Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile Recent Posts
A Yosemite bear

The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (57% of Full)


Advanced

Re: Time on the Trail

All posts are those of the individual authors and the owner of this site does not endorse them. Content should be considered opinion and not fact until verified independently.

Time on the Trail
September 21, 2011 08:50AM
What time is it when you are on the trail? Does it matter? That seems like a kind of silly question in the backcountry, but on our last trip into the Ansel Adams Wilderness, my wife was disappointed to see that her watch had stopped dead.

Eh, who cares? Who needs a watch anyway?

And then we started to think about how we use our watches when we hike. And it turns out we do that more than you might think.

Now I have a watch with a built in altimeter, so I often check that function was we hike. In fact, I leave that function on as the primary display of the watch during these trips, so the time function is just a small footnote at the bottom. Still, I use it to get an idea of how we are doing on the trail. Navigation is more than just knowing where you are---it's also knowing how far you have to go, and how long it is taking you to get there.

That means knowing what time it is.

There are, of course, other ways of telling the time in the backcountry. The sun moves about the breadth of a hand at arm's length each hour (so does the moon, for that matter) so it's fairly easy to estimate time within an hour or so. If you are worried about making camp before dark, you should be able to do that just by looking at the sun, without the need for a digital watch.

And if you are a musician, you can certainly sing a few songs and keep track of the time that way--Bach's Bourree in E minor is almost exactly two minutes long, for example.

We also like to take pretty regular breaks on the trail, to keep up our water and food intake. Yeah, we could just stop when we are hungry or thirsty---but we've learned over the years that it's usually better to drink BEFORE you get thirsty, so we schedule our stops by the time, rather than by how we are feeling. You need a watch to do that. Otherwise, by the time you think you are getting dehydrated, you already ARE dehydrated.

And it's always helpful to synchronize watches when you are planning to meet again, later...

But where this really got our attention was when we started making dinner.

Those dehydrated meals always require a certain amount of time to regain their form, substance, and texture....and without a watch, my poor wife felt clueless. If you open the pot to check on them, they quickly get cold. Luckily, I was there with my watch, and was able to tell her how long exactly, to the second, the food had been rehydrating,

And I could tell her the elevation of our campsite, too.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Time on the Trail
September 21, 2011 10:17AM
Quote
balzaccom

But where this really got our attention was when we started making dinner.

Those dehydrated meals always require a certain amount of time to regain their form, substance, and texture....and without a watch, my poor wife felt clueless. If you open the pot to check on them, they quickly get cold. Luckily, I was there with my watch, and was able to tell her how long exactly, to the second, the food had been rehydrating,

You could have just asked her to count out loud for timing of the rehydrating of the food (one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, ...). wink

It's funny, during weeks where I'm spending a lot of time outdoors, I really don't need a watch to tell time if it's sunny outside. I tend to be accurate give or take ten minutes just by knowing where the sun is positioned in the sky. Yet, that said, I tend to feel naked if I'm not wearing my watch while I'm away from my house. Even when I have my cell phone (which of course has a built-in clock).
Re: Time on the Trail
September 21, 2011 10:20AM
On our trips, a watch is important although not having one can be worked around. For instance our compact digital cameras date and time stamp each image. On our base camping trips, each person often goes off solo on their own activities. Sometimes we make plans to break camp or have an activity at a given time so if someone doesn't have a watch, that might be an issue. No one wants to pack up and sit around waiting for a person say fishing at a nearby lake to return at 11am just because they were at a loss to know what time it really was when plans were to pack up at 10am then leave. With we photographers, we sometimes get up at pre-dawn and then set out for miles to some location we wish to photograph at sunrise. Without a watch, we might mistake sleepy 3am for 4:30am and that would be a very annoying wait for light. And of course most digital watches have teeny alarms that can help waking up at specific set times. Also later in the afternoon we often need to be aware of how far from the end of the day it is in order to be able to hike to this planned place or that in order to photograph in appropriate light. I tend to be a light sleeper waking up several times during a night. And sometimes I'll then look at my watch to see how much more sleep I can get. It is very reassuring when one is tired to wake up say at 2am and know we have 4 more hours of possible sleep than to start worrying it is already 4:30am and dawn is about to break.

David



http://www.davidsenesac.com



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/21/2011 10:22AM by DavidSenesac.
Re: Time on the Trail
September 21, 2011 11:39AM
I am a photographer and often want to be at a certain place at a certain time for the light. I check the time often to make sure I will make it.
avatar Re: Time on the Trail
September 21, 2011 01:33PM
I haven't worn a watch in years. I use my iphone to tell the time, although that obviously doesnt work on backpacking trips. I'm generally within 15 minutes of the right time when I guess based on the sun's position. If I really need to be exact I can always check my GPS (if I carry it) or my Kindle.

On the freezedried meals, I tend to wait longer than recommended, just to be on the safe side and make sure its fully rehydrated.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login