Over years of travelling between the alpine and sub-alpine zones, from sea to summit, there are lots of little tricks, or “hacks”, that can make life easier or more efficient. In New Zealand, we have to contend with everything from raging rivers, dense jungle-like bush, steep snowgrass, glaciers and high alpine peaks, sometimes all in one day, and often in inclement weather. The best “hacks” are ones that involve carrying versatile lightweight gear that can be used for multiple applications. Here a few of our favourite hacks, gathered from members of the team and other fellow Kiwi transalpinists. Let us know if you have any other good "hacks" to add to the list!
- Bring good quality tape (e.g. Tenacious Tape) to repair ripped shell clothing and tents. Lightweight shell wear is often needed, but can be easily damaged by sharp crampons or bush. Repair rips before they propagate.
- Carry a small bag of coconut oil. Coconut oil is easy to carry since its solid at room temperature, and fat is the most dense source of calories. It has no flavour so it goes well in porridge/hot muesli, coffee and dinners. It can also be used as a moisturizer if you get sunburnt, and as an anti-chafe lubricant.
- Bring 2x 500ml Nalgene bottles. Two smaller bottles gives more versatility in what fluids you drink rather than a single 1L bottle. For example, fill one with plain water and the other with an electrolyte tablet. Nalgenes can handle boiling water so they’re great for hot drinks, hot water bottles, and they fit nicely into a boot for drying – place them in one boot at a time, while one heats up, the other allows the steam to escape. When using one as a hot water bottle, place them near a main artery like in the crotch to heat up your whole blood supply, rather than just conducting the heat locally.
- Decant your freeze-dried meals into sandwich size compostable bags and just carry one foil bag for re-hydrating. Reduces rubbish weight, and compostable bags can be burnt in a fire. Repackage as many food items as you can in this way to reduce bulk, e.g. break up chocolate into separate pieces and store in a bag. Many bags of small pieces of food tesselate, taking up less space in your pack.
- Make a nose cover for glacier travel/sun protection from the end of an old shoe insole. Sew on a piece of Velcro to secure it your sunglasses.
- Use a spare hut mattress as a pillow by rotating it 90 degrees.
- Seek out GPX files for sections of difficult navigation from others in the community and upload it to your Topomap app.
- Attach an ice tool clipper (e.g. Petzl Caritool) onto your pack waist straps. This allows you to clip off anything to your pack such as a drink bottle, hat, gloves, ice axe.
- Add a short length of 4-5mm cord to your pack straps as a gear loop to attach your rack (belay device, slings, prussic etc). Some packs already come with this feature, others will have loops to add cord to. This helps when using an ultralight harness (i.e. Edelrid Loopo Lite) without the problem of it sagging on your hips under the weight of excess gear.
- Take a pair of Showa Temres 282-02 gloves for trips involving wet snow – they are waterproof, lightweight, durable, dexterous and cheap. Carry a second pair of thin leather gloves (e.g. Macpac Dash glove) for hotter weather, rock scrambling etc.
- Place your gas cannister in a dish of hot water (when in a hut) to improve its efficiency and use up all of the gas. In general keep the gas cannister warm to get the most out of it i.e. store overnight in sleeping bag.
- Use an empty freeze-dried food pouch to collect water from rocks when it is running over it in a thin film. It’s often hard to collect this type of thin layer of snowmelt in a drink bottle.
- Cut off small pieces of your foam pad to make blister pads, knuckle pads, knee pads.
- Make a set of snow-gaiters from an old pair of wool socks – just cut the toes off and stretch them over your boots. Protects shell pants from crampon points also.
- When bush bashing with skis, experiment with the forward carry technique – instead of the skis pointing straight up on your pack, rig slings off your pack so that you can carry them pointing forwards.
3M Window insulation can make a good groundsheet. Super light and puncture resistant. https://www.bunnings.co.nz/3m-window-insulator-kit-5-windows_p0167658. The trick is to hem the edge to stop it tearing, just fold it over and run cellotape along it. You can screw up the corners and tie string to it so you can peg it down. It can be used to make tarps too: https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/59450/. [Thanks James Thornton]
Carrying a straw can be handy if you're thirsty and the only thing around are little trickles/puddles on rocks.
Do you have any other hacks that we can add to the list? Please let us know and we’ll add them in. Add them in the comments or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.