Tick Prevention Week

Tick feedingIt’s Tick prevention week here in the UK, and the consequences of being bitten and getting Lymes disease are serious. Even if you think you know everything you can do to prevent and remove a tick, do yourself a favour and read up again about what you can do here

It’s estimated that up to 3000 people a year get Lymes disease, and in rare cases, the effects can be serious. Lyme disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected tick and can lead to serious complications including damage to the nervous system, joints, heart and other tissues.

Key things you can do to look after yourself;

1. Know where to expect ticks. Many areas in the UK with good ground cover and diverse wildlife (such as squirrels, hedgehogs, birds and deer) can pose a potential risk as wildlife feeds any ticks and allows their population to increase. Animals also transport ticks to new areas.

2. Use a repellent, reading the instructions carefully. There is currently no vaccine to defend against Lyme disease so prevention is key.

3. Carry a tick remover. By having a tick remover (and antiseptic wipes) with you, any attached ticks can be removed sooner, lessening the chance of disease transmission.

4. Tuck your trouser legs into your socks. This helps to deter ticks from crawling inside your trouser legs, down into shoes and through most socks. Wearing gaiters will also help to prevent this. Light-coloured clothing makes it easier to see ticks on it.

5. Take a walking stick with you. Where you can’t keep to the centre of paths to avoid ticks on overhanging vegetation, you can use a stick to tap the vegetation ahead of you, knocking off any waiting ticks.

6. Check your body carefully for ticks after being outdoors, taking special care to check all over the body.

7. Don’t bring ticks home. Check clothing and pets for ticks to avoid bringing them inside.

8. Carefully remove ticks. Use a specialist tick-removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers. See the tick removal section for full instructions.

9. Protect your pets. Talk to your vet about tick treatments.

10. Be a ‘Tick Buddy’. You can help your companions by checking for ticks in places they can’t see, such as the back of the head and behind their ears.

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Washing down products

One of the questions I often get asked here at Webtogs is how do you wash down products like jackets, sleeping bags, vests etc. With all down products they are a little tricky to wash, but it is still possible.

The only thing we would recommend is Nikwax’s down wash. Ordinary detergent will clump your down together and will result in a product that just won’t insulate you any more, so it is critical you use the proper stuff. To the same end you need to ensure that all of the normal detergent is gone from your washing machine. To do this, clean the detergent draw and put the washing machine on empty on a hot wash (90 degrees if possible) to dissolve all of the detergent from around the drum.

Follow the instructions on the down wash for the quantities and put the bag on a delicate wash. Once the wash has finished I like to put it on the same wash again without any detergent which just ensures all of the cleaning agents have been thoroughly rinsed out.

Once the wash has finished the best way of drying it is in a laundrettes tumble drier on the coolest setting possible. I always check to see if there are any sharp bits in the drum first as well, particularly with high end bags that have a thin face fabric. It also helps to put a couple of tennis balls in there with whatever you are drying to help break up any clumps of down. Down always takes a long time to dry and if the down is still clumping within the baffles it is still wet. Once it is completely dry you will be able to break up any clumps by shaking and manipulating the bag.

If you don’t have access to a tumble drier, then you will need to hang it in an airing cupboard or somewhere warm for about a week, making sure you break up any clumps that form to ensure the down dries thoroughly. My top tip for sleeping bags is to always use a bag liner which helps to keep the bag clean. You can wash the liner a lot easier than the bag itself, and it will extended the periods between it needing a wash.

All of this may seem a bit of a long winded process, but you down product will end up in great nick with the down performing as it should!

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What’s the best way to treat water whilst on a hike?

Every outdoor adventurer will have their preferred purification method – I know I do – but you do have a few options to consider:

1. Boiling
Boiling your water for three minutes will absolutely kill anything nasty that might be loitering around. Problem is, you’ll probably be left with a wood smoke taste in your mouth which isn’t too pleasant. On top of that, you’ll also have to be carrying fuel in your daypack, and keep in mind the environmental impact of burning fuel as well.

2. Iodine/Chlorine
Light, easy to carry, and available as liquid, crystal, or in tablets – Great! But there is downside – awful tasting water. The rule of thumb is the dirtier the water, the longer you wait for the iodine to work, but always check with the manufacturer’s directions to be absolutely sure about timing.

3. Water filtration systems

Want pure, good tasting water on the trail which has no environmental impact? Water filtration systems are the way to go! Of course there is a downside, which is the constant cleaning and care they demand. They are based on pore size, so look for a pore of one micron or less. If the pore is small enough, you can even filter out viruses. Hint: pre-filter your water through a cloth to speed up the purification process.

So which one is the best?

My recommendation is to try water filtration systems. Yes, it can be a bit of a hassle to deal with as you have to clean and change the tubes and filters – but worth it for the great taste and impact-free effect on the environment.

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What should I look for when buying a tent?

If you’re on the mission to find the perfect tent and camping equipment, here are a few pointers to make sure you don’t end up with a dud:

• A good tent should protect you from wind, rain, snow, and the sun. If you can afford it, get an all-seasons tent – it’ll save you money in the long run as you won’t have to upgrade later.

• Unless you want to be harassed by bugs – make sure your tent has screens.

• Air vents will make your trip comfortable on hot, muggy nights.

• Dome tents are the sturdiest in windy conditions.

• Double wall tents have an inner breathable laminate, a waterproof outer shell, and less condensation.

• If you get a single wall tent, make sure the material is a breathable, waterproof laminate.

• Make sure the seams are double-stitched and not prone to leakage. If the seams are taped for extra protection and coated then this will add to the waterproof capabilities. If your tent is not taped or treated, you will need to do it yourself.

• Look for a tent made of ripstop nylon, which are much more durable and lighter than other materials such as canvas.

• Colour is a matter of personal choice but remember that brighter colours are more visible in snowy or misty conditions.

• Tent poles should be fibreglass or aluminium; fibreglass is lighter but aluminium is stronger. Poles moulded to the shape of the tent are usually stronger. Fibreglass poles pack better and take up less space.

• And finally, make sure it’s easy to set up. No one enjoys fumbling about in the dark at the end of a long day trek.

The perfect tent will have a lot to do with the conditions you’re camping in. Unfortunately, you probably can’t justify buying a new tent for every condition, but these tips should help you get a good all round tent that you’ll get lots of use out of for several years to come.

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What is the absolute minimum to take on a long hike?

Hiking is serious business. Leaving home without the essentials and knowing how to use them is not a good idea. No real adventurer would leave home without these basics:

If you can’t read a map, and read it well, you don’t belong in the wilderness. Good, colour contoured maps that show elevation, latitude, and longitude are essential. If you’re clueless on how to read it, check out a map reading guides on the net or contact local hiking clubs and societies for a course.

If you don’t know your north from your south, you can get yourself into trouble in the great outdoors. Again, local hiking clubs and societies might have a course to teach you how to orient yourself to the map using a compass. There’s no need to go overboard when you buy one – all you really need to know is where north is. Our compasses are reliable compasses that works well.

Swiss Army knife or multi-purpose tool
I’m partial to the Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Multi Tool and am firmly convinced that you could brave the ugliest situations with this trusty companion. A good Swiss Army knife also does a great job of tackling the great outdoors and are renowned for they reliability. Open cans, cut bandages, eat with it, repair your gear, fix blisters, and remove splinters…Is there anything it can’t do?!

First aid kit
If you don’t know a bite from a bruise, clue yourself up on first aid. Be it a proper course or asking our good friend Google for some online guides – don’t venture out without basic knowledge. Good, small, lightweight first aid kits are available from most places that sell camping gear.

Torch or head lamp
Useful for finding your way in the dark, map reading and signalling for help at night. You can find some great Head Torches here.

Water and purification kit
Water is essential but what if you run out? A water purification kit is a great way to be able to drink just about any water. Finding out where your water sources are before you start a big trip is also useful.

Waterproof clothing and spare dry clothes.
You can always shed clothing if it’s too hot but not having it when you need it can be life-threatening. Take spare socks too in case your feet get wet.

A way to start a fire
There are several good commercial fire starter kits, or make your own with some lint from your dryer and waterproof matches.

Extra food
Plan what you will need and then bring more. Kendal Mint Cake is especially delicious and keeps the energy up.

Sunglasses and sun screen
Essential for trips in hot weather but even more essential if you are in the mountains above the clouds surrounded by snow.

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First Aid on the Trail

If anything can go wrong, it will. Murphy’s Law applies doubly on the trail. Anyone who chooses to leave the comforts of civilization without basic first aid knowledge and a serviceable first aid kit is on a fool’s errand.

When things go wrong in the wilderness, they go wrong quickly and emphatically. A simple slip or fall could become a matter of life and death. Cheap or ill fitting outdoor clothing can add to any disastrous circumstances by aiding the onset of hypothermia. Learning first aid is essential for any hiker.

Webtogs offer a comprehensive assortment of first aid kits large, medium and small. As well as general first aid kits we have kits that are specifically tailored towards activities and/or a medical condition. First Aid Kits from Lifesystems

Check local resources for instruction on first aid. Police or fire stations can help point the way. If there is a local branch of the Red Cross or Salvation Army, they will probably offer courses and they will cost very little if at all. If you are taking children with you, make sure they have basic first aid knowledge, too. You never know who will be hurt on a trip. If it’s you, and you’re the only member of your party with first aid knowledge, things will not go to well.

A good first aid manual is essential. You can download one for free here or purchase one from any bookstore. Read it thoroughly, and keep it in your first aid kit.

Here’s what the Red Cross recommends in a basic first aid kit:

• Absorbent Compress 5×9 dressing to cover and protect open wounds.
• Adhesive Bandages (Assorted Sizes)
• Adhesive Tape (cloth) 1” to secure splints and bandages
• Antibiotic Ointment packets (approx 1 g)
• Antiseptic wipe packets
• Aspirin (Chewable) 81 mg for heart attack symptoms
• Blanket (Space Blanket) to retain body heat
• CPR Breathing Barrier (w/one-way valve)
• Instant Cold Compress to inhibit swelling
• Gloves (large), disposable, non-latex
• Hydrocortisone Ointment Packets (approx 1 g) for external rash treatment
• Roller Bandage 3” (individually wrapped)
• Roller Bandage 4” (individually wrapped)
• Sterile Gauze Pad 3×3 to control bleeding
• Sterile Gauze Pad 4×4 to control bleeding
• Thermometer, Oral (Non-Mercury/Non-Glass)
• Triangular Bandage for shoulder wounds
• Sling or binder/splinting
• Tweezers for removal of splinters and ticks

In addition, you will need a good Swiss army knife or multi-tool. A magnifying glass comes in handy for both removing splinters and starting fires. A small mirror should be added to the kit as well. They are useful for signalling if you are lost and for administering first aid to yourself. Always carry a lightweight foil blanket to preserve body heat. If any member of your party takes prescription drugs, remember to pack them.

Remember the old adage: It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

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Ask The Expert

At Webtogs we understand the need to expand peoples interest and knowledge for everything outdoors – I have been searching the web for a range of resources that allow people like you to ask the question you need answering and was disappointed by the level of support us outdoors followers are receiving..

Need to ask a question – simple, then ask me..

Every question will get its own featured post answered by me, TheExpert.

  • Want to know the difference between top brands – Marmot or The North face?
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  • Do I need to have qualifications to hike alone or with a friend?
  • Are there any Hiking clubs near me?
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  • I have £100 to spend on a good set of waterproofs.. help?
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