The Smart Prepper

Life is hard, it's harder if you're stupid – John Wayne

October 20, 2015

Lightest hiking water filter

When you go hiking or backpacking your are really just exercising with style. The average person needs to consume eight glasses of water every day when you are not exercising, and even more if you do work out.Water weighs 8.34 pounds or 3.78 kilograms for every gallon. Having to carry the amount of water you need when hiking is heavy and makes the hike seem to take longer than it normally would. A great alternative to having to carry all the water yourself is to take a water filter you can use at any water source on your hike. I have used several water filters  for hiking and backpacking over the years. Some can output high volumes of water without needing to change the filter often, but the flow rate is very low. Other hiking water filters output water faster, but the filters need to be changed more frequently. Filters are often expensive – almost as expensive as the original unit in some cases. The downside to most of the hiking water filters I have used over the years is they are bulky and don’t fit easily in a pocket. Finding the lightest hiking water filter will make hiking just that more enjoyable as you don’t have to carry so much extra gear or added water weight to go out and enjoy nature.

October 17, 2015

Dog camping supplies

Man’s best friend

Camping is an excellent chance to get away from the normal day to day grind of computers and working. When you plan your next camping trip plan on taking your dog. Most camping sites allow dogs on leashes and almost all hiking trails allow pets. When I go camping I make sure I have prepared everything for my family (including our little shitzu Kola). Having an emergency and not being prepared is one way to really tarnish a vacation getaway. In order to make sure my dog and family have a good memorable time I make sure I have the following list items when we go camping.

Dog camping supplies

Do I really need all this stuff?

Dog camping supplies list

  • Poop bags – Left over plastic shopping bags work the best. Most hiking trails and campsites are dog friendly. Just be polite and pick up your dog’s poop.
  • Dog food – Pack your normal dog food in a bag. Your dog will eat this plus any leftovers from your camp cooking.
  • Backpack for dogs – There are several type of backpacks you can put on your dog when you go hiking. Some of the dog backpacks have lots of extra pockets and room, ranging from sizes from small to extra large depending on your dog’s size. Having your dog carry its own food and water helps lessen everything you need to carry when hiking.
  • Long leash – A longer leash is used when you are at your campsite to give your dog a larger radius of free roaming. These longer leashes can be something as simple as a rope cut to a desired length and tied to a bench or tree.
  • Walking leash – You will want a shorter leash for going on hikes or walks. All dogs love hiking and are great at it. You will just need to keep them under control because they will want to run everywhere and mark their territory with every chance they get.
  • Feeding bowl(s) – One bowl can be sufficient for your dog’s food and water (just not at the same time). One item that my wife and I love for our dog is a portable bowl set that goes flat and stores easily when we aren’t using it.
  • First Aid for Dogs – We have first aid kits for our families – dogs just need a few extra items.
    • Tick Medication – Ticks are very easy to contract in tall grasses.
    • Flee medication – Being around other pets your dog can easily contract flees.
    • Deworming pills – Dogs can pick up worms in public areas very easily. If another animal in the area has had worms and your dog decides to roll through it’s feces there is a chance your dog will contract worms.
    • Dog probiotics – For diarrhea or dog allergies. Ultimately helps digestive problems.
  • Old towel – Often times if you take your pet out hiking or walking it will get very dirty. When you are done camping and on your way home it will be nice to have an old towel or blanket for your dog to sit on, thus preventing the dog’s dirt from getting everywhere. Also if you go hiking anywhere with water you will need something to help keep your dog dry and stop it from spreading mud and filth to everything else.
  • Dog snacks – You are out to have a good time, why not your dog? Any small snacks or chew bones are an added bonus for man’s best friend.
  • Clothes – Sometimes in the high mountains the temperature gets cold fast at night. My dog doesn’t have a lot of insulation on him and we take a few extra dog clothes for him to help keep him warm.



October 14, 2015

Best hiking water bottle

What makes the best hiking water bottle

Water weighs 8.34 pounds or 3.78 kilograms for every gallon. Most day hiking you will drink near a gallon of water – that’s a lot of extra weight that you don’t need to carry. Often times I love hiking to some pristine lake or beautiful waterfall. There is plenty of cold water just begging me to take a drink, and if you are gutsy without minding getting diarrhea feel free to drink any water when you are out hiking. Most of the water sources in America tend to be limited to just bacterial infestations. Very rarely does the US have viral outbreaks in the water. This makes it easier as you just need to have a filter for eliminating microbes. My personal favorite is a filter called a Life Straw. I have one in all my survival bags and take the Life Straw Water Bottle every time I go out. This is my hiking water bottle of choice. Nothing tastes better than clean mountain water freshly melted from the snow or coming out of the ground. Taking one water bottle that can filter along the way can save you from carrying an extra 24 pounds of water weight, thus making your hike that much more enjoyable. Not every place I go hiking has water. In fact most of the area where I live is desert. In these situations I need to pack extra water and I absolutely LOVE to have my water stay cold for the hike. The second bottle listed below is one I use and love. Truth be told if you are hiking in a desert – like Arches National Park – you are going to need several bottles of water just to keep from getting too dehydrated.

October 09, 2015

Try a winter activity and buy some snow shoes

Why go snow shoeing

The beauty of nature when hiking in snow shoes.Getting a pair of snow shoes and going hiking in the backcountry is a great source of seeing a side of nature you never had the chance to explore before. Hiking through the snow is a great type of exercise and the releasing of endorphins will make you feel wonderful. This can be a very cheap activity if you want to just rent some snowshoes for the weekend. I live in the Rocky Mountains and Utah Vally University has a great rental place with snowshoes including poles for only $15. Compared to the cost of skiing, renting a pair of snowshoes is like throwing pennies in a bucket. The best times to go hiking in the snow is either after a fresh snowfall or when there is a slight humidity in the air because the trees will develop awesome phenomenon known as hoarfrost that is absolutely beautiful. The picture to the left shows an example of hoarfrost in Utah – when the moisture in the air just freezes to the trees. It will make you feel like you are really in a winter wonderland. Makes for great photoshoots.


why you need snow shoes - deep snowThe benefit of a good pair of snow shoes over a regular pair of shoes is the area imprint on the ground. Most of the time snow is pretty powdery, at least until it melts and freezes again. Walking with a regular pair of boots in the snow is a lot of work, especially if the snow is deep because you spend that much more energy making larger steps. Snow shoes help disperse the weight of your body over a larger area giving you the ability to not sink deep in the snow. The picture to the left shows how deep snow can get where I lived as a child. Snow shoes or cross country skis are the only way to traverse this deep snow.

One of the funnest activities you can do in a group is to make a list of pictures to take. This is a game I often play when I go hiking in the snow with my friends or family. Everyone has a camera on their phone or a go cam. Whoever gets the most pictures from the list wins. If there is a tie then you simply vote whose photos are better. Make your list consisting of several wild animals that roam during the winter where you will be hiking, nice winter scenes like hoarfrost on a tree, specific type of trees, a frozen waterfall, a stream, a person in a particular pose or action, or any combination of things in a scene.

Start your adventure snow shoeing

Walking uphill

There are a couple of different techniques that you should use depending on the snow conditions. If you are going up particular steep hill or terrain a lot of snow shoes have an extra feature called a heel lift on the heal of the snow shoe. Flip this up for easier ascents .

  • Powder Snow – When the snow is really fine or powdery you will want to kick hard into the snow with every step. Kicking toe first will help create a good a good step with enough pressure underneath from the packed snow to give you the ability to keep walking uphill.
  • Hardpacked Snow – This type of snow has usually melted on the top and frozen again. This type snow really doesn’t need the extra imprint from the size of the snow shoes, rather you will need to rely on the claws on the bottom of the snow shoe for traction. This is also where having a set of poles can really be beneficial. Poles have points in the bottom that will pierce the ice crusted snow and help your momentum in moving forward.

Walking downhill

Having poles with you during this part of your winter hiking journey will help. I have had a lot of experiences where I started sliding downhill because the snow gave way. Keeping your poles in front of you, angled away, and pushed into the snow will help give you added traction to keep you safe. If you overstep you have the chance of getting the snow shoe stuck too. Walking downhill can be a lot of fun, especially if you get speed and just go down a hill of fresh powder. The most important thing to realize is know your limits and be safe.

Hiking with poles

Where I grew up as a kid there were absolutely no hills to climb. Snow shoeing in the winter was fun, but there was no need for poles. Poles are beneficial if you will be doing any type of uphill or downhill hiking. The best type of poles to get are adjustable or retractable. There will be times when you don’t need to use poles and if you can fold them up and clip them onto your belt or jacket you will save lots of energy. Your arms can get tired from carrying poles and using them as extra traction. Most poles come with straps that help keep the pole grounded to your hand.

Be Safe

  • Wear good shoes. Insulated winter waterproof boots are best. Wear with wool socks
  • Have layered clothes. Avoid cotton because it retains sweat and moisture. When you’re wet you get cold fast, which means a higher risk of getting sick.
    1. First layer – wool or some other synthetic that will keep you warm even when wet. This can be long underwear or just some tight clothing. Patagonia Capilene®, UnderArmor ColdGear®.
    2. Second layer – Something made from polyester. This will help keep heat in and allow water or sweat out as you hike through the snow.
    3. Last layer – A layer of Gore-Tex is best. Something that breathes and yet fairly waterproof.
  • Winter hazards – Be careful about crossing streams and snow conditions that could trigger an avalanche. Most national and state parks have avalanche condition statuses on their websites.
  • Have a float plan – Make a written document of where you will be when and roughly when you will be there. Make sure that someone who does not go out with you knows your float plan. This way if you don’t return back safely rescuers will have a good idea of where you were and where to start looking. Another item I always take with me is my Baofeng ham radio transceiver. You need to be licensed to use a ham radio, but if you are in an emergency you are allowed to use the radio on any channel. The Baofeng is so cheap that it would be a good idea to just keep with you even if you are not licensed for emergencies.
  • Stay warm and dry
  • Don’t get dehydrated – You will sweat a lot when you go out hiking in the snow and because it is cold outside you will not feel dehydrated. Take a bottle of water. When it is empty you can put fresh snow in the bottle and keep the bottle inside your coat. The heat from your body will melt the snow giving you fresh water.
  • Take high calorie foods – Any snacks high in carbohydrates and electrolytes.

Where to go snow shoe hiking

Often times trails in the mountains get closed during the winter because the roads leading to them are closed due to the high snowfall and adverse weather conditions of winter. Not all roads are closed in national forests or BLM land. These are open to the public making them free and great places to go hiking in the snow. Find an outdoor store that rents gear and go rent a pair of snow shoes. They will have some great locations in your area that you can go hiking that are popular and safe. If you are going to go out more than five to ten days over your lifetime then it would be prudent to buy a pair of snow shoes rather than rent them.

Which snow shoe is right

There are several types of snow shoes available pretty much anywhere. You can even make your own, which is a great family activity to do in the winter. When purchasing a pair of snowshoes there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Seeing how other people who have purchased the snow shoes and rated them will help.

  • External Traction – Good snow shoes need to have some type of clamps or spikes on the bottom to help with areas that are more icy than snow.
  • Durable – Obviously you do not want to be out hiking when a piece of plastic breaks or metal bends. See if there is a weight limit on the shoes. The larger the shoes the more the weight is dispersed, so if you are like me you will want a larger snow shoe size.
  • Adaptable – Some snow shoes have extras like the heel lift. See if the snow show is adaptable to various scenarios like hiking up steep hills or in muddy areas. Also see if there are attachments that make them more floatable (larger area to keep from sinking in the snow).


October 07, 2015

Cheap Cowgirl Boots

Types of cowgirl boots.

Just like arguing over ford versus chevy, picking the right brand is something you have to do personally. Trying on boots is the only way you will know what style and fit you like and don’t like. In general cowgirl boots are an excellent type of shoe to have around your house. Leather boots are very durable especially if you take care of them. The best thing you can do for your boots is put Neatsfoot Oil on them. I have an uncle who spent his career as a power linemen. He often had very expensive leather boots and he wanted to make them last. He would periodically rub his boots down with the Neatsfoot Oil and then let them dry over night. Every time my uncle had to drudge through the snow or rain his boots would take a beating and again he would apply the oil. I asked him how much he think he extended the life of the boots by this one simple thing and he told me that his boots lasted three to five times what they would have done normally.  One of the benefits of having boots over a regular pair of sneakers or tennis shoes is the hard bottom helps them last longer if you are often having to hike over rocks or rough terrain. There are two main categories for cowgirl boots, western (or classic) and roper. The classic style have at least an inch heal and a cowgirl classic style will have a slightly larger heal than a cowboy’s boots. Classic cowgirl boots are taller than the roper style and classic boots tend to have a pointer toe than the roper cowgirl boots. In either of these two categories there are about four main brands – Justin, Roper, Ariat, and Tony Lama. These boots can go anywhere from $100 to $5000 for a pair. Some of them will last your lifetime. Picking a brand of shoe is like picking jeans over khakis. You just need to learn what your style is and embrace it.

Good quality cheap cowgirl boots

With everything you buy, you pay for what you get. However you don’t have to buy the main brand boots to look great. The following list is composed of very highly rated and yet still cheap cowgirl boots. See a style you like? Go ahead and check them out for yourself. Remember that you really should try on the shoes on before you purchase. If you absolutely know your size, you have read the reviews, and know that they are pretty spot on for the size then go ahead and just purchase the pair. Starting around $30 you really can’t go wrong.


October 05, 2015

Best Thermarest Products

Thermarest Gear (Therm-A-Rest)

Thermarest CollageThermarest is really a company named Therm-A-Rest and they produce top notch air mattresses for camping, highly rated sleeping bags, backpacking pillows, and camping pads for sitting. Lately when I go out camping people have just started calling their sleeping pads ‘thermarest pads.’ Just how we call all adhesives for cuts bandaids even though there really is a brand called BandAid. When I was a kid my dad bought himself a new thermarest pad. My brothers and I were all jealous because he had the most comfortable sleeping pad out of all of us. The company Therm-A-Rest makes some really great products. My favorite are the thermarest sleeping pads, but there are also thermarest sleeping bags, chairs, and pillows. I personally use the thermarest trail pro pad when I go backpacking. It is so light weight and easy to setup and teardown. The more weight I can cut off when backpacking the better and that is one of the best feature of thermarest gear in general — it is so light. Thermarest products are very popular and on the more expensive side. You might be lucky and find a used item for sale, but I have rarely ever seen used thermarest gear for sale and when I do see it the price is not much cheaper than buying the item brand new. With low depreciation costs any of their products would be a great investment.


October 04, 2015

Best Hiking Poles

What makes the best hiking poles

Walking poles are great for helping people stay balanced when hiking. As some of us get older poles can help take off some of the weight from your knees and help increase your mobility. The best reason for hiking poles in my opinion is using them for a tent. All you need to take with you is a sleeping bag, two tarps, and rope. Then you can string a tarp into an A-Frame cover using the hiking pole or walking stick as a pole in the A part of the frame. What I look for when I want a hiking pole is several things. The first and most important is hiking poles need to be made of strong metal. If you put weight on it or use the pole for anything arduous then they need to be strong. The second attribute is to be foldable. If you don’t want to use them when hiking easier parts of a trail then a pole needs to be compact and just slipped into a backpack pocket or belt. Being compact makes purchasing a hiking pole better than using a carved wood hiking stick because a wood pole can’t fit in your backpack if you don’t want to use it. The last thing I look for is to make sure that it won’t rust. I have had poles in the past that have gotten wet and rust started leaking from the inside. This usually won’t hurt you but can leave a nasty stain on your clothes and the metal does get weaker over time as the metal oxidizes.

Recommended Best Hiking Poles