Outdoor Skills

camping stove

How to Clean a Backpacking Stove (MSR Whisperlite)

Outdoors Gear School and Maintenance Tips

A well-working stove can make the difference between a warm meal or a night munching dried ramen. Follow these steps for a thorough stove cleaning. NOTE: we do not recommend this method on a stove unless it is similar in construction to the MSR whisperlite (e.g., canister stoves would not benefit much from this technique).

Following your stove instructions, disassemble completely. Discard any plastic parts that may melt under heat, we just want to work on the metal pieces.

Wipe off as much residue and soot as you can, then place into a pot of near-boiling water. Leave in for ten minutes, scrubbing as necessary.

Dry completely and continue wiping off residue and soot.

Clean the stove’s line, as you would normally for intermediate cleanings. Continue to wipe residue and soot away.

Clean the shaker jet pin as normal.

Dry the larger pieces (esp. fuel lines) in an oven set at 115 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until COMPLETELY dry. Lightly oil all parts and reassemble. Make sure to test it out before your next trip, but your stove should be as good as new.

water source

Watch for these indications of a possible flash flood

Survival Skills

Once you’ve determined (hopefully in advance) that you are hiking in an area with flash-flood potential, keep note of these tips and you’ll be able to stay ahead of the flood.

Signs and Indications a Flash Flood is coming.

  • Cloud build-up, sounds of thunder in the distance, visible rain are all precursors to flash flooding.
  • If you are hiking near water already, keep an eye out for any sudden changes in water clarity from clear to muddy. This means the rain is heavy enough to cause runoff.
  • Floating debris in the water is equally alarming and is a sign of the rain’s force.
  • Rising water levels or stronger currents both mean a greater volume of water is heading your way.
  • It’s also possible to hear the roar of water as it approaches (e.g. in a canyon).
  • If you observe any of these signs, seek higher ground immediately, preferably a location that would allow you to leave the area entirely if necessary. Even climbing a few feet may save your life. Remain on high ground until conditions improve. Water levels usually drop within 24 hours. Flash floods do occur in the park during periods of low flash flood potential. A moderate or higher flash flood potential should be a serious cause for concern. 
  • And remember to always check the weather prior to hiking or camping in a area prone to flash flooding. 

How to Use Bear Spray

Survival Skills

Knowing how to use bear spray is something every person who spends time in bear country should know; and is an often overlooked survival skill. Everyone talks about bear spray, but not many people actually know to properly use it. First off, what is bear spray? Bear spray is a non-lethal bear deterrent used to repel aggressive bears. The active ingredient is capsicum, which is an extremely strong irritant to the eyes, nose, mouth, throat and lungs of both grizzly and black bears. Note, that bear repellent capsicum is also harmful to other animals who happen to come in contact with it, including you. While no bear deterrent is 100% effective, studies show bear spray appears to be the most effective bear repellent. However, just because you have bear spray with you, that is not a license to throw common sense out the window. Remember your first line and best bear defense is avoiding them. However, if an attack is unavoidable follow these simple steps on how to use bear spray for your best chance to survive a bear attack.

Create a bear spray cloud

You don’t need to be an excellent shot. In fact, you want a cloud of bear spray between you and the charging bear. A charging bear is fear inducing, but with bear spray you don’t need to aim exactly!  

Practice using your bear deterrent

Practice! Don’t let your first time using bear spray be a life or death situation.  Practice firing INERT not LIVE bear spray in different situations. You want to have an idea of how the spray reacts to cross-winds, head winds and wind at your back.

Bear spray does not work if you can’t get to it

Keep it easily accessible! A grizzly bear can run roughly 35 miles per hour for a short distance. If your bear spray is in your pack…you might as well have left it at home.  Also, be sure to remove any safety clips before heading out into bear country.

Bears are fast! Start spraying early

Start spraying when a charging bear is roughly 30 to 60 feet away.


Stand ground when using bear spray

When spraying the bear repellent hold the can firmly with both hands! Point the spray nozzle slightly downward and blast for a couple of seconds with a side to side motion. You want to spray slightly down so you don’t run the risk of allowing the bear to run underneath it.  The spray will bounce off the ground and still create a cloud.  Remember bear spray does not require precision, simply a cloud. If the aggressive bear continues to charge through the cloud, spray again. When spraying keep a poised stance, yell at the bear and do not take off your pack.  

Bear repellent is not permanent

Bear spray increases your chances of surviving a bear attack, remember bear spray is not permanent and it will wear off in time. After using the spray make sure to leave the area immediately.

Don’t accidentally spray yourself

If you have a strong head wind, keep in mind bear spray does the same thing to humans as it does to bears! It will incapacitate you. If you have a strong head wind it may be best to hold off on spraying and see if and when the bear actually makes contact (and try to position yourself so that the bear is downwind if you need to spray).

Accidental contamination

If you accidentally spray yourself, someone else or a pet with bear spray. It’s going to hurt! Try and stay calm. Avoid taking deep breaths!  You want to limit the amount inhaled. Wash all affected areas immediately with cool clean water! Remove any clothing with bear spray on it and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Understand your bear spray limitations

Know the product!  Winds, rain, snow, freezing temperatures and age of the product all play a role in the effectiveness of bear spray. If it’s expired, properly dispose of it according to manufacturer’s recommendations and replace. All bear spray manufacturers, such as Counter Assault, must register their product with the EPA, whose regulations state that all bear spray must have a minimum of 6 seconds of spray time and shoot a cloud at least 25 ft. …

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