Podcast Episode August 20, 2021

Episode 44 | The New Reality of Western Wildfires

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In this episode, Andrew chats with Jadon Bales (Communications Director, Wyoming Wildlife Federation) about the new reality of wildfire behavior in the west. Ryan gives some actionable advice on planning for worst-case wildfire scenarios and highlights some new discussions going on at Backpacking Light. Also in this episode – Platypus’ new water filter could be a game changer.

A firefighter wearing a backpack and helmet digs at the ground. Smoke hazes the photo, and flames are visible underneath a boulder in the middleground.
A wildland firefighter works to contain a blaze in the Sierra Nevada. Photo: Robbie Culp


  • Ryan is prepping for a fly-fishing trip in Wyoming’s Bighorn range.
  • A new inline water filter, the Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter
  • Ryan introduces the guest, Jaden Bales, and gives a little background info on western wildfires
  • Jaden thanks all the firefighters currently working to contain the fires burning right now and shares his background and some info on the Wyoming Wildlife Federation
  • the primary causes of wildfires
  • droughtmonitor.unl.edu
  • readily available fuels
  • invasive species like cheatgrass and pine beetles
  • an increase in ambient temperature
  • the failures of traditional American fire management in the west
  • is there evidence that tree thinning works?
  • living in fire-prone areas
  • raising awareness about fire restrictions
  • the different levels of fire restrictions
  • last year’s fire season vs. this year’s fire season

Note: In this section of the podcast, Jaden and Andrew discuss several fires that were ongoing on the date they recorded the episode: late July, 2021. Other notable fires cropped up as the 2021 fire season continued.

  • inciweb is an excellent resource for tracking fires
  • some common-sense tips for safety while backpacking in fire season
  • to report a fire call 911 or the National Fire Information Center, or region-specific fire-reporting lines (pay attention as you enter the backcountry)
  • good planning and communication (satellite messenger) is better than trying to run from a surprise fire in the backcountry
  • use rangers and other forest service staff as a resource for on-the-ground information
  • toss an N-95 mask into the bottom of your pack in case you run into poor air quality
  • the sunk-cost fallacy and trip planning
  • a few air quality resources: PurpleAir and AirNow
  • Jaden’s takeaways: being aware of the increasing danger of wildfires and adding your input as a taxpayer
  • go to meetings and use websites to add public comments
  • interview wrap up
  • Ryan’s four tools for backpacking in wildfire season: trip planning flexibility, finding more remote locations to hike, decision making in the presence of wildfire smoke, and wildfire escape contingency
  • Ryan gives a rundown of inciweb
  • the Backpacking Light trip planning course
  • historical fire maps, researching trail maintenance in burn areas, and fire scar research
  • NOAA Hazard Mapping System Fire and Smoke Product
  • Gaia GPS smoke and fire layers
  • getting off the beaten path
  • decision making around wildfire smoke
  • components of wildfire smoke and an explanation of AQI
  • dealing with wildfire while backpacking (wildfire escape contingencies)
  • satellite communication device (sat phone or messenger)
  • 3M 8210V N95 mask
  • 3M 8211 N95 mask
  • what’s new at BPL?
  • Manfred’s trip report, blog post, and gear review
  • sign up for our newsletter to see new member content
  • explore our community
  • become a member
  • featured forum thread: shelter entry and exit, sans contortions

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Home Forums Episode 44 | The New Reality of Western Wildfires

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  • #3725334
    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to: Episode 44 | The New Reality of Western Wildfires

    Andrew and Ryan chat with Jaden Bales from the Wyoming Wildlife Federation about western wildfires.

    Matthew / BPL


    I think this was an important podcast. I’m saddened that fires seem to be a part of backpacking now but it is what it is.

    Also I’m enjoying the video version of the podcast these days. Thanks for posting those!

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