Ten Essentials For Women in the Outdoors: Essential #10: Shelter

“They had slept in the shelter of the ruins, though neither of them really got true rest.” 
― Sarah J. Maas, Empire of Storms

 Camping in snow and rain at Big Pine Lakes. 

Camping in snow and rain at Big Pine Lakes. 

Shelter is a new component in the updated Ten Essentials, one that seems targeted for day hikers as most overnight backpackers already carry a tent or a tarp. For this blog, I will also be giving some hints on my favorite backpacking tents. The thought behind carrying a shelter for day hikers is that in case you become lost or injured, some form of shelter is better than the harsh elements Mother Nature can throw at you at any given moment.

 A gorgeous array of high quality tents at sunrise. Two Harbors, Catalina Island. The TransCatalina Trail is one of the best backpacking trips in California! 

A gorgeous array of high quality tents at sunrise. Two Harbors, Catalina Island. The TransCatalina Trail is one of the best backpacking trips in California! 

What are some shelter options for day hikers?

  • Ultralight tarps: Tarps range anywhere from 10 ounces to 6 pounds and protect you against rain and sun but will not provide you with warmth. These are also commonly used by thru hikers to save weight.
  • Bivy sack: A collapsible bag made of weatherproof fabric, basically a lightweight sleeping bag/tent hybrid and protects you from the wind, rain, sun while also keeping you warm. These weigh 18 ounces to 3 pounds and are commonly used by thru hikers.
  • Emergency space blanket: These pack super small, weigh ounces and will not tear a hole in your wallet. These keep you warm and give some protection from the wind but do not offer protection against the rain or sun. Space blankets work by reflecting the individual’s body height back to the individual. These are my jam and I have cowboy camped spontaneously under these not once but twice.
  • Hammocks: Super fun, lightweight and some even have a cover to protect you from the elements and keep you warm. These weigh about one to five pounds, however, keep in mind that in some backcountry areas and National Parks, they do not allow hammocks due to potential tree destruction. If allowed make sure there are trees strong enough to hold you and your hammock.
 The MSR Hubba Hubba tent 

The MSR Hubba Hubba tent 

Let’s talk about tents

For a short or long day hike, you are unlikely to haul a tent in your pack however if you are taking off on a backpacking journey a good lightweight tent is a necessity. Before I list some of my favorite tents, lets first talk about the basics

Footprints

These are tarp like fabrics or “ground cloths” that you place under your tent to add extra warmth and to protect the bottom of your tent. These weigh ounces and should ALWAYS be used (unless you are thru-hiking the PCT, AT or JMT and are measuring every ounce). You can usually purchase a footprint that matches your tent but you also have the option to buy a tarp material at Home Depot and measure it to the bottom of your tent (this option can save you some money). Footprints generally weigh around 6-8 ounces and will run you around $30.

3 season versus 4 season tents: What’s the difference?

A three-season tent is generally referred to as a tent designed for use in spring, summer, and fall. These tents are designed to be lightweight and to protect from rain and wind. The build is typically designed to provide as much ventilation as possible. Open mesh walls and lots of vents will allow for air to flow freely throughout the entire tent while protecting the user from a direct wind. This is to prevent condensation build up and to also allow cooler air to get inside. The side rain cover and or vestibules will usually sit off the ground to allow air to move in also. Generally, a four- season tent is a shelter that, despite the name, is normally used only in the winter. Snowy conditions or areas of very harsh wind are prime locations for 4-season tent usage. These tents are built to protect from snow, snow buildup, ice, hail, and high winds. The walls are often built entirely meshfree, instead of using a polyester of nylon to trap in some body heat and block out gusty winds. Vents are usually provided, which allows the tent to open up to control condensation, but this is less of an issue in colder temperatures. The rain fly or vestibules often extend completely to the ground, blocking wind, and often have flaps that fold inward, which allows for the snow to be packed onto them, improving stability and protection from the elements. Thicker, more robust frame designs, almost always aluminum, are used. 

When do I need to use a rainfly and how do I properly set it up?

A rainfly is the floorless, waterproof outer layer of a double-wall tent that protects you from the elements (and gives you some privacy). A rainfly should be pitched as taut as possible; this allows it to more easily shed wind, rain, and snow. If the inner wall of a double-wall tent touches the rainfly, either the tent is poorly constructed or there's something wrong with your pitch. And if your tent is narrow enough that you brush up against the inside of the fly during normal activities, you need a wider tent, touching the fly allows moisture to seep through from outside.

Freestanding versus non-free standing

Non-Freestanding Tents:  Tents that require rope or cord attached to metal stakes, which you must push, or pound into the ground.  Without them, they do not keep their shape. 

Freestanding Tents:  Tents, which use included poles to stand up that do not require stakes. They can be picked up and moved around without losing their form. They allow you to camp on rocks and other surfaces where you do cannot stake down your tent.

My favorite backpacking tents that ever lived

MSR Hubba Hubba

Big Agnes Fly Creek

Nemo Hornett

REI Half Dome (this tent weighs about 5 pounds so a bit heavy for a backpacking tent but is a great car camping tent).

 Camping in Grand Canyon National Park. Don't mind the Elk. 

Camping in Grand Canyon National Park. Don't mind the Elk. 

Things to consider when purchasing a tent

  • 1 or 2 person tents: I prefer two-person tents due to the extra room for a significant other and/or my adventure pup, Moo. Some people also like a 2 person because they can store their gear inside. Obviously, a 2-person tent does a weigh a bit more than a one-person tent, so there is some compromise.
  • Tent poles in a separate bag: I tend to lose things all the time so I wanted a tent that has everything in the same bag, including the tent poles. I also wanted a tent that was just as easy to put away in its bag, as it is easy to take out
  • Weight: Most packing tents weigh 2.5-4 pounds so you have to consider if the extra weight is worth the extra comfort of a free standing tent (and usually a bigger tent).
 My 4-year-old pup, Moo. She loves to camp, hike and backpack.

My 4-year-old pup, Moo. She loves to camp, hike and backpack.

What are your favorite tents? I would love to know!

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails,

 

xx

Kristen

Keeping it Beautiful in the Wild: Best Sweat Proof Makeup on the Trails

“Makeup is not a mask that covers up your beauty; it's a weapon that helps you express who you are from the inside” -Michelle Phan

 My gal pal Shannon and I on a sunset hike in Laguna Beach 

My gal pal Shannon and I on a sunset hike in Laguna Beach 

Nothing like taking a photo on the trails to only realize your mascara is no longer on your lashes but is a now smudged under your eyes to make it look like you literally rolled out of bed after sleeping in your makeup or to discover that blotchy foundation pattern on your face matches the foundation sweat stains on your shirt. Yikes. The reality of wearing makeup in the outdoors can be a beauty nightmare. I am not a big fan of wearing makeup in the outdoors, but being active and staying beautiful while in the wild is totally possible, with the right products.

 Sweat cosmetics was designed for active beautiful women by active beautiful women. 

Sweat cosmetics was designed for active beautiful women by active beautiful women. 

Makeup brands and products that you won’t sweat off

Sweat cosmetics is a high-performance makeup line that is designed to enhance and protect beauty for active women. These products are sweat-resistant, all natural and have been tested by Olympic athletes. From mineral foundations to mineral bronzers and powders, this active brand encourages women to get their sweat on.

Supergood Mineral Invincible Setting Powder with SPF sweat resistant, SPF mineral powder that mattifies shine and sets makeup

Wunderbrow eyebrow gel smudge proof, waterproof and stays up to 3 days

Philosophy Hope in a Jar sweat proof concealer to hide those under-eye circles and fine lines

Tinted physical barrier sunscreens

 Philosophy makes a great makeup and skin care line that outlasts Mother Nature and her elements. 

Philosophy makes a great makeup and skin care line that outlasts Mother Nature and her elements. 

 SkinMedica makes some of the best sunscreen both tinted and non-tinted that have age-defying properties as well as broad spectrum SPF protection. 

SkinMedica makes some of the best sunscreen both tinted and non-tinted that have age-defying properties as well as broad spectrum SPF protection. 

 Elta MD is another one of my favorite skincare lines. 

Elta MD is another one of my favorite skincare lines. 

Tinted sunscreens provide enough coverage to hide your blemishes while giving you a blended complexion. You can re-apply every two hours without worrying about smudging and uneven blending. The two main ingredients in physical barrier sunscreen, commonly referred to as sunblock, are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Physical barrier sunscreen works by sitting on top of your skin and deflecting the sun’s rays. They work instantly but can also be rubbed off easily and therefore should be re-applied frequently. Physical barrier sunscreens should ALWAYS be used if you plan on being outdoors in the sun. Check out my blog post on sun protection for more about sunscreens

Philosophy renewed hope in a jar skin tint

Elta MD broad-spectrum SPF 44

MD Solar Sciences mineral tinted creme

SkinMedica Total defense + Repair broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 34 (tinted)

Waterproof mascara that won’t rub off when you sweat

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Lip colors for the trails

Lipsticks and lip-glosses look great in the outdoors but have you ever tried to re-apply lipstick without a mirror? You may or may not look like a clown afterwards, not to mention your water bottle spout will probably be covered in hot red or a shade of pink. I personally prefer tinted lip balm because you don’t have to worry too much about adding to your lip line when re-applying.

Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm

What’s your favorite makeup to wear in the wild? I would love to know.

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails

xx

Kristen

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The 10 Essentials For Women in the Outdoors: Essential #9: Hydration

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water”

-Benjamin Franklin

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 Water is an essential element of life; everything living species needs water to survive. The average human body is made up of 50-65% of water and water covers 71% of the earth’s surface. As humans, we are supposed to drink at least 2 liters of water per day however the average American consumes 0.5 liters of water a day. The majority of us also do not consume enough water while out on the trails. If you’re actively hiking, it’s good to drink about 1 liter (32 ounces) of water every two hours. You might need more or less depending on the temperature, humidity and body weight, but that’s a good estimate of what you’ll need to carry if you can’t refill on your route. So on a 10-mile hike (assuming you hike an average speed of 2mph), you will need 2.5 liters of water.

For those of us who struggle with numbers:

10 miles/2mph =5 hours/2 =2.5 liters

How much does water weigh?

1 liter of water = 1kilogram = 2.2 pounds

As a rule of thumb always bring an extra 0.5 – 1 liter of water in your pack in case of an emergency (you get lost, it's warmer than anticipated, your hiking pal ran out of water, etc.)  Many people on the trails are rescued primarily due to heat exhaustion and heat stroke because they did not have enough water with them.

If you are not peeing clear urine while on the trail, you are not drinking enough water. Urine that is plentiful, odorless and pale in color indicates you are well hydrated.

For those of us who endure long hikes and enjoy backpacking, its extremely impractical to carry enough water for 20 miles or longer, assuming there is a water source on the trail; treating or filtering your water is the way to go. Before planning a long hike or a backpacking trip, always check the water sources in the area. Where are they located in relation to the trail? Are they accessible? Is it standing water or moving water? Is the water source completely dried up or plentiful?

Once you have established that there is an adequate and accessible water source where you are planning to adventure, you have the option of filtering your water and treating your water. So what’s the difference?

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What’s the difference between a backpacking water filter and water purifier?

Simply put, the main difference lies in the level of protection they provide. Generally speaking, a water filter is designed to remove waterborne protozoa and bacteria, but not viruses. A water purifier is designed to combat all three classes of microbes, including viruses. Viruses are too small for water filters to catch and therefore water purification methods (UV light, chemical purification treatments, boiling water and mechanical pump purifiers) are used in areas where human traffic is high (popular campsites) and sanitation infrastructure is poor (developing countries).

The culprits: primary types of waterborne pathogens

Any water source on Earth could contain microscopic pathogens. Ingesting as few as 10 disease-causing microorganisms is enough to produce diarrhea and other dehydration-inducing symptoms. Pathogens, some of which can survive for months outdoors, fall within three primary types:

Protozoa include Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia. These have a hard outer cyst that protects them against certain chemicals. Their relatively large size, though, makes them easier to filter out of water.

Bacteria include Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Campylobacter and many others. Water filters can also remove these midsize microorganisms.

Viruses include Hepatitis A, rotavirus, and norovirus. Because they are smaller than protozoa and bacteria, they are difficult to filter out of water. Technically speaking, treating water by removing or neutralizing them is when you’re “purifying” water.

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When should I use a filter?

If you’re traveling in the backcountries of the U.S. and Canada, a water filter, or more accurately a “microfilter,” is considered sufficient protection. In these pristine landscapes, where human traffic is relatively low, protozoa and bacteria are considered the main threats.

Examples of microfilters:

Sawyer squeeze water filter system Great for individual, on the go, use.

KATADYN BeFree collapsible water bottle filter Great for individual, on the go, use. I just purchased this filter and I am excited to use it.

MSR MiniWorks EX water filter Pump filter system for individual use

MSR Trail Base gravity filter system Gravity filter great for large groups

Platypus Gravity Works filter system Gravity filter great for large groups

Lifestraw Play Filter water bottle Great for individual use, all in one bottle and filter

 When should I use a purifier?

If you’re traveling to less-developed countries, where water treatment and sanitation infrastructure is poor and/or people don’t practice good hygiene near water supplies, a water purifier is the safer option.

Examples of purifiers:

SteriPEN Ultra water purifier Uses UV light to denature pathogens

MSR Miniworks EX purifying system Filter pump and chemical tablets

KATADYN chlorine tablets Wait time is 4 hours. I use these for internationally traveling because they are lightweight, simple and cheap

Potable Aqua Iodine tablets Wait time is 30 minutes. I have been using these for years and they are my backup purification system. They are cheap, lightweight and easy.

Tip: Always carry a backup treatment system. A filter can be lost; batteries can drain; a device can get broken. Chemicals (Iodine or chlorine tablets) offer extra security with negligible weight. Boiling is a surefire backup option: Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute, or for 3 minutes if you’re above 6,500 feet. Chlorine tablets are more effective than iodine pills because they protect against Cryptosporidium parvum.

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The 101 of gathering water

The where…

  •  Flowing water, especially in a stream or river. This is a good option because it isn’t conducive to the growth of algae or the accumulation of microorganisms. A bonus is that mosquitoes don’t lay eggs in fast-flowing water.
  •  If no clear flowing source is available, then look for calm water (a lake, a pool, a slow-moving stream) without a lot of sediment or silt. Clearer water passes through a filter more swiftly and reduces the chance of clogging.
  • A location that allows you to reach well away from the shore, where microorganisms tend to accumulate in higher concentrations.

What to avoid…

  • Water (particularly at lower elevations) near meadows or pastures where animals have grazed or near popular, established campsites.
  • Evidence of pack animal traffic or other domesticated animal activity.
  • Signs of sloppy human behavior or a prolonged human visit.
  • Excessive amounts of foam or brown scum, which can indicate algae blooms; though algae itself is rarely harmful, it indicates a nutrient-rich environment for microorganisms to grow.
  • Dirty snow, which indicates human visitors and impacts; also, don’t assume that even clean-looking snow is “safe” because bacteria can live for months in ice.
  •  If murky or silty water is unavoidable, gather from the surface and let the pot sit so the sediment sinks to the bottom.

Leave No Trace Practices

  • Good practices are required to keep water sources pristine. As more and more of us visit wild places, we need to rededicate ourselves to Leave No Trace principles. Below are some of the key principles related to preserving the quality of backcountry water:
  • Camp at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Properly dispose of human waste at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Carry water for cleaning at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Never use or toss soapy water directly into backcountry water sources. It can help spawn a population of microscopic pathogens in the water.
  •  Dispose of soapy water by dispersing it on soil rather than rocks. Soil microorganisms help metabolize the pollutants.
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Scenarios

  • Backpacking in Washington’s North Cascades National Park: Microfilter
  • Camping on a holiday weekend at very popular lowland lake: Purifying agent
  • Hotel stay in Peru: Purifying agent
  • A quick method for domestic use: Microfilter
  • A quick method for international use: An ultraviolet light purifier like the SteriPEN. Caution: This handheld device works best in relatively clear water (strain with a bandana first if it's not) and requires batteries (pack spares).
  • The lightest possible treatment: Chlorine dioxide tablets
  • The best method for silty water: Good old-fashioned boiling works everywhere, but it's perfect for ultra cloudy rivers and sediment-choked puddles.
  • An easy, speedy method: Pump filters use microscopic pores (.2 microns or less) to snag bacteria and protozoa while allowing water to flow through the filter at one to three liters per minute.
  •  A hassle-free method for big groups: Gravity filters are quick and trap everything a pump model does, but handle larger volumes of water.

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails,

xx

Kristen

Go Away Blisters! Go Away! The Ultimate Hiker's Guide to Blister Treatment and Prevention

“Blisters are a painful experience, but if you get enough blisters in the same place, they will eventually produce a callus. That is what we call maturity”.

-Harry Herbert Miller

 Make sure to always have the proper footwear! 

Make sure to always have the proper footwear! 

Blisters are one of the worst nightmares for hikers. One small tiny hot spot can throw off your game, cause excruciating pain and can prevent you from going back out on the trails. Some of us are more blister-prone than others and require blister prevention care before every hike while others can wear any type of sock and footwear and never worry about a blister. I am known to pop blisters on the trails, rub my feet in Vaseline, cover my feet in duct tape and spend way too much money on socks to keep my feet dry. After many years of hiking and after a couple of tearful breakdowns on the trails and many talks with outdoors experts, I have FINALLY found the best blister prevention and treatment for me. Keep in mind that every foot is different and therefore blister care may differ among individuals. For example I never get blisters in between my toes but I have many friends who are very blister-prone in this area. It may take you a few different attempts and treatment combinations to find your best blister solution so be patient, don’t be scared to spend some money and happy reading.

Why do blisters form?

The outer layers of your foot's skin can move more than the sensitive inner layers can. Boots and socks apply pressure and friction as you walk, causing these skin layers to separate and fluid to fill creating a blister. Warm, moist skin blisters quicker than cool, dry skin because war, moist skin moves easily and therefore sheds easily. In order to prevent blisters we must prevent friction and keep our feet cool and dry.

 Let’s talk about blister prevention…

 Real life. I don't shave my legs on a multi-day backpacking trip. Duct tape for the win. 

Real life. I don't shave my legs on a multi-day backpacking trip. Duct tape for the win. 

Shoes

Hiking boots should fit snug everywhere, tight nowhere and offer room to wiggle your toes. Go and get your feet fitted by a footwear expert at REI or Adventure 16 and the rule of thumb, depending on the shoe, is to go up a half or one full size because your feet will swell on a hike. Every brand fits differently so try on different brands to see which ones fit your foot the best.

Socks

I recommend sock liners under wool socks. Used in conjunction with a thicker sock, sock liners feature optimum moisture-wicking capabilities and further protect your feet from irritation. For individuals who are blister prone in between the toes, try toe sock liners by Injinji

Stay away from cotton socks. The best rule of thumb is to stay with wool socks. My favorite brand is People Socks because they do not cost an arm and a leg. Other, more expensive brands, such as Smartwool and Darn Tough are excellent choices as well.

Clip and file your nails

 Try supportive insoles
Both custom- made and over-the-counter insoles reduce movement inside a boot, thus limiting friction. Make sure these insoles FIT YOUR SHOE or else they will CREATE blisters. For example, do not switch out your insoles into different shoes, I made this mistake and it resulted in tears and a six-inch fluid filled blister.

Lubricate

Whether you use deodorant, body glide, or Vaseline, cover your feet  with lubrication before you put your socks on. I usually re-lubricate my feet after 10-12 miles and switch to a new pair of socks after 15 miles. I use Vaseline because it is cheaper and it works like a charm.

 Cover your common blister areas

Whether it’s in between your toes, on your heel or on the balls of your feet, after enough hiking you WILL learn where you are blister prone. Cover these areas before you lubricate your feet. The following are great products and strategies to use. I personally use Liquid Bandage

**Avoid foot powder (it clumps and can increase blister formation due to friction)

 Sunrise vibes over Mt. Baldy 

Sunrise vibes over Mt. Baldy 

Preventing “ball of your feet” blisters

  •  Place a long, wide strip of tape on the floor, adhesive side up, and set the ball of your foot directly atop it.
  •  Press down to make your foot as wide as possible. Pull the ends of the tape up around the sides of your foot to meet on the top of your foot.
  • Trim the tape to conform to the shape of your foot so the tape doesn't contact your toes.

Preventing toe blisters

  • Wrap a small strip of tape, sticky side down, from the base of the toenail over the tip of your toe and then underneath it.
  • Wrap a second strip around the circumference of the toe, covering the ends of the first strip. Cut the ends of the second strip as close to each other as possible without overlapping them.
  • Or use Gel elastic toes sleeves
 People Socks and Keen shoes for the win. Rainbow Mountain, Peru 17,060 feet elevation. 

People Socks and Keen shoes for the win. Rainbow Mountain, Peru 17,060 feet elevation. 

Blister treatment

To pop or not to pop

To pop or not to pop is the big and hotly debated question. Even the experts disagree about when to drain a blister. I personally say “pop”, many ER docs say “pop” and many wilderness first aid experts say “pop”. So, therefore, the final answer is “POP”.

  • Clean the area with soap and water, alcohol, or an antiseptic towelette. Dry thoroughly.
  • Sterilize a needle or sharp blade, either by holding it over a flame until it's red-hot or submerging it in boiling water for 2 minutes. If you are in a pinch clean it with an alcohol wipe (this should always be in your first aid kit)
  • Puncture the bottom end of the blister so gravity can help drain it. The opening should be no bigger than is necessary to get the fluid out. Starting at the top of the blister, massage the fluid toward the opening.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infection (this should always be in your first aid kit), then wrap with the dressing or blister product of your choice.
 Soaking in the view over Machu Picchu on my recent trip to Peru. I spent 4 days trekking the Salkantay Trail and did not have one single blister. 

Soaking in the view over Machu Picchu on my recent trip to Peru. I spent 4 days trekking the Salkantay Trail and did not have one single blister. 

Blister dressing

  • Moleskin
  •  Second skin
  •   Duct tape
  •  Liquid bandage

In order to dress a blister, it is important to reinforce the dressing, as the bandage will most likely fall off after a few hundred feet. I personally use second skin and then use duct tape as reinforcement. Make sure the duct tape is a ½-inch larger than the blister and the original dressing.

Reinforcing Moleskin

Cut a circular piece of moleskin, 1/2-inch bigger than the blister. Cut a hole slightly larger than the blister in the middle of the covering and place the "doughnut" over the blister to create a pressure-free pocket around the sore. Cover the entire doughnut with the second piece of moleskin, and then secure it with duct tape.

Do you have any blister prevention or treatment hacks? I would love to know! 

Thanks for reading and hope to see you on the trails

xx

Kristen

 

    Ten Essentials For Women in the Outdoors: Essential #7 Repair Kit and Tools

    “One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop”.  G. M. Weilacher

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    When the word “tool” comes to mind, I cringe at the thought of Home Depot or laugh at the thought of a guy with a hugely over-inflated ego. To be honest, “tools” and “repair kits” are not in my vocabulary, which should be expected when I grew up with a dad who used duct tape to fix everything, from broken door handles, cracked side door mirrors on cars and damaged bicycle tires, to ripped tents and shredded bags; duct tape was always the answer. I sometimes joke my mom divorced my dad because everything in their home was fixed with duct tape (love you both mom and dad). When I moved away to college, my parents gave me one gift: a simple toolkit that consisted of a hammer, some nails, two screwdrivers, and a measuring tape. I had no idea how to use any of this and I secretly hoped I would never have to. Clearly, the apple did not fall too far from the tree when it comes to “fixing things”.  I stopped using tools after my first and last experience assembling IKEA furniture and after putting some rather large holes in my wall trying to hang artwork. The lessons I learned from both of these experiences were 1) never shop at Ikea or a furniture store that requires assembly and 2) always ask for help when I have to use a hammer or a screwdriver. In fact, I could probably write a blog post dedicated to my most embarrassing stories that have happened while in Home Depot. Thankfully repair kits and “tools” in the outdoors are simple and minimal. So let’s keep this simple, shall we?

     Solo backpacking trip with my dog. Big Pine Lakes, California 

    Solo backpacking trip with my dog. Big Pine Lakes, California 

    Repair kits in the outdoors

    Realistically repair kits are only needed when you are backpacking or car camping. Repair kits are generally used to fix tears in material such as sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tents, and jackets. Thankfully most repair kits are bundled together and contain Seam Grip, Tenacious Tape patches, mesh patches, zip ties, and elastic shock cord. With these simple products, you should be able to patch a burn repair or repair a leaky tent or air mattress. Since I am terrible at repairing anything, I always YouTube any videos after I buy any new repair kit products. I would rather feel dumb at home than dumb and out of luck in the outdoors. I carry the following in my repair kit bag when I spend the night out in the wild:

    • Seam Grip seals seams and repairs nylon, vinyl, rubber and more
    • Tenacious Tape aggressive adhesive that sticks to almost any surface and repairs ripped outerwear, waders, sleeping bags, and tents; it sticks to polyester, nylon, plastic and more
    • Duct tape
    •  Bug Mesh Patch Kit
    • Tenacious Tape Repair Patches repairs camping gear, sleeping bags, and pads, tents, clothing, vinyl rafts, down jackets, netting and more.
     America is beautiful. Chiquito Falls, California. 

    America is beautiful. Chiquito Falls, California. 

    Tools

    Personally, I keep tools simple, I carry a foldable knife. Some may consider rope, tweezers, scissors and a flashlight other tools however these are two other ten essentials (check out my light and emergency kit posts). I don’t carry nail clippers on the trail as I always trim my toenails before a trip. In my opinion, all that is left is a knife. However, I have a lot of friends that prefer a Multi-tool. Multi-tools are an all-in-one tool that includes scissors, a nail file, tweezers, knife, bottle opener, a screwdriver and more and are often generally lightweight and can range from $20-$100 in price.

    What’s your favorite repair kit item or tool that you use while in nature?

    I would love to know.

    See you on the trails xx,

    Kristen

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    The 10 Essentials For Women in the Outdoors: Essential #6: Fire

    Everything you ever wanted to know about campfires such as how to light an emergency fire, how to build a campfire and how to get that campfire smell out of your clothes. 

    “Come on baby, light my fire
    Come on baby, light my fire
    Try to set the night on fire…”

    -The Doors

     Joshua Tree National Park 

    Joshua Tree National Park 

    Lighting a fire is relatively easy when you are in a confined environment with wood, a fire starter, a lighter and maybe even some lighter fluid, but when you are in an emergency situation and possibly battling some unyielding weather conditions; starting a fire and easy should not be used in the same sentence. A fire can save your life in a dire situation. It can prevent hypothermia and can also be used as a way to alert others that you are in danger. Fire starter, as the name implies, is an element that helps you jump-start a fire. The ideal fire starter ignites quickly and sustains heat for more than a few seconds.

    The following are common useful fire starters that can be used in your daypack and/or overnight pack:

    Windproof/waterproof matches (keep in a plastic bag)

    Magnesium strike able fire starter

    Windproof lighter or pocket torch (See First-Aid kit post for my person recommendation)

    Example of kindle that can be used to aid in starting the fire:

    Tinder (not the dating app): Small materials that will ignite easily with a spark kindling such as dry grasses, shredded bark, fungus, or mosses. To spark, this material needs to be as dry and finely shredded as possible.

    Kindling: Medium sized materials that will catch flame from the tinder quickly such as dry leaves, small twigs and sticks, or larger pieces of bark. For the kindling to catch fire, it must consist of small, dry items.

    Dry tinder/kindle tucked away in a plastic bag (pine needles, pine cones etc.)

    Priming paste

    Heat “nuggets” (chipped-wood clusters soaked in resin or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly)

    Lint trappings from a household clothes dryer (my personal favorite)

    Commercially prepared wood soaked in wax or chemicals. 

    How to build a campfire

    Although you may not have access to wood, I am often amazed how many individuals do not know how to start a campfire even with all the proper ingredients (wood, kindle, a fire starter). The "teepee method" is the go-to method for starting a campfire or a backcountry fire in an emergency.

    To build your teepee, wad the tinder (dry leaves, pinecones, pine needles) into a ball about fours inches in diameter and then stack larger dried kindling (sticks, branches, wood shavings) around the ball. If logs are available lean the logs on the kindle in a teepee-like fashion. Light the tinder from the bottom and allow the tinder to catch and spread to the kindling and eventually the wood. You may have to blow on the fire to allow oxygen to reach it in order for it to spread to the wood.

     Death Valley National Park 

    Death Valley National Park 

    How to get that campfire smell out of your clothes

    Long starry nights in nature, evenings around the campfire filled with stories and songs. Unfortunately, after such a wonderful night around the fire, a lot of us wake up with the question of how to get campfire smell out of clothes. It can often linger far longer than anyone would appreciate, and with multi-day trips, or non-machine washable clothes, this can be a big issue.

    For clothes that can be washed in the washer and hung to dry:

    Cleansing With White Vinegar:

    White vinegar works in cutting through complicated odor and deodorizing the odorous residue in your clothes. Start the detergent rinsing cycle by pouring a cup of vinegar into the warm water. Don’t forget to cover enough surface area on the clothing for the best results.

    Applying Baking Soda:

    Just like white vinegar, baking soda is another basic kitchen ingredient that is known for its ability to deodorize in the washing cycle. Begin the routine washing cycle by applying detergent first and then pouring at least half a cup of baking soda after five minutes.

    For clothes that cannot be washed in the washer:

    Vodka spray:

    Aside from being a fantastic party drink, vodka is also used as a deodorant for undesirable odors. All you need to do is mix warm water and vodka inside a spray bottle. Spray on the inside of your clothes and expose them to the heat of the sun.

    While vodka evaporates, it will neutralize the campfire odor and get rid of the residues.

    Lemon juice spray:

    A lemon juice’ citric acid is very effective at getting rid of unpleasant odors. All you need to do is mix eight parts warm water with one part lemon juice inside a spray bottle and spray it on the whole exterior of your clothes until it becomes sufficiently moist. Expose your clothes to sunlight by hanging them for 3-4 hours. The whole process should dry your clothes and get rid of the campfire odor completely.

     "Only you can prevent forest fires"- Smokey the Bear

    "Only you can prevent forest fires"- Smokey the Bear

    What are your favorite fire hacks you use in the wild?

    We would love to know

    See you on the trails xx,

    Kristen 

    The 10 Essentials for Women in the Outdoors: Essential #4 Illumination

    “Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” 
    ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

     Snow hike to San Bernardino peak 10,649 feet with two dogs in tow! We started before sunrise and finished after sunset, therefore our headlamps were a must. 

    Snow hike to San Bernardino peak 10,649 feet with two dogs in tow! We started before sunrise and finished after sunset, therefore our headlamps were a must. 

    Headlamps are, by far, one of the dorkiest items I own (next to my stethoscope and otoscope), but these nifty lights have saved me countless times, especially when I fail to finish my hike by sunset. Whether you plan to hike in the dark or not, you should always keep a headlamp in your emergency pack, just in case. There have been so many times I was not planning on hiking in the dark but due to accidents, too many bottles of wine, a slower pace, or a late start back, I have ended countless hikes under the night sky. I also start the majority of my long hikes before sunrise and will use a headlamp to guide me along the trail until the sun rises. Also, night hiking, especially when there is a full moon, is a great experience. It is incredibly important to hike with your hands free (with the exception of trekking poles), therefore using flashlights and/or cell phones for illumination in the outdoors at night are not an option. Please keep your flashlights at home and your cell phone in your pack. Headlamps can range from $10 up to $50 and beyond however a decent headlamp made by a quality brand will run you about $20-$25 and much cheaper if you can score one on sale. Check out the REI online garage for sales everyday of the week, all year long.  In terms of brands, we recommend sticking with Black Diamond or Petzl.

     Blood moon/lunar eclipse/supermoon in Laguna Beach, California. This is a series of photos that were taken during the gorgeous lunar eclipse event. Although we did not use our headlamps while shooting the moon, we used them to help guide us to the perfect spot to set up the camera gear! 

    Blood moon/lunar eclipse/supermoon in Laguna Beach, California. This is a series of photos that were taken during the gorgeous lunar eclipse event. Although we did not use our headlamps while shooting the moon, we used them to help guide us to the perfect spot to set up the camera gear! 

    Let’s go over some common features you need to know when shopping for a headlamp.

    Flood light vs. spotlight

    •  Flood (or Wide): Useful for general camp tasks, up-close repair work and reading. Flood beams ordinarily do not throw light a long distance.
    • Spot (or Focused or Narrow): This tight beam best enables long-distance viewing. In most cases this is a better choice to navigate a trail in the dark.
    • Flood / Spot: Adjustable headlamps are the most versatile.

    Brightness does matter

    Lumens are a unit of measure that gauges the total quantity of light emitted in all directions by a light source, therefore in MOST cases, the higher the lumens, the brighter the light. 200-300 lumens is a good rule of thumb to stick with when purchasing a headlamp. 

    Light modes

    Most headlamps have at least 2 modes: low and high.

    • Low is the standard mode used for most tasks such as camp chores or walking along an easy trail at night.
    • High (or Max) is a good option for situations where you simply need or want more light

    Some headlamps have additional modes such as flash and red light mode

    • Strobe (or Flash) mode acts as an emergency blinker. A few models even offer a choice of flash rates: slow and fast.
    • Red light mode: Red light does not cause our pupils to shrink the way white light can, so it's good for nighttime use so others are not blinded by your bright white light. I literally had someone yell at me once because I accidentally shined my headlamp on their tent when they were "sleeping" (clearly they were not sleeping). Just to be safe, always get a headlamp with a red light mode. 

    Batteries: AA or AA or lithium?

    Take your pick. Some headlamps are designed to work with lithium batteries, which are a good choice for cold-weather usage, since lithium batteries outperform alkaline batteries in cold conditions.

     Goat Canyon Trestles. Hiking through one of the long tunnels, headlamps (and apparently sunglasses) were needed 

    Goat Canyon Trestles. Hiking through one of the long tunnels, headlamps (and apparently sunglasses) were needed 

    The following are a few great headlamps:

    Petzl Tikka Headlamp

    Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

    Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

    Lanterns

    Sometimes it is nice to have a mini lantern when backpacking or camping to place in your tent or on your table/the ground. They make some really cool ones that are super small and lightweight and some that are even collapsible. Some are solar powered and can hang on the outside of your pack to charge whereas other are battery powered. (Don't forget your batteries)

    MPOWEERD Inflatable Solar Lantern

    LuminAID PackLite Solar Lantern

    Black Diamond Moji Lantern

    “And God said, ‘let there be light’: and there was light.”

    Thanks so much for reading and see you on the trails,

    xx

    Kristen