We’ve all been there. You’re ready to dash out the door for a walk or a run, to decompress with some music, an audiobook, or a favorite podcast. You reach in your pocket for your trusty wired headphones, only to pull out a tangled mess that more closely resembles a bizarre, white ball of spaghetti. Thirty minutes later, you’ve finally returned to your front door, having only just then solved the Rubik’s cube of knots that is your headphones. That podcast? Well, there’s always tomorrow.
Or maybe you’re out on a different kind of stroll. The idyllic weekend of backpacking in the mountains your friend goaded you into joining with promises of pristine lakes and snow capped peaks. You dug deep into that dusty gear garage you’ve collected over the years and extracted old favorites like your backpack, sleeping bag, and a tent that has never—and I mean never—let you down.
The only problem? In what feels like an impossibly small amount of time, and ten miles from the comfort of your car parked at the trailhead, that forecast that looked unflinchingly sunny has now betrayed you in the form of unrelenting sheets of rain. Deciding to take this as a cue that you should set up camp for the night, you reach for that trusty tent of yours while simultaneously cursing your soon-to-be-former friend under your breath.
Fortunately, all the good memories of the shelter that has never failed you come flooding into your brain, knowing that dry, cozy sanctuary is mere minutes, nay, seconds away. But, betrayed by faulty nostalgia, what you extract from your backpack looks nothing like you remember it. Memory, it seems, has a twisted sense of humor.
You’re not looking at a crisp, neatly folded tent that looks like it could erect itself with the flick of a wrist. Instead, you’re looking at a ball of nylon you now hardly recognize, wrapped in an impenetrable matrix of tangled, interconnecting cords and guy-lines.
Wondering how this cruel trick could possibly be true, it hits you. After a nearly identical trip last year under nearly identical circumstances with a now suspiciously familiar looking friend, you remember returning home and furiously stuffing away both the memory of the experience and all its accomplices—your gear—into the deepest, darkest place you could think of. All with no thought to ever using these instruments of torment ever again.
If only there was some way to have avoided this…
I’m big on skills, and there’s a good reason for that. Aside from keeping you safe, these most ethereal pieces of “gear” take the place of otherwise heavy equipment. They also keep things fun, and—perhaps most importantly—hold the power to eliminate horror stories that can keep people from ever experiencing what spending time in the wilderness has to offer. In a recent post about a Wilderness First Responder course, I put it this way:
I’m a fan of the saying that the most important piece of gear you have isn’t one that you carry at all: your brain. Skills are weightless.
Did I just quote myself? Yikes.
Untangling a mess of lines and cords is frustrating, both on the trail and off. Whether you’re dealing with wired headphones at home, or guy-lines and ridge-lines on the trail, there’s an antidote for all of your cord headaches: the Figure 8 Wrap. It’s simple to learn, can be used with all sorts of different cables, and can be the difference between pitching your shelter in record time during a downpour and struggling to untangle knot after knot.
The good news is that it takes barely two and a half minutes to learn. It’ll surely save you some frustration. It might even save you a friendship…