My Favorite Trails in Southern California: From Summits to Coastal Views

"As one went to Europe to see the living past, so one must visit Southern California to observe the future."

-Alison Lurie

Getting blown away on the Lost Coast Trail. Post coming soon about my incredible solo backpacking trip through this uninhabited coastline.

Getting blown away on the Lost Coast Trail. Post coming soon about my incredible solo backpacking trip through this uninhabited coastline.

Although I have lived and traveled around the globe, I am fortunate enough to call Southern California home.  I have camped, backpacked, ran and hiked my way through Southern California and over the years I have learned which trails to avoid (Peters Canyon) and which parts of Southern California are worth returning to time and time again. I have included hyperlinks to each trail for quick and easy access to trail statistics such as mileage, difficulty, route descriptions and elevation gain. 

Climb For Heroes 2018

Climb For Heroes 2018

Favorite trail for a snow hike: San Jacinto via Ariel Tramway to Wellman’s Divide

This is my favorite trail to snowshoe hands down and here is why; you do not need to worry about snow on the roads since you drive into Palm Springs and take the Ariel Tramway up to a winter wonderland. I can comfortably drive my 4-door sedan and I do not have to worry about snow chains (they are a major pain in the rear). I usually bring my trail crampons and my snowshoes after a snowstorm since I am never too sure how deep the snowpack will be at certain elevations. Since I know many of you are wondering, “what is the difference between snowshoes and crampons”? Here is the quick and dirty between the two:

Are you traveling over ice or hard-packed snow that your boots can’t penetrate? Is the terrain steep and slippery? Time to put on some crampons to dig into the snow and ice and provide maximum traction underfoot. For moderate terrain, you can get away with a lighter-weight pair of crampons (such as Hillsound Trail Crampons).

Are you dealing with unbroken (or mostly unbroken) snow-covered terrain where your boots are sinking in over the ankle tops? You are now in snowshoe and gaiter country, the snowshoes to reduce the amount you sink, the gaiters to keep snow out of your boots. (I own the Redfeather Hike 25 Women's Snowshoes)

Get there early and take the first tram up so you have fresh snow and no crowds. If you are unsure about the snowpack, there is a live camera on the website where you can check to see how much snow is on the ground! Make sure to fill out a permit at the Ranger station and check in with them to get a summit weather report (if you plan on summiting). I prefer to hike to Wellman’s Divide (about 4 miles from the tram) as the trail is fairly safe, moderate in elevation gain and the views are stunning. The weather can change quickly after Wellman’s Divide in the winter and oftentimes you will be required to carry an ice ax (and know how to use it) if you plan on summiting. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the tram, so Moo has not experienced this hike.

Winter Wonderland in San Jacinto

Winter Wonderland in San Jacinto

Favorite trail for sunsets and ocean views: Boat Canyon

If you know me, then you know how much I love this trail (I most likely have dragged you along with me). Boat Canyon trail is a 4-mile out and back, moderately rated trail in Laguna Beach with the most stunning ocean views THE ENTIRE TRAIL. No matter where you are on this trail, you can see the ocean! Since I have spent the past 3 years living in Laguna Beach, this trail is very near and dear to my heart. You can usually find me trail running this trail in time to catch the sunset on the way down while listening to Justin Bieber. I also love this trail because you can hike (or trail run) as far as your little legs desire as this trail connects to Bommer Ridge, which goes all the way through Newport Coast and into Irvine! In the spring, be sure to look for the “lawnmowers” aka the cute giant herd of goats that trim the brush to prevent fires. This trail is also good for sunrise hikes (I may or may not have sipped champagne at the top before 7 AM). Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on this trail, so Moo has not experienced this hike.

A little bubbly in the morning never hurt, right?

A little bubbly in the morning never hurt, right?

My "backyard" trail

My "backyard" trail

Favorite mountain trail for a sunset: Sitton Peak

This short hike off of Ortega Highway has the most incredible sunset views with layers and layers of mountains. The last ¼ of a mile is pretty brutal but just suck it up because the views are worth it. Bring a headlamp, a noisemaker, and hike in a group because there are lots of wild animals (including mountain lions). I solo hiked this at sunset with Moo, and although she was in my pack; we were being stalked by a mountain lion. To be honest, I would only recommend this hike to watch the sunset at the summit since there is nothing special about this trail (except for the view at the top). This trail (along with all the trails off of Ortega Highway) is dog-friendly! Bring your Adventure Pass.

Mountain layers, sunsets and sweet moments with my pup.

Mountain layers, sunsets and sweet moments with my pup.

Favorite trail for sunrise: Mt. Baldy

If you want to see one of the most spectacular sunrises you have ever seen, Mt. Baldy is your next destination. You can choose to set off for the summit in the middle of the night to make breakfast and enjoy a cup of coffee at the summit for sunrise or you can backpack this magical mountain and wake up for sunrise on the summit (I have done both). My preferred route is up AND down Devil’s Backbone and here is why; you can refill your water at the lodge, grab food, drink a beer and take the ski lift down to save your knees (and cut off 2.5 miles from that boring fire road). Let’s be honest though, Mt. Baldy is my absolute favorite mountain in SoCal and I can guarantee you I am hiking it in the snow, in the summer heat, in the fall and in the middle of the night. I have hiked from Bear canyon trail, Ski hut trail, Backbone trail and I am leading a group hike up Register ridge in October. Moo also thoroughly enjoys this mountain (hint: it is dog-friendly). If you haven’t figured this out yet, Moo is my dog. Bring your Adventure Pass.

Sunrise on the Baldy summit.

Sunrise on the Baldy summit.

Wine a summits go well together.

Wine a summits go well together.

Favorite trail for a quick overnight backpacking trip: Lower Moro Campground

I lead an overnight backpacking trip to this local campsite every year for gals who have never backpacked before or for gals who want to test out new gear. Although there is no water available at this campsite or along the trail (I recommend at least 5 liters and lots of wine for one night) there are pit toilets with toilet paper and cell phone service. Although you must make reservations for Lower Moro Campground on Reserve California, the specific sites are first come first serve so get there early, as there are only a couple sites with ocean views. This trail is 3.5 miles each way (I choose to hike the steepest way up and the route with stunning ocean views on the way back). Do not let this 3.5 miles fool you, with a overnight pack and the steep inclines it is a booty killer. I like this trail for first-time backpackers because if you have an emergency or are just plain OVER IT, it is relatively easy to evacuate someone off the trail.

Love these views from our campsite.

Love these views from our campsite.

Favorite trail for the butt and thighs: Mt. Baden Powell

With over 40 switchbacks, stunning views, the infamous Wally Waldron tree and the experience of hiking on the PCT, there is nothing to dislike about this trail (well except for the disgusting bathrooms). To be honest, I have seen a lot of trail destruction within the last year after this became an alternate peak for the popular “six-pack” but this trail (despite the crowds and trail destruction) remains one of my favorite trails in SoCal. It is relatively short, Moo can come along, it has some decent elevation gains for training and the views at the top are stunning. Bring your Adventure Pass.

Giving some love to Wally Waldron!

Giving some love to Wally Waldron!

Girls Who Hike OC group hike to the Baden Powell Summit.

Girls Who Hike OC group hike to the Baden Powell Summit.

Favorite trail to watch the stars while camping: Joshua Tree National Park

Although this is not a trail per say, Joshua Tree is the only National Park in Southern California and it is one of my favorite places to escape to for a night or two. The galaxies and constellations are jaw dropping and my neck hurts after every single trip because I spend hours just staring at the stars. There are lots of car camping sites (summer is first-come-first serve and Fall-Spring is by reservation) but I prefer to backpack out into the desert and set up a tent where no soul can find me. There are a few backpacking trails where you can fill out a permit at the trailhead and hike as far into the backcountry as your desert soul desires. Remember to always have a GPS device and drop a pin of your trailhead and backcountry campsite as many people go missing each year because it is SO easy to become disoriented in the desert. You must hike in all of your own water and like true backcountry sites, please remember to dig you cathole and always practice Leave No Trace.

Star gazing until our necks hurt.

Star gazing until our necks hurt.

Tents, Joshua Trees and Moo.

Tents, Joshua Trees and Moo.

Favorite long distance trail: San Jacinto via Deer Springs Trail

Just under 20 miles round-trip, this hike has it all; views, elevation, trees, wildlife, and campsites. I was completely taken aback when I hiked this trail in early summer of 2018 because it is just breathtaking. We chose to hike the Strawberry junction loop so we could experience new views and add some mileage and were not disappointed. There are a couple of streams to filter water but remember to start EARLY and bring a headlamp because this hike is long. Fill out your day permit at the Ranger Station up the road and don’t forget your Adventure Pass.

They named this ridge after me...

They named this ridge after me...

Views from the San Jacinto Summit.

Views from the San Jacinto Summit.

Favorite Thru-hike: Trans Catalina Trail

Hands down, this is a MUST do! From killer inclines, intimate beaches, jaw-dropping ocean views, bison on the trail to the yummy beer at Airport in the Sky. I had the ultimate pleasure of leading six other fabulous ladies on this 54-mile trail over 3 nights and 4 days in the fall of 2017 and I still get goosebumps thinking about our amazing experience. Make sure to book your campsites way in advance, grab your hiking permit online and book your boat ticket into Avalon and out of Two Harbors to make sure you get the first boat in and the last boat out. Also make sure that you order water and wood at Parson’s landing, visit Starlight beach at sunset and have wood delivered to your campsite at Two Harbors. If you want any further details about this dream trip, please reach out to me as I spent at least 20 hours making sure this trip went off without a hitch (okay so we dropped a few F-bombs and may have shed some tears along the way because this trek is HARD).

Loved this multi-day backpacking trip!

Loved this multi-day backpacking trip!

Solo Adventuring Tips for the Female Badass

#Adventurelikeagirl

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” – Albert Einstein

“I don’t know where I am going but I’m on my way.” – Carl Sagan

“I don’t know where I am going but I’m on my way.” – Carl Sagan

For those of you that know me, I LOVE traveling alone. It may sound weird at first and a little bit ‘loner-ish” but hear me out. I love making my own schedule, waking up and going to sleep whenever and wherever I want, having the option of meeting new people or not talking to anyone, being able to change my plans last minute, listening to audiobooks in the car or on the airplane and having the option to stay in lavish hotels or pitching a tent at a free campsite. Whenever I travel solo, I get to know myself a little bit more, become a bit more comfortable with being alone and feel so rejuvenated when I return home. I usually end up meeting a few rad people along the way too!

Is it safe?

I am often asked if adventuring solo is safe and my snarky response is usually along the lines of something like “it is safer than driving down the 405 freeway”, which in my opinion is true. I have traveled to other countries solo, camped solo, backpacked solo and road tripped across the country solo and I have definitely learned a thing or two about how to stay safe while traveling solo and making the most of my trip. In reality, no matter where you are in the world, you are never 100% safe. True, some cities and countries are safer than others but I truly believe that if you practice good judgment and have some street smarts (Don’t show your ignorance, fear, and vulnerability while on the road, it may encourage unwanted attention and invite others to take advantage of you), you will be just fine.  

I have many girlfriends tell me they are fearful of traveling solo because they may be unprepared or may find themselves in an unsafe situation, however, living in fear is scary in itself. You will not know if traveling solo will fill your soul until you step out of your comfort zone and try it. I promised myself after I graduated college that once a year I will travel internationally and travel somewhere within the United States where I have never been before. It has been 10 years since I have made this pact to myself, and I am still going strong.

“If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t understand how much bigger the world is.” – Angelina Jolie

“If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t understand how much bigger the world is.” – Angelina Jolie

“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling.” – Roman Payne

“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling.” – Roman Payne

How do you afford to travel so often?

I am often asked, “How do I afford to travel so often”. To be honest, I have an amazing career that I love that pays me well and gives me the freedom to work remote the majority of the time. I save a lot of my money because I do not go out to eat frequently, I rarely buy coffee out and I rarely shop for clothes. I literally spend most of my money on travel, sparkling water, wine, and skincare. I consider myself a minimalist as I do not like owning a bunch of things and I am that person that always has the same outfit on in every photo. I buy most of my clothes from consignment stores and will wear them until they have holes in them and I never buy processed snacks from grocery stores because they are overpriced and unhealthy. In other words, I have learned to spend my money on things that are important to me.

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” – John Muir

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” – John Muir

Traveling solo does not always mean you’re alone. Most often, you meet marvelous people along the way and make connections that last a lifetime.” – Jacqueline BoonIf

Traveling solo does not always mean you’re alone. Most often, you meet marvelous people along the way and make connections that last a lifetime.” – Jacqueline BoonIf

Tips and tricks for the most epic solo adventure

  • Have an itinerary printed out that includes your reservations, distance to each destination, stops along the way, and any other details you do not want to forget. I also email this agenda to myself and take screen captures on my phone.
  • If you are road-tripping solo make sure you have downloaded offline maps and a detailed description of your final destination and stops along the way as it is very possible you may lose cell signal. I am preparing for a 10 day solo road trip in Northern California where I will be backpacking The Lost Coast Trail and will stop at a few National Parks within the general area so I have a word doc with all my stops, campground reservations, hiking details, trail recommendations and of course a tide chart (since backpacking along the Lost Coast solely depends on the tides).
  • Always check the weather and plan accordingly. My parents recently canceled their trip to Hawaii a day before their flight because of the hurricane. So sad.
  • Make sure you always have at least 1/3 tank of gas as oftentimes you can drive for 40-60 miles without any service stations and running our of gas does not sound like a good time.
  • Carry essentials in case you run into car trouble. This includes an emergency first aid car kit, a flashlight, a warm jacket (in case you get stranded in the cold), a gallon of water (in case your car overheats), a spare tire, jumper cables and your roadside assistance card. Make sure you know how to use your jumper cables as you can do some serious damage if you do not use them correctly.
  • Always make sure you have plenty of snacks, water, caffeine and good music (or in my case, audiobooks). I usually order 3-5 audiobooks at the library before an upcoming trip so I have plenty of entertainment while I am driving. My rule of thumb at every gas station stop is I purchase two bottles of sparkling water, a coffee and a couple of bags of trail mix and gummy bears. I am a creature of habit and for many of my friends, who have been on road trips with me, know that I buy the exact same thing at every gas station.
  • Bring ear buds and a battery pack to charge your electronics. Ear buds come in handy especially on trains, airplanes and in long lines.
  • Always have a book… or three. For great book recommendations, check out this list of the top adventure books for women
  • Remember you can do laundry anywhere in the world so pack light. Whether you are hiking the John Muir Trail or you are adventuring to Africa, you can always wash your own clothes (in the case of the JMT) or pay a small fee to have your clothes washed. I have lived in India, Africa, the Caribbean, and Italy and I always was able to have my laundry done. Everyone around the world does laundry so there is no need to pack a new pair of clothes for each day you are adventuring. Contrary to the fashion magazines, it is totally okay to wear the same outfit two (or even three days) in a row.
  • If you go out to eat, grab a seat at the bar instead of a table (it is less awkward and you will meet lots of people eating at the bar).
  • If you get lost, take a deep breath, look at your map and center yourself. Everything is going to be okay and yes, you will make the wrong turn at least once. It happens to everyone.
  • Keep an open mind. Not every plan is going to work out and not every detail is going to go your way. There may be a wrench in your plans but the only thing you can control is your mindset and attitude. Keep an open mind and always be willing to make a new move.
  • Skip washing your hair, seriously, I never wash my hair when I am camping or backpacking no matter how many days I am out on the trails. When I am staying at a hotel or a rented apartment, I wash my hair once a week (my usual routine).
  • Do not ever forget your sunscreen (I actually carry most of my skincare regimen in travel size containers even when I am backpacking).
  • Always send a loved one at home your itinerary and tell them when they can expect to hear from you.
  • Baby wipes and face wipes are a must. I use Philosophy cleansing cloths for my face
  • If you plan on flying, always carry on, unless you are bringing camping gear or traveling internationally for more than 10 days. I use stuff sacks in my carry on bag and can fit up to a week’s worth of clothes in my carry-on without having to do laundry. Nobody likes waiting for luggage to come off the plane, paying for luggage or losing his or her luggage.
  • Do not venture out alone at night, always be diligent when you are pulling money out of the ATM, never carry too much cash or your passport on you, keep your valuable items in a safe at the hotel, and always trust your gut if you feel you are being watched or followed. I have been chased down twice in foreign countries and both incidences were at night and I saw the individual follow me out of my peripheral vision. I do not carry a weapon or pepper spray and I hope I will never need to.
  • Wear minimal or no jewelry and do not wear revealing clothing. 
  • Talk to people. It is amazing how many people you will meet whether you are backpacking alone or traveling internationally alone. People are usually very intrigued by solo female travelers and it is a great way to engage socially and learn some great tips about the trail or the city. 
  • If you are in a country where toilet paper is uncommon, always have a stash in your purse.
  • Charge all electronics before you hit the road and bring a backup battery pack (with an adapter for foreign countries if needed).
  • Take public transportation whenever possible to save money, save the environment, meet people and be adventurous. Taking public transportation helps you sharpen your navigational skills and many metro systems have apps you can download or you can always use Google maps offline to navigate the public transit system.
  • Buy a memento from your trip. I personally collect magnets for my fridge so I can save wedding invitations, printed photos and hand-written cards I receive in the mail. Some of my friends buy a patch, a pin or a t-shirt. If I am in a place that is known for their art or jewelry, you can bet I will be doing some damage on my credit card.
  • Always make a packing list so you do not forget anything.
  • Take lots of photos. Instead of taking selfies (I despise selfies) use your amazing people skills and ask someone to take a photo of you or instead of having to be in every photo, take a photo of your surroundings. 

A complete guide on planning a successful backpacking/camping trip

A complete packing list for any backpacking adventure

“An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other” – Norma Shearer

“An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other” – Norma Shearer

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berr

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berr

You are the one that possesses the keys to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness.” – Diane von Furstenberg

You are the one that possesses the keys to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness.” – Diane von Furstenberg

If you ever have any questions about preparing for a solo trip or would like to see one of my itineraries, feel free to reach out to me!

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you on the trails!

Xx,

Kristen 

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” – Mary Louise Alcott

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” – Mary Louise Alcott

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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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”. However having a backup topographical map and navigation unit separate from my phone is very useful and I personally recommend it for longer hikes or backpacking trips.

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, to get navigation, trip info and maps, which can die due to the battery, or extreme heat or cold. You can set rudimentary way points on this device without your phone.

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

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

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

 

    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