(I took the header picture of a Common Loon resting on a pond in Utah on its way north in June of 2015. It was in transition from winter to summer plumage.)

Translate - I dare you. Then make a comment on the funny errors the translator made.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

My hiking sling

In 2002 I went on several hikes in the mountains of Utah, including a four-day backpacking trip to the Uintas with an ascent to the summit of King's Peak.  On that hike I came up with an idea: what if I used one of my Mexican blankets for a sling to carry my stuff, instead of a backpack?  On that particular excursion I had carried my tent and other gear to our camp site in a large framed pack, and I didn't want to have to haul that to the peak, so something stripped down and minimal like a blanket sling made sense.

It must have been in one of my custodial jobs that I worked in college that I acquired a very large safety pin, which I had used at times to fasten a wool blanket around me like a cloak.  If you're interested in doing this yourself, I recommend doing a search on ebay for "laundry horse blanket safety pin," and you should be able to find one.  (I could have put a link here, could even have made it a commission link, but I've stopped doing that stuff.)  I'm going to share with you the basic method for rigging one of these up:

First, take your blanket and fold it lengthwise into thirds.
Photos by my sweetie.

 I might have tried folding in half twice, but thirds seems to work the best, giving a close-able pocket effect.

Next, drape the ends of the blanket over your shoulder (whichever you choose: during a hike I switch from one to the other every so often).  Holding one end on the front, bring the other up from behind . . . 

. . . and pin it.

 Here I want to point out that it has worked better to leave it as seen here: on a recent hike I tried gathering the ends into more of a taper.  It didn't work very well: the bunched cloth actually cut into my shoulder more than the simple pinning did, and somehow it messed up the neat pocket effect I had enjoyed on my previous hikes.

Although I got my inspiration for this from old depictions of people carrying bedrolls to camp with, I've never attempted to carry camping gear in this, always keeping it strictly to day hike use.  I carry food, water, extra clothes and first aid supplies, and it does pretty well I'd say up to maybe 15 pounds - I'm not very good at guessing weight.  On my most recent hike up to Timpanogos Basin I included a small stainless steel cook kit (1 lb) with an alcohol stove and fuel bottle.  If memory serves aright, I've used this rig to get to the summits of King's Peak, Squaw Peak and Mount Timpanogos, as well as several shorter hikes.  Here are some views of it in action:

King's Peak, July 2002, in the clouds.  Man, I was in such good shape back then.  Photo by one of my hiking buddies.
Organ Mountains, New Mexico, 2007.  The blanket can get hot in hot weather, but I've never found it unbearable.  Photo by my brother.

Timp, 2007 - the last time I made it to the top.  Photo by my other brother.

I like the advantage this device affords of having my trail snacks and sundries within easy reach.  By shifting sides regularly I avoid getting my shoulders sore.  Besides, it has that anachronistic simplicity that I love.

Recently I read about Emma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone - and carrying her gear in a sling bag held over one shoulder.  Not exactly the same thing, but even so I feel like I'm in good company.  I've long felt that people set too much store by fancy modern hiking and camping equipment, and I feel vindicated by examples like hers - or the Timp hikers of the early 20th century.

Here's to many years of hiking yet to come!

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