My Day Hike Backpack

Although I am not a “prepper” in the strict doomsday scenario sense of the word, I am intentional about being prepared in regard to my outdoor adventures. Being prepared was drilled into me by my Boy Scout leaders by both their example and instruction.

As a Boy Scout I enjoyed making my own survival kits. The challenge was to pack essential survival items into a metal Band-Aid box or a hinged Sucrets lozenge tin or, better yet, into a hand-sewn leather pouch. I still have one or two of these packed away in a box in my attic.

As a world traveler, I keep my international travel backpack packed and ready to go at all times. The only thing I add before a trip is a change of clothes in a pack-it folder just in case my luggage arrives at my destination after I do.

I also keep my day hike hydration backpack ready to go at all times. The only thing I add before I hit the trail is my hydration bladder and trail snacks. You can see this pack on my back in all of my hiking photos. I don’t care how short a hike I am on, I strap this bag on every time.

As a fan of shows like “I Shouldn’t Be Alive,” I have noticed a common theme: folks heading out on a simple adventure ill-prepared only to have something unexpected happen that becomes life-threatening.

I prefer to err on the side of caution by carrying a little extra weight just in case. Not only just in case something unexpected happens to me, but just in case I come across someone on the trail who had something unexpected happen to them.

So, here is a look at what I carry in my day hike hydration pack. Each of these items stays in my pack at all times. I do not borrow items from this pack to put in my other packs that I use for extended hikes or other outdoor adventures. I always want to know that the items I need to count on in an emergency will be in my pack if needed.

Survival Kit | I picked up a lightweight survival kit at Academy that is packed with useful items, including an emergency blanket which can also be rigged for use as a shelter. I also carry a paracord bracelet for emergency cordage.

First Aid Kit | I consider this an essential no matter how short the distance I hike. I also carry a roll of waterproof first aid tape that can be used on hot spots on my feet or a blister.

Bivy Sack | I carry a bivy sack just in case I am forced to spend the night out on the trail. This super lightweight sleeping bag provides plenty of warmth. I also carry a compact little blanket in case I need extra warmth.

Life Straw | This is a must in case my hydration bag is compromised or I run out of water. This straw can safely filter water from most sources, although I would not use it in a water source that has been contaminated by agricultural runoff.

Emergency Poncho | A 99-cent poncho can mean the difference between staying warm and dry and possible hypothermia.

Toilet Paper | No explanation necessary.

Knives | I carry two knives. My Bear Grylls knife has a partially serrated blade which can serve as a mini-saw.

Lights | I pack a Black Diamond headlamp plus a bright light stick.

Whistle I regard a good whistle as an essential part of a survival kit. This little item can be a lifesaver. The sound of a whistle can carry farther than the sound of the human voice.

Pepper Spray | I started carrying pepper spray when I thru-hiked the Lone Star Hiking Trail. It is a good idea to have it handy just in case you run into any ornery critters (or people) on the trail.

Monocular | I carry a monocular to scope out what is ahead, to look at wildlife, and for making sure I can find my way out of tight spots.

Trail Snacks | Trail snacks and goo packs are essential to carry on any hike. I also carry Nuun tablets to add some electrolytes to my water. I have encountered hikers who desperately needed an energy boost with whom I was able to share nutrition.

Trekking Poles | I also hike with trekking poles. They relieve a lot of stress on my aging joints, give me more stability on rocky terrain, can be used to fend off animals, and make excellent tent poles in an emergency situation.

My Ozark Trail ConnecTent

My weakness is outdoor gear. When I get home in the evenings I like to peruse YouTube in search of the latest camping or hiking or anything-outdoors gear reviews. So, it should come as no surprise that I have all sorts of gear crammed onto the shelves in my garage. And, because I am a trekking pole junkie, I keep no less than three sets of trekking poles in my pickup truck at all times. Better to be prepared!

While recently watching a YouTube review of the latest in tents for car camping, I was wowed by a cube tent that attaches to the framework of a straight-leg 10 x 10 pop-up canopy. Amazingly simple and fast set-up that yields lots of usable square footage that, honestly, is closer to the glamping side of the camping equation.
After doing some research, I found a very affordable version of this tent — the Ozark Trail ConnecTent. So, I placed my order on Amazon and then waited with all of the patience of a kid on Christmas Eve. When my packages finally arrived I couldn’t wait to get home to set everything up in my backyard. And then, it rained!
At the first available opportunity, I unpacked everything in my backyard and proceeded to set up the tent. Although I managed to set my tent up by myself, the set-up of this particular tent would have been a bit easier with an extra hand to help. My wife Cheryl arrived home just in time to help me finish the job.
Setting up this tent is really pretty intuitive. I began by setting up the pop-up canopy. It is important to have a straight-leg rather than a slant-leg canopy in order to properly attach this particular tent. I raised the canopy to the lowest position and then proceeded to clip the tent to the framework. Very easy stuff.
Once I had everything clipped into place, I staked down the tent. A particular feature that I like about the pop-up canopy is that it comes with four guy-lines already attached to the corners. This adds a good extra measure of stability, especially to withstand high winds.
The inside of the tent is huge. I set up my camping cot just to get a feel for the interior space. Love the spaciousness of this tent. Perfect for car camping when I have the luxury of bringing extra stuff to set up a more comfortable base camp for hiking or biking in a state park.

I will have my first opportunity to use my new ConnecTent under the big Texas sky when I attend the Llano Earth Art Festival during Spring Break. I have a camp site reserved and can’t wait to set up my tent for a fun weekend outdoors. Will write more after the festival in Llano. Until then, happy camping!

My Camp Shower

Note: This is my first installment in my new Outdoor Gear blog category. Having and using the right gear is an essential part of enjoying adventures in the Lone Star State.

I absolutely love to camp out. From my days as a Boy Scout to today, I love everything about camping — including the preparation. Preparing to camp or the anticipation of heading out on an outdoor adventure is a big part of the fun. I am one of those guys who enjoys walking slowly down the camping aisles at local sports and outdoors stores. I just like looking at camping stuff and, occasionally, adding an additional piece of gear to my collection.
When it comes to camp hygiene, I have tried everything from baby wipes to solar showers to compact backpacking showers. While camping in the bush in Tanzania and later venturing down one of the trans-Himalayan rivers in South Asia, I relied on my solar shower. I just set it out at the start of the day, let it heat up, and then enjoyed a refreshing rinse at the end of the day.
I added a compact pocket shower when I ventured to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and camped for a week on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. It was the perfect piece of gear for washing my hair in the mornings and taking a quick rinse at the end of the day. Like my larger solar shower, this compact version worked really well.

Of course, the only drawback to both of these pieces of gear is that you need something from which to hang the shower. Add a couple of gallons of water and now you have to find something that can hold sixteen-plus pounds of water weight. That can be hard to do at times. On my recent camping trip to the Guadalupe Mountains, finding a place to hang my camp shower at my base camp proved to be a challenge.

So, I looked at other shower options for my car camping adventures in the Lone Star State. As it turned out, camp showers can be a bit pricey. I needed something that could sit on the ground to eliminate the frustration of positioning a shower bag on a tree limb. And I needed something that could save water and still get the job done. So, I decided that a camp shower hack was the answer — something that would cost me a fraction of the price of a camping shower unit.
The answer: turn a multi-purpose garden sprayer into a shower unit. The only thing to keep in mind here is to start with a new unit rather than one that has been used to spray garden chemicals. I opted to buy a RoundUp brand 2-gallon garden sprayer unit. Because the sprayer hose was not very long, I also purchased a generic kitchen spray hose (the kind that fits onto a kitchen sink spray nozzle) to lengthen the hose. The only other items I needed were two couplings.
Within a matter of minutes, some quick splicing and coupling of the hoses, I had my shower unit. I chose to use the fan-spray nozzle that came with the sprayer. This nozzle produces a heavy mist spray that also saves water. A few pumps to build up pressure in the sprayer and my shower was fully operational. Of course, I did test it in my shower stall at home. Worked as good as I had hoped.
My new camping shower will now be a part of my car camping gear, along with my pop-up privacy shower tent. No more worries about hanging stuff from a tree branch. I will now be able to enjoy a refreshing shower wherever I car camp. The only other thing I will do is to paint the unit black to absorb more heat in the day time, leaving a clear strip on one side to monitor my water level.
Here is my all-in cost for my camping shower hack (figures rounded up):

• Garden Sprayer | $20.00 | I could have saved $10.00 by opting for a one-gallon unit.

• Kitchen Sink Sprayer Hose | $5.00

• Two Couplings | $10.00