Putting First Aid First

Since our thru-hike in 2017, we’ve refined many pieces of our standard gear setup, but we’d been neglecting our First Aid kit, which we were keeping in a cheap stuff sack and not regularly replenishing. An upcoming multi-day backpacking trip was a convincing reason to change our approach to safety and First Aid.

The caption below describes what we’ve assembled.

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I put together a new First Aid kit! We’d been carrying supplies in a small stuff sack, which was convenient enough, but clumsy in practice, and too easy to miss which supplies needed replenishment. After forgetting much-needed ibuprofen on a recent overnight, I realized I needed to revamp our approach to First Aid. The pouch is just a makeup travel case. I wanted something see-through, to quickly find what I need and to see at a glance what I’m missing. It’s also (reasonably) waterproof. In the kit: -alcohol swabs -four large waterproof bandaids, four blister-sized -three waterproof blister covers (the cushy alternative to Leukotape- much beloved by hikers but I’m not a fan) -tube of hydrocortisone cream -tube of triple antibiotic ointment -Pepto Bismol tablets -ibuprofen -antihistamine pills -aspirin -antacid tablets -tweezers Medication goes in labeled pill pouches, which means you can buy in bulk and replenish as needed. You could save weight on smaller foil packets of antibiotic ointment, but it creates more waste, and it’s something that gets frequent use, so I think it’s worth carrying more. This whole kit weighs only 5.8oz, by the way! With this kit, I can treat blisters, cuts, and abrasions. Bandanas and trek or tent poles can be used as slings and splints. I carry a reflective emergency blanket when I don’t have overnight gear. Beyond that, we always carry a GPS beacon device to call for a rescue in a real emergency. What do you guys carry with you for emergencies? What would you add or remove from this kit?

A post shared by Betty And Tim Cameron (@bettytimhikes) on

I actually made two of these kits! Tim and I usually hike together, and so we’d been sharing a First Aid kit, but this also encouraged our negligence in keeping it properly stocked- neither of us took responsibility over it the way we would our individual gear. It also meant one of us would be without First Aid resources if we ever split up in the backcountry for any reason: getting water, hiking at different paces– it was not a huge risk, but certainly not a necessary one.

Now we each have a small, durable kit we can take with us anywhere, ready for the next adventure!



Thru-Hiking as Science Fiction

IMG_3128What makes us human? That’s the central question of all science fiction. To answer it, remove a human from all familiar context: isolate them in the far reaches of the galaxy. Force them to interact with aliens. Pair them with an artificial intelligence so convincing that it seems indistinguishable from a real person. Away from the familiar, we can begin to see what is innately “human”, rather than what is an expected response to common stimuli.

In undertaking a thru-hike, I imagined I was doing something similar to myself. If I hurl myself into the unknown, away from my work, my home, and away from everyone I knew except my husband, what would remain? A science fiction story is a kind of experiment: a theory, a combination of known and unknown factors, setting things in motion to see what happens. I wanted to test myself in the same way. What makes me Betty?

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The Five Mile Mistake

One of the thru-hiker’s articles of faith is “Hike your own hike” – go at your own pace, use the gear that makes you happy, don’t let other hikers’ opinions change your experience. This also means setting your own goals and rules for the hike. With fire closures, snow hazards, and other obstacles, it’s impossible to literally walk 2,660 consecutive miles of trail (and as the trail moves around hazards or requires extra hiking to water sources, that’s not even the exact length of the trail anyway), so it’s up to each hiker to figure out how they’ll best approximate a complete hike from Mexico to Canada. As they say, the PCTA pays you the same no matter how you hike it.  Continue reading

A Tough Day on Trail

Miles 193-213 brutalized us.

The day before, we traversed snow chutes off of Mt San Jacinto where the trail was otherwise impassable, and hauled our weary bodies to a small campsite near a creek at mile 193.

The next morning we got up at 4:30 am, ready for a 4500′ descent into the desert basin. By 8am, the temperature was already approaching 90 degrees, and there was no shade or water until a small spigot at the base of the descent, 13 miles from our starting point: the only guaranteed water source for another 16 miles.

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Goon on Pilgrimages

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
Geoffery Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

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The Precipice


With nine days before we hit the trail, I feel like I’m leaning out over the edge of a precipice, held back by ties to our apartment,  a dozen little administrative tasks we have to attend to- and as I cut through each of those ties, I’m closer to an exhilarating free-fall into the unknown. SLICE as a project at work wraps up. SLICE as we’ve set up mail forwarding and canceled our utilities. SLICE and the movers are booked for next week, and we’ve got a whole apartment full of stuff to pack. Continue reading