Backcountry Technology 101: How to Keep Your Electronics Fully Charged

"As technology tries to maintain its dizzying ascent, one dead weight has kept its altitude in check: the battery."

~Steven Levy

 Goal Zero Solar Panel on my pack. Santa Cruz Island. 

Goal Zero Solar Panel on my pack. Santa Cruz Island. 

There was a time when backpacking or camping was a way to get away from all of the trappings of modern life. Although many of us still escape into the wild to disconnect so we can reconnect with others and ourselves it seems that we still need our electronic gadgets since, after all, they do help us capture our memories and navigate our adventures. Even without cell phone reception, it seems we still use our phones to take photos and videos, help navigate us and even entertain us by playing music. Although we may be disconnected from the outside world, we still need ways to recharge not only our internal human battery but our electronics’ batteries as well.

Smartphones, cameras, GoPros, and GPS devices have a rechargeable battery. Even our headlamps, water purification systems, headphones, and watches now need to power up on a regular basis. There are multiple ways to keep these gadgets fully charged and running properly even when we are miles from home.

Tips and tricks to save battery life on your iPhone

My iPhone 7 usually lasts 2-3 full days when I am using Gaia and my camera on airplane mode and when I practice the following settings:

  • Keep your cell phone on Airplane Mode even if you think you may have cell service. Taking your phone off airplane mode to try to find service can suck up the battery in no time.
  • Have minimal apps running on your phone. Oftentimes, we have multiple apps running in the background, which can eat our battery. I try to only have my Gaia navigation app running when I am on the trails. To delete background apps on the iPhone, double tap on the home button and scroll up to delete each app.
  • Power Off when you are sleeping
  • Dim the screen or turn on Auto-Brightness
  • Update your phone to the latest software settings
  • Enable Low Power Mode
  • Turn off Location Services
  • Turn off Background App Refresh
  • Turn off Notifications

Tips and tricks to save battery life on your Garmin inReach

  • Turn on the Extended Tracking setting 
  • Turn on the Automatic backlight brightness setting or reduce the backlight timeout 
  • Reduce the message Listen Interval setting (I have this set to once every 24 hours)
  • Reduce the value of the tracking Log Interval and Send Interval settings (I have my send interval turned off)
  • Turn off Bluetooth® wireless technology
  Tecnu  sent me this GoPro as a gift and I finally learned how to use it while on my recent trip exploring the Channel Islands. I am pretty impressed and incredibly grateful! 

Tecnu sent me this GoPro as a gift and I finally learned how to use it while on my recent trip exploring the Channel Islands. I am pretty impressed and incredibly grateful! 

 Yelling at my GoPro to "turn on". 

Yelling at my GoPro to "turn on". 

Tips and tricks to save battery life on your GoPro

  • Turn it off when you are not recording
  • Update the firmware: You can update your GoPro by connecting the camera to your phone over Wi-Fi and using the GoPro app to update it
  • Turn off Wi-Fi
  • Reduce the recording resolution or frame rate: For most GoPro action footage, 1080p at 60 frames per second is the standard. Turning it down a notch to 720p or leaving it at 1080p and setting it to 30 frames per second can help conserve battery life.
  • Carry an extra battery: Each battery only holds 1.5 hours of recording time so most of us carry an extra battery to have on hand.

Battery packs (power storage)

Think of battery packs as a storage unit. You can use the stored power from the battery pack to charge your electronic devices but you need to replenish your storage unit with new power from a power source. Your power source can be your wall charger, your car charger or your solar panel. A decent battery pack should provide an iPhone with FOUR full charges and will run you about $50-$150, depending on the battery size and power.

Storage capacity and power output

The capacity of a battery pack is measured in milliamp hours (mAh). By comparing the storage capacity of a portable battery to that of the battery in your device, you can get an idea of how many recharges you have available. This is usually stated in milliAmp-hours (mAh) or Amp-hours (Ah). For example, 2200 mAh = 2.2 Ah. Watt hours (wh) is another measure of capacity. To convert watt-hours to mAh: (Wh /Volts) x 1000 = mAhSmaller USB battery packs have as few as 2,000 to 3,000 mAh, while larger ones can have as much as 10,000 to 15,000 mAh or more. If you're going to be charging multiple devices, or are bringing a tablet along with you, having one of these high-capacity batteries at your disposal will definitely come in handy. Small electronic devices that can be charged with a USB cable need a 5V output rating so make sure your battery pack as at least a 5V output port.

I currently use GoalZero products (and never plan on changing), specifically the Venture 70 and the Flip 30 recharger. Both of these are drastically different work great for different purposes.

Goal Zero Venture 70: Can charge multiple gadgets at the same time, can be used with a solar panel, the capacity of 17,700mAh, and waterproof. I prefer this for longer backpacking trips or thru-hikes.

Goal Zero Flip 30 recharger: Charges one device at a time, can be used with solar panel, 7800mAh, shorter charge times than Venture 70, cheaper in price, less weight than Venture 70, not waterproof. I use this on day hikes or 1-2 day backpacking trips.

 It is pretty amazing that the sun can power all of our gadgets. 

It is pretty amazing that the sun can power all of our gadgets. 

Solar panels (power source)

A solar panel on its own is a good way to keep your devices charged while traveling, but pair one with a portable USB battery pack and you'll have a complete energy system. This approach allows you to store the energy (through the battery pack) that the solar panel generates and save it for use at another time. The solar panel does not hold a charge but it produces power when it is exposed to sunlight, so, therefore, you must hook it up to a battery back or electronic device while it is exposed to the sun. You can plug your phone directly into the panel or use it to recharge a portable recharger for later use.  The larger the solar panel, the more sunlight it collects and the faster it gets converted to power stored in a battery. A smaller panel, though easier to pack, takes longer to charge a battery. Large surface area is also best for conditions such as cloud cover or the low-angled, low-intensity light in winter, or when logistical constraints limit how long you can have it exposed to sun. Solar panels are rated in watts. The higher the number, the more electricity is generated during a given time period. 7 W is a good number to shoot for.

It took me a while to finally invest in a solar panel but I am so happy I did. A decent solar panel should run you about $100-$125. It is important to use your solar panel in direct sunlight and always have it hooked on to the outside of your backpack/tent so the solar panels are facing the sun. On average, a solar panel takes about 6-12 hours to charge a device (depending on the size of the device). When investing in a solar panel, make sure that you can it can charge directly to your device and to your battery pack. It is also important that your solar panel is weatherproof and waterproof. I use the Goal Zero Nomad 7. The Goal Zero Nomad 7 plus is new on the market and currently out of stock.

 I even have a solar-powered light for Moo! 

I even have a solar-powered light for Moo! 

Extra power tips and tricks

  • Always carry an extra USB/lightning cable
  • Download maps on your favorite navigation device (I use Gaia maps on my iPhone) before you hit the trails and turn tracking off to save battery.
  • Download your favorite music (I use Pandora) and use it in offline mode while on the trails.
  • Store all electronics in a Dry Sack to ensure no water gets in. I also use my Dry Sack as my backpacking sink to wash my face and dishes.
  • If you have a rechargeable headlamp (like I do), always make sure you charge the batteries every day before nightfall, as these batteries do not hold their charge for very long.

Do you have any power saving tips and tricks?

Hope to see you on the trails,

Xx

Kristen

My Personal Story on Activating the SOS Function on my Garmin inReach

"He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger."

-Confucius
 

 Always keep your Garmin inReach device On, within reach and pointing towards the clouds when you are on the trail. 

Always keep your Garmin inReach device On, within reach and pointing towards the clouds when you are on the trail. 

On Sunday, July 8, I experienced a multitude of harrowing events (being left alone, lightning storms, fires, and bears) while hiking Mt. Whitney in the Eastern Sierras that resulted in me sending an SOS signal via my Garmin inReach, for the first time ever. After writing about my experience, I received quite a few questions on the logistics of activating the emergency signal.

  • "What happened when you activated it?"
  • "I didn't know you could activate unless your life was in imminent danger"?.
  • "What did the emergency response center tell you to do"?
  • "Were you nervous"?
  • "How long did it take until you received a response"?
  • "Did they charge you"?

Although, I was able to safely hike out alone, knowing that I was in communication with the International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center in regards to the direction of the Georges fire, gave me reassurance that I could safely exit the Mt. Whitney trail without coming in contact with the fire. 

What are satellite messengers and how do they work?

For the full description and comparison, visit my blog post on SOS and communication devices. 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?

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Activating the SOS button

During an emergency, you can contact the GEOS International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC) to request help. This center picks up your coordinates and after communicating with you, sends a message to the appropriate emergency service response team in your area. Pressing the SOS key (lift the cover on the side of the device and hold down the SOS button) sends a message to the rescue coordination center. I made the decision to activate the SOS signal because I was unsure where the fire was located and if I was able to hike out safely. I saw the lightning that initiated the fire while I was hiking down Mt. Whitney on the switchbacks in a lightning storm and once I was within 2-3 miles of the Whitney Portal trailhead, I noticed the sky was covered in thick smoke and ash, and I was unsure where the fire was or if it was safe to continue hiking. Once I held down the SOS key a loud noise on the device coupled with a 20-second countdown began. I thought to myself, “this just got real”. During this countdown, you have the option to immediately cancel this SOS signal however I was confident that I needed to know safety information in regards to the fire. Was I nervous? Yes. The first message that automatically sent once the countdown ended was “I have an emergency, and I need you to send help”. All I could think was, “oh geez I hope they do not automatically send a helicopter!” Within one minute, I received a text message on my Garmin inReach stating they have received my SOS signal and they asked if I was alone. I responded “yes”. I started to type my reasoning for contacting them, to realize that I had to type out each individual letter by moving the cursor and selecting the letter in order to make each word (think back to those old school Nokia phones) and this was painfully taking me forever and my spelling and grammar were unbearable. I finally explained, in terrible spelling, that I was 2-3 miles from Whitney portal and I spotted a fire and needed to know if I was able to hike out safe. I quickly remembered that I paired my iPhone to the Eartmate app, which allows you access text messages, maps, weather forecasts, routes and waypoints on your smart phone. I was able to properly type a message from my iPhone to the GEOS International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC) center fully explaining what I just went through and properly asking if I can hike out safely. THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER. They responded that they were contacting the local Sheriff’s department and checking on the fire. Within 26 minutes from my initial SOS activation, I received the OK that I was able to hike out safely, but if the winds changed directions they would contact me. They also asked me to send them a message once I got off the trail safely

 A transcription of my messages that were sent. As you can see messages 2-4 were typed from the Garmin device where the latter messages were properly typed from my smart phone vie the Earthlink app. Make sure you pair your phone with your SOS device before you hit the trails. 

A transcription of my messages that were sent. As you can see messages 2-4 were typed from the Garmin device where the latter messages were properly typed from my smart phone vie the Earthlink app. Make sure you pair your phone with your SOS device before you hit the trails. 

Emergency Contacts Are Helpful

During my communication with GEOS International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC), they contacted my brother (who is my emergency contact). He did not answer his phone on the first ring, assuming a Texas number was probably a telemarketer (I don’t blame him). When they called back five minutes later he picked up and they calmly and kindly explained who they were and why they were calling. They asked my brother if I was alone or in a group, and he told them he assumed I was with my hiking group (little did he know). They updated him on my experience and told him about the fire and explained they will be in contact with him until I reach safety. It took me one hour and fifteen minutes to exit the trail and over this period of time, they contacted my brother three different times, updating him on my location and finally assuring him that I was safely off the trail.

Sending your location

For the first 10 minutes of your rescue, an updated location is automatically sent to the emergency response service every minute. To conserve battery power after the first 10 minutes, an updated location is sent every 10 minutes when moving, and every 30 minutes when stationary. Once I returned home and logged into my Garmin account, I was able to see every location that was automatically sent to the rescue center.

 These were all the waypoints that were located from the emergency response center. These were automatically sent from the GPS feature on the Garmin inReach. 

These were all the waypoints that were located from the emergency response center. These were automatically sent from the GPS feature on the Garmin inReach. 

 Not every emergency results in a helicopter rescue

Many people assume that activating an SOS signal means you need a rescue right away, however this is not the case. Activating an SOS signal when you are in a dangerous or unknown situation can be helpful to alert emergency services that you may need help in the impending future or you need advice on whether you can safely continue your hike. If you become lost, injured, or are sick or you are at the mercy of a natural disaster, it may be wise to alert emergency services earlier rather than later so they can give you the proper advice. They may tell you that you should evacuate yourself out of the area (self evacuate), or they may send someone to hike into your location to evacuate you out and of course, in extreme rescue situations, you may need to be evacuated by a helicopter. There are no absolutes, no black and white areas and many of these are judgment calls that you must make while you are in the outdoors. Go with your gut feeling and do what you feel is right.

 Marmots are one of the largest members of the squirrel family. They can be two feet in length and weigh up to 11 pounds. Their large body size is an adaptation to the cold, high elevation sites in which they live. Marmots have reddish-brown fur and a yellow belly, from which they get their name. They are related to woodchucks and groundhogs in other parts of the country.

Marmots are one of the largest members of the squirrel family. They can be two feet in length and weigh up to 11 pounds. Their large body size is an adaptation to the cold, high elevation sites in which they live. Marmots have reddish-brown fur and a yellow belly, from which they get their name. They are related to woodchucks and groundhogs in other parts of the country.

For those of you who have asked me about whether I will be hiking with these folks in the future, the answer is No.

I am currently leading a Mammoth backpacking trip and a have a summer filled of outdoor adventures. When will I be hiking a 14er again? Soon! I am planning to hike Mt. Langley and Mt. Shasta in the near future. 

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you on the trails.

Xx,

Kristen 

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Hike Like a Girl: Periods and Peeing in the Backcountry

“You’re the reason I get up in the morning. That, and I need to pee.” 
― Darynda JonesSeventh Grave and No Body

 My recent 4th of July backpacking trip up to Cucamonga Peak to watch the fireworks. The sunset and sunrise were not that bad either. 

My recent 4th of July backpacking trip up to Cucamonga Peak to watch the fireworks. The sunset and sunrise were not that bad either. 

How to handle your period in the backcountry

If you spend a lot of time in the wilderness, you know first hand how annoying it is to be in the backcountry on your period. If you haven’t experienced this quite yet…just wait…it will happen. From menstrual cramps and mood swings to dealing with tampons and bloating, sometimes being female is rough but let’s be honest gals; guys could never do this on a monthly basis. We are so much stronger than we allow ourselves to believe. I personally have the most excruciating cramps that sometimes I vomit from the pain, literally cry and curl up in a ball. I have tried every natural remedy on the market but I still to the tried and true ibuprofen, which is sold under the brand name Advil or Motrin. Ibuprofen is a pain reliever with anti-inflammatory properties that specifically triggers prostaglandins. Prostaglandin triggers symptoms of pain associated with inflammation and are produced, in high concentrations by your uterine tissue during menstruation and are primarily responsible for menstrual cramps. Ibuprofen works by preventing your body from making prostaglandins, thereby reducing your menstrual cramps. It is recommended by physicians to take 800mg of ibuprofen 2-3 times a day for pain and to begin 2 days before your cycle in order to prevent cramping. 800mg is the recommended dose to treat any sort of pain caused by inflammation and I strongly recommend and prescribe this dose to all my patients (who do not have gastritis or ulcers).

Tampons, menstrual cups, and pads…oh my

I personally do not have a problem using tampons while I am backpacking or hiking however you must follow the Leave No Trace guidelines and remember to change your tampon every 4-6 hours. Contrary to popular belief, altitude alone should not really affect your period flow but some people do notice changes when they travel to higher or lower altitude areas more likely due to the stress of travel, crossing time zones, change in sleep cycles, etc.

Menstrual cups: an alternative to tampons and pads

They’re usually made of silicone or natural rubber and you can use for one for your entire trip and beyond. Some popular brands are DivaCup, Softcup, Lily Cup, The Keepers and Moon Cup. This reusable cup captures your menstrual flow, which means you need to insert it and later remove it to empty out its contents. You can usually wear a cup for up to 12 hours straight without emptying it, however, this depends on how heavy your flow is as many women say they do empty it every 4 hours for heavy cycles. These cups come in different sizes so it is recommended you try this product for a couple of cycles at home so you can get used to the fit and used to inserting/emptying the cup before you go out into the wild.

Before inserting or removing the cup, be sure to wash your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water. Empty the contents of the cup and bury it just like you would any other human waste in a cat hole, which you should dig six to eight inches deep and 200 feet away from any water sources. If you are on a glacier or in a sensitive area where you need to use bags for human waste, instead of digging a cat hole, empty the contents of the cup into the waste bag. Then re-insert the cup and wash your hands again.

To clean your cup during the trip, wash it with warm water and oil-free soap if you can. You can also sterilize it in boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes. When cleaning your menstrual be sure to avoid using: vinegar, tea tree oil, scented/fragranced soap, castile/peppermint soap or any other oil based soap, rubbing alcohol, antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, pre-moistened wipes, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, dishwashing soap, bleach or harsh chemicals because these ingredients can slowly degrade the silicone and just imagine inserting hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol up into your girl parts… no, thank you. The cup needs to be stored in something breathable, so once your cycle is over you can keep it in the cotton pouch that comes with many cups or in another cotton or paper bag.

Disposing of tampons and pads in the backcountry

  • You must pack out all of your waste, yes that means used pads and tampons.
  • Bring the kind of tampons without applicators for less waste to pack out.
  • Make sure to have one bag for clean tampons and another well-marked waste bag for used ones. 
  • Store used pads or tampons ones inside a separate duct-taped waste bag and add dry tea bags or crumbled aspirin to control the scent.
  • If you are in the bear country or in another area with wildlife issues, you will need to place this bag in the container holding your food and other scented items overnight so that you do have odors drawing wildlife towards your tent.
 Sitting on top of the world watching the sunset. 

Sitting on top of the world watching the sunset. 

Peeing in the backcountry: from squatting and pee rags to the Freshette and pee bottles

  •  If you’re on a slope, pee facing downhill so it flows away from you and not back down onto your feet.
  • If it’s windy, try to pee so it flows in the same direction as the wind so it doesn’t get blown back at you.
  • Squat low to the ground with your heels in front of your bum, so you do not risk peeing on your hiking boots.
  • Always wipe. Drip-drying over time can lead to urinary tract infections or yeast infections, and wiping after going pee makes a huge difference in preventing these illnesses.
  •  If you use toilet paper or baby wipes, please pack these out using a Ziplock bag (I double these baggies)

The power of the "pee rag" 

You can also use a “pee handkerchief” aka a bandana and tie it on the outside of your pack to dry in the sun. To those who may question whether a pee rag is sanitary, consider that ultra-violet rays from the sun are one of the earth’s most powerful disinfectants. A pee rag on the outside of a backpack is probably cleaner than the toilet paper rolls in many public bathrooms.

Squeeze bottles for the win

You can also use a high flow squeeze bottle to clean yourself after you are done by squeezing water into your girl parts (the high flow is really important). Note: These high flow bottles also work great for flushing out any wounds or lacerations you may get while on the trails.

Pee like a boy: The Freshette

If you do not want to mess with squatting on the trail, the Freshette feminine urinary director is also an option. (To be honest, I have never used this device nor does it interest me, but I have lots of gal pals who swear by it.

The infamous pee bottle

If you’re pinned down in a snowstorm, the last thing you want to do is go out into blinding wind and snow at night to drop your pants and pee. This is where the pee bottle comes in, and there are some special tricks for this one. First of all, make sure you get the largest pee bottle possible so that you don’t have to get out and empty it any more than necessary. I like using an extra-large collapsible Nalgene Cantene. Use a permanent marker to label the bottle (I typically mark a skull and crossbones on it) so it doesn’t get mixed up with your regular water bottles. No matter what, make sure it’s collapsible and has a wide mouth.

 My favorite trail companion and spirit animal, Moo. 

My favorite trail companion and spirit animal, Moo. 

Remember to always pack out what you pack in and do your business 200 feet from the trail and/or water source. 

Thanks for reading!

See you on the trails,

Xx

Kristen

 

Eleven Essential Steps to Planning a Successful Backpacking/Camping Trip

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

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Planning a trip into the wilderness, whether you are backpacking or car camping requires a lot of thought. Thanks to the Internet and social media, humans are saturating the outdoors and as a result, the days of throwing on a backpack and hiking into the backcountry last minute, are long gone. Most trails and campsites now require permits, which can be booked up almost a year in advance and many of these permits are nearly impossible to come by when they can only be obtained through a lottery. From permits to packing and everything in between, there is a lot of planning that goes into seeking solitude in the wild and gracing Mother Nature with your presence.

I am a planner by nature. I plan my the majority of my year out well in advance, I write everything down in a Word document and I am the first person my friends and family call when they have a question about planning a trip. The other day, I even offered to pack my friend's backpack for our 4th of July trip next week. ( He politely declined and then I realized I was probably mothering him) Sorry, Matt!

I am currently in the process of planning four very involved backpacking trips and two car camping trips so I figured I will share all my secrets to my madness. I understand that not everyone plans their calendar out a year in advance or writes down every detail in a Word document but if you ever want any help, you know where to find me! 

Step 1: Time is of the essence

When planning a trip, it is important to first figure out how many days are required. Can this trip be done in a weekend? Is this a weeklong trip or is this a thru-hike that requires multiple weeks to months? You must also consider the time it takes to travel to and from your destination.  My rule of thumb is if I am flying anywhere or if there are more than 4 hours of driving involved, I automatically add an extra two days to the trip.  If you are traveling a far distance think about any side trips that are reasonably close. For example, I am backpacking The Lost Coast in September and since this a 12-hour drive, I have decided to split up the drive by camping at a State Park on the front end and at a National Park on the backend. Sometimes side trips can not only break up the driving/traveling time but they are a great excuse to see new places as well.

Step 2: Seasons

Summer is the most popular time of year to backpack and camp and therefore if you are planning an adventure during this season, you will most likely need to book a permit or a campsite 3-9 months in advance.  For off season adventuring, make sure you are prepared for any weather that may come your way (rain, snow, hail) and be prepared to travel in these conditions (make sure you have chains on your car or be prepared for flights delays). I personally love winter camping, however, I do not drive in snow so I usually head up to Mammoth last minute when the roads are clear and when there are no impending storms. If I am flying somewhere to go skiing, I make sure I can fly into the town and take a shuttle to my ski resort. This way, I am not driving on roads in dangerous weather conditions. If you plan to hike in the snow, make sure you have the right gear (crampons, ice ax, microspikes etc.) and always check the trail conditions before you head out.

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Step 3: Playing your odds at permits: Apply early

If you’ve got your eye on a popular National Park day hike or epic backpacking trip, you’ll want to pay close attention to the permit deadlines and processes. There’s nothing worse than getting your gear and planning everything out only to find out you missed the permit deadline and reservations are full. Keep in mind that backcountry permits are for backpacking (hike-in sites) and camping permits are you typical drive-in tent camping sites.

Permits are A BIG DEAL. Most campsites and backpacking trips require some sort of permit, whether it is a walk up permit or an advanced permit, this piece of paper is the determining factor of when you are going to go on your trip. My rule of thumb is look into permits for popular destinations at least 6-7 months in advance, preferably 7-8 months as some permit applications open up 6-7 months in advance. Mark the date on your calendar pertaining to the start date for permit applications and apply on that day, first thing in the morning as many permits fill up within minutes to hours. 

National Parks: Advanced reservations are always required to camp at most National Parks but some sites are first-come first serve. First-come, first-served sites become full at the blink of an eye so I prefer to always have an advanced reservation. Popular National Parks such as Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, and Zion usually require reservations 3 months to 6 months in advance and fill up immediately. If you plan on visiting a popular National Park, research when reservations open and set an alarm for that day to ensure the best possible odds of obtaining a campsite or a permit.  Visit Recreation.gov, enter in the National Park you want to visit and select the specific campsite of your choice. Again, you may have to choose “next available dates” as many sites become booked up months in advance for popular National Parks.

BLM: Bureau of Land Management areas are first-come, first-serve for campsites and are usually free (or minimal cost) however some areas such as the Lost Coast require a permit through Recration.gov so be aware that just because you are adventuring on BLM land, you may still be required to apply for a permit. For more information on planning a trip on BLM land visit their website.

National Forests: Depending on the location, some national forests require a walk up permit at the time of your trip, however, many National Forests require permits to be mailed or faxed, in advance.  For popular National Forests, advanced permits are required and will book up fast (think permits for Big Pine Lakes, Thousand Island Lakes, Rae Lakes Loop etc.)

Recreation.gov will become your best friend for National Forest permits. To search wilderness permits, enter the National Forest you will be entering. For example, Big Pine Lakes is in Inyo National Forest. On the left-hand side under filters, click on “permits”. You can then enter the specific trail, dates and group size. If all the dates are reserved, you can search “next available dates”

State Parks: Backpacking or car camping in state parks require an advanced permit.

California has a new reservation system starting 2018 for California State Parks

Wilderness permits: Within a National Forest, there are specifically designated wilderness areas. For example, The San Bernardino National Forest has eight designated wilderness areas including San Gorgonio, Cucamonga, San Jacinto, Santa Rosa, Bighorn Mountain, Cahuilla Mountain, South Fork San Jacinto and part of the Sheep Mountain wilderness.  Wilderness permits are usually not required for day hikes but may be required for overnight hikes. All permits are highly recommended as a safety precaution (you are accounted for in case a Ranger needs to find you).

Lottery permits: These are fun, not. From Half Dome and The Wave to Rim-to-Rim, Mt. Whitney and Havasupai, popular destinations often require a permit that is drawn by lottery (luckily, I have scored permits to all these place and persistency is the key).  This means on a certain date (depending on the specific location), you are required to fill out an application, pay a fee and either email, fax or USPS your permit application and wait for a “Yes” or “No” response. These lotteries are drawn at random and sometimes you can get lucky on the first try or sometimes you have to keep on trying. I always advise to keep on trying and apply for dates that are during the off-season. The website where you fill out your permit application will usually have statistics on which dates are more popular (you will have lower odds of snagging a spot the more popular the dates are).

Thru hiking permits: Depending on which trail you want to complete, you must apply through the designated system. For example, if you are applying to the hike the John Muir Trail from North to South, you apply directly from the Yosemite National Park website.  If you are applying to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, there is a specific website that is listed here to apply for permits.

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Popular permit deadlines

  • Inyo National Forest Permits: Most trails can be reserved 6 months in advance
  • John Muir Trail: 24 weeks in advance of your entry date
  • Yosemite National Park: Campground reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. Be aware that nearly all reservations for the months of May through September and for some other weekends are filled the first day they become available, usually within seconds or minutes after 7 am.
  • Mount Whitney Lottery: Permit application lottery begins February 1st
  • Half Dome Lottery: Permit application lottery begins March 1
  • Death Valley Furnace Creek Campground: 6 months in advance. The most popular time to visit in October-May.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: 6 months in advance. The most popular time to visit in October-May.
  • Joshua Tree National Park backcountry permits: Walk up/first-come first-serve
  • Trans-Catalina Trail: Permits are available approximately a year in advance. Trail permits are free however campsite reservations require a fee per person/per night. You must also book your boat reservations in advance.
  • Pacific Crest Trail long distance permit lottery: Applications open on February 1st with 35 permits issues per day. PCT additional long-distance permit application: February 16th with an additional 15 permits becoming available per day.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park backcountry permit: March 1
  • Grand Teton National Park backcountry permit: Jan-May 15
  • The Enchantments: February 15. Overnight permits required from May 15 to October 31st
  • Glacier National Park backcountry permits: March 1
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park backcountry permits (this includes the High Sierra Trail): March 1
  • Sequoia and Kinds Canyon campsites: 6 months in advance
  • Mount Rainer National Park backcountry permit: Applications are open and processed in random order until April 1 when they start processing permits on the order they are received. This includes the Wonderland Trail
  • Grand Canyon National Park backcountry permits: Permit applications are accepted about 10 days before the first of the month that is four months prior to the proposed start date.
  • Zion National Park backcountry permits: 3 months in advance
  • Subway permits for Zion: 3 months in advance
  • Zion National Park Campsites: 6 months in advance
  • Canyonlands National Park backcountry permits: 6 months in advance
  • Yellowstone National Park campgrounds: May 1st for the following summer season (about one year in advance)
  • The Wave: The Wave permit applications are accepted starting at 12 pm MST on the 1st of the month and for the remainder of that month, four months prior to your desired hiking month.

Are your permits being sent to you in the mail? Are they emailed to you? Or do you have to pick them up in person? If you have to pick up your permits in person, I suggest doing this the day before you arrive as Ranger Stations have set opening and closing hours.

Step 4: How many miles per day?

Before you set out on your adventure, it is good to have an itinerary of how many miles you plan on hiking/backpacking each day. Most people backpack between 3-10 miles each day. If a backpacking trip is 25 miles, it is best to take 2-3 nights depending on your pace.

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Step 5: Type of trail: loop, out and back or one-way?

For one-way hikes, you must plan transportation when you finish the trek. Shuttle two cars; hitchhike back to your car; or, pay for a local shuttle service, if one is available. For The Lost Coast and Rim to Rim, I reserved a spot on the shuttle. For shuttle services, make sure you reserve early and check the minimum number of passengers, as many shuttle services will not depart unless they meet the minimum passenger requirement.

 Step 6: Mapping it out

You must always map out your trail on a navigation device. I use GAIA GPS and use my Garmin inReach Explorer for backup.

When you are creating your map, make sure to add waypoints for campsites and where water is available. For information about navigation and apps check out my blog post.

Step 7: Campfires and stoves

Are campfires permitted? Are stoves allowed? Do you need a stove permit? If campfires are allowed, can you purchase wood there or do you need to reserve it in advance. For Trans Catalina, you must reserve wood and water in advance at Parson’s Landing and Two Harbors. For information on how to make a fire, check out my blog post.

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Step 8: Gear

Is a bear canister required? Do you need to filter your water? Do you need gaiters? Think about any gear upgrades or necessary items you need to purchase and make the purchase in advance so you can try the gear before you go. For information on water filters or treating water check out my blog post. Make a packing list, have a system down and pack early. I usually am embarking on back-to-back trips so I always have a method to my madness when packing. I make lists, do my grocery shopping ahead of time and always pack the day before to make sure everything is in order. Make sure all of your gadgets are fully charged.

For all my tips and tricks on backpacking gear, check out my blog post “ My Favorite Backpacking Best Kept Secrets”  

Step 9: Emergency Contacts

Always give out your itinerary and coordinates to a close friend or family member so just in case something does happen they know who to reach. I always send an email to my brother with my itinerary, coordinates and emergency numbers and give him a timeframe of when I will be in contact with him.

Step 10: Check the trail, road and weather conditions

Always check for road closures, trail closures, flight delays and current and future weather conditions as these can change on a daily basis. Make sure you have the right gear and have a backup plan. In terms of my upcoming Lost Coast backpacking trip, my hike each day is literally is scheduled around the tides. I must hike within a certain window so I am not in the danger zones during high tide. I will be re-checking the tide schedule in relation to my hiking schedule with a ranger before I set off on my trip. If you are an avid snow hiker, be sure to look out for avalanche warnings. 

Step 11: Meet and chat with the ranger

You usually have to check into a campsite or pick up a permit at a ranger station so it is always important to chat with the ranger on duty. I personally like to chat with him or her, just in case something happens, hopefully, he/she will remember me. Here are some questions topics to ask the ranger before you head out on the trail:

  • Current and impending weather conditions
  • Trail conditions
  • Recent sightings of bears/mountain lions
  • Trail closures
  • Bathroom etiquette (usually this is standard but for the Lost Coast, they want you to make your cat hole literally on the beach).

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

Xx

Kristen

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Chafing the Dream: Best Kept Secrets to Prevent Chafing on the Trails

“After tens of thousands of years of evolution, how has mankind got to point where thigh-chafe is still a thing?”

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Take clothing with seams, add body parts of any size or shape, a backpack shoulder harness and hip belt, heat, humidity, constant movement and what do you have? Chafing. Active women know all about this and I am here to share all the tips and tricks to prevent this nasty irritation.

The where what and why of chafing

Chafing is an irritation to the skin caused by friction, usually skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin. This friction will eventually cause enough irritation that it will injure your skin, resulting in a rash, blisters or raw skin. Severe chafing can be extremely painful, making movement difficult.

Chafing commonly occurs in body areas that are in constant motion so think under the arms, on the inner thighs, between our butt cheeks, on our nipples, on our feet, and in the groin area; basically, all the areas that make anyone uncomfortable to talk about.

As women, we naturally have more body fat than men so it is no surprise that the skin on our nipples and between our buns is often irritated and so many of us are embarrassed to talk about it. I mean seriously, I have had blisters from chafing in areas that I didn’t even know existed (I will spare you the details but so many of us have been there).

How to Prevent Chafing

  • Check for fit. Make sure your clothing and pack are the right sizes. If you chafe at a certain strapline, it could be because your shirt is too baggy or your pack doesn't fit. If adjusting the fit doesn't work, add padding, such as foam pieces, to your shoulder straps.
  • Wear synthetic fabrics. Clothing that wicks moisture away from the skin significantly reduces chafing. If your inner thighs chafe, try wearing spandex bicycle tights. Don a pair of hiking shorts over the spandex if you're shy.
  • Lube yourself up. If you chafe in a particular place, slather on a lubricant such as petroleum jelly before the rubbing starts. Think in between your skin folds, in between your toes, on the bottom of your feet, under your armpits, between you inner thighs and don't forget your bum and groin area.Keep the lube tube handy while you're hiking so you can reapply at the first sign of a hot spot. I literally lube my feet and many other body parts before every hike. In fact, I carry a small container of petroleum jelly in my first aid kit.
  • Wipe your bum. Again, nobody wants to talk about this but it’s real. Dried excrement can be a nasty skin irritant, especially when it’s mixed with your perspiration and constant friction. Yuck! Prevention is key and baby wipes come in handy quite often here. Remember to always pack out your toilet paper and wipes.
  • Keep your body clean. Keeping your body clean is one of the best things you can do on the trail to avoid chafing. The salt in your sweat, which rubs against your skin, often causes chafing. For obvious reasons, washing on a regular basis helps prevent this. Focus on vulnerable body parts, such as armpits, butt, and crotch.
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Popular anti-chafing creams

Vaseline petroleum jelly

Generic brand Petroleum jelly (the cheapest option)

Squirrels Nut Butter

Bodyglide

Gold Bond Friction Defense

ChafeZone Chub Rub

Underwear

  • The most important way to prevent butt and thigh chafing is to wear synthetic underwear; compression shorts, or lined running shorts that will not absorb moisture. This means NO COTTON underwear. Cotton absorbs your sweat when you hike and sticks to your skin. The seams of cotton underwear will then scrunch up between your thighs and rub your skin raw.
  • Keep your thong underwear at home
  • I swear by Patagonia Barely Hipster
  • I have also heard from many outdoor women that ExOfficio makes great underwear as well.
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Finding the perfect sports bra

  • Chafing: Make sure there is no chafing around the armholes, shoulder straps or seams. If the bra has hooks or snaps, make sure those don't chafe, either.
  • Straps: You should be able to fit two fingers between the straps and your shoulders. It’s vital that the straps are secure and comfortable. If they’re too tight, they will dig in. If they’re too loose, they will not provide the correct amount of support and will move around or slip off your shoulders.
  • Band: Raise your hands over your head. If the band rides up, it may be too big. Try adjusting the straps or back closure. If that doesn’t work, try a smaller band size.
  • Cup: Your breasts should be centered and fully contained in the cups. Scoop them in and center them. Wrinkles or puckers in the fabric indicate the cup is too big. If breast tissue is pressed outside of the bra, that means the cup is too small, or that the style of bra is the wrong cut for your breast type.
  • Support: Test the bra's support by jumping or running in place. Your breasts should feel secure and supported. If there’s too much movement up and down or side to side, keep looking for a better-fitting bra.

I am not well endowed (34 B) so although these are my favorite sports bras, I truly believe everyone should get fitted according to the above guidelines before making this purchase.

Patagonia Barely Bra

Athleta Fully Focus Bra

Brooks

Under Armour Mid Crossback Sports Bra

Moving Comfort Luna Sports Bra

Shorts vs. Pants

I personally experience chafing when I wear shorts for long distances (10 miles or more) even if the shorts are made from synthetic material. The seams rub up against my inner thighs which causes irritation so if I am running or hiking over 10 miles, I prefer to wear pants. I have heard many other ladies share this same experience so my rule of thumb is, if you are chafing between your inner thighs and are wearing shorts; switch to pants.

How to treat chafing

Clean the affected area with water and antibacterial soap

Apply ointments over the affected area.  Zinc oxide cream, coconut oil and Vaseline work quite well for this purpose.

Do you have any chafing stories or tips to prevent or treat chafing? I would love to hear them

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails

xx

Kristen 

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

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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 see 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