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November 21, 2005

Playing with Petrol – Guerrilla Camping 101.9

Draft originally posted at The Guerrilla News Network. Included here with GNN commentary courtesy of the GNN Archive.

Playing with Petrol – Guerrilla Camping 101.9

Asset B10715 Posted By BlackPacker
Stoves – Guerrilla Camping 101.9

Often, like when staying in cities, campfires are not possible and walking across America leaving a trail of burn scars is not the best way to go undetected. Hence making stoves is of particular interest to the guerrilla camper.

Fortunately, the days when freshly chopped wood was needed to cook a meal are over. Camp stoves now exist that burn everything from pine cones to biodiesel in every size and shape imaginable. Stoves can be built using recycled cans or they can be computer designed pocket blast furnaces.

Types of Stoves:

Canister Stoves:

Canister stoves are virtually worthless to the guerrilla camper, using disposable fuel canisters containing propane, butane or a blend of the two. The stoves are amazingly light, easy to start and are remarkably simple to setup. They even have the highest fuel efficiency per weight of any type of stove and are the only camp stoves that reliably simmer. However, the fuel canisters can be difficult to find on long journeys, can’t be taken on airplanes and are not refillable or even suitable for recycling in most cases. They are great for weekend trips, but their inability to be refueled or re-supplied in the field makes the useless to anyone considering weeks or months of living out of their pack. They are also useless if the weather drops below freezing.

Liquid Fuel Stoves:

There are seven primary fuels for liquid fuel stoves. Most cheap consumer liquid fuel stoves use only kerosene or white fuel. Both are frequently available though usually only in outdoor, hardware or sporting goods stores. White fuel is most commonly found in America as Coleman fuel and sold in gallon tins, which are difficult to carry since there is enough to fill most stove’s fuel bottles ten of fifteen times. A variety of stove manufacturers also market stove fuel in smaller quantities that are more useful to the through hiker, as always you can expect to pay a markup for the brand name.

Multi-fuel stoves are worth investing the extra money in. Most will burn kerosene, white fuel and unleaded gasoline and some of the more expensive ones will even burn diesel and jet fuel. These stoves will not burn alcohol, as the alcohol is caustic to the plastic in the pump, fuel lines, etc. Don’t try it unless you want o replace a whole bunch of parts.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of buying a stove at least capable of burning gasoline. It is by far the most prevalently available fuel, and should you run out in the middle of nowhere a few inches of plastic tubing can allow you to “forage” from “sleeping” cars. Although gasoline causes wear to parts and causes clogged jets, most multi-fuel stoves are able to be cleaned out in the woods, and some feature shaker-jet cleaners making the jet self cleaning or even magnetic jet cleaners able to be clean the jet while the stove is in use.

Although no stoves are presently marketed as using biodiesel, any stove which burns automobile diesel should be theoretically able to use Biodiesel. The major stoves available today which burn Diesel are the MSR XGK-EX ($160), the Optimus Nova($130) and the Primus Omnifuel, which also can utilize canisters. MSR reports that users of the XGK stove have been able to use biodiesel in their stoves by using the X jet and only opening the control valve half way. Using biodiesel in any stove will require a separate primer They are in the process of doing hard testing before they add biodiesel as a supported fuel.

Alcohol stoves are in a league of their own. Ranging from simple homebuilt can stoves to expensive historical recreations, alcohol stoves are possibly the most popular stoves with the DIY scene and the ultra-light hiking fanatics. Alcohol stoves will burn nothing but alcohol, which strangely enough; even the best multi-fuel stoves won’t. They are also one of the only stoves with a hobbyist following since simple alcohol stoves can be built from as little as two soda cans. (See below)

Types of Liquid Fuels:

Fuels vary widely. Some fuels burn clean, some gel in the cold, some are inefficient. However, the guerrilla must take what he comes across, and it helps to know a bit about every type of fuel your stove can burn even if you never plan on using them. Fuel efficiency is measured by the number British Thermal Units(BTUs) per pound. It’s simple, The higher the BTU/lb rating, the less fuel you need to carry for the same amount of heat.

Gasoline: Gasoline is the cursed blessing of multi-fuel stoves. Although is is the most widely available fuel in the world, auto grade gasoline contains additives meant to protect the internal workings of engines, including bezine and lubricants which can cause cancer and slowly destroy the rubber parts of the stove and pump. Additionally, avoid winterized or oxygenated gasoline sold in northern states during the winter to keep it from gelling. The additives will cause rapid decay of rubber gaskets. For all the dangers of unleaded fuel, it is easy to find anywhere and a few inches of plastic tubing curled up in your pack can allow you to “forage” from sleeping cars. Gasoline is considered a dirty fuel and will require more frequent cleaning. @18720 BTU/Lb.

Kerosene: Available almost everywhere around the world. Avoid using lantern or charcoal lighter fluid, as these are often dirtier and can clog jets. While being the next most reliable alternative to whitefuel, kerosene is very susceptible to the cold, taking longer to prime than white fuel and gelling in extreme weather, making stoves that only burn kerosene impractical for year round use. Kerosene is also a very sooty fuel, and you can expect to blacken your stove and pots quickly, with frequent of clogging. @18540 BTU/lb.

Jetfuel: Most closely related to kerosene and will burn in any stove with a kerosene jet. Unfortunately it contains even more additives than gasoline and is therefore even dirtier than kerosene. Fortunately, it also not very common, so if you are in a position where you can find jet fuel you can probably just fly someplace to buy white fuel. @18540 BTU/lb

Diesel: Stove makers seem to consider diesel the fuel of last resort. Although it is just as available as auto fuel and often cheaper, it is dirty and causes a ridiculous amount of clogging and requires frequent stove cleaning. It is less volatile than gasoline and therefore safer, but this also makes it more difficult to prime, requiring you to use a separate fuel, like alcohol, to pre-heat your stove. I would agree to use diesel only if nothing else is available. @18,400 BTU/Lb

Biodiesel: Ah, Biodiesel. Homebrewed fuel; free at last of the chains of petroleum consumption. When I first put on the blackpack, it was an attempt to live a simpler life. As such, I found it ironic that most commercial camp stoves require petroleum based fuels. With advances in diesel stoves, there is a wide amount of discussion on the subject of using biodiesel in camp stoves, and several major manufacturers already have stoves that will function with it. @18300 BTU/Lb

White fuel: Also known by it’s proper name, Naphtha, White fuel is a chemically clean petroleum. While it shares the same chemistry as auto-fuel, it contains none of the additives and burns much cleaner. It is sold as Coleman fuel, or other specialty brands like MSR or Camplite and is infrequently available as cleaning gasoline in hardware and paint stores. The most volatile of liquid camp fuels, it is still very safe if used with caution. And is often the most recommended fuel for camp stoves. @18200 BTU/lb

Rape Seed Oil: A renewable alternative to diesel available in some countries, it will burn in most diesel stoves but has the distinction of being the only fuel by which diesel can seem clean and by most accounts you can expect to spend as much time cleaning your stove as cooking. I have never seen rape seed fuel in the United States. @18000 BTU/Lb.

Alcohol: Although Alcohol is one of the only renewable liquid fuels commercially available to backpackers it suffers from having the lowest fuel economy. However, alcohol stoves are among both the lightest and cheapest stoves on the market and simple alcohol burners can be constructed for next to nothing (See below). Alcohol is the fuel with the lowest efficiency, 8419- 12960 BTU/Lb.

Solid Fuel Stoves:

Solid fuel stoves are interesting and varied. The simplest is the hobo stove constructed from an old coffee cans (see below) while the Sierra Zip stove utilizes a battery and a fan to produce 18,000 BTUs using pine cones, wood chips, tree bark, charcoal or any other solid fuel. In between these are esbit burners, which burn small waxy solid fuel tablets. Although solid fuel is in truth more readily available than any liquid fuel, these stoves are illegal in any campground where campfires or wood gathering are prohibited, making their use of little value to the guerrilla camper. I do believe is it imperative to know how to make a simple wood burning stove or alcohol stove in the event of stove failures, so I have placed instructions below.

Cheetos: The ubiquitous solid fuel tablet

Sold as Cheetos Puffs or a thousand other off-brands, the unique chemical makeup of preservatives, oil and chemical cheese powder make cheese puff snacks an excellent improvised fuel source, producing a bright, long lasting flame and ten poofs can boil a beer can full of water. They can be burned in any empty can or a small wood stove and reduce to dust and a suspicious looking residue on the bottom of your pan. Probably carcinogenic, I would suspect Cheetos to be the most poisonous of camp fuels. If you should accidentally ingest one, contact a ranger station immediately. I’m not joking, try burning cheesy poofs. It has to be the poofy kind, the mini cheese walking sticks won’t cut it. @5500 BTU/Lb

Deciding upon a stove:

Deciding upon a stove depends on a number of factors. While many of us can get by using cook fires and alcohol stoves, colder climates require more elaborate stoves. Alcohol stoves are great for reconstituted food, but for any cooking that requires cook times of over twenty minutes they are impractical. It can just as easily be argued that twenty minutes of burn for a meal is impractical when the average fuel bottle holds only 90 minutes worth of fuel. If you are planning on weekend outings in your region and you are not plagued by extremely cold winters, try working with alcohol stoves and cook fires first. If, on the other hand, you are planning on months of aimless wandering, a multi-fuel stove is the option for you. If you are a survivalist looking to build an Armageddon pack that will let you stay alive long after anyone else would want to, drop the change on a diesel stove and get to work on making your own fuel.

Stove Usage:

Read your manual to learn how to use your stove. In fact, read the manual before you even try to fill your stove. You are working with fuel, pressure and fire, all the makings of a bomb. Not knowing how to recognize a fuel leak, or how to properly prime a stove can lead to uncontrolled blazes and exploding fuel canisters. Every stove is different. RTFM!

However, there ARE things you can’t learn from a stove manual.

Simmering: You can simmer on liquid fuel stoves through use of a stovetop heat diffuser. You can find them in the kitchen sections of discount stores for a dollar, and the handles usually fold for easy storage. A lesser effect can be had by taking a coffee can lid and carefully crimping the edges to hold the pot away from the flame. I usually just lift my pot off the stove, or sit there and ride the dial, keeping the stove constantly on the edge of dying.

Heat Exchangers: Some brands of camping cookware are compatible with heat diffusers. They vent the heat of the stove directly up against the side of the pans allowing you to boil water faster and giving more even heat to a pot for less fuel. If you plan to be four and five days between fuel sources, this can get an extra two or three meals out of your fuel bottle.

Cozys: Sweaters for your pot. By insulating the side of your pot against heat loss, it is possible to keep a covered pot of water at near boiling heat even when removed from the flame. It works well for the five or six minutes needed to reconstitute instant rice, dried soups or ramen. Some have created elaborate foam affairs for their cookpots, but I found that by cooking in a ziplock bag wrapped up in pack towel I could simply bring the water to a boil, pour it in the bag and use nearly no fuel for actually cooking. This is a common trick among users of alcohol stoves.

Baking: If you are using a high tech nesting cook set with two different sized pots and a frying pan “lid” you have a simple dutch oven in which you can bake cornbread, cakes, or even regular bread. Make your batter slightly dry to make sure it doesn’t come out runny. Butter the entire inside of your small pot and pour in the batter. Cover the top tightly with aluminum foil and tie it on tight with hemp or cotton cord. (Do not use parachute cord. It will melt and weld your pots together.) Put about half an inch of water in the bottom of the larger pot and put the smaller pot inside. The water should be about three-quarters of an inch from the lip of the small pot. Put the lid on top and set it carefully on your stove. Set a moderately sized rock on top of the lid to keep it from jumping and let it go at full blast. Use the same cook time as called for using a 9 inch pan for recipes. They say this takes a lot of practice, but I’ve never botched it up, except by putting the water too high and making a runny blueberry cake for a friends birthday. You can even use this method with campfires, although fueling a cook fire for 18 minutes can get arduous. PS, if you learn to do this on barbecues, you can become a rockstar for BBQ cornbread.

Making Your Own Stoves:

Making a simple alcohol stove:

You’ll need:

Two empty 12 ounce cans
A Utility Knife
Needle Nose Pliers (Or multitool)
Scissors (Again, see multitool)
A thumb tack
A book, around 150-200 pages.

Making the Stovetop

Take the first can and flip it over. Look at the lip of the concave bottom. Just at the top of the parabola there is an almost imperceptible corner before the lip. By carefully holding the tip of a utility knife against that corner and spinning the can you can gradually scratch around the lip, eventually scoring it enough so it can be punched out, leaving a neat round hole.

This takes practice. Be very careful and wear gloves until you know what you’re doing. (Unless you collect hand scars with pride, like me) If you are not used to working with blades this can be tricky.

Making the Jets

Now you will use that thumb tack to punch a series of holes around the outer lip of the stove top.

I usually punch 16 holes, starting by doing them on opposite sides in a cross for the first four, then equidistant between other holes for the next 12. You can also trace the lip on a piece of paper, cut it out and fold it in half three times to create a template, although I never bother. Using a jewlers hammer, or the side of the multitool makes punching the holes easier.

Cutting the Can

Find a book you can put the utility knife on top of to make the blade ait about an inch from the bottom of the can.

Holding the knife steady with one hand, spin the can in circles against the blade, careful not to wrinkle it. After a while of this, you will have scored the can enough that it will pull apart with a clean cut.

Set aside the bottom of the can. This will be the top of the stove.

Making the Inner Wall

Using Scissors, cut up the side of the remainder of the first can, then cut the top of the can off to create an aluminum sheet from the side of the can.

Next, use the book as a staright edge and angle to make two parallel lines, about and inch apart don the middle fo this strip, then cut it out.

It should actaully be a little shorter than in this picture, but you can always trim it down to fit better. For now, set it aside as we make our stove bottom.

Making the Stove Bottom
Making the stove bottom is the same as making the stove top, minus the holes. Put the blade on the book, and spin the can against it until you score through the can.

Finishing the Inner Wall.
Take that strip of aluminum we made earlier, and curl it into a circle. so that it wraps around the groove in the stove bottom.

Mark the center of the overlap with a marker, at the same place on both sides. You will use this mark to cut flaps into the top and bottom of the strip allowing it to fold together. Turn the can back into the loop, and tuck the ends into the flaps. When done right it will resemble a circle, not a jesus fish.

You will now make three small weep holes in the bottom of the ring by clipping out three small triangles on one side of the ring, about ¼ inch wide each. It is easiest if you start opposite your flap, allowing you to place the other two farther away from the seam preventing leaks. These weep holes allow heated fuel to enter the outer ring of the stove to fuel your jets.

Step Five: Putting it together.

You will need to make the stove top’s circumfrence slightly smaller than the stove bottoms. This can be done by cutting very short slits in the cut edge of the can (about 1/16 of an inch) and bending the resulting flaps in, or it can be done by crimping the can with needle nose pliers, which I have had better results with.

Simply pinch about 3/8 of an inch down on the can and turn your pliers 45 degrees to the right. Repeat every half inch around the top of the can. You should have something that resembles crimped stove or drain pipes.

Put the inner wall, weep holes down, into your stove bottom.

Carefully fit the stove top into the stove bottom and slowly press it down until the inner wall is pinched between the two cans. You may need to coax the inner way into the groove around the large hole of the stove top. You should now have a small aluminum hockey puck looking thing.

Step Seven: Stoves are Go!

Pour in some alcohol. About an ounce of Bacardi 151, 70% or 90% rubbing alcohol, or preferably denatured alcohol and light it up. Be careful. The stove in the above photo is LIT, belive it or not(notice the distortion of the pot stand behind it) The flames can be invisible in direct sunlight. After the alcohol heats the stove, your jets should light up creating something not unlike what you see on a home gas stove. (Picture pending, the memory card filled up just as the battery died)

Building a Simple Wood Stove:

A very simple wood stove can be made out of a large coffee can or a one gallon paint can.

First, cut a series of holes about a quarter way around the bottom side of the can using an old style can opener. Repeat the process on top of the can on the opposite side. You’re done.

By placing the bottom hole facing into the wind, you create a convection current that allows this stove to burn much hotter than a simple cook fire. You can slow the burn by placing something in front of the bottom holes or turning the stove away from the wind. If your fire starts to die, lift your pot and throw more fuel in.

4 years ago


Good work as always, but some pictures would come in mighty handy!

4 years ago


Are you planning on doing anything on improvised fuels or non-traditional ones? You did mention the cheetoes (and that was righteous), but I’m wondering what your thoughts are on using cowflops or other “fuels of desperation” are. (‘Course, a Tibetan wouldn’t categorize it as such, but….)

4 years ago


Cheetos: The ubiquitous solid fuel tablet

Who knew?
Valuable fine work —again!

4 years ago


A-Camping We Will Go
(tune: Farmer in the Dell)

A-camping we will go,
A-camping we will go,
Hi-ho and off we go,
A-camping we will go.

More Verses:

First we pitch our tent
Next we chop some wood
We light the campfire now
We cook our dinner now
We tell fun stories now
It’s time to go to sleep

4 years ago


Resource Books to Help You Plan

Post Modified: 11/20/05 09:40:28
4 years ago


UPDATE on this article:

I just heard back from Primus regarding Biodiesel in their Omni Fuel stove. Their head of R&D e-mailed me, and it turns out that he has been driving a biodiesel vehicle for the last two years, and is quite familiar with the nuances of the fuel. He explains that while the Omni fuel will run off biodiesel, he recommends against it. Biodiesel has issues with brass that an lead to deposits and clogged lines, although he describes the issue as textbook, and says he has not encountered it. The materials used in the rings can suffer from swelling which ill reduce the life of the stove, as well as causing issues with reliable operation.

Now, keep in mind that although he does not recomend it, it does work, although he sites flareups as an issue. In fact, they have donated a couple of their omni fuel stoves to earthrace, a renewable fuel powerboat race around the globe, so it must at least work, if not at peak performance. More info on the race can be had at www.earthrace.net.

I will include this info in a later revision of this GC, once I hear back from the third stove manufacturer I contacted. And if Urban, the R&D guy from Primus is checking out this blog, thanks again for all the info.

4 years ago


More pictures on the way!

4 years ago


rad, if I have a chance to camp during my winter “break” I will try this. thanks

Post Modified: 12/18/05 12:51:14
4 years ago


I made two of these two, It was fun!

The first one I made exactly like the above, the second I made a few changes after testing.

First, I didn’t cut out the bottom of the second one, I put a small hole in it instead, to allow me to fill it with fuel, and seal it with screw.

Between the walls of the stove I stuff in cotton batter, so it would suck up the fuel.

The holes around the rim are larger then the original so I could pull out tiny clumps of cotton, I mean real tiny.

During testing, as the fuel heated up, it would leak out the bottom, in gas form, between the two tins that are stuck together, this was solved with a bit of muffler tape.

The new one burns peanut oil, bought at a dollar store for $2, a whole litre of it. 🙂

PS: Use a tin cup to put it out. Let cool, and place in a tiny tupper ware like container to save the unused fuel.


November 12, 2005

Home is where the rain ain’t – Guerrilla Camping 101.8

Pulled from original text archive, without comments or images. Photos survived to the book though, just didn’t survive on the web.

Home is where the rain ain’t – Guerrilla Camping 101.8

I like to joke that I am professionally homeless. But nothing can be further from the truth. The truth is, I am habitually at home. No matter where I find myself, I can usually make myself at home with little effort and with quite a bit of variety. The three basic principles in making a home, be it a straw-bale and cob palace or a simple tarp stretched between two trees, are always the same, environment, materials and design.


There are several good reasons to choose a tent. I think one of the best reasons for a guerilla camper is the sense of legitimacy a tent brings. A plastic tarp, while being very useful and versatile, screams vagrant. A tent, on the other hand, calmly introduces yourself as a camper. Tents are more weatherproof than tarps, almost always provide better protection from bugs and are often more wind resistant than tarps. All things considered, I believe the most compelling reason to buy a tent is the sense of security they give you. I know that the first few times I slept under the stars I honestly expected a raccoon to bite my face off in my sleep and can only guess that many feel the same way for the first few times.

There are also several reasons to avoid a tent. Tents are the least versatile form of “mobile home”, except maybe actual mobile homes. If a pole breaks, in many cases you wind up with an enlarged bivy sack, since most modern tents don’t use straight pole design. While bent poles make for more stable tents, they are also an Achilles tendon. If a fiberglass pole breaks, duct tape will only do so much. If you buy a fiberglass pole tent, try to replace the poles with aluminum if possible. The slight added weight is worth the security. Older straight pole tents allow you to improvise with sticks and unless you know a lot more about bamboo than I do, improvising with a curved pole tent is impossible. When I do carry a tent, I also carry a small plastic tarp to use as a ground sheet. The ground sheet protects the floor of the tent from punctures and should the tent become unserviceable, the groundsheet can double as a tarp.

There are lots of types of tents.

Summer and “3 season” tents.

My first civilian tent was an ultra light 3 season hoop tent. You can recognize these tents because they will usually consist of a large amount of mosquito netting with an attached rain fly. Great for hot humid conditions, they can have serious drawbacks in even moderate showers if not constructed well and erected properly. The rain fly (A waterproof cape that extends over the mesh roof of the tent) should hang well above the netting and extend several inches below it on the sides, if not coming completely to the ground. If the rain fly will brush against the mesh in the wind, consider the tent useless. During a rain storm, condensation will collect inside the rain fly and when the rain fly is battered against the mesh, drops of water will fall into the tent. This is would not be that bad, except that your floor will be much more waterproof than your ceiling; leaving no place for the water to go. What feels like an intermittent drip can become a swimming pool by morning, and a wet sleeping bag, besides being dangerous in cold weather, can weigh ten to fifteen times what it weights dry when you carry it out the next day.

Mountaineering (winter) Tents.
Mountaineering tents are the SUVs of the tent world. Heavy, big and as totally enclosed as possible. Often not needed except in the dead of winter or when traveling to tundra, many four season tents are convertible, allowing you to leave a few poles out, leave parts at home or even erect the tent with only the rain fly and a footprint, making it remarkably similar to a tarp in it’s functionality and vulnerability to bugs. Fortunately they are often only needed late in the fall and early in the spring, in extreme northern and southern polar regions, or at high altitudes.

Family or Basecamp tents: These are of no importance to the guerilla camper. They are heavy, obvious and almost always too large to carry on an individual. Great for weekend outings with the guys from your frat and their favorite kegs, I will happily admit to knowing little about them besides how difficult it seemed for my parents to put ours up when I was a little kid. If you have little guerrillas running about, you might need to look into the, but there are four person backpacking tents that would seem to work great for two adults and two children. Basecamp tents belong in the realm of the military, and there is honestly little need for guerrillas to set up headquarters.

Beyond tents, there are a variety of other methods of keeping yourself sheltered in the great outdoors.

Tarps are the most versatile and lightest form of portable shelter. Able to be pitched at varying angles, in varying configurations or even used as a small portion of a larger natural shelter, tarps prove useful to carry even when toting a tent. They have no notable resistance to bugs, however and without solid experience in setting them up and campsite selection they can be the least weather resistant shelters around. The basic infantry shelter, carried in halves is a form of tarp and has served soldiers since the first world war with only the complaining one would expect from soldiers. Some modern light weight camping companies sell tarps made of silicon impregnated nylon or sil-nylon for short for upwards of a hundred dollars. While I appreciate the amazing lightness and durability of the material, I can’t exactly praise the company that makes it, so I have avoid them until I can find a manufacturer not licensed by Dupont. Simple 3 dollar hardware store tarps work just as well and if you can notice the extra pound you should be walking more.


Poncho pitching is identical to tarps, however I place them in a separate category because there are vast differences in their design and versatility. Ponchos are issued to ever soldier in the army. As basic rain gear, it is useful since it covers the pack as well as the person though it does leave your legs to get soaked in monsoons or tropical storms. Given it’s design, which includes grommets and snaps, it can be used as a shelter by itself or snapped to other ponchos to create larger shelters. With proper training and proper equipment it is even possible to use two packs and two ponchos to create a field expedient raft. They come in camouflage, which is an added benefit since it is difficult to find either good tents or tarps in camouflage.


From the simple Guatemalan jungle hammock to modern asymmetrical ultra-light cocoon hammocks, hammocks are a tried and true way to get your ass off the hard and wet ground. Hammock sleeping is not for everyone as it can lead to sore backs and numb limbs and can be much colder than a tent. Modern hammock manufacturers, such as Hennessy have made great strides in alleviating these burdens, creating what amounts to hanging tents, replete with gear bags, accessory hooks, and a very unique bottom entry method. Not able to afford anything so modern, I opted for a cheap jungle hammock which I am able to pitch using my ponchos as a cocoon and a mattress pad for support. I don’t bother using it in very cold weather, as the added issue of cold wind whipping below you makes the idea less inviting than sleeping on the cold ground.

Field Expedient Shelters:

From palm frond huts to native American long houses, there are a milliuon ways to use your natural environment to shelter yourself. I would say to learn how to construct a few of them in theory, but do not practice. If every sierra club member can hold the tenant to leave no trace, it is doubly imperative for the guerrilla camper to do so, especially if you are attempting to stealth camp. If you must construct expedient shelters, please take them down and disguise the site as best you can afterwards, allowing the next guerrilla to come along to feel like an intrepid explorer treading on the site for the first time.

With a little thought it is easy to stay comfortable on the road, no matter what mother nature might throw at you.

Pitching Ponchos:

Army surplus ponchos can be had for fifteen to twenty dollars in a vast array of colors. (if Olive Drab and Camouflage can be considered a vast selection, that is) Old school ones are made of vinyl with silicon sealant on the seams, while newer ones are silicon impregnated nylon. There are dozens of ways to put up a poncho as a tent, and if you have the presence of mind to carry two the options are even greater. Golite, the maker of very highly regarded lightweight shelters has introduced a lightweight poncho tarp for $45, which I presume to be similar.

The Single Poncho Shelter:

A single poncho can be used as shelter in three basic ways, the pup tent, the lean to and the bivy sack.


For the basic lean-to pitch, you will need two sticks of the same length, usually between 24 and 36 inches. You begin by staking down one side of the poncho using the installed grommets. Tie a four foot length of parachute cord to the two corners not staked down then tie stake loops into the outer ends of the ropes. The easiest way to do this is by folding the rope back on itself and trying a granny knot to make a hoop. Take the first stick and stick the tip of it into the grommet. You may need to shave the tip down with a pocket knife to make it fit. Stand the stick up using the cord to put tension on the ridge and stake the cord out at a 45 degree angle to the opening of the tent. Repeat this procedure with the opposite corner and move the stakes away from the tent to increase tension.

The Pup Tent:
A pup tent is a simple ridge tent. You will need six stakes and a single length of cord about 8 feet longer than the length of your tarp or poncho.

Lie the cord lengthwise along the ground.

Lay the tarp or poncho lengthwise along the cord and stake down one side of it.

Lift the poncho to the desired height and stake down the corners to create tension. (You can readjust them later, don’t get too precise.)

Tie a stake loop into each end of the cord by folding the end over and tying a simple over hand knot into the fold.

Stake down one side about two to three feet from the middle of the poncho or tarp, and slide your pole up under the rope to hold it up.

November 5, 2005

Sight Unseen – Guerrilla Camping 101.7

Draft originally posted at The Guerrilla News Network. Included here with GNN commentary courtesy of the GNN Archive.

Sight Unseen – Guerrilla Camping 101.7
Asset B10394 Posted By BlackPacker

Camouflage is one topic that is seldom covered in backpacking manuals, simply because hiking down the Appalachian Trail does not require you to sneak. However, if you are going to be walking any considerable distance without trails, you will find yourself crossing many right-of-ways and being forced to camp in locations where you are not wanted. Thus, camouflage is an essential task for any Guerilla Camper.

Camouflage is also a matter of courtesy and I wish more traditional hikers would begin to utilize it. While every hiking book talks about “leaving no trace�, is seems no one has considered “having no trace� of any importance to campers. It seems every tent out there is safety orange, fire engine red, sky blue or a combination of all three and few things bother me more than finding a hidden spot overlooking a gorgeous meadow, only to watch some guy set up his signal flag tent in the middle of the vista. Please, be inconspicuous, if only to not annoy me.


There are two parts to successful camouflage, equipment and action. Equipment is something best handled at home. Before “moving�, which often entails lots of sidewalk hiking and dubiously legal camping, I take the time to check all my gear. This allows me to inventory as well as check for damage and wear.

I begin with a small bottle of acrylic paint and a can of cheap, flat black spray paint and start by unpacking everything and laying it out as neatly as possible. I start with my pack, using the acrylic paint to paint buttons, slides, snaps on the pack and scratches on the frame. An excellent paint for this purpose is sold as surplus stores as M-Nu. If the frame is too scratched, I will take it outside and repaint it with the spray paint. I then repeat this with my ponchos, my hammock, my coats and my shoes. Eyelets, guy hooks and anything else shiny gets painted over. I then take my tent stakes and give them two coats of spray paint. This does not last long, but the only goal is to eliminate shine on the tops of the stakes. When they get shiny again, I cam always mud them over. In today’s littered America, no one notices anything shiny in the bushes anymore anyways.

Then I repack everything as it will be for the trip. I put on the pack and jump up and down, listening for the slapping of straps, jingling of loose catches. I wrap offenders in a single layer of electrical tape and repeat the process until the only sound is the occasional squeaking of my hip strap.

My equipment is now officially stealth.


In practice, camouflage requires attention to 8 factors:

1: Shape and Outline – Few things stick out like a straight line or a human silhouette in the woods. Tent and tarp ridgelines are obvious even if the tarp is of a camouflage pattern. To hide tarp ridgelines you can add sticks under the tarp to give the top of the ridgeline a crumpled, irregular outline. The best bet is usually to pitch the tarp as low as you are comfortable with. I have pitched tarps low enough that raising my head in the morning was impossible, requiring instead for me to slide out of my sleeping bag.

2: Color and Texture – Remember that red tent? Nothing gives you away more than brightly colored gear. A red tent is an eviction notice. Even if you opt not to go with camouflage, choose tents and tarps in earth tones and neutral darks, which allow you to hide in. The same hold true with clothing, but try for darker colors. Camouflage clothing is often self defeating for the guerilla camper because it is conspicuous anywhere outside of hunting preserves. My only camouflage is my shell clothing and my ponchos. I wear khakis when hiking so I can spot ticks on my legs, but when trying to be inconspicuous in the woods, I’ll slip on my shell pants.

3: Shadow – While natural shadows provide good hiding places, your shadow can give you away easily. The shadow of a shelter at dawn can stretch across an entire valley. You can avoid this by pitching your tarp to the west of natural cover such as trees, rocks, or ledges.

4: Shine – This is mostly covered by preparing your equipment at home, so the sun doesn’t cast reflections off brass or aluminum snaps and grommets. However this also takes into account your tent material. Unfortunately, most plastic tarps and waterproof fabrics are naturally shiny. This can be alleviated by scattering dry dirt along the ridge of the tent. The left behind dust will dull the reflectiveness of the fabric. DO NOT USE MUD. Mud is shiny, hard to clean off and once dry becomes obvious as it cracks and crumbles. The reflection of eyeglasses can also be diminished by sprinkling dust on them, but don’t bother, you’ll probably just wreck your glasses.

5: Movement – Movement has a distinct effect on human vision. Our nervous system is attuned in such a way that if something moves we will instinctively look at it. It’s the reason why you can’t sit in a pub without constantly looking at a TV and its one reason a loose tarp flapping in the wind is painfully obvious even if it blends in perfectly.

6: Noise – The other reason a flapping tarp is obvious is the rhythmic snapping of loose corners and slack ridgelines. Pitching the tarp lower often alleviates this as well as additionally hiding the shape and outline of the tarp.

7: Scent – Scent is important no matter where you go, but usually not for human antagonists. Even in the middle of a national park you will find residents who it is best to avoid. The smells of campfires, food and cooking all attract wildlife. This can be fine if you are only expecting raccoons, but in area with bears you should keep all food at least 500 meters from camp and do all cooking at least 750-1000 meters away from camp. If you are doing stinky cooking (A hungry man can smell cooking bacon from two miles) don’t do it where you aren’t supposed to be. You can always cook a mile down the trail.

8: Light –Do not use flashlights after dark. If you must, diffuse the light through a dark colored sweater or t-shirt. If possible use a red lens filter, Maglites have an accessory pack with light filters, and Tikka’s Taktika headlamp has a switchable white/red filter. The same holds true with campfires and the telltale sparks of lighters and matches. On a cloudy moonless night, a cigarette can be seen from over a mile away, and the quickest way to get a ranger to your stealth site is a smoke trail.

By keeping these factors in mind, both while moving and while camping you will be much less likely to attract unneeded attention to yourself.



Once in a while the daunting idea of backtracking two miles is too much when you encounter no trespassing signs. Often, I have encountered gated communities, golf courses and even public drives which the residents have chosen to close to the public. One must not forget train yards, either. At these times it is useful to move stealthily.

Sneaking into a train yard requires a different approach to making it through a gated community. Sometimes it is enough to simply be inconspicuous while at other times you will need to be nearly invisible.

Inconspicuous is easy. Shave and put on a clean shirt. Walk upright and smile a bit vacantly as if you live in the neighborhood and are just returning home from a nice hike with your gigantic homeless backpack. Often you’ll never even see anybody. If somebody is out watering their lawn, smile and nod. Congratulations, you’ve just joined middle America. If stopped, feign ignorance, nothing is as believable as an ignorant suburbanite.

Invisible is hard. Dark clothes, a dark pack and no jingling is imperative. If you sound like a herd of eight reindeers you’re not making it far. Recheck for sounds, especially sloshing which is most common. If possible put all water in one container or top it off before moving on. Tape or pack anything that is jingling or slapping. You will seldom need anything as over the top as facial camouflage, a dark scarf or handkerchief around the face and mouth will work for this and then you don’t look like rocky raccoon in your mug shot.

Moving is best done upright, unless your silhouette will give you away. Slowly place the ball of your lead foot on the ground. Listen closely for branches of leaves. If you hear it, move you foot a few inches and lower it again. Slowly place your weight down on that foot, and move your trail foot forward placing it on the ground in the same way. This is much easier done on gravel than through leaves. The trick to not dig as you place your foot. While moving, consciously consider noise, light, shadow, movement and silhouette. Do not climb fences, instead, look for gaps. Go over walls and obstacles with a low profile, by swinging your torso atop it then swinging your legs over as low as possible. If you must cross open areas, look for long shadows and move quickly and quietly, keeping as low a profile as possible. Move slowly and deliberately and resist the urge to run across open areas.

If you must crawl, the best way to move is by doing a modified push-up onto your hands and toes and crawling forward with one leg and arm at a time. The trick is to not shift your weight abruptly. I find it easiest to hover my body a few inches off the ground with my hands at chest breadth apart. Do not drag yourself as it leaves an obvious trail and makes too much noise.

I will be honest, I have seldom needed to become “invisible� to go anywhere, but when hiking with friends a playful game of stalking can be fun, especially with people who have watched too many “madman in the forest� horror films. Be careful though, sneaking under the picnic table and grabbing an ankle can get you kicked in the face.


When to be seen.

Just as it is occasionally important to go undetected, there are occasions when being obvious is life saving. If you are ever in hunting areas, on or off season, do not attempt to go undetected. I carry two “safety orange� nylon pennants about a foot long. They weigh nothing, and I seldom think of them. If passing through hunting preserves, I always pitch my tarp in the middle of a clearing with the flags on either corner of my ridgeline. During turkey season I’ve seen guys blindly firing shotguns into bushes at the slightest scuttle. If there are guns around, do not go stealth. It is always better to be accosted for trespassing than shot for being a turkey.

4 years ago


I decided to skip mentioning camouflage makeup. I can’t imagine it being of use, and have never had reason to since the officers stopped making me do it. In my opinion, it’s gross.

The leg is almost better, so I’ll probably get to leave town on monday. Might have one more by then. Thanks again for all the feedback everybody.

4 years ago


You forgot lack of cotton.

I play airsoft from time to time. It is sort of like paintball, but hurts like hell when you get hit. A few of the guys who play have taken it to an exstreme level and used night vision scopes, since my friends and I cann’t afford such nice equipment to take out the other team, we use camcorders. turns out that these camcorder’s work better, when the opposing team wears cotton fabric camoflage.

Cotton Glows.

4 years ago


Interesting note. The only time I’ve used NVGs has been in military situations, and BDUs don’t glow. Does all cotton glow or only white? Do you know what causes it?

4 years ago


That’s funny! Spray paint is also good if you’re required to wear gold shoes for work.

4 years ago


Wilderness Survival Manuals > Survival, Evasion, and Recovery > Chapter I – Evasion > Camouflage

a. Basic principles:

(1) Disturb the area as little as possible.
(2) Avoid activity that reveals movement to the enemy.
(3) Apply personal camouflage.

b. Camouflage patterns (Figure I-1):

(1) Blotch pattern.

[a] – Temperate deciduous (leaf shedding) areas.
[b] – Desert areas (barren).
[c] – Snow (barren).

(2) Slash pattern.

[a] – Coniferous areas (broad slashes).
[b] – Jungle areas (broad slashes).
[c] – Grass (narrow slashes).

(3) Combination. May use blotched and slash together.

Figure I-1. Camouflage Patterns

c. Personal camouflage application follows:

(1) Face. Use dark colors on high spots and light colors on any remaining exposed areas. Use a hat, netting, or mask if available.
(2) Ears. The insides and the backs should have 2 colors to break up outlines.
(3) Head, neck, hands, and the under chin. Use scarf, collar, vegetation, netting, or coloration methods.
(4) Light colored hair. Give special attention to conceal with a scarf or mosquito head net.

d. Camouflage patterns (Figure I-1):

(1) Avoid unnecessary movement.
(2) Take advantage of natural concealment:

[a] – Cut foliage fades and wilts, change regularly
[b] – Change camouflage depending on the surroundings.
[c] – DO NOT select vegetation from same source.
[d] – Use stains from grasses, berries, dirt, and charcoal.

(3) DO NOT over camouflage.
(4) Remember when using shadows, they shift with the sun.
(5) Never expose shiny objects (like a watch, glasses, or pens)
(6) Ensure watch alarms and hourly chimes are turned off.
(7) Remove unit patches, name tags, rank insignia, etc.
(8) Break up the outline of the body, “V” of crotch/armpits.
(9) Conduct observation from a prone and concealed position

*Also See: Movement*

Post Modified: 11/05/05 00:26:19
4 years ago


4 years ago


Totally random thought. The other day, one of my students came to class with a camo t-shirt on, with the words “Ha! Now you can’t see me!” on the front. I laughed my ass off.

4 years ago


Man, I am so with you about the technicolor hiking gear. My brain cannot reconcile what is going on in people’s heads when they bring crap like that into pristine natural settings.

4 years ago


I dunno, it seems that most of the clothing is earthtones…which is great. And it’s actually quite possible to find a backpack that’s not that funky- mine is sort of gray-green and olive. I think one of the worst offenders is actually outerwear and other waterproof stuff; jackets, gloves, hats, tents, bivi sacks, etc. I have yet to find a tent that’s not fucking iridescent; mine is charcoal and white, which is OK, but it’s got a yellow rain fly.

It occurs to me that a lot of this stuff is so bright to increase visibility, such as to searchers looking for somebody lost.

4 years ago


That is the reason, Snark, to make sure you can be found. But some on. How many people who ‘need to be found’ are running around with tents? As for outerwear, I havn’t found much better than surplus gortex ECW (extreme cold weater) shell gear. It’s light, packs tight, and is camouflage. Still get wierd looks in the city though.

We used to joke about being invisibile in the army. Flip our collars up and start acting up. “You can’t see me. I’m not here.” Then again, in the military position of rest, you are to keep your right foot planted. When placed at rest, most of my squad would start shuffling in circles, like our foot was nailed to the groud, so I guess we were all a little goofy.

4 years ago


Oh yeah, was just going to write someting and stumbled upon the first draft of this article. I felt I rambled too much in it so I didn;t use it.

Camouflage is one of those things particular to a guerilla camper and not every kid with a backpack. If you are moving from place to place off established trails, Say, walking from Atlanta to Nashville, you will often have to impede on a variety of right of ways, camping in fields, under freeways, beside train tracks and in some of the most pristine wilderness you can imagine. There are a lot of people who don’t want you sleeping in those places and the best way to convince them they do is by not letting them even know that you’re there.

Camouflage is about more than not being seen, it’s about not being detected. Picking up your trash, hiding your scorch and burying your crap is camouflage. You do it so the next guy to come along can share in the feeling of being the first person on earth to see this undisturbed land (while setting his tent up on top of your cat hole). Camouflage is about not buying a BRIGHT RED tent and annoying the hell out of me by camping in a meadow my site overlooks, and making at least a moderate attempt to blend into the wilderness.

Civil society is all about standing out. When I leave society, I don’t want anything that advertises itself. No camping gear should be bright orange, except for a small nylon flag you use when camping in hunting preserves. Yes, sometimes you WANT people to know you’re there.


Camouflaging a campsite is not difficult if you choose the correct gear. Make or buy your gear out of earth-tone fabrics, brown, green, black and tan that occur naturally where you will be traveling. I don’t own anything white because I don’t do much snow camping, and when I have, I’ve always hoped to be found, cause it almost guarantees a ride to warmer environments. Yes, sometimes you really want people to know you’re there. Now, as you walk through the evening, look for places the same color as your tent or tarp.

Tan – Scrub, dry grasses, summer meadows, sandy areas, concrete.
Black – Conniferous tree clutsters, ledge shadows, under freeways.(But why?)
Green – Grass, bushes, etc. If you can’t find green in a forest…
Brown – Fallen tree trunks, dirt. See green.

Creating camouflage:

You can always use materials around you to create natural camouflage, but it has its limits. Do not try to cover a two man tunnel tent in grass. This is just another reason to go with tarps or ponchos; you can pitch them in a variety of ways to work with your surroundings.

The most important part of camouflage is hiding the outline. With tents and tarps this will always be the ridgeline, the straight strip along the top that works hardest to keep you dry. To break up the ridgeline, You can fold pleats in the fabric of a tarp, and tuck plant remnants into the folds. You can also pitch the tarp extremely low, allowing you to hide behind tall grass. Often you can find natural features, such as crevices that allow you to pitch the tarp almost flat. There is a place I found in California where two trees had grown in such a way next to a dry creek bed that it was actually possible to hang a hammock underground. If I hadn’t found it at nine in the morning, I would have stayed.


what do you think?

4 years ago


I’m lovin’ these posts, people need this information. I know there’s tons of ‘survival’ manuals out there, but I’m just finishing up Bradford Angier’s ‘How to Stay Alive In the Woods’, and I’m wondering what books, (besides the obvious Army Wilderness Training Manuals), you’ve read, and can recommend. I need to go on a trip…a hell of a long one, and learning long forgotten skills would sure as hell help me out.

4 years ago


Is the B.C. rollin’ through the barracks for inspection later or what? M-Nu’s a life-saver. haha. good stuff BP—all the guerrilla camping sections. I was an 11B, so I know what yer sayin’. Army issu ECW gortex gear works very well—I was stationed in Alaska, so I frequently put the gear to the test—expensive, but well worth it if you’re gonna be out in the cold or rain.

4 years ago


I’ve been a guerilla camper for over a year now too and I love the bit about fixing noisy gear and sloshing. I have been stalking so long that it becomes force of habit to stalk everywhere at all times making as little sound as possible.

I started practicing stealth techniques playing Airsoft in Vancouver with Canadian Forces guys. When it comes to woodland camo, CADPAT all the way. Many times I have crawled past enemy snipers, had enemy almost step on me, or hidden in plain sight with CADPAT. It really is too bad that it is so conscpicuous in civilian life to wear all CADPAT. However, in the United States most people don’t recognize the pattern and its digital nature almost makes it fashionable as opposed to scary.
A CADPAT Catalog

My 100L+ CADPACK).aspx
I wanted one third-line pack to pack them all and in the compression straps bind them. The LRPP swallows several smaller lighter sub-backpacks that compartmentalize second-line kits like my clothes and computing gear. And it has some military extras. Nice to know I can use the rapelling harness if I have to rapell off a building in a hurry carrying a 120L load. And the price isn’t as much as it seems because it is in Canadian dollars.

By the way Wolfe, I recognize you. We always meant to get together foar an airsoft op some time but never managed to. IR camcorders would be an interesting hack. Night fighting is psychologically harrowing as it is, but against people with NVG it is like being up against the invisible Predator.

With the exception of some wilderness trips I have stayed mostly urban and sought to maintain access to civilized staples like the convenience of a hot shower every morning.

What I love about your guides Blackpacker is the amount of field-testing your words clearly reflect. You have been there and tried things on a long enough timeline to discover Mean Times Between Failure and what is worth carrying when you are traveling long distances. Thank you for sharing your experience and I do hope you produce a book.

By the way, check out Patrolling, one of the shows my friend Sean Kennedy The Fucking Man has put together. Many of the episodes deal with guerilla camping survival techniques.

Patrolling with Sean Kennedy

November 2, 2005

Dying of Thirst – Guerrilla Camping 101.6

Draft originally posted at The Guerrilla News Network. Included here with GNN commentary courtesy of the GNN Archive.

Dying of Thirst – Guerrilla Camping 101.6

Our bodies are made up of 75% water, thus the effects of dehydration are fast and debilitating. Although you can survive without water for a number of days, you will do it with lethargy, a headache, joint pains and muscle cramps. Thus, water should be of constant concern, both in the city and in the woods. Fortunately, water also covers over 75% of the planet, so finding it is usually not difficult. Finding clean, safe water while travelling can be more problematic however.

The EPA estimates that 90% of the world fresh water is unsafe to drink without treatment. The World Health Organization sites waterborne gastrointestinal infections as the cause of 80% of all disease; killing 50,000 people daily. There are dozens of ways water can become contaminated; the most likely being agricultural and industrial run off. Although water can be invisibly contaminated, quite often you can judge water though a variety of factors.

Foam: If the shores have foam, leave it alone. Water does not foam. If there is foam present in the water, it indicates heavy contamination. Do not drink it. Even though you may be tempted to, especially if it is miles to the next clean source and you are running low but remember that intestinal illness is a much greater dehydrator than a few miles walking and foam can even indicate industrial runoff, and god only knows what that stuff will do to you.
Stagnant Water: Sitting water is generally a bad idea to drink. Stagnant pools are collection points for everything that can possibly be washed into them, Since the only way for these pools to empty is through evaporation, a contaminated pool remains contaminated for years on end, and actually becomes more contaminated as less and less water remains.

Agricultural Runoff: If there is a pasture on the water front anywhere up stream, use great caution, and preferably avoid drinking it. Most intestinal diseases are spread through feces, which spreads easily through the ground during rain.
Industrial Runoff: Mining pollutes ground water with a variety of chemicals, as do a great number of industrial practices. (Flouride is a byproduct of aluminum production). Avoid water down hill from mining and industrial areas, since poisons like cyanide, arsenic and things I’m too freaked out about to look up can be present.
Alkalis: In some areas, springs can have a dangerously high alkaline content drawn from leeching through minerals in the ground. Fortunately, Alkali tainted water is bitter and leaves a long after taste in the mouth, so it is pretty easily identified.
Tannic Acid: Tannic acid lends a brown color to water, although by itself, it is not toxic, even in large quantities. I looks like watered down soda pop and is caused by water leeching the tannic acid from trees like cedar.
Giardia: Not so affectionately known as Beaver Fever due to the myth that beaver droppings spread the infection, Giardia is a protozoan that rose to prominence during the 1980s due to heightened numbers of infection among backpackers and campers. Some speculate that this protozoa has been with us for eons, but a combination of day to day sterility and use of antibiotics have weakened our natural immunities to it. The increase of agricultural meadowland along watersheds has also contributed to an increase in infections since it is spread through fecal matter.
Crypto: Cryptosporadium is another protozoan responsible for diuretic distress and is the most common cause of everyday diarrhea. Neither iodine nor chorine will kill it, although it is susceptible to boiling and filtering, but only if you are using a 1 micron or smaller filter. Most ceramic hiking filters will filter crypto. Fortunately, once you get crypto, you will have a slight immunity to it that gradually builds.
E. Coli: Not much of a problem in pristine mountains, E. Coli is found in shallow groundwater sources contaminated with animal waste.
Caffeine , Carbon Dioxide, Corn Syrup and Coloring: Soda pop is poison. It melts your teeth, dehydrates you and is produced by some pretty despicable multinationals. While I use soda cans to make stoves, I won’t even pick up a used coca-cola can for fear that somebody might think I actually support the bastards.

Treating Water

Boiling: Boiling is one of the safest methods of treating water, although it will not remove chemical pollutants. Boiling can also be used with other forms of treatment to just to be sure. It makes the water taste flat, but that can be remedied by pouring it from one container to another a few times, which also speeds the cooling process.
Iodine: One of the most common methods of treating water, iodine kills giardia and many other waterborne diseases, but it is unable to kill crypto due to a protective cyst around the organism. Iodine collects in the body over any period of use, so it is not recommended for constant use and this is why the public water system does not use it for purification. Iodine leaves a bad taste in the water which can be neutralized with a small bit of ascorbic acid (Powdered vitamin C (Citric Acid) works too). Before adding flavor neutralizers, make sure the iodine has had at least fifteen to twenty minutes to purify the water, thirty of the water is cold. Iodine tablets are sold under the brand names Portable Aqua and Polar Pure and for a few bucks more you can get an additional bottle of PA plus, ascorbic acid tablets that neutralize the taste of the iodine. Iodine looses its effectiveness once exposed to air, so once you open a bottle try to use it in a few weeks or buy a new bottle. It is also discourages for anyone with a thyroid condition, and those allergic to shellfish, since shellfish allergies are often caused by the iodine they contain.
Chlorine: Forget it. Chlorine is one of the least effective methods of cleansing water, although it has the benefit of not leaving behind a chemical after taste. Chlorine bleach is suggested for use during emergencies where municipal water systems have been compromised.
Water Filters: I love mine. I have drank from murky green horse troughs, yielding crisp clean water and not gotten sick. Filters can pricy and some people doubt their usefulness to weight ratio, however while completing Ranger school, I had the chance to drink swamp water, filtered through a t-shirt and treated with extra strength (and extra tasty) iodine tablets. To this day I refuse to drink “Superfoods” or other macrobiotic “green protein” drinks because of that one “opportunity” If you opt to buy a filter, do not go cheap, make sure the filter has a filtration level of less than 2 microns, as anything higher will neither eliminate Giardia nor crypto.
Aquamira: The aquamira system consists of two bottles, one containing Chlorine Dioxide (not really chlorine) and food grade phosphoric acid. By pre-mixing the two and adding it to water, it oxygenates the water, killing any biological contaminants. It requires a 30 minute wait, but leaves no foul taste and is supposedly more effective than either iodine or chlorine.

Carrying Water

It is said that 64 ounces a day is a good amount of water to consume. However, this does not mean you should go tramping off into the woods with two 32 ounce bottles, since you will also need water for cooking and cleaning.
Water Bottles: These can be as simple as recycled soda bottles, which have the benefit of being collapsible when empty, or as complex as varnished aluminum sig bottles. I personally carry two wide mouth lexan plastic bottles which screw directly onto the bottom of my water filter. I also carry a rolled up two liter bottle in the bottom of my pack for use at camp or to carry additional water in dry locales. I also occasionally will carry a half liter water bottle which I use to drink from while walking because I can carry it in my pocket.
Water Bags: Water bags are no good for carrying water, since they slosh and shift weight, but they are great for storing water. A number of hikers recommend using one just for camp, to prevent constantly running for more water. It is also a simple matter to turn a water bag into a camp shower by buying a second cap, which you use a hot pin to make holes in.
Hydration Bladders: Dromedary bags are most commonly referred to by the brand name Camelbak. hydration bladders are incorporated into most modern, high-end backpacks. I have considered modifying my ruck sack to accommodate one but the price, difficulty in cleaning and threat of a puncture turn me off to the idea. There are useful however, and I know many people who swear by them and the convenience of having a straw draped over your shoulder does encourage good drinking habits. I personally use a Platypus due to the simplicity of their design.

Collapseable Jugs: Skip em. They are great for car camping, but are difficult to carry, puncture easily, and after getting folded up a few dozen times they WILL break open. I carried one for fourteen days. I used it at camp for five, and then carried the broken piece of plastic for nine days just to throw it out.

Finding water

I advocate always carrying a map, which is the best way to find water, although hiking an extra mile to a dry creek bed in the middle of summer can be disappointing. Look for downhill valleys which channel water, abrupt changes in vegetation, willow trees are notorious for growing by springs and lakes as is cottonwood in drier regions. Large flocks of quail, rockdoves and other foraging birds can indicate a water source nearby. In arid or desert regions look for shocks of green vegetation, which indicate a source or at least shallow groundwater, which can be dug for. If you have to dig more than a foot, give up and try someplace else. In the desert, look for reflections, but this can be tricky, as what seems to be a reflection of water could simply be a mirage.

Emergency Water

Water is everywhere, thankfully and it is not hard to gather water in the woods. However, should you find yourself without, there are a number of tricks to collect water.

  • Put a plastic bag around tree branches and tie it off. The moisture from the tree will condense in the bag over a few hours, yielding a few sips of water.
  • Dig a hole, deep enough to place your water bottle into and a foot or two wide. Lay a plastic sheet (tarps and space blankets work) over the hole, and put a small rock in the middle, directly over your water bottle. The day time heat will cause water to evaporate, which will collect on the tarp, running down and gradually dripping into your water bottle. If you are in a true survival situation, you should also know that this method will allegedly distill urine into drinkable water.
  • Rain. God I love rain water. Clean, fresh and easy to collect. If a storm is coming I will often leave my cookpot and a water bottle out and open in a clearing, even if I’m camped out near a river. I don’t however do this in or near cities as I feel (Maybe I’m wrong) that even the air is dirty there.
  • Dew Mopping: Use a piece of cloth early in the morning to wipe dew from the landscape and then wring it into a cup. Don’t gather dew from poisonous plants though. This is actually a pretty effective way to acquire water. You should still treat water gathered in this matter.

Thirsty yet?

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