Ten Tips to Help You Adventure Smarter
If you're an experienced adventurer you'll likely know many or all of these, but not everyone is an expert. The tips below will save you money, keep you smiling, and maybe even keep you alive.
Google Maps offline
No cell service, no problem. Just head into the Google Maps app on your phone before your trip, download a map to the area that you'll be traveling in and you're good to go. Offline maps provides turn by turn GPS when there's no cell service. This one is a bit of a no brainer, but we still talk with people all the time who don't seem to know about it. The process is fairly straightforward and YouTube has plenty of clips on how they work.
The best single piece of comfort gear that we've ever purchased. Being able to wash the stink off your body after a long day feels great, but a lot of times there's no shower around. Finding a truck stop sucks and can get pricey on long road trips. Shower toga lets you shower wherever you are with just a jug of water. Leaving a gallon of water in your car in the summer months leaves it nice and warm when you get back to your car and have an itch to get clean. Or, toss it in your backpack with a 2 oz. Dr Bronner's liquid soap on longer backpacking trips. The first time we used Shower Toga was on a 228 mile Appalachian Trail backpack years ago and it turned out to be our favorite piece of gear when it was all said and done. Being able to wash off hiker funk every few days with some privacy is awesome. Find a steam, collect water, and you're good to go. Just make sure to shower at least 100 feet from any stream or body of water. We've been packing it on longer backpacking trips ever since and have had numerous people ask us about it throughout the years. Out of the box it weighs just 3 oz. Check it out on their website.
It's no secret that the best hiking trail app on the market has a paid Pro version, but have you tried it? If not, you need to. There are several reasons to purchase the Pro version, but the two biggest are offline hiking trail maps, the ability to create custom maps, and off-route notifications. The latter has saved our asses several times. If you accidentally take the wrong split in the trail or wander off trail the app alerts you. Great feature, but offline maps and creating custom maps are the best features in our opinion. Offline maps allows you to download the trail map so when you're in an area where there's no cell service you still have a map to lead you in the right direction. Creating custom maps is huge too. While AllTrails has a massive inventory of trails on its app, there's also a lot not listed. For example, when we picked up a copy of Maren Horjus's Backpacker Hidden Gems: 100 Greatest Undiscovered Hikes Across America we found several routes not listed on AllTrails. In all of three minutes we were able to create a custom map on their website and sync it with our phone for our backpack the following weekend. Added in 2023, the Preview Route feature in the app also allows users to view an animated video of the trail to get a better feel for the route when planning a hike or backpack.
America The Beautiful Pass
If you're planning a road trip with multiple national parks that require entrance fees or plan on visiting a number of them throughout the year, this is a no brainer. The pass gives you access to more than 2,000 national recreation areas managed by five federal agencies without paying an entrance fee. Even better, the proceeds go towards improving all the recreation areas you visit. They can be purchased on the USGS website or at your local REI. They're good for 12 months and the clock doesn't start ticking until the first time you use it, not from the time of purchase.
Brush up on your animal tracks. We'll never forget the time backpacking through Colorado many years ago and saw what we believed to be mountain lion tracks near where we were going to camp for the night. We were constantly looking over our shoulders only to later find out that they were either a coyote or dog tracks. It's also important to learn about their scat as well. Piles of shit can help you more than you know. Anything to help identify what animals are in your area will help you remain safe and also just have some peace of mind. Backpacker.com has a decent write up on it and worth a look. iTrack Wildlife is a great app worth looking into as well.
Leave No Trace
It's a very simple principle. What you pack in, you pack out. When you leave the area you're in leave no trace that you were ever there. Also, don't be a douche canoe and touch petroglyphs and pictographs. The natural oils from your skin can and will speed up the process of their erosion. Easy enough.
With rising car rental rates this company has saved us a ton of money. If you're not already familiar with it, it's a car sharing marketplace where you're renting people's private vehicles for days or weeks. We once rented a Rav4 for a week for $110. Better than the $2,000 we paid for a Nissan Rogue from a rental car place four months before. You'll be surprised at what all they have.
Know your poisonous plants. Run ins with poison ivy, oak, and sumac can make for a really crappy trip, so know what they look like and how to treat if you do squat in the wrong spot and get that itchy feeling. The CDC has a decent write up worth checking out.
Don't cheap out on a rain cover for your pack. Wet clothes and gadgets result in a horrible experience, so open up the wallet and get a rain cover for your pack. If you're backpacking through an area where deep water crossings are in play and want to waterproof your pack's inner contents, line your pack with a heavy duty garbage bag like a contactor bag. Wet equals suck. Don't suck.
Save Battery Life
Battery draining fast in the middle of the night? The cold has a tremendous impact on your gadget's battery life, so throw it in your sleeping bag with you where your body heat will keep it from excessively draining.