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I recently started backpacking in the Olympic Mountains. While camping, I usually bring along a trade paperback for light reading before bed or during a lunch break on a day-long hike. Up until now, the only protection my books have had has been a ziplock bag, for moisture, and being wrapped up inside clothing, to insulate from the cold/heat.

Is this all I can do for them? Are there any solutions for protecting books from the humidity and the day-night temperature swings associated with backpacking in the mountains? I'm not incredibly worried about pests taking chunks of paper from them, but any suggestions that cover this would be appreciated.

Please let me know if I need to clarify any of the above statements or add additional information.

  • for temperature, unless you plan to go beyond 200C, paper should be fine – njzk2 Mar 26 '17 at 18:53
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I'm not sure if there is something you know about temperature's affect on books that I do not? I would not have thought temperature would be a problem. That aside, I think the ziplock solution is pretty good. It obviously doesn't provide any rigid support, but if you aren't concerned about that, there are a myriad of dry bags / pouches, map cases & floating dry boxes.

Two examples are this, and this. There are also more similar items on the Coghlans site.

  • Yes, we use a small dry bag for maps, books, our camping permit, and the like. Been doing it for 30 years and no book has come home damaged. – Kate Gregory Jun 6 '15 at 13:40
  • The Lock 'n Load looks like a better solution for humidity and water than the ziplock bag. Severe temperature swings can weaken the binding of older books and most paperbacks. – Zach L Jun 7 '15 at 7:10
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    @ZachL Well, they might in the long run, but quite surely not over the time of a camping trip. – Benedikt Bauer Jun 7 '15 at 10:21
  • For the most part, yes. I've had an older paperback fall apart on me, but it wasn't in good shape to begin with. I'm mostly concerned with diurnal temperature variation at high-altitude (I've personally experienced an unpleasant 40 F swing). – Zach L Jun 18 '15 at 19:46
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It might sound a bit odd and not-so-related to the question, but have you considered carrying a Kindle? I got used to carry mine along, wherever I go (bagpacking included).

Advantages

  • it doesn't get bent corners and broken spine; if you pack it in a good place, it doesn't break at all
  • a fully charged battery lasts several weeks
  • it is quite lightweight
  • can store many books in case you get bored
  • mine has a case with lantern included, which is useful (I fall asleep pretty fast in the evening, I don't have to use my lantern's batteries for reading, and it turns off on its own as the Kindle goes to sleep mode)
  • a ziplock bag is usually enough to keep it safe from moisture

Drawback:

  • if it does break eventually, then it is a shame (although personally I am more sorry for "deadtree" books)
  • you cannot put a wild flower in it :)
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    I happily switched to a Kindle for home and bring it with me backpacking. I'll bring paper printouts of important stuff (phone numbers, data points, etc) if need be. I keep it in a ziplock. The only other thing I'd mention is that the screen change speed gets pretty slow in cold temperatures. Down around freezing it can take a second or so to flip pages. Down around 10 degrees it can take a couple of seconds. Not the end of the world, but definitely a little weird. Still, I can read with one hand out of the bag at night which is much better than freezing my arms off. – Eric Jun 7 '15 at 15:24
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    Missing out on pressed flowers is a key and under used advantage of paper books, especially when the book is heavy. :) – Erik Feb 26 '16 at 21:11
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If there is a scuba diving store nearby, check to see what they have. I know there is a wide variety of bags and boxes that people use to keep items dry on a boat or underwater. While you may pay a little bit more, you will get something that will last. I have a small Scuba Pro dry bag that I use for canoeing.

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