Solo Adventuring in the Outdoors as a Female: Is it Safe?

An Open Letter to Every Woman in the Wild

"Feminism isn't about making women strong. Women are already strong. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength."

G.D. Anderson

A water crossing over Piute Pass July 2019

A water crossing over Piute Pass July 2019

  • “You are going by yourself?”

  • “Is it safe?”

  • “How do you protect yourself?”

  • “What if something goes wrong”?

These are just some of the many questions most females, including myself, are asked when we exclaim that we are going on a solo adventure. I see so many posts on social media about how so many women are nervous about hiking alone or how their partner will not allow them to adventure solo. This sense of fear and uneasiness makes me sad and I hope this blog can empower at least one female to get out there by her badass self and conquer any trail, crag or mountain she desires. The majority of the folks in the outdoors are extremely pleasant, friendly and humble but sadly there have been multiple cases this past year of physical and verbal attacks on women, and as a result we need to be smart.

Views of Mammoth August 2019

Views of Mammoth August 2019

Snow fields and sun cups for days July 2019

Snow fields and sun cups for days July 2019

The harsh reality of being female

As females, we live in a society where unfortunately we are taught from a very young age to always be “on guard”, to pay attention to our gut feeling and to be careful. I grew up with a badass younger brother and we were both raised by the strongest woman I have ever met and although it was always instilled in me that I should be aware of my surroundings and be in touch with my intuition, I never grew up in a household where fear was instilled. My mom never taught me to be scared of certain people or of certain environments and I think this is one of the main reasons why I live a very fearless and a very fulfilling life. She told me from day one to be independent, to make my own money, to stand up for myself and to “never let a boy touch you where you do not want to be touched and if he does, punch him in the mouth”. My mom says some ridiculous things!

Yes of course, as women, we always have to be on guard and sadly, men do not understand this. We have to wait for our Uber inside the bar just to be safe, watch our backs in a gas station at night, be weary of being date raped at parties or bars, be mindful when we are walking or running at night or walking through a parking lot, walking to our car etc. In other words, as women, we must always be careful and mindful of our surroundings even if we are not fearful. Guys do not understand the risks we, as women, take on a daily basis. I have had conversations with my brother and best guy friends and have asked them if they ever worry about being mugged or attacked while walking down the road or walking home; men simply do not need to take the same precautions we do. Is it fair? Nope. Is it reality? Yep! I have had friends who have been attacked and raped and I am sure many women who are reading this are victims themselves or know of victims. It is the sad reality and my heart goes out to every female who feels she is no longer safe, but I truly believe being safe in the “real world” and being safe on the trail are two very different things that simply cannot be compared. Trail safety is a thing, a big thing, but this should never ever discourage you from getting out there on your own!

Deer Lakes August 2019

Deer Lakes August 2019

But are we safe on the trails?

When I am asked if I feel safe going into the wilderness by myself, I often chuckle, roll my eyes and make a snarky comment about how I am more at risk of getting into a car accident on the freeway or having an unsafe encounter in a gas station at night. As women, we are always at risk, and more so in populated cities and public places. I have had a handful of dangerous encounters with creepy men in big cities but when I am on the trail, I feel so much more at ease.

Guys play a major role in women empowerment

I know a lot of men who do “not allow” their significant others to go hiking, climbing, skiing or backpacking alone. I say dump these dudes, seriously! But in reality, it is totally normal for our loved ones to be concerned about our safety, happiness and well-being. But seriously, guys please support your female partners in their solo adventures in the outdoors. You can play such a huge role in empowering the women in your lives!

Duck Lake August 2019

Duck Lake August 2019

A stunning alpine lake at sunset

A stunning alpine lake at sunset

My definition of “glamour shots”

My definition of “glamour shots”

Getting personal: How do I protect myself on the trail?

Conceal and carry…or not

I am often asked if I carry a weapon or pepper spray and the truth is I do not. I do not feel I am in any sort of danger on the trail to the extent that I have to go to these extreme measures. I truly believe the outdoors is a safe place and with enough street smarts, grit and intuition, we as women, can conquer the trails.

I once considered (for about 10 minutes while standing in Moab Gear Traders in Utah) purchasing a knife but in reality I truly believe I will not be able to get to my weapon in a timely manner to actually do something to my attacker. I wonder “if my attacker saw my weapon, would he be more prone to shoot me right there?” Fumbling with a knife, even if it is in my pants or attached to my body or grabbing my pepper spray off my pack strap makes me wonder, “can I potentially cause more harm to myself because of my slowed reaction time, and my clumsy hands combined with potentially making my attacker more violent”? I also wonder, “what if they grab my weapon and use it on me?” I personally am extremely anti firearms of any sort (please refrain from the gun debate and politics) so carrying a gun is just not my jam.

With that said, I have many girlfriends who do carry a weapon on the trail and I believe if it makes you feel safe and if you are comfortable using your weapon (and actually know how to use it), then by all means, go to town…

Wear headphones…sort of

My main line of defense is my wit, my gut, my two fingers and my 12-pound terrier mix. Let me explain. I get around, literally. I have traveled all over the world and have hiked thousands of miles in the backcountry by myself so I can handle a creepy dude here and there. For the most part, I do wear headphones on the trail because I simply do not want to be asked a million questions about my pup, but what many do not know is I rarely have any music on. A tactic I picked up while traveling across India by train. People think you are unaware of what is going on around you because you are listening to music, when in fact, you know exactly what is happening but just do not want to be bothered.

Sure, I will smile and wave and have the one off conversation here and there on the trail but my solo outdoor time is not my idea of a happy hour.

Side note: If I do have music on, I only have one ear bud in so I can be aware of my surroundings while jamming out to some nonsense Justin Bieber. For that same reason, I do not wear earplugs when I sleep on the trail. I want to be able to hear if something or someone is out there and I want to be able to hear my dog bark.

Follow your gut

This leaves me to my next line of defense, my intuition. I can smell a creepster from a mile away. If you are a dude on the trail who is giving me the creeps then I will kindly step aside and let you hike in front of me. I may even sit down and eat a snack and watch my pup run around in circles. Basically, I do not want any creepy dudes behind me, ever. I feel that if they are in front of me, I have the upper hand.  I seldom tell people I meet on the trail where I plan to camp that night, sure sometimes I meet some incredibly rad people and I want nothing more than to tell them my life story and become best friends but I vibe it out. If my gut is telling me, “this guy is cool and is harmless” then I have no problem talking about my journey. But if I meet a creepster who wants to know where I am camping or where I am hiking to, I will often make something up or simply respond, “not sure yet, wherever Mother Nature takes me”.  In terms of camping, I have unfortunately camped next to some creepy dudes (who set up camp after me). I considered moving my tent but did not feel I was in any imminent danger. I have had friends who have straight up, picked up camp and moved because they pitched their tent next to creepy McCreepster. Do not hesitate to move your tent, trust your gut.

Go for the eyeballs

My pointer finger and middle finger on my right hand are my secret weapons. I have been told by many self-defense instructors to go for the eyes. If I ever get into a situation where I feel physically threatened, these two fingers will take out someone’s eyesight. I can guarantee that.  Sometimes I tell my guy friends this and they tell me “Kristen, you need to stop going around telling people this, it is weird”. Sure it is super weird, but I know any guy can physically overpower me but not one guy is going to physically overpower me when he is blind. Let’s talk about self-defense classes because I am a huge fan of these. I think it is super empowering for women to learn how to get out of violent physical holds by men and I encourage every woman to take one of these classes.

Get an “attack” dog

If you did not know, I am overly obsessed with my pup, Moo. She is the cutest, sweetest, hilarious and most adventurous canine I have ever met. Although she has no viscous bone in her body (and she weighs 12 pounds) she sure does know how to spot creepsters. She is by no means an attack dog and she rarely ever barks, but every so often she will stand next to me and bark at a random individual on the trail until he/she is literally out of our sight. She has chased weird men out of my campsite and she makes it very obvious she wants nothing to do with you if she senses you are a creepster. I have hiked almost 1,000 miles with my pup so I am incredibly in tune with her as she is to me, especially in the outdoors. We are a team! Dogs can truly keep you a little bit safer on the trail and I feel so much more at ease when she is with me.

Moo, the “attack dog”.

Moo, the “attack dog”.

Whistles, alarms and air horns

I actually have a whistle on my running pack and my backpacking pack (but not any of day packs, useful huh?). I actually have these two whistles to scare off furry creatures rather than creepsters but a noisemaker is always a good idea to alert that you are in potential dangers. Growing up my mom always used to carry this heavy “rape whistle” on her keys. She would even tell me, at my ripe age of 9 years old, it was a rape whistle and it sort of made me chuckle but as we get older, we clearly become more like our mothers, right?

I have seen people carry alarms that attach to their back pack strap and also know people who carry mini air horns; which I think are way less annoying than the constant jingling of those damn bear bells!

Crags for days…

Crags for days…

In my backyard…

In my backyard…

Other safety precautions to take when you are solo adventuring

  • Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to be back and who and when to call in case they do not hear back from you.

  • Baby steps: maybe start with a 2-mile solo hike first to build up your confidence

  • Know your limits

  • Have some experience in the backcountry before you adventure solo

  • Be knowledgeable about back country navigation

  • Carry a photo ID on you.

  • Carry a Garmin InReach, it can truly save your life.

I recently had a guy friend tell me that if women needed to carry a Garmin InReach in case they needed to activate the SOS button, then they probably should not be in the outdoors. I thought this was one of the most ignorant comments I have ever heard. No matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are, Mother Nature is stronger, faster and wiser and there may be a time when you need to activate your SOS button and do not ever feel ashamed for that.

For a review and my personal experience using my Garmin inReach, I have included both links.

I am the first person to jump in an alpine lake…

I am the first person to jump in an alpine lake…

Wildflowers in the Eastern Sierras

Wildflowers in the Eastern Sierras

Remember, you are a QUEEN

Of course, tragedies do happen because well there are creepy guys everywhere, even in the wilderness. But in my 16 years of adventuring solo I have had two encounters in the backcountry where the hair on my neck stood up and my gut was twisting and tumbling. As women, we are the queens of intuitive feelings however often times we do not follow our gut and we end up in danger. So my biggest word of advice when adventuring in the backcountry solo is TRUST YOUR GUT. If something just feels off, then it probably is so either take a different trail, allow the weird creepy dude to go ahead of you, move your tent to a different campsite or worst case scenario, get off the trail. But never allow fear to keep you from getting into the wilderness by yourself. You are more likely to be hurt driving on the freeway, walking home at night or going out to a bar. I truly believe with my whole heart that solo adventuring as a female is not only safe but incredibly rewarding and empowering and I encourage every woman to get out there on her own and experience it for the first time.

Packed Moo in on mile 11 out of 15. The previous day she did 12 miles.

Packed Moo in on mile 11 out of 15. The previous day she did 12 miles.

To read more on why I love traveling solo, here is another cheeky but informative blog post written by yours truly on why women should embrace their bad-asser-y more often!

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass."Maya Angelou

Thanks mom, for instilling this sense of empowerment in me!

(I honestly do no even know if she is aware I have a blog)

Hope to see you on the trails

Xx

Kristen

Social Media and the Outdoors: The Third World War

Dear Girls Across the Globe,
Let's stop body-shaming each other with hurtful comments about how another girl looks or doesn't look. We are all beautiful in our own unique way; so let's speak about each other with the dignity that we would want others to have when they speak about us.
” 
― Miya Yamanouchi, Embrace Your Sexual Self: A Practical Guide for Women

Trying to get that perfect shot for the ‘gram =) But more importantly, I finally bought a real CAMERA. The Sony alpha 6000 is my new child. I cannot wait to share some of the photos I have taken with this camera! I plan on using this as my everyday camera in Africa and hoping to take some stellar safari shots.

Trying to get that perfect shot for the ‘gram =) But more importantly, I finally bought a real CAMERA. The Sony alpha 6000 is my new child. I cannot wait to share some of the photos I have taken with this camera! I plan on using this as my everyday camera in Africa and hoping to take some stellar safari shots.

Most of us can probably agree that social media is CRAZY. Filters, poses, rose colored glasses, the perfect outfits, hair and makeup just to post that perfect photo on the ‘gram and potentially risk falling off a cliff (too soon?) is a just a bit over the edge (no pun intended). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good photo, a funny caption and an inspiring story and I have met some great people through social media but the amount of back and forth on whether or not social media is good for the outdoors seems to be a hot debate (just Googling “social media and the outdoors” brings up a plethora of well-written blogs and articles by some very well known magazines and outdoor authors). I have seen people get in fights on social media over this topic (keyboard warriors who fight behind screens) and I have read a lot of great and not so great articles on this topic and yes overcrowded trails do lead to destruction but I truly believe there is an underlying issue here that goes beyond the outdoors.

 One camp argues that social media is ruining the outdoors by overcrowding the trails, creating more human impact on Mother Nature, and advertising all the earth’s “secret spots” to the general public, thanks to geotagging (just the debate over geotagging makes my head spin). They also argue that SAR missions have drastically increased in the recent years due to social media (I believe there are many more factors involved other than social media).  The opposing camp argues that social media is a great way to bring the outdoor community together and there is a lot more encouragement to get outside (especially for the younger generations). Also, most people did not grow up hiking and camping so they use social media as a way to gain education and insight on how to prepare for the outdoors (guilty as charged, if you are reading this blog).

 This one is for the mean girls

I personally have witnessed a surge in crowds in the outdoors, especially in National Parks over the years and yes, I believe outdoor adventuring has become a marketing fad but I also believe in the healing power of Mother Nature and if more people are experiencing serenity in the outdoors instead of the hustle and bustle in urban everyday life, isn’t that a good thing? Are people getting outdoors to enjoy the healing power of nature or are people getting outside just for the ‘gram? To be honest, I really don’t care because there are much bigger issues at hand.

Social media has a disturbing impact on everyday life and it is affecting female self-esteem in a negative manner.

I still wonder to myself, “does the general public understand that social media accounts are curated profiles?” THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE PEOPLE!

Haha told you these photos are curated!

Haha told you these photos are curated!

And reviewed and edited…

And reviewed and edited…

I have had many girlfriends tell me they have become depressed by looking at social media accounts because they feel as though their lives are not worthy, they are not good enough, not pretty enough, not adventurous enough and they are missing out on all the fun. I know people who are so obsessed with Instagram to the point they only hike with people who have a certain number of followers (umm exclusive much?) Instagram is no longer “instant” posts but curated photos that could be days, months and years old that people are most likely posting while lying in bed at home. Let’s not forget the hair, makeup and fake poses that are often depicted on top of Half Dome. I was in Yosemite last summer camping with a group of gals who would take an hour to get ready because they had to put on fake eye lashes so they could look good in photos they were posting on social media (I ended up spending most of the weekend by myself because I do not want to be around anyone who wears fake eyelashes in the outdoors).

What happened to real women in the outdoors getting dirty on the trails, climbing rocks and not giving a damn if their hair is messy and they have sweat stains under their arms? As women, shouldn’t we be bonding on the trails, posing for silly photos, sharing stories and drinking wine? Or are we seriously getting into nature to just have a library of beautiful photos on Instagram so we can judge each other and compare our lives to a complete stranger?

I truly believe instead of debating whether social media is ruining the outdoors, we need to focus on what social media is doing to women and our society. We are tearing each other down, fat shaming girls we don’t even know, comparing ourselves to women who spent an hour putting on fake eyelashes and attacking each other for taking topless photos (do not even get me started on what I see in the mental health and eating disorder world of social media).

 Let’s get real on social, shall we?

Let’s talk about our mishaps in the outdoors, our embarrassing moments, why we have found healing in nature and let’s educate the general public (in a positive manner) why we choose to get outside.

No matter what you see on social media, remember you are beautiful, stop comparing yourself to another individual’s highlight reel, post that photo of you with boob sweat on the summit, and please do not allow other people to tear you down.

Real life versus Instagram. I carry sheet masks with me when I camp, backpack and travel and I may or may not wear them in my tent, at camp or in the car.

Real life versus Instagram. I carry sheet masks with me when I camp, backpack and travel and I may or may not wear them in my tent, at camp or in the car.

A super dirty, sweaty and happy selfie…

A super dirty, sweaty and happy selfie…

Ehh… I am mildly obsessed with Smokey the Bear and I may have already been a bottle of Champagne in deep. Are my eyes open?

Ehh… I am mildly obsessed with Smokey the Bear and I may have already been a bottle of Champagne in deep. Are my eyes open?

 **For those of you wondering (and maybe even judging), YES I am on social media. I love using social media to connect with friends and family members and I find it incredibly useful for travel information, photography tips and it is a great way to stay in contact with people who I meet on the trails.  I also use social media as an avenue to share this blog as well as my Psychology Today Blog. Writing has been one of my passions since I was in grade school and I have learned to use my electronic pen and paper to share my thoughts, experiences, mistakes and lessons with others in hopes they can gain knowledge, self-esteem and maybe have a laugh or two. Do I deal with trolls and crazy people on social media? Yep, every damn day!**

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails,

Xx

Kristen

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

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 

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

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

-Benjamin Franklin

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

For those of us who struggle with numbers:

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

How much does water weigh?

1 liter of water = 1kilogram = 2.2 pounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

The culprits: primary types of waterborne pathogens

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

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

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

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

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When should I use a filter?

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

Examples of microfilters:

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

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

MSR MiniWorks EX water filter Pump filter system for individual use

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

Platypus Gravity Works filter system Gravity filter great for large groups

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

 When should I use a purifier?

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

Examples of purifiers:

SteriPEN Ultra water purifier Uses UV light to denature pathogens

MSR Miniworks EX purifying system Filter pump and chemical tablets

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

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

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

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The 101 of gathering water

The where…

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

What to avoid…

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

Leave No Trace Practices

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

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

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails,

xx

Kristen

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

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

-Harry Herbert Miller

Make sure to always have the proper footwear! 

Make sure to always have the proper footwear! 

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

Why do blisters form?

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

 Let’s talk about blister prevention…

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

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

Shoes

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

Socks

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

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

Clip and file your nails

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

Lubricate

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

 Cover your common blister areas

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

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

Sunrise vibes over Mt. Baldy 

Sunrise vibes over Mt. Baldy 

Preventing “ball of your feet” blisters

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

Preventing toe blisters

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

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

Blister treatment

To pop or not to pop

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

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

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

Blister dressing

  • Moleskin
  •  Second skin
  •   Duct tape
  •  Liquid bandage

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

Reinforcing Moleskin

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

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

Thanks for reading and hope to see you on the trails

xx

Kristen

 

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

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

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

    -The Doors

    Joshua Tree National Park 

    Joshua Tree National Park 

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

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

    Windproof/waterproof matches (keep in a plastic bag)

    Magnesium strike able fire starter

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

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

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

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

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

    Priming paste

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

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

    Commercially prepared wood soaked in wax or chemicals. 

    How to build a campfire

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

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

    Death Valley National Park 

    Death Valley National Park 

    How to get that campfire smell out of your clothes

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

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

    Cleansing With White Vinegar:

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

    Applying Baking Soda:

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

    For clothes that cannot be washed in the washer:

    Vodka spray:

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

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

    Lemon juice spray:

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

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

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

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

    We would love to know

    See you on the trails xx,

    Kristen 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Flood light vs. spotlight

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

    Brightness does matter

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

    Light modes

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

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

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

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

    Batteries: AA or AA or lithium?

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

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

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

    The following are a few great headlamps:

    Petzl Tikka Headlamp

    Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

    Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

    Lanterns

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

    MPOWEERD Inflatable Solar Lantern

    LuminAID PackLite Solar Lantern

    Black Diamond Moji Lantern

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

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

    xx

    Kristen