Cleaning up after a trip

After all the fun and excitement , after the long drive home, with that hamburger/steak salad from the celebration dinner sitting comfortably in your stomach, it’s time to clean up the gears.  Since we have a central deposit for the gears, cleaning things up well will really help the next group.  Therefore, in no particular order, this is how we usually clean up:

Hiking Sticks


We usually soak the handles of the hiking sticks in soapy water and then air dry those in the sun.  That usually helps to clean up the gunk that are left on the handles.




After removing all the items from the dozens of small pockets, we just wipe down the dirt on the outside with a wet towel.




For any electronics (whether it be GPS or headlight), I typically removed the battery and then put everything in a Ziploc bag.  That should prevent battery corrosion from destroying the unit.


Sleeping Bags


We usually just air out the bags in the sun, unless something really catastrophic happened that required washing.


Once the bags are aired out, I usually put it in a cotton duffel bag.  The key is to maintain the fluff and not compressing it.  Thus leaving the sleeping bags all rolled up in a stuff sack is probably the WORST that you can do (okay, maybe right after washing the bag with regular detergent).


Using topo maps in Garmin Basecamp with a Mac

As budget-minded backpacker, it is good to know that the good people at GPSFileDepot have made available some very detailed topo maps that are free to download.   These topo maps can be imported into the Garmin Basecamp software that can be used to map out a track, transfer maps to handheld units and so on.  Very powerful and convenient tools!

First step is to get to the GPSFileDepot website.  Apart from maps for download, it also has many excellent tutorials on using GPS, topo maps, etc.  Highlighted below is the link to look for maps in any particular state:


For this example I selected the state of California and was then transferred to another page with the list of available maps.  The one I circled was the California state topo map.


Once you click the link, it will send you to a page with the options to download either the windows or Mac version of the topo maps.


Apart from Garmin Basecamp, the other software you need to install maps on a Mac computer is the Garmin MapManager which is also available for free.  With MapManager, you can install the topo map you just downloaded.  Note that the topo maps are in the gmapi format.


Once you have installed the map, it will be available in your Basecamp.  You can make it visible by going to “Maps” on the menu bar.


Viola!  You are now on your way to view and map out your next adventure.


Books and volumes had been written on this one topic alone and I don’t have anything novel to offer.  I am just going to illustrate the concept of layering from my personal experience and maybe that helps you to decide on attire on your next trip.

The concept of layering is quite simple, the problem is to find something that work.  There are mainly three layers – base, insulation, and protection.


Base layer is what the name suggests, clothes that is next to your skin. The problem with wearing your typical cotton t-shirt is that cotton absorb your sweat/moisture and makes you hot in the summer, but cold in the winter. Thus the purpose for base layer is moisture wicking. In layman’s term, it is your Quick-dry t-shirt that you wear to jog or to shoot hoops. There are obviously long and short sleeve, as well as different thickness that you have to adjust base on weather. Fancier options include merino wool, Capilene and Coolmax (which are both synthetic fibers).
Insulation layer is likewise what the name suggests, a layer that retains heat. Air is a poor heat conductor and therefore the better this layer traps air, the better. Your fleece jacket or down jacket (AKA puffy jacket) will fit the bill. For down jacket, typically the higher the number (500, 600, 800, etc), the more down the jacket packs in and the better it insulates… and this insulation will be gone if your down jacket gets wet. Fleece jacket however will retain heat even when it is wet, though it is not as compressible as a down jacket.
The purpose of the protection layer is to guard against wind, rain and snow but also to let your perspiration to escape, or breathable (which otherwise would condense within and cause you to feel chilled). Also known as hard shell, there are lots of options to choose from, ranging from a nylon poncho (weather-resistant but not breathable), to a waterproof jacket, and to a windproof jacket (which might not be water-resistant). According to ultrahiker Andrew Skurka, there are currently no silver bullet in this department, and over time the water resistance will diminish as the chemical coating on your jacket fades. There are aftermarket wash that you can use to recoat, however.

With that being said, the picture below shows my most used setup.  I don’t know if that’s “correct”, but this kept me warm when we were camping out in the snow.  Maybe because I accidentally caught on fire, but that’s a different story…

1 – polyester long sleeve shirt, 2 – light to mid-weight fleece jacket, 3 – water-resistant (and fire proof?) hardshell


P.S. What about soft-shell?
Softshell is a type of jacket that combines the protection and insulation layer, as shown in the picture below.  I haven’t felt confident enough to use it on a trip yet, though for daily errands it works well.  They tend to be more expensive, so I would personally avoid them unless you find a good deal (or receive one as a gift as I did!)


Happy camping!

Further Reading

  1. REI layering basics
  2. How to layer clothing for each season
  3. Layering guide at Sierra Trading Post

Using the Garmin etrex 20 – Recording a track

One thing we want to do through this website is to record waypoints and tracks of our trips for future reference.  This is a post that is going to be part one of a series on how to use our Garmin etrex 20 for that purpose.

Here I picked my daily trail from parking to work.  I turned on the unit and it quickly picked up the satellites and my position fix follows, showing where I was on the map:


As I started moving, the unit also picked up my speed.  Notice there was no time to destination since I haven’t set the destination for this demo.  Notice the blue line showing my track.


As I approached a major landmark on the trail, i.e. the yellow parking permit dispenser:


I could mark that as a waypoint by clicking “back”, and then select “mark waypoint.”  I can put in more descriptions of the waypoint in the following screen if I wanted to:



As I approached my destination, I could see the waypoint I just marked on my track.  Notice the “fish” icon slightly behind the blue triangle.


After I have arrived my destination, I can then save the track by clicking “back”, followed by “Track manager”



Quite easy to use!  Next time I will be demonstrating how to connect the Garmin to a computer and use the Garmin software “Basecamp” to export the track and look at the various stats of this particular track.  I am sure the GPS is more functional than what I am showing but let’s take that one step at a time!