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Category: Adventure

A Beginner’s Guide to Breaking into Backpacking

Do you enjoy the outdoors? Are you looking for a new great adventure? Or, are you looking for a way to convince yourself to spend more time in nature? Backpacking might be just what the doctor ordered.

Backpacking is a super fun sport that allows you to really escape and enjoy nature at a different level. It can be a fantastic mix of relaxing, invigorating, and adventurous. But before you strap on a pack and hit the wilderness, there are some things you’ll want to know — especially if you’ve never gone backpacking before.

1. Start Short and Comfortable 

Backpacking is an extremely rewarding outdoor experience, but there is a level of risk involved that needs to be taken seriously. 

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You are about to carry everything you need to basically survive in nature for a few days on your back, and you’re walking away from society. You’re also walking away from your car, from restaurants, from emergency services, from reliable cell phone service, and from the protective structure that is a house. 

For beginners, we recommend choosing a destination that is close to your home and that is short — just an overnight trip or two to get started. You’ll learn a lot about your comfort level, your gear, and your level of preparation during these few days. 

2. Do Your Research and Invest in Your Gear

There are a ton of backpackers in the world, and there are thousands upon thousands of how-to guides, blogs, gear reviews, and entire stores like REI that have experts available to help beginners. Don’t be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS!

Backpacking involves hiking for miles upon miles each day in all sorts of weather and across different types of terrain, so you want clothing and gear that’s appropriate for your hiking trip.

Two essential gear investments are going to be the backpack you want to carry and your shoes. 

You’re also going to want to think about the level of shape you’re in and how much weight makes sense. When you’re carrying food, water, overnight gear, etc. that adds up quickly and you’re going to feel those pounds as you’re hiking. 

A general rule of thumb for beginner backpackers is that a loaded backpack should not be more than 20% of your body weight.  

3. Plan Your Trip and Create Checklists

If you’re a beginner, one of the most important aspects of backpacking is actually making a plan. Making a plan though is not just figuring out where you want to go, where you’re going to park, how long you’re going to be gone, and how far you’re going to hike.

Planning also includes the following aspects:

  • Weather predictions
  • Water access throughout the hike (and the gear you need to ensure clean drinking water)
  • Meal planning (this is not just how many calories you’re going to consume during your backpacking trip, but ensuring you have the cooking gear, including a heat source)
  • Touching base with a service like the National Park, for example, to see if your hike needs a permit for being in the backcountry (for example, parks like Yellowstone have limited backcountry permits for safety reasons and tracking, so you just cannot show up)
  • Purchase a physical trail map if needed because things like cell phone batteries are not always reliable 

This is just a set to get you started thinking through things. 

4. Find Someone to Go With You and Always, Always Let Someone Know Where You’re Going and When You’ll Be Back 

We’re not trying to intimidate anyone, but backpacking is one of those things that you should communicate to your friends or loved ones. Shoot them a text or an email or even leave a physical note explaining what you’re doing, where you’re going, what your timeline is, and text them when you get to the trailhead and when you’re back to your car. Simple as that. 

The Five Most Amazing Summits in the World for Non-Experts

So, you want to hike mountains, but aren’t a professional mountaineer, eh? 

 

What if we were to tell you that’s totally ok?

 

If you have the right shoes, the appropriate clothes, the correct amount of sustenance for energy, water, stamina, and respect for the mountain, you don’t need to be an expert to conquer some serious elevation gains. 

 

Yeah, it’s true. You don’t have to be all technical to access some of the most amazing views on this planet, and we’ve compiled a list of the five most amazing summits in the world for non-experts:

 

1. Pikes Peak in Colorado, United States of America

 

Pikes Peak is visited by over half a million people a year and is arguably “America’s most famous mountain.” Located just fifteen miles from Colorado Springs and coming in at 14,115 feet at the summit, Pikes Peak has two main trails: Barr Trail and Crags Trail. Both trails are out-and-back hikes and can take the average hiker six to eight hours to complete. 

 

2. Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa

 

Mount Kilimanjaro is the “Roof of Africa” at 19,341 feet and is one of the Seven Summits non-experts can definitely tackle with a little training. There are seven different trails to the summit, and climbers are required to hire a guide or join a larger expedition group. 

 

Acclimation at elevation is the beast hikers will deal with on Mount Kilimanjaro, and the routes vary from five to eight days. 

 

3. Ben Nevis in Scotland, United Kingdom

 

Fancy a little hiking between Scotch drinks? 

 

Ben Nevis brings in over 125,000 hikers a year and is located just outside the Highland city of Fort William. With a summit at 4,413 feet, the main day hike trail for non-experts is The Mountain Track (AKA The Pony Track). 

 

Hikers can make it up and down in seven to nine hours and be back at the pub before dinner. 

 

4. Mount Fuji in Japan, Asia.

 

Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, one of Japan’s “sacred peaks,” and is hiked by more than 300,000 people each year. 

 

Due to snow, the best time to hike is July through September, and hikers have their choice of four different summit trails. Even though there are huts for overnight stays, hikers can make it up and back in between five and ten hours. 

 

5. Tofana di Rozes in Italy, Europe

 

Tofana di Rozes is located in the Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy. Even though it’s only a 3,600-foot elevation gain and takes around six hours to complete, Tofana di Rozes is a great hike for those wanting a little more rock climbing experience. 

 

While no technical gear is needed, hikers making their way to the summit will use iron ladders, rungs, and cables along the way. 

 

A Lot More Than Just 5

 

This list is totally just the surface level of the amazing summit hikes that are out there. 

 

Remember this is a big, wide world we live in, so regardless of where you’re located, a solid summit hike is probably pretty close. In Colorado alone, for example, there are 58 summits at 14,000 ft or more for you to choose from, and we bet that views once you reach the top, are all going to be amazing. 

 

Note: We feel it’s necessary to put a little caveat here about the strenuous exercise that is tackling a summit. 

 

Completing a summit hike is no easy feat, whether you are a beginner or more advanced. It’s always recommended to do your research, to NOT push yourself out of your comfort zone, and to listen to your body. Safety is key to any outdoor activity because the goal is to keep enjoying all the beautiful views. 

5 Full Moon Hiking Tips for the Best Nighttime Adventure

A full-moon hike elevates your hiking experience to new heights. A daytime trail known for being hot and crowded can transform into a peaceful, pleasant, meditative stroll under the moonlight.

But there are a few things to know to get the most out of this experience. 

1. Learn About Local Wildlife

The full moon isn’t the only sight you’ll get to enjoy while on a nighttime hike. This is a great time to see and hear animals you don’t experience when the sun is shining.

Depending on where you are, you may see or hear owls, bats, raccoons, crickets, fireflies, hermit crabs, opossums, wombats, lemurs, or white-tailed deer. This is a great opportunity to see another side of the animal kingdom. So keep your ears and eyes open as you walk. Take it all in.

With that said, many animals hunt at night, so it’s important to know about potential predators in the area. Most animal predators know how to stay away from humans. But some can present risks, so don’t be naive.

2. Bring 2 or More Friends

A full-moon hike can feel pleasantly secluded. Many fewer people hike at night, so you’re unlikely to run into anyone on the trail.

You can become one with nature. Many appreciate full-moon hikes because they give you an opportunity to meditate, practice mindful breathing, or recite your mantra.  

While that may sound invigorating, it’s inherently more dangerous than a day hike. Even though the full moon increases the light level, it’s dark. So you could trip on a rock or root. And it may be many hours before someone finds you.

So always bring a friend or two — and if you have cellular coverage on the trail, a fully-charged phone, even if you leave it on silent.

3. Dress Appropriately

Temperatures can change drastically once the sun goes down. If you’re hiking in a desert area, it could swing from blistering hot to freezing in a matter of hours. Most terrain will experience some swing.

So if you’re planning a hike while visiting somewhere, learn about the weather patterns. Wear layers. And bring a small backpack to pack for possible cold or rain. 

You’ll feel more comfortable and enjoy all your full-moon hike has to offer.

4. Bring a Flashlight, Just in Case

Most people’s eyes can comfortably adjust to full-moon light, allowing you to maintain a steady, albeit slower pace. But as you enjoy your walk, you may find larger trees or structures shade the path. 

Of course, you can venture on into the darkness if you’re familiar with this trail during the daytime. But you may prefer some extra lighting just in case. Your torch, headlamp, or flashlight may also come in handy if someone in your party experiences an emergency. 

A smartphone can provide this lighting as well. Just make sure your device is fully charged before you leave and can hold a charge.

5. Keep a Leisurely Pace

A full-moon hike can be a delight for the senses. And a slower pace allows you to take it all in safely. Take your time. Be aware of your surroundings. And enjoy all of the sights and sounds a night hike has to offer. 

These Five Aggressive Insects Can Turn Any Camping Trip Into a Nightmare

Every area of the country has its beautiful sights. Unfortunately, it also has aggressive and cranky insects who stand ready to defend them. So, be on the lookout for these especially brutal invaders the next time you’re setting up camp. They mean well, but they fight dirty. And if you disturb them, a trip to the ER could end your vacation early. 

1. Wheel Bug

Wheel bugs, aside from looking like something from your very worst nightmare, carry a long, pointy beak that’s folded beneath them. This beak is actually part of what helps them survive, as they use it to drain fluids from their prey. However, when threatened, they’re not above using their beaks as weapons. The bite of a wheel bug is actually from that pointy beak, drilling into your skin. It’s intensely painful, too. Wheel bugs are out and about during mid-to-late summer in the southern half of the country. .  

2. Fire Ant

Fire ants like open fields and grassy areas, so be aware before you pitch your tent. Fire ants can be found in many southern states, including New Mexico, Arkansas, and Texas. If you disturb a fire ant mound, prepare to be rushed by a large number of scared and angry ants. And when fire ants bite, they lock powerful mandibles into your skin and then “rotate” to cause the most damage. These bites later form blisters that can pop and become easily infected. 

3. Africanized Honey Bee

Much like fire ants, Africanized honey bees attack in large numbers, and their reaction time to implied threats is 10 times quicker than that of regular honey bees. To date, over 1,000 people have died from being swarmed by Africanized honey bees. And these bees look very similar to regular honey bees, so you probably won’t know the difference until it’s too late. Steer clear of bee’s nests when choosing your next campsite. 

4. Tarantula Hawk

Taratula hawks are actually oversized wasps found in the southwest deserts of the United States. They’re called tarantula hawks because the female wasps hunt down and “kidnap” unsuspecting tarantulas to use as food for their larvae. The sting of a tarantula hawk can paralyze a large spider, and for humans, it has been described as “the most painful sting on the planet.” 

5. Saddleback Caterpillar

The Saddleback caterpillar is the weirdest little guy you’ll ever see, if you actually see him, that is. He’s bright green and brown, which makes him blend in well with his surroundings. And he’s found mostly in the eastern states. Saddleback caterpillars have stinging hairs filled with poison that feel much like a bee sting. However, they can cause nausea, and you’ll likely feel the sting for days afterward. 

So, the next time you’re setting up camp in the woods, in the desert, or in a clearing, take a quick scan for these tiny terrors. They can be painful or debilitating to adults and worse for children and pets. They really just want to be left alone, but if you accidentally disturb them, or they perceive you as a threat, your relaxing getaway could become a full-blown, waking nightmare. 

 

 

The Great Outdoors: Five Things You Should Want From Your Hiking Shoes

Whether you are a day hiker looking to tackle a few miles on a local trail or a more serious multiple-day backcountry type of hiker, taking care of your feet is key. 

 

Hikers tend to carry quite a bit of weight on their back regardless if it’s a day pack full of water, snacks, and extra layers or a larger backpack that’s 20% your body weight. In addition, hiking trails vary across multiple terrains, elevations, and difficulty levels, so having solid foot support is necessary. 

 

To help you think through this a little more, here are five things you should want from your hiking shoes:

 

Support & Stability

 

Having a hiking shoe that fits correctly is extremely important. You want a shoe to be snug and support your foot and/or ankle from twists, but you also want to pay attention to hot spot areas. 

 

Hiking involves a lot of ups and downs, uneven ground, slippery sections, and things like roots, rocks, streams, etc. that all cause a hiker to make more athletic movements. This is not a walk around the neighborhood track. 

 

Your feet should feel comfortable but protected. 

 

Pay attention to the arch, and the width of the toe box, and take into consideration the natural swelling that will occur after a few hours on a trail (this is a natural body reaction to exertion, but it can cause issues if your hiking shoes are too tight). 

 

Quality

 

In our opinion, hiking shoes are definitely one area where we do NOT recommend going the cheap route. There is a lot of technology, research, and seriously intentional design that goes into creating a high-quality hiking shoe, so you get what you pay for. 

 

Something worth researching when it comes to quality is the technology used to create lighter hiking shoes without compromising support and stability. 

 

Traction

 

Hiking shoes, even the lighter-weight ones, are different from gym shoes or tennis shoes in terms of traction. When you’re hiking, you are in the elements and not in a controlled gym environment. There is weather to deal with, mud, water crossings, rock faces, and just uneven terrain to trek through, so not slipping is a big deal. 

 

According to CamoTrek “[t]he two most frequent reasons for injuries on the trail (even in cold environments) are slipping and falling.”

 

Breathability

 

Hiking is a strenuous workout and exercise activity, and your feet get hot. 

 

Hot feet get sweaty, and that is a ripe environment for blisters to thrive if you’re not careful. Hiking also exposes people to rain, snow, mud, and water, so the more a hiking shoe can repel liquid and moisture and actually dry out quickly, the better. 

 

Flexibility 

 

Due to the varying terrain that is the natural outdoors, a hiker’s foot needs to be able to move around a little when it lands on the ground. Our feet and ankles are designed to help us balance as humans, so your hiking shoe should not take that away. 

 

It’s also worth noting that many outdoor stores that sell hiking shoes, like REI, have hiking experts on their staff that can talk to you and give you options. You can try on the shoes, see how they feel, and, ultimately, you can always return them and get a new pair if they are just not comfortable or right for your needs. 

 

You can also view a wide range of hiking shoes online, taking note of reviews, pros and cons, highlighted features, etc. This list is enough to get you on the right track, but you’re going to have to spend time looking at and trying specific shoes.

 

5 Hassle-free Ways to Engage Your Kids in the Outdoors, Even if You’re Not an Expert

Let’s face it, every aspect of being a parent can be challenging – even when it comes to taking a much-needed break! So if the thought of taking your family to the beach or camping is overwhelming because of the planning and packing, then check out these 5 secrets to make the experience hassle-free.

If you’ve ever been at a theme park around 3 in the afternoon, you’ve probably seen tempers flare, meltdowns ensue, and things get ugly, even at the happiest place on earth. Why? Because kids get tired and hit their wall, especially on day 4 of a 7-day adventure. Frustrated parents balance managing the moment and getting the most value out of their vacation expenditure. It’s just one example of the many "overs" that we parents battle while trying to create the best life ever for our kids:

  • Overscheduling activities
  • Overbuying everything from snacks to souvenirs
  • Overpacking for every possible situation

Unfortunately, the overs can overwhelm some parents to opt-out of activities altogether, especially if the activity is an outdoor adventure where the parent has no prior experience or knowledge.

Time with your children is short, so make the most of it by mindfully exploring the world around you. Here are 5 hassle-free strategies to engage with the outdoors with minimal stress.

1. Think in half-day increments

If you’re within an hour of a beach, plan to go for a half day. Feed your kids before you leave, and only take essentials for an afternoon away from home. You don’t need a whole day to create memories to last a lifetime.

2. Adopt a carry-on luggage mentality

Those living near a beach (or lake) don’t go nearly enough. Often it’s because we pack like we will be stranded on a desert island for a month. Rethink your packing only to include essentials:

  • Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Chair (optional)
  • Water
  • Snack for desperation (energy bar, fruit)
  • Toys your kids can carry (beachball, shovel and pail, or kite)

Embrace the beach’s options: collecting shells, exploring tide pools, digging for sand crabs, playing in the waves, body surfing, and sandcastle building.

3. Baby step into nature

Throw on sneakers, grab water, and spend an hour or two on a nature walk at the nearest park or nature preserve. Check out the area online and create an objective for your children in advance:

  • Collect leaves, twigs, rocks, or cones for a craft project
  • See how many different birds you can spot
  • Identify animals through tracks or scat

4. Sleep in your car

Did you know most minivans make excellent campers? With the seats folded down, a typical minivan provides as much room as a double bed. You can make a local overnight trip simple with:

  • Sleeping bags
  • A light source
  • Sweats as pajamas
  • Toothbrush, comb, and hand soap
  • Simple campsite dinner over a fire (local wood available at the campground)
  • S’mores for fun

Plan similar activities to your nature hike, adding stargazing at night. If you’re in cell phone range, apps will help you identify the constellations like a boss. Stop for breakfast or lunch on your way home.

5. Expand what you like

If you and the kids love specific adventures, do more of those. Try simple activities like fishing or geocaching. Add equipment as needed or when you lengthen outings, not before.

Simplify your adventures, especially in the outdoors. You just need to show up with your kids and let nature provide the entertainment.