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Super Squirrels Trekking Tutorial

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Guest taken by the wind...

~ gee Dave, I hope you aren't stalling on account of you don't have a sleeping bag anymore.......  :unsure: 

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Sleeping system-  This is one of the most important part of your trekking equipment.  Nothing helps an aching tired body more than a blissful night's sleep. 

 

1) Sleeping bags-  Sleeping bags come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, tempature ratings and

price.  It can be dazzling and confusing to find the right bag for a novice. Here are some things to

consider when shopping...

   

    A) Tempature rating-  This is undoubtably the most important factor to consider when shopping for a good sleeping bag.  A good rule of thumb is to purchase a bag that is at least 10 degrees colder

than the coldest night you expect to see on the trail.  If you expect to see temps in the 40's at night,

then get yourself a good 30 degree bag. 

 

    B)  Fill-  Basically this is the material that is used to insulate the bag.  Fill comes in basically two

flavors synthetic and down (feathers).  Synthetic bags tend to be heavier and will not compress down

to as small a size as down.  Synthetic materials will not lose much of it's insulatiing factor even when

wet.  It is also machine washable.  Down bags are extremely light.  They compress in their stuff sacks down to a small size.  If down gets wet it is useless.  The feathers will clump up and make a ball that is hard to get loose again after you dry your bag.  I find that down bags also seem to retain odors more than synthetic.  Down also requires a special cleaners to allow the feathers to fluff back up for maximum efficiency.  Down bags also require you to use a commercial front loading washing machine, the kind that you find at any laundry mat.  When purchasing a down bag note the feather count.  Feather counts will range somewhere between 600-850. The higher the count the better insulated the bag is.  Also the more expensive.

 

    c)  Size-  I know a lot of people go to a store to buy a bag and don't consider if the bag is even big enough for them till they are out in the woods someplace.  Don't be afraid to pull a bag out of the box and try it on in the store before you purchase it.  Width is actually more important to watch than length.  If the bag is too constrictive  then your arms will be bunched up around you and fall asleep constantly keeping you awake.  Store bought bags will generally range between 28-34 inches in width.  Wider the better.  Just for a refference I'm about 5'9" and around 200lbs and I like a 34" wide bag.  Most bags will range from 72-96 inches in length. Make sure your feet DO NOT touch the bottom of the bag when your laying in it.  My feet get cold if they come in contact with the bottom of the bag on cold nights.  Some people also like to toss their socks, tshirts or other clothes they want to keep warm down at the bottom of the bags while they sleep during the winter.  I find this doesn't work as well as people say.  When it's winter  you need air space in your bag to keep warm, the more stuff you put in your bag the less air space you will have to keep you warm.  It's better to pull you clothes into the bag in the morning before you get up for about 10-15 minutes.

 

  d) Shape-  Bags will come in 3 shapes.  Rectangular bags will give you a lot more room up by your

shourlders for those people who toss and turn all night and will help prevent having your arms fall

asleep.  Rectangular bags are not so good in the winter becuase they tend to let blasts of frigid air

shoot down your spine in the middle of the night if you are not bundled in tight.  Mummy bags are

better for wintercamping.  they keep heat trapped in your bag better and with the hood pulled up

around your head will kep you toasty all night long.  Personally I can't stand the hood as I feel like it's

too constricting for my taste.  So I use it to keep my pillow from sliding out from under my head at

night.  Last but not least is the rectangular mummy bag.  This is a recent innovation over the last few

years.  It is a mummy bag up at the top and a rectangular bag at the bottom.  It gives your legs room to flop around and keeps the heat trapped in at the top with the mummy part.  Not as popular as the other two types of bags.

 

Sleeping pads-  Pads generally come in either a solid styrofoam pad or in the inflatable variety.  Both kinds of pads give a insulating factor between yourself and the ground.  The thicker the warmer.  My 2" pad gives me a extra 5 degrees of warmth to my bag.  I have a 3" pad made by Wendell that gives me alsmot 10 degrees.  But it's too heavy and large for average trekking.  Styrofoam pads are extrememly lightweight.  You can sit on them more easily than inflatables.  No maintenance is required.  And yes, you can cut a round piece out of it which makes a passable frisbee or eating plate.  Inflatable pads are far more comfortable.  they are slightly heavier and you will need to carry a tiny patch kit in case a spark or stick makes a tiny hole in your pad.  Duct tape WILL NOT fix holes in a inflatable pad.  Use a kit.  Thermarerst is the most popular brand of inflatable pad.  I personally carry a 2 inch think, extra length, luxury edition pad.  It set me back almost $100 but I think it's worth every cent when I can lay it down anywhere and not feel every rock or stick underneath me.  The wider your pad the better. 

 

***Super Squirrel hint***-  Do not store your sleeping bags or pads in their bags or rolled up.  Sleeping bags should be stored in a large, breathable, cloth bag or hung in a closet.  Self inflating pads should be stored unrolled with the valve left open.  Storing these items rolled up will cause the fill material inside to lose it's ability to loft (fluff and fill with air) over time. 

 

Pillows-  Lots of trekkers do not bring pillows with them.  They will take a shirt and stuff their other clothes inside it and use that for a pillow.  I will do this if I am on a LONG hike and trying to save weight.  the only draw back to this is that if you are out for a long time you will wind up stuffing sweaty, stinky,  foul clothing under your head which you will have to smell all night long.  After about 5 days in the woods though you probably won't smell them over your own odor.  LOL.  I do lug a travel pillow that I purchase at WalMart for about $3.  When they get nasty just toss them and get a new one after the trip is over.

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Awesome, Dave! :hug: :kiss:

 

I really like what you said about the size of the bag and the style.  Personally, I prefer the rectangular ones for the same reason you stated.  I switch from side to side all night long and I'd feel claustrophobic in a mummy bag.

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Guest taken by the wind...

~ Great info. Super Squirrel!  :thumbsup:  I had no idea not to store a sleeping bag in that stuff sack....   :whistle:   oops.gif

 

hope I haven't lost my loft!  :scared:

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In today's lesson I will cover tents and portable shelters.  Most of the trails I hike are in national forests or preserves which limits where you can put a tent.  The general guidelines are that you can only put a tent up in established tent sites or you have to be at least 1/4 mile from a shelter and at least 100ft from a trail.  This is to ensure there is a low impact on the land.  Leave no trace. 

 

Tarps-  Tarps are great shelters.  They can come in a variety of sizes and are usually made of either canvas (heavy) or plastic (light).  They are lightweight and compactable.  They give you plenty of air and don't ruin views of the sun rising in the morning.  You keep that feeling of being part of nature.  The only real problem isn't with the tarp but it's their usage.  As I said that some of these places are in protected forests so rangers and hut stewards frown upon people tying off tarps to endangered trees.  If high winds hit the tarps they can rip limbs off the poor trees.  If the campsite is in a especially delicate enviroment then there will be platforms for people to put tents on to keep them ff the ground and reduce impact.  Securing the bottom of your tarp to the platform might prove a bit tricky in this circumstance.

 

Tents-  Tents are the most popular kind of portable shelter.  A good tent can keep you dry and bug free in the worse of predicaments.  Most tents are made of permeated nylon, meaning that the nylon has a material imbedded in the weave to attempt to waterproof it.  Here are things to consider when looking for a tent....

   

     a) Size-  Now for trekking purposes I want you to consider the 1 room tents only.  Multi room tents are just to dang big to lug up and down hills.  How many people will be sleeping in the tent?  Are they all adults or will there be kids?  Tent sizes generally come in 1-man, 2-man, 3-man, etc.  A good rule for buying tents is to get a tent that is 1 size bigger than the maximum number of people who will be sleeping in it.  For 2 people get a 3-man tent.  For 3 get a 4-man tent.  When these manufacturers grade their tent sizes they must have used Oompa Lumpas or Munchkins from OZ.  2 average men in a 2-man tent had better be very close friends,  There will be very little room for tossing and turning or even having a place inside to put clothes when you get ready to sleep. 

 

     b)  3 or 4 season tent-   Most tents you will see being used are 3 season tents.  Basically you can tell a 3 season from a 4 season tent by the rainfly on the tent.  If the sides of the rainfly go all the way to ground level then the tent is probably a 4 season tent.  4 seson tents are heavier becuase they have larger rainflies and are of a more durable construction due to the rigorous conditions they must endure during the winter.  4 season tents can also have multiple walls.  Now I'm just talking the walls, not the rainlfly.  Multiple walls are like your house with a outside section and inside section with space in the middle.  The air pockets in between the walls creates a insulating barrier from the weather.  They work great but raise the price of the tent dramatically.  Now don't get me wrong.  you can use a 3 season tent in the winter (I do) but you had better have a good sleeping bag to keep you snug and warm when those cold winter storms hit. 

 

     c) Doors-  Yes doors.  Some good 2 and 3 man tents come with 2 doors.  This lets you get up in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature without having to climb over your slumbering companion waking him/her.  This prevents you from discoveing that your sleeping bag has been filled with snow, dead things, or other nasty items upon your return. 

 

     d)  Vestibules-  A vestibule is a area created by the rainfly outside your tent that gives you a place to put a few items that will be somewhat protected from the elements.  It is a great place for boots.  However.... a vestibule will not keep creepy things from crawling in your boots in the middle of the night.  It will keep your boots dry though.  Not all tents have vestibules.  Vestibules are usually located over doors.  Multiple doors... multiple vestibles usually. 

 

   e)  Rainfly-  A rainfly is a extra piece of material tha covers the outside of your tent to protect it from rain, snow, bird droppings, pine pitch etc.  A rainfly should never actually touch the walls of the tent.  Not all tents come with rainflies. I own a 2 man single wall tent manufactured by Eureka,  It has no rainfly.  Now it's not that bad but just like that old pup tent you had when you were a kid every time you touch the sides water will drip in.   If it doesn't have a rainfly then I would really reconsider purchasing it.  My hiking friends own the exact same tent and I've seen them trying to sleep in a rain storm with their raingear on inside their tent. 

 

Bivy Sack-  A bivy sack is essentially a tent that is just big enough for you to slide your sleeping bag into.  They fit 1 person only.  Personally i have never owned or tried a bivy.  I have heard very good things about them.  They are extremely light and compact.  The more pricey ones are very waterproof.  There are only 2 drawbacks that I can see.  First is that you can't put anything inside the bivy with you that you'd like kept out of rain or snow like your boots.  Second is that They are not free standing.  A free standing tent is one with multiple poles that don't need to be tied down to keep the tent from collapsing.  Bivys have a hooded area over your head that is like a small tent.  there is a outer shell to protect you from the weather.  Then there is inner mesh that can be revealed to allow fresh air in and keep bugs out on those beautiful star filled nights.  Bivys have a short pole that keeps the hooded area of your head but this needs to be tied down for the pole to work properly.  If you are forced to use a tent platform on a trail this could be a problem.  Some people don't use the pole and just lay it on their heads.  I think I'd feel a little stifled doing it like that.

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Me too!  Hurry up, Dave!  I want to get a mat instead of my air mattress unless I get a better air pump.  My arms were killing me after using Ashley's bicycle pump for an hour!  :grin:

 

Ya know how pumps only move air as you push down on the handle?  Well they make pumps that actually work in both directions.  It cuts the inflate time in 1/2.  I use one for my inflateable kayak.

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Yes!  To me, Dave, that's the hardest decision of all...what to take to eat.  Or how to find food to eat along the way.  Being such a city woman, I wouldn't know a spinach leaf from poison ivy out in the wild.  If it doesn't come prepackaged from my grocery store, I'll never recognize it. :blushing:

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Well I really don't eat anything I find along the way plant wise.  Currently I'm trying to get all my gear ready well ahead of time so I can shoot a video of all my stuff and some of the prep I do before I leave.  It will give every a exact count of what I take with me.  This trip will be 9 straight days in the woods.  No car in the middle this time to cut our load in half.  So I have to pack light light light. Food will account for almost 1/2 of my total pack weight. 

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Well I really don't eat anything I find along the way plant wise.  Currently I'm trying to get all my gear ready well ahead of time so I can shoot a video of all my stuff and some of the prep I do before I leave.  It will give every a exact count of what I take with me.  This trip will be 9 straight days in the woods.  No car in the middle this time to cut our load in half.  So I have to pack light light light. Food will account for almost 1/2 of my total pack weight. 

 

Well, my knees won't let me do a long trek like that anymore, so I'm looking forward to the video of the event.  (Yes, I am living vicariously through Dave on this one!).  My weekend trips will have to do for now (just as soon as fall hits, I'm packing it into the woods! Whooohooo!).

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Food sounds good something I havent thought a lot about.

 

Good tips on the tents. 100% agree on the 3 man tent = two man tent.. I got a 3man 3 season tent from Mec so far its been good. Fit me and askdamice plus some gear pretty well.

 

For bivy bags i can say they can rock. I used it when i was in the Forces and it worked great. I didnt have a fancy one or anything though just a water proof bag. One thing to be carefull of water proof is its also air proof so you can sufficate and or sweat like a dog.

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In this lesson I am going to cover food.  Food for trekking purposes should be dehdrated or something that will not spoil easily over time or under weather conditions such as heat or rain.  I know your saying to yourself "But Dave if all you have to do is add water for dehydrated food then how much is there to know about food?"  Well that's pretty true.  Just adding water is most of it but it's not ALL there is.  Let's start at the begining with ....

 

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FOOD...  Dehydrated food is the way to go.  First off it's light.  When your out trekking you are trying to watch every ounce of weight you can.  Items that are in cans or jars are extrememly HEAVY.  Even after you eat the contents you still have the container to deal with.  You can't just toss them aside, so you will have to wind up lugging that weight over the rest of your journey till you find a suitable refuse container to get rid of them.  The cans / jars are messier than the foil packages too.  They won't fold up to take up less room in your pack also. 

 

Now dehydrated foods are put out by such companies as Mountain House, Alpine Aire, Natural Foods, and about a dozen other similiar companies.  Even the US military puts out MREs that are excellent for trekking.  Now I'm not going to get into which ones taste better.  I'll leave that up to you to determine which ones you enjoy.  All these foods can essentially be prepared right in their foil packages which eliminates having to clean dishes.  Freeing up time for collecting firewood, relaxing or throwing sticks at your friends.  Cooking your meal is easy.  Most packages require 2 cups of boiling water.  I like to add about a 1/4 cup extra to ensure all the contents gets thuroughly saturated. Don't forget to remove the little silicone oxygen absorbing package before you do add the water.  Not that it will hurt anything if you do forget.  It's just a pain in the butt to fish it out of your lasagna or whatever after.  After you've added your water it's a simple matter of waiting 10-12 minutes after your mixed it with the water.  Now you might be starving after a hard days travel and you might be tempted to not wait the full amount of time.  This is a mistake as you will wind up with crunchy food instead of delectible morsels.  Waiting up to 15 minutes is better to ensure that the entire contents gets properly saturated.  Don't worry.  It's really hard to overcook the food.  Now these pouches come in 1 and 2 serving sizes. I find that the 1 serving variety just don't fill me.  The 2 serving size is just about the perfect amount for me.  Just like which flavors you like I suggest you eat a few meals before you head out.  You don't either want to come up hungry after eating the single size or you don't want to wind up with half a pouch of food left over to attract critters either.  Now I haven't had a MRE since I was in the military some 20+ years ago.  Some trekkers do prefer the MREs to carry.  The benefits of MREs is the millions of dollars that the US goverment has spent on research to provide a meal to a soldier that will keep him fighting at maximum efficiency.  These meals are made to keep you going.  They don't taste bad either.  The MRE's also come with a small amount of luxuries such as tiny packets of salt, pepper, coffee, sugar, a bottle of tobasco sauce and other such items.  They are nice to have.  I won't wind up using half of that stuff and I don't like to carry more weight than I need to.  But that's me.

 

Other great dehydrated foods to bring are ramen noodles or other pastas.  Instant potatos are one of my favorites.  They come in handy cups also.  Dehydrated fruits are fantastic snacks for food energy,  Dehydrated veggies such as peas or corn can be tossed into a pot of boiling water with a bullion cube to make a tasty soup.  Light and easy to fix.  A home deydrator can make these items far cheaper that the commerical stuff.  Home made meals will require just a bit more work to prepare than the prepackaged meals. Rice is another great staple to eat on the trail.

 

Let's not forget dehydrated mixes for drinking purposes.  Teas, kool-aid mixes, coccoa and coffee are also great item to take trekking.  They add a bit of flavor to the endless amounts of water you will be consuming.     

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POTS...  Now most dehydrated meals require a certain amount of boiling water to cook them.  Now there is 2 ways to acquire this.  First is the try and true method used down from the beginning of time.  The cooking pot and heat.  I should say boiling pot.  99% of the time all your going to do is boil water in it.  These pots usually come in either steel, aluminum, or titanium.  Steel is solid, heats slower than the other, and is heavier too.  Aluminum heats well, is lighter than steel, isn't as durable and it's cheap.  Titanium is the Rolls Royce of metals.  It's ultra light.  It heats and cools far faster than the others, it's as strong as steel, but it's costly.  I paid $80 for my MSR 2 liter Titan pan.  I think it is one of the best purchases I've ever made camping wise.  Right up there with my 2" Theremarest sleeping pad.  The titanium pan will actually save fuel because of the shorter time it takes to boil the water.  The second way is by chemical reaction.  Now different meals work this in different ways but esentially you use pour a small amount of water into a pouch that contains a mixture of magnesium and iron.  This mixture heats up to around 140 degrees.  You use this to heal your meal.  No boiling water required.  they are a bit more expensive than the standard meals and they do have a bit more leftover garbage (aka cardboard and plastic) than the others also.  The new MREs work this way.  I've heard they work pretty good also.  If that not enough for you, I recently read where all you do is push a button and it will heat a meal that's inside.  I have yet to see any of these though.

 

 

STOVES...  Stoves like everything else comes in a dizzying assortment of styles, brand names, sizes and uses.  What it all really boils down to is what your burning for fuel.  There are 5 different fuels for trekking stoves.  And these are...

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  1. WHITE GAS...  If you've ever used Coleman fuel for lanterns or those large green cooking systems then you've used white gas.  This liquid fuel is one of the favorite fuels among trekkers.  It gives good consistant heat.  A small amount of liquid fuels last a while.  The fuel is easy to get at most outdoors or hardware stores all over the world. (Note- Some white gas stoves will actually let you use unleaded gasoline to cook with. Now I've tried this and I think it leaves a slight taste in what you cook or boil but it's great if it's all that's readily available.)  White gas stoves are very compact and light.  One drawback for white gas is the fact it's a liquid fuel.  There is the chance of spilling the fuel and creating a considerable fire quickly.  I remember one night trying to sleep in a leanto while 3 guys were heating water outside when they spilled fuel and set fire to the shelter.  Together we got it put out pretty quick with no damage to the shelter.  I've had similar problems (but smaller) with my MSR Whisperlite stove a couple times before I gave it up.  I am not saying it isn't a great fuel but it is a issue to consider.  The second problem is in cold weather they are extrememly difficult to light.  The cold air doesn't allow the gas to vaporize enough to allow for combustion.  Most winter trekkers will carry a tube of fire paste.  Theyy a bead of fire paste on their heating tube and let it burn.  This allows the stove to preheat enought to allow the fuel to light easier.  The fire paste is a extra thing to carry and is also highly flammable.  Although it does come in handy for lighting campfires in the winter too. 

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  2.  PROPANE.  Propane is what everyone uses in their bar -b-que grills.  It is available all over.  It burns clean and gives nice even heat for cooking.  It lights easily even in very cold conditions.  Propane stoves can be extrememly small like the MSR PocketRocket that sits on small canisters of propane blend canisters.  These canisters I find run out of fuel quick.  I use a Coleman one burner stove that screws on to one of those green tanks you see in every hardware store.  Now it's a bit heavy and the tank is slightly bulky but it lights consistantly for me.  While other people are messing around putting their white gas stoves together I've got my water heating already.  It will heat as fast as white gas comparitively.  White gas and propane will heat a quart of water in about 2-3 minutes

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  3.  CHEMICAL FUEL TABLETS...  These are those tablets that are used in Esbit stoves.  There very popular in the military as well.  They don't heat water as fast as white gas or propane but the stove and fuel are EXTREMELY light.  the tablets can also be used to start campfires if need be.  Even though this system is used by the US military they are not that popular among trekkers.  The tablets will leave a slight residue on your pans also.  It will take 8-10 minutes to heat a quart of water.  Sterno also makes a canister of solid fuel that works much the same way. 

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  4.  WOOD.  Now wood is all over the  place in the outdoors.  No.  Really!  This is where wood comes from.  Wood can be exttremely hard to light if it's wet or there is a strong wind.  It takes a long time to get enough coals to cook with properly.  It burns dirty and will leave black soot on the outside of your pan.  It is also extremely hard to control the temp of the fire for cooking so heating time for a quart of water can vary from 10-15 minutes to just just a few minutes.

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  5.  ALCOHOL.  I have been completely surprised at how many people use alcohol stoves.  They can be super small and light as in the case of the Halcon stove.  Dirt cheap also.  Fuel is fairly easy to find in any pharmacy or supermarket.  It does take a bit longer than white gas or propane to heat a quart of water.  Approx 5-8 minutes to heat a quart of water.  Alcohol burns clean and odorless.  There is the liquid fuel thing that still makes me nervous.

 

WATER...  OK technically I don't think water is food but I'm going to cover it anyways just a little bit.  Now I'm not going to cover water purification.  If all your doing is purifying water and not filtering it then you've got bigger problems on your mind than if you spagetti has a slightly odd tang to it.  Water filtration is something to consider though.  Well filtered water is important for a good healthy meal or drink.  To get good clean water you'll need a filtering system.  They generally come in two types......

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  1.  FILTER IN A BOTTLE.  This is simply a squeeze type water bottle with a filter set on the inside.  You unscrew the top.  Remove the filter.  Fill the bottle with water tobe cleaned.  Replace the filter and top.  Drink.  That simple.  These work pretty good.  I use one while trekking because there is little for it to go wrong mechanically.  It's light. You can't filter a lot of water very quickly with it.  I have had 1 bad episode where my bottle filter failed me.  I was filtering water that was seeping out of a rock face.  No matter how many times I filtered it remained a slightly rust color.  We boiled the water for 15 minutes on top of that but we all still got bad stomach and intestinal problems from it.  That was once in about 10 years of using this system.

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  2.  PUMP TYPE FILTER.  The PUR Hiker is a excellent example of this.  Pumps will filter a lot of water very quickly.  You can purchase extra fine filters that will remove particles all the way down to the the virus level (1/2 micron).  Pumps tend to be heavier and bulkier than bottles because of the extra hoses.  Besides you still have to carry a bottle to put your water in for drinking.  But for good clean water nothing beats a pump.

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Excellent Dave as usual. This should be on our web page.

 

Ill have to give this>

 

:squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel:

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Guest taken by the wind...

~ Wow...Thanks Dave!  :clap:

 

I never knew there was so much stuff to know about trekking.  :thumbsup:

 

I know you don't want to get into what your favorite dehydrated meals are, but are there any out there that are so BAD that you could let us know never to try them?    :whistle:  (Just wondering.)  And... are there any meals that you and your friends ALL unanimously like a lot?  :unsure:

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