SOS: Personal Locator Beacons Versus Satellite Messengers

"I can't take it, see I don't feel right. SOS please someone help me"

-Rihanna

 Garmin inReach Explorer

Garmin inReach Explorer

After spending decades hiking on trails, climbing mountain, rafting in rivers and being humbled by Mother Nature, I finally took the plunge to start researching personal locator beacons and satellite messengers (YES, there is a difference). I have been in a few questionable situations where it would have been nice to have some line of communication with a park ranger or a rescue team so I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy one of these life-saving devices.

To be honest, I was extremely hesitant to make this purchase because I did not want to pay a required monthly fee to use this device especially if I did not plan on using it every single month. Although I do backpack and hike on a regular basis, I often do have a cell signal in many places which can be used in case I need to make contact in an emergency situation. Thankfully,  Garmin came out with an amazing Flex Subscription Plan that starts at $15 a month which allows you turn services off for 30 days at a time, meaning if you are not going to use your device for a month then you don’t pay for it (Say WHAT?!) 

Although I found out about this amazing deal in November 2017 when it was released, I wanted to take my time to thoroughly research the best devices out on the market for ME.

I did not care if I can send text messages to friends and family. I did not need topographic maps or navigation since I use GAIA GPS, however, I strictly wanted a device where I could send an emergency signal so I could be rescued in case of an emergency, a simple, “push this button and a rescue team appears…eventually”.

Here is what I found out and how I ended up making my long-winded decision.

 SPOT Gen3

SPOT Gen3

Personal locator beacons versus satellite messengers

Yes, there is a difference even though many use these terms interchangeably (guilty as charged).

Personal locator beacons (PLBs): Available in the U.S. since 2003, these satellite-based handheld devices are designed primarily to send out a personalized emergency distress signal via a constellation of satellites. They generally require an open view of the sky to transmit successfully.  It transmits a powerful signal at 406 MHz, an internationally recognized distress frequency monitored in the U.S. by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the AFRCC (Air Force Rescue Coordination Center) and the USCG (United States Coast Guard). The signal is sent to a system of international satellites, which then relay your location to the US Coast Guard, which then relay your coordinates to the local search and rescue team. This is a one-way signal, meaning only you can send out a signal but you will never know if it was actually received on the other end. I was also warned that a rescue could take a few hours to a few days or it may never even happen. I quickly learned that this was not the device for me, so I moved to the next category.

Satellite messengers: A more recent innovation, these handheld devices, such as those from SPOT and Garmin are 2-way communication devices that allow you to send messages to an emergency responder and receive messages back. Satellite messengers are GPS-based devices that rely on either of 2 commercial satellite networks, Iridium or Globalstar, rather than the military network used by PLBs (this is why there is a monthly subscription). Besides the two-way communication, these devices also allow you to send preset text messages to your contacts, link your coordinates to your social media, download maps and they can also be used as a navigation device; fancy right?

I had a choice between the SPOT and the Garmin and I chose the Garmin over the SPOT strictly because of the Flex Subscription Plan that only Garmin offers. If I am not going to be in the backcountry for 3 months, I do not want to pay a monthly subscription for 3 months of non-use (I like my money too much).

These are all the specs and details on the SPOT

The new SPOT (SPOT GEN 3) that was recently released does have SOS capabilities and two-way messaging with a battery life of 17 days but offers one-year subscription increments (meaning you cannot pay monthly and there is NO Flex plan). This device also has tracking capabilities, the ability to post to social media and check in, and a compass. This device does not provide navigation capabilities or topographical maps.

 Backpacking girl gang

Backpacking girl gang

Garmin inReach Explorer versus Garmin inReach Mini

Both of these are two-way messengers with an interactive SOS. They also work as navigation devices and allow you to send text messages to your contacts, load your coordinates on your social media all without cell phone service.

Garmin inReach Mini

 Garmin inReaach mini

Garmin inReaach mini

  •  Much smaller in size
  • 3.5 ounces
  • 50 hours of battery life
  • Pair with mobile devices using the free Earthmate® app for easier messaging and access to topographic maps and U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more
  • Must pair this with your phone, which can die due to the battery, or extreme heat or cold.

Garmin inReach Explorer

  • Much bigger in size
  • Digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer
  • 7.5 oz
  • 100 hours of battery life
  • Pre-loaded topography maps
  • Does not need to be paired with your phone (no worrying about phone battery dying, freezing or overheating)

Garmin inReach subscription plan details

Additional tips

  • Always bring an extra battery charger (or two as solar panels are not efficient). I recommended Goal Zero I have the Flip 30 Power Bank
  • Turn the device off at night when you are sleeping to save battery
  • One full charge for this device is equivalent to about one full iPhone charge 
  • Always keep your phone on airplane mode
  • These devices are waterproof and weatherproof however I would always use caution
  • Attach the device to the outside of your pack since its antennae is needed to pick up signal
  • For any general questions on navigation, read my post on Navigation and Maps
 Falling asleep to the sunset is the best way to sleep. 

Falling asleep to the sunset is the best way to sleep. 

 Take my paycheck because yes these are expensive

These devices will run you about $350-$475 before tax but I live for deals so here are some tips and tricks:

  • These ALWAYS go on sale a couple times a year, in fact, the Garmin inReach Explorer is on sale right now
  • You have the option to purchase them from a non-REI online international dealer to avoid paying sales tax
  • Purchase the device full price at REI to receive dividends and do not forget to use your REI credit card for even more dividends

Although I did a lot of my own research and had multiple conversations with manufacturers, REI and friends on the trail; I am still relatively new to these gadgets and would love to hear any feedback on your experience with any of these devices. 

Thank so much for reading

See you on the trails,

Xx

Kristen

Keeping Your Cool While Hiking in the Summer

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

IMG-6345.JPG

Summertime has begun, well not officially, but temperatures have increased, the beaches are crowded and wildfires have already begun in California. Hiking in the summer has it perks, you don’t have to deal with rain, snow and cold weather, but it also has some dangers. Thousands of rescues on the trails take place in the summer secondary to heat-related emergencies and therefore it is important to take extra precautions when hitting the trails on a hot summer day. If you are like me and do not do well in the heat, this post has some great tips and tricks to navigate how to stay safe and have a great time on the trails during the hot summer months. I incorporated a few of my previous blog posts that go more in-depth on these sub-topics such as hydration and sun protection.

Avoid the hottest time of day

This should be obvious right? Wrong. So many hikers set out for the trails too late in the morning or too early in the afternoon. The hottest time of day is usually around noon to 3 pm. On scorching days, it can be best to avoid this time altogether by getting an early start and ending your hike by early afternoon or heading out sometime after 3 pm. If you can’t avoid hiking during the warmest hours, try to plan your trip so you’ll be in the shade or near a body of water during that time.

Location, location location

Pick your geography wisely. Avoiding desert regions is a safe bet. Instead of heading out to Joshua Tree National Park or Death Valley National Park in the summer, pick places that have a cooler climate and are closer to water such as lakes, coastal regions or mountains at higher elevation.

Ice ice baby ice

You should always have an emergency ice pack in your first aid kit and if hiking in ho temperature, make sure to carry extra in your pack. If you feel if you are overheating, place them under your arms, in between your thighs and on your neck to allow your body to cool down.

Remember your neck

A bandana, sun-protective neck gaiter or other lightweight cloth can be dunked in water and worn over your head or around your neck to keep the back of your neck cool and covered while the water evaporates. Special polymer-crystal filled neck scarves maintain the moisture for even longer periods of time.

Always have a GPS

The heat can you leave your confused very quickly. Confusion can lead to anxiety and venturing off the trail, which can result in an emergency if you are not careful. Always have a fully charged GPS with you on the trail with the coordinates mapped in case you become disoriented on the hike, regardless of the length of the hike or how popular the trail may be.

IMG_6450.JPG

Heat-related emergencies

 Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is your body’s inability to cope with the stress of heat. It can occur after lengthy exposure to high temperatures and is often accompanied by dehydration.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Treatment for heat exhaustion:

It’s important to treat heat exhaustion immediately if you or another hiker is showing symptoms.

  • Get out of the heat: Look for a shady spot and lay down and rest. Remove any excess clothing. If there aren’t any trees to provide shade but you have a tarp, use it to block the sun.
  • Rehydrate: Drink plenty of water and if you have electrolytes or salt tablets, use some of those.
  • Cool off: It can feel good to splash cool water on your face and head. If you’re hiking near a lake or stream, dunk your head or dip a bandana or hat in the water and put it on your head. Use ice packs from your emergency kit to cool down by placing them under your arms, in between your thighs and on your neck.

How to prevent heat exhaustion:

  • Take time to acclimate: You need to ease into hiking in hot weather. It can take 10 days to two weeks to acclimatize, so be cautious and take it slow on your first few hikes of the season.
  • Stay hydrated: Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. A half-liter per hour is a good starting point, but you may need more depending on the intensity of the hike.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: Choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that allows your body to regulate temperature and a sun hat that will shade your face and neck.
  • Rest in the shade: If you need to take a break, take the time to find a shady spot rather than toughing it out under the hot sun.
  • Know what you’re capable of: Be honest about your level of fitness and choose hikes that complement that.

 Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when your body literally overheats. It is a serious medical condition that can strike fast and requires immediate medical attention. If you see a hiking partner displaying symptoms of heat exhaustion combined with a change in mental status, he or she may have heat stroke. Pay particular attention to these signs:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Anxiety
  • Body temperature of 104-degrees-Fahrenheit or higher (if you have a way of measuring body temperature)

 Treatment for heat stroke:

  • Cool down: It’s necessary to rapidly cool a person with heat stroke. Lay the hiker down in the shade, remove extra clothing and use cool water and fanning to lower their temperature. If you’re near a lake or stream, you can attempt to lay the hiker down in the water, taking care to keep their airway clear. Also, be aware that rapid cooling can cause hypothermia. Use ice packs from your first aid kit.
  • Hydrate: If the hiker is alert enough to hold a water bottle, get them to drink water.
  • Evacuate: Heat stroke can cause internal organ damage, so get the hiker out as soon as possible and head straight to the hospital for further evaluation.
IMG-6072.JPG

Hydration 101

For all the details about hydration in the wild, this blog post will do the trick.

 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.

IMG-6255.JPG

Sun protection

From different types of sunscreen and lip protection to clothing and buffs, my post on sun protection goes pretty in depth to keep you protected from those strong UV rays.  

Re-apply a physical barrier sunscreen with a broad spectrum SPF on your face and body every 2 hours and do not forget your hands (they are the first to show signs of premature aging). The two main ingredients in physical barrier sunscreen, commonly referred to as sunblock, are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Our lips are vulnerable to damage from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Not only do they have a thinner protective top layer of cells compared with the rest of our skin but the bottom lip also tends to protrude slightly, so it can easily catch the sun's rays. Use a lip balm that is SPF 30 or higher and remember to reapply often.

 UPF clothing

UPF is the rating system used for apparel. It’s similar to SPF (Sun Protection Factor) in sunscreen but UPF gauges a fabric's effectiveness against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. A UPF rating of 25 indicates the fabric of a garment will allow 1/25th (roughly 4 percent) of available UV radiation to pass through it. A garment rated UPF 50 permits only 1/50th (roughly 2 percent) UV transmission. Any fabric that allows less than 2 percent UV transmission is labeled UPF 50+.  I personally try to wear UPF shirts whenever I am out on the trails.

Don’t forget your sunglasses, hat and/or buff

IMG_6335.JPG

Dog days of summer: protecting our pups in the heat

 If the ground is too hot or cold for you to comfortably place your palm flat on the ground for 5-10 seconds, it is not suitable or comfortable for your dog.  Check your dog’s paws regularly for signs of blistering. Be aware that the ground will be hotter as the day goes on. Just because the ground was okay at 9 AM, does not mean it will be okay at 1 PM.
Your dog should not be hiking in over 85 degrees under any circumstances. If you check the weather on the day of your hike and notice that the temperature will be higher than that, leave your dog at home. Your dog’s life will never be worth it. The trail will always be there. 

Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include: 

  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Cooling Vests
Dogs are wearing a fur coat at all times, and as a result, they aren’t able to cool themselves as efficiently as we are. Dogs only produce sweat on areas not covered with fur, such as the nose and paw pads, this means that they are unable to regulate their temperature and overheating is a very real concern. Some good solutions to dogs overheating include cooling vests and cooling bandanas. Ruffwear makes an awesome cooling vest for dogs called a Swamp Cooler, and cooling bandanas can be purchased at REI. 
 

Booties
You wouldn’t climb a mountain barefoot, so why make your dog do it? Our pups and their paws are more used to hardwood floors and carpets than they are too rocky, rough trails. Your dog’s pads should always be protected on the trail. Musher’s Secret Paw Wax is great to keep the pup’s toes safe on shorter hikes of fewer than five miles. On hikes of over five miles or hikes in extreme heat or cold, your dog should absolutely wear booties. Make sure boots are sized appropriately. My favorite pair of reusable and affordable dog booties PAWZ

Water

Your dog needs 1.5 -1.7 oz. of water per pound of body weight over the course of a 12-hour day. The formula to use here is: [(weight of dog x 1.5 oz.) / 12 hours] x the hours you will be hiking. 

IMG_6457.JPG

Rattlesnakes

It’s that time of year, rattlesnake season and your hike is in their territory, so chances are you may encounter one on the trails. If you see a snake, the first thing you want to do is to give the animal some space. Regardless of whether the animal is venomous or nonvenomous, you’ll want to treat it the same way: leave it alone. That’s right- don’t touch the snake! Most snake bites occur when people try to move or kill a snake. The closer you get, the more likely you are to suffer a bite. Fortunately, the venomous snake species in the United States very rarely pose fatal threats to humans, which means there is absolutely no need to harm a snake on the trail, venomous or not (according to the Center for Disease Control, of the 7-8,000 people in the US bitten by snakes, only 5 will die). Moving around the snake, even if in the middle of the trail, is your best option.

IMG_6377.PNG

Wildfires

Be sure to research and be aware of the fire danger level for the day of your hike. Obey all fire restriction rules; you don't want to be the cause of a forest fire.

One major cause of wildfires unrelated to humans is lightning strikes. Embers left behind from a lightning strike can burst into flame even days after a storm. If a recent thunderstorm has occurred in the mountains, know that the fire danger may be elevated. If you see smoke or a fire while hiking, get out of the wilderness and away from the fire as quickly as possible, then notify the authorities (such as the fire department, the ranger station, or the police department) immediately.

If the fire is very close to you, look for areas free from brush, trees and other fuels for the fire. Travel away from the fire along routes that don't easily burn like dirt roads, trails, gravel, asphalt, and rock.

Avoid canyons and saddles that can act as natural chimneys. If at all possible, do not travel uphill to escape a fire, heat rises and so will the flames. Shield yourself from the heat of an approaching fire with a jacket, backpack or hat.

IMG-6267.JPG

Bugs (mosquitoes and ticks)

If you are like me, you will get eaten alive by mosquitoes. I have tried every essential oil and natural bug repellent on the market and the end result is the same, I get eaten alive. I highly recommend using insect repellent with 100 percent DEET in addition to wearing long pants, socks, and sleeves.

April through September is considered the most active season for ticks. Ticks live at or near the ground, so shoes, long pants, and socks are your first line of defense to prevent them from latching on to you.

Spraying socks, shoes and clothing with the insecticide DEET is also effective, although that treatment will need to be reapplied over the course of the day. Check your body for ticks: Since no repellant is 100 percent effective, experts say you should always do a visual tick check of your body once you return inside, ideally in a shower. The water will help wash off ticks that haven’t attached to you yet, but you need to look thoroughly, too. Deer ticks are small, the larvae are the size of poppy seeds and like to hide in hard-to-see places, especially around the groin, but also in hair, behind the knees, and around the ears. In most case, ticks need to be attached for at least 36 hours before they begin to transmit Lyme disease.

How to remove a tick

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure.
  • Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

Thanks for reading

Stay cool, stay safe and you on the trails!

xx,

Kristen 

My Favorite Backpacking Best Kept Secrets

My tried and true essential backpacking items that I take on every trip

“The old school of thought would have you believe that you'd be a fool to take on nature without arming yourself with every conceivable measure of safety and comfort under the sun. But that isn't what being in nature is all about. Rather, it's about feeling free, unbounded, shedding the distractions and barriers of our civilization—not bringing them with us.” 
― Ryel Kestenbaum

 Big Pine Lakes 10,200 feet with my pup. 

Big Pine Lakes 10,200 feet with my pup. 

"I am going on my first backpacking trip! What should I bring?"

I am asked this question literally all the time. I receive emails, facebook messages, texts, and this always seems to come up on the trails. Backpacking can be totally overwhelming as carrying too much weight can be painful, having the wrong gear can be a disaster and not bringing an essential item can have a huge impact on your backpacking experience. By now, after many many years of backpacking in the wild, I have my packing skills down to a science. I bring the exact same items every single time and I can practically pack my backpack in my sleep. Every so often I splurge on some new backpacking gear that becomes part of my backpacking essentials (my most recent splurges are my Katadyn BeFree water filter and Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner). Backpacking is trial and error, overtime you will figure out what works and what doesn't work, what is worth carrying and what should be left at home. Hopefully this post will be a good starter guide to what you need for your first backpacking trip. My friend and GirlsWhoHike co-leader, Melia, wrote a great comprehensive piece on backpacking gear.  Check it out here!

The most important rule of thumb is to test out your gear before you hit the trails. Set up your tent in your backyard, learn how to use your stove, filter water in your bathtub, and make sure your sleeping mat does not have a leaky valve. 

 

Below is a list of the gear that I have:

 This is what my pack looks like...every single trip. 

This is what my pack looks like...every single trip. 

Now for the secrets (beyond the 10 essentials) 

Storing your gear

Always take your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and other gear out of their stuff sacks at home since laying your gear out increases their lifespan. 

Face wipes vs body wipes

Face wipes are used for your face and baby wipes or body wipes are used to clean your body. Using face wipes to clean your girl parts can cause a urinary tract infection due to the difference in pH between these areas. These are the face wipes I use:

Philosophy Purity made simple one step cleansing cloths

Alcohol

Alcohol makes backpacking more fun. Although I am mostly a beer and wine gal, hard alcohol in a flask does the trick for backpacking because of the higher alcohol content for the same amount of weight. The only time you will see me drink out of a flask is on a trail! 

 Vodka and soda water in a can...who knew? 

Vodka and soda water in a can...who knew? 

10 essentials

I just had to include these. Need I say more? I wrote a fantastic series breaking down each of the ten essentials. 

(check out my extensive guide to each of these important essentials) 

A good book

There is nothing better than reading in my tent at night! I love to backpack solo with my dog so a good book is all I need to keep me entertained. Even if I am backpacking with friends, you can guarantee I have a good book stashed away in my pack. I enjoy the physical feeling of the pages in a book so I don't own a tablet or a kindle. I prefer to carry one book in my pack even though it adds a bit of weight. I also do not have to worry about charging a paperback book as I would a tablet or a kindle. 

(check out my blog post on women's inspired adventure books)

Massage ball

This is a game changer for sore feet, knees and hips after a long hike to camp. Rub some Deep Blue or Panaway essential oils into your muscles and joints and massage away with the ball. I actually keep a ball in my first aid kit at all times. 

Music

Sometimes I need some Justin Bieber to get me through a tough couple of miles. Make sure to download music onto your phone in case you don't have service (it also saves the battery). I use Pandora and pay for the monthly subscription to download 4 of my favorite stations. Don't forget your headphones as blasting music on the trail is EXTREMELY ANNOYING TO OTHERS AKA NOISE POLLUTION. 

External battery charger

This is a GAME CHANGER. Always bring this and make sure it is fully charged. 

 Goal Zero Flip 30 Power Bank

Pillow

I like to be comfortable and Sea to Summit makes the best compact and lightweight backpacking pillows.

Paper and pen

I come up with my best writing ideas when I am out in nature. 

 Mt. Baldy at sunrise on our 31 mile, 4 peak hike in 24 hours, #sufferfest

Mt. Baldy at sunrise on our 31 mile, 4 peak hike in 24 hours, #sufferfest

Stuff sacks

 I always pack all my gear in stuff sacks. One for clothes, one for socks/underwear/gloves, one for toiletries and don't forget an extra one for your dirty garments. 

Shovel/toilet paper

According to Leave No Trace principles you must pack out all your toilet paper (this is where extra ziplock baggies come in handy). Additionally you must dig a 6-8 inch deep hole, 200 feet away from a water source to do your business. 

Trash bag 

I can probably write a separate blog post on the uses of trash bags (other than trash) during a backpacking trip. I use a trash bag to cover my pack when I store it in my tent vestibule at night so it does not get wet from condensation or rain. I also keep my dirty boots in a trash bag in my tent if it is raining. You can also line the inside of your pack with a trash bag during the rain to help keep everything dry. It can also be used as a cheap rain cover for your pack while on the trail (or a poncho). 

Rain poncho

This should be in your emergency kit. Having this over your rain gear can be extremely helpful especially in torrential downpours. 

Extra ziplock baggies

These can be used for food storage, trash, toilet paper...always always bring extras. 

Camp shoes

Sandals, crocs or anything light weight to put on once you get to camp to give your feet a break. 

Extra pair of socks

Need I say more? 

Insulated coffee mug

I love my hot tea in the morning and I prefer it to stay hot so I always have a mug with a lid and a handle. 

Trekking poles

These will save your knees, I promise. 

Fanny pack

This is probably my best kept secret and here is why: NO backpack has easy to reach pockets that fit your phone, snacks, sunscreen, lip gloss and whatever else that you want easily accessible. Taking your pack on and off or asking your friend to grab this or that, gets old really fast. A fanny pack allows you easy access to all of your favorite things without having to constantly stop on the trails. This is game changer. 

Whistle (noise maker)

To ward off scary humans and animals (and to call for help on the trail) 

 These butterflies on the trail matched by fantastic Keen boots. Salkantay Trek, Peru. 

These butterflies on the trail matched by fantastic Keen boots. Salkantay Trek, Peru. 

Tips and tricks to take off weight

How much should your pack weigh?

This is a pretty loaded question since it depends on your length of travel, how comfortable you want to be and how much water you are carrying. My rule of thumb is somewhere between 26-32 pounds total. Here are some easy ways to reduce your weight.

  • One eating utensil (instead of spoon, fork AND knife)
  • Dry out your face and body wipes beforehand and add a drop of water when you are ready to use them on the trail.  
  • Ditch the bowls (eat out of the bag) or if you must Sea to Summit makes great lightweight bowls. 
  • Take all food out of original packages and put in ziplock freezer bags. You can add boiling water to FREEZER bags and can eat straight out of the bag. 
  • Ditch the makeup, deodorant, lotion (except sunscreen), mouthwash and other toiletries. Confession, I do take some travel size Philosophy skin cream with me. 
  • Sit pad instead of camp chair. Even lightweight camp chairs weight at least 1 or 2 pounds. 
  • Smart water bottles instead of Nalgene/Bladder. 
  • Make sure all your toiletries are travel size or if you really want to get technical, squeeze you toothpaste and lotion in contact cases. Even bring a travel size toothbrush. 
 Sometimes a good IPA is worth the extra weight. Death Valley National Park. 

Sometimes a good IPA is worth the extra weight. Death Valley National Park. 

Thanks so much for reading and see you the trails

Xx

Kristen 

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

image_123986672 (44).JPG
IMG_5727.PNG

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

image_123986672 (45).JPG
image_123986672 (38).JPG

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

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

-Benjamin Franklin

image_123986672 (36).JPG

 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?

IMG_3019.PNG

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.

IMG_2541.JPG

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.

image_123986672 (34).JPG

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.
IMG_7792.JPG

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

    image_123986672 (30).JPG

    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

    image_123986672 (29).JPG

    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