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Trail Ramen

Ramen noodles have long been a staple in my backpacking menu plan. When I was a kid a $0.35 pack of ramen was fine by itself. And they are a perennial hit with my kids. The last thing you want is to hike 3 miles into a lake and have a meal your kids won't eat. But now that I have a palate that is more sophisticated than a 9 year olds they can leave a little bit to be desired. So I've been adding things and trying new options for the past few years. Here are a couple winners that I have come across. They also add nutrition to an otherwise pretty empty meal. Another win for hiking food for kids. 

1. Summer Sausage Surprise

Okay, so it's not really much of a surprise. There's diced summer sausage added to it... I have tried adding different forms of protein to increase the benefits of this meal. I started with chopped up beef jerky. Beef jerky is fine on it's own, but when it's added to an already plenty salty soup it doesn't really do much for me. Plus unless you boil it for quite a while it stays pretty hard. So I decided to add diced and sautéed summer sausage. I liked it much better than beef jerky! I also like to add freeze dried veggies to the mix. It's nice to add texture, flavor and nutrition. 

Note: You may notice that I went with spicy ramen and spicy dehydrated veggies. Yeah, that was a bit much. One or the other would have been fine. 


I will also point out that a super easy way to cook ramen on the trail is in a freezer ziplock bag. It's like a home made mountain house meal. Just put the ingredients in and pour the boiled water over it. Be sure they are freezer bags and not regular! Those will just melt. For ultra easy clean up just eat out of the bag and zip it up when you're done. Mess contained!


2. Coconut Curry Chicken Ramen

I made these last year and they were amazing! Super easy and tasty enough to consider making them at home, not just on the trail. They are creamy and have added protein and fat. 


1 - Package of Ramen noodles (throw away the spice packet that comes with them)
4 - Tablespoons Coconut Milk Powder
1 - Teaspoon Yellow Curry Paste
1 oz - Package freeze dried Chicken 

Put the dry ingredients into a cup of water and bring to a boil. Once that starts to thicken a bit add the noodles and freeze dried chicken. Cook until the noodles are soft and remove from heat. If you're feeling fancy you can garnish with peppers and cilantro like in this picture. I did not...


I'd love to hear your favorite way to church up Ramen on the trail! Let me know what you do. 


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Celestial Navigation

Every good skill deserves a back up plan. Navigation is no exception. GPS was a game changer when it comes to wilderness navigation. But it does have weaknesses. Batteries die, devices gets dropped, and sometimes you just don't getting reception. Having a back up solution to GPS is a must. Map and compass is essential skill, but sometimes you don't have a compass with you. That's where celestial navigation can come into play. The great thing about using the sun, moon and starts to navigate is that you don't have to pack them.

I would never suggest going on a trip underprepared. Please do take your 10 essentials with you on any outdoor outing. But if your gear starts to act up, or you're not feeling confident in the information it's giving you, it's good to have this in your back pocket.

When I designed the stargazer bandana, it was to help provide a few basic navigation tips in a format that wouldn't be a burden to carry. I'm guessing you take a bandana on every hike. Why not make it a navigation asset as well. We made it glow in the dark not just because it's cool (which it is...) but as a functional aspect. The soft glow of the ink allows your eyes to stay adjusted to the night sky while you are looking for constellations. The following instructions come directly from our stargazer bandana and will help you make the most of your bandana in the field.

TIP 1: Finding the North Star

The North Star (Polaris) is the only star in the Northern Hemisphere that doesn't appear to move during the course of the night. All the other starts change their location in the sky and so using them to navigate can be tricky. Finding the North Star is a foundational celestial navigation tool. 


The most common way to find the North Star is to trace an imaginary line from the two bottom stars on the Big Dipper constellation. The Big Dipper does move around the sky, but the stars in that constellation are fairly bright and are usually pretty easy to pick out. The North Star is also the last star in the handle of the little dipper.

In the event of it being partially obscured by clouds or trees, or if you are having a hard time finding it, you can also remember that the North Star sits in between the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia (the big W in the sky):


TIP 2: Finding East West

East and West can be determined in a few ways, including marking shadows over time. Place a stick in the ground and mark where the top of the stick leaves its shadow on the ground with a stone. Wait a half and hour or so and mark the new position of the stick. If you draw a line connecting those stones it will point East/West, the second rock being farther east. You can also determine North and South with a perpendicular line. For obvious reasons this method can be hard to do when it's cloudy. 


Depending on where you are on the planet just watching the path of the sun can be a bit misleading in terms of finding East and West. Living pretty far north in Washington State, the sun rises and sets pretty far south in the winter. And it never really gets near the center of the sky. 

At night a good way to determine East and West is to watch the Orion constellation. The top star in Orion's belt always rises and sets within 1 degree of East and West. Where ever you are on the globe and all seasons. Pretty cool, huh?


TIP 3: Finding South

In addition to the stick shadow method of finding South, you can use the moon. The points on a crescent moon line up to point South. This one is more approximate, but it's a great thing to use on nights when the North Star and other constellations are covered with clouds, but you can still make out the shape of the moon.


All of these methods should be practices when you get a chance. Any time I get a clear view of the sky I always try to find the cardinal points. Like all things, they get easier with practice. If you'd like a convenient way to remember this tips or to pass these skills on to the next generation our Stargazer bandana is the way to go. Get yours here.

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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. 

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Home Away from Home


I started a new tradition this year. I took each of my sons on overnight campouts, individually. Before planning each trip I asked them what they wanted to learn on the outing. My oldest son said he wanted to build a shelter. Challenge accepted. So I picked a nice, thickly forested little lake and we hiked in. I didn't realize until we got to the area, but camp fires are never allowed in this area. That was fine for us, since it's August and I was planning on there being at least a temporary fire ban. This permanent fire ban ended up being a huge advantage. The forest floor in that area is covered in dead branches and small trees that in most other places would have been gathered for firewood as soon as it fell. So we had more than enough material to work with! We started out by finding the perfect spot. We found a nice flatish area at the center of a ridge near the middle of the slope. I feel confident there will be minimal water run off that pools up there during a downpour. It's also just a stones throw away from a bubbling spring pouring ice cold water down the slope. It was heaven. 

The first step was to decide design. We found a newly dead standing tree that served as our vertical support. We decided on a two sided lean-to. We lashed a main support beam about 14 feet long to the standing tree and started leaning 3" diameter longs against that for the structure. Another reason we were building in that spot is because it was about 30 feet away from a giant windfall cedar. I cut the bark off in long, wide strips and laid that over the structure. We worked for about 2 hours on the thing and we're quite happy with it as a fair weather shelter. We plan on returning and adding several more layers of material to make it a stronger option during rain. We learned a lot from this exercise. First of all, how great it is to be able to just throw a tarp over a rope to make a lean-to. If you've got one...