The dictionary describes a hack as “a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently”. As with everything in life, there is always a “hack” to make things easier. Below are some of our favorite camping hacks. Have you tried any of these? Have any hacks to add? Comment below and share!
Fill your Nalgene with warm water and put it at the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm
Strap your headlamp to your translucent water bottle with the light shining inward for a makeshift lantern. A translucent bottle works best!
Making pancakes? Make your mix ahead of time and store in an old ketchup squeeze bottle.
Freeze gallon jugs of water and put them in your cooler as an ice block. When it melts, you have water!
Keep tomorrows clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night. The clothes will be warmer to put on in the morning and your feet will stay warmer too.
Use microfiber towels. They dry fast and are lightweight.
Backpack not waterproof? Use a trash bag as a liner to keep your gear dry.
An old coffee can, can make a great TP holder.
Wrap a layer of duct tape around your water bottle, just in case.
Keep a pair of dry, clean socks in your sleeping bag that are only for sleeping in. Your feet will thank you and you will be warmer too.
Keep the old silica gel packs that come in, well, everything and keep one in your mess kit. It will absorb any moisture and prevent rust.
Forget your pillow? Stuff some clean clothes into your sleeping bag stuff sack for a good replacement pillow.
Make toothpaste dots. If you are worried about weight, pus toothpaste in dots on a wax paper, let dry, sprinkle with baking soda and you have “single serving” toothpaste at the ready.
Put some dryer lint or cotton balls into an old Altoids tin with a metal match for a handy fire starting kit.
Stuff a shirt or newspaper in wet shoes with the insole removed for a quicker dry.
Forget your plate? Have you ever eaten out of a frisbee? It works as a great plate (& you can play with it too!)
Hand sanitizer can be a great fire starter!
Make tick deterrent.
Dryer lint and cotton balls make great fire starters. You can also dip cotton pads in wax for a great fire starter.
Cooking directly on coals in foil pouches? Wrap meat in cabbage to keep it from burning.
Old birthday candles can also be used as a fire starter.
A 5 gallon bucket with a toilet lid make a good alternative (don’t forget the bag to go inside).
Those plastic bread tags can be re-purposed as clothespins.
If you lose a grommet in your tarp, twist a rock or small stick into the corner for an anchor point.
Doritos actually make great kindling to start a fire.
An old candle rubbed on a zipper will help it work smoothly.
Seal spices into old drinking straws for a small spice rack on the trail. Tic Tac boxes work well too!
Add a bundle of sage to the campfire to keep mosquitoes away.
Pack a mini first aid kit into an old Altoids tin.
Use tennis balls in the dryer with your sleeping bag to maintain the loft.
Do you have any hacks to add? Please leave them in the comments section below.
For many campers, the most important piece of equipment is their tent. Tents can range anywhere from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. The best way to make that money stretch is caring for your equipment. If you take care of your equipment and treat it right, there’s no reason your tent cant last a decade or even more!
1. Here comes the pitch….
When you pitch your tent, be sure to make sure any sharp objects aren’t going to be underneath you. Not only can this be uncomfortable, but those sharp objects can poke a hole in the floor. This is a great argument for a ground cloth. In the past, I have preached that you don’t really need a ground cloth; and while that may be true, a ground cloth can add an extra layer of protection to the floor of your tent.
When you put your poles together, don’t snap them into place, but put the poles together section by section. Snapping them can cause fiberglass poles to splinter and while not an end-all, creates more work to have to repair the pole.
If you tent is pitched out in the open with no shade, leave your rain fly on. The sun’s UV rays can break down the ten’s walls and the rain fly with it’s waterproofing, will offer more protection.
2. Keep it clean
After each campout, clean out your tent. Be sure to get all the leaves, sticks, twigs, pine cones, etc out of there. Also if there are extra dirty spots, spot clean them with simple soap & water. Don’t use stain sticks dishwashing liguid, or bleach. These can break down the material of your tent. To minimize the amount of debris, I actually take off my shoes and leave them outside under the fly, or bring them in if it’s going to rain or snow.
3. Seal the seams
Most tents nowadays are factory sealed at the seams. If your tents starts getting older, you may have to re-seal your seams to keep them waterproof. We like the Coleman seam sealer that can be purchased here. This seam sealer is pretty easy to use with it’s applicator tip. You may have to re waterproof your rain fly as well. If you do, spray some of this on your tent and it will be waterproof again. Be sure to let both of these products dry before packing your tent away!
It should go without saying, but never store your tent when it’s wet. Sure, you may have to break camp in a hurry due to a down pour, but as soon as you get home, set it back up and let it dry out completely. Packing a wet tent can cause mildew which is not only unsightly (black spots on the walls), but it can also break down the fabric.
5. Zip it good
All too often, tents get thrown out because the zipper fails. Be careful when zipping & unzipping the door or windows. If you catch the fabric, this can cause a tear in the wall. Since zippers take so much strain (all the tension when the tent is up), be sure to show the zippers some love. You can do this by rubbing an old candle on the teeth of the zipper. This will help keep it lubricated and less likely to snag.
6. It’s all in the fold
When folding your tent to pack it away, try folding it differently. It’s easy to fold it along the same seams as before (heck, the lines are already there for you!). Folding along the same crease each time can make the crease brittle and cause unwanted tears. Try folding your tent different each time. As long as it fits in the bag, you’re good!
Your tent is an investment just like a vehicle. If you take care of your vehicle, it will last a long time. Same goes for your tent!
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We were excited to pick up the Luxe Tempo 4 person tent. It arrived well packaged and in a stuff sack as you would expect. The first thing we noticed was that the stuff sack had compression straps and a handle so you could carry it like a duffel bag which is cool.
What’s in the bag:
2 main poles
1 pole for rain fly
14 aluminum tent pegs
6 neon guy lines
We opened up the stuff sack (tent comes out through the top), and pulled out the tent, aluminum poles, pegs, & rain fly which were all bound by a strap. The first thing we noticed was how light the tent material itself was. Another cool thing we liked, was that the instructions were sewn into the top of the stuff sack.
We laid out the tent and started setting it up. The aluminum poles went together as if they were magnetic (gotta love new elastic!). The poles slip easily int a grommet in each corner crossing at the top. Instead of feeding the poles through a flap, there are clips to hold the sides of the tent to the poles which makes for a much easier set-up. The tent went up very easily and without any issues. We unfolded the rain fly and draped it over the tent. The rain fly clips into each corner and has a strap for adjustments. The rain fly features two vestibules and 2 vents that pop up for increased circulation. After we installed the rain fly, we installed the pole for the fly. In hindsight, we should have done the fly pole first before setting up the rain fly, next time. We staked down the 2 vestibules, popped up the vents and attached one of the guy lines.
What we lined about the tent:
We really liked the size of this tent. At just under 8′ x 7′, this tent has plenty of room. Add the 2 vestibules into the mix for gear storage and you have more than enough room for everyone. This is sold as a 4-person tent, but 3 people can sleep comfortably. (see my article on tent sizes here) We also really liked the weight of this tent. At 7 pounds, and given it’s compact size when in the stuff sack; it will easily fit into a back pack without too much pain. You could even split up the components between hikers if you were back pack camping to distribute the weight even more. When the rain fly is foo, the whole top of the tent is a fine mesh. Small enough to keep the bugs out, and awesome for star gazing! We also liked the fact that there are 2 doors! No more climbing over your tent mate and waking them up in the middle of the night. Not only are there 2 doors, but they are HUGE! Most of the wall on the door side is the door itself. In each corner of the tent there is a pocket for your “stuff” (flashlight, glasses, phone, etc) which is really a cool feature. The gear loft at the roof of the tent inside is also cool. We were able to put our headlamps up there and light up the whole tent without accidentally looking at the other person and blinding them.
What we would change:
The only thing we could think of that we would change is the rain fly opening. When you stake down the rain fly at the bottom of the zipper, you have to squeeze through the slit of an opening. We are fairly agile here at Camp Gear Center, so it wasn’t a big deal. We could see it being a point of potential damage to the tent at this area.
This is a great tent! We didn’t get any rain so we cant attest to the “waterproofness” of it, but if the rest of the construction is any indication, we have no doubts that we would stay dry in this tent. With the amount of ventilation, we also doubt there would be much condensation in cold weather camping either! Below are some additional pics of the features:
I have a bad knee, so I practice low impact exercise whenever I can. I am a Boy Scout leader, so I do my best to practice low impact camping every time I camp. Low impact camping has little to do with the impact on your body, but everything to do with the environment. In Boy Scouts, we call this Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is more of an attitude than a set of rules for camping, hiking, or backpacking.
You might wonder how one group can make a difference, but over time small impacts can add up and cause a great amount of damage to the environment. What we will discuss here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
1. Plan ahead and prepare
The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared. Proper planning and preparation helps Scouts have an enjoyable adventure while minimizing damage to natural and cultural resources. You can follow this motto too! Another way to say this is having the right equipment. Bringing the right equipment can make or break an outing. Knowing the regulations of the area where you plan to visit can help you plan as well. Certain land managers have certain rules and it is important to know them before you head out. Check the weather reports for your destination and pack food to minimize the amount of trash to pack out.
2. dispose of waste properly
This is quite simply put as “pack it in, pack it out”. Leaving trash has an impact on both the environment and other campers. Nobody likes to see a bunch of trash laying around so pack it out! If there is trash at or near your sit, grab it too! We always carry a few trash bags with us on our hikes and unfortunately, come back with the full.
Wastewater: After straining food particles, properly dispose of dishwater by dispersing at least 200 feet (about 80 to 100 strides for a youth) from springs, streams, and lakes.
Human waste: Cat holes should be dug 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water, trails, and campsites. Don’t try to burn your toilet paper; this can start forest fires.
3. travel and camp on durable surfaces
Damage to land occurs when visitors trample vegetation or communities of organisms beyond recovery. The resulting barren areas develop into undesirable trails, campsites, and soil erosion. In high use areas, concentrate your activities where vegetation isn’t present. In remote areas, spread out and move your tent daily so as not to create permanent looking campsites. Avoid areas where impacts are just beginning to show. Try to camp or hike on durable surfaces such as rock, gravel, sand, compacted soil, dry grasses, or even snow.
4. leave what you find
Leaving what you find allows others to enjoy the outdoors and have the same sense of discovery as you did when you explored the area. Leave rocks, plants, animals, and archaeological artifacts as you found them. The old “look but don’t touch” comes to mind with artifacts. In some areas it may be illegal to move artifacts.
Minimize site alterations. Good campsites are found not made. Avoid building structures or digging trenches.
5. minimize campfire impacts
To some, camping without a campfire is plain wrong. If you MUST have a campfire, pick a campsite where a campfire ring has already been established. This minimizes the impact on the environment by creating another fire ring. Leave No Trace campfires are small. Use deadwood that can be easily broken by hand. Burn your fire down to ash and remove any trash that may be in the fire ring (whether it’s yours or not).
6. respect wildlife
Remember, you are a visitor in their environment. Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Observe wildlife from afar, give them a wide berth, and don’t leave food out. Human food can harm or even kill wildlife. Keep the wildlife wild.
7. Be considerate to other visitors
Thoughtful campers respect other visitors and the quality of their experience. Travel in small groups and let nature’s sounds prevail.Nobody like to be out camping to relax and unwind and have a huge party going on near them. Select campsites away from other campers to preserve their solitude. Respect private property and leave gates as found.
On our last campout, we decided to camp in a pre-camped in site with a fire ring and plenty of room for our troop. We Hauled our trash out and even brought back quite a bit of trash left by others.
I’m not saying you have to follow 100% of these principles 100% of the time; but if you are mindful of them, and follow them as best you can, there will be plenty of wilderness for ages to come.
Winter camping is great! Being cold at night in your tent…not so much. We have compiled a few tips to help you keep warm in your tent at night so your trip is more enjoyable.
Get an Appropriate Sleeping Bag
Having the proper temperature rating on your sleeping bag is the number 1 way to stay warm. If you are camping in lower temperatures, a zero degree bag can keep you plenty warm. For an even warmer bag, try a fleece liner. A fleece line will increase the rating of your bag from 10-15 degrees! If you need a good rated bag, check out these.
Use a Sleeping Pad
Air mattresses are great in the summertime. I colder temperatures, air mattresses are filled with cold air. A sleeping pad will offer more insulation because they are filled with compressible foam as well as the air which insulates well.
Use a Mylar Blanket
Mot people consider these “emergency” blankets. A mylar blanket works by reflecting your own heat back to you. Some propose to attach these to the inside of your tent roof to keep the heat in. This can cause condensation inside your tent which equals wet. Wet + cold = miserable. It is best to wrap the mylar blanket around you or on top of you.
Cover Your Lid
A lot of your body heat is lost through the top of your head, most people know that. Wearing a stocking cap to bed will help keep the heat lost through your head in and therefore keeping you warm. We actually keep a winter hat in our bag at all times in case it gets cold at night.
Warm up a Bottle
Another trick we use to keep warm is to heat up some water on your camp stove and fill our water bottle. We keep the water bottle (with the lid on tight) inside our bag at night which helps to keep us warm. Obviously, an insulated bottle won’t work for this. We use a plastic Nalgene bottle which works great!
You can’t argue with a pair of wool socks to keep your feet warm at night. We were on a campout recently and didn’t wear our socks to bed the first night and slept horribly. The next night, with the socks…slept like a baby!
Rock that Tent!
You can actually warm up rocks next to the fire before turning in for the night and put them in a towel, or sock and stick them in your sleeping bag. Make sure the rock(s) you use are not wet to begin with. A quickly heated rock can explode and cause a lot more grief than being cold.
Vent the Tent
It may seem counter-intuitive, but a well ventilated tent is less likely to have condensation inside. When the heat from your body and breath on the inside of the tent is warmer than the outside of the tent, condensation occurs. A thin layer of moisture inside your tent will certainly be colder than no moisture. Vent the tent to keep the inside dry and be warmer.
Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you have to be cold inside your tent. These ideas are tested by us and work. What other methods have you tried that work? Leave us a comment below.
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The taut line hitch is an adjustable loop-type knot for lines under tension. This knot is perfect for tying guy lines to pegs or any place you need to adjust the tension. A fairly easy knot to tie and a very handy one to know.
How to tie the taut line
Make a turn around a post or other object several feet from the free end.
Coil the free end twice around the standing line working back toward the post.
Make one additional coil around the standing line on the outside of the coils just made.
Tighten the knot and slide it on the standing line to adjust tension.
We love camping. The smell of the fire, the sounds of nature, the lack of busyness; these are just a few of the reasons. As I look around at all my gear, it occurred to me that I might have a camping addiction. As far as addictions go, there could be worse ones. I have compiled a list of “symptoms”. How many of these do you have?
You have an entire wardrobe dedicated to camping.
There have been many times where I went to grab a shirt and decided I couldn’t wear it because it was a “camping shirt”. This has also happened with shorts, jackets, hats, and shoes.
You have a tent for every scenario
Am I camping with the family? Am I sharing a tent? Do I need more room for my gear? Is it going to be windy, cold, rainy? Will I be able to drive in pegs? I have a different tent for almost every one of these situations.
You have as many backpacks as an outdoor retailer
When I open my closet, I have a minimum of 6 different day packs. I’m pretty sure they multiply in there, but I can’t be certain. Due to my camping addiction, and changing tastes, day packs seem to add up.
When you drive down the road, you always scope out good camping spots
When travel, I am ALWAYS on the lookout for a road that may take me out into the forest for a nice secluded camping spot. There are times when I’ve driven into the woods, scoped out a great spot and marked it on my smart phone map for a return trip.
You cook your meals over a fire
Cooking over fire isn’t just for camping. We have cooked many a desert and meal in our dutch oven at home. We store it in our pop-up camper so we know to keep it handy so we can use it.
You have a stocked camper ready to go
Our pop-up is always at the ready. In fact, all we need to grab to get out the door is food and clothes. Everything is always in the camper. Propane is full, dishes, silverware, towels, bedding, and everything else is always ready to go. Because of this, we can mobilize for a camping trip pretty quickly.
You can’t use your garage due to camping gear
Back when we had a garage, 1/2 of it was taken up by our pop-up camper and the other half my wife’s car used. Of course the camper was stocked and piled up with other tents, chairs, and other outdoor gear; but this only left a small percentage of the garage for other uses.
You have a sleeping bag for every temperature
Zero degree, 20 degree, summer bag, it doesn’t matter. You have these bags and more. You even have a liner for either a light bag or to make your cold weather bag better. When my daughter asks for a bag for a sleep over, I immediately ask “how warm is the room going to be?”. Gotta make sure to be warm enough.
You scour yard sales for camping gear
You probably have the gear you need, but finding decent gear at a bargain? Heck yeah! I don’t know how many times I’ve visited a yard sale and asked “any camping gear?”. If the answer is no, I typically move on. If the answer is yes, awesome! Typically there are stories shared about why they’re selling, where they’ve camped… Good times.
You suggest a camping trip for Mother’s day
or her birthday, your anniversary, valentines day, or just because. Because she loves you (and camping), she agrees. The picture above is from one of our Mother’s Day trips which was an awesome weekend. Due to my wife being awesome, this trip was actually her idea!
Did we leave any symptoms out? What symptoms do you exhibit that are not on this list? Since we admittedly have a camping addiction, we want to hear from others who do as well. The question becomes: “should I seek help?”. No way! Get outside & camp more!
As a kid, I was a Boy Scout (I am now a Scoutmaster). Everyone knows that Boy Scouts like camping. As a Scout, I did a lot of camping, and as a Scoutmaster I seem to do even more. Camping to me is “hitting the reset” button. Whether with my family, or with the troop, being in nature, makes everything better.
Below are some of the things I’ve learned over my camping career (some the hard way).
Pitch your tent in your garden or yard beforehand your first outing to make sure it’s all there and you know how to set it up.
On uneven ground, don’t pitch your tent in a valley. That’s the first place water & moisture will pool.
Always make a list of the things required, and tick it off as it goes in the pack.
If it is windy, be sure to stake down your tent. Even if the tent can’t be picked up by the wind, the corner can flap like crazy.
Double check your equipment before heading out. Make sure the gas stove works, you have fuel for it, you have batteries for the flashlight, etc.
Pre-prepared meals can save a bunch of time. If you make up your dry pancake ingredients beforehand, you will only have to mix in the wet in the morning.
A hotel bar of soap inside an old pantyhose leg hung by the water faucet is a convenient place to keep it. Not only does your soap not get lost, but the pantyhose act as an abrasive to help clean your hands.
Take spare tent pegs and invest in good pegs that won’t bend easily.
Consider a site with good facilities for first timer camping experiences.
2 words: extra batteries. Nothing worse than being out camping with a dead flashlight.
Take extra plastic bags for wet clothes, wet shoes, trash, etc.
Remember to bring a can opener. I always keep a military style P38 in my bag and mess kit.
Being close to the camp toilet, while convenient, isn’t always the best spot. Try to camp up wind.
Duct tape. Always take this. I’ve repaired tent fly, splinted broken poles, mended cooking utensils, repaired canoes, the possibilities are endless. In stead of bringing a whole roll, I wrap a fair amount around an old piece of PVC pipe.
What camping tips or lessons do you have? Comment below. Before you do, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Before we were married, my wife & I used to enjoy camping separately. We had never camped together until we had children. Camping with children can be a wonderful experience. Being in nature, awesome scenery, fresh air, and your kiddos; it doesn’t get much better. A friend of ours gave us an old pop-up camper and we decided to join them and give it a try. To ensure everyone has a good time, we have compiled some tips for a successful trip.
Before you go
Before hauling the family out into the middle of nowhere, try a trial run at home. Set up a tent in the backyard and let them experience the sounds of sleeping in a tent.
Take a family day out at a nearby lake or park and see how they do out in nature. Show them some of the cool things about their surroundings to help keep their interest.
Take notes. Did you forget anything? Is there something you should bring on your campout? Write it down, it helps.
Preparing for Your Trip
Involve the children. Let them help pick where to go, what to do, what they want to see. This will keep them invested and help hold their interest.
Let them pack. Give the children a list, and let them pack their own gear. Naturally, you will want to double check their gear so they don’t forget something critical.
Let them bring a few toys. Some toys from home can make the kids feel more comfortable. I certainly wouldn’t bring anything small that could easily get lost; but some favorites will help them enjoy the trip for sure.
If you get the chance to camp with friends who have children, they will keep each other entertained. That’s what we did when we joined our friends. The kids all had a blast.
Check for fire restrictions. The forest can sometimes get put on fire restriction in the summer. Make sure there are no restrictions where you are heading. Some of the best memories are around the campfire (s’mores, marshmallows, songs…)
Most importantly, be enthusiastic. Let the children know by your actions that you are as excited about the trip as they are.
Be prepared. Everything in camp is different. Change is sometimes difficult for kids. The bathroom isn’t just down the hall, there is no night light to turn on, etc. You have to be ready for almost anything. The best way to be prepared is to make sure you bring everything on your list. If you need a list, click here.
A positive attitude about everything will take you far. Lead by example with a positive attitude and others are bound to follow.
Get organized. Establish a place for everything. “Flashlights are in this pocket”, “kitchen supplies are over here”, you get the idea. Once you have an organization plan, stick to it.
Know your place. Make sure the children know what campsite you are in and how to get back case they stray from camp.
Be safe. Make sure the kids know what to do if they get lost. We gave each kiddo a whistle to wear around their necks and usually dressed them in a bright shirt. We taught them that if they get lost, to stay put and blow their whistles. Thankfully, we never had to test this system.
Enlist the camp host or park rangers. Ask them about wildlife in the area to be on the lookout for. It is your responsibility to be sure to store food so that the wildlife doesn’t make a surprise visit. We had one camp host have the kids look for pine cones that squirrels had eaten and to bring her a bucket full. Once they returned with the bucket, she gave them some paints and blocks to create art with.
Make the most of being outside. Look for wildlife, learn about the local vegetation, go on a family hike. While on a hike, take a moment to stop and listen. What do you hear? What sounds are different than at home? Attend a ranger talk if there is one. Lay outside at night and look for constellations, you may see a shooting star!
Be active, stay flexible. Be sure to do as much as you can at camp, but be flexible to plans that change. If someone gets tired, take a break. Be flexible in your plans for the trip. If you miss a ranger talk, no big deal.
Try geocaching. While you are at camp, try this. There are sometimes great caches around campsites.
Enjoy your family. Some of my fondest memories are camping as a Boy Scout with my dad and camping with my children. The best memories are made while at camp.
Fun Things You Can Bring
When we camped in our pop-up camper, we always had crayons, paper and bubbles on hand.
Sticks for roasting marshmallows. Bring the rest of the s’mores ingredients too!
Frisbees, balls, flashlights, glow sticks. The kids couldn’t wait for darkness to come so they could play with the glow sticks.
Ice cream maker. How much fun is it to make ice cream at camp? There are plenty of non-electric ones out there. We used this ball that housed the ingredients and mixed as the ball was rolled around. It actually worked pretty well!
If you are camping in warm weather, squirt guns are fun if you don’t mind getting squirted (you know they will squirt you!)
Bicycles. While you’re at camp, it’s super fun to ride around and see what the rest of the campground has to offer. Don’t forget helmets!
A deck of cards. Card games are great fun at camp. Not only are card games fun, but a deck of cards doesn’t take up much room with all your other “stuff”. Uno was a favorite of ours.
Our children loved camping! They loved visiting different campgrounds and even some wilderness camping. We have all learned about the best things to bring & do and what to leave at home.
Spending time with the kids at camp is a blast. Children love being outside and exploring nature. You will love seeing nature through your kids’ eyes. Get out there, get your kids involved, & have fun!
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Whether you’re new to camping, or a seasoned camper; there always seems to be terms we have either never heard or are not as familiar with. We at Camp Gear Center have out together a camping glossary to help with some of the terms associated with camping and backpacking. If you think of a term that we missed, please comment below and we can add it.
3-Season tent – A tent recommended for use in summer, spring and fall.
4-Season tent – A tent designed to handle any weather conditions, including harsh winter weather.
A-frame – An older-style tent featuring a mid-support that runs the length of the structure in the shape of an “A”.
Altimeter – An instrument that measures elevation by using barometric (air) pressure.
Back country – The isolated and uninhabited sections of national park, public land or forest.
Backpack stove – Small lightweight stove that is easy to carry in a backpack. Most use either white gas or isobutane/propane gas.
Backpacking – Traveling with all of your belongings, including tents and sleeping bags, carried in a backpack.
Baffle – Fabric panels sewn to the inner and outer shell of a sleeping bag. Baffles keep the insulation in place. Down bags must be baffled. Most synthetic bags feature quilted insulation.
Bank(ing) a fire – To build a wall around a fire (or where fire is to be) out of rocks or stones, or to build the fire next to a rock or dirt wall such that it blocks the wind.
Base plate – The see-through plate of an orienting compass onto which the compass housing is mounted.
Bear bag – In bear country, campers must take measures to safeguard their food and cooking utensils. Food items are placed in a strong, waterproof bag (the bear bag), tied to a rope and suspended out of reach.
Bear Lockers – Metal lockers provided by a campsite to keep bears and other wildlife from eating campers’ foods.
Bearing – The reading of your compass in the direction you’re heading.
Bivouac – A tent designed to accommodate only one person.
Bivy sack – A small one-man tent or bag of sleeping bag proportions often used for emergency shelter.
Boxing the Needle – The process of lining up a compass’s needle with magnetic north.
Breathable – refers to the porosity of fabrics. Breathable materials are not waterproof.
Bushwhacking – Off-trail travel through brush where no cleared path exists and hikers have to force their way through the branches.
Cache – A placement of food and/or supplies along or near a trail or route of travel for future use.
Canopy – The inner wall of a double-walled tent. The canopy is breathable; the outer wall, or fly, is waterproof.
Catenaly cut – the natural curve formed by a rope that’s tightly strung between two trees. A tent which has a catenary cut rigs tighter (less sidewall sag) than one without catenary cut. Catenary cut is a feature of the best tents.
Cardinal points –The four main points of direction on a compass–North/360 degrees; East/90 degrees; South/180 degrees; and West/270 degrees.
Chuck Box – A box or sack for camping cookware. Keep the chuck box separate from the rest of supplies to minimize cleanup.
Cirque (French, from the Latin word circus) – An amphitheater-like valley formed by glacial erosion.
Citronella candles – Popular and natural insect repellent that keeps away mosquitoes.
Cliff – A high, steep face of rock; a precipice.
Day pack – Small backpack that holds enough gear for a one-day outing.
Deadman – A log or rock buried in the ground to provide a solid point for anchoring a tent in ground that is too soft for stakes.
Declination – The difference in degrees between magnetic north (the direction the magnetic needle on a compass points) and true or geographic north (the direction maps are printed towards).
Deep-lugged sole – A boot sole featuring deep ridges and grooves for maximum traction.
DEET – diethyl-meta-toluamide, the active ingredient in most insect repellents.
Dehydration – Excessive loss of body fluid that could result in headaches, fainting and more severe symptoms.
Denier -(den-year)- A weight measurement used to refer to the fineness of a yarn or thread used in some backpacking and camping equipment. The lower the denier, the more thin the thread. The higher the denier the more durable the fabric will be.
Diamond stone – a type of man-made sharpening stone which contains powdered diamonds. Diamond stones are lubricated with water (not cutting oil). They remove metal much faster than traditional oil stones.
Differential cut – The inner shell of a sleeping bag is cut smaller than the outer shell, to produce a Thermos bottle effect. The merits of this construction are still being argued by equipment freaks everywhere.
Dining fly – An overhead tarp (fly) used for protection from rain. Usually erected just before mealtimes, hence the descriptive name.
Dome – A tent shape where the poles create a dome by curving over each other (see picture above).
Double-wall construction – A style of tent architecture utilizing two walls–an inner wall, or canopy, made of breathable nylon, and an outer waterproof wall or fly.
Down – The soft, fluffy under layer of waterfowl plumage used as insulation in some sleeping bags and coats.
Draft tube – The insulated flap that covers the length of a sleeping bag zipper. Without a great draft tube, cold air would be sucked in and warm air forced out every time you moved. A down-filled tube that runs the length of a sleeping bag zipper – prevents cold air from filtering through the zipper teeth.
Dropped-point knife – The favored style for hunting knives – the point is centered (similar to a spear-point) on the blade. Dropped-point knives are ideal for skinning game animals but are not the most suitable style for camp knives.
Dry bag – A bag used to keep contents dry when the top is folded correctly.
Duck – Two or three small rocks piled one on top of the other to be used as a trail marker.
Duluth pack – A voluminous envelope style (usually, canvas) pack popular with canoeists.
Dutch Oven – A heavy metal pot with a cover used around camps to bake and prepare other delicious meals. Usually made out of cast iron. There is an art to good Dutch Oven cooking and some spend their lives perfecting their tasty dishes. Often a complete meal can be prepared in one Dutch Oven.
DWR – Acronym for Durable Water-Repellent finish, a treatment found on outerwear that forces water to bead much as wax does for a car.
Embers – The best thing to cook on if using a wood fire. When the flames have died down and the part-burnt wood glows orange or white, it is the most efficient heat to cook on.
Encapsulation technology – A special durable water-repellent finish (DWR) that wraps around each fabric fiber, as opposed to going on like a continuous coat of paint. Provides excellent water-repellency, doesn’t compromise breathability, is abrasion-proof, adds tear strength, and makes garments feel soft and supple. Used in some down and Polarguard 3D-insulated clothes.
Ensolite – A soft rubber material that makes wonderfully light yet, for the most part, comfortable sleeping mats for use under sleeping bags while backpacking or camping. Originally developed by NASA to protect pressure from damage.It has virtually 100% memory and is waterproof.
Escarpment – The steep face frequently presented by the abrupt termination of stratified rocks.
EVA (ethyl-vinyl-acetate) – Strongest, most resilient, and most expensive of the closed-cell foams. EVA makes an excellent trail mattress.
External frame pack – A backpack supported by a rigid frame on the outside of the pack.
Face – The side of a cliff, escarpment, or other mostly vertical rock structure. The side of a geological structure, as in west facing slope.
Fanny pack – A small zippered nylon pack that’s attached to a waist-belt.
Ferrule – The metal sleeve that’s attached to the pole sections of fiberglass tent poles. Ferrules form a joint between pole sections.
Filling power (of down) – Same as “loft”. It’s the thickness of a sleeping bag lying flat and fluffed. Generally speaking, the greater the “loft” of a sleeping bag, the warmer it will be.
Flash Flood – A sudden flood of water resulting from a cloudburst.
Flat-fell seam – Overlapping construction; the seam goes through four layers of material.
Floating dial compass – The compass needle is part of the numbered compass dial, which rotates as a unit. This allows the instrument to be read in the same plane as the eye of the user.
Floor area – The amount of usable floor space in a tent, measured in square feet.
Foam pad – A sleeping mattress made of either open-cell or closed-cell foam.
Foot – The rounded end of a sleeping bag, also called a foot box.
Footprint – The shape and square footage of a tent floor.
Frame pack – a pack with an exterior aluminum or fiber framework.
Free-standing tent – A type of tent that doesn’t require ropes or stakes to keep the tent standing (see dome tent).
Frostbite – A medical condition caused by extreme cold that could eventually result in amputation if left untreated.
Frost liner – A detachable inner “roof’ for a tent that absorbs moisture which might condense, freeze, and drop on sleeping occupants. Frost liners are made from cotton or cotton polyester fabric and are needed only in below freezing conditions.
Fuel – 1. larger wood that keeps the fire going. 2. gas for a stove or engine.
Fuel bottle – Traditionally refers to “Sigg” aluminum bottles, which are used for the storage of gasoline and kerosene.
Gaiter – A water-repellent, internal sleeve that can be tightened around boot and lower leg to keep out snow.
Gators – Nylon anklets (usually with side zippers) used by skiers and mountaineers. Gators prevent snow from getting in your boot tops, and they add extra warmth.
Gauntlet – A glove extending beyond the wrist for added warmth and protection.
Geodesic dome – A dome-shaped tent with a strong faceted framework of tubular aluminum. Geodesic domes are the Cadillac of domes!
Gear loft – An overhead shelf in a tent. Keeps small gear overhead, providing more floor space for bags. Good place to keep a flash light or other small items.
Giardia – A bacteria that contaminates water in the backcountry and can cause severe stomach cramps and other symptoms. More properly known as giardiasis, an infection of the lower intestines caused by ingesting the amoebic cyst, Giardia lamblia, in untreated water.
Giardiasis – A waterborne disease carried by the protozoan “Giardia.” Giardia is commonly carried by beaver. Incubation time is one to two weeks. The pathogen is very hardy.
Girth – The inside space, as measured around the sleeper’s waist area. Mummy bags have the smallest girth, and rectangular have the largest.
Gray water – Wastewater that’s created from bathing, cooking, laundry and other activities.
Grommet – Little round metal sewn-in rings found on corners of so-called post & grommet type tents – usually 2 or more per pole point/corner, on better tent models. These make for durable, fast set-ups, and easier adjustments when temps change fabric and pole lengths. Also found on generic tarps, and some custom tent footprints. Grommets can sometimes be plastic as well.
Ground stakes or pegs- Anchors that hold a tent to the ground.
Gusseted tongue (bellows) – A leather piece attached to both sides of the upper on a hiking boot, designed to keep out water and dirt.
Guy lines – A length of cord used to secure or reinforce the walls and rain fly of a tent.
Guy-out loops (also known as guy-out rings, guy points, storm rings, storm ties) – Extra connection points on tent, for cord/line runs to additional stakes in event of wind gusts – basic tents usually require customer purchase separate line and stakes to make use of these rings, which is strongly suggested you employ in event of weather changes.
Guy point – One of several points outside a tent where a line (a guy line) can be attached and then secured to a stake or other anchor in order to increase a tent’s structural integrity.
Haft – The handle of an axe.
Hammock – A method of camping where a nylon “bed” is suspended between two trees. Makes for minimal environmental impact and a great night’s sleep.
Haversack – A bag or pouch used by hikers to carry food, usually carried at the side by a shoulder strap.
Head gasket – A piece sewn around the hood of a sleeping bag to keep in warm air.
Heat stroke – When your body temperatures rises significantly from being exposed to the sun.
Hike – A long walk usually for exercise or pleasure.
Hip belt – The main support device on a backpack. Large padded belt that buckles around the waist and is fully adjustable. (makes carrying the pack much more comfortable)
Hollow-ground (knife) – The edge is ground to a concave bevel which produces a thin, razor edge and a stiff spine.
Hood closure – The tie cord and fastener which secures the hood of a sleeping bag around the sleeper’s face.
Horn – A high pyramidal peak with steep sides formed by the intersecting walls of three or more cirques.
Housing – The rotating part of a compass that holds the damping fluid, the magnetic needle and has degrees engraved around its edge from 1 to 360.
Hypothermia – A potentially lethal physical state caused by lowering of the body’s core temperature, due to exposure to cold wet weather.
I-pole tent – A tent with a single vertical pole at each end.
Imu – A shallow pit used for cooking.
Inselberg – Prominent steep-sided residual hills and mountains rising abruptly from plains. The residuals are generally bare and rocky, large and small, isolated and in hill and mountain groups, and they are surrounded by lowland surfaces of erosion that are generally true plains, as distinguished from peneplains.
Internal frame pack –A backpack supported by stays on the inside. The stays give the pack shape and make it more comfortable to carry than a traditional soft pack.
Iron ranger – An “iron ranger” is a fee collection box used at campgrounds that do not have full time attendants. Upon entrance to the campground, you deposit your nightly fee(s) in an envelope with your name and site number and drop this in the collection box. At sometime during the day, a park ranger will make rounds of the campgrounds and collect the fees. You will often see these in National Park and National Forest campgrounds.
Kerf – A cut made by an ax, saw, etc.
Kindling – Small, thin, dead wood (1″ around or less) used to start a fire.
Knife-edge – A very narrow ridge crest. In spots, the crest of a knife-edge is too angular to walk on, and travel requires scrambling over and around pinnacles, along ledges on the side of the ridge, or even straddling the ridge.
Layering – Wearing several thin layers of clothes, one over the other. Layering is the most efficient clothing system for cold weather.
Lean-to – A two or three-sided shelter with an over-hanging roof and one open side.
Leave No Trace – A set of outdoor ethics promoting outdoor conservation.
Lensatic compass – A compass which features a built-in magnifying lens for ease of reading directions. See above
Lexan® – A material used in water bottles and other camping gear that is extremely durable and can withstand a wide range of temperatures.
Lock-back knife – A folding knife that has an integral lock which “locks” the blade in place when it is open. Some modern lock-backs are really “side-locks” or “front-locks.” Lock-back knives do not have pressure springs like ordinary jack-knives, so they can be opened easily with one hand while wearing mittens.
Loft – The height and thickness of insulation in a sleeping bag. The thickness of a sleeping bag that’s laying flat and fluffed. Generally speaking, the higher the loft, the warmer the bag.
Low-impact camping – An ethic that treats nature with respect by leaving as little trace as possible (see Leave No Trace).
Lumbar pad – A support on a backpack to comfort heavy loads on the lower back.
Lyme Disease – An infectious disease usually spread through ticks.
Magnetic north – The geographical region towards which all magnetic needles point. This point is approximately 1,300 miles south of true north.
Map index – a specially gridded small-scale map which lists “maps in print,” how and where to get them, and their cost. A map index is available free from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canada Map Office. See text description.
Marquee – A large tent, often used as a dining or meeting tent.
Massif – A compact mountain group consisting of several summits.
Mesa – A tableland; a flat-topped mountain or other elevation bounded on at least one side by a steep cliff; a plateau terminating on one or more sides in a steep cliff. Seen in many areas of the southwest.
Millar-Mitts – fingerless gloves used by mountaineers for technical climbing. Millar-mitts are great for fishing, canoeing and general hiking.
Mocoa – a popular camp drink which consists of hot-chocolate mixed with coffee.
Modified dome – A dome tent that has been designed for specific elements, such as wind or snow.
Moleskin – brand name of soft-surfaced bandaging material used to protect blisters. The sticky side of Moleskin is placed over the unbroken blister; the cushioned surface absorbs the friction from socks and boot.
Monsoon – In the Southwest, a seasonal outbreak of localized severe thunderstorms that deposit large quantities of rain often resulting in flash floods, especially in canyon country where there are narrow slot canyons and little vegetation to help absorb the sudden rush of water.
Monument – A large pile of stones used to mark a trail or often found at the summit of a peak.
Mountain parka – A generic name for full zipper thigh-length parkas. Mountain parkas usually have lots of pockets. They’re traditionally constructed from 60/40 (60 percent nylon, 40 percent cotton) cloth, which is doubled for added warmth. The U.S. Army field jacket is a true mountain parka.
Mummy bag – A close fitting, shaped, hooded sleeping bag very efficient at conserving body heat.
Nalgene Bottle – A type of “plastic” bottle that holds up well under the harsh conditions of hiking and camping. Originally designed to store chemical reagents, the plastic resists taking on the smell of the liquid or ingredients it contains. A very popular type of water bottle, especially the wide-mouthed variety. They hold up for years.
No-see-um mesh – A tent mesh so fine that it keeps out the tiny biting bugs called no-see-ums.
Orienteering – Using a map and compass in the field to determine your route of travel.
Orienteering compass – A compass that has a built-in protractor which allows you to determine directions from a map without orienting the map to north. This is the most practical compass style for outdoor use.
Overlapping V-tube construction(sleeping bags) – A type of baffle construction in which down is secured into V-shaped tubes which overlap one another. Some very warm winter sleeping bags are built this way.
Pack basket – A basket pack that’s traditionally woven from splints of black ash. This original Indian made item is still going strong in the New England area and is available from L. L. Bean. Pack-baskets are ideal for berry picking, picnicking, canoe trips, and auto camping. They will protect all your breakables. Compared to fabric packs, they are quite inexpensive.
Packed size – The dimensions of a collapsed tent and its contents, in square inches.
Parka – A thigh-length shell garment with integral hood. Parkas may be lined or filled with down, polyester or other insulation for use in cold weather.
Pile – Aluxuriously soft fabric made from polyester. Pile absorbs little water and it dries quickly if it gets wet. Pile has almost replaced wool as the material for cold weather camping.
Plateau – A relatively elevated area of comparatively flat land which is commonly limited on at least one side by an abrupt descent to lower land. Sometimes called a table or tableland.
Poison Oak/Ivy – A poisonous shrub or plant that causes itchiness and rash when touched. Poison ivy pictured above. Remember the phrase “leaves of three, let it be”.
PolarGuard® 3D – A hollow-fiber, highly durable, polyester insulation used in sleeping bags and clothing that has a high warmth-to-weight ratio.
Pole sleeves – Fabric tunnels on the outside of a tent into which the tent poles are inserted.
Poly-bottle – short for polyethylene bottle.
Poncho – A rectangular, hooded rain garment. Ponchos provide good ventilation and can be worn over a hiking pack. They do not supply reliable protection from rain, but are great for an emergency.
Pothole – A hole generally deeper than wide, worn into the solid rock at falls and strong rapids by sand, gravel, and stones being spun around by the force of the current. In desert country a pothole often collects water during rains and can contain a variety of small freshwater creatures. After rain they can be an important water source for the local wild animals. Care should be taken around potholes to not contaminate or unnecessarily waste the precious water.
Primaloft® – A microfibrous polyester insulation so close to down in terms of structure, warmth, and feel that it’s also known as patented sythetic down. Primaloft is lightweight, durable, very compressible, and unlike down, highly water repellent.
Primitive campground – A place to camp without amenities, including bathrooms, showers and electricity.
Prime (as in “priming” a gasoline or kerosene stove) – Some stoves are usually primed by filling an integral “spirit cup” with gasoline or alcohol, then setting the fuel aflame.Stoves can be “over-primed.” If too much gasoline is forced into the spirit-cup, the unit may ignite into a ball of uncontrollable flame.
Priming – Allowing fuel to collect in the burner of a white-gas stove before ignition.
Prismatic compass – A compass with a mirror designed to allow a user to see both distant objects being sighted and the compass face at the same time.
Private campground – An area to camp that’s owned by a business.
Puncheon – A log bridge built over fragile terrain that is wet.
Punkies – Also called no-see-ums; a tiny insect called a midge, which bites severely.
Purifier – A drinking water system that removes contaminates and eliminates viruses with a combination of specialized filters.
Quallofil® – A synthetic material developed by Dupont for use in sleeping bags and parkas. Each filament has four longitudinal holes which trap air and add warmth. Quallofil® is one of the best synthetic insulators.
Quick-release knot – A knot which can be removed by a simple pull of the tail. The most common quick-release knot is the “bow” used for tying your shoes.
Quilted or Quilt Construction – A stitching style that runs through the shell and lining of a sleeping bag or garment to keep insulation from shifting. Quilting is lighter and less expensive than it’s more complex cousin, baffle construction. It is also less efficient because the stitching compresses the loft out of the fabrics and allows cold to move freely through the compressed area around the needle holes.
Rain fly – A tent covering that aids in keeping a tent dry and windproof.
Rating – The degree Fahrenheit to which a sleeping bag is constructed to sleep comfortably. i.e. -30 degrees, 0 degrees, +15 degrees.
Reef – A sedimentary rock aggregate, large or small, composed of the remains of colonial-type organisms that lived near or below the surface of water bodies, mainly marine, and developed relatively large vertical dimensions as compared with the proportions of adjacent sedimentary rock. In canyon country a “reef” is simply a nautical term carried over into geology to describe a barrier, such as Waterpocket Fold in Capital Reef National Park in Utah.
Reflector oven – An aluminum sheet-metal oven which bakes by means of reflected heat. Reflector ovens are hard to keep clean and they are very cumbersome. They require open flame for baking and cannot be used on stoves or over charcoal. They are very efficient if you have a nice bright fire.
Ridge – A relatively narrow elevation which is prominent on account of the steep angle at which it rises. The narrow, elongated crest of a hill or mountain; an elongated hill; a range of hills or mountains.
Ridge-vent – The triangular window at the ridge of A-frame tents.
Ring & Pin – On tents, a very easy-to-use corner assembly design where long pins (1 to 3 inch steel or aluminum) with metal rings attaching are permanently sewn to the exterior corners of the structure, and the pins are then inserted into the hollow ends of the tent poles. Fast, goof-proof, inexpensive, widely used, and suited to most 2-3 season general rec tent models; the higher line post & grommet corner system is main alternative, found on most 3+ season mountain grade tents.
Rip-stop nylon – A lightweight nylon fabric that has heavier threads sewn in at approximate one-quarter-inch intervals. Rip-stop is less likely to tear than taffeta but it has less resistance to abrasion. Rip-stop nylon is commonly used for outwear garments, and is distinguished by a fine pattern of boxes (barely noticeable) that are designed to keep fabric from tearing. Rip-stop is very lightweight material. It is water and wind resistant.
Rock Glacier – A glacier-like tongue of angular rock waste usually heading in cirques or other steep-walled amphitheaters and in many cases grading into true glaciers.
Rucksack – A type of knapsack or backpack, usually made of canvas with two shoulder straps.
Saddle – A low point on a ridge or crest line, generally a divide between the heads of streams flowing in opposite direction.
Scarp – An escarpment, cliff, or steep slope of some extent along the margin of a plateau, mesa, terrace, or bench.
Scree – Loose rock, typically fist size or smaller that accumulates at the base of a rock wall.
Seam-sealer – A special glue, available at all camping shops, used to waterproof the stitching on tents and rain gear.
Seam Sealing –Coating, waterproof of the sewn seam areas on tents, backpacks, and other combined outdoor fabrics, to decrease water entry. Treatments range from inexpensive water-based dauber bottles, to heavier brush-on polyurethane coatings, to very heavy technical grade near-plastic fillers.
Seam tape – A waterproof tape applied over all seams on a tent or other equipment meant to be totally water repellent.
Self-inflating air mattress – A camping pad to go under your sleeping bag that has foam inside and a valve on one of the corners. When the valve is opened, air is allowed to enter and can be trapped inside by closing the valve. Very insulative and comfortable to sleep on. They come in all sorts of thicknesses and sizes.
Self-supporting tent – Theoretically, a tent which needs no staking. However, all self-supporting tents must be staked or they’ll blow away in wind.
Semi-mummy bag – A sleeping bag with a barrel-shape and no hood. A good choice for those who feel confined by the mummy shape but want lighter weight and more warmth than that supplied by standard rectangular sleeping bags.
Sewn-through construction (same as “quilt” construction) – A stitching style that runs through the shell and lining of a sleeping bag or garment to keep insulation from shifting. Quilting is lighter and less expensive than it’s more complex cousin, baffle construction. It is also less efficient because the stitching compresses the loft out of the fabrics and allows cold to move freely through the compressed area around the needle holes.
Shell – The outermost material in a sleeping bag or outdoor clothing, consisting of a fabric used to meet a particular demand such as abrasion resistance, water repellency or suppleness.
Shock cord – An elastic cord running through tent poles to separation or loss of the poles, and to expedite set-up.
Shock corded poles – This means that a bungee cord runs through each pole assembly. This keeps the pole together so you don’t have to hunt for pieces. As the poles sections slip together the cord holds them together so they can be handled as a single pole.
Side canyon – In decreasing order of size, local usage is: canyon, fork, gulch.
Sigg fuel bottle – Traditionally refers to aluminum bottles, which are used for the storage of gasoline and kerosene.
Single-walled tent – A lightweight, single-fabric construction tent that is chemically treated for insulation and waterproofness but which may not be very breathable.
Sixty-forty parka – A parka made from fabric which consists of 60 percent nylon and 40 percent cotton. The term “60/40” is now generic; it defines any mountain style parka, regardless of the fabric composition. Mountain parkas of water-repellent 60/40 cloth, polyester/cotton blends, or waterproof Gore-Tex are light-weight, windproof and “breathe-able”, making them an excellent choice for use as the outer shell of your layered clothing system. In a downpour, 60/40 and polyester/cotton mountain parkas can be augmented with a lightweight, loose – fitting poncho of plastic or coated nylon, which can be worn to protect your pack as well as your body. Gore-Tex mountain parkas need no additional rainproof layer.
Shell(garments) – Refers to unlined garments, or the interior or exterior wall of a sleeping bag.
Side-wall baffle – A baffle that is opposite the zipper on a sleeping bag; it keeps the down from shifting along the length of the bag.
Siwash – To live off the land with a bare minimum of essentials. Most modern campers do not siwash!
Slickrock – Generally a smooth, weathered sandstone surface that becomes slippery due to the presence of sand grains. These can be dangerous to walk across.
Slot canyon – A deep, narrow, steep-walled canyon, most often cut through sandstone, and often with water running along its bottom. Sometimes referred to as narrows.
Smores – Simply a great camping treat to make for kids, big and small, around a campfire at night
Sou’wester – The traditional rain hat of sailors and commercial fishermen. The sou’wester was developed centuries ago and it is still the best of all foul weather hats. The best sou’westers have ear flaps, chin strap, and a flannel lining.
Space filler-cut – Where the inner and outer shells of a sleeping bag are cut the same size. This construction allows the inner liner and fill to better conform to the curves of your body than the Thermos bottle shape of the “differential cut.” The merits/demerits of space-filler versus differential cut are still being argued by sleeping bag manufacturers.
Space Blanket – Mylar-coated “blanket” used in survival kits. Space-blankets are waterproof and are very warm for their size and weight. Every camping shop has them. They are also called Mylar blanket, Aluminized blanket. The blanket measure 84″ X 54″ when spread open, they are the perfect for retaining warmth in any emergency. Easy to store with it’s compact design and light weight packaging. A must have item in your survival or emergency response kit. The blanket can serve different uses. It can deflect heat when used as a shelter from the sun. You can decrease heat inside your automobile by using the solar blanket to cover the roof and windows. Primary use is to reflect back your own body heat. It conserves 90% of body heat when wrapped around a person.
Sternum strap – A short nylon strap which connects the shoulder straps of a hiking pack. A properly adjusted sternum strap transfers some of the pack load to the chest.
Storm-flap – A panel of material which backs the zipper of a parka. This helps to keep the cold out and the warmth in.
Stuff sack – Traditionally, a nylon sack in which a sleeping bag is stored. The term now defines any nylon bag with drawstring closure.
Swiss Army knife – originally, the issue knife of the Swiss Army. Now, generic for any “Scout-style” multi-tool pocket knife.
Switchback – Climbing a mountain or hill with a zig-zag motion. This allows for a significantly easier ascent in many situations.
Table – A relatively elevated area of comparatively flat land which is commonly limited on at least one side by an abrupt descent to lower land.Also called a plateau.
Talus – The loose rock of all sizes that falls from a cliff and accumulates at the base. The distinction between scree and talus is generally that talus is large enough not to move underfoot.
Tank – Natural depressions in an impervious stratum, in which rain or snow water collects and is preserved the greater portion of the year. Also a natural or artificial pool or water hole in a wash. Seen often in the arid southwest.
Tarn – A small rock-rimmed lake in an ice-gouged basin on the floor of a cirque or in a glaciated valley.
Technical climbing – Mountain climbing requiring use of ropes and fixed belay anchors on either rock or ice. Also includes any sustained climbing where the arms are used to pull upward rather than being used solely for balance.
Tent – The main type of shelter for camping. Tents come in all shapes, sizes and sleeping capacities. Read more here.
Tent stake (or peg) – A piece of wood, metal or aluminum pointed at one end for driving into the ground to hold a rope supporting a tent. Why you need to stake your tent: for without the stakes your tent could quickly become a kite in the lightest of winds and destroy itself as it tumbles through the woods or across the sand dunes. Sometimes called tent pegs.
Tinder – small twigs, wood shavings, dry leaves or grass, dry needles, bark or dryer lint (ultra-fine dry material). This should start to burn immediately with a lighted match or spark from your magnesium fire starter.
Topographic map – A map showing the topographic features of a land surface generally by means of contour lines.
Trenching (also called “ditching”) – Digging a trench around a tent to carry away ground water which accumulates during a heavy rain. This form of guttering is illegal in all wilderness areas. Ground cloths and tent floors have eliminated the need to “trench” tents. Trenching goes against the principles of Leave No Trace.
Trailhead – The point at which a trail begins. In most parks and popular areas there is a parking lot or turn out for easy access.
Traverse – Horizontal travel across a mountainside or over a ridge. An ascending or descending traverse refers to a gradual elevation change while traveling across a much steeper slope.
Tread – A trail’s surface. Refers to the amount of traction there is for hiking.
Trekking (“to make one’s way arduously”) – A very difficult or lengthy hike. Or perhaps over unmarked or totally undeveloped terrain
Tumpline – A strap across the forehead and over the shoulders, used to carry loads on the back. Voyageurs carried hundreds of pounds of furs with only a tumpline. Today this feature is found only on traditional canvas duluth packs which are used for wilderness canoeing.
Twist-on-a-stick – Baking powder bread made by twisting dough on a stick and baking it over the fire.
Tunnel tent – A low profile tent that is long and rounded.
Ultralight tent – A tent designed for one or two people, weighing five pounds or less and designed to carry on or in a backpack.
UV degradation – A breaking down of material due to the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays. UV degradation can be a potential problem with tent flies exposed to the sun for extended periods.
Vestibule – A covered area outside of or connected to a tent, usually created by an extended rain-fly or a special attachment. Vestibules provide a place to store gear out of the weather
Volume – The amount of space in a backpack measured in cubic inches.
Wachita stone – A medium-hard mineral oil stone used for sharpening knives.
Wash – The wash of a stream is the sandy, rocky, gravely, boulder-strewn part of a river bottom. In the southwest a wash is usually the dry bed of an intermittent stream often at the bottom of a canyon. Also called a dry wash.
Waterproof – Impervious to water. Covered or treated with a material (as a solution of rubber) to prevent permeation by water.
Water-resistant vs. Waterproof
A garment that is water-resistant is “treated with a finish that is resistant but not impervious to penetration by water,” while a garment that is waterproof is “covered or treated with a material to prevent permeation by water.”
Water-repellent – Treated with a finish that is resistant but not impervious to penetration by water.
Water pocket – A bowl in rock that has been formed by the erosional action of falling or running water. Often times a collection point for rain and run off water, and thus a potential source of drinking water for wild animals and humans.
White-gas – A distillate of petroleum, also called petroleum naptha, commonly used in backpacking stoves.
Wilderness – A tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, essentially undisturbed by human activity, together with its naturally developed life community, generally an empty pathless area.
Wind shirt – Differs from a wind-parka in that the shirt is cut to waist length and does not have a hood. Wind pants are made of breathable fabric and are popular for winter camping.
White-print map – A provisional map that’s similar to a “blue-print.” White-prints are up-to-date maps which show the location of logging and mining roads and man made structures. These maps are designed for professional use; they are not listed in standard map indexes