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Let's Have Your "Lessons Learned...The Hard Way", (Don't Be Shy!)

- Learn how to read a map/navigate

- Keep sharp things away from your air mattress 😞

- Take enough time to acclimatize to high altitude!!!!

- Check the expiration dates on those Hand-warmer packets!

- Don't let your breakfast water freeze.

- Don't pitch your tent in that nice looking low spot.

REI Member Since 1979
21 Replies

Going along with "Put you headlamp in the same spot every night" I highly recommend attaching a glow in the dark gear tag (one of the good ones that will glow all night) to your headlamp. I have one of these $6 gear tags from Gear Aid clipped to my headlamp and it makes finding my headlamp in a dark tent so much easier!

@Phoenix  I did not know about 'glow in the dark gear tags', wow! fantastic, I learned something today! thank you

REI Member Since 1979

I learned on my first trip that no matter how good you think you know the bowline hitch, you better practice doing it from the opposite direction as many times as the "normal" way, especially if you're left-handed. You'd be surprised at how many knots are "right-handed."

This kind of ties in (get it?) into the preceding post - test critical systems first before using them in a critical situation.

Working as a NPS seasonal ranger at Mesa Verde NP, and in the process of learning rock climbing, I  was intrigued by the prospect of exploring hard to reach, inaccessible cliff dwellings, especially the last of the fairly large dwellings to be explored.

The original toe and hand hold trail was said to be quite dangerous and I thought the best means would be a free rappel from the mesa top, about a 60 foot drop.  I had a brand new climbing rope, 120 feet of laid (spiral twisted) nylon, a few biners, and slings.  I thought I would rap down, and prussic back up.  I had heard of backing up a rappel with a chest prussic but had never tried it before.  

Rappel at this time (1959) meant the dulfersitz, or body rappel, which generated noticeable heat,if not body scars, and was rather tough on clothing.  So I anchored my rope, attached my prussic, and launched out.  Immediately I noticed that the laid rope uwound under my free body weight, spinning me around (nice views, however).  Then the prussic jammed, halting my progress when I was about twenty feet from landing.  My way out was to attach feet prussics and climb down the rope, still in dulfersitz mode - a slow and torturous process.  About three feet off the deck, I was so entangled that I  figured the only way out was to cut my chest sling loose.  Fortunately I was able to do so without severing my rappel rope and reached  the ground uninjured.

I looked the site over and actually performed some useful science (collecting a timber fragment which yielded a useful tree ring date).  As I looked around, I noticed that the original stone tool pecked toe and handhold trail had been enlarged by someone unknown (perhaps the first ascent party in the 1930s?) and was an easy, trivial way out of the site and back home.

Test your systems first in a non threatening situation before rolling them out for real!!  That is what back yards are for!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

While I'm all for testing gear before you go,  you'd have to have a pretty special back yard to test out a repel with a climbing rope I think.  Might just be my ignorance of climbing.  How would you test that?

One point on testing.  Be sure to put everything back in the bag when you are done.  It is very easy to separate things...only to find that they are not in the bag once you are at camp.  Tent stakes and tent poles are probably the most notorious for this although personally I have yet to forget them. 

However I did leave my head net hanging in my yard after a permethrin treating session.  Fortunately I noticed it was missing at the motel on the final shakedown so I was able to buy another before we went into the unknown.

Which bring me to another point.  If you are traveling in a group and someone else  is supposed to bring a shared piece of gear or supply,  ask to see it before you head out!  In our case it was fuel.  We had decided to bring the large full can which would have been plenty for 3 for a week but somehow the person responsible had packed a small nearly empty can!  We didn't find out until after being dropped off at the trail head, 6000 feet above and 20 miles away from town.  Luckily, some other campers who were just there for the night kindly gave us their spare can!  It was a mutual exchange because they had forgotten their lighter!


@hikermorI love that story!  Funny how those type of situations make the best lessons and even better memories!

My observation, they also toughen us up, and give the ability to what I call 'super focus' when necessary, really concentrate, see past minutiae, especially in the wilderness and give a sort of 'sixth sense' on actions/places/events to watch out for.

REI Member Since 1979

@hikermor, his story (below) about a rappel to cliff dwellings, reminded me of another lesson learned, although, maybe not so relevant in these modern times: 

  • when performing a rappel using only an un-locked carabiner attached to your harness, make sure it wraps around the biner in the direction which does not open the gate once the rope starts moving...this could be fatal!
REI Member Since 1979

I try to make a little list of what I've forgotten to bring.

And then, of course, I forget to read the list before leaving the house on the next trip..oof!

REI Member Since 1979

Keep your analog compass away from your cell phone!

I ruined a good Sylva this way. The needle just floats around as if it never knew anything about North.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
wow, thanks! did not know that.
REI Member Since 1979