s heavier counterpart. I love my Carbon fiber tarp stakes that weigh 6 grams a piece, but they cost quite a bit more than WalMart special aluminum stakes. That is a personal choice I made but you might choose to not spend that money, or spend it somewhere else.

My next step in the evolution was a truly light pack. The Osprey Atmos AG weighs 72 oz, or 4.5 lbs. Not anywhere near as heavy as the 6 lb Xenith, but no means a lightweight pack. After looking around and checking out other people’s packs and gear, I decided to have a custom pack built. I decided to get a Zimmerbuilt Hammock pack built in Multicam, with a couple modifications that fit me.

It has a main compartment, a pocket for quilts (i have been able to stuff a set of 0 degree quilts in there with no problem) , one side pocket for my hammock and another for my tarp.Even with the heavier weight of the Multicam Xpac material vs the lighter standard Xpac, the pack still came in at 36oz, just over 2 lbs. It is a VERY comfortable pack, I have carried up to 30lbs in it (testing the pack) and have zero complaints. With my current base weight of 9-12 lbs (pack incuded), i almost can’t even tell I am wearing it.

To satisfy curiosity, last year I bought a Zpacks pack, the Arc Haul Zip in Moss green. It weighs 29 oz , is made of Dyneema and looks promising. I haven’t used it for a real hike, only a short trip to Hurricane Cove that is 0.6 miles from the trail head. It carried nicely but I need to give it more of a workout once i recover from this pesky heart surgery. 

The nice thing about the zpacks packs is the level of customization is insane. They aren’t cheap (expect to pay $300-$400) but if you can’t find a pack from their with the tweaks you want, then wow.

At first blush, people say $300-$400 for a pack? An Osprey pack weighs 2-3x as much, isn’t custom built and they cost $250-$350 off the shelf.


Carrying a lighter pack can make your trip much more comfortable and allow you to push out more miles per day. The downside comes in the cost. Down and high tech super light materials aren’t cheap, but if you shop around you can find good, high quality lightweight gear that will last you.

Just remember the 2 out of 3 rule. Price, quality, weight in this case. You can get good quality, lightweight gear, but it won’t be low in price.

Where I talk about my heart attack and the surgery

Saturday April 15. Just a normal Saturday. Did the usual family stuff. Had lunch at Rudy’s BBQ. Went home to cut the grass…

While cutting the grass I started having some pain in my left neck, shoulder and arm…nothing new for me I have a bad neck and muscle spasm are nothing new but this pain was a little different…. It wasn’t the typical “crushing ” pain associated with a heart attack but it was different from my usual pain related to my neck issues…being a guy I sucked it up an moved on.

Throughout the day and evening the pain came and went, similar to my neck pain so I filed it away as the typical nuisance. At bedtime I went and laid down but could not get comfortable. Happens sometimes with my neck pain so i went to go rest in my recliner. At this point the wife asked if I was ok, I told her what was going on and she suggested TUMS thinking it was indigestion…. I have had heart burn and it was never like this, but I took one anyway to make her happy. I managed to doze off for a little bit and thinking it WAS indigestion and tried to go back to bed. Still could not get comfortable so back to the recliner it was. This time was a little different. My dog Faith wouldn’t leave me alone, kept trying to climb in my lap and was whining constantly. Then the pain increased. I yelled to my wife in the bedroom that I thought it might be time to go to the ER. On the way to BAMC, the pain was so bad I suggested she just run the gate…she didn’t.

In the ER i got taken right back and an EKG was performed and labs were drawn. The EKG showed a bundle branch block which could be an indicator of a heart attack but my cardiac enzymes didn’t indicate one. At first. In the ER the pain came back and was relieved with nitro, and they redrew my labs. This time my cardiac enzymes were up and the next set of labs showed them increased even more. I was admitted to the hospital with a cardiac catheterization scheduled for Monday (it was now about 5 am Easter Sunday).

Monday finally rolls around and I am prepped for my catheterization, which basically consists of me being given a Valium and moved to the cath lab. They inserted the cath through my wrist and while relaxing I get to see on the monitor what the Doc is seeing. Now the plan is to see what happened during my MI, and check for blockages, and apply a stent where necessary. Unfortunately for me, Mr Murphy decided to go to the cath lab with me. As I am sitting there relaxing with the Valium, I hear one of the people in the cath lab call out a rhythm change…no biggie. Then the same voice, with a bit more urgency calls out rhythm change again and adds the word V-fib. As the rhythm change is called i get the strangest sensation in my heart. I was asked to describe it, and the best I can say is it felt like my heart was trying to shake itself loose.

Now all hell breaks loose. I hear the Doc call out start compressions and receive 3 halfhearted one’s before I hear the doc call clear and they hit me with a full 360 joules. The pain from being defibrillated was one of the most intense and worst pains I have ever experienced. I was literally thrown up in the air off the table like you see on TV. Luckily, it worked. I went back to a normal sinus rhythm and they backed the catheter out and I was done.

I was wheeled back out to recovery where the doc told me I was missing a vessel and had 2 others that were blocked. They were unable to put in any stents and I was going to be having surgery. Time to wait for the CardioThoracic team to come talk to me.

Monday afternoon the CardioThroacic surgeon comes to talk to me. Dr G immediately puts me at ease and tells me more about my blockages and what he plans to do. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until Friday for surgery because I have to get one of the anticoagulants they gave me out of my system before they can cut on me.

Waiting a 4 days in the hospital is mind numbing. I am used to being the nurse, not the patient. Thankfully my family is very supportive, my Mom comes up to be there with all of us and even Andy (Flynguy) makes the 6 hr drive to come see me. I pass the time catching up on reading and some movies.

Friday morning comes finally. Here things get blurry. The last thing i clearly remember is shaving my body. All of it from the neck down. I have a vague recollection of them coming to get me for surgery but not a clear one. My wife tells me I was talking up a storm right until they injected me with the Versed at which point I was a vegetable.

So while I was sleeping, the CardioThoracic team, led by Dr G, first harvested part of my Saphenous vein from my left leg to use in one of the bypasses they did. Next they cut my chest from the top of my sternum to the bottom, then cut the sternum from top to bottom and spread my rib and chest apart. I was then put on a bypass machine to circulate my blood while another machine breaths for me. The doc use the harvested saphenous vein to bypass one blocked coronary artery then use the left internal mammary artery to bypass my Left Anterior Descending artery (the big one that they call the widowmaker). I had one more vessel that was missing (a hereditary thing) but they figured if I have been this long without it, then they weren’t going to mess with it. Finished with the bypasses, they wire the top of my sternum together, use basically 2 metal zip ties on the bottom half and close me up and I go to recovery.

My wife tells me I came out of recovery fairly quickly, I have no clue really. My first clear memory post-op is being in the ICU room and being HOT. I mean Texas Butt Bake hot. I was still intubated and had a gastric tube in and was unable to talk but using a pen and paper was able to let my wife know I was hot and she was able to apply a wet wash cloth. I kept falling asleep and the staff and my wife kept trying to keep me awake and breathing on my own so they could extubate me. At one point, trying to encourage my wife to be more aggressive with the wash cloth, i wrote “wax on”. She didn’t find it anywhere near as funny as my son did. Being extubated sucked but the pain was nothing compared to what I had coming.

The rest of Friday was spent mostly in a drug induced haze. Breathing was painful and I wont even try to describe coughing, which I was made to do regularly. Saturday, I was up out of bed. The 2 chest tubes I had made movement painful, but I was determined to get through this. By Saturday afternoon I was up walking the corridors with the assistance of a wheeled walker. Sunday I badgered them into removing tubes and lines as much as possible. Foley out (Thank God). Jugular line out. Both chest tubes and pacemaker out. Wow, I didn’t realize how much pain the chest tubes were causing until I had them taken out. It’s immediately easier to get in and out of bed. I am know able to move from my bed to the chair or toilet on my own, at a pace faster than a 90yr old with bilateral hip replacements. Monday they transfer me to a step down telemetry unit. I no longer have a giant room all to myself, I now have a room half the size and a room-mate.  The staff, while professional, doesn’t seem to have their heart in it. I start badgering my Dr G for discharge. Usually discharge is 5-6 days after surgery…I want out now. After much whining and moaning, I get discharged on Tuesday, 4 days post-op.

The pain is exquisite. I have never appreciated how easy something like getting out of bed was until I couldn’t do it without 10/10 pain. I spend the first almost 2 weeks at home sleeping in a recliner I had the wife buy and put in the bedroom. I refused pain meds on discharge, as I want to do this and I need to feel the pain that I brought on myself through my own bad choices.

As I write this, I am 7 weeks post op. I haven’t been in a hammock since before my surgery, mostly due to an abundance of caution where my sternum is concerned. I am still in pain regularly and move like a 75 yr old. I can’t lift more than 10 lbs, yet,but hopefully that will change this week when i go for my final follow up with my surgeon. I never did surgical nursing, not even much in nursing school, so I don’t know how much longer it will be until my chest fully heals but I expect it will be a while, it’s not every day you spend 4 or so hours with you chest spread apart a foot wider than it should be. All my chest and upper back muscles were ripped apart or stretched, all the way down to the intercostal muscles between each of my ribs. Taking a real deep breath still makes me twinge a little, but  I am in cardiac rehab and doing well.

I didn’t write this to make you feel sorry for me. I did this to myself, mostly. Yeah there was some genetics involved with the cholesterol part, but the smoking part was all me. Over 30 years of  smoking, off and on, was a BAD choice. Yeah, i didn’t smoke a lot when I was active duty and on exercises, but if I was off duty i had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I actually quit a couple times, but picked it back up for some dumb reason, every time. The weight I put on, I blamed on my neck pain and depression. Yeah both contributed but ultimately I made the choice to let them control me. Now I am making different choices. I haven’t had a cigarette since the night of my heart attack. There isn’t a day that goes by that I dont think about having one, but I am holding firm on that one. I mostly quit caffeine and I can count the number of sodas I have had since surgery on one hand. I have lost 15 lbs since i was discharged from the hospital and would like to get down to what I used to weigh. If you read this far, I pray you learn from my mistakes. The night of my heart attack I found out I am going to be a grandfather. If it’s a boy, I want to teach him about the joy of peeing outside. I want to walk my daughters down the aisle. I want to hike the AT. The list of things i still want to accomplish is long, and I plan on learning from my mistakes, and taking this opportunity that God has given me to do the second 50 yrs of my life right.

I hope you do also.

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