Rocks, Salt, Bank Accounts, Inner Tubes, Insoles and Passport Photos


While camping in Lake Minnewanka near Banff, Alberta, fellow travellers from Europe suggested heating rocks in the fire, wrapping each of them in an old T-shirt or sock, and then putting the parcels inside our sleeping bags to keep warm. I tried it and it worked great—the rocks stayed warm all night. One warning: don’t heat the rocks too much (your clothes may start smoking), and use cotton or wool to wrap them.


While volunteering at a clinic in the mountains of Peru, tragedy struck. Scratchy, drive-me-crazy fleas found my down sleeping bag just as warm and cozy as I did. I tried everything: lung-scorching sprays, airing it out and, in an act of desperation, even beating the life out of it. Nothing worked, and the flea bites continued to multiply. Finally, I got the best advice from my dear grandpa—salt. I put about a pound of salt in my sleeping bag, and two days later there were no more fleas. It also works for bedbugs and is a great alternative if you are in a place where you can’t properly wash your gear!


Advise both your bank and credit card companies where and when you’ll be travelling, particularly if you’re going to an exotic country. Otherwise, your spending patterns may fall outside your “profile” and they may deactivate your bank card and access to online services. Consider setting up two bank accounts. Put a moderate amount of money into the first one and link it to your bank card. If your card is stolen or you’re forced to withdraw from it, you’ll have limited the damage. The second account should be a joint one with a relative or trusted friend back home so you can e-mail them to transfer additional funds into your first account as required, without it being visible electronically. Finally, be kind to your parents—the ultimate bank machine!


When bike tire inner tubes go flat, don’t throw them away! They make great stretchy bands to strap a kayak onto a trailer rack. Loop one end of the tube around the rack in a lark’s head knot, stretch it over the kayak and pull the other end of the tube over the end of the rack. Inner tubes can also be used when storing your kayak by hanging it under a shelf or supports. Place the tubes around the kayak’s bulkheads, not at the ends.


When crossing rivers or streams while backpacking, I bring an old pair of shoe insoles and stuff them inside an extra pair of socks to make cheap water shoes. They protect my feet from rocks and other sharp objects, and they’re light and very inexpensive.


Here is one thing I would never travel without: passport-sized photos. When you’re travelling across multiple borders, renewing visas and applying for trekking permits, you’ll always need photos for the mountains of paperwork that officials from every country love so much. If you bring a stack of passport-sized photos with you, you’ll save a lot of time and hassle and get your adventuring started faster, instead of searching for a photographer.

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