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Things to do in the "Off-Season"…

This section is an attempt to offer some ideas that you can take the time to plan, work on and to assemble during the "off-season ". These are great little projects that take some time to do correctly and that you may want to undertake during your activity season "down time". All of these areas are things that I have done over the years, they DO NOT encompass all that may be needed in all circumstances, but hopefully these outlines will give you a start to generate your own creativity in enhancing your time in the outdoors.

This section is intentionally designed without any graphic embellishments, so that it will allow you to load, navigate and download any information at a faster pace. Please enjoy.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = GEAR REPAIR KIT
Get together a small collection of items you may possibly need on your adventures into the wilderness, some of which are listed below. Assemble these items inside a small-hinged lid PLANO® (www.planomolding.com) rectangular plastic lure type box. Get the one without the small compartment separations.
This is only a suggested list of items that will hopefully allow you to make temporary repairs to your gear, clothing and equipment while in the outdoors. You should consider what gear you travel with and then make appropriate decisions of what can possibly fail, and what you want to put into your personal gear repair kit.

  • Check all the buckles, cords and straps on your waist packs or backpacks, look at replacing broken, extremely worn or over used hardware or straps now. If replacing worn parts, buy extra and put these items in the kit. You can usually find the plastic hardware in a good outdoor store or order from www.rei.com or www.campmor.com. It may be overly cautious to carry extra pieces of webbing or hardware, but very welcome in case one or more components fails on the trail. Check all stitch points and have the repairs or reinforcement done now while you have the time.
  • Nylon patch kits are small adhesive backed strips of fabric or colored vinyl that allows for quick temporary repairs of holes in tents, clothing or rainwear. Available in most sporting goods or hardware stores.
  • A small piece of nylon cord or parachute cord for repairs to a wide variety of items that may come apart and can be temporarily tied back together. In lieu of cord, buy an extra pair of heavy-duty bootlaces; good for all types of lashing or to replace broken shoelaces on the trail should they break. You may want to add a small piece of wire or some elastic cord.
  • Buttons, Safety pins and a Heavy Duty Sewing Kit (heavy needles/thread) all wrapped in a small piece of durable cloth, that you could use for patching if needed. Insert contents into a 35mm film canister, wrap outside of canister with some duct tape.
  • An extra set of batteries for your flashlight, GPS, radio etc.
  • A small pocket type screwdriver or a small flat blade knife, and maybe a small tube of Super Glue. These extras may or may not be additional considerations for your type of trips.
  • Some pre-assembled gear repair kits are available directly from www.gearaid.com , they also have a great "HOW TO" fix it section on this site.

FOOT CARE KIT
We always seem to forget about our feet and the load they constantly carry (us and our gear) and the trail conditions they traverse (through rain and snow, over gravel, rocks and steep terrain, through heat, humidity and cold, etc. etc.). It may be wise to take the off-season time to put together a little kit to keep in your pack so that when the going gets rough you can have the means to give your feet some TLC. Here are a few items to consider, again using a small Zip-Lock bag or a small plastic tackle box.

  • Moleskin pads (blisters, rubbing spots)
  • Antiseptic wipe pads (soothing, cleaning)
  • Cushioning pads (Dr. Scholl's rack in drugstore)
  • Small pair of scissors (trimming pads, etc.)
  • Foot powder (put into a 35MM film canister-seal with duct tape)

Stop during the day and take your shoes off, air out your boots and feet after a long hike or hunt. Pack an extra pair of socks in your pack; you will be amazed at how good your feet will feel if you change socks mid-day Besides being sheer luxury, a pair of fresh socks is also a key component in trailside foot care by preventing fungus, blisters, and bacteria buildup.

For specific foot care health conditions and a host of other information on inserts, supports, walking, etc. check out www.footexpress.com or for general foot care items you can view them and order online at www.cvs.com, just enter "foot care" on the search engine.

You may want to consider adding some boot care items if you have the space and think you have the need or are going out on an extended trek.

  • Cleaning Brush (removes mud/dirt build up)
  • Polishing rag (helps dry and clean uppers)
  • Extra laces (just in case)
  • Small can of boot wax (re-waterproofing)

If you have a favorite pair of boots that you want to refinish, re-sole, etc. try this site: www.shoefix.com , they also have a complete section on caring for your boots or any leather item and a glossary of terms.

PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT
If you spend a lot of time on the trail backpacking, hiking, hunting, fishing or on any extended trip consider setting up an easy to use personal first-aid kit, now that you have this "off-season" time to THINK about your needs and the time to creatively assemble it.
One "container or carry vehicle" I prefer is the TACKLE LOGIC® Storage System. These are ringed soft-sided packs that utilized three-hole punched end strips affixed onto zip closure bags that act as pages in a binder. They are sold in tackle stores and are available from www.cabelas.com and www.basspro.com and other fishing sites. They come in a variety of sizes and you can buy extra sealed bags to add additional "pages" of gear. You can visit their website at www.tacklelogic.com to view these items. The main benefit of this small, compact and lightweight packing system is you can organize each "page" to meet a specific need. Instead of inserting plastic worms and hooks, you now can organize your potential first-aid needs. In an emergency you are not fumbling in a pack or a plastic box, digging through piles of bandages looking for a specific product. In an emergency you need to stay calm. You should now be able to find what you will need quickly without panic and hysteria overtaking your senses. Now that you have the time available in the "off-season" take a few minutes with pencil and paper, relax and think of what should go into assembling your personal First-Aid Kit. (NOTE: this also is an excellent transport system for your Personal Survival Kit) www.mpioutdoors.com/survival.htm Make sure you purchase different color covers for your kits. If you don't like the idea of buying the Tackle Logic pack use a separate zip-lock poly bag page for each specific incident that may occur. Mark each bag, so when needed it is easily identifiable and contains all the required items. You may want to assemble your Tackle Logic "pages" or zip closure bags with specific items relating to:

  • Cut Kit -- (cleansing pads, gauze pads, 3" bandages, fingertip bandages, antiseptic, etc.)
  • Scrape Kit -- (large gauze pad, cleansing wipes, antiseptic ointment, large bandage, and a clean mans handkerchief for wrapping)
  • Eye Care Kit - (eye pad, small bottle of eye wash, a small plastic mirror, some clean tissues)
  • Splinter-Sting Kit - (antiseptic wipes, needle, finger tip bandages)
  • Burn Kit - burn ointment, antiseptic, gauze pads
  • Pills - (aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, antacids, Imodium AD, etc.)
  • Ointments (extra antiseptic, burn and itch cream packets)
  • Personal medication -- (any specific anti sting, anti-shock medication you may need)
  • Instruments and tape (small pair scissors, small tweezers, adhesive tape, gauze wrap re-folded flat, large rubber bands)
  • Bandages - take an ACE bandage and fold it flat, put in some extra-assorted adhesive bandages. Put in a pair of sterile gloves.
  • Other - think of you, your terrain and your past experiences, make up a small one-serve page for your special needs.
  • Manuals- Put in a small pocket first-aid manual that will help you. Also put in the name and phone number of your doctor and photocopies of any special prescription medications.
  • REMEMBER: You are not doing surgery, most of the time you are taking care of cuts, scrapes, abrasions, headaches, poison ivy, etc. IN any situation ALWAYS seek medical help as soon as possible.

A lot of these medications, tools and bandages are available in "single serve" packets that can be purchased by visiting a home medical supply store or a well equipped drug store in a town near you. If you want to purchase these types of items online, go to www.mailboxmedicine.com. Look in the Product Sections on the right hand side of the page for items such as unitized kit refills, accessories, eye care, wound care, tape, etc. for individual small size collections and individual products. Don't forget the manual, there is a small fairly comprehensive one available here.

IF YOU PERSONALLY BUILD YOUR KIT, YOU HAVE OWNERSHIP IN IT, and YOU WILL KNOW WHAT AND WHERE EVERYTHING IS. This could become a very important asset in an emergency situation.

Add more or less of each item depending on your specific personal or group needs. To me this "by incident system" is an easier and more productive way to pre-organize your kit. You may just want to put all bandages, all instruments, all pills, etc. into their own compartment. The choice is yours. Now when an incident occurs you go right to that specific page, then you only have to refill that "page" before your next trip.

If you do not want to use the Tackle Logic folder, place the items categories mentioned above, and others you may create into small size Zip-Lock freezer type bags with the sliding closures (purchase in a supermarket) and mark them as indicated to a specific incident. Then place these in a bright colored fanny pack or into a plastic lure type box that you wrap with rubber bands for transport security and so you can open and spread out the individual packs.

If you already have a first-aid kit you prefer, consider retrofitting it now that you have the time. Check to make sure it contains fresh and useable items. Bandages tend to loose their adhesive power over time and medicines do have expiration dates. Now is the time to inventory what you have, and determine what you may need. Become familiar with what items and where they are in your kit, you may have to get to them quickly on the trail.

THE ABOVE IS ONLY INTENDED TO ACT AS A GUIDELINE OF CIRCUMSTANCES THAT MAY OCCUR AND SUGGESTED ITEMS YOU MAY REQUIRE. PLEASE CONSULT ONE OF THE MANY RECOGNIZED FIRST-AID MANUALS FOR MORE INFORMATION, AND WHEN APPROPRIATE OBTAIN THE HELP OF A PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL EXPERT IN ASSEMBLING YOUR FIRST-AID NEEDS.

THINGS FOR KIDS ON THE TRAIL
Whether backpacking, hiking, going on nature walks or on a family camping trip, if you have the young children along you better be somewhat prepared to attend to their boredom times. If you choose NOT to rely on Game Boy or other mechanical entertainment systems, here are some suggestions for "on the trail" that you may want to take your "off season" time to assemble into what I like to call a KIDS BOREDOM BAG.

Checkers

  • Take various types of 1" tree limbs and cut into small disks (use different woods for opposing colors). Put on a coat of polyurethane to protect and seal the wood.
  • Make the checkerboard on a piece of non-gloss nylon or old canvas by taping it out with masking tape and having the kids apply some thinned paint to make the squares.

Button Spinner

  • The old large button from Mom's sewing kit threaded with lightweight braided string. Forms what I remember as the "whizzer".
  • Pack the buttons and string and allow them to assemble them.

Knot tying kit

  • Get a selection of some various lengths of cord together.
  • Consider including a set of laminated visual instruction cards that are available online from www.jesherry.com. These are small and lightweight cards that can be easily carried in your pocket or gear pack for quick reference.
  • One of the easiest to read and understand books on basic outdoor knots in my opinion is "Basic Essentials Knots for the Outdoors" written by Cliff Jacobson and Cliff Moen, and it is available HERE.
  • Challenge the kids to master some of the basic knots and help them to understand their uses. Make a game out of it, see if you can do it.

Orienteering

  • Get a small map compass for each child. Good quality and yet fairly inexpensive ones are made by Brunton www.brunton.com and Suunto www.suuntousa.com. Available in all sporting goods stores.
  • Depending on the age of the children involved create a different age level test of using the compass by designing their own trail map.
  • For older children let them use a topographic map (download from Internet www.topozone.com or purchase at www.4x4books.com for the specific area you are visiting). Take the time before the trip to show them how to factor magnetic North and read the terrain, etc., in your back yard or at the local park. Let them plot their location and direction periodically during your hike. This helps develop basic skills of understanding direction as an important outdoor skill.
  • For younger children, let them use the compass to determine basic direction and give them a notebook and pencil to record their own visual map of the trail and draw contours, tree formations, rock outcroppings, trail bends, water, etc.
  • Check out these sites for help and info on orienteering:
  • Basic Essentials Map and Compass by Cliff Jacobson, again this is another of the Basic Essentials Series of books, and is available on www.amazon.com. NOTE: You may want to check out the entire selection of The Basic Essential books at www.globe-pequot.com. These are all well written, are easy to read, have good illustrations, are extremely well thought out and will provide an inexpensive library of information on improving your outdoor skills.

Nature Kit

  • A magnifying glass allows kids to see veins on leaves, close up of insects, details in rocks, etc.
  • A small tackle compartmentalized tackle box to hold and minimize collection of different rocks, shells, etc.
  • A notebook to record data and locations.
  • Manuals or pictures on identifying flora and fauna of the region you plan to visit this upcoming season. Available in small guidebooks you can purchase or by a trip to the local library.
  • Local outdoor shops offer many inexpensive nature manuals for children or you can check out these sites:
  • www.einsteins-emporium.com/earth/ecology/ee112.htm A first activity pack with projects to make, quizzes to solve, pictures to draw, and things to collect. Nature Guidebook is a practical introduction to the natural world - teaches how to identify nature finds and contains step-by-step instructions for nature projects.
  • www2.southwind.net/~youngnat/personalkits.html Tree and leaf identification kits from the Young Naturalist Company.
  • www.naturenet.com/KidsThingsToDoOutside.htm Nature Net offers 25 things young children can do in the outdoors.
  • www.naturerangers.com/htmls/outdoor_tips.html Natures Rangers website offers this an instant guide to great outdoor tips, stories and humorous quips.
  • www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1556522371/ref=sim_books/104-0444594-2292735 The author of Kids Create! offers more than one hundred illustrated projects and games that make camping fun and educational whether it is in the backyard, a national park, or a neighborhood school yard. Good book, recommend highly.
  • www.ancientgraffiti.com/kl.html Small credit card size inexpensive (under $2.00 each) laminated Pocket Nature Guides available for most areas of the US.

Photography

Memories….. we all have them. Allow the children to recall theirs in the future by letting them photograph their views of this trip into the great outdoors.

The inexpensive Polaroid Instant cameras or even the 35mm disposable cameras available today make it simple and easy to arm a child with the means to create their own outdoor adventure catalog.

Set up a small camera kit in a pouch or pack before you go. Include a notebook and pen to record the place, activity, etc. This will allow them to express their personal creativity and personal involvement in the great outdoors.

You can suggest that they photograph scenic views along the trail, geologic and nature scenes, birds, animals, etc. or just their personal activities and recollections. Allow them to express their interest in the trip and to record what they want most to remember on this trip.

If you know where you are going put together a brief itinerary of some of the sights you think they may be interested in capturing on film, have them record their photos in a notebook, involve them but always allow them to decide what they want to photograph. This is their long-term memory; you are only assisting in creating it.

Consider purchasing an extra waterproof disposable camera for use at the beach, lakes, etc.,

Consider having the photos taken on your trip developed on a CD so that the kids can load them and print them out on the computer on their return. Simple easy to use software like Microsoft Picture It! pictureitproducts.msn.com/default.asp is inexpensive and helps promote creativity and personal ownership to help children preserve and relive their outdoor experiences.

Also for you and the kids you may want to check out this site from Kodak. It features good information on ways to take better pictures. www.kodak.com/US/en/nav/takingPics.shtml

MPI Outdoors hopes that you found the above collection of thoughts interesting and helpful. If you have any suggestions or additional links that you would like us to consider to add in our updating of this site, please send them to us.

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