Coyote Dave’s Wilderness Wisdom

Avid Camper and Backpacker from Santa Barbara Shares His Secrets

Ellwood, Coyote Dave's dog, carries his own pack during camping trips, which includes food, a collapsible water bowl, and a fleece blanket for cold nights

Outdoor lovers don’t get much more dedicated than Coyote Dave, a geologist by day, backpacker/car camper by weekend who hits up Plaskett Creek Campground in Big Sur, Selby Camp on the Carrizo Plain, Davy Brown Campground behind Figueroa Mountain, and his self-named primitive camp “Miwowon” a few miles from Nira Campground all in the month of April alone. Then came his annual “death march” over Memorial Day Weekend, when he, some buddies, and his dog, Ellwood, trekked from Nira to the Manzana Narrows, White Ledge, Hurricane Deck, and down Lost Valley over a few days. Here are some of Coyote Dave’s camping tips.

Coyote Dave and his dog Ellwood on Cruikshank Trail in Big Sur

EATS: No fan of the dehydrated stuff unless on really long hikes, Coyote Dave likes to make his own marinara sauce almost from scratch, with fresh garlic, onion, seasonings, olive oil, tomato paste, and splash of red wine. He’s also a fan of the bulk falafel and bulk hummus from Lazy Acres, which he whips up and throws in a pita. “When I car camp, I am definitely not a minimalist. You can never be too prepared,” he said. “As for backpacking, I am not an ultralight backpacker by any means, but I do try to find a nice balance between amenities and weight. Having plenty of good food and drink is important to me.”

DRINKS: “I’m a big fan of Country Time Lemonade and Maker’s Mark — that’s a really nice treat,” said Coyote Dave. “I also like to bring a bottle of wine in a Nalgene bottle. That’s always a nice meal drink.”

MUST-HAVE ITEM: “The Martin Backpacker Guitar is something that I’ve pretty much taken with me on every trip,” said Coyote Dave, who also recommends a sleeping pad that can be folded into a chair. “That makes sitting around the fire much more enjoyable — especially after hiking with a heavy pack, it’s nice to have that lumbar support.”

DOGGY GOODS: “We started Ellwood out as a puppy and took him on a backpacking trip when he was just a couple months old,” said Coyote Dave, noting that today the dog carries his own pack, which includes food, a collapsible water bowl, and a fleece blanket for cold nights. “My biggest fear always is encountering a rattlesnake deep in the backcountry and having him bit. That’s the stress you have on the trail as a dog owner.” This past May, Ellwood met his first rattler. “His instincts served him pretty well: He jumped back,” said the proud puppy parent.

FIRST-TIME BACKPACKER? “As long as you have some water in your water bottle, you could survive two days,” said Coyote Dave. “Anything above and beyond that will just make life easier.” But he warns against packing too much, a common first-time blunder. “People tend to bring more clothes than they need,” he said. “It’s not like you’re going to work every day and have to change your underwear, socks, and shirt.” He brings a set of clothes for the trail and one for camp at night. “I can make that work for five days or so,” he said.


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