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How to Build the Ultimate Backpack Repair Kit

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A grey backpack on a rock ledge.

Backpackers spend a lot of time and money accumulating outdoor gear. To avoid pricey replacements, making simple repairs can make your equipment last much longer. It’s vital to carry a repair kit on any longer excursion, so if your gear fails in the middle of the backcountry, you’ll be able to repair and carry on instead of having to turn back.

Next time a buckle snaps, a seam leaks, or your clothes get ripped, you should be able to whip out your backpack repair kit and carry out a quick fix. Being adequately prepared for any eventuality will help prevent gear malfunctions from ruining an otherwise well thought out adventure. 

It can be confusing to figure out the items you need to carry in a repair kit. With so many hiking and camping gadgets all marketing themselves as must-haves, putting together the right kit without over-packing can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve put together a full guide of what you need in your backpack repair kit. 

 

A collection of tools.

Having a backpack repair kit with you while hiking will ensure that if something happens to your bag, it can be mended.

 

Why carry a backpack repair kit?

Our outdoor equipment takes quite a beating on the trails, and although it’s made to last, sometimes you’ll find yourself with a broken piece of vital equipment in the field. Whether its due to extended use, general wear and tear, or human error, even the most durable of backpacking gear can break down. Clothing and equipment will break, tear, or just wear out, and you need to know how to make quick repairs in the field. 

When it comes time to set off, we think we have everything we need and are fully prepared. However, have you ever thought about what you’d do if your clothing tore midway through a 5-day hike? Or worse, your backpack? And how about broken trekking poles, leaky tents, and cracked water bottles? All of these problems can cut your trip short if you’re not equipped to solve them. 

Some equipment breakages can be expected, for example, sustained mileage will eventually wear out the tips of trekking poles. However, sometimes the unexpected happens, perhaps your new shoes start falling apart after only a few miles. Your field repair kit should at the very least keep you going until you can find replacement equipment, but it’s even better if you can restore your equipment to full function. 

 

What to include in your backpack repair kit

Now, we’re going to cover some basic items which should have a place in everyone’s emergency kit, as well as extras you’ll need to consider depending on the type of excursion you plan to undertake. 

 

A multi-tool pocket knife cutting through a tree limb.

Having a multi-tool knife is an essential tool for repairing your backpack.

 

1. Multi-tool 

A good multi-tool can save you countless times on the trails. While they’re bulkier and heavier than your standard pocket knife, a multi-tool certainly makes up for its weight in functionality. Whether you’re cutting rope or food, the knife is always useful on the trails.

Screwdrivers can be used to adjust trekking poles, the pliers have multiple uses such as pinching together broken zippers. Scissors are an absolute must, for cutting bandages or patches for other repairs. Multi-tools are available with just a few simple tools or as a fully equipped toolbox, so you can decide how elaborate you want yours to be.

Multi-tools were popularised with the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife at the time of World War One, but since then they’ve become much more advanced. Read our buying guide for the best camping multi-tool to help you make the right choice. 

 

2. Duct tape

Every camper or backpacker can tell you that at some point, they owed their life to duct tape. This wonderful invention can be used for so many things and is a vital part of your backpack repair kit. Duct tape can be used as an emergency patch on clothing or equipment, it can help your falling-apart boots make it a few more miles.

If you feel your shoes rubbing, a piece of duct tape on your heel will prevent blisters- duct tape is a real backcountry miracle worker. Rather than carrying a whole roll, you can keep a length of duct tape wrapped around your trekking poles or your water bottle.

Alternatively, miniature duct tape cylinders like these from SOL won’t take up much space in your bag. However you choose to carry it, duct tape is worth its weight without a doubt, so always make sure you have it on you. 

 

3. Paracord

There are endless uses for this strong and durable cord, it’s a really valuable thing to carry. Snapped boot laces can make it impossible to continue with your hike, but paracord can easily solve this problem. Emergency straps for bags and guy lines can be made easily, as well as countless other things.

With so many uses, it would be silly not to include this essential survival gear in your backpack repair kit. Carry a lighter to melt frayed ends, and you’re good to go. One way to carry some parachute cord in an unobtrusive way is in the form of a paracord bracelet.

This survival accessory is becoming more and more popular, as the paracord is efficiently stored on your wrist, ready for whenever you may need it. To see some of the best available, check out our buying guide for paracord survival bracelets

 

4. Zip ties

Zip ties promise not to take up much space or add too much weight to your pack, and you’d be surprised how useful this common household item can be in the backcountry. They’re perfect for fixing backpack straps, and they can form a quick replacement for broken snowshoe clips.

Zip ties also make a perfect zipper pull and make lots of other fiddly repairs much easier. Include a few zip ties in your backpack repair kit, you won’t regret it.

 

A box of sewing supplies.

From sewing supplies to extra buckles, there are several items you will need in order to build a proper backpack repair kit.

 

5. Spare buckles

Almost every piece of backcountry equipment and apparel features buckles. These plastic fasteners take a lot of strain, and they’re also vital to a safe and comfortable trip. For example, a backpacker’s hipbelt buckle can mean the difference between a successful hike and a week of back pain.

Whether you step on your buckle, or it just gives up after years of hard use, having these spare parts on you will mean a quick stop to make a replacement, and then carrying onwards down the trail happily.

Without, you risk a painful and inconvenient hike, or just having to turn back towards home and give up your hike altogether. It’s very helpful to have a few spare buckles of different sizes in your backpack repair kit, just in case. 

 

6. Tent pole sleeves

Most backpacking tents include a tent hole sleeve in their package. This short tube is often overlooked, but can really help you out in a pinch. If one of your tent poles breaks, bends, or splits in the field, it can leave you without a safe shelter for the night.

However, if you have a tent pole sleeve, all you have to do is slide it over the break and duct tape in place. This will keep you tent usable so that you can finish your trip, without having to worry about where you’ll sleep. 

 

7. Needle and thread

Duct tape and glue will get you far, but sometimes a good old-fashioned needle and thread are necessary. Mostly useful for clothing repair, a needle and thread are a big help when you lose buttons or tear seams. If you bust your sleeping bag, you’ll need to sew up the hole fast to keep you from losing insulation. Keep a sewing kit in your backpack repair kit for next time you need to do some last-minute backcountry sewing. 

 

8. Stove repair kit

If you’re using a camping or backpacking stove, and especially if you’re relying on it as your main source of food, a stove repair kit is a necessary part of your emergency supplies. Keeping a few tools and spare parts will make sure your stove is always up and running.

One potential problem is a deteriorated O-ring, which could leave your stove unusable and lead to some grumpy campers when there’s no coffee in the morning. However, if you have the spare part and necessary tool, you’ll be able to make a quick repair at no cost to your time or pride. 

 

9. Adhesive patches

These serve pretty much the same purpose as duct tape, but in a more convenient manner. To quickly stop an air leak in your inflatable mattress or close a hole in your jacket, adhesive repair patches are an ideal solution. 

 

10. Seam sealer

So much outdoor equipment depends on the sealant of seams; clothing, tents, tarps, and backpacks. If a seam on one of your belongings tears, leaks, or outright breaks, it could leave you in a world of trouble. A good seam sealer always has its place in any hikers backpack repair kit, to ensure no further leakage occurs.

Try to get a seam sealer that works with all the fabrics you might need it for, including nylon, rubber, PVC, vinyl, and leather- whatever you might need to repair. 

 

Two blue backpacks in a field.

Once you’ve built your ultimate backpack repair kit, it’s time to hit the trail.

 

How to repair a backpack

If you’re carrying a backpack repair kit, you should have the necessary materials to get you through almost any equipment emergency. However, you might not have the know-how. A broken backpack is one of the most serious and fatal problems a thru-hiker or backpacker can face, so you need to know how to fix it.

Holes in the fabric, non-functional zips, and broken buckles can render your backpack all but useless. Making small repairs as soon as the problem occurs could save you from facing bigger catastrophes later on, so check out our tips for repairing your backpack while in the field.

For rips, tears, and holes in the fabric of your backpack, duct tape can be a quick temporary solution. To make a repair using duct tape, follow these steps:

 

1. Clean the area which needs repairing, inside and out. This will help the tape to adhere better, reducing the chance of further problems.

 

2. Cut the tape to at least 1 inch larger than the size of the repair. This will ensure full coverage and a good grip.

 

3. If you have your scissors-featuring multitool, cutting duct tape into a circle is very helpful. This will reduce the likelihood of the tape catching on things by removing the vulnerable corners, making it less likely to peel off and require further repairs. 

 

4. Stuff the inside of your pack, so your work area isn’t flapping around. This will also help you check that your repair is sufficient so that it doesn’t break again upon first use.

 

5. Apply your piece of duct tape to the tear or hole on the outside of your pack. Ensure it’s securely stuck down, and that there are no gaps where it could re-open.

 

6. Remove the contents of your pack carefully, in case they have stuck to the duct tape in any small part.

 

7. Use a second piece of tape to repeat the repair from inside the bag. This will reinforce this weakened point and help the fix to last longer.

 

If you develop a hole in a mesh part of your bag, duct tape isn’t the ideal fix. For these issues, you’ll have to break out your needle and thread, or alternatively, fishing wire and dental floss can also serve as cord. 

 

1. Close the mesh in a few stitches, pulling it together to the correct place.

 

2. Then, sew in multiple directions to try and re-create the grid of mesh which was already in place.

 

Broken zips can be a huge pain, which is why lots of backpacks avoid them altogether due to their vulnerability. However, many pieces of outdoor gear feature zip, so it’s useful to know how to repair them- you’ll never know when you’ll need it! For a distorted zip, one which moves but won’t actually close your pack, the pliers on your multi-tool will come in very handy.

 

1. Open the zip as far as possible.

 

2. Take your pliers and gently squeeze the top and bottom of the slider part together. This should bring the slider into better contact with the zip, and easily solve your problem.

 

Another common problem with zips is bent teeth, something which can happen all too easily in the backcountry. This might be slightly harder to do with a multi-tool as ideally, you would use more precise pliers, although if your multi-tool includes sturdy enough tweezers you could try with those. 

 

1. Take your pliers and very carefully bend the teeth back into shape.

 

2. Do not use too much force, be as gentle as possible, as zipper teeth can easily snap off, which to repair in the field is impossible. 

 

For jammed zippers, a little lubrication will work wonders. If you have nothing else, try rubbing on a bit of your lip balm. 

 

As we’ve mentioned, your backpack repair kit absolutely must include spare buckles. Repairing a broken buckle out in the field isn’t easy, but if you don’t have the replacement parts then you’ll fail before you even begin.

If a buckle breaks in an important place, such as the hip or chest, then as a last resort you can replace it with another buckle on your gear. Look for buckles in less critical places, such as the side or back of your bag, and maybe you can fashion one of these into a replacement for your hipbelt.

 

1. Remove the buckle that needs replacing. It’s already broken, so you can get it off any way you wish, pliers may make it easier. 

 

2. Take your replacement buckle and locate the middle bar, the one that holds the buckle to the webbing on your bag. Use a lighter to soften the plastic slightly, and slice through the middle bar with your knife. 

 

3. Use this cut to push the buckle onto the webbing where it’s needed.

 

4. Use some duct tape to reinforce the bar where you cut it, and you’re finished.

 

A broken shoulder or hip strap is perhaps the worst injury your backpack could sustain. If you have your repair kit through, a little sewing can fix it right up and get you on your way.

 

1. Empty your bag of all belongings.

2. Cut away the protective tape around the seam, to expose the opening of the strap.

3. Feed the trap through this opening, it should lay flat between the pack’s side seams.

4. Sew three parallel lines of backstitching, as strongly as possible, between the side seams.

 

Our Winner:

 

Overview
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patches for Tents and Outdoor Gear, 3”, Black and Clear
Title
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patches for Tents and Outdoor Gear, 3”, Black and Clear
Price
$8.25
Rating
Details
Overview
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patches for Tents and Outdoor Gear, 3”, Black and Clear
Title
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patches for Tents and Outdoor Gear, 3”, Black and Clear
Price
$8.25
Rating
Details

If there was one product we would recommend for your backpack repair kit, it’s Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Patches. This is ultra-strong repair tape with a highly effective adhesive and can be used to fix any holes, rips, tears, and gashes in your outdoor gear. These patches will stick to almost any surface, so they’re so valuable to carry. 

One reason we’d recommend Gear Aid Tenacious Tape is its abrasion resistance. Backpacking gear goes through a lot, so this extra protection on repaired areas can make a difference when putting up with high wear.

Starting from less than $3, these tape patches are available in all different forms. They’re weather-resistant, and as a huge bonus are washable, meaning repairs using this tape can last for trips to come. 

 

A guy jumping through the air.

At the end of the day, a hiker with a well-maintained backpack is a happy hiker.

 

Final Verdict:

 

Carrying a backpack repair kit is important for any outdoor traveler, as you’ll never know when emergency repairs will need to be made. A fully equipped kit will save your skin many times out in the backcountry, and over time you’ll cultivate your own methods and must-have repair items. For now, we recommend you carry duct tape, a good multi-tool, some paracord and a sewing kit at a minimum. Buckles and zip ties also make very valuable additions. Now you’re prepared for any eventuality, so we wish you good luck on your next excursion!

 

Bonus tip: Check out the video below on how to fix a jammed zipper!

 

 

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How The Annual REI Dividend Works

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rei annual dividend explained

What is the REI Dividend?

The dividend is a sum of money that is awarded back to REI co-op members every year. The amount of money is based on two primary factors: a percentage of all eligible purchases made by a member and any rewards they accrued on their REI Mastercard during the previous year. You can think of it a bit like a tax return and purchasing points on your credit card — only instead of frustrating points, it’s just money. You can also get any unused amount of the previous year’s dividend added onto the next one, but this isn’t always the case.

REI is short for Recreational Equipment Incorporated, an American company that offers outdoor gear, as well as courses and vacation options.

If you aren’t familiar with their brand, they are known for having high quality and ranked highly in the review of the top tent brands on the market.

What sets it apart from other outdoor retailing competitors is that it follows the co-op business model. That means they offer a wide range of perks to their members, one of the most unique of which is their annual dividend. Since this is such an unusual benefit to the company, understanding the ins and outs can be difficult. So, here are some answers to many of the FAQs people have when talking about the REI annual dividend program.

 

REI, also know as Recreation Equipment International, is well-know for its outdoor supplies.

How do you earn the dividend?

First of all, only REI co-op memberships can earn a dividend. The good news is that being a member of the REI co-op is both inexpensive and easy. To become an REI member, all you have to do is go here and sign up for a lifetime membership. The upfront, one-time membership fee is only 20$, and there isn’t even an annual fee to keep your membership. However, only members that are considered active receive a dividend notice.

To be an active member of REI, all you have to do is spend at least 10$ merchandise in a year, unless it is the year that you first sign up. If you ever lose active status, getting it back is as easy as to resume making REI purchases.

REI Members earn toward their annual dividend by making eligible purchases. Almost any merchandise you buy directly through REI is considered eligible as long as you are purchasing full-price items. This includes the physical REI stores or through REI.com. One notable exception is that gift cards do not count toward your REI dividend. However, when you use a gift card to make purchases, that can be considered eligible as long as it otherwise would be.

The percentage that goes back into your dividend varies depending on how well the company did financially the previous year, but it tends to be around 10%. The calculation is made based on the product price alone, so sales tax and any other fees such as postage are not counted.

Unfortunately, none of REI’s experience purchases are considered eligible. This means that classes, special events, and the popular REI Adventures don’t get counted into your annual dividend. Service charges don’t count either, so rentals and labor fees are not factored into the dividend. The initial membership fee also is not eligible.

Any returns you make are removed from your dividend amount in the final calculation, and if it has already been calculated, then the dividend amount counts against the return amount you would receive. 

You can also receive a retroactive addition to your dividend based on eligible purchases you made at other retailers on REI merchandise, as long as it was in the same year. For example, if you bought backpacking equipment from Amazon that was the REI brand, then you can get that counted. You’ll just need to have your receipt handy to answer some information about the purchase. You cannot get retroactive additions to your annual dividend if the purchase was made before you became an REI member, though.

There is a slight workaround with the discounted merchandise, though. Members can receive an REI co-op Mastercard. As mentioned earlier, this has a built-in rewards system. One such reward is that when you use the REI credit card to purchase sale items, then you receive a 5% kickback into your dividend. It’s a much lower percentage than what you would expect to receive from a normal eligible purchase. However, savvy shoppers will be able to notice when the reduced pricing and smaller kickback turns out to be a better long-term value. 

 

When would I receive my REI dividend?

If you’re an REI member and have a balance, you’ll receive a dividend notice in March of the next year. All purchases you make from January 1st to December 31st are considered part of the same annual sum and will be available until January of two years later. So, if you made purchases throughout 2020, you’ll be able to use your dividend from them starting March 2021, and you’ll have the money available to you until you either spend it all or until the first day of 2023. This, however, is only the case if you don’t accrue any more dividends. Assuming you constantly make enough eligible purchases and spend roughly however much you earn from the program each year, your dividend balance should never expire.

 

Buying equipment from REI with an REI Mastercard is a great way to earn points towards your dividend.

 

So what can I do with the dividend?

This question is best answered with another question: “How do you want to spend your money?” For anyone who has ever been frustrated with trying to redeem credit card points or dealing with the restrictions of store credit, you are going to be blown away by the range of options REI gives you when it comes to your member dividend.

 

Use the dividend as store credit

The most basic option available to you is to use your dividend like store credit. If you can find it on the REI website, then you can buy it with your store credit. If your dividend balance doesn’t completely cover the total price of your purchases at checkout, don’t worry. It will still get deducted from the price and you’ll only have to pay for whatever is leftover.

If you’re near one of their physical REI stores, then you’ll be able to use your dividend to directly buy available outlet items from their stores. Your dividend works at every REI store location, so you won’t have to worry about not being able to access it if you’re shopping far from home. Just be sure to have your co-op member number ready. 

Even though buying them doesn’t sound toward your dividend, you can put your earnings on it toward booking an REI Adventure. If you’re a hardcore outdoors enthusiast, then you might be able to generate enough of a dividend to book a trip to a national park at no out-of-pocket expense.

If you aren’t quite that adventurous but still would like a fun experience, then look at spending your dividend on one of the many REI classes. There is something to learn for everyone. From riding a bike to navigating the backcountry, the basics of rock climbing to dozens of stewardship opportunities,  it’d be hard not to spend part of your dividend on enriching yourself with the REI classes.

You can also download the REI mobile apps. These make it even easier to shop with REI in general, but they can streamline the process of using your dividend in the online store.

 

Receive the dividend as a check

If you’d rather take the money that REI has awarded to you elsewhere, then you can request to have your dividend amount in the form of a check.

There are a couple of ways to go about getting the check. The most direct way is to go to a physical REI outlet once you have received a notice of a dividend balance. If you are not anywhere near an REI store, don’t worry. You can have your check mailed to you directly by filling out their request form. Once you have the form filled out, REI will have that information in their database and can mail you the check every year without any extra work from you, should you want that

The check can only be issued to the name of the primary membership cardholder. REI does not send out checks if your annual dividend does not exceed 25$, and they do not send out a check for the REI Mastercard holder reward amount that does not exceed 1$. You can request the check whenever is convenient, but they do not begin mailing them out until July 1st. 

You don’t have to receive the whole dividend as a check. You can go ahead and spend part of it as store credit on the online store. Then, whatever amount that is leftover, you can have it sent as a check. As long as all the other requirements have been met, of course. Also, if you attempt to use any of your dividend between the time of the check being sent out and you receiving the check, then it could result in either the check being void, or you being unable to use your dividend funds at all.

If for some reason you don’t want to use the online check request form, you can also make the request over the phone or by contacting them by mail.

 

You can get your REI dividend in cash or in purchase credits.

 

Get the dividend in cash

No, that’s not a joke, and there aren’t any strings attached. You can receive your annual REI dividend, in full, as cash. There are a few hoops you have to jump through, but none of them are fine print details that are going to keep you from turning your dividend sum into cash and doing whatever you want with it.

First of all, you can’t convert your dividend into cash after July 1st of the year after you earned the dividend. This is similar to the check option. Unlike the check, there is a cut-off point at the beginning of the next calendar year, so if you wait too long then your dividend can’t be turned into cash.

This option can only be done through a physical REI store, so if you don’t live near one then you will probably have to settle for the check option. If you plan on going to a store to get your dividend as cash, it would be a good idea to call them ahead of time and try to make an arrangement. REI stores only have so much free cash on hand. 

If you don’t call ahead, you might run into a situation where the store does not have enough cash to equal the dividend balance you should receive. In these cases, co-op members are given the option to receive the check. For some, that is a fine alternative, but people dead-set on getting cash should be aware of this.

One other thing to note is that the cash option is based on a specific year’s balance. This means, like the check option, if you spend any of your dividend funds as credit first, that would result in you receiving less cash in the end. Also, unlike the store credit option, you can’t compound years together. Since the years have cutoff dates that line up to where there is never an overlapping period between them, you’ll only be able to get your cash balance one year at a time, rather than building it across up to 3 years.

 

Can I check my dividend balance?

Yes! At any point, you can go to REI.com, and enter the name on your membership card along with your member number, and they will be able to tell you the dividend balance. This is not updated in real-time, so if you have been roughly keeping track and the amount looks odd when you check it, don’t worry. Most likely, it is just in the middle of being exactly calculated by members of the REI team.

 

Is the annual dividend the only benefit of Coop Membership?

Not at all! You’ve already read a bit about the REI Coop Mastercard and its reward system. You get 5% back with any REI purchases, 2% back through mobile transactions, and 1% everywhere else. This is all factored into your annual dividend along with all the usual 10% kickback from buying normal priced items. This means that anything you use the card on, even bills and groceries, is factored into your dividend.

Members get access to special pricing on certain items through REI. These are usually on things like classes and tours, as well as rentals on any outdoor equipment. This can be frustrating since the specially priced experiences aren’t dividend eligible purchases. Though, with dividend earnings and special pricing, it is easy to earn enough to pick up enough to pay for a class or two. 

Members-only events are probably the second-best part of being a member after the dividend. Some of the most popular of these events are new member-exclusive hiking trips or member gatherings to try out local brews. Without a doubt, Garage Sales are the star of members-only events.

The REI Garage Sales are hosted at REI outlet stores every so often. The merchandise of the Sales is made up of returns and other used goods, and come at a heavily discounted price. The products are as-is, and cannot be accepted for returns as of their return policy. Since the merchandise is on a case-by-case basis with the outlets, REI cannot guarantee specific inventory. All Garage Sales operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. Garage Sale purchases cannot be put toward your annual dividend unless they are purchased with the members’ Mastercard. Though, the products are usually so aggressively marked down that it usually makes up for it. Plus, the Garage Sale merchandise is evaluated beforehand to assure that there are no major issues with it, so you don’t have to worry about the quality with the low prices.

 

Final Verdict:

The annual dividend is a unique benefit of being a member of REI’s coop. It saves the frustration associated with other rewards programs by just allowing the members to claim a monetary incentive. It is both pleasantly simple, offers multiple options to use your dividend as you see fit, and a great tool for people that love to maximize value in their shopping.

There are some ins and outs with the membership program to remember how to get the most out of the dividend. Though, remembering these details is more of a bonus than a requirement to earn on the dividend properly, unlike other rewards programs. On top of all that, you get several more awesome benefits for a single 20$ purchase. 

 

Bonus tip: Here’s a video from REI talking about the essential items for backpacking, which are available on their website: 

 

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Learn How To Identify 12 Types Of Trees

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Tree species are such a common form of plant life that they often go unnoticed in our daily lives. Generally speaking, as they don’t have finite lifespans, trees live much longer than other plant life. Some tree species can even live for thousands of years. Trees are no stranger to our planet — they have been around for nearly 370 years. Currently, planet Earth is home to more than 60,000 types of trees that play a vital role in the life we know and enjoy.

One of the first things children learn about in school is how common trees supply us with the oxygen we need to breathe. Our survival depends on plant life around the world continuing to thrive, including underwater vegetation, grasslands, and the approximate 3 trillion types of trees which currently grow on our planet. Learning how to identify tree species can be an important skill, similar to knowing how to start a campfire when it comes to outdoor survival. 

Throughout this article, we’re going to clarify and define what exactly a tree is and introduce you to the different categories that common trees fall under. We’ll also take a closer look at the most common types of trees that you’ll most likely come across, and explain how you can identify them correctly. Different types of trees have different types of leaves and bark that are characteristics of certain tree species. If you can spot the differences, then you’re a step closer in your quest of becoming a tree identification master. Now, let’s begin by differentiating between the two primary types of trees: deciduous trees and evergreen trees.

Related: The 10 best outdoor antenna’s for camping and rural areas

A field with a tree sunset.

All trees are either deciduous trees or evergreen trees.

What defines a common tree? 

In botany (the study of plants), trees are defined as perennial plants with an elongated trunk or stem which supports leaves and branches(Perennial plants live for multiple years, as opposed to annual plants which have a life-cycle of only one season.) However, this is a slightly limited definition, as the term “tree” can be extended to include any woody plant with branches and a trunk that grows significantly taller than the plants around it. 

Tree branches are supported by a large and strong trunk, which extends underground. Beneath, the trunk extends into widely-spread roots which collect nutrients and moisture and provide support to the tree species above ground. The branches which extend from the top of the trunk divide into smaller shoots, which spread to produce leaves. Leaves collect sunlight, converting it into energy via photosynthesis, in order to feed and grow. 

The trunk of a common tree is the strongest part, made from a woody tissue that supports the weight of the canopy. Tree trunks also contain vascular tissue, which carries nutrients from one part of the plant to another. Most types of trees also have a layer of bark around the trunk that acts as a protective shield. Although these are the general characteristics that fit every type of tree, tree species vary. 

There are two primary categorizations that all tree species fit into. The difference between these two categories is the first thing you need to spot in order to properly identify common trees. Most people already recognize the distinction between these different types of trees, but we’ll still go into detail about how you can identify them. Read on to discover which types of trees lose their leaves, and which tree species remain green all year round.

Deciduous Trees Vs. Coniferous Trees

Every single one of the thousands of tree species found on our planet fits into one of these two categories: coniferous trees (evergreen trees) or deciduous trees. Deciduous trees lose their broad leaves at a specific time of the year, typically fall or autumn. The word ‘deciduous’ literally means “to fall off at maturity”. As such, the leaves of these trees have an annual life cycle. In the spring, new leaves grow and quickly mature into broad leaves, green in color. Over time, they slowly change color leading to the wonderful fall color palette we all recognize and love, before falling to the moist soil. 

This is the case with the most common trees in North America, Europe, and other countries with a mild climate. In hotter tropical countries, deciduous trees lose their greenery during the dry season. Once the leaves have fallen, these trees remain bare wood skeletons until new leaf shoots begin to grow in the spring. Most deciduous trees are broadleaf, with wide, flat, green leaves. 

Coniferous trees, otherwise known as evergreen trees, keep their leaves all year round. No matter the season, evergreen trees are unchanging in appearance. This type of tree often has needle-shaped leaves, which withstand the cold temperatures better than more delicate broadleaf types of trees. Evergreen tree landscapes are especially stunning in the winter months when all other plant life looks dead. 

deciduous vs coniferous trees

Tree Identification: Basic Leaf Types

There are three different types of leaves that evergreen trees and deciduous trees can have. Broadleaves is a wide term that encompasses leaves of all shapes and sizes — so long as they are flat. Almost all deciduous trees have broad leaves: they can be oval, round, heart-shaped, and much more. The maple leaf of the red maple tree is an iconic shape that we all know. The term ‘Broadleaves’ encompasses much more than just common tree species, it also includes a huge range of different plant life. 

Most people will recognize common tree needles thanks to Christmas trees — many evergreen trees feature this shape. Common tree needles are long and thin and typically grow together in clusters or sparsely depending on the tree species. Evergreen trees lose their needles over time, however, this process doesn’t happen all at once as is usually the case with deciduous trees. Instead, the needles are lost and replaced gradually; similar to how humans lose hair. The third category of leaves that some coniferous trees exhibit is scale-like leaves. We see these on common trees such as Juniper trees and cedar trees, where the needles resemble the scales of a reptile.

A maple leaf in the rain.

The distinctive shape of the maple leaf makes this red maple tree easy to identify. 

12 Common Types of Trees and How To Identify Them 

Tree Species: Maple Trees

Maple trees are a common tree species found across Europe, North America, and Asia. They belong to the genus Acer family and are commonly associated with Canada — just look at the maple leaf on the Canadian flag. There are more than one hundred species of maple trees, the most common in Europe being the sycamore maple tree. Red maple, sugar maple, and silver maple are also common tree species you’ll commonly see in the countryside. Japanese maple trees are a common choice for bonsai where a small tree is groomed and maintained to resemble a miniature replica. 

Maple trees are famous for the sweet syrup made from their sap, which is a big reason why maple trees are often farmed in North America. Maple trees are a hardwood tree species. Its timber is often used to make baseball bats and musical instruments. The easiest way to identify a maple tree is by its distinct leaf shape, which is the same across all maple tree species. Maple trees can be small trees, reaching only 10 meters in height, or large trees more than 40 meters tall.

maple tree

Tree Species: Oak Trees

Oak trees are one of the most common tree families across the world; their wood is very hard and durable and resistant to most diseases. Oak trees come from the genus Quercus of which there are over 90 different species in the United States alone. They have been one of the most prized trees for building material for centuries, and are used in all kinds of industries, including musical instrument production. As there are more than 300 known oak tree species globally, when it comes to tree identification, it helps to break them down into further categories. 

White oaks feature round broad leaves and produce sweet acorns that take a year to mature. Black (or red) oak trees have bristles on their leaves and produce bitter-tasting acorns. The acorns from a red oak take two years to mature and are referred to as biennial oak trees. By identifying the maturity of the acorns on an oak tree, you can tell which type of oak tree it is. Most oak tree species are deciduous tree species, however, there are a handful of evergreen oak trees. The easiest way to identify an oak tree is by its acorns — all oak trees carry this fruit. The leaves of oak trees are lobed, with either rounded or pointed tips.

Oak Trees

Tree Species: Sycamore Trees

Try not to get the sycamore maple confused with true sycamore trees — they’re only related by name. The sycamore is a large hardwood tree in the genus Platanus and is a deciduous tree species by nature. The wood from these trees is incredibly hard and dense, and therefore it’s not commonly used as a building material. Sycamores can grow up to 40 meters and are one of the easiest types of trees to identify when it comes to tree identification.  

You can spot a sycamore tree by examining its bark. Don’t be misled by its leaves, which look similar to a maple leaf tree species. Instead, look at the color of the trunk. True sycamore trees have flaky bark which gives the trunk a red and brown multi-colored appearance, often featuring patches of white and grey. The Sycamore is a broadleaf tree species. You can identify them by their leaves which have three to five lobes with toothed edges.

A sycamore tree.

Sycamore trees are very large trees, with hard, dense wood. 

Tree Species: Pine Trees

Pine trees are another common tree found all around the world. This evergreen tree family of the genus Pinus is probably the most easily recognizable coniferous tree species in the world. The pine tree is a common ornamental tree with softwood. Pine tree leaves consist of clusters of green needles. This tree species is also easily identifiable by its hard cones, often referred to as pine cones. White pine and red pine are two common trees of this tree species and can be found throughout Canada, the United States (North America in general), and Europe. 

Pine trees are amongst the easiest tree species when it comes to tree identification. Pine trees are generally large trees that stand straight with needles that are mostly concentrated towards the top. Some species of pine trees can even grow up to 81 meters tall — they do it quickly, too. As pine trees grow into large trees so quickly, they’re incredibly useful when it comes to construction and furniture production. The softwood of the pine tree is easy to work with and features an attractive grain.

pine tree

Tree Species: Fir Trees

Fir trees, such as the balsam fir, Fraser fir, and noble fir, are all popular festive choices. This evergreen tree family is of the genus Abies and contains approximately 50 different species of tree. Fir trees are closely related to the genus Cedrus, or cedar trees. Fir trees have a much denser needle distribution than pine trees, giving them a fuller and greener appearance. 

Fir needles are soft and flat and tend to have two white stripes at the bottom of each needle. As they grow, fir tree cones tend to be green, purple, or blue and turn a golden brown as the tree matures. You can easily spot a fir tree as its cones grow upwards, whereas other coniferous trees have downward-pointing cones.

fir tree

Tree Species: Elm Trees

Elm trees are a common tree found mostly in forests and can be classed as either deciduous or semi-deciduous. There are about 35 different types of tree species within the Ulmus genus, including the American elm and the European elm. Elm trees are another ornamental tree species that are not generally appreciated for their wood or fruit. Elms are hardwood trees and therefore difficult to work with as a building material. 

You can identify an elm tree by its leaves, which are technically classed as broadleaf. There is quite a range of different leaves that grow on elm tree species, but they all have the same pointed oval shape. Elm tree leaves range between 7 and 16 cm long. Unfortunately, a pandemic of Dutch Elm tree disease wiped many elm trees from our streets and forests. However, conservation efforts are well on their way and the American Elm tree species is in revival.

 

elm tree

Tree Species: Willow Trees

Willow trees have some of the most distinctive shapes out of any tree in the world; their long drooping branches have a dramatic and striking appearance. There are approximately 400 species of willow trees and they are all deciduous trees. Willow trees can be small tree-like shrubs or grow to be medium-height. Willow tree leaves are always elongated ovals, but their color varies between species. Black willow trees feature dark, furrowed bark. 

Willow tree leaves can be green, yellow, or blue in hue, making these breathtaking trees even more beautiful. The wood from willow trees can be used to make wicker baskets and similar items, due to their long, soft, and flexible branches. Willow trees are arguably the easiest tree species to identify, as no other type of tree has anything comparable to its low sweeping branches. When temperatures drop in the fall, willow trees are among the last to lose their leaves.

Willow trees.

Willow trees are easy to identify from their long, drooping branches. 

Tree Species: Magnolia Trees

When people choose a tree to plant in their garden, Magnolias are an obvious choice. The Magnolia family contains both deciduous trees and evergreen types of trees, which can grow in a huge range of environments. These trees produce large fragrant flowers and cones of fruit that look like berries. In terms of tree identification, all types of the Magnolia tree are broadleaf. 

Magnolias are medium-sized trees, they grow fast and have softwood. As there’s quite a large variation in leaf size and shape in magnolias, the easiest way to identify this tree species is by the fruit. As their cone-shaped seed pods are unique in comparison to other types of trees, if you can spot these, you’ll know if your tree is a part of the magnolia family.

Magnolia Tree

Tree Species: Birch Trees

Birch trees, of the genus Betula, are a type of tree family containing about 60 species of hardwood trees. Often, the wood from birch trees is used as firewood or for making furniture. Birch tree bark is papery, often white or silver in color, and is its most identifiable feature. The branches of birch trees are long, and droop slightly, holding small, thin, triangular leaves. Oil extracted from birch trees can be used in both cooking and medicine. Birch trees are some of the most common trees on the planet with small leaves.

Birch Trees

Tree Species: Tulip Trees

The tulip tree is not actually related to the flower that shares its name. It’s called so because of its attractive yellow-green flowers. The softwood of the tulip tree is attractive but weak. For this reason, it’s often used for aesthetic purposes rather than construction. When a tulip tree is young, the bark is brown or ashy gray. As the tree matures, the color will darken, however rich and moist soil is necessary for this. 

The leaves of a tulip tree are almost rectangular in shape, featuring 4 to 6 lobes which can be up to 15 cm in length. Tulip trees bloom before their leaves grow, meaning once spring rolls around, their large leaves hide their blooming flowers. This distinctive feature makes the tulip tree easy to identify — try focusing on the leaves and the orange-yellow flowers.

Tulip Tree

Tree Species: Butternut Trees

If you’ve ever seen a tree species with what appears to be small green balls growing among its leaves, then you may be looking at a Juglans Cinerea. The butternut tree is a slow-growing,  deciduous tree that’s native to Canada and the United States. It grows in moist soil and has edible nuts that resemble green balls. You can easily identify this type of tree by its light grey bark, which gets rougher in texture with age. This large-leafed tree has no stems — its pointed leaves grow directly from the branch.

Butternut Tree

Tree Species: Cedar Trees 

Cedar trees are large trees from the Pinaceae family that can reach a towering 50 meters. Cedar trees are often used as ornamental trees and also make popular bonsai trees. This kind of tree is also a popular choice of men’s fragrance. In the United States, many of the trees that we refer to as cedar trees, such as the eastern red cedar (found in the Rockies of Colorado), are actually Juniper trees from the family Juniperus. When it comes to tree identification, cedar trees are pretty straightforward as they are one of the few kinds of trees with scaled leaves. In addition, their foliage is either dark green or bluish in color and grows in spiral clusters.

Cedar forest trees at night.

Cedar tree forests are some of the most beautiful natural spaces in the United States. 

Final Verdict

Throughout this article, we’ve identified 12 of the most common types of trees from across the United States and the world. Using this knowledge, you should now be able to accurately identify several of these tree species. Some of the more common tree families we didn’t cover include ash trees, hawthorn, larch, black walnut, hickory, hemlock, dogwood, walnut trees, and other species of the genus Picea. Although they’re beautiful tree species, they’re not as common as the trees that made our list. From butternut trees with green balls to huge weeping willow trees, it is our sincere hope that you enjoy identifying tree species as much as we do.

 

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How to Keep Snakes Away from Your Campsite (Stay Safe!)

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Having a phobia of snakes is a common fear among people and some research suggests that it may even be an instinctive fear present at birth. Regardless of the reason, encountering a snake at your campsite is not a pleasant experience and can be intimidating, especially if you’re in an area where snakes are native.

While it’s not always possible to completely avoid snake encounters while camping, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of an encounter and to be prepared if one does occur.

One important thing to consider when it comes to snake prevention is the choice of campsite.

Where do rattlesnakes like to hide?

Snakes tend to prefer certain types of environments, and if you can avoid camping in these areas, you’ll be less likely to encounter snakes. For example, you should avoid camping next to rock piles or outcrops, as these can provide snakes with plenty of hiding spots.

Similarly, areas with heavy brush or deadfall should also be avoided, as these can also provide snakes with plenty of hiding places. Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid camping directly next to water sources, as snakes often use these areas to hunt and to travel.

 

10 Do’s and Dont’s on how to keep rattlesnakes away:

  1. DO stay calm if you encounter a rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes are more likely to bite if they feel threatened, so try to keep your distance and avoid making sudden movements.

  2. DO keep an eye out for rattlesnakes while hiking or camping, especially in areas where they are known to inhabit. Look for warning signs such as a rattle sound, a V-shaped indentation in the ground, or the shed skin of a rattlesnake.

  3. DO wear sturdy boots and long pants while hiking or camping in areas where rattlesnakes are present. This will help protect your feet and legs from a bite.

  4. DO be aware of your surroundings when hiking or camping. Avoid stepping on or near rocks, logs, or other objects that could be hiding places for rattlesnakes.

  5. DON’T try to handle a rattlesnake, even if it seems docile. These snakes are venomous and can be dangerous if not handled properly.

  6. DON’T try to capture or kill a rattlesnake. This can be dangerous and is generally not necessary.

  7. DON’T attempt to play with or tease a rattlesnake. These snakes are not toys and can be very dangerous if provoked.

  8. DON’T leave food or trash out in areas where rattlesnakes are known to inhabit. This can attract rodents, which are a food source for rattlesnakes.

  9. DON’T try to move a rattlesnake out of your way. If you encounter a rattlesnake on a hiking trail or campsite, give it plenty of space and allow it to move on its own.

  10. If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, DON’T try to treat the bite yourself. Seek medical attention immediately, as rattlesnake bites can be serious and require medical treatment.

 

 

So, what is the best type of campsite for avoiding snakes?

Generally speaking, an open area with short grass is your best bet. Snakes are secretive creatures and tend to avoid being out in the open, so if you can camp in an area with plenty of open space, you’ll be less likely to encounter them.

It’s also a good idea to choose a campsite that is well-lit at night, as this will make it easier to see any snakes that might be passing through. If your campsite allows it, lighting a fire can also be a good tactic to deter snakes, as well as rodents, which are attractive to snakes as a food source. Just be sure to handle firewood carefully, as it can be a prime hiding spot for snakes.

Another important aspect of snake prevention is food storage. While snakes don’t generally have much interest in human food, they do prey on smaller animals such as mice and birds, which are attracted to food scraps and trash.

How do you keep snakes away?

To prevent attracting snakes to your campsite, it’s important to store food and trash properly. This means sealing trash bags and disposing of them properly, being conscious of dropping crumbs and cleaning utensils thoroughly after use, and storing leftover food in airtight containers away from your tent. If possible, you should also store food in an elevated area, such as a tree branch, to further protect it from rodents. Additionally, it’s a good idea to pack away anything on the floor when you leave the campsite, such as picnic blankets and tarpaulin, as snakes can use these items as hiding places.

Even if you take steps to avoid snakes and prevent attracting them to your campsite, it’s still important to be prepared in case you do encounter one. If you do see a snake, the most important thing to do is to keep your distance and let it pass.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that most snakes are not aggressive and will only bite as a defense mechanism. If you give them plenty of space and allow them to move on, they’ll likely do so without incident. However, if you do come across a venomous snake, it’s especially important to keep your distance and avoid trying to handle it. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, seek medical attention immediately.

To prepare for the possibility of a snake encounter, it’s a good idea to do regular checks of your tent and gear. Make sure there are no holes in your tent and that all zips are shut, as snakes can sometimes find their way inside through small openings. Additionally, inspect your gear and gear storage areas before use to make

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