Hammocks for Hiking

Hiking with a hammock

Hammock on the Appalachian Trail

I’ve never overnighted in a hammock, but some of my hiking friends swear by them. Once you try it, they say you will become a convert. Most often used in fair weather, hammocks are becoming more popular. Hikers using them bring up some good points:

1) You sleep or rest off the ground, which may be soaked, damp, and cold.

2) You are away from creepers and crawlies.

3) Animals will get into tents, not hammocks.

4) A more comfortable and better way to sleep  I emphasize this last point because it’s what I hear most often from hammock lovers. They claim it is a better way to experience deep sleep on any hike.

What about if it rains? Got ya covered. Take a look at this hammock, which sports a tarp and mosquito netting. I like the idea of keeping gnats and mosquitos out, but letting air in, all under a protective rain-fly. Here’s another model designed for tall people. Seems like you will find a hammock for even the fussy among us.

This website, Hammock Forums, surprised me. It is the first and last word on hammocks. One article details how hammocks are used in winter conditions! I won’t be testing one anytime soon, but I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who uses a hammock regularly on an extended hike.

Hiking the A.T.

Hammock in Sunrise on the Appalachian Trail

“SIERRA” and the Pacific Crest Trail

sierra-launch  sierra-launch0   sierra-launch-1

Last October, I launched my newest AWOL thriller, SIERRA, which takes place along the Pacific Crest Trail. Right now many hikers are preparing for a long-distance hike, and I’m taking this opportunity to reach out to the backpacking and outdoor community.

My hike of the PCT was completed in 2008, and I will never forget the awe-inspiring beauty of this magnificent hiking trail. As many of you know, the PCT is contiguous with some of the John Muir Trail and goes from one end of Yosemite to the other. In other posts, I’ve shown some of my pictures.

While Sierra is a thriller and has the typical violence of drug cartels, it is fiction; I saw none of that out there. My novel should in no way impede you from planning this awesome hike. Having said that, it is always wise to stay alert in the wilds. We all know about the things that can happen near the Mexican border. What you may not realize is the lack of security at the Canadian border. I hope fellow hikers and general readers will check out Sierra. It’s sold at Barnes & Noble and is available at independent bookstores.

If you click on the link here, you have many options. Thank you!      http://www.turnerpublishing.com/books/detail/sierra

Available October 2016

Available now.

“THE TRAIL” novel

TheTrail_designsB1 for Patriot Ledger

Permit me a post on my hiking novel, The Trail, a thriller which takes place along the Appalachian Trail. As some of you know, I conceived this novel while thru-hiking the A.T. using the trail name Hamlet. I used my journals and in this novel take the reader from GA to ME.

My book is not just another walk in the woods! And I didn’t encounter anything like the evil I wrote about therein. I had a wonderful experience and returned with a positive outlook on humanity in general and on our young people in particular. However, it is always wise to stay alert in the wilds, and I urge women to not hike alone.

This is the time of year hikers prepare for a long-distance hike so, I’m reaching out to the hiking/adventure community. The Trail is available at any bookstore and on Amazon-as a traditional book or as an ebook. Check it out on my website below.  I’d love to hear your comments about my story. Thank you, and happy trails!

12004009_10207978140554153_6055922694178555459_n(1)        http://www.RayKAnderson.com

Backpacker Etiquette

hiking and backpacking etiquette


We don’t hear much about backpacker etiquette. We should.

Without public support there wouldn’t be many official trails. Agreements have to be reached with private landowners if trails run on their property. Arrangements must be made with local, state, and federal governments if trails cross those lands. Think of what happens if we are careless and sloppy; property owners and the public will become disgusted with our behavior.

The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) has a good slogan: Hike in Harmony. They’ve also printed a poster to get the message out, and the header says it all: Just because you live in the woods doesn’t mean you can act like an ANIMAL.

This means we hikers store trash in our packs and pack it out. It means we don’t leave litter in shelters but make the effort to tidy them up for the next person. In every shelter I saw on the Appalachian Trail, there was a broom somewhere. Use it. Leave no trace. And if we find occasional litter on the trail, let’s do what’s right; pick up the trash and pack it out.

Hostels. The golden rule applies: Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you. Unfortunately, it’s that small percentage of hikers who ruin it for others by their behavior. I know of one case where all the donations to the hostel manager were swiped by a hiker. Terrible, and the hostel has shut down.

A few other points on backpacker etiquette. Just because one is a thru-hiker, that doesn’t mean he or she is entitled to the last spot in a shelter in place of a weekend backpacker. Or anyone else. Shelters are for all hikers.

If you are a loud snorer, sure to keep others in the shelter awake, then tent. And when others call it a night, it’s time for you to journal or read. You get the idea. Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you.

Happy trails!

hiking the continental divide trail

Colorado–view from the Continental Divide Trail

New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail–3

This post will complete my recollections and comments about New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail.

Some of you have asked about a passport. A passport is not needed unless you plan to go into Canada. The trail starts, or finishes, behind a maintenance building just before the customs building, which is at the border.

There are only three shelters on the trail. Old Hermit Shelter, off the Sugarloaf Arm Trail in Nash Stream Forest; Baldhead Shelter, also in Nash Stream Forest off the Gadwah Notch Trail; and Panorama Shelter, on the Mount Sanguinary  Summit Ridge Trail near Dixville Notch.

Another great place to camp is at the old fire warden’s cabin on the top of Mt. Cabot. This little cabin is beat up and weathered, but someone took the time to nail bed pads (just like you put under your sleeping bag) on the bunk frames. The cabin is just off the summit but you can hook the door to keep out strong winds and rains.


On the Cohos Trail

Another camping option is the hiker’s shelter at Coleman State Park. The Cohos Trail runs through the park and the shelter, pictured below, costs $26.00 a night. The park provides showers, a laundry room, drinks and snacks, and other needs. Final camping options include numerous tent sites along the trail and other campgrounds both public and private.

The Cohos Trail Association maintains a website offering all kinds of information on this relatively new hiking trail.  www.cohostrail.org  My thanks to this organization for the fine work they have done.


New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail–2

English: * Snowmobile coming down the Mississi...

English: * Snowmobile coming down the Mississippi River to Hastings. Location no. GV3.78 r2 Negative no. 52567 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This is a follow-up to my last post.

I started south on the Cohos Trail from the Canadian border, near US Customs, which is north of Pittsburgh Village, NH. There is a sign leading you to the trail, but it is confusing because the trail is little used and covered with waist-high weeds at the starting point. A customs official explained the route follows a snowmobile trail and that it would thin out after a while. It did, but the trail was wet and mucky from earlier rains. I followed CT signs and an obvious snowmobile trail for miles. Much of the Cohos trail, especially in the northern sections, follows snowmobile trails.

I had read somewhere that one of the trail founders saw a moose a day when he blazed the Cohos Trail. I didn’t see any, but there were moose tracks everywhere, some of them huge. I tried to take pictures of tracks imprinted in the mud, but my I-phone camera locked up on me. Because I was alone most of the time (not recommended, my bad) I hoped not to encounter moose right on the trail. I saw many deer tracks and one set of bear tracks.

There is plenty of water on the Cohos. The guide says some sources aren’t reliable in hot weather, but I found water available for treatment everywhere. Although this trail is isolated, it nears several NH towns, and it is easy to hitch out or in at four-by-four paths and access roads. I was able to hitch from Fabyan to the AMC hostel on Rt 302 without a problem.

I regret that I couldn’t do the entire thru-hike with a friend. I believe I hiked through areas that haven’t seen people since Indian times. I was extra careful.


Near US Customs–Canadian border

New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail


One of three shelters on New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail

A few years ago, I spent three weeks hiking New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail. This relatively new trail is an isolated path that runs from the Canadian border, just above Pittsburgh, New Hampshire down to Crawford Notch, in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I trekked from north to south so I could build up to the more strenuous climbs in the Whites.

If you are looking for a new trail to hike and don’t mind not seeing many (if any) other hikers, then this is a good challenge for you. I didn’t see a soul. Only when I neared Mt. Eisenhower and the ever popular Mt. Washington, did I spot other hikers.

In most sections the blazing is good; in some sections, the blazing is weathered and can be confusing. I used my compass often to confirm direction, and I suggest you bring separate maps of the White Mountain trails you will encounter. The Cohos Trail website store sells a set of Cohos Trail maps, and these are an absolute must if you are planning to thru-hike the Cohos.

My next two posts will detail more of this newer hiking trail.


A view from New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail

Ultra Light Backpacking at ALDHA

American Long Distance Hiking Association--Backpacks

Ten Pound Ultra-light Backpack

Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association

Five Pound Ultra Light Backpack

Last week, I blogged about backpacking light. Here is that idea in the extreme. A few years ago, I attended the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) conference in No. Adams, Massachusetts. There is also a sister organization known as the American Long Distance Hiking Association. They meet on the west coast at a different time.

Of the many workshops I attended, one dealt with ultra light backpacking. There are pros and cons about going ultra light, but over the years more and more hikers have gone lighter, and when they do, many become ultra light converts. The person holding the five-pound pack on his little finger is Monty Tam, who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with an average pack weight of less than five pounds!

Backpack weight refers to baseweight and does not include water, food, or trekking poles. But it includes everything else. Monty’s list of gear is shown below. Although I admire monty’s ultra light system, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Probably because I’m older and want more comfort and backup.

Another ultra light backpack was shown by Carl Rush (sp), and I believe he said his pack (seen in the other picture) weighed ten to twelve pounds, depending on options. His gear list is at the bottom of this post. Again, trekking poles, food, and water are not included in baseweight.

Do what works best for you. Many hikers out there still carry close to fifty pounds. I did the Appalachian Trail in ’03 at about 44 pounds. On the Pacific Crest Trail in ’07, I struggled to reduce pack weight and got it down to 35 pounds. Now, with the newer materials and studying what others like Monty and Carl do, I hike with a baseweight of 25-30 pounds. I don’t feel I’ll ever get below 25 pounds.

Stay in your comfort zone. Be prepared for changes in weather and bring backup gear. Most of all, enjoy yourself.

Ultra Light Backpack for hikers

Ultra light hiking--backpacks


Backpacking Lite

Pacific Crest Trail logo

Pacific Crest Trail logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take a look at the backpacks in the pictures. Both packs are empty, but the red one, with external frame, is already twice as heavy as the green one. And, because it is much bigger, you will cram extra stuff into it.

The red pack is almost identical to the one I used on the Appalachian Trail in ’03, and it topped out around 47 pounds (including food, but not water). I don’t think I ever got it under 40 pounds, and this contributed to a knee problem I had out there.

I learned the hard way to buy a light pack and to pack light. I used the smaller, no-frame pack on the Pacific Crest Trail and topped it out at 31 pounds. I doubt my knees would survive the A.T. today carrying over 40 pounds plus water. Today you will find ultra-lite long-distance hikers who carry less than 20 pounds!

Ray Jardine was the early guru of light backpacking. I studied his 1999 book Beyond Backpacking and learned a lot. And I’ve since read his later one, Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking. Reducing pack weight is the number one issue for any long-distance hiker. If it isn’t a necessity, don’t haul it. Modify what you have. Rather than the old Boy Scout metal fork and spoon, buy a plastic spork. Think tarp rather than tent in milder weather. Get a tiny stove. Do you absolutely need a stove?

What a difference a light pack makes.  Happy Trails!

Hiker Jargon

Hiking the Long Trail, Green Mountains, Vermont

Vermont–Long Trail

Appalachian Trail lovers in the White Mountains

New Hampshire–White Mountains


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abbreviations of trails abound. But here are some other words and terms (in no particular order) commonly used by long-distance hikers.

Thru-hiker: A hiker who will attempt to hike the complete trail in one go, or in one season.

Section hiker: A hiker who hikes a trail in small sections; he or she may not plan on completing the trail.

Nobo: Northbounder

Sobo: Southbounder

Trail Name: The catchy moniker a hiker chooses to go by for an extended hike. Examples are legion—Yogi, Vagabond, The Mad Viking, AWOL, Skittles, Dreamwalker, Hamlet (that’s me), etc. Choose a name before someone tags you with one you may not like.

Camel up: Quench your thirst; fill your water bottles.

Vitamin I: Ibuprofen, or similar pills to ease joint pain and treat other aches.

Gorp: Typically, a combination of mixed nuts, dry cereal, raisins, chocolate chips or candy bits, and such. Usually homemade and eaten from baggies. Designed to give quick energy.  (Eat too much gorp and it will begin to taste like birdseed.)

TP: I saw this on everyone’s gear list and couldn’t figure it out. TP stands for Toilet Paper.

Bushwhack: Blaze your own trail

Flip-flop: Hike in one direction, then leap ahead by other means and hike in the opposite direction, back to the former spot. (used in dealing with snow, fires, bad weather)

Zero day: A no mileage day.

Trail angel: Anyone, usually a non-hiker, who helps a hiker—ride, food, a place to stay, etc.

Yogi: To not quite ask for food, but get it by looking hungry, forlorn—use your imagination.

For a comprehensive list of trail terminology, see Michelle Ray’s How To Hike the A.T.