Sale on SPOT GPS Messenger

I have a SPOT device and it suits my needs. Do your research and make your own decision.

If you decide this is for you they are having a limited time sale. Disclaimer: I do not benefit in any way from this information.

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What I wished I knew before I starting backpacking and hiking, but didn’t…. Part 9: Liquids and Liquid Management

This is the 9th part of a series.  Today is a double post day! 

What to drink on the trail and how much water do you carry?  This largely depends on where you hike but I will say that hydration starts before you ever step food on the trail.  If you start off dehydrated, you will have issues, even if you drink enough while you’re hiking.  Get fully hydrated the day or two before you go hiking.  Alcohol dehydrates you.  Keep that in mind.  While water is great, electrolytes also play a role.  If your electrolytes are low (through sweating, for example), just drinking water isn’t enough.  There are tablets/supplements you can add to your water that add electrolytes.  This will play a larger role in arid environments or if you are an excessive sweater. 

How much water do you carry?  This largely depends on where you are hiking.  I “camel up” or drink a lot of water at the source before refilling my water bottles so I carry less water overall.   Where I spend most of my time, water is never far away so I rarely carry more than a quart or two.  If you are hiking in the desert, you HAVE to know your next reliable water source and plan accordingly because it can be deadly thinking you can make it to the next water source but it being too far away.

How do you treat your water?  There are several options here.  There are chemical treatments, pumps, gravity or squeeze filters, boiling, or the least preferred – not treating your water. 

There are several chemical treatments sold.  They are one of the lightest forms, but after the chemicals are put into the water, there is a period of time that you must wait before the water is safe to drink. The older methods of backcountry filter was the pump filter.  Once you find a water source, you had to insert the intake for the pump and pump a small handle to push water through the filter into your receiving container.  This is time consuming as most of the time the pump handle is rather small and it takes many pumps to move a relatively small amount of water. If the intake rest of the bottom of the water source, sediment can be sucked up into intake and clog the filter. The newest trend of water filtration is the gravity filter or squeeze filter.  There are several brands, but Sawyer is one of the most popular brands I see on the trail. The water is collected in one bag, the filter is attached, and by squeezing the bag, water is pushed through the filter into your container. These can also be set up as a gravity fed system. In this method, the bag of water to be filtered is hung up and gravity pushes the water through the filter into the collection container.  This is the method I use because it is a hands free method and gives me “water on demand” at camp.

The old fashioned method of boiling water to sanitize still works and I often use this method by boiling water to put into my food. The only drawback to this method is that it does take time to boil water and if you plan on drinking it you have to wait for it to cool down before you drink it.  The least preferred method is not treating your water.  I ALWAYS treat my water regardless of how far I am out in the backcountry because I never know what happened upstream of where I am getting water.

Regardless of which method of water treatment you select, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First, you must know the capabilities and limitations of your method of treatment.  Most water filters currently sold filter down to 0.01 micron.  This type of filter will remove the two most common threats found in North America – Guardia and Cryptosporidium.  These are parasites that come from the guts of infected people and animals.  This is why I ALWAYS filter my water.  I don’t know if an infected animal pooped upstream of where I am collecting.  The parasites are larger than 0.01 micron and most filters will remove them. This filter size will NOT remove viruses but having viruses in backcountry water in North America is uncommon and even rare. Most of the water in my favorite backcountry area is spring fed.  While it may be safe to drink, it only takes a few minutes to filter my water which is much better than days of sickness.  I only filter from flowing (moving) water and highly suggest you do the same and avoid stagnant water, but that might not be an option in your area.

                I prefer separate water bottles versus a water bladder.  It is easier for me to monitor how much water I have consumed using the separate bottles.  However, I do have a 2 liter bladder I use for camp.  I use it for cooking, drinking, and cleaning up or “bathing.”  I have a squeeze lock device on the line coming from the bladder to stop the flow.  If you are interested, I have several detailed blog posts about my water system.

                I mostly drink water.  Often at meals I will bring some type of powdered drink mix for a treat and/or variety.  Most breakfasts include coffee in all except the warmest of days. Even then, I can have my version of “iced coffee” where I drink it cold instead of heating it up.  If you decide to flavor your water, I would suggest against doing it in the water bladder, but use some type of bottle instead.  The added sugar and other ingredients in the drink mix can turn your bladder into a microbiology experiment rather quickly.  I also learned this through experience.

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What I wished I knew before I starting backpacking and hiking, but didn’t…. Part 8: First Aid Kit (FAK)

This is the eighth part of a series.

The First Aid Kit (FAK) is an area where I see a lot of extra weight and people packing their fears. If you are afraid of getting hurt and being unprepared, the chances are you will have a huge FAK. Regardless of what you carry, the most important questions are do you know how to use what you carry and will you really need it?  For example, I can carry a suture kit, but I’ve never given stiches to anyone and the trail is not the time to practice.  My FAK is just enough to treat myself/others to get off trail for serious ailments or things I can treat myself. 

What do I carry?  In a SMALL Ziploc bag, I have a few bandages, a couple of butterfly bandages for SERIOUS cuts, antacids (probably the most used item), anti-diarrhea medicine, pain reliever, a couple of gauze pads for major bleeding, blister prevention, and an emergency whistle, my push button light, and a tick key (to remove ticks).  That’s it.  Basically, things I am comfortable/confident using and enough to get me off the trail if I need future treatment.  If I am REALLY hurt, I am already carrying a bandana that can be used as a sling and I am in the woods where I (or someone else) can fashion a splint from items in our environment.

I see these FAK for sale that contain unnecessary items, too many items for a simple backpacking trip, unrealistic items (snake bite kits come to mind), or situations that you are likely to encounter.  The only exception is an Epi pen in you have a serious allergy to bee stings and other items.  I have hiked with a person with an Epi pen and at the beginning of the hike he described where it was and how to use it.  They can be lifesaving if that situation applies to you. Even if you are an emergency room doctor and accustomed to handling major trauma, there’s really no need for items such as IV bags, surgical equipment, or other items. If you are in bear country (specifically grizzly bear), then bear spray should be considered.  It is uncommon/rare for a black bear to be aggressive.  Most of the time they run off unless you are near bear cubs. 

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Sample backpacking food list for 5 day, 4 night hiking trip.

One of the most important things to consider when doing multi-day hiking is food. When you are hiking many miles (for me that is over 15 miles a day) for several days in a row, you have to ensure you consume enough calories for your body to burn. Not eating enough or not the right type of food can cause you to tire easily, cramp, and in general feel bad. The wrong type or not enough food can also have a negative effect on your outdoor experience.

During my highest mileage day (just over 26 miles) I discovered this. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I have hiked similar miles and terrain in the past, but about midafternoon I was just tired and didn’t have any energy. Looking back, I just didn’t eat enough (and often enough). This caused me to not have the energy to complete the hike in the time I wanted.

Another thing to consider is the type of food you carry and eat. It is more difficult but not impossible to eat healthy on the trail. Fresh fruit and vegetables don’t carry well and only last a day or two on the trail. Dairy products don’t either with the exception of hard cheese that will last several days. Most prepackaged dehydrated/freeze dried meals have a very high sodium content and full of other preservatives.

So, what should you NOT eat? I wouldn’t suggest eating prepackaged meals for every meal. They are expensive, bulky, and most are not the healthiest options available. Some people make and dehydrate their own meals to eat healthier and this is on my list to do one day. To help prevent intestinal distress, I avoid spicy foods and items that cause issues such as beans, cabbage, or other “gassy” foods. Intestinal distress is one thing I do NOT want on the trail. Although I do carry a few treats or candies, I try to avoid bringing a lot of junk food that I see many other people eat. Examples are Pop-Tarts, a lot of candy bars, or items that contain a large amount of sugar with little nutritional value. I’m also not one to eat the same thing/flavor every single day at the same time, so I have to carry a variety of different foods.

What DO I eat? One general rule before I proceed is eating several small meals/snacks often instead of the standard three meals a day. I’ll give you an example eating schedule and food list for a 5 day hike. This particular trip is a planned 5 day (four night) solo hike on the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama. I planned my camping spots so I camped near or on water. As this is a planned hike, my plans could change as I hike, but I at least have a daily goal.

Often I’m headed to the trailhead on the first day of my hike, so I eat breakfast on the way so that’s one less meal to carry. If I plan on reaching the trailhead a couple of hours after breakfast I’ll plan on having a snack before I start hiking. I’ll hike for a couple of hours and have my midmorning snack if I haven’t already had it or lunch depending on the time of the day. For lunch, I generally don’t cook, but eat something that doesn’t require cooking. For my meals I’ll generally bring a powdered drink mix for a change from water. I’ll take a long break, take of my socks and shoes and let my feet air out, and rest a bit.

I’ll hike to midafternoon and then take another short break. I’m normally tired and need a boost. I’ve started having coffee with protein powder as an afternoon snack. The caffeine and calories are enough to get me to my next meal. This can be either hot or cold depending on the weather. Depending on the mileage, I’ll often eat my evening meal before reaching camp. This will give me the fuel and energy to hike a few more miles before camp and help keep food smells away from camp. After I reach camp, I’ll often have a snack that doesn’t require cooking, maybe some hot tea or hot chocolate if it’s cold.

This is a hiking trip, so I will be concentrating more on hiking than camping, so I plan on breaking camp fairly early. But before leaving camp, I will need something in my stomach to get me going. I will eat a small package of instant oatmeal and coffee. After hiking for a couple of hours, the metabolism will have kicked in and now I will be ready for more calories. Hikers often call this “second breakfast.” My daily second breakfast is a small package of peanut butter, a protein bar (a different variety and flavor from the one I ate the previous night), and a flavored drink mix. Sometimes this will be eaten while hiking, and other times I may take a short break to eat.

This brings me back to lunch. At this point, it will be a repeat of the above with a variety of foods. Here is a breakdown of my packed food. The exception would be the last day where I plan on finishing midafternoon so I won’t pack an evening meal or bedtime snack. I also pack what I call my “snack bag.” In the snack bag is a little extra food just in case I need the calories or am delayed. In this particular snack bag, I have some Ramen noodles, hot chocolate, and some soup mix.

Here is a detailed breakdown of my planned food for the hike (click the link for a larger view):

Pinhoti Food


That comes to a total of just over 5.5 pounds in food. If you notice that some of the weights are different for the same item (oatmeal, protein bars, and Complete Cookie) it is because I carry a variety of flavors and the slightly vary in weight. You may also notice that I eat the same thing on multiple days, but at different times. This satisfies my need for not always eating the same thing at the same time every day. This isn’t the healthiest foods available, but for me it worked. You may also notice the mileage difference. You not only have to consider the mileage but the terrain and elevation change. The shortest mileage day on this trip (day 3) also had the most elevation change (it was almost all up) and I didn’t want to overestimate my mileage. It is easier to slow down than to speed up.

This particular trail had limited access points so I had to plan my pickup point in advance. The next available trailhead was almost 20 miles from where I planned on stopping. If I made great time, I did have that as an alternative but there wasn’t a resupply point as the trail was almost entirely in a National Forest.



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What I wished I knew before I starting backpacking and hiking, but didn’t…. Part 7: Staying clean on the trail (HBA)

This is the 7th part of a series

HBA stands for Health and Beauty Aids.   I don’t know why I started calling it that, but I did. It pertains to all things related to how do you stay clean when you are on the trail. Well, I’ll be honest. You don’t really stay all that clean…. I mean, I’m not NASTY, but I’m not exactly snuggle with the wife clean, either…. I brush my teeth in the morning and at night. I clean the face, pits, and privates (in that order, by the way) every night – especially when I’ve been sweaty most of the day. But clean? Not really. There’s a term of “hiker funk” for a reason. If you are hiking all day, every day, for multiple days in a row, it’s really a losing battle to stay shower fresh. It uses a lot of energy. The items needed to stay shower fresh are heavy. Everyone else stinks. You get used to it. Really, you do. Plus, I will tell you when you have a certain degree of hiker funk even the bugs leave you alone.

So, what do I do? I carry a bandana on my shoulder strap. During the day, I use it to wipe sweat out of my eyes or to insulate against hot items (my mug on the stove, for instance). When given the opportunity and conditions (near water but not IN the water) I’ll rinse it out and use it to wipe off the areas in the order listed above (face, pits, and privates). I do carry a small amount of a natural soap (I use Dr. Bronners but there are others) when I need a deeper clean. I collect water (I’ll explain later) and use it away from the water source to clean up. I brush my teeth two times a day and carry a small container of dental floss. I have a travel size deodorant for short trips. Given the right conditions and temperature, a swim in a lake can be a “bath.”

One of the biggest questions that comes up is “How do you go to the bathroom?” Well, the answer is, just like you do at home, but outside! I mean, you do have to improvise a little…. This is where men definitely have the advantage because one type of bathroom break (the easy one) is a no brainer. You go out of sight of others, away from water, and do your business. The other type (that typically takes longer) does take a little more preparation.   I highly suggest a lightweight trowel. You need/should dig a hole. Do your business in the hole. Wipe. Cover the hole.

For this situation, I carry what I call my “poop kit.” It’s in a waterproof bag (it can be a Ziploc bag). In the bag is toilet paper and/or wipes and some hand sanitizer. If there’s not facilities (called a “privy” on the trail), you get out of the sight of others (200 ft off the trail), away from a water source, dig a hole, lower the pants, do your business, wipe, cover the hole, and march on. The true LNT people carry their used toilet paper out with them. I’m not a true LNT person. As a note, when you squat to do the deed, make sure your pants are well out of harm’s way. Don’t ask me how I know…..

That should cover the basics of staying “trail clean.” It is a relative term. One thing I didn’t address is keeping your hands clean. This is highly important to keeping yourself from getting sick. I use a combination of hand sanitizer and actual soap. When enough water is available, I will use a small amount of soap, really scrub my hands, and rinse. Other times I use hand sanitizer. You should also want to clean your feet at least once a day. This will help prevent blisters as you remove the dirt and grime that eventually build up when hiking.

These items can be heavy – especially if you carry full size items. Look in the travel section at your local store. You’ll likely find small containers of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, a travel toothbrush, and other items that you may want to carry backpacking. One thing I didn’t mention is powder. I HIGHLY suggest carrying a travel size container of medicated powder. IF you have chaffing issues, clean and powder the affected area. The medicated powder will sting, but you’ll be in much better shape the next morning. Of course, if you can solve the chaffing issue by changing out a clothing item, that’s even better.

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How I pack by backpack. Every single time.

I’m taking a short break to the series to give some more details. I had an earlier post about packing my backpack and thought it needed a more in-depth entry. I will start with my backpack fully loaded and unpack it and show how and where everything goes. I’ll start with a picture of my Ohm 2.0 ULA front and back.

The first items will be things attached to my backpack. As you can see from the previous picture, my Garmin eTrex Venture HC (the yellow device) is attached to the top for the best reception. I generally don’t use it for navigation and if I need to mark something, it is easy to access. The lanyard on my GPS is looped around the cord that tightens the top so the GPS device won’t unexpectedly fall off. The next item is my SPOT GPS Messenger. This is a device that also drops a track at a predetermined interval (I think I have it set at every 10 minutes) and I can send predetermined messages to selected individuals to let them know I’m OK. It will send messages by email, text, or both to up to a total of 20 messages by pushing a button. I have this on my right shoulder strap so I can ensure it’s working by glancing down and seeing the blinking lights. I have it programmed to send messages to my wife and mom which gives them the warm fuzzy when I’m hiking where there is no cell signal. I use a clip on knife which is attached to my backpack when hiking and a belt loop when in camp. As I stated earlier, a small knife to open food packets is really all most people need. My headlamp is attached to the side of my pack and restrained by the cords on my pack. This keeps it from swinging (one of my pet peeves) but handy should I need it. The last item is a bandana I keep on my left shoulder strap. It is mostly used to wipe sweat out of my eyes, but I also use it to insulate my hands when picking up my hot container from my stove. The bandana can also be used for a multitude of other things.

Now I’ll address my hip belt pockets. My backpack has a small pocket on both sides of my hip belt that I use. Often snacks go in here or the cargo pocket of my pants. I have my camera with a StickPic already attached. The camera is an Olympus TG-1. It is waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof. This is important since it can get wet if it is raining, which often it is. The StickPic allows me to slip my camera over the end of my trekking poles for selfies if I so desire. I don’t desire that often. I have a tube of Burt’s Bees lip balm year round. Chapped lips in the woods is not fun and I find myself using it often. The last item that is always in my hip belt is my compass. I do use it often. The lanyard on my compass is also looped around a strap so I don’t lose it, either.

The Ohm 2.0 backpack has two large deep pockets on either side of the pack. I can reach these while I’m wearing the backpack. In the right pocket is a water bottle and the fuel for my stove. I use an alcohol stove so I use denatured alcohol. The container is…..different. One of my backpacking buddies works in a surgical unit. That metal container originally contained ether. I like that it’s aluminum because it is on the outside of my pack I don’t want to use a plastic container that can be cracked or crushed (and leak out all my fuel). The container is aluminum so it doesn’t weigh that much. I also store it in a Ziploc bag so if it does leak a bit, it won’t get all over my gear. You can’t tell in the picture, but on the top of the metal container is one of the small plastic measuring cups that come with many cold medicine bottles. I use this to measure out (ration) my fuel.

The left side pocket on my pack contains another water bottle and my water filtration system stored in a cuben fiber pouch. My water filtration system consists of a CNOC collection bag, a Sawyer mini filter, a section of tubing with an attachment to fit on the collection bag, the backflush syringe, and one of the Sawyer 32 oz. bags. I rarely use this spare bag, but I have it just in case something happens and I need extra water or if my main bag fails. I also have a short piece of cord that I can use to hang up the water collection bag at camp and use the system as a gravity fed system which gives me water on command. I learned the hard way that when doing this sometimes the tubing will fall below the filter and all your water drains out of the bag. To stop this, I do have a clamp on my tube where I can “turn off” the water at camp. I have a separate post about my water filtration system on my blog. The only difference between that post and now is the addition of the CNOC collection bag. I REALLY like this bag. The orange section at the top comes off and the end of the bag opens up to easily fill with water. This does away with the need to have a scoop or funnel to fill the bag as I did previously.

The ULA Ohm 2.0 backpack also has a large elastic pocket on the back of the backpack. The back pocket contains my map (not pictured), a Therm-a-Rest sit pad, my Luci solar light I use at camp to light up my hammock area, “poop kit” which is wipes and hand sanitizer, and my tent stakes in a Ziploc bag. I may store other items here depending on the conditions.

The Ohm 2.0 has a small mesh zippered pocket on the inside where I stash a few items. One of those item is my battery backup with cord. This one was gifted to me by my father-in-law and can be recharged either by solar power but can also be plugged in. This device is slightly more rugged and has a larger capacity than my other battery backup so it goes in the woods with me. I store it in a Ziploc bag with the cord that attaches to my phone. Not pictured are the cord and plug were I can plug it in to recharge. When I was packing for this trip, that wasn’t an option so I didn’t include it.

Also located in the zippered pocket is my first aid kit, a few fire starter, a spare set of batteries for my GPS, and a pack hanger from Dutchwaregear. My first aid kit has a few basic supplies including Pepto Bismol tablets, an assortment of band aids, some aspirin in a container, a few gauze pads, a spare mini Bic lighter, and a tick key, whistle, push button light, and the smallest Swiss army knife I’ve ever seen.

The location of the next few items really depends on the weather, but for this particular trip on the inside of my pack on the very top was weather protection. I have my Patagonia Nano Puff jacket. It’s a synthetic filled jacket so it isn’t sensitive to moisture the way down jackets are. I also have Frogg Toggs rain pants although I rarely use them, and a GoLite Rain jacket. I really like this rain jacket. It can double as a wind breaker. The jacket has a hood, pockets, armpit zippers, and will contain itself in one of the pockets. Sadly, this company is no longer in business, so I’ll have to look for a replacement in the future.

Just under (or maybe on top) of my weather protection is the rest of the current day’s food. I’ll probably post a separate entry discussing my detailed food plan. In this case, my snacks are contained so I can easily reach them at lunch or mealtime.

When I get to camp – especially if it is raining – one of the first things I want to set up is my tarp. In this case, I have my Warbonnet Superfly in a cuben fiber bishop bag and in MountainGoat mesh tarp storage sleeves. IF it’s raining, this may be on the very top as I want to get of the rain as soon as possible. I do have a separate blog entry about my tarp if you are interested in the details.

Beside my tarp is my cook system. I do have a separate post about my cook system. It has changed slightly since then. My cook system contains a Fancee Feast stove Zelph Stoves. You can easily make your own version of this stove, but I purchased the stove and the lid for my Imusa mug from Zelph. Also included is a fire striker to light the stove (and a secondary fire starter), a homemade cozy for my coffee mug, a coffee mug I made from a Fosters beer can, a windscreen, another cozy made for my main cookpot, my Imusa mug cookpot, a long handled titanium spoon, and all of that is contained in a cuben fiber bag.

My remaining food for the trip (along with a few other items) I keep stored in my Ursack. Where I spend most of my time, bears are not an issue and I really only need protection from rodents and the Ursack works for me. I also include my personal hygiene items in my Ursack. For personal hygiene, I carry a travel toothbrush, some toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, a small container of natural soap, and a small travel washcloth.

Under all of these items, I have the remaining items stored in a trash compactor bag. These are the items I need to keep dry. Everything on top of the trash compactor bag can get wet or is already protected from water by either the original packaging or in Ziploc bags. The first item (on top) inside the trash compactor bag is my hammock. I use the Dutch Halfwit hammock from Dutchwaregear. Under my hammock are my quilts. These will vary depending on the conditions, but in this case I have a Hammock Gear Incubator under quilt that is rated to 20 degrees. I stuff it in the trash compactor bag without storing it in another bag. In the large bag is my top quilt. In this case, I have a top quilt made from a down quilt from Costco, but I also have a Hammock Gear Burrow top quilt rated to 20 degrees. I do this so I can tell them apart and often when I set up the hammock, I just throw my top quilt in my hammock in the beginning and fluff after camp is made. The small bag contains an under quilt protector from 2QZQ. This goes over my under quilt to protect from rain and wind. This is optional depending on the weather.

One of the last things I’ll need at camp are spare/sleep clothes. These are stored at the very bottom of my trash compactor bag and at the bottom of my backpack. My clothes are stored in another cuben fiber bag. The only spare clothes I take (once again depending on the weather) are a pair of shorts and T shirt to sleep in, a spare set of Darn Tough socks, a change of underwear, and possibly a fleece or wool toboggan, a thin wool base layer, and a set of gloves. I only use my sleep clothes to sleep in after cleaning up a bit after reaching camp and eating if I didn’t eat earlier on the trail.

Here is a picture of the trash compactor bag I use. I have used it for several years, but have a couple of spares should this one develop a hole.

I did replace the thin foam back cushion in the backpack with a piece of closed foam padding. This was originally a cheap sleep pad. I took out the original piece and traced it on the foam then cut it out. This gives me more cushion from my pack and I can also use it around camp for insulation or cushion when lounging around camp.

That’s it. That’s all I take. The only thing that really changes are my quilts depending on the temperature, and the amount of food I take depending on how many days I plan on being in the woods. Now, how much does all of that weigh? I’m glad you asked. This particular load was for a 5 day trip with partial days both the first and last days. Total weight including food and water is just over 25 pounds. Of course, this weight will decrease as I hike and eat as I’m carrying all my food for the whole trip.

I pack almost exactly the same way for every trip. Depending on the weather, I may add or remove a few items, but things are generally in the same place every time. This helps me when I’m looking for or needing an item, I don’t have to empty the entire backpack.

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I joined Patreon

Up to this point, I have funded all of my adventures.  This blog never ceases to amaze me that it receives a ton of traffic from primarily the United States, but also from all over the world!  It is very humbling to know that people are interested in my random thoughts and/or experiences.

I was talking to some good friends that are involved in social media and they suggested I set up a Patreon account.  After some convincing, I did.  You can support me from as little as $1.00 USD a month to as much as you would like.  I’ll use the money collected (if any) to fund future experiences, gear for reviews, and I’ll allow my supporters to have a strong influence (within reason) of what that looks like.

IF you’re interested, the link is here:


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