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Photograph of Pete Lake in Washington State with the sun about to go down behind the mountains.


Amputee Outdoors isn't just for amputees, any lover of hiking, backpacking and camping will find value in this site.  But, if you are an amputee, I hope the videos, advice, and gear reviews educate and inspire you to enjoy the beauty of nature.

  • Look through the Gear dropdown to read reviews of gear I've used and tested along with examples and discussions of hiking and backpacking gear.

  • Read the articles in the Advice section for information on a variety of hiking, camping, and backpacking topics

  • Visit the Latest Videos to see where I've been or reviewed lately. 

And of course, don't forget to check out my YouTube channel, Amputee Outdoors to see all my adventures, tips and tricks, and reviews. Thanks for visiting!

Enjoying nature requires that you include two crucial things, knowledge and tools. This is true if you’re an experienced backpacker or a newbie.  Today, we’re going to discuss the five ways newbie hikers can skip past the newbie stage and go right to the “has a pretty good idea they know what they’re doing” stage.

  1. Preparation: Just tossing a sandwich, some sunblock, and a bottle of water into your backpack and then hitting the trail will increase the chances of becoming a news story. Every year there are cases of folks that have to be rescued when things go wrong on their journey into the wild. Dig into those cases and you’ll find that, had they done some research into the weather, trail conditions, trail reports, etc., they would have had the knowledge needed to properly equip themselves and be able to make wise decisions on the trail.  Remember, we’re not the dominant species on this planet because of our claws, wings, camouflage, teeth, etc.  It’s our knowledge and tool use that got us here.

  2. Over-packing or Under-packing:  A pack overloaded with luxuries, “you never know” items, and “just in case” stuff, can slow you down, tire you out, and increase your risk of injury. Start with the Ten Essentials and only add items that you really need. You can use a scale to weigh your pack and aim for no more than 10% of your body weight for day hikes, and 30%-35% for multi-day backpacking adventures. There was a recent news story about a woman lost in Maui for 17 days.  She wandered off the trail and had no water, food, or cell phone. This is an extreme case, but you get the idea.  Bring the Ten Essentials.  Bring clothes that will allow you to adapt to anticipated changes in the weather.

  3. Bad Feet Decisions: Your feet are going to be dealing with inclines, declines, rocky terrain, slippery mud, ambushing roots, etc.   Add to that you will be carrying a backpack that will be adding 10% to 35% of your body weight to every step. Jogging shoes and cotton athletic socks are not recommended. The shoes won’t have the traction, protection, and support you’ll need and the socks will hold the sweat, increase the chances of blistering, and tend to bunch up in the boots. Set your feet up for success. Let’s start with socks. Thin over skin, thick over thin.  I learned this in boot camp to reduce blisters.  First put on a thin, moisture-wicking sock, then a merino wool sock.  As your feet move inside your boot, the majority of the rubbing will be between the wool sock and the moisture-wicking sock.  This isn’t a 100% blister preventative, but will reduce the chance of blistering by 95% in my experience. Boots, I strongly recommend high ankle boots, (trail runners are ok if your pack is less than 10% of your body weight and you’re young and foolish). High-ankle boots will reduce the chance of sprained ankles, reduce the amount of mud, dirt, and dust getting into your boots, and keep your feet drier when crossing streams. Boots that have a “hiking boot” style are not hiking boots. Buy real hiking boots.

  4. Sharing Your Music: Nothing screams “NEWBIE!!”, like the hiker with a Bluetooth speaker strapped to their backpack blasting out their tunes. Doesn’t matter if it’s a soothing Celtic ballad or the latest folk metal from Korpiklaani, don’t do that. User earbuds.  And honestly, I recommend you don’t even do that.  To help your mind reset, allow the subtle sounds of the forest, wind, streams, and birds to play through your mind.  It’s also advisable that if someone is shouting “Bear!”, you can hear them.

  5. Makeup, Perfume, and Cologne: OK, maybe you’re on a hiking date and want to look and smell your best.  But honestly, if you’ve been asked on a hiking date, they want to know what you’re like without all that and want you to know what they are like without all that.  Also, and this can be a major problem on the trail, perfumes, scented conditioners, and shampoos, colognes, all smell really interesting to wasps, bears, coyotes, etc.  You can avoid their attention by not using colognes and perfumes and using unscented shampoos and soaps.  And if you are wearing makeup, and it’s a hot day and you’re sweating, well, sweaty makeup doesn’t look good. It’s also good to be courteous to other hikers.  They are there to experience the sights, sounds and yes, smells of nature.  Don’t be the hiker other hikers talk about when they get home.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your time on the trail and keep you from being labeled as a newbie. See you out there!

The humble hiking backpack has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past 70 years, shedding its clunky past to become a sleek, comfortable, and efficient companion on outdoor adventures.

Here's a historical journey through key technological advancements in hiking backpack design:

1950s - Stepping Out of the Canvas Comfort Zone:

  • 1950: Åke Nordin's wooden-framed pack (later evolved into Fjällräven) pioneered the concept of external frames, shifting weight off the back and improving ventilation.

  • 1952: Gerry Cunningham's pack introduced the first full-length zipper closure, revolutionizing accessibility and organization within the pack.

  • 1959: Lloyd Nelson's "Trapper Nelson's Indian Pack Board" popularized the term "backpack" and featured internal padding for greater comfort.

1960s - The Golden Age of External Frames:

  • 1967: Jansport's iconic Super Sack, made from repurposed vinyl bus seats, dominated the scene with its sturdy external frame and spacious capacity, becoming a symbol of the era's adventurous spirit.

  • 1967: Greg Lowe's groundbreaking internal frame prototype laid the foundation for modern designs, but wasn't yet commercially available.

1970s - Internal Frames Gain Traction:

  • 1973: Kelty's Tour Pack became the first commercially successful internal frame pack, featuring aluminum stays, compression straps, and a sternum strap for superior weight distribution and stability.

  • 1977: Lowe Alpine releases the first commercially available internal frame pack, the "Guide," paving the way for wider adoption.

  • Late 1970s: Jansport experiments with internal frame prototypes, hinting at their future shift.

1980s - Materials and Features Flourish:

  • 1980s: Lightweight, durable nylon replaces canvas as the preferred material, reducing pack weight and enhancing weather resistance.

  • 1980s: Adjustable hip belts and suspension systems emerge, further improving comfort and load distribution.

  • 1980s: Hydration bladders and pockets gain popularity, providing convenient access to water on the go.

1990s - Innovation Takes Flight:

  • 1990s: Advanced fabrics like breathable membranes and waterproof coatings enhance comfort and functionality in diverse weather conditions.

  • 1990s: Ergonomic designs and contoured panels improve backpack fit and reduce pressure points.

  • 1990s: Modular compartments and detachable accessories allow for increased customization and organization.

2000s - High-Tech Backpacks Emerge:

  • 2000s: Lightweight suspension systems with load-lifters optimize weight distribution and improve balance.

  • 2000s: Breathable mesh back panels enhance ventilation and reduce back sweat.

  • 2000s: Integrated rain covers and compression straps ensure gear protection in bad weather and better load stability.

Present Day - Ultra-Light and Sustainability Takes Center Stage:

2010s - Present:

  • Recycled materials and eco-friendly manufacturing processes become increasingly important for environmentally conscious adventurers.

  • Advanced suspension systems offer personalized fit options for optimal comfort and performance.

  • Super lightweight fabrics like Dyneema become popular.

  • Wider adoption of breathable mesh backs and straps for improved ventilation and reduced sweat build-up.

  • Rise of frameless packs, utilizing tension straps and internal suspension systems for impressive weight savings and adaptability.

  • Detachable components like hip belts, lids, and pockets for customized weight and feature adjustments.

  • Innovative technologies like solar panels and integrated electronics are being explored for the future of backpacks.

This journey of the backpack demonstrates how innovation and changing needs have shaped a piece of gear that is essential for millions of outdoor enthusiasts. The future of backpacks likely holds even more exciting advancements in comfort, technology, and sustainability, keeping our adventures comfortable and eco-friendly for years to come.

There’s ultra-light, lightweight, casual, and heavy gear that folks take on the trails.  Then there’s a category all on its own of “You brought what?”.

Here’s a list of ten things that I or other folks have brought on the trail which may not seem to be great idea, but definitely pay off.

(Note: as an Amazon Affiliate I will make a very small amount of money if you use any of the Amazon links below)

1.       Camp Towel – one of those fake chamois towels has shown up in a lot of places, but the trail? Yep. People have used them to wipe off condensation in tents and rainfly’s, dry off gear, wipe down sweat and rain before getting into the sleeping bag and more. They are super absorbent, light and a towel the size of a bandana is all you need. 

2.       Speaking of Bandanas – this is my catch-all cloth.  Wiping sweat from my brow as I hike, filtering out sand and grit in the water before it goes into the water filter, waving down a friend on the trail, (always buy brightly coloured bandanas), protecting ears and neck from sunburn, tying around a bandaged cut on my leg, wash cloth for my face and hands, etc.  Multi-purpose in paisley. 

3.       Deck of Cards – I never saw the benefit of bringing a deck of cards until a friend pulled out his deck and we spent an evening playing cards and laughing it up.  A deck of cards weighs very little and is a compact way to provide entertainment. 

4.       Duct Tape – I’ve always had this rolled up on my hiking poles, around my lighter and a couple of other places too.  It’s saved boots that have the soles coming loose, patched tents, rainflys, jackets, packs, and more.  You can reinforce seams that are starting to come loose, shore up a hiking pole that’s started to crack, prevent blisters, tape down bandages, emergency fire starter, mark your gear.  Duct tape is awesome. 

5.       Disco Ball – What!?!  Yes.  For one hiker stuck in a rainy tent, a little disco ball made all the difference in the world. The disco ball refracted the raindrops into a mesmerizing light show, transforming her cramped shelter into a personal dance party. 

6.       Bubble Wrap – A hiker has some items wrapped up in bubble wrap, and when he sprained his ankle, was able to use it as a makeshift splint providing support and padding.

7.       Tea Strainer – Being a tea aficionado, a hiker brought along their tea strainer.  On a particularly dusty trail they found it made a great way to filter out sand and grit from the water source, turning their luxury item into a survival tool. 

8.       Ziplock Bags – I use these a lot.  Food storage, food garbage storage, keep my electronics (batteries, back up battery for phone, phone, etc.) dry, collect water, collect dry tinder, even cook up freeze dried food in the freezer Ziplock bags.

9.       Trash Bags – Instead of wrapping your backpack in a cover, put a garbage bag (I recommend either the trash compactor or the heavy-duty contractor versions) in your pack and load everything into it. Cinch off the end with a twisty and you’re pretty much guaranteed to keep all your gear dry.  I’ve also used them to collect tinder, branches and other firewood and to keep it dry here in the Pacific NorthWET.  In a pinch you can make them into a rain jacket or rain skirt.  They also make good water collectors in the rain or just by scooping up a gallon or two of water from a lake or stream. 

10.   Hot Sauce – I’m not one for spicy foods most of the time, having been brought up on traditional English cooking.  Nonetheless, a little Tabasco in a freeze-dried meal or added to Top Ramen in the pot can help make the same old, same old, a little more interesting on the trail.

What have you brought on the trail?

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