instructional video

Mountain House food packaging styles

I’ve been planning out our summer camping and backpacking plans and doing some meal planning. I frequently do freeze dried meals for backpacking trips. Especially if it’s a long haul that I know I’m going to be super tired at the end of the day. It’s hard to beat the speed and ease of a freeze dried meal in those circumstances.

I’ve tried a few different brands but generally I go with Mountain House meals. I know what I’m going to get and enjoy what they offer. I noticed a while ago that there are a few different packaging styles that they offer. I decided to order one of each style to see what the difference is. Sometimes it’s hard to get a good idea just based on a website.

I put together a video of my thoughts on the comparison. Hopefully it helps you understand the difference and figure out which style will work best for the trip you’re going on.

Let me know what you think!

- John

instructional article

25 Reasons to Carry a Bandana

25 bandana uses-survival bandana

A standard 22" bandana is a powerhouse piece of gear. It's an item that's long history goes back beyond the taming of the West and has been an outdoorsman's staple since then. And for good reason. A bandana can serve so many different uses that it essentially replaces a dozen other pieces of gear. If you traveling by foot, the idea of dropping a dozen items from your pack list can be pretty appealing. 

There can be much more exhaustive lists made of what a bandana can be used for, but today I'm going to focus on 25. Some more in depth than others. 


1. Headband (Sweat Protection)
2. Head Wrap (Sun Protection/warmth)
3. Neck Wrap (Sun Protection/warmth)
4. Wash Cloth
5. Towel
6. Pot Holder
7. Hand Wrap (To Prevent Blisters With Repetitive Work)
8. Gloves
9. First Aid Splint
10. Tourniquet
11. Wrap Sprained Ankle/wrist
12. Ice Pack
13. Fire Building Tinder
14. Strain Sediment From Water
15. Dust Mask
16. Signal Flag
17. Improvised Bag
18. Rope
19. Sponge
20. Blind Fold
21. Dog Collar
22. Fly Swatter
23. Sling
24. Check Wind Direction
25. Hobo Bindle

I'll go a bit more in depth into some of my favorite bandana uses here. 


I'm sure I'm the only one here that seems to be letting a little bit more light in on the top on the head these days. It can really be a bad thing on sunny days when I forget a hat. Luckily for me, I always carry a bandana and can tie one on, pirate style, in a pinch. 

25 bandana uses- survival bandana


I have on occasion (more often than not...) found myself outside with out sun screen. One of the first places I get toasted in the neck. My neck has been saved many times by a bandana and a quick square knot. 

25 bandana uses - survival bandana


A pot holder is one of those things you don't think about until you really need it. It's also something I would never add to my backpacking list... Not when a bandana will do nicely. Of course, the cast iron skillet in this photo isn't on my backpacking list either. 

25 bandana uses - survival bandana


In a pinch, you can strain the sediment from water using a filter made from bandanas, sand, gravel, grass and charcoal. I did it once here

25 bandana uses - survival bandana


Waving a high contrast flag around is a great way to get attention. In nature red is usually going to be a good contrasting color. Unless you're in New England in the fall, I suppose. I've also see people use bandanas to mark a fork in a trail for a later group to follow. Or to create a landmark in unfamiliar territory. 

25 bandana uses - survival bandana


This is a favorite of mine. By simply tying together diagonal corners with square knots you get a handy little pouch for carrying smaller items, like berries. It's kind of like a loose hobo bindle. 

25 bandana uses - survival bandana


I'm not just talking about pin the tail on the donkey here. You can use a bandana to block out unwanted sunlight to grab a quick nap during the day. 

25 bandana uses

Hopefully this will get the gears turning on new uses for your bandana. Maybe it will empower you to be able to leave a few more items home on your next backpacking trip. I know I'm always looking to lighten to load. 

Here at Colter Co., we are on a mission to improve the humble bandana. We add another layer of benefit to every bandana to make them even more useful in the outdoors. Whether it's knot diagrams, star charts, or board games, we are making bandanas better. Pack less, take more. 

instructional article

The 10 Essentials


As a Boy Scout, I had the ten essentials drilled into my head from a young age. To this day I don't even go to work without a more urban friendly version of the 10 essentials with me. And it's come in handy. A co-worker recently had a wardrobe malfunction and I was able to save the day with the basic sewing kit thats in my first aid kit. He said "of course you have a sewing kit..." Be prepared, baby.

As I've grown up and see other people on the trail, I've realized that not everyone has had that same training. I see people pretty far into the wilderness with just a water bottle and a pair of sunglasses. I feel a bit nervous for them and that nervousness has in part been the reason I decided to write about this subject. 

The 10 essentials was originally created by a mountaineering group from Seattle in the 1930's. It is one of those things that is pretty timeless, and I don't see it needing much updating. There is of course some flexibility in how to choose to fulfill each need. Navigation, for instance, has come a long way since the 30's, but the principle remains. 

The 10 Essentials:



Although there are many ways to navigate, I prefer the old fashioned way. GPS is nice, but batteries die and technology sometimes fails. A good map is a great tool. Especially the new ones with water proof, tear proof paper. It does require learning the skills to use a map well, but they are skills that will make your use of a GPS unit that much better. It's always good to have the old paper back up, just in case. 




I generally bring enough food for the trip I'm planning on, and then an extra meal. Just in case. You never know when you might need (or want) to stay longer. What if you sprain your ankle and a 4 mile day hike suddenly takes an extra 6 hours to hobble back to the car? Make it high energy, high protein food like jerky, or trail mix.



You can go three weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. Worst case scenarios aside, staying hydrated can help prevent other first aid emergencies like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, altitude sickness, and many more. Not to mention you'll just generally feel better and enjoy your trip more. Just don't go hiking without water. 




Weather conditions can change pretty quickly. Especially if you are hiking for 4,000' to 10,000'. Or if you live in the Pacific Northwest. It's always only an hour away from raining around here. Best to carry a jacket or a poncho.



There are a lot of good ways to take care of this one. Sun screen, a hat, lip balm, long sleeves. To each their own. One of my favorite is a bandana. You can wrap it around your neck, or wear it pirate style if you forgot a hat. When it's a hot you can soak it in an ice cold creek first. Very refreshing. 




I would never go hiking without a knife. I don't really go anywhere without a pocket knife, though. Make sure it's a good, sharp one. I have a favorite knife, personally. The Mora Companion. It's inexpensive, and probably the best quality I knife I have owned. It's not often those go together. It is very utilitarian. It's not fancy or the sort of thing that knife collectors are going to drool over. But it will get the job done. And no, I'm not being paid to say that. 




Again, there are many ways to go about this one. Stick with what you are the most comfortable. Remember, if you are going to need it, it's probably going to be an emergency. I love starting fires the primitive way. Flint and steel is my favorite. But in a 10 essentials kit, I usually have a lighter.  




Lighting conditions change as quickly as weather conditions. An unexpected injury can add lots of time to a day hike. Make sure you don't get caught in the dark.




If you end up needing to stay the night unexpectedly, a shelter can be the difference between life and death. I'm not saying you should carry a 4 man tent with you where ever you go. But a space blanket can go a long way in an emergency. And they don't take up much more space than a deck of cards. A simple tarp and a length of paracord can make a lot of different shelters, as illustrated above. One might work better for you than another, depending on if you're working to stay warm, dry, or cool. 




A first aid kit is another customizable thing depending on your personal needs. I suggest looking through yours every now and then to make sure you aren't of bandages and that the medications in it aren't 6 years expired. 

Do you have a 10 essentials kit you take on day hikes, hunting trips, or general adventures? I'd love to hear if you have any specific items you won't leave home without. 


instructional article

Bear attack!

wildlife infographic

I've personally never been charged by a grizzly or any other deadly beast. I wouldn't mind going to the grave without the experience, but you never know what the future holds. This handy graphic will help you decide ahead of time what do to do in the event of an encounter. Spoiler alert! Running in terror is not recommended for any kind of encounter. Except maybe squirrel.