Three Letters Re: The Art of Humping a Pack

Hi Jim,
In Section 2 – Packing, Blake in Arkansas talks about using 1 gallon Zip-Loc bags for packing items. This is an excellent idea which I have used over the years in my sea-kayaking camping trips. However, another way of evacuating the air from these bags is to use a straw.

Method: With bag ready for closure, insert a straw into the Zip-Loc bag. Zip the bag up to the straw. “Press” out as much air as possible (not smash). Then, use the straw to suck out the remaining air from the bag. Remove straw, and zip closed. Voila! A human powered vacuum bag sealer. Regards, – Douglas in Connecticut


I’ve just found your site and love it! In response to the “humping a pack” letters, the best defense is a good offense regarding blisters.

I have very wide feet with a narrow heel so finding boots that fit well is a challenge. On long hunting trips and hikes, duct tape is my best friend.

Since most of my blister issues are on my heels/ankles the first thing I do is shave them. Yes shave them. Nothing like pulling tape off a sensitive area and giving yourself a Brazilian wax at the same time. Ouch! To protect my heel first I apply an 8″ strip of duct tape along the back of my heel, under my foot and extending up over the Achilles tendon. Be sure to stretch your toes/foot as far up towards your shin as possible when applying to get the best possible fit. Your foot has to be absolutely dry to get the tape to stick and a quick wipe with rubbing alcohol helps remove skin oils.

Then apply three pieces of tape approximately 4-5″ long horizontally across the back of my heel and up my ankle. Keep the tape as smooth as you can and avoid any lumps or flaps. Cutting the tape where it bunches and laying the flaps down flat works well to avoid “grinders” or humps of tape that will rub a hole in your foot in short order.

After you finish armoring your soft spots with good duct tape, give your feet a healthy shot of unscented antiperspirant. Layer on a thin polypro sock (or other wicking synthetic) then a pair of quality wool socks. Cheap socks are the #2 cause of blisters behind poor fitting boots. I am frugal to say the least but will happily shell out $9 for 1 pair of quality wool socks with good elastic. To remove the tape, pull it off immediately after you finish your hike when your feet are still good and steamy, or wait until you get out of the shower and the adhesive is warm and soft. – David in TN.


Hi Mr. Rawles,

The initial article, as well as the feedback letters, are all great and provide a lot of material for the individual to take into consideration. People with special needs, or medical conditions such as diabetes, should certainly pay attention to blisters or other problems. As [SurvivalBlog reader] S.H. in Georgia pointed out, “stop and prevent” is your best course of action.

Our daughter (18 years old, adopted at age 4) is very small in stature, less than 5 feet, and of muscular build. She runs, bikes, shoots, plays softball and basketball, has run cross country, and is generally very active and has a unbelievable sense of balance. She’s also missing the lower part of one leg and uses a below-knee prosthesis full time. Her walking gait is so smooth you’d never know anything was ‘wrong’. The below-knee prosthesis she uses is very high tech with a brightly colored lightweight carbon-fiber socket, silicone liner, and dynamic response foot.
Basically, she gets around about as well as is possible- but a long hike
carrying a load will still cause problems.

This is where planning ahead really comes into play. Do you know where you will be going or what types of terrain you’ll be encountering? Have you practiced a trial run with your weighted pack and seen how it impacts your residual limb?
Our daughter’s limb loss is due to amniotic banding, thus her ‘little leg’ has a odd shape plus numerous surgical scars. Even with a very well fitted, custom-built, socket and silicon liner she gets chaffed along the sides and in the back of the knee after being on the trail for a long period of time.

Unfortunately, we have discovered that there is no hard and fast answer to these sorts of problems. There are approaches that help for amputees:
-Stop every now and then, remove the prosthesis and liner and dry everything out as well as let the leg cool off. A sweaty liner slides around and can bunch up and cause more problems. A sweaty residual limb and liner can allow the prosthesis to move out of position causing not only more chaffing but a increased danger of trips and falls. When running cross country in hot weather,
our daughter often had problems keeping the leg in it’s proper position.
-Keep a spare, dry, liner and/or prosthetic socks that you can change into.
-Amputees know that the size of the residual limb changes during the day. Fluid pools in the limb at night when the prosthesis is off, and is pushed back out when the limb is on. Thus the fit is slightly tighter in the morning than in the afternoon or evening. Keeping a supply of different thickness socks on hand to act as shims between the limb and the socket can help keep the proper fit.
-There are different balms that can help reduce chaffing. My wife and daughter actually cooked up a type of lip balm that works great for chaffing. We always try to have some on hand.

As if your pack isn’t big enough already: Don’t forget the spare leg, emergency repair materials, and crutches when you bug out. Our daughter has broken a socket wide open playing basketball before- what if we were bugging out and that happened? We repaired the socket with fiberglass casting tape, and subsequently do not leave home with having a roll or two in the vehicle’s
medical kit.

The previous leg might not fit very well anymore, but if it’ll work at all it’s worth having as a spare. Do the feet attach the same way? Are the pylon tubes and adapters the same so you can cannibalize a old prosthesis for spare part if needed? Are you carrying the proper size wrenches to tighten loose screws? If there are usable parts with common attachment fittings on old limbs, feet for example, it is probably worth your time to throw at least one in the repair kit.

I know there are many aspects to this I haven’t even touched. Limb loss is so individualized there really aren’t many ‘catch all’ techniques. Thus, it is really important that the amputee know their bodies, their prostheses, and individual needs before hand and prepare to the best of your abilities. You don’t prepare for a marathon by putting on running shoes and warming up for the
first time at the starting line- you work on technique and equipment over time and work towards the the goal. Whether you have special needs or not, it’s exactly the same with bugging out. There’s no need for anyone to be left out or viewed as a burden and left behind. Yes, there is more planning involved, but our daughter has taught us that it’s all part of the adventure. The Lord created all of us with the same heart and soul and everyone has something to contribute. Even in the hardest of
times, that’s something I hope we never forget. – Jeff B. in Louisiana