New videos each week!

"See YOU on the Trail!"


Sign up for important updates!

No spam, no links, just the facts Jack. Critical updates on books, appearances, trail schedules, major platform changes.

Sample from The Great Hiking Guide coming out 2020!



Preventing Tent Condensation

What causes tent condensation?

Condensation forms humid air meets a colder surface. The more humid inside of a tent coupled with lack of air flow, the more condensation one will experience. Unfortunately, there are no shelter prototypes nor materials, which eliminate water condensation, only offer better ventilation. Condensation in a shelter during winter temperatures becomes more prominent and worrisome. Excessive condensation could mist down, collect on sleeping bags, as well as drip down walls to pool on the floor. A bad night of condensation could soak an entire sleeping bag.

How to reduce condensation

  • Pitch on dry ground under trees because air tends to be warmer. Condensation will form on top of foliage first, not a shelter.
  • Pitch a tent or tarp doors with the opening or windows facing the wind. If using a hammock, hang it with the anchor points facing the direction of the wind, so the tarp does not block air movement.
  • Keep all rainfly doors, windows open and deploy if rain starts to fall.
  • Stake the tent out tautly and tension the fly or sides to maximize the airspace between it and the wall of the tent.
  • Do not keep wet items inside at night but dry them outside or put them inside a stuff sack. Try carrying a small. Lightweight tarp or window plastic to pitch over a clothesline during wet weather, allowing wet things to dry.
  • Cook outside of the tent to avoid increasing the interior humidity, heat, and harmful carbon monoxide levels.
  • Avoid camping near humid areas such as streams, lakes, ponds, or wet or marshy areas. Yes, it is nice to fall asleep next to a babbling brook, but condensation and bugs are not worth it.
  • Avoid setting up camp a low point in the landscape where cold, damp air sinks at night.
  • If the inside is wet in the morning, take a dry cloth, and soak up as much water as possible before packing up. Do not carry the extra water weight which could make a pack’s contents soggy. If a shelter is still wet the following evening, it will get colder faster than other surfaces, giving more time for condensation to collect.
  • Avoid placing items against a tent wall to include a sleeping bag. Make the dimensions before purchasing will give plenty of room to stretch out. If unsure if the dimensions will be large enough, try laying down newspaper at home in the shape and lay on top. Tall people often find fitting in tents difficult and tarp shelters are an excellent option.

Preventing hammock condensation

  • Do not let a tarp touch the sides of a hammock for similar reasons items in tents should not touch the walls.
  • Add water breaks and drip lines to each hammock strap and ridgeline to divert water from running down straps and into the hammock.

Trail Shelters

Many trails feature constructed shelters which sleep six to thirty people. Trail shelters can be a comfort and a lifesaver when during dangerous weather or if a tent/tarp/hammock becomes compromised. When a hiker sees multiple days of rain coming, sleeping in a shelter prevents packing a wet tent, never drying before the next evening. Most sections of the Appalachian Trail have shelters almost every five to ten miles. However, using shelters come with its risks and appropriate etiquette.

Perks to using a trail shelter

  • Protection from the elements and having to pack a dirty soggy tent. If the rain does not clear, the tent will be wet inside the following evening.
  • The privy is a suitable place to get dressed in the rain.
  • Place to hang a clothes line and dry out clothes.

Drawbacks to using trail shelters

  • If a hiker does not pack a tent/hammock/tarp and relies solely on trail shelters, they could experience a problem. During peak hiking season on the Appalachian Trail, shelter space comes at a premium. Some AT shelters can only fit six to eight people, but during the start of the thru-hiking season March through April, 80 people could show up on any given night.
  • Shelters are breeding grounds for contagions such as norovirus, flu, colds, and rodent diseases.
  • Shelters are infested with rodents, defecating as they walk. Their feces make humans incredibly sick when dried and carried as dust. Rodents and bugs will crawl across hikers during the night and eat holes in packs to see what is inside.
  • Some hikers may spray down their small area with bleach and water from a small bottle before placing their sleeping pad down. The ineffective method does not treat all shelter dust.
  • Shelters can be bear magnets due to: hikers improperly storing food, broken bear cables, and poor nuisance wildlife management by park/state agencies. The park rangers and authorities on the eastern seaboard (except New Hampshire and Maine) do a very poor job compared to their Western counter parts. Simply closing a trail for a month or two does not change the behavior of a bear living in the area for years.
  • During peak hiking months; snoring and sick strangers sleep shoulder to shoulder with little privacy. If a hiker arrives late in the evening, they might not find room. Also, there is always someone well after hiker midnight looking for a place to crash, waking everyone.
  • Shelters can be a party zone with alcohol and drugs. Avoid if the party scene is not to taste.
  • If allergic or phobic to dogs, an inconsiderate pet owner could bring in a wet dog for the night without asking or belligerently expecting all humans to love their fur baby.
  • If sleeping near the entrance while not using a waterproof bivy, a sleeping bag might get soaked from splash back, wind-driven precipitation, or a leaky roof. Wet down bags often drive hikers off trail.
  • Most shelters on top of mountains offer little protection from the wind and cold.
  • Trail shelters are not always free and only available to section hikers.
  • Hikers setting up tents, hammocks, or tarps around shelters, can expect the same rodent issue. Tents often have chew holes the next morning.

Tips when using a trail shelter

  • Upon arrival, check for insects, hornets, bats, and animal dens.
  • Before using a bear box, inspect for ants or holes. Mice can get through a hole the size of a quarter.
  • A purchased phone app such as Guthook, offers real-time comments from hikers on the condition of shelters and water sources.
  • Check for construction stability.
  • Bring earplugs.
  • Use handsanitizer before touching food or water. Never reach into a hiker’s snack bag. You don’t know where their hands have been.
  • Disinfect a sleeping bag, bivvy, and pack with the sun’s UV rays for fifteen minutes the following day.
  • While inside, open all pack pockets and compartments to allow pesky rodents access without destroying a pack to do so. A pack is a visual queue for free food, smelled it or not.
  • If setting up a tent in the area, leave the tent door open a crack for the same reasons.
  • Before leaving, check all items, packs, and footwear for rodents and bug stowaways.
  • Hang food, trash, and all sanitary items on a bear bag cable, in a bear box, or create a hang. Any consumable item (other than a filtration device or toilet paper), hang it.
  • If sweeping with a left broom, wear a handkerchief over nose and mouth to prevent breathing in infected rodent dust.

Shelter etiquette

Hikers with the reputations as a shelter trolls or nasty hikers stand out. Don’t be that guy or girl featured on someone’s vlog.

  • Don’t be a shelter troll. Use shelters for only one night because they are not free vacation cabin or timeshare.
  • People who snore…warn others and carry extra earplugs to offer.
  • Do not set up a tent inside of a shelter and limit shelter space.
  • Do not enter a shelter past hiker midnight unless threatened by a storm a tent/hammock/tarp could not withstand or became unserviceable. Anyone confident of needing shelter space that evening, plan to arrive on time.
  • Keep conversation down and at a whisper early in the morning if others are sleeping.
  • Parents, spouse, or maids do not work at the shelter, clean up and leave the shelter better than found.
  • Use the privy not out back of the shelter.
  • Use a red light at night to prevent blinding others.
  • Keep gear to one little area.
  • If the shelter had a tarp to cover the front or door, properly stow if last to leave. If ripped during the night, use a piece of duct tape to repair it.
  • Report any shelter damages to a state park or conservancy group at the next resupply or when home.
  • If the fireplace was used, clean out the ashes and scatter 200 feet away from the shelter and water source.
  • If dry firewood left under the shelter was used, replace it before leaving, allowing it a chance to dry before the next set of hikers need it.
  • Leave the shelter better than the way found.

Pay it forward. If often frequenting trail shelters and live near a trail, volunteer with a local group maintaining the trail and shelters.