Thru-Hiking Stoves: DIY or Buy?

The hole punch sank its teeth into the aluminum side of a cat food can, chewing a hole through the wall. My ventilation system was complete. I’d just created a “cat stove”–a do-it-yourself backpacking stove–while sitting in a dank motel room along the Appalachian Trail. With a little bit of denatured alcohol, I had a new way to cook my food, and it only weighed a few ounces. After hiking for several weeks with a wood-fueled stove, I made the discovery that some environments are incompatible with wood-burning stove systems, and that in a well-trafficked corridor like the Appalachian Trail, it isn’t always ethical to collect wood anyway. These findings prompted me to observe other backpacking stoves when hikers gathered at the shelter for dinner. Some hopeful thru-hikers lugged around…

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In Terms of Backcountry Water Treatment, When is Water Considered Safe to Drink?

Brown, silty streams, tea-colored rivulets, even clear, ice-cold lakes—any backcountry water source can serve up a cocktail of contaminants. But not everything that’s present in an undeveloped water source is necessarily harmful, and only some things pose an immediate threat to your health. In fact, it’s impractical and unnecessary to remove everything, all the time. So in terms of backcountry water treatment, when is water considered safe to drink? First, what’s commonly in backcountry water? The types of contaminants that make water “dirty” depend a lot on that source’s surrounding environment. But most contaminants can be placed into these categories: Microorganisms: Simply put, tiny bugs or germs. Microbes are the primary focus of treatment devices because of their immediate and potentially serious risk to your health. The pathogenic ones include bacteria…

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Behind the Guardian Purifier’s Technology & Design

MSR engineers designed the Guardian purifier to be the safest and easiest way to purify water virtually anywhere on earth. Achieving such a high degree of performance required advancements in technologies and a great deal of engineering ingenuity. After six years of R&D, with expertise provided by our in-house water research lab, the result became the world’s most advanced backcountry water treatment device. The Guardian purifier is able to transform even very challenging water sources into reliable, microbiologically safe drinking water. Here’s a look at the features and technologies built into this device. Ultimate Protection Made Simple As a water purifier, the Guardian offers greater protection than a microfilter, removing not just waterborne bacteria and protozoa, but the tiniest class of waterborne pathogens: viruses. Traditionally, eliminating the threat of viruses meant…

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Why Rest Days Matter

The ache in my toes was subtle at first. I came off of a multi-pitch climb in California, unlaced my shoes and noticed a new tenderness in my joints. But I was rock climbing. Didn’t something always hurt while I was rock climbing? Cramming my feet into narrow blocks of rubber was just part of the process. Over the following weeks, I alternated between taking rest days and partaking in light activity to give my feet the chance to recover from their ailment. But it wasn’t long before I was back on the wall, exploring the limits of my body. Early on in my life, I learned that if you just put your head down and move forward through the pain, things usually get better. In my experience, doctor’s visits…

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What Hikers Should Know About Toxic Algae Blooms

You may or may not have heard of toxic algae blooms. If you have, it may have been something related to local beaches, including warnings not to swim or harvest any shellfish. But these potentially deadly occurrences affect inland fresh water as well, including sources used by hikers for drinking. In 2022, Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers may have been sickened by toxic cyanobacterial blooms. So how can you tell if a water source has been rendered dangerous by algae? And if it has, what, if anything, can you do about it? What are Toxic Algae Blooms? Also called blue-green algae, cyanobacteria are found in salt, fresh and brackish water. These simple, plantlike organisms aren’t always toxic, but under certain conditions, including abnormally warm weather or pollution, they can grow out…

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