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4 Things to Do as Soon as You Get Home from Backpacking

There’s no way around it: quality backpacking gear is expensive. Learning how to care for it is the best way to make the most of your investment. Here are four easy things you need to do as soon as you get home from any backpacking trip to make your gear last. I guarantee they’ll make your next adventure even better. 

Dry It

Whether it’s rain, dew, perspiration, or condensation, your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and clothing are probably going to come home with some moisture in them. Even if your trip was a dry one, you need to thoroughly air out your gear as soon as you can. Failing to do so risks allowing mold and mildew to develop, potentially ruining all your expensive stuff. 

I like to do this by basically setting up camp on my back porch. If you live in an apartment, you can do the same in your living room. I’ve even seen particularly space-strapped people do this in their parking space in their building’s garage. I avoid my yard, just in case it’s hanging onto moisture from the night before—or dog poop. 

Erect your tent. It can be hard to find ways to fully spread out a rain fly, particularly in a manner that doesn’t allow it to blow away. Fortunately, your tent’s body is designed for that exact purpose. Both tent and rain fly are capable of fully drying out when attached to each other. 

Spread out your sleeping bag and pad inside the tent, and zip the doors closed so your dogs stay out. One thing you shouldn’t do is inflate your pad. Moisture from your breath gets inside every time you blow it up, and what you’re trying to do here is dry out the inside of the pad. Spread it out on the tent floor and open all its valves. 

Don’t forget stuff like your backpack, clothing, and water filter. Open all valves or caps on the latter, cycle its pump until any remaining water is gone, then leave it in the sun until any signs of condensation are no longer visible. 

Clean It

Dirt, sweat, and other debris you pick up outdoors can slowly degrade the performance of stuff like waterproof membranes and down insulation, abrade or penetrate fabrics, and generally make your gear gross. 

All your gear is designed to be cleaned in some way. But only clean it when truly necessary, since saturation, heat, agitation, and tumbling will eventually degrade most materials. Fortunately, most of the dirt your gear came home with can simply be brushed off once you’ve allowed it to dry. Start there, then move on to wiping stuff down with a damp cloth if it’s still dirty (and letting it dry thoroughly again). Beyond that, consult the item’s care instructions. 

Clothing and sleeping bags made from down will benefit from semi-regular washing—once a year, or as needed—because your sweat and body oils will slowly compromise their ability to loft and, therefore, provide insulation. 

Synthetic soft- and hard-shell pants and jackets also benefit from seasonal care. Their durable water repellant (DWR) coatings wear down, causing face fabrics to wet out. Body oils and sweat slowly clog the pores that allow these fabrics to breathe. If your water-repellant or waterproof items start to hold onto water or look dirty or greasy, wash them. 

All of the above items will include care labels with instructions on water and dryer temperatures. Follow those, but note that, generally speaking, front-loading washing machines will be gentler on your stuff than top-loaders. You’ll also need to use special detergents designed for the unique needs of the different materials used across technical gear. Nikwax makes a variety of cleaners and treatments designed for anything you might own. Follow that brand’s instructions, and you’ll be rewarded with gear that works as good as new for years longer than you expected. Some performance-enhancing treatments, like Cotton Proof, can make your gear perform even better than new. 

One final tip for down bags and clothing: running them through a tumble dryer is crucial for restoring loft. I add a dozen tennis balls in a large mesh bag to the dryer to help beat out the clumps that the down forms in the wash. It is totally worth spending a couple hours in a laundromat to do this if you don’t have front-loading machines at home. 

Store It

All outdoor gear should be stored in a dark, dry place. UV exposure and moisture are kryptonite for your expensive camping gear. I dedicate the insulated, sealed crawl space that contains my home’s furnace to camping gear storage. The furnace pulls moisture out of the air, resulting in a totally dry space.

If you purchased a quality sleeping bag, it may have come with a cotton or mesh storage bag that allows you to contain it without compressing it. If you don’t have one, buy one. Storing your down gear compressed in a stuffsack will destroy its loft in short order. 

Sleeping pads should also be stored loosely. Folding them into a tight package can cause seams and creases to fail over time. Remember to leave their valves open so residual moisture can escape. Normal clothes hangers work great, or you can simply roll your pads loosely and store them without any weight on top. Make sure to keep repair kits in the stuffsacks, and loop those around the hanger’s hook so you don’t lose anything. 

Tent materials can be stored rolled up in their stuffsacks without concern. Take care to make sure poles, guylines, and stakes remain with the appropriate tent. 

Learn from It

Keep a notebook or note-taking app handy as you go through the drying, cleaning, and storage process. Jot down any missing or broken components, like tent stakes. Order new ones immediately, and store them with their corresponding items. The idea is to address potential problems while they’re fresh in your mind—not wait till a year from now, when you’re setting up camp in a thunderstorm. 

Similarly, take note of any issues you had or improvements that might help. There’s something about hours and hours of trudging along a trail that tends to both highlight shortcomings and inspire creative solutions. My wife’s new backpack, for instance, includes slits that enable you to load water bottles into the bag’s sleeves horizontally. But she carries a bladder and uses the sleeves for small essentials like hand sanitizer. We plan to sew up those slits to lessen the odds of losing the sanitizer. Noting that now, when it’s fresh, allows us to plan better for our next trip. 

Keep track of consumables, like stove fuel. How many meals and for how many campers did an entire canister enable you to make? If you used only a portion of the canister, how much? It is possible to measure how much fuel is remaining in one, but it’s way easier to track use and know not just how much fuel is remaining, but also how many days of use that fuel will last you. I’m doing this right now since I’ve just switched from the smaller MSR Pocket Rocket 2 to the larger, more efficient Reactor. Learning exactly how many cups of Alpine Start and how many Good To-Go dinners a canister of isobutane will get me through will enable me to carry less fuel more confidently in the future. Do the same for flashlight batteries. 

Also take note of things you didn’t use or that would have been nice to have. The most effective way to cut pack weight and better enjoy backpacking is to take less stuff. Learning what you do and don’t need is a process that will result in a different conclusion for every camper. Just make sure you’re actively advancing the process with each trip. 

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Channeling Edward Abbey in Arches National Park

62 Parks Traveler started with a simple goal: to visit every U.S. national park in one year. Avid backpacker and public-lands nerd Emily Pennington saved up, built out a tiny van to travel and live in, and hit the road. The parks as we know them are rapidly changing, and she wanted to see them before it’s too late.

Pennington has returned to traveling and is committed to following CDC guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of herself and others. She’s visiting new parks as they open and closely adhering to best safety practices.

Desert Solitaire is a book that should pass through the hands of anyone looking to visit Arches National Park. The 1968 tome chronicles Edward Abbey’s time as a park ranger when the area was a national monument, just as interstate highways, paved roads, and developed campgrounds began to threaten this once desolate Utah wonderland of rocks. (Though the book has recently come under fire for its callous male perspective, it offers an in-depth look at a wilderness area in flux.)

Like any good, overachieving tourist, I read it from cover to cover in advance of my trip to Arches, but nothing in its 336 pages could have prepared me for what I found when I ventured inside the park.

I arrived before 9 A.M. and was shocked to find that the visitor center’s parking lot was already full of cars. Hot damn, I thought to myself, I’d better get a move on. I hopped into my van and boogied over to the end of the main road to hike one of the longest trails in the park—the eight-mile Devils Garden Primitive Loop.

When I got there, I was dismayed to find that this parking area was also already spilling over with vehicles. Families of five were crawling around on nearby boulders, and the incessant buzzing of RV generators sent my nerves to war.

Call me Edward Crabby.


The author at the park sign
(Emily Pennington)

Park Avenue Trail
(Emily Pennington)

Delicate Arch Viewpoint
(Emily Pennington)

I put my chin up and threw my shoulders back in an attempt to feign confidence. I was determined not to let the crowds get me down. The trail traversed a series of seven massive stone arches, each one the color of burnt clay. The most famous among them is Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America. I stood beneath the sandstone behemoth, curious how such a thin crust of rock could sustain itself in the shape of a rainbow for centuries. Though visitors swarmed all around me, the arches themselves felt like small miracles in the midst of so much chaos.

When I stepped onto the primitive trail section of the loop, I hoped the rock scrambling and mild exposure would ward off more casual hikers, but such luck never came. Instead, I watched a timid-footed couple anxiously make their way down a series of class 2 sandstone slabs with their children. It made me wince.

A split from my planned itinerary seemed inevitable to soak up the soul of the park. I jumped back into my minivan and drove south, pulling over at a two-mile trail I’d never head of: Park Avenue.

The sun hung low in the sky, bathing the sandstone columns surrounding the trail in amber-hued light. The air was still, crisp, and quiet. “Broooowk!” a raven croaked to my left as it soared across the sky and landed atop one of the massive Courthouse Towers. I followed the trail downhill for a half-mile, watching the sun dip toward the horizon like a deflating balloon.

In order to dodge the usual throngs of people on Delicate Arch Trail, I drove across the park and found a spot for my car near a short side trek up to a lesser known viewpoint of the gravity-defying orange horseshoe. As the sun sank, diffuse clouds filtered the honeyed desert light until the world around me felt like a dream. I perched my tired body on a small rock near half a dozen other people watching the show.

Through my camera’s long lens, I could see hundreds of visitors high on the plateau, jockeying for position and climbing around beneath the famous arch. I took a few photos, a deep breath, and smiled, grateful I wasn’t one of them.

“Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably, to leave behind for a while.”―Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

62 Parks Traveler Arches Info

Size: 76,679 acres

Location: Eastern Utah

Created In: 1929 (national monument), 1971 (national park)

Best For: Hiking, car camping, geology, rock climbing, cycling

When to Go: Spring (35 to 82 degrees) and fall (30 to 88 degrees) boast the best temperatures for exploring the park. Winter (22 to 52 degrees) is also a good time to visit, while the higher mountains are still snowed in. Avoid visiting in the summertime (60 to 110 degrees).

Where to Stay: Adventure Inn, a family-run gem in nearby Moab, is just a seven-minute drive from the park’s entrance station. Rooms are affordable, and a free hot breakfast and high-speed internet are included. 

Where to Eat: Antica Forma might have the best pizza in all of Utah. Its chefs rise early to make 200 pounds of homemade mozzarella cheese every morning to toss onto their wood-fired pies.

Mini Adventure: Check out Delicate Arch. While most visitors opt for the three-mile trail to the base of the arch, you could hike to the nearby viewpoint instead and avoid some of the hordes of tourists. The short trail to Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint is flat and accessible, while the less obstructed upper view involves a steep half-mile climb.

Mega Adventure: Hike the Devils Garden Primitive Loop. Wind through a series of seven notable arches and scramble through narrow sandstone canyons on an eight-mile trail in the heart of the park. Go early to beat the crowds.

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How Far Are We From Home?

This previous February, I moved to Revelstoke, British Columbia, from Whitefish, Montana, with the hope that my brand-new house would supply lots of chances to check out the Canadian backcountry. The pandemic hit and, like individuals all over the world, I was obliged to shelter in location. All of a sudden, the landscape of experience diminished to my instant environments. Backpacking was out; walks town remained in. Initially, this was a frustration. As I was required to slow down and show, I felt a brand-new gratitude for the nature right outside my door. The simple act of strolling triggered my focus to hone, as the natural rhythms of walking joggled my ideas pleased and loose my mind. These brand-new practices of observation did jujitsu to my senses, pausing my ideas enough time to feel with my heart.

As I deepened my gratitude of next-door nature throughout the season of self-isolation, I discovered myself going back to the works of the old white-bearded, John Burroughs , among the most effective nature authors in American literature. Today, Burroughs is primarily forgotten. Throughout his life time, Burroughs, the author of 27 books about nature, was a star as well-known as Mark Twain. From the 1870s to 1920s, he composed philosophical essays for Harper’’ s, Scribner ’ s, and The Atlantic Monthly and at the same time produced the modern-day nature essay. His essays were collected in books that offered over 1.5 million copies and were needed reading for schoolchildren throughout the United States.

Although Burroughs’’ s name is odd today, his literary family tree continues. There is a composing award in his name—– the John Burroughs Meda l for quality—– and his prose design of integrating a watchful eye for nature with grand styles has actually affected authors such as Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Rick Bass, and Terry Tempest Williams. Particularly throughout this time in which we are being asked to remain near to house, Burroughs can act as a literary guide to checking out the neighboring nature.

In his works, Burroughs worried the value of falling for house. He commemorated being under the spell of the familiar and near and the benefits of strolling outdoors your doorstep to be intoxicated by the charm discovered there and, while doing so, to find the divine in the typical. ““ Why should I go gadding ready to see the unusual and the remarkable?” ” Burroughs composed to his pal Clara Barrus after deserting an outdoor camping journey on the West Coast with John Muir. For Burroughs, ““ house ” was the Catskills Mountains of New York, where he invested nearly the whole of his life and where his heart constantly stayed although he took a trip thoroughly. ““ The entire gospel of my books (if they have any gospel) is ‘‘ Stay at house; see the terrific and the lovely in the basic things everything about you; maximize the typical and the near at hand.’” ’”


This spring, I took those words to heart as I practiced brand-new methods of observing the natural world around me. An initial step included listening with my eyes and seeing with my ears. In early March, among the very first seasonal migrants along the Pacific Northwest is the differed thrush . Long prior to I saw the skittish birds, their tune spilled out from the shadows of western red cedar and western hemlock groves, like referee whistles cautioning winter season that spring was around the corner. The big blended flocks of dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows, and yellow-rumped warbler murmurations distributed as specific sets linked with mates. Walking along the Illecillewaet River, I looked for the rattling noise looking like a rainstick being turned over and over prior to my eyes arrived on the belted kingfisher, a large-headed, bluish-gray bird with a dagger-like costs and a shaggy crest set down on a red-osier dogwood.

Next, I attempted smelling with my mouth and tasting with my nose. The warmer and longer days started to thaw the soft tissue of the poplar trees, and as the sap gradually rose the xylem into the trees’ ’ extremities, the spring rekindling revealed itself by means of aroma. The ecosphere filled with the resinous and sticky, cinnamon-scented odor of cottonwood buds. Winter season’’ s white skirt was exchanged for the lavish, lime-green gowns attired on trembling aspen, paper birch, and Rocky Mountain maple trees. The snow pulled away up the mountains and exposed glacier lilies in complete blossom popping from the earth like pretty, little yellow suns. My ears punctured up once again as I heard the noises of bugs starting to stir.

As I continued my spring expeditions of my brand-new area, I kept returning to the knowledge in Burroughs’’ s works. “ The lesson which life repeats and continuously imposes is, ‘‘ Look under foot,’” ’ ” Burroughs composed in” “ The Divine Soil, ” an essay released in The Atlantic Monthly . “ You are constantly nearer the divine and the real sources of your power than you believe … The “lure of the remote and the challenging is misleading. The excellent chance is where you are. Do not abhor your own location and hour. Every location is under the stars, every location is the center of the world. ”


Look under foot. Rocky Mountain dotted-blue butterflies were gathering together on the sides” of mud puddles. In other locations, the golden-fringed, black wings of the grieving cape butterflies were closing and opening, pursing the air like a fan ’ s lips. Underneath the canopy of this temperate interior jungle, Oregon forest snails inched along with prehistoric spirals on their backs– an armor of sorts to pull back to for security versus predatory birds and rodents.


Every location is the center of the world. As I discovered the plants and animals of a brand-new location, I set down roots into a forest house that did begin to seem like the center of the world. By May, this year ’ s fresh green shoots of green lawn brushed aside in 2015’s matted and dry winter-brown-colored thatch. The vodka-clear rivers swelled with snowmelt, and ospreys followed the invite north to nest and take pleasure in life ’ s abundance throughout summertime ’ s feast. Here, where the 49th parallel intersects with 118 degrees west longitude, the’monsoon-like rains of June followed, damping the woods to keep forest fires at bay. Beyond the forest edges, painted western turtles basked on logs drifting in the backwater sloughs, while prehistoric-looking terrific blue herons stalked the shallows for bull trout minnows. A tsunami of yellow pollen clouds filled the air after a breeze gone through the lodgepole pine grove and the paper-birch stands.


Burroughs ’ s argument that we require to fall for our yards– otherwise danger neglecting the marvels of the close-by in favor of the unique faraway– resembles’a direct obstacle to the method much of us fetishize national forests and wilderness locations. “ One of the hardest lessons we need to discover in this life, and one that lots of individuals never ever discover, is to see the divine, the celestial, the pure, in the typical, the near at hand “, ” Burroughs composed. “ We discovered the universal daily nature too low-cost, too typical, too repulsive. ” I might picture Burroughs and Muir butting heads over the national forest idea. Burroughs alerted that national forests would end up being testimonies of natural appeal put on pedestals, while we would permit the nature we cope with every day to be established and contaminated. He was. The nature we deal with every day has actually been neglected in favor of the grand, while the national forests have actually ended up being biological islands cut off from each. Biodiversity has actually experienced our predispositions about which natural locations are most deserving of security.


I comprehend that we require locations that are safe from the greedy hands of market, particularly now that we have actually ruined our own yards. What if, in the pantheon of ecological authors, Burroughs came to eclipse Muir and we came to think that all of nature was spiritual? If we battled to maintain the close-by as it was a location of charm too– we wouldn ’ t be approaching the 6th mass termination, maybe then–. If taking a trip less ends up being the brand-new standard, then securing more green area in our towns and yards will be simply as essential for our peace of mind—as getting lost in the grandest landscapes. Sure, I require experience and big locations’of public land to get lost in as much as the next individual. The Grand Show isn ’ t about me.


Burroughs was an enthusiastic homebody, however he invested the last 2 years of his life wintering in the maritime environment of California for his subsiding health. Each spring, he took a trip house by train to the Catskills of New York. “ The homing impulse in animals and birds is among their most amazing characteristics: their strong regional accessories and their ability in discovering their method back when gotten rid of to a range. If they had some additional sense– the house sense– which runs unerringly, it appears at times as. ”

. “

On Burroughs ’ s 2nd journey house, he passed away on March 29, 1921, as the train gone through Ohio. His obituary was included on the front page of The New York Times. His passing away words were, “ How far are we from house? ”


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