WHAT ARE THE TEN MUST-HAVE ITEMS TO TAKE ON A BACKCOUNTRY TRIP?
Everyone's idea of "must-have" is different, but ask most outdoors experts and they'll give you more or less the same list of bare necessities: food, water, shelter, warm clothes, waterproof fire source, sleeping bag, first aid kit, flashlight, knife, and map. Those may be the ten things that keep you alive and healthy, but what about the top ten things that make backcountry living more about enjoyment than just getting by? We surveyed a whole range of outdoor know-it-alls, from Adventure staffers to gear gurus, to compile the following list (presented in no particular order). (1) Sandals, for stream crossings. (2) Coffee: Our panel favored single-serving bags. (3) Moist towelettes: Boost a few from your local rib joint before the trip. (4) Bandannas: Bring twoone to keep yourself cool and another to keep the dishes clean. (5) Duct tape: indispensable for tent and gear repairs. (6) Twine, to make a laundry line. (7) Deck of cards, to separate your trailmates from their extra money and snacks. (8) Collapsible binoculars, for wildlife ogling. (9) Carabiner, to string up your food or replace a broken hip-belt buckle. And, last but not least, (10) Spirits: At day's end, pass a flask or even a Thermos of premixed cocktails (mojitos were a panel favorite).
HOW DO MOISTURE-WICKING GARMENTS WORK, AND WHY DO THE LABELS SAY NOT TO PUT THEM IN THE DRYER?
To answer the first part of your question, we turned to North Carolina State University textile engineer Behnam Pourdeyhimi. His response: "Take a look at the Laplace equation, where capillary pressure is equal to twice the liquid's surface tension times the cosine of the fiber's contact angle, divided by the pore radius." It, uh, turns out that describing in layman's terms how a fabric pulls moisture away from the skin (a process originally used by diaper manufacturers) isn't easy. But we're determined to try. Today's wicking fabrics are constructed of water-repellent synthetic fibers, such as polyester, that are specially woven to create "sweat corridors" that promote capillary action (yes, the same process plants use to draw water to their extremities). Having figured out how to move sweat off your skin (through a moisture-conducting weave) and to keep moisture out of the fabric itself (through water-repellent fibers), chemical engineers then had to find a way to get it off the surface of the garment altogether. To do this, most manufacturers coat the fabric with a water-attracting compound, such as glycol, which assists capillary action by drawing water molecules to the surface and encourages evaporation by dispersing the water molecules across the surface of the garment. Which brings us (slightly out of breath) to the second part of your question: This outer coating is prone to falling off when put through the dryer.
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