FROM THE JULY/AUGUST 2005 ISSUE OF THE OUT
QMy boyfriend and I are going to the Great
Smoky Mountains on a multiday hike, and we’re wondering if you have any
suggestions on the best way to pack a backpack?
TIM HILL, Seattle
A Most experienced backcountry backpackers will tell
you one main thing: Pack lightly! Only when you have to lug 80 pounds of miscellaneous
items up trails do you realize how many things you can actually do without.
The rule of thumb is that heavier items should go toward the top of the pack,
closer to your body, while the lighter ones should go to the bottom (as long
as they don’t get crushed). Instead of smushing your sleeping bag into
your pack, strap it on to the outside bottom of the pack (this also keeps the
down from being damaged). In bear country, it’s always good to be loud
to scare them off, so hooking on clanking pots or tools on the outside of the
pack is a good way of making noise, as long as it does not get in the way of
your movement. Keeping your tent on the outside of your pack or right on top
(in a waterproof bag) is also a good idea when you want to set it up quickly
in the rain. Keep items like sunscreen, jackets, bug spray, toilet paper, and
a camera easily accessible in outer pockets of the pack. Cooking fuel should
be stored upright and away from your food, in case of an accidental spill. And
although it may be easier to hike with the pack’s straps cinched tightly
around your waist, after a couple hours you’ll have cramps in your abdomen,
so keep them snug but not too tight.
QI recently took a job that requires me to
travel within the United States on a weekly basis. I’m really starting
to feel like a professional “Out Traveler,” yet I’m still
unsure about tipping hotel bellhops. Is there a general rule?
ED GRUNWALD, Tallahassee, Fla.
A Before you leave the house, make sure your wallet
is packed with $1 bills—you’ll need them! Throughout the United
States the general rule is to tip the bellhop $1 per bag and an additional $3
to $5 if he shows you to the room (tip more if you make him lug your collection
of Swedish crystal). Whip out those singles again when the doorman hails you
a cab, fetches your car, or opens your door (again, $1 is standard). The money
exchange should be quick and seamless. It’s nice to fold the bill in half,
extend a smile and a handshake, and say “Thank you.” By the way,
the word tip, which originated in England, was meant as an acronym for the phrase
“to insure promptness.”
Q I’m going to the Montreal Outgames
next summer. A friend told me that a new law requires that I show a passport
when traveling to Canada, but isn’t that just for Canadians wishing to
travel into the United States?
JANE ROBERTS, Oklahoma City
A The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is moving
forward with plans to require Canadians and U.S. citizens to present their passports
when reentering the United States, but the plan, which applies to all incoming
travelers from the western hemisphere, won’t go into effect until December
31, 2006, for travelers arriving by air or sea, and December 31, 2007, for travelers
arriving by land. So you won’t need a passport for July’s Outgames,
but why not join the approximately 84% of gays and lesbians who have valid passports
(as compared to 29% of the general U.S. population)? Standard passports, processed
in about six weeks, cost just $97.