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December 18, 2005

So Fresh and So Clean – Guerrilla Camping 101.11

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

So Fresh and So Clean – Guerrilla Camping 101.11
Asset B11422 Posted By BlackPacker

*To keep up to date on my current writing and articles, please visit my page at GuerrillaCamping.Blogspot.com*

So Fresh and So Clean – Guerrilla Camping 101.11

Somebody asked me for a hygiene blog. I’m not a neat freak by any means, but I do try to keep my fingernails clean when cooking. I’m not really as anal retentive as this blog implies. I was going to include a bit on foot hygiene, but it realized the subject to be worthy of an entry of its own, especially so I can tell the trench foot story…

Thanks for all the feedback I’ve gotten. I am trying to collect these into a pamphlet or book of some form, so if you get any questions wile reading it, please ask them in the comments, I have mentioned that I am often guilty of skipping important parts by thinking faster than I type, leaving stuff out in the process.

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Wash That Ass

Please, don’t stink. It doesn’t just bother me, it bothers everyone. I don’t care if you’re keepin’ it real, you don’t even need to keep it clean if you don’t want to, but for the love of everything good, don’t make me everyone else bask in your putridness. Dogs sniff each others asses to say hello, not guerrillas.

Where to wash: You should NEVER EVER EVER wash in a stream or water source. This leads to the spreading of the waterborne diseases discussed in the Dying of Thirst blog. Like cooking, washing should be done 200 feet from any ground water. I like to find groves of trees that offer privacy. Gnarled out hollow oaks make amazing shower stalls and wind breaks. In suburbs, grocery store bathrooms are still great places to wash up, just go up to the customer service desk and ask them to hold your pack, then find another employee and ask where the bathroom is. In most places, however, asking with a pack on is asking to get hassled. Please, don’t leave a mess and if you splash water all over the place wipe up a bit. I’d hate for them to start locking them up like they have in coffee shops and gas stations. Keep in mind also that Grocery store workers are one of the last strong labor groups in America before you go making some poor worker clean up your muddy drippings. In rural areas, I tend to take cat baths or hustle barn space.

Cat Baths and Guerrilla Showers:

I carry a wash basin with me. It’s made from the bottom of a gallon milk container and straps against the bottom of a cookpot to keep it from getting wrecked. It’s about three inches deep, and stands up well with warm water in it, allowing you to wash without fumbling around with a bottle to rinse off. Before putting my dinner on to cook, I heat a pot full of water to a comfortable temperature and fill the basin. I then put my water on to boil for dinner as I wash. I wash my armpits and face with small amounts of liquid castile soap, and rinse off. I then wash my arms and hands with enough soap to make a lather. I dig at my finger nails a bit while doing this and scratch the palm of my hands to loosen dirt. I then wipe the soap off from the elbow to the hand with flicking motions, instead of getting my rise water all soapy. I then rinse the remaining soap off in the warm water, finally pouring the water down each arm for a final rinse and to rinse away any suds that might leave residue on the ground. I use micro-fiber towels I got at a restaurant supply store for a dollar a piece. These same towels sell at outfitter shops for 3-7 dollars. By the time my hands are dry, my water is just starting to boil and I can sit down to prepare dinner, assured that I won’t contaminate my food with dirty fingers. After dinner, I boil water to wash my cookware, and use the opportunity to wash my armpits and crotch with a towel soaked in warm, lightly soapy water. The dry corner of the towel suffices for a rinse.

There seem to be a few common drives in any group of men living outdoors, one of which is the drive to create wilderness showers. While in the 101st, the motorpool in my company constructed a six man, gravity fed shower using recycled pallets and old immersion heaters. A guy I met once had rigged up a water bag on two ropes allowing him to turn his shower on and off by pulling or releasing a rope. I’ve painted five gallon water containers black and melted holes in the cap to make a simple solar shower I could hang off the top of a truck. The easiest method I’ve found is to take a junked plastic bottle and punch small holes in the cap. You can often find HUGE water bottles in the recycling bins at developed campsites, and if you can’t find a two liter bottle in the city or suburbs, you aren’t looking. Don’t forget that you can also buy plastic bottles from urban scavengers, many of whom will take the time to dig through a dirty pile of bottles and cans to find that three gallon water bottle they scored at the nearby park only to ask for the five or ten cents they would get at a recycling depot.

The hardest part of making a bottle shower is getting the hot water into the bottle. The simplest way to do this is to create a cord funnel. Take a foot or so of cord and tie one end to a rock, and the other to a stick. Feed the stick into the bottle and once the water is warm enough for your shower, drop the rock in the cook pot. Lift the cook pot high enough that the cord falls straight into the bottle and slowly pour the water into the bottle. If there is enough tension on the cord, it should guide the water into the mouth of the bottle with very little spilling. The trick is to pour just slow enough that the water doesn’t spill over the lip and just fast enough that it doesn’t run down the side of the pot.

The Bug Check

When I change into my sleeping clothes, I take the time to check my body for ticks. I quick once over is enough, especially if you’ve gotten a few ticks in your time, they are obvious. I gently check my back by running my hand down each side of my back. I figure that if I have a tick in that spot I can’t scratch, he’s brilliant, and deserves to live. A better alternative though, is walk up to a buddy and say, “hey, I got ticks?” then turn around and lift your shirt. It separates the men from the boys, especially if you do it in church.


If you need to “freshen up” before walking into town, putting a bit of rubbing alcohol on your fingers and wiping it into your pits is enough to kill odors since it kills stinky bacteria. I always carry a fair amount of rubbing alcohol for first aid and hygienic use. I get the strongest concentration I can, figuring value to weight is worth something, and in a worse case scenario, 90% isopropyl is a decent fire starter. Don’t use denatured alcohol unless you have burn proof skin, the stuff does cause irritation.

Use that Ass

There is a common discussion the first time a soldier is out in the field and looks at the five neatly folded pieces of toilet paper that come with an MRE. “What are we supposed to do with five sheets of paper?” The common response? “Use it to wipe your hand”.

A lot of people are freaked out their first few times shitting in the woods. A friend of mine, dropping a squat in the Kentucky wilderness was so jumpy that he shot at a wild dog running by in the night. His reasoning was simple. “My pants were down!” But after a while, it becomes old hat and returning to toilets seems a bit difficult.

The human body, by design or the honing process of evolution is a finely tuned machine, attuned to use tools, but also to exist without them. The toilet is one of those tools that many feel we could do without, claiming that the undue stress on stomach and glutinous muscles leads to abdominal distress. I choose to disagree, in my case, the most common source of abdominal pains while sitting on the porcelain throne is reading the New Republic. But even I concede that squatting is a much more natural position. So it’s time to shit AND get off the pot.

Picking a place to poo is perplexing in places. You should do it 200 meters away from ground water. Yes, meters. This isn’t hand cooties, this is it, the real honest stinking deal, and there’s no way that should run into anybody’s canteen downstream. You should dig a hole, between 6 and eight inches deep. Any deeper and it won’t decompose, if it’s too shallow it will get dug up by animals. Often you will find places too rocky of waterlogged to dig. In these cases the proper course of action is to pack it out, although I will admit to never doing this. It’s true that human shit contains many contaminants not present in animal equivalents, but truth be told, it’s still poo, and if every other animal can do it under a bush, I figure mine should be okay there too.

To dig a hole, you will need a digging stick or a trowel. I opt to carry a trowel, since it was a gift. Amy entrenching tools are too heavy and usually useless to carry. There are smaller flding varieties to look neat and include a pick, but the model I carry is a U Dig It. It’s constructed out of stainless steel, and has a five year guarantee against torking the handle or rust. It’s pretty heavy duty and only slightly heavier than the small folding shovels. There are also the standard bright orange plastic trowels, which many of my friends have complain about being weak and bending. Prior to receiving the stainless shovel, I always just used digging sticks, sharpened quickly with a pocket knife. Pop the stick into the ground at an angle less than 45 degrees, then push down. Repeat until you have a decent sized toilet. Then, when done, break it up a bit to speed decomposition, cover it and go.

TP is another matter. The arguments for and against toilet paper are endless. You shouldn’t burn it, it doesn’t decompose (Actually, there are toilet papers that claim to biodegrade), it’s unsightly, and if you wish to be traceless you have to pack it out.

Regardless, I carry a roll with me always. By yanking the cardboard tube out of the middle, you can cram a roll of toilet paper into a ziplock baggie. DO NOT use regular sandwich bags. When (Not if) your pack gets soaked, a sandwich bag will let water in, the toilet paper will turn to pulp and you’ll be wearing and sleeping in pulp covered gear. Some people advocate carrying it in a cookpot or coffee can so it stays soft, but since my cookpot contains my stove, and a coffee can is as heavy as the roll of paper, I opt for mushed toilet paper in a baggie.

For years burning TP was the accepted method to dispose of toilet paper. Unfortunately, the destructiveness of campfires on public lands led to the adoption of fire regulations that prohibited this method. The official word came to pack it out. I don’t. I pack it to the next fire or trash can and dump it immediately. The biggest issue with burning toilet paper is the occasion when burning embers start blowing around, igniting everything around you. Toilet paper is as safe to burn as wood if done properly. I generally push wads of it under burning logs, and watch the fire for any drifting bits. Since prevailing winds will always deter me from starting a fire, I am usually able to avoid shit flares.

I carry another ziplock baggie to carry the TP out in, if I have no way to dispose of it. I keep both baggies in a plastic grocery bag with the trowel, tied shut to keep it from “getting out”.

Going without is quite simple, although it requires a bit of experimentation and if you can’t recognize poison oak, poison ivy, sumac or stinging nettle stick to rocks and bark, I’ve had a thousand cases of stinging nettle and one run in with poison oak, and can’t imagine the agony that either would inflict if used as toilet paper. Fortunately, stinging nettle’s effects are immediate, so if you’re dumb enough to use it on your butt, it’s not my problem.

My favorite TP substitute is the hanging moss you find draped from trees. It’s soft, clumps well and being natural, it’s safe to bury with the poop. You can also use tree bark, leaves, stones and seashells. Avoid grass and sharp edged foliage, since they can cause cuts and be sure to check the leaves before you use them, they can be sticky, thorny or otherwise unsuited to your derriere.

Washing your rags

A small kitchen trash bag is a sufficient washing machine. Put about two gallons of water in it, then add your clothing and about 2 teaspoons of castile soap. Tie a knot in the top of the bag then shake it and flip it over in your hands for a few minutes then let it rest and soak for a while. While it sits, find two trees and tie a length of cord between them to serve as a clothesline. Repeat the agitation again, and let it rest a short amount of time. At least 200 yards from any water, dump the soapy water in an inconspicuous place, spreading it out avoid flooding any plants. Shake your clothes out a bit to release excess soap then drape them over the clothes line and put a small bit of water into the trash bag. Use a water bottle for this to avoid polluting the stream with dirty wash water. Squeeze the neck of the bag shut and shake it to loosen dirt and soap. Pour the rinse water out of the bag then turn it inside out and flap it around to get rid of any remaining soap.

Once again, you’re going to collect two more gallons of water in the trash bag then put your clothes back in. I shake them off a bit first to get rid of as much soap as I can. This time, let the bag sit for about five minutes to loosen soap and dirt, then shake the hell out time to shake them out, since this allows you to get more dirt off them than if you dumped out the water.

Truth be told, washing your clothes is easy. Drying them, on the other hand is a bit more difficult. Most clothing, especially cotton and wool take notoriously long times to dry. Care must therefore be taken to make sure your clothes dry. Tie your clothesline so it faces south, and has the most amount of sun exposure. Since you will have to drape your clothes over the clothes line, and won’t have hangers or clothes pins, you will need to flip them a few times to make sure they dry evenly. I try to do laundry right after breakfast, using left over hot water to warm the initial wash water, and assuring that I have a full day of sun to make sure the clothes dry.

If you clothes fail to dry before it is time to move on, put them back in the trash bag to keep from wetting your other gear. You will need to be diligent to remove them from the bag as soon as possible, re-hanging the clothes at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise they will mildew and stink, defeating the entire purpose of washing them in the first place.


I love to shave as much as I hate to shave. The steam from a basin of hot water warming my face as I lean towards a mirror in a nicely tiled bathroom takes on an air of ritual when done in anticipation of your first shower in three weeks. The slow strokes revealing fresh clean skin beneath road grime, so imbedded to have become a simple part of your complexion. Watching your face reappear, young and rejuvenated makes this a sublime moment, where I find myself naturally predisposed towards introspect. Socrates once said that a man does his best thinking in the bath. If this is so, then the best subjects are discovered while shaving.

That said, trying to splash cold water on your face from a hep-c ridden sink in the Jacksonville greyhound station while some junkie is puking in the next bathroom over is something one should only do in the spirit of adventure. That’s why I don’t use a razor. And why I don’t shave often, unless necessary. Instead, I use a battery operated electric shaver. It uses two AA batteries, which I pilfer from my flashlight when I need to shave, and can be recharged using a solar battery charger. (If you want to go ghetto, you can get a cheap solar powered garden lamp and pilfer its guts to improvise one. There are instructions floating all over the web on how to do the modification, which simply involves cutting a few wires. I will do a blog on this later and remove this non-sequitor)

I picked up the razor at a truck stop a few years back, having originally used one bought at a PX while in the army. The casing broke a few months ago, and is held together with a wrap of duct tape, but it still works fine. The blade cover contains a mirror, which is usually the only one I have with me. It has two rotary blades and does not shave very close. This is a benefit when you are in the woods, getting dirty as it reduces ingrown hairs. When the batteries aren’t charged, it slows down and starts pulling hair, but all in all it works okay, and allows you to dry shave as you sit at the side of the road waiting for a ride.

Before shaving I rough up my beard, to lift the hairs from the surface of my face. All I do is rub my hands against the grain of the hair for a minute, occasionally lightly running my finger nails along my face to dislodge any ingrown hairs. The razor works easily, and I o a once over blindly, before knocking out the cut hairs and using the mirror to touch up the rough spots. It’s quite embarrassing to find out that you have a neck mohawk five minutes after getting flirty with the Australian girl working the desk at the hostile.

If you do manage to pull a hair or cut yourself with a razor, use some of that rubbing alcohol on it. You can mix a bit of water and a bit of alcohol to make a primitive aftershave if you have a recurring issue with ingrown hairs or infected follicles, but I never bother, opting instead to wash my face with light soapy water afterwards.

Girl Trouble?

Tampons and pads are difficult to dispose of. Burning them is ineffective, since it requires a very hot fire to completely consume them and they are plagued with even more decomposition issues than toilet paper, so burying them is defiantly out. They can be packed out in ziplock bags, or alternatives can be used. The keeper cup, available at keeper.com is used by a number of women I know. It is a reusable device that looks a bit like a long stemmed acorn. It works kind of like a tampon, but is washable and reusable for up to ten years. Reusable cotton pads are a good alternative, since if you have to pack it out anyways, you might as well be able to wash and re-use it, although the difficulties of washing them by hand are obvious.


Many places offer coin showers. Most notoriously, truck stops and some overdeveloped camp sites in the more populous states. The trick to a fifty cent shower is to use one quarter to soak yourself, soap and lather without, then use another quarter to wash. Some truck stops have shower tokens you buy for a few dollars that are good for a five or ten minute shower. For information on fake tokens, check out Abbie Hoffman’s masterpiece Steal this Book.

If you carry a water bag or hydration bladder, buying a replacement cap to turn into a shower head is an obvious choice. Choosing a dark color water bag will allow you to heat it with the sun. Solar water heaters are nifty, but redundant if you use a water bag or hydration pack.

Ocassionally in big cities, you will find exhaust vents beside high rise buildings, that spew warm air out of the sidewalk. Setting up a simple tarp tent over a grate like this makes a great place to take a late night scrub on cold night, almost like deep urban hot springs. If you use construction warning signs to hold up the edges and use a utility tarp, you should be invisible to police.

4 years ago


Dirty hippies. lol.

4 years ago


“especially so I can tell the trench foot story…”

Looking forward to it!

“A lot of people are freaked out their first few times shitting in the woods.”

Special note for the winter – be careful when you try to relieve yourself when you’re wearing a snow suit. A girl I knew accidentally peed in her hood, then promptly stood up and pulled it over her head.

Post Modified: 12/17/05 21:32:04
4 years ago


The funniest shit in the woods I ever saw was during bay to breakers in San Francisco, a guy wandered up a hill in golden gate, in sight of the procession and dropped his drawers to relieve himself. A bit drunker than he thought, he rolled down the hill in mid push, of course, only a few seconds after evryone had noticed him and started cheering him on.

Another note for winter pooping. Some people saw to use snow. This is fine, but your nuts may not un-shrink til summer.

December 14, 2005

Getting there is All The Fun – Guerrilla Camping 101.10

Draft originally posted at The Guerrilla News Network. Included here with GNN commentary courtesy of the GNN Archive.
Getting there is All The Fun – Guerrilla Camping 101.10
Asset B11249 Posted By BlackPacker

This should actually be 101.11, 101.10 on Navigation is killing me. Map reading is really hard to write about and I’m not used to working with illustrations. If you’re interested, I did the photos for the tent and stove articles, but textile is intimidating me at the moment, since it is hard for me to sit in front of machine.

Getting there is all the fun

While many professional hikers have written about through hikes, very little has been written about simply walking long distances. The Appalachian trail is gorgeous and challenging, but if you simply want to walk from Clarksville to Nashville, much more consideration is required. Walking along sidewalks and trails is easy but often you will find yourself walking along railroad tracks, highways and winding mountain roads with shoulders narrower than your pack. Beyond walking, there are a great many other ways to travel without owning a car, although depending on where you live, some may be illegal, dangerous or downright foolhardy.

Off-Trail Hiking:

Pedestrians rush in where fools fear to tread. I have had some very close vehicular encounters in my time, and all of us know somebody who has been whacked by a wayward car. Unfortunately, deciding to walk any considerable distance places you in a number of dubious situations as you come down off the trails and sidewalks and follow the same byways the less motivated use to travel.

Railroad Tracks:

Railroad routes cross the country in every direction and are often plainly labeled on topographical maps. Train tracks can range from abandoned turn of the century mining routes, now a simple trail of dry earth with an occasional rail or tie protruding from the ground to commuter train routes with lengthy undergrounds and inner city elevated rail. Some, obviously, are more suitable for hiking than others.

Freight and long distance passenger rails are the easiest to hike. Often they cut clean through forest, farm, town and metropolis with a clear right of way suitable for hiking and assuring few encounters with wayward motorists. When passing through urban areas, abandon the tracks, as cops will often hassle you for being on the rail’s right of way. The most difficult parts of “rail trails” is the prevalence of tunnels and bridges. I don’t do either on foot. Occasional fifteen foot rail bridges I’ll risk. But anything longer, I’ll find a foot path to the other side. This is not paranoia as much as it is about safety. If the odds are slim that you could outrun a train that came across you even without a backpack on. DO not even consider it. On all accounts, avoid tunnels. Noxious gasses and a lack of places to duck away in the event of an oncoming train make them death traps.


The elevated ten lane monster is usually only found in gigantic cities, which thankfully means a huge amount of surface streets to walk upon instead. Sometimes however, you will need to follow embankments through areas which would require a detour of a mile or more if you choose to follow surface streets. On freeways, STAY off the blacktop. Not only is it unsafe, it is also illegal and will assure you of meeting every highway patrolman, policeman or sheriff who passes you by.

Aside from poor planning of parallel pedestrian route, the biggest difficulty presented by freeways is the huge gashes they slice through your right away, occasionally necessitating a one or two mile detour to cross them. On rare occasions it is possible to cross freeways, but it is often better to go over or under them, be it through pedestrian walkways or underpasses.


Highways range from suburban three lanes with wide dirt shoulders to rural two lanes cut through hillsides with no shoulder to speak of. Often they are pleasant to walk along and have wooded embankments that allow you to almost pretend to be taking a woodland hike.

However, If the thought of traveling down a railroad tunnel gave you shivers, wait until you walk along a shoulder-less two lane highway. If you think you’re biggest fear on the roads is bears or crazy people picking you up hitching you’re wrong. Your greatest danger is a distracted cell-phone wielding soccer mom driving the girl scout troop back from the national park in her SUV at the same time you are forced onto the road by a rock slide piled on the shoulder. As the type of road or highway you are following varies, so does your proximity to automobiles who may or may not notice you on the shoulder

There are a few basic precautions when following highways. The first one I use is strapping two empty blaze-orange nylon stuff-sacks onto the top of my pack. The nylon is moderately reflective and the blaze orange is absolutely visible. After dusk I wear my headlamp, facing traffic, which has a blinking mode useful for getting motorists attention. If you don’t have a head lamp, just keep your flash light in hand and keep it moving so it doesn’t get lost in the glare of oncoming headlights. Wear your blaze and your lamp facing traffic and if possible, walk against the flow to allow you to see oncoming cars, diving for cover where applicable. Better yet, only hike during the day.

When traveling mountainous cutbacks, you will often encounter narrow shoulders with little or no place to walk. When you must walk around blind curves, stay on the inside. While it limits your visibility it puts centrifugal force on your side, along with every driver’s fear of doing a rail slide with their passenger door.

At a certain hour of dusk and dawn, the sun will be blazing into your eyes no matter how low you drape your hat as it rises or sinks below the horizon. During this period, motorists are blinded by the glare on their windshields making any sharing of the road ill advised, stay on sidewalks.

Suburban Streets:

For a place which is supposedly designed to be residential, some suburban areas are distinctly anti pedestrian. Usually it seems to be the more affluent areas where fences and shrubs push right to the roadside, forcing you into traffic to bypass them and the meticulously coiffed lawns they protect. Usually it is not for any extensive distance, but the intermittent weaving in and out of traffic can make every mile seem like two.

More imposing than affluent suburbs are gated communities, multi-acre compounds walled off from the rest of civilization. Their castle walls can have the same effect as freeways in breaking up your path. Fortunately, the communities’ gates are often easy to get through or over and the communities are rarely overdeveloped, leaving lots of woodland for you to QUIETLY walk through. While it is trespassing, I have seldom been stopped. If I encounter a resident out watering his lawn, I simply say Hello and smile. They usually say hello and smile back. I have only been stopped by security guards and often they are cool enough to drive me off the property in the direction I’m heading. Their only job is keeping you off the property, if your friendly and make it easy, they’re usually alright. Tell them you’d be happy to leave, if they would just let you leave out the other gate. Jerks may make you walk and the ultra frustrated control freak will drive you back to the main gate, but I’ve never heard of them calling the police.

Rural Routes:
Other than the occasional three or four hundred mile stretch of wheat fields assaulting your eyes, rural routes are often the easiest to hike, the easiest to find hidden nooks to camp in and also the most common road you’ll encounter. Often your only problem on rural routes will be local police who are simply looking out for their neighbors and if you seem alright, they will let you go unmolested and maybe warning you of local rules. I have been offered rides by police, but always politely decline, for fear that they will then arrest me for hitchhiking. I have never been driven to the county line by a sheriff, that stuff only happens in movies.

I follow a lot of trails. Nothing beats being away from cars altogether. Park trails are nice, maintained and well marked but non-park trails can be a little bit sketchier. Trails that appear in bold in a map from the 80s might be nearly invisible scars now. Trails washout, erode and are constantly overgrown.

And sometimes they lead you right smack into trouble. I’ve heard more stories of guys getting shotguns pulled on them for accidentally discovering somebody’s marijuana crop than for camping on a cornfield. If possible, obey no trespassing signs. If you must, walk lightly and stay very focused on your surroundings. Surprising a bunch of paranoid stoned guys with shotguns is not a good idea. You should have the general goal that you will see somebody before they see you. Once you spot somebody, size them up. Your best bet is to make yourself known. If they are unfriendly, claim to have not seen any no trespassing signs, then ask them how to get back to good trails. I’ve never encountered anything shady, but I do know there are places out there where people don’t want you to see what they’re doing.

Animal Trail:
In some places it is possible to walk from town to town using animal trails. While it is never the fastest route, it often is the one that exposes you to the most unsullied wilderness and it is on animal trails where I have discovered the most magical places in all my travels. If you are not carrying a map and compass or do not know how to use them proficiently, I would recommend against animal trails. They weave wildly, disappear suddenly and can often require ample dexterity to traverse. It is easy to get lost and you should consider the fact that you might be the last person for a few months or even years to walk along the trails you find, especially in non-developed areas. Also, do not use animal trails in national parks. Due to the high traffic in parks, foot prints on animal trails can lead to the creation of new human trails, destroying habitat and disturbing the lairs and nests of the animals who made the trail. Yes, I know how to walk on the trails without leaving footprints and NO, I still do not walk on animal trails by developed land.

*Traveling without Walking:


There are a number of skills that are seldom written about because anyone who knows anything about them knows that trying to learn them from a book will get you killed. Just as I declined to discuss foraging earlier, I will not discuss freights here because honestly, I don’t know enough about it to write about it without getting you killed. I will instead refer you to the book “Hopping Freight Trains in America” by Duffy Littlejohn. Follow his advice on finding a mentor before you follow his advice on catching a hot rail.


Hitching is one of those things that I never originally intended to do. My first hitched ride was during the first of many attempts to walk from Clarksville to Nashville. An older man, recognizing me as a soldier because of my pack and haircut pulled over and asked where I was headed. He about laughed his head off when I said Nashville, but he drove me all the way. I never actually hitchhiked on the 24, but never failed to catch a ride, simply due to the fact that I was a soldier near an Army base, and people would stop and ask if I needed help when they saw me walking down the road. Prior to this, I thought hitchhiking was a thing of the past, relegated to Kerouac novels and impossible due to the fearful nature of our times. Trust me, Hitching still works.

Hitching is simple. Stay on the pedestrian right of way, 30 feet ahead of the “no pedestrians” sign, making sure there is a safe place for rides to pull to a shoulder. Don’t stick your thumb out, instead make a sign. Have large letters proclaiming your destination, and look clean. If you have a razor, shave before trying to catch a ride. Smile, but don’t be a goon. If a cop tells you to move, move. Often the worst you will get is a lecture.

Truck stops are the best place to catch rides if you are cool and discrete. Truck drivers are plagued by loneliness and a rider can often make the task of staying awake much less daunting. As drivers fuel up ask where they are headed and if they could give you a ride. If they are friendly and not going in the right direction ask them if they can do a call out for you on their radio to see if anybody is heading your way. I’ve heard it works, but have never bother to ask, since there are usually so many drivers to ask. I often find early evening the best time to hitch rides as the number of trucks doing over-nighters will raise your chances.

Another safer way to catch rides is through ride sharing services. Many community centers offer ride share bulletin boards and the number of online sites is countless. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in one of the areas where it is popular, craigslist.org is a great place to find rides. If you are able to follow a flexible schedule and aren’t freaked out by strangers this can be a great way to not only get to a new place, but also offer you the opportunity to start making new friends the moment you arrive there.

Often the best rides are not hitched, but simply offered. For a while, I carried a white pack cover to be more visible on the road sides. When passing through dry regions, I would write the words, “Got Water?” in duct tape on the cover. I rarely had two cars pass before somebody would offer a ride. They usually freaked out when I said “no thanks, got any water though?” Which is an excellent way to decline if you get the creeps from the driver.

Do not get in the car if you feel any apprehension. You’ve got eons of intuition built into you; trust it. Even if you have no apprehension, there are a few things to do anyways.

As you approach the vehicle, give it a once over, checking all windows into the vehicle (especially back seats) for anything suspicious, such as blankets that could be covering a hidden second passenger.

Take a mental inventory of the car, noticing any dents, the color, year and make. Notice where the car is from by looking at the plates and take notice of the plate number, repeating it once or twice in your head.

Before you get in the vehicle, make eye contact with the driver and talk to them. Asking where they are headed is a great first question. Look for any suspicious ticks or signs of intoxication. A friend of mine once had a ride offered from a guy who was clearly drunk. My friend pointed this out to the man, and offered to drive instead. The man happily agreed, and allowed him to dive an extra hundred miles towards his destination to give him change to sober up a bit. Never get in the car with a drunk driver, be it hitchhiking or cruising with friends.

No matter how careful you are, things can get sketchy. I carry a small container of pepper spray in my right hand coat pocket. This way if something goes down, it’s safely on the other side of the driver where it can’t be grabbed. Do not carry a knife for protection. Knives are among the most useful tools but rank as the most foolish weapon and most people who pull knives for protection wind up loosing them and getting injured by them instead. If you get frightened by your ride, tell them firmly that you would like to be dropped off at the next off ramp. If you are truly freaked out, it might be better to wait until you come to a fairly populated area before asking.

I have described a number of worse case scenarios in this section. Truth be told, the road is a kind place for most of my experiences and the only reason to go all horror show is to encourage safety. Even if you are a fully competent daredevil (I consider myself one), you must accept the fact that not everyone else is and act accordingly. So go take a walk.

4 years ago


Pepper Spray?

Bear Mace!

4 years ago


“You’ve got eons of intuition built into you; trust it.”

Well put, Sir.

4 years ago


Awesome blog, as is becoming tediously usual from you 😀 Can you put one out that sucks just so the rest of us feel better?

4 years ago



4 years ago


Snark, it’s getting tedious doing these so well. Believe it or not, from start to finish this one took longer than any of the others. I had hoped to put it up after the one I’ve written on navigation, but that one is stuck until I overcome my fear of putting images in here. (My formatting experiments have been less than good) That one has taken nearly four weeks thus far.

Thanks for all the feedback, everybody. I’m going to try and drop a guerrilla bomb tonight and get another one up, and update the tent and stove articles to include images. Lets see if I can do it….

One hygiene blog coming up!

4 years ago


Just resize the pictures to less than 400px wide (and any length), then post them.

! url !

without spaces and you should be fine

4 years ago


but that one is stuck until I overcome my fear of putting images in here. (My formatting experiments have been less than good)

Having trouble getting pics posted right?

To just post the image:

! http://www.natureworkspress.com/CritterGuides/BearInTent.gif ! —— no spaces

For bigger pictures that don’t fit into a blog or forum thread:

Make the pic clickable to see the full picture

This one is easy…

! http://www.natureworkspress.com/CritterGuides/BearInTent.gif ! :http://www.natureworkspress.com/CritterGuides/BearInTent.gif —- no spaces

just add a colan : right after the exclamation point, then repeat the link address.

Using that same method, you can make pic a direct link to another site, just by adding the address after the colan.

There is even a way to make a “mouse over” custom caption appear over the pic, but I forgot that one…

4 years ago


yeah, what fen said. 😛

4 years ago


great work man. one minor objection…

Knives are among the most useful tools but rank as the most foolish weapon

only for people who assume they’re easy to use. still, the pepper spray suggestion is excellent, far easier to use, especially in a panic situation.

4 years ago


only for people who assume they’re easy to use. still, the pepper spray suggestion is excellent, far easier to use, especially in a panic situation.

Not everyone is a Kung Fu Master, Toad. 😉

4 years ago


Oh, for that one you do this:

! http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y97/fennecs/100_0023.jpg (tegu vs husky round 1) !

Without spaces

tegu vs husky round 1

Then for those skilled in super duper sekrit advanced textilationatory masturbationelation you can have it link to a site and have the mouse over caption:

! http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y97/fennecs/100_0023.jpg (tegu vs husky round 1) !: http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y97/fennecs/100_0025.jpg

Not for the faint of heart.

tegu vs husky round 1

Again, without spaces.

4 years ago



4 years ago


i’m sure i don’t know what you’re talking about. ;^D

the biggest problem you’ll face in any physical confrontation is fear, which can result in anything from physical paralysis to involuntary urination. it could make almost any weapon, including your own hands, nearly impossible to use.

pepper spray is safer than a knife by far, but not without it’s dangers. i don’t say this for comedy’s sake, but make sure you’re pointing the nozzle at your target!! if you’re keeping it in your pocket, as BP recommends, and you can discreetly feel for the opening before you pull it out of your pocket, do so – and try to remember not to bring that finger into contact with your face after the confrontation.

if you choose to use a knife, i personally prefer a backhand technique (holding it so the blade protrudes from the “bottom” of a closed fist). this way the blade is harder to redirect back into your vital areas. it’s only really useful for slashing attacks, but the slashing motion with this grip imitates the kinds of punches most people are used to throwing, as opposed to a “front” grip, which requires different motions to effectively slash. slashes are a better deterrant than stabs, because they connect much more easily and produce a lot more blood with less chance of mortal injury.

the most important guideline for handling any weapon is, if you’re gonna pull it out, USE IT. don’t just threaten, use it as quickly and devastatingly as possible, and then get as far away from the situation as possible.

having said that, it’s also extremely important to mind your surroundings. if the target in question is currently driving the car, which is speeding down the highway, that might not be the best time to attack – unless you feel your life is in imminent enough danger that attacking immediately is worth the risk. however, most likely, you’ll be able to wait until the car has stopped before attacking.

4 years ago


what toad said.

4 years ago


Toad, true. In the hands of a skilled knife fighter, a knife is a great weapon. The problem lies in legality. A knife is considered a deadly weapon. If used in self defense, it is excusable, but the rub lies therein.

In most situations, I do great with my hands and feet. I’m not a martial arts master, but have yet to be bested on the street. Even though I carry a knife at all times, and I have been in situations I would have been justified in using it, I never have. By the time the use of a knife becomes needed, it’s often too late to pull. I’m not going to pull a knife for a shouting match, and once it’s no longer a shouting match, the knife doesn’t matter, since getting it out would expose me too much.

Now, on the other hand, if I guy is screaming and putting his face in mine, trying to start a fight, I will gladly shove a can of pepper spray in his mouth. It’s like white-out for mistakes that masquarade as people. And if it doesn’t stop a situation, it certianly gives me an upperhand, not to mention that in a pinch, most pepper spray cans are the perfect size for a fist pack.

I may not be a pacifist, but I certainly prefer non-lethal weaponry. And Hagcel, on the bearmace idea, I’ve joked that putting an Air Horn head on one of those hair-spray sized cans of bear mace would take defense sprays out of the realm of self defense and into the realm of entertainment. HONK!

4 years ago


Oh, and Rich, you rock! I’m going to play with pictures now… Thanks a billion. That makes much more sense than the textile link on the add new entry page.

4 years ago


Third comment in a row. . .

I’m a retard. That was easy. Now I need to write captions. You’ll notice that the tent blog is missing. It’s back in draft status as I finish getting the pictures up. I will hopefully have it up tomorrow. Thank you for the help.