Monday, November 28, 2011

The most neglected issues in backpacking books

Pooping, eating and drinking, preferably not at the same time.

On my old website my most popular blogs were about Dan Brown's ridiculous books and taking a dump in the woods. I figured I would re-post this for posterity :-) Besides, it gives ignorant morons something to say, like "John knows a lot about poop". Non morons will say something like "John knows a lot about sanitation", but, we shouldn't critique those who critique us. I am not sure why, but, I am told we shouldn't.

So there you are in the wilderness and you need to take a dump. What do you do?

This is a really big deal. Dysentery has killed more people than bombs and an easy week long trip in a very public national park can turn into a death trip easily when back packers are not careful.

First you need to have several things handy. I carry two gallon sized freezer bags, one for the stuff I need to take a dump and one to put those things in after I take a dump.

I use standard zip-loc sandwich bags. I put a pair of nitrile gloves and two wet naps in each bag. I typically plan for 2 dumps a day and take a couple extra, just in case. I typically use pocket kleenex as toilet paper.

Let us get ready to evacuate our bowels.

Dump out the zip loc sandwich bag and leave it open with the rest of your stuff.

Put your nitrile or latex gloves on.

First pull a few pieces of paper out and dig a hole about 8 inches deep using a trowel.

Evacuate your bowels, careful not to dump on the back of your clothes or boots.

Carefully wipe yourself at least once, twice is better. Put the used TP into the zip-loc sandwich bag. Don't close it yet.

Use a wet nap on your butt. Do it, clean yourself carefully. The cleaner the better. Put the used wet nap in the zip-loc sandwich bag. Don't close it yet.

Fill in the hole.

You need to remove your gloves and put them in the zip-loc bag. Pulling off the first glove is easy, just make sure the glove turns inside out. Slip two fingers into the wrist of the second glove and peel it down so it also turns inside out. Put the gloves in the zip-loc sandwich bag.

Carefully push the air out of the zip-loc bag and seal it up. Put it inside the gallon bag for packing stuff out. Wash your hands with a second wet-nap. Wipe the trowel or shovel handle and put the used wet-nap in the gallon pac-out bag.

Roll up the zip-loc gallon bag, evacuate the air from the bag. Seal it. and put it in your pack.

Sometime during this process you may want to pull up your pants, however, that part is optional.

If you are carrying sanitizer now is the time to use it.

You may want to wash your hands and this is where water comes in. Don't waste water on hand washing.

I suggest carrying 2 gallons of water. I actually carry 2 64oz bottles, 2 liter and a half bottles and 1 22oz bottle so I don't carry 2 gallons, but, then I don't actually have to take my own advice.

Plan your trip to include one water source per day. Make sure you will have at least 2 gallons of water at each point.

I have a nylon water bag I use for showering and wash water. They don't sell what I have any more, it is a nylon bag with a replaceable bladder that I bought for $10 at Campmor. I really like it. I have a shower attachment with a tube on it.

If I hang the bag up high I can rig a gravity drip through my First Need water purifier. If I leave it in the sun the dark nylon warms the water for a luke-warm shower.

Getting water is a very specific process and most people do it wrong. 99% of the time doing it wrong won't kill you.

I put about an ounce of chlorine bleach in a bag of water and use my handy water bag as a sanitizer solution on my hands and cooking gear after I wash up. I also use it to sterilize my water filter before using my filter. It does not hurt to sterilize your water bottles either.

Do not put the end of your filter hose or pre-filter hose in a natural water source.

Fill up a collapsible nylon water bucket with water from a natural source. Wait about half an hour for stuff to settle. You can put some chlorine in the bucket to kill anything if you want. I typically do this.

Scoop out any floaties from the bucket. Filter the water from the bucket into your water bottles using whatever filter system you use.

When you finish filling your water bottles and drinking as much as you can add a little more chlorine and back flush your filter and pre-filter. Wash everything with the sanitizer solution. Dry your gear out (air dry is fine) and put it away.

Maybe you notice that I whine a lot about sanitation. I used to run a restaurant and I was a sanitarian licensed by the state of Illinois. The important part is killing germs. Sure, 99% of the time you will be okay if you are not as sanitation conscious as possible. That 1% of the time that it matters will be very, very important and proper sanitation will save your life or the life(lives) of your companion(s).

Whine about using chlorine in the back country. Sanitation is important. You can minimize sanitation, but, truthfully if you are worried about things like ammonia and chlorine in the back country you should lobby to eliminate wild life urination (this may make you a hero in some communities with many popular nightclubs).

My rule of thumb on food is figure out how many calories you eat during a normal day at home and then pack twice that many calories per day of back packing. This is very important. Take enough calories with you!

Most people seem to take about 1500 to 2000 calories a day when they back-pack. This can cause constipation and delirium depending on how hard the back packing is. Nice flat trails like South Manitou Island? Not an issue. Greenstone ridge on Isle Royal? Yeah buddy, pack some calories. Minong Ridge on Isle Royal? Take a bunch of calories. Add another full days calories for every thousand feet in elevation.

We really need some kind of portable caloric burning meter that measures things like blood oxygen and how much carbon dioxide we exhale. Until then we have to estimate.

Safe weight loss is burning about 1000 calories a day more than we take in. Trust me, back-packing can burn much more. The higher we increase that number the more stress on our system and the more likely we are to keel over a drop dead. Yep, dead. There are a bunch of reasons for this and I won't get into all of them. It has to do with blood chemistry, insulin and oxygen as well as other schtuff.

My first real back-pack trip I lost 30 pounds in 10 days. A pound is about 4000 calories. I lost 120,000 calories in 10 days. In other words I burned 12,000 more calories per day than I consumed. At the end of the trip I was delirious and there are probably doctors out there saying "damn lucky you're not dead". My feeling exactly.

Ignorance can kill us.

No comments: