Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, ID (2010)

Open any outdoor magazine and you can find countless gadgets and gizmos that will make your backpacking trip more pleasant. The options range from the simple and obvious – Leatherman, headlamp, Duct Tape – to the advanced and luxurious – GPS, solar powered battery chargers, ultraviolet water purifiers – to the downright strange and unusual – think thermoelectric galoshes and wearable windmills. (Yes, these things do exist.)

Yet despite the onslaught and advances of modern technology, backcountry resourcefulness and ingenuity is not dead. Not even close. Anyone who’s ever “used leaves” can attest to that. (As can anyone who’s ever been hiking above treeline, without a pack, in a burn zone, heard nature’s call, and turned to his Leatherman and T-shirt for salvation. Sleeveless anyone?)

In some cases, our ingenuity has even been helped along by this very technological progress. (Ever taken a picture on your digital camera of a serious backcountry injury and given it to someone who’s headed for help?) Still, there exists a strong – and contentious – argument that our survival skills have been hampered by the very technology designed to make our lives easier and safer. (See these New York Times and Slate articles for point and counterpoint in that debate.)

Regardless of where you stand on that issue, it is indisputable that one of the great joys of backpacking is the unique opportunity it provides people of all backgrounds and experience levels to exercise creativity and resourcefulness in their efforts to be self-reliant and solve problems – no matter how big or small.

And with that, here’s one volunteer’s creative approach to problem-solving on WV’s Mount Rainier National Park service trip. Read about it here.

Have any tips or creative tales of your own to share? Share them here.