Tuesday, June 5, 2012

waste not , want not : hike preparation

In preparation for our backpacking excursion, many tasks had to be completed. We had to shop for necessities, like backpacks and boots, pick out delicious freeze-dried entrees, determine the exact route to wander, book flights to and from Raleigh, and figure out how to get to our starting point. We bought all the equipment and tools, and we found a couple who own an inn in Fontana, North Carolina. They give advice to hikers hitting the Appalachian Trail, fondly known as "The AT," and they give rides to starting points (or from ending points).

We read several books about the AT, the art of backpacking, and how to prepare for emergencies. One book, "Ultralight Backpackin' Tips" by Mike Clelland, was a fun read. His tips were easy to follow and he does his own illustrations. He also has a blog.

His book focused on how to backpack with as little weight as possible, namely 10 pounds or less. In our case, was not the case. We didn't go light at all. Our packs weighed roughly 35 pounds each (much less than the anticipated 50 pounds -- ugh!). We were preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. Our philosophy was to "take it" and know by the end of the hike exactly what we need and what we don't. We didn't feel we could be as "extreme" as Mr. Clelland on our first hike, but we did profit from his advice.

The "Hang Your Food at Night" chapter was insightful. It outlined how to create a bear hang so that your food is inaccessible to bears at night. Mmmm hmmm ... bears at night. Yay. Now that's something I definitely paid attention to, considering my fear of bears.

Another book, "The Appalachian Trail Hiker" by Victoria and Frank Logue, also provided great information. This was the first book we read and it provided invaluable information like the history of the AT, shelters and tents, necessary equipment, and tips on preparing for your first hike.
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Both books reviewed a "necessary-to-know" detail: how to deal with going potty -- specifically, going poop. It isn't all that complex; dig what is called a "cat hole," squat over it and do your business, and then bury it. We also learned that we couldn't bury toilet paper on the AT -- even if it's biodegradable. We'd have to pack it out.

Mmmmm hmmmm ... pack it out. Take it with us. Not leave it behind. Take it with us. Not bury it. Take it with us. Not burn it. Take it with us. Take it with us. Take it with us. Take. It. With. Us.

There are no garbage cans on the trails. Our first opportunity to off-load this crap (literally) would be Clingman's Dome, a popular destination for tourists to view the Smokey Mountains. We'd arrive there five days into our hike. That's five days of packed out poo wipes we'd be carrying. Mmmmm hmmmm ... five days.

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I researched a few ways to carry out this packed out -- let's call it "stuff." I found a thick, opaque sealable bag with a chemical gel inside that eats waste and the material used to collect it from one's bum. I was about to order them, but learned that they are made for port-a-potties. They were huge in size and heavy in weight. I could not imagine trying to carry those. I also could not imagine carrying used wipes in a regular plastic baggie. Gross.

So ... I decided to make my own "pack-it-out poo concealer." For shits and giggles, I thought I would show you how I did it.
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How to Make a Pack-It-Out Poo Concealer
Mentally prepare for what you are creating. Take a deep breath and enjoy the creative process as it unfolds. You are making something useful! Like Martha Stewart....

1. Materials: a one-gallon-sized zipper storage bag with a reliable zipper (we used freezer storage bags), one roll of duct tape, one pair of scissors.

2. Cut several strips of duct tape at least two inches longer than the bag width. This project requires at least 25 strips.

3. Carefully place the first strip just below the zipper area. Press firmly. Place the second strip halfway over the first strip.

4. Continue to layer strips until the the bag is covered. The last strip's edge should be flush with the baggie's bottom.

5. Turn the baggie over and fold the duct tape flaps over both edges.

6. Repeat the taping process on the back of the baggie and then repeat the folding of the edges.

7. Place a tape strip along the baggie's bottom with the seam in the middle of the strip. Cut the strip as shown to create "sealing flaps."

8. Fold the top flap over and press firmly; fold the tape strip up and cover the bag's bottom edge . Press firmly, turn the baggie over, and firmly press the remaining sealing flaps.

9. Repeat for the bag's sides and your Pack It Out Poo Concealer is ready for use!

10. Use small zip top baggies to contain used wipes. Place them in the Pack It Out Poo Concealer for a better-insulated, and worry-free, environment.

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As gross as this may seem, it wasn't all that bad. And let me tell you, these baggies worked! No see, no smell, no touch. Well ... that's not entirely true. There was a moment of see, smell, and touch ... but that's a story for later.

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  1. Environmentally speaking, you would have left less of a carbon footprint if you would have reesearched native trees, identified the softess, widest, strongest leaf and collected as toilet paper. I just like playing liberal once in awhile.;0)

  2. "Memories....like the corners of my mind"

  3. L O V E it! Beautifully done. Perhaps a decoration or two applied to the silver of the tape ... next time maybe
    XXXXXX Mom

  4. Now I don't have to ask you about it on my next visit! Glad you had fun...and thanks for learning me something :-)

    xo Marianne