I call this article rucking up which means that I am getting ready for my next backpacking adventure outside of Florida. I am heading to the Blue Range Primitive located in the east portion of Arizona bordering New Mexico. I am going for a 6 day 5 night expedition. The Blue Range Primitive is located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I have been wanting to go into this remote and rugged wilderness area for quite a while. I finally have the resources, (money and time off from work), to take the trip. I am currently doing the logistics on this trip which encompasses getting flights, rental car, hotels, and many other things that I will need to make this adventure safe and successful. For a detailed planning guide see my article on, How to Prepare for a Backpacking Adventure. I plan on heading out on this adventure sometime at the end of April.
Blue Range Primitive Located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (Arizona)
Before areas were designated wildernesses they were called Primitive. The Blue Range Primitive is the last designated primitive area established in 1933. In essence, a primitive is a wilderness area which follows the same rules that govern a wilderness area. The Blue Primitive is approximately 174,000 thousand Acre of remote and rugged landscape. Water is scarce in many parts with the trails difficult to follow. This is exactly what I am looking for when I want an adventure. Stay tuned for my adventure with an article and pictures to follow.
Land Navigation is a topic that I enjoy writing and talking about. Modern technology, such as GPS units have made it much easier for wilderness backpackers to head out and safely navigate wilderness terrain. I enjoy using this technology, but I also know that this technology can run out of power, (batteries dying), or the satellite network may go down. When these unexpected events happen it could leave you lost in the wilderness. Knowing basic land navigation skills will keep you from getting lost.
Using a map and compass is becoming a lost skill as our society advances. This article is about a basic land navigational skill know as terrain association. Using this method requires you to visually identify terrain features around you. This method can be used without a compass and map but I do not recommend you doing this. You should have a compass and map with you so you can identify these terrain features on your map. There may be a situation for whatever reason that you do not have a compass and map and using terrain association is a field expedient way to for you to navigate.
Terrain association is an ancient method that has been used by adventurers of the past and it is still be used today by many backpackers. Terrain association can help you stay on track or it can guide you from one point to another and back. To use terrain association you need to be able to identify the 5 major and 3 minor terrain features on a map. You may also use other prominent landmarks in the wilderness area such as large boulders, trees, or other objects to help you navigate. Below is a review of the 5 major and 3 minor terrain features.
A drop-off or abrupt change in various terrain. A cliff can be used as a reference point.
Using the above terrain features along with a compass and map is a solid foundation for navigating in ay wilderness area. Using terrain is one technique but you can also use other prominent landmarks to navigate. These can be.
Large boulders, trees, or other land-made structures such as towers.
My favorite way to bushwhack is to use a river, stream, or creek. This feature makes it much easier for you to navigate in all environments or weather. Terrain association has its advantages for quick travel, but it also has its disadvantage when you are in low lying areas where there is thick vegetation and you have difficulty identifying specific terrain features or prominent landmark. In this situation you need to have a compass with a good pace count as you travel from point to point much slower due to the thick vegetation.
Land navigation should be practiced before entering a wilderness area. When you are on your adventure take time to stop and identify these features or landmarks. Many times, backpackers are so involved with getting in the distance/miles and they miss out on the wonders around them. These wonders may save your life or the lives of others when you use them to navigate in a wilderness area.
The Alexander Springs Wilderness is located in the Ocala National Forest (ONF). The Alexander Springs is one of 4 wilderness areas in Ocala. I recently returned from an overnight adventure into this rugged wilderness area. I began from a portion of the Florida trail by the Alexander Springs Recreation area. This portion of the Florida Trail allows you to park your vehicle in a gated area overnight for a small fee, ($6 dollars a night). This part of the trail is one of the oldest sections of the Florida Trail. I headed South from the Alexander Springs Recreation area a few miles out and then I did some bushwhacking off the Florida Trail into the heart of the wilderness.
In the below video, I discuss how I bushwhack with other important land navigational skills you should know when backpacking any wilderness area. The weather was good with the day time temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s and the evening temps in the mid 50’s. The best time to take on the challenges of this wilderness area is during the winter months, (Nov-March). February and March are ideal since general hunting season runs between October through January.
The video below is my documented travels on this adventure.
I recently conducted a field test on the NEMO Hornet 2P Tent in the Ocala National Forest. This is my second article on this ultralight tent. My first article was my backyard setup discussing the specifications of this tent and its re-design features. My field test was conducted in the Alexander Springs Wilderness. One of four wilderness areas in the Ocala National Forest.
I left from the Alexander Springs Recreation Area heading south on the Florida Trail. This section of the trail is one of the oldest portions of the Florida Trail. The temperatures were in the 70’s during the day and the evenings dropped down into the 50’s. Backpacking during this time of year in Ocala is very pleasant. The summer’s bring the heat and humidity which can be brutal if you are not prepared. I did some bushwhacking off the Florida Trail, and I set my basecamp up near the Alexander river. I found an elevated area with relatively flat ground. I had my basecamp setup in less than 30 minutes with time for me to explore my surroundings. Evening rolled in fast with a light fog giving the evening a mystic feeling.
When I choose a tent I look for 2 things. The first is comfort and second is protection. A good tent for me involves how easily I can move around within it and the protection it will provide for me during inclement weather. This is especially important if I have to stay in it for an extended period of time. There was no rain or bad weather during my stay. Below is a picture of the NEMO Hornet tent illuminated at night with my led headlamp in the top mesh pocket. This mesh pocket is designed to allow you to put a headlamp in this pocket that illuminates much of the tent.
Below is a video I shot discussing my thoughts on the tent. That video was also posted on my You Tube Channel. Overall I see the NEMO Hornet as my go to tent for future adventures in remote and rugged wilderness areas.
The NEMO Hornet 2 Person tent is a 3 season ultra-light double walled tent made for some remote and rugged wilderness backpacking. The NEMO Hornet is not a new tent for backpackers but a newly redesigned version that gives you more head and foot space volume. NEMO designs quality tents with a lifetime warranty. Below are the specifications from their website on the newly redesigned Hornet 2P Tent.
Specifications and Sizing
1 lb , 15 oz / 878 g
2 lb , 6 oz / 1.08 kg
19.5 x 5.5 in dia / 50 x 14 cm dia
39 in / 98 cm
27.5 sq ft / 2.6 sq m
85 x 51/43 in / 215 x 130/108 cm
7.1 sq ft + 7.1 sq ft / 0.7 sq m + 0.7 sq m
The above specifications come from the NEMO website. The specification card that comes with the NEMO Hornet has the minimum weight of 1 lb 14 oz. and the packed weight is 2 lbs 4 oz.
The NEMO Hornet has 3 design changes that I will discuss and illustrate. The first redesign change are the (2) patent pending Flybar attachments located at the top of the tent. These Flybars expand the upper canopy allowing for more headroom.
Pictured above are the (2) Flybar attachments
The second redesign change is the placement of a rigid stay bar located at the corners of the foot box. This design allows for the foot box area to remain open when tension is applied to the corners of the tent canopy tie down cords. The stays are made of some type of flexible poly tubing sewn into the tents corners.
Pictured above are the two tie down lines. Between these tie downs there is a plastic poly tubing sewn into the tent preventing the corners from collapsing when tension is put on the cords.
The third redesign change are the smaller clips attaching the tent to the DAC poles.
Smaller clips used to attach the canopy to the poles.
The NEMO Hornets minimum weight is 1 pounds 14 ounces with a packed weight of 2 pounds 4 ounces, (this weight comes from the booklet that comes with this tent). Minimum weight and packed weight can be confusing to understand. The minimum weight of the tent includes the tent canopy, the rainfly, and the poles. This weight equates to 1 pound. 14 ounces. The packed weight includes the tent stakes, extra cordage, and repair kit. This weight equates to 2 pounds 4 ounces. I weighed my new tent and it came in at 2 pounds 6 ounces with everything included, (packed weight). I used my fishing scale which is fairly accurate.
When I select a tent for my wilderness adventures I want to be comfortable in it. I normally purchase a 2 person tent which for me usually means that it is a one person tent due to my size. I am 6’3” tall and I weigh 235 pounds Comfort is very important especially if I have to stay in a tent for an extended period of time due to weather. When I lay in this tent I have ample space to comfortably lay down and move around freely. I can sit up in the tent with no problems due to the increased headspace.
The Hornet has 2 side pockets and a mesh pocket on top of the tent. The top pocket allows you to put your headlamp in it to illuminate the tent at night. The top mesh pocket is designed to diffuse the light and amplify it throughout the tent. The Hornet has 2 large doors which allows you quick entry and exits from either side. Both doors allow me to store my gear on both sides when the rainfly is on. This is an added benefit for a single backpacker. If two people are utilizing the tent then they each have a door to enter and exit the tent. They also have their own storage area next to the their respective door.
The zippers on the door open and close very easily without binding up. The zipper on the rain fly also opens and closes easily. The seam on the rainfly is far enough away from the zipper which allows you to open and close without the flap getting caught in the zipper. I have had issues with opening and closing some rainflys. The zipper would get caught in the flaps of the rainfly causing some issues opening and closing especially if it rained and the rainfly was wet.
The tent is a semi free standing tent that requires you to stake out the footbox area for full functionality of this tent. The tent sells for approximately $350.00 dollars online. Before you purchase it make sure that you get the updated model since some retailer are still selling the older version at a reduced price without the above modifications.
There are many good tent designers and manufactures in the market. I currently use Big Agnes tents with no complaints. I have used NEMO in the past and with the redesign of this tent I expect to be using it frequently on my expeditions. I will be doing a field test on this tent with a video on that expedition. The below video is my backyard setup of this tent with me in it.
This article is a product review on the Big Agnes Flycreek (HV UL2) tent. Big Agnes is an outdoor manufacturer who develops and designs a variety of outdoor gear for wilderness backpackers. The types of gear they design and manufacture are:
Duffels and Travel Bags
Apparel ( Men, Women, & Children)
The Flycreek is a three season tent that has been redesigned with a HV designator in its title . The HV stands for high volume. The redesign has increased the interior floor and head space. The door on this version is also more vertical than the previous version. Below are the specs for this new version without the mtnGlo feature. MtnGlo are led lights that are sewn into the tents interior for night time use.
You can purchase this tent for approximately $350.00 online. The tent is lightweight, and it sets up very quickly. The tent is not a full free standing tent but more like a semi freestanding tent. You have to stake out the foot box area to fully expand the floor area of the tent. It is a two person tent but for me it is a one person tent due to my size.
The tent has only one door which limits its accessibility especially if two individuals are utilizing it. The tent that I purchased had the mtnGlo feature in it and in my below video I discuss it. This feature is no longer available with this tent and I am not sure why they stopped manufacturing it with this feature.
I did a field test on this shelter system in the Ocala National Forest and my video on that test is posted below. Overall I enjoyed the tent, and it is very functional for remote and rugged wilderness expeditions. I will use this tent but only for short expeditions, less than 3 days. I prefer shelter systems with (2) doors because it allows me two options for a quick exit if needed. A two door tent also allows me to store more of my gear outside the tent under the rain fly by each of the 2 doors verses a tent with 1 door.
The World Magnetic Model (WMM) has been updated this month to reflect the new location of magnetic north. This change will affect your magnetic declination that will in turn affect how you navigate in a wilderness area. Scientists from around the world state that over the past decade the Magnetic North has been moving at a greater distance than in the previous years. The movement of magnetic north prior to this dramatic change would average 5 to 7 miles yearly. Over the past decade the movement has been increased to 34 – 36 miles a year. The current location of magnetic north in in the Canadian Arctic. Its current movement is heading toward Siberia.
Magnetic North was located in 1831, by James Ross Clark, a British Royal Navy explorer. Since then we have been able to determine its movement. But with the recent increase in its change the NOAA has put out an update to help those individuals who rely on the location of magnetic north for navigation. This update is usually put out every 5 years with the last update done in 2014. Magnetic north is constantly moving due to the composition of the earth, the earths rotation, and its churring molten inner core.
As a wilderness backpacker I use my compass and a topographical map for land navigation. I use these tools in unison with a hand held GPS unit I bring with me on all of my wilderness expeditions. The new changes in the magnetic north will affect how you navigate in the wilderness, (See my article on magnetic declination). This article will help you convert your map to compass reading or compass to map reading using magnetic declination.
The new World Magnetic Model released this month, (Feb 2019), will allow not only wilderness backpackers to navigate through remote and rugged wilderness areas, but it will also allow many other professions, (Forestry service, , NASA, Aviation related professions, etc.), to accurately navigate.
Wilderness backpacking can be very rewarding both physically and mentally. Wilderness backpacking also has its risks from Weather, Dangerous Wildlife, and Human Beings with bad intentions. I recently did a video that I posted on my You Tube channel titled, “Safety in The Ocala National Forest. This video addresses much of what I discuss in this article.
In this video, I discuss things you can do to to make your stay in the Ocala National Forest safer. This video equally apply’s to any wilderness area you plan on exploring. This article is a follow up to that video with more specifics. My intention is to make sure that you are properly prepared and safe on your next adventure into a remote and rugged wilderness area. Safety involves 2 stages, the first is Pre-planning and the second stage is vigilance during your wilderness stay. Below is my discussion on what pre-planning steps you need to do and how to stay vigilant once you are on the trail.
I have written an article that is posted here on my website called How to Prepare for a Backpacking Adventure. In that article I discuss (9) topics that you should research and consider before heading into any wilderness adventure.
9 TOPICS TO RESEARCH AND CONSIDER
Terrain: Study the various types of terrain that you will encounter on your adventure using a topographic map and topo software.
Travel: Plan and organizing your trip to and from the wilderness area. This includes how you will get there, (i.e. train, plane, automobile), and other factors such as a time table of the events you plan on doing while you are in the wilderness.
Trail System: Establish routes and waypoints on and off established trails that will assist you in guiding your adventure. This will also help you from getting lost.
Weather: Know the type of weather that you will encounter during your stay and plan properly by having the necessary clothing and gear to combat bad weather.
Wildlife and Foliage: Know the type of wildlife and foliage you will encounter on your trip. Research what actions you can take to avoid dangerous wildlife and have the right protection, (i.e. Bear spray, knife, firearm, etc.)
Dangers: Research the dangers you may encounter, such as recent natural disasters, closed trails, fires, etc. that may effect your adventure. Call the local Ranger station to get this information.
Equipment needed: Bring the necessary gear you will need to make your stay safe and enjoyable. This should include some type of communicating device. The investment in having a satellite communicator is worth your safety and those that may be with you. I use a Garmin inReach Plus Explorer for my communicating device.
Laws and Amenities: Research the laws you will have to abide by in the area you plan on exploring, (i.e. carrying a firearm, etc.). Know what amenities area in the area you will visit, (Outdoor stores, lodging, Fire and Police stations, etc.).
Notifications: Let family and friends know where you will be and when you plan on returning. Write is down or email it to them with phone numbers and points of contacts.
The above checklist is the first part of ensuring that your adventure will be successful and safe. You can read my article explaining more in depth the above checklist by clicking on this link, Preparing for a Backpacking Adventure.
The second part of being safe while you are backpacking is to be vigilant of your surroundings during your adventure. Your vigilance begins at the trailhead.
I prefer parking in an area where my vehicle will be watched but that is few and far between in many wilderness areas. Your research prior to you starting will help assist you on finding a secure spot to park your vehicle if possible. If you are like me and enjoy remote and rugged wilderness areas this will probably not happen. Some trailheads that you will start from require you to travel a great distance to reach them once you leave a main road. Many trailheads may not have the necessary resources to have secure parking areas. I can recall going almost 25 miles off the main road to get to a trailhead in Colorado, (Lost Creek Wilderness), that trailhead had a parking area that was very sparse and unkept.
If secure parking is not available park where other backpackers have their vehicles. Do not try to make your own designated parking spot since you may cause issues for other vehicles in the area. Parking in a designated area is like a rally point. It makes it easier for rescue personnel, if needed, to know where you started from. It allows them easier access to get to you since they will be familiar with the path. If you park somewhere other than the designated parking area it may make it difficult for them to find or get to you. Follow these guidelines when parking:
Never back your vehicle into a parking spot if possible. This allows individuals with nefarious intentions to gain easier access to your vehicle.
Never leave valuables in Inside your vehicle in plain view. Put them in your trunk under the seat or in your glove box.
Take note of other vehicles around your vehicle. Take pictures of license plates in case something does happen to your vehicle when you get back. This will allow law enforcement to make contact with these individuals for a follow up to see if they were involved in the incident or maybe they saw something that will help solve the crime.
You may want to have a drive cam (camera) in your vehicle to record any incidents that may happen while you are in the wilderness.
If you see something suspicious in the parking area report it to law-enforcement.
Many trailheads have a sign out booth. Make sure that you fill out the proper form at this booth. This form will have you fill out information pertaining to individuals in your party, the date you left, and when you are returning. There may also be a fee that you need to pay. This slip is usually deposited into a lock box for use by the Park Rangers if they need to initiate a search should an emergency arise.
On The Trail
Make sure you look behind you and do 360 scans as you are traveling through the wilderness. Looking behind you and doing these 360 scans will help alert you to dangers. Dangers such as wildlife make approach you from the rear without you knowing. These threats can be bears or cougars that are tracking you as prey. Look for tracks as you are navigating through a wilderness area. These tracks could be human footprints or animal tracks. Knowing these tracks will give you an idea of what you may encounter ahead.
Make sure you also look up and check the trees for animals or possibly individuals that may be watching you from above.
Be careful of individuals that you do not know who try to befriend you on the trail. These individuals for the most part may have good intentions, but there maybe those individuals that want to follow you into a base camp and do you harm. Be friendly, and let them know that you are meeting up with a group of people down the trail. Be confident when you speak to them. As you pass them make sure you keep track of them. This is where rule number 1 (above), comes into play.
Have the necessary protection with you such as bear spray and if you have the necessary training some may carry a firearm. Always have a knife on any wilderness adventure.
S- Safety: Make sure that you set your Basecamp up away from falling trees, rocks, etc. make sure that you do not set it up in an area that may flood if it rains. This is why you need to set your Basecamp up on high ground.
Following the above guidelines will make your stay more enjoyable and much safer than rushing into wilderness area without a plan. I wish I can tell you that your stay will be 100% safe, but that is something that cannot be guaranteed. The main dangers will come from:
Mother Nature (Weather)
Wildlife (Predatory Animals and Reptiles)
Terrain (Rugged and Remote)
Humans (Those with bad intentions)
All that you can do is to mitigate the dangers by following my guidelines. That is why I wrote this article to give you some insight on what you should do before and during your wilderness adventure.
This post is in correlation to my Questions video. Below are some of the questions that I received on my social media sites. The video below are my answers to the questions.
Asked By: SPARTAN RK
-What are some real life wilderness lessons learned from success or failures during your military service? Do you purchase/use military gear (surplus) or new mainstream gear? How do you plan for a day hike or multi day trip? What preparation or concerns do you have as a solo hiker (two and four legged threats. Hints and tricks for fire starting. Thank you for this channel and all you do!
Asked By: JOE HIKES
-Hey Andy. Love your channel. Are you married? Do you have any children? Any grandchildren? How do you keep your kitchen so squared away, lol
Asked By: MIKE N.
-If you kill an animal in Florida in self defense that may be out of season or non game do you have to report it and can you harvest it?
Asked By: RAMBO ROB
-Are there any areas in the ocala national forest where I can’t carry my pistol? Concealed or open carry. I understand you are not a lawyer but I know you open carry so any info is greatly appreciated. Thank you.
-Where are some of your favorite camping spots in florida?
Asked By: LS
-Thank you for all you do and for your service. Have you ever considered doing a “meet-up” or some sort of survival type course?
Asked By: COREY S.
I see you have hiked the Fl trail through Ocala. Have you ever gone off trail bushwhacking and find some hidden sink hole or amazing camp site? Just wondering since I have mainly stuck to the Fl trail in Ocala.
The above were some of the questions asked that I answered in the below video.
This post is about a video that I uploaded to my You Tube Channel called “Questions and Answers”. I created this video so I can interact more with those who want to know more about me or Wilderness Backpacking. This is my first video which will be followed by a second video giving you the answers to your questions. To ask a question please click on this link, Click on the this link. to ask your question. Put your question in the videos comment section.
I am not sure how many questions I will receive, but I will do my best to answer the questions on a second video that I will post on January the 27th. That video will be posted on my You Tube Channel so you will have to return back to see if your question was answered. You are always welcome to post questions here at my website if you choose. If you post it on the video comments section on my You Tube Channel you can see other questions that people have asked.
If this Q&A goes well I will incorporate more of these videos on my You Tube Channel with possibly a live chat session in the near future. I look forward in doing my best to answer all questions that are reasonable of course so you get to know a little bit more about me and my passion for Remote and Rugged Wilderness Backpacking.