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Hikers and backpackers are often adventurers in many ways. A scroll through almost any Instagram feed will show you gorgeous images of exciting and beautiful places worldwide, most of which you yourself could visit. There is something ingrained in us as people that urges us to explore and treasure nature, whether that means mountaineering or soaking in the soothing life of mountains from inside a lodge window.

Recently, I moved overseas and was able to go snowboarding in a different country. Though I could not read most of the signs or communicate well with most of the people around me, I saw people enjoying the beautiful surroundings. I participated in something that is loved across borders and cultures.

In the past, hiking and being outdoors with people of other backgrounds, cultures, languages, and countries has been an incredible experience. It is not all relative to how much nature is valued in that context, or to how exciting the activity is. It is not solely about the pictures taken and ways that our own pride can be lifted by showing off the tall mountain we climbed or the exotic animals we saw. While I enjoy these things as much as anyone, they do not alone account for the extraordinary connection and leveling effect of nature on all people.

The outdoors are a place where equality is found. None of us can stop cold rain from falling, and we all feel basically the same way about it when backpacking. Where our daily lives in civilization are padded from all things out of our control, the outdoors are a place where we find ourselves experiencing things in the same way, at the same time, and with little or no ability to change them. Suddenly, we have feelings and desires in common. We are the same, working for the same things.

At least in the Western world, the term “polarization” is being thrown around quite a bit, and for understandable reasons. In politics, food, education, and so many minute things- people seem to be struggling more and more to find common ground. If you align with this thing, then you cannot even listen to someone who aligns differently. In some cultures, the chasms of social status and perceived roles keep people from finding common ground. There are too many divisions to count, but in the end, when it rains, none of us get to choose who it rains on.

The outdoors are where our true state is revealed, and where divisions and borders dissolve.

Wherever you are in the world, and wherever your adventures take you- embrace the ability to be natural and connect with others. Appreciate the life and beauty around you- after all, we are all nature too.

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People hike for many different reasons. Maybe you hike to get a tan, or maybe you hike because you love being in nature. For most hikers, there are multiple reasons to go explore the trail on any given day. Some days I hike to spend time with friends and get some exercise, and other days I hike to break free from my own mind.

Looking back, the hikes that I remember best and enjoyed most were on trails that I journaled on. Though taking a notebook and pen in your pack might seem frivolous or unexciting, trail journalling can transform your hiking experience, for any reason you are on the trail.

The most compelling reason to trail journal is the wholeness it creates. While you might tend to hike for fitness or to clear your mind, taking a few moments to set intention and focus helps connect your physical experience and mental/emotional state with your surroundings. Suddenly, you notice details that you would have passed by before. You find yourself tuned in to the natural world around you, and can move forward with a clear mind.

The beeping microwave and construction site down the street, the way your hair looks today and how many minutes until the next event- whatever daily things tug away at your hardest attempts to focus- begin to loosen their grip and fade away. Journaling is a way to guide yourself and make sure that this time is beneficial to you. It allows you an outlet and a record that can be accessed again later.


Though you can follow whatever pattern or guided journal you would like for journaling on the trail, here is a general guideline to help you begin writing on hikes.

 

Before the Hike

Gather the notebook or journal you would like to use and a pen.

Make a heading for the hike. Here you might want to put the trail name or the date. If you want the more detailed information about the trail itself to look back on later, like mileage and location, make headings for these items at the top.

Take a moment to set an intention for your hike. What do you want to do or see? What do you want to accomplish through this hike? Here are a few ideas for what could fit in this section:

  • To keep a steady pace for every mile of the hike.
  • To walk away with a clearer mind.
  • To understand the area and terrain better.
  • To keep a positive attitude and stay engaged through the hike.
  • To see a place or thing in a way I never have before.

 

On the Trail

With this intention in mind, begin your hike. If you have any moments or notes to add, pull out your journal and make a few short notes. Even if the notes are incomplete for the moment but you understand them enough to complete them later, take the time to jot them down before blazing onward.

Stop at one point, either decided before or during the hike, to spend time journaling. Personally, I like this point to be about halfway or further into the trail, giving myself time to think and experience and become a little bit tired. Here, write down what the hike has been like so far. Write down what is around you, and springboard into writing about your intention.

Begin with your surroundings, like the scents and textures, colors and sounds. Then move on to yourself. How are you physically? How does this place make you feel? Next, move to the intentions and goals your set pre-hike.

For example, if your goal was to keep a steady pace, how is it going? Is it becoming harder as you go? Can you think of any actions or mindsets that have helped you or held you back? What can you do to improve? If your intention was to clear your mind, write down things that are cluttering your mind. Write about why these things are bothering you, and how you can practice allowing yourself to let them go for the time being.

 

Finishing the Entry

Finally, after your hike, write a short report. Consider how it went, and if you met your intention or goal. Think through what went well, and what you can improve next time. Finally, and arguably most importantly, write about how you can take the time you had and things you learned back into daily life. It could be as simple as remembering to take time to clear your mind at work, or to make healthier choices through the day.

Trail journaling can change the way you hike and can have positive ripple-effects across your life off the trail. Whether you are a writer by nature or not, or if you follow this plan or create your own, I hope you give trail journaling a try and find yourself enjoying and benefitting from your hikes more than ever.

Enjoy your writing!

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Some trails are familiar, like a pair of cushioned slippers formed to your feet. Each turn is comforting and warm, as known as the pages of your favorite book. Some trails are rocky and wild, proving to you with every mile both the thrill of nature and your own limitations.

For different experience levels, locations, time constraints and moods, there are likely to be a variety of trails near you that meet your needs. With some helpful resources and considerations, finding the perfect hiking trail is easy.

Where to Research Hiking Trails

You can use a website or app to find trails no matter where you live. AllTrails and REI’s Hiking Project are two great places to begin searching trails. As hikers use trail profiles on these apps, they are able to rate and give reports from their experiences. For every level of hiker, the information can aid in making informed, realistic decisions. Where a beginning hiker could discover local trails with simple navigation, a hiker looking for significant elevation gain would find the mile-by-mile altitude report most helpful.

Read through some recent reports on the trails you are interested in to find out what gear you might need to bring along, if there are confusing sections of the trail, or what unexpected circumstances (like parking fees or road closures) could affect your hike.

As you are looking through the resources, you will notice difficulty ratings on each trail. Take these with a grain of salt, as they are rated by the creator of the trail’s profile. Instead of trusting the rating alone, consider all of the hard facts given about the trail, and make your own decision about its level with your fitness, gear, and experience in mind. More information for you to make the best call for your hike will come in the next section.

In some less-visited areas, resources like these do not have enough information to plan a hike around. If you find yourself in that situation, call a local ranger station for help planning a day hike. In most hiking areas, there are also trail guides or books of trails and maps available to guide you in choosing a hike. Scout out local libraries and outdoor shops for these, being careful to note how recently the resources were published- sometimes trails can change! If you get your trail information from a print source, be sure to call the ranger station to find out more about current trail conditions before setting off.

In highly-trafficked areas like popular National Parks, take some time to research what trails are busiest at what times. If you are looking for a little more solitude, try beginning earlier in the day or doing a short hike in the afternoon or evening. In areas like this, Visitor Centers are excellent resources for finding trails just right for you on any given day! Take advantage of maps, guide books, and the staff suggestions to get a complete picture of the area and options open for you.

 

What To Look For in a Hiking Trail

The first items on your trail-finding checklist should center around what you can do safely. Begin with a weather report from as close to the trail as possible on the day you want to hike. Are you prepared for the weather that day? Notice the highest elevation of the trail. Will you be ready for the cooler temperature and wind that come with higher elevation?

Next, consider the trail itself. Is it mostly dirt, or rocky and rough? Will there be wet, muddy sections or ice, and are you prepared to handle these conditions? When in doubt as a beginner call for recent information or choose another trail.

Navigation ease is a crucial consideration, especially for beginning hikers. The trail you are hoping to hike could have excellent signage and clear-cut directions, or it could be confusing to those without a detailed map and some navigation experience. Often, this is impacted by the managing organization of the area. While National Forests tend to require more skills and preparation, State or National Parks are typically well-marked and easy to follow. When starting out, one of the most helpful skills to begin building is topographical map reading. Though there are simple GPS resources available, try printing a map of even well-marked trails from Caltopo.com. As you hike, pull out the map and become familiar with contour lines, and how to locate yourself using the details on the map and your surroundings. Starting early with map reading can make an incredible difference in the trails you are able to take, and how quickly you progress to more untouched areas. If you are unsure about the signage and clarity for navigation of a trail, find out who manages the area and contact them for more information.

Everyone has different levels of fitness and acclimation to altitude and climate. Though you might be a marathon-runner on low ground, strenuous activity at high altitudes can quickly zap your energy and change your “normal” abilities. As someone from a cool, dry environment, hiking in dense humidity could limit your typical hiking level. Be sure to notice the length of the hike, the amount of elevation gained through the hike (total, not net!), and environmental considerations. If you are not sure about your level, test out your endurance with a long walk around your neighborhood. If you went five miles and felt a little tired at the end, maybe a two to three mile trail is the best beginning point for you.

Once you find a trail that fits your skill, fitness and experience level for the area and day you are planning your hike, make sure to take note of the accessibility. How will you reach the trail, and are you and your car able to reach it safely?

Lastly, find out how heavily trafficked the trail is. Popular trails tend to have more commodities, like a restroom or water filling station and map at the trailhead. If you are comfortable hiking along with other adventurers, a highly-trafficked trail could be a great and safe environment to begin in. If you are seeking a little more solitude in your hiking experience, try to find out which trails are most visited using the resources mentioned above.

 

Hike Your Own Hike and Have Fun!

With safety considerations out of the way, you can begin creating your bucket list of hiking trails and start checking them off one by one.

Would you rather hike in trees, or through exposed areas with sweeping views? Have you always wanted to see mountain wildflowers in bloom, or walk underneath a waterfall? Check out destinations you would love to see, and plan hikes that take advantage of things like wildflower season and fall colors.

Another consideration to keep in mind is what else is around the area. Would you love to explore a nearby town for a well earned post-hike burger? Some of the best overall hiking experiences come paired with great food, so do some digging and try more than just a new trail to make the day complete.

 

Know Your Hiking Jargon 

To end, here are just a few common hiking terms to know when researching trails:

  • Trailhead: where the trail begins or ends, where you access the beginning or end
  • Out-and-Back: a trail that goes out to a point and returns the same way
  • Popsicle: a trail that is shaped like a popsicle, with a single trail leading to loop
  • Loop: a trail that does not come back the same way as it came, but joins the trailhead again at the end
  • Cairn: a stack of rocks used to mark the trail
  • Topo (or topographical): a type of map that shows the geological features of an area in detail
  • False Peak: a point on an ascending trail that looks like the top, but is not
  • LNT (or Leave No Trace): a set of guidelines hiker’s should follow to keep the natural area clean and healthy

I hope the Beginner’s Guide to Hiking series has enabled and encouraged you to get out on a trail with confidence. If you have still been waiting to go hike, choose a simple trail near you. Even if it is a paved path in the suburbs or just a walk down your road, take some time to get outside and get moving. Warmer weather is just around the corner, and getting out to begin is often the most difficult step.

Enjoy your adventures, near and far!

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From hiking dog jealousy to estimating the calorie-to-weight ratio of entire grocery stores, outdoor adventurers have unique experiences all around. 

Here are just a few to make you laugh, paired with watercolor interpretations of outdoorsy absurdity. 

 

1. When you pull on your favorite hiking pants and wrappers pour out from the pockets. 

 

 

2. When you take leave no trace principles everywhere you go... and maybe a little too far.

 

 

3. When your finances are getting tight and you "don't know why."

 

 

4. When a friend keeps saying they want to hike with you... and this happens. 

 

*Ten miles and three days later:*

 

 

 

5. When someone asks, "What is your obsession with wool?"

 

 

6. When you are constantly considering how much money you could save by moving into your tent. 

 

 

7. When you begin packing everything like a backpack... even purses and grocery bags. 

 

Regardless of having to restrain ourselves in city parks, outdoor lovers have challenging, growing, and beautiful experiences to share (If only all those stickers could fit on our water bottles...).

Have any outdoorsy problems of your own? Share them in the comments below! 

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My first pair of sturdy, quality hiking boots changed my outdoor experience. Before them, I tumbled around awkwardly in slippery, ill-fitting, non-breathable (and somehow also non-waterproof) boots, coming away from hikes happy but covered in scrapes, bruises, and favoring tender limbs. My arches would ache, and eventually, the dull pain would spread to my leg joints.

Then I bought “my blue boots.” The most significant outdoor purchase I had ever made,  I was unconvinced that they would be worth it. Now, without a doubt in my mind, I can say they were absolutely worth the price.

With these boots, I descended into the Grand Canyon and climbed above 14,000 feet. They were comfortable, practical, and the aches I felt before vanished. I tried new things in them, hiked familiar trails in them, and finally, I took my last backpacking trip in them. I wore those boots until they were practically decomposing beneath me.

So far in the Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Series, we have covered the best ways to get cheap gear and how to safely hit the trail with the 10 Essentials on a budget. I am not recommending that you personify your outdoor gear and get unreasonably attached as I have definitely done with my blue boots, but there comes a time when the hikes ahead call for wise, long-term investments. Here is your guide on which items are worth the cost, and how to pick the right gear for you!

 

Understanding Outdoor Gear

A common mistake that people make when buying outdoor gear is treating it like an everyday clothing purchase. Outdoor gear costs more because it is better made for keeping your active, moving body comfortable in specific, harsh conditions. $20 sandals will still get you from the car to the coffee shop, but $20 hiking shoes will probably not get your sweaty feet through mud, puddles, and rocks over any significant distance. To begin shopping for investment-worthy outdoor gear, first be of the mindset that it is worth the investment.  

Outdoor gear companies are well-known for excellent warranties, guarantees, and return policies, making your purchase far more certain to fit your needs. For example, all Osprey Packs come with an “All Mighty Guarantee,” meaning that you can have your pack repaired of any manufacture defect or wear-caused damage, at any point after the pack was purchased, for free of charge. When buying on Osprey pack, it could very well be the only pack in its size and functional area that you every purchase.

Companies like Patagonia and Arc’teryx will repair products due to wear-and tear for a reasonable charge. Members at REI can return or exchange gear within a year of purchase if dissatisfied for any reason, giving customers the chance to actually test new gear in the environment and context they will use it it in.

With companies set on making high-performing gear to last the test of time, it is easier to swallow the cost of shiny new outdoor staples. Bottom to top, here are the things to carefully consider investing in to power you on more adventures.

 

Hiking Shoes/Boots Option A: Hiking Boots

Who Should Get Them:

The traditional, iconic mark of an outdoorsy person, hiking boots are an excellent option for adventurers who expect versatility out of their gear. Boots come in a vast variety of weights and types, overall giving ankle support and providing a sturdy body. Any hiker who would like to use these shoes for long, rocky hikes, backpacking, or wet terrains should opt for a boot. The high tops prevent ankle turns and twists, and also help keep out deep mud, snow, and water. For hiking in multiple seasons, different terrains, and with additional weight on your back, pick out some boots.

 

Option B: Hiking Shoes/ Trail Runners

Who Should Get Them:

Lower cut than hiking boots, hiking shoes can be found in many of the same varieties as boots: waterproof, breathable, full shaft (how stiff the bottom is) and flexible. If you want shoes for primarily fair-weathered hikes, these will cut the weight of boots significantly while still giving you the traction and stability you need for straightforward day hikes.

Overlapping categories are trail runners, which are lighter and more flexible than most hiking shoes, but still offer a grippy tread and sturdy body. If you want to try trail running or are looking for an ultra-light, flexible hiking shoe for sunny days on defined trails, trail runners will be great for you.

 

What To Look For: -Waterproofing

In hiking boots, hiking shoes and trail runners, narrow your options by first deciding on waterproof or non-waterproof shoes. While waterproof shoes will keep the water out, bear in mind that they also keep water in. Any water that gets into the shoes or sweat from your feet will not dry quickly. For an all-season staple, find a waterproof shoe that is designed to breathe well. Check reviews on different shoes and waterproofing brands, like Gore-Tex, to find the best of both worlds. For a happy-hiking summer shoe to keep your feet dry and airy, skip the waterproofing.

 

-Tread

Next, examine the tread. Tall, spike-like protrusions from the sole of the shoe are called “aggressive tread.” Bottoms with an aggressive tread that feels bendable to the touch are usually made out of a softer rubber, which will give you great grip on rocks or slippery terrain. However, soft rubber bottoms wear down quickly if worn on pavement or asphalt, so shoes with only soft rubber need to be reserved for hiking alone.

Hard rubber, which is not bendable and slips easily, will last on pavement but will hurt you on the trail. Ideally, try to find a shoe with a mixture of the two or with soft rubber that you are ready to care for.

 

-Cushion

Personal needs and preference should be your guide when deciding on a level of cushion in your hiking shoes, because you will be the one clocking miles in them. Barefoot theory shoes, (like Altras) which tend to feature little cushion, a flat footbed and a wide toe box offer a natural and connected feel. If you are not familiar with this type of shoe, be sure to walk around in them before deciding to get used to the lack of lift in the heel and sense of the ground beneath you. On the other side of the spectrum are highly cushioned shoes, which give you an airy, almost bouncy energy and lift. These shoes, like Hoka One Ones, mask the changes in the earth beneath you and keep your joints from pounding the surface over and over again.

Between the two are every variety and level between, offering you options to fit your needs.

 

When Buying Hiking Shoes:
  • Try on many styles, fits and brands to find the most comfortable fit
  • Walk around in them and mimic movements you will make on the trail
  • Try them on with socks of varying thicknesses if you plan to hike in many seasons
  • Ask questions at your local gear shop
  • Look over product and model reviews before buying
  • Do not get talked into something you do not need or will not use, even if it sounds awesome at the time

 

Hiking Socks

Good hiking socks make this list because they can make the difference between staying dry, comfortable and warm on the trail and feeling cold, wet, and gross as you walk. When buying, you need to find socks made entirely out of one or multiple warm-when-wet materials, like merino wool or synthetics. Cotton socks will be slow to dry, and lose all thermal capabilities once they are wet.

 

Who Should Get Them:

Any hiker who does not have comfortable socks made out of warm-when-wet materials needs hiking socks.

 

What to Look For: -  Height

If you choose hiking boots, make sure that your socks are taller than the boots. Give them a little room to slide down slightly, where your ankle and lower leg will still be protected from rubbing. For hikers who choose shoes or trail runners, find socks that sit at a comfortable level with your new kicks.

 

- Thickness

Fair weathered hikers or hikers with sweaty feet should find some light or ultralight socks to wick away moisture and dry quickly. Depending on your sensitivity to cold, proneness to blisters, and the environment you will be hiking in, choose medium to heavy weight socks that fit your needs.

 

When Buying Hiking Socks:
  • Check to make sure that all materials are either wool or synthetic
  • Read reviews on socks to find a durable, high performing fit
  • Support a sustainable, American-made brand with a fantastic lifetime guarantee by shopping at Cloudline

 

Rain Jacket / Shell

Who Should Get One:

Even if you are not planning to hike often in rainy weather, every hiker needs a reliable rain jacket. Though the weather report might not predict a cloud in the sky, even perfect summer days turn into afternoon showers without letting you know. This piece will be with you on every expedition, in every season you hike in.

 

What to Look For: - Waterproof vs Water Resistant

There is a very important difference between water resistant and waterproof. While a water-resistant jacket will only keep you dry in a light shower for a short amount of time, any serious precipitation will eventually soak through and get both you and your other gear wet. Especially for hikers seeking to go longer distances and get outside in multiple seasons, a waterproof jacket is the best choice. Only jackets with sealed zippers (either covered with a shiny, rubber-like material or covered by a flap of waterproof fabric) and sealed seams can be fully waterproof.

 

- Breathability

Just like with hiking shoes, waterproofing can make gear less breathable. Since you will be using this jacket while working up some heat on the trail, look for a fully waterproof jacket with good breathability. You can read reviews and tech specs, or ask questions at your local gear shop to find the best mix for you.

 

- Insulation

The term “shell” means that this jacket is the outermost layer of your hiking system, and, just like tacos, there are both soft shells and hard shells. Soft shells feature insulation, while hard shells do not. Finding a jacket that layers well with the clothes and jackets you wear hiking is essential, regardless of which you choose. For versatility across seasons, a hard shell is the best choice.

 

- Layers

Rain jackets come in three levels of layers: 2 layer, 2.5 layer and 3 layer. For hiking, you should be looking for a 2.5 or 3 layer jacket. While 3 layer jackets provide a durable outer fabric, a waterproof membrane, and a protective inner material to keep you constantly dry, 2.5 layer jackets will do the job for many day hikers at a cheaper price. If you plan to wear this jacket in harsh conditions, all seasons, or in the backcountry, then try to find a 3 layer that fits your needs. If you see yourself only using it when needed in mild to moderate conditions, a 2.5 layer could help your wallet.

 

When Buying a Rain Jacket/Shell:
  • Try it on with all of your base and mid layers. Make sure it is comfortable and fully covers your other tops
  • Look at the hood. Can you put the hood up and down and still have your neck fully covered?
  • Notice the pockets. Do they sit higher than your hips, where you can use them with your hip belt still on?
  • Check for ventilation. Many shells with have ventilating zippers (called “pit zips”) that fall along the sides of the jacket. For hiking in warm weather, these help you stay drier inside
  • Look over reviews and ask questions at your local gear shop
  • Try on a few jackets from different brands to find a fit you like

 

Daypack

Who Should Get One:

All hikers who do not currently have a day pack made out of a durable material that can fit their layers, the ten essentials, and still have a little space for a trail journal, camera, thermos or other extras need a daypack.

 

What to Look For: -Capacity

Outdoor packs are measured in two ways: capacity and torso size. The capacity of the backpack is measured in liters it can hold, and the numbers are usually written on the outside of the bag. For day hiking, you want a bag somewhere around 20-30 liters in capacity. In this range are quite a few styles and varieties, all suited for different needs. If you are planning on primarily enjoying short hikes in good weather, you can opt for a bag with a lower capacity. If you want to hike long distances or are ready to pack along gear for inclement weather, a higher capacity bag will adapt well to different situations. To help you know what size to buy, gather everything you would pack on a hike in one place. Consider if there would be room inside to fit a jacket you wore to begin but no longer needed while hiking, and the ease of getting to important items.

 

-Size

Surprisingly, backpacks come in sizes like XS, S, M, and L. This size is based on the length of your torso, and it is crucial to get a bag that fits correctly. Go to your local gear shop to get measured for free, and to become familiar with sizing differences between brands. This size is important because a correctly sized bag will fit closely against your back, allowing comfort as the pack’s weight rests evenly on your hips. While at the gear shop, you can learn how to adjust the backpack correctly, and try a few on with varying amounts of weight. Small, light daypacks sometimes only come in one size, but they tend to run in both men’s and women’s models. Women’s backpacks are designed with a narrow body, curved shoulder straps, and shorter sizing.

 

-Features

For a hiker, your backpack’s convenience and practicality are just as important as comfort. When looking over a hiking day pack, check for a rain cover. If not included, consider that you will need to buy one along with the bag. Next, look for compatibility with a hydration bladder. If you are wanting to use a hydration bladder, this could be an essential in the bag you buy. For hikers without hydration bladders, see if there are external holders for your water bottles. As a bottle-carrier, I would not buy a hiking bag without two external water bottle holders. Take time to notice the suspension of the bag and its cushioning. Will the hip belt be comfortable enough over distance? How structured is the pack? Deciding on these features will likely be the ticket to selecting a bag that you love!

 

When Buying A Daypack:
  • Always try on each bag you are considering with a reasonable amount of weight (you can do this at any shop that sizes and sells packs)
  • Take note of loops and hooks that you can use to carry trekking poles or rolled jackets externally
  • Think not only in terms of what you do now, but consider some of your outdoor goals (Ask, “How versatile is this backpack?”)
  • Mentally plan where you will store what items on the trail (“Are these pockets useful and easy to access?”)
  • Lastly, do not buy a backpack before you have gathered the ten essentials. You can not make an informed backpack decision before you know what all needs to come along on every hike!

Take a deep breath- it can be a lot of information and decision making for beginning hikers to start building their outdoor gear staples.

Remember to have fun, and that these are items that will help you safely get deep into nature and stay healthy.

Ready to elevate your hikes? These investments will be worth it, if you use them, and they might even inspire you to take on some fresh challenges!

Have you ever had a piece of gear that you loved? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Happy gear-shopping!

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Hikers and backpackers are constantly outside and being active, even in the off season. The physical impact of carrying weight, working muscles repeatedly, and being exposed to uncontrolled conditions can take its toll both in the short and long term. Being able to hike, backpack, snowshoe and do whatever outdoor activities you choose is a special thing, and calls for attention to remain possible, comfortable, and enjoyable.

To stay healthy and protected from injuries, here are a few self-care tips to keep you doing what you love.

 

Stay Hydrated

Though I rarely drink the amount of water I should, the differences in my hydrated and dehydrated self are evident and powerful. Hydration keeps your blood flowing freely, making sure that every part of your body is supplied with the oxygen it needs.

A lack of hydration can cause a variety of symptoms including:

  • Grumpiness
  • Feeling tired and/or slow
  • Impaired flexibility
  • Decreased tolerance to temperature changes
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Difficulty healing from soreness or injury

Hydration is crucial for everyone, but outdoor adventurers need to be especially mindful about their water intake. Heavy breathing and sweating drains your internal water supply.

To care for your hydration pre-hike, drink at least two liters (that’s two Nalgenes, hikers!) every day, whether you are exercising or not. For every cup of coffee or tea you have in the morning, drink extra water. Before you go on your adventure, you should be visiting the restroom often and getting light yellow to clear results. Herbal teas are another great way to hydrate and offer other benefits as well.

On the day of your hike, continually drink water. Pay close attention to how you are feeling, how much you are sweating, and the amount you drink. Always take more water or have water carrying capacity for more than you think you will need.

After you hike, maintain hydration to help your body recover. Lemons can aid in prolonging hydration, so throw in a little squeeze for flavor and added benefits.

 

Stretch it Out

There, I said it. The thing that many hikers and backpackers know they should but often forget. It's easy to blow off stretching prior to activity, especially if there are other people around. However, stretching prevents sore muscles, encourages blood flow, and protects your muscles and ligaments from damage.

Before striking out on the trail, stretch your calves, quads, glutes, back of legs, and back. Hold each stretch for twenty seconds, breathing deeply and not pulling or leaning past the point where you feel your edge.

Throughout the day, notice parts of your body that feel tight. Pause a moment to stretch these muscles again, and be sure to keep breathing deeply and drinking water.

Back home or at camp, take time to do a full-body stretch. Now that your muscles are warm, you are more flexible and able to hold positions longer. Focus on points that always bug you after hiking, and do not let incongruence throw you off: if your right quad takes longer to recover, pay special attention to those muscles. Yoga is a great practice of stretching, breathing, and allowing your mind and body to stay healthy. Try a restorative or relaxing session, and notice the difference in your recovery time.

 

Eat Well on the Trail

Most outdoor lovers have at least a base knowledge of proper nutrition, many having made the transition from a “less calories = always good” mentality to a more holistic, health-based perspective. Calories are your energy, which translates into the fuel you need to finish the last mile or the warmth you need to venture out in the winter. While food for multi-day trips can get tricky, there are plenty of resources for finding light weight, nutritious, and even delicious meals for backcountry endeavors. Pre-adventure, make sure that you have a day prior of full meals featuring plenty of fruits, veggies and proteins.

In general, your menu on the day of an adventure should offer ample calories (best when restored throughout the day in snacks), nurturing your body with positive fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Try to pack in as many whole foods as you can, and remember that when you are hungry while burning calories, you should eat.

To build muscle, have protein within half an hour of ending your activity. Antioxidants (often called “superfoods”) are crucial in helping your body to recover. Load up on leafy green vegetables, berries, turmeric tea or mango to protect cells from oxidation after prolonged physical stress.

 

An Ounce of Prevention

While hydration, stretching, and nutrition all factor heavily in injury and pain prevention, hiking and backpacking- specific steps can make the difference between going again tomorrow and staying home to rest. There are a few types of prevention to consider:

 

-Muscle/ Ligament Injury

First, consider the points where pressure will be consistently placed on an area of your body. The obvious first candidate for hikers is the back, where weight is carried while climbing and covering uneven terrain. To protect your back, pay close attention to how you pack your backpack. The heaviest contents should be placed as near to your back as possible, helping the weight to rest evenly down on your hips without pulling you back.

Adjust your bag to fit your body, and re-adjust your straps while hiking if the carriage becomes uneven. Try to rest at least 70% of the pack’s weight on your hips by buckling your hip belt first, then move up to the shoulder straps, and finally your load lifters. If you never had your bag fitted and have been experiencing back and shoulder pain, you might have the wrong size or need a different back panel structure to fit you better. Any gear shop that sells backpacks will be able to fit you for free.

Lastly, consider using trekking poles. For me, back and shoulder pain comes from slouchy posture on the trail. Trekking poles are a great support in difficult areas, help your back to stay straight, and give additional contact points for weight distribution. Though you might feel silly when you first use them, the benefits of using poles on long days are compelling enough to feel.

Support your other muscles and ligaments (especially in your feet and legs) with high-quality hiking shoes or boots that fit your foot structure. Find shoes that cushion your weight, allow your toes to spread naturally, keep your heel securely in the heel pocket, and give the lift you need at your arch and beneath your ankles. If you have not invested in a pair of good hiking boots yet, stay tuned for the next blog post for a guide to fit and quality.

 

-Immune Weakness

Long days in the outdoors call for extra immune help. To keep yourself from getting sick, take along a vitamin C supplement (I enjoy Emergen-C packets on the trail).

Hygiene in the wild definitely takes on new faces, so create a hygiene kit for yourself. Use hand sanitizer before touching food and after every trip to the restroom. If you have dishes or laundry to do, wash carefully with environment-friendly soap (Dr. Bronner’s is safe to use outside).

Take a trowel to bury your waste, including toilet paper, tissues and feminine care items. Remember that six inches is the minimum depth that these should be buried at, and honor the safety and health of other backpackers coming through.

Lastly, know how to use your water filter if you are going to refill directly from a natural source. Pay attention to how you pack it after use, making sure that no contamination could occur in your bag.

 

-Poor Circulation

Swelling in legs, feet, and hands is common for hikers. Along with hydration, give a pair of compression socks a try to stimulate blood flow (recently, I have been loving these).

 

Be Mindful

Caring for yourself on and off the trail as an active adventurer is really all about attention. It takes your attention to select a trail and day, to pack well and remember the ten essentials. Hiking and backpacking themselves are self-care, providing a freeing outlet to escape and breathe and drink in the beautiful power of nature.

For the best hiking and backpacking experience, try to give it your full attention. Notice what your body needs, and practice retrieving your thoughts from the far places they scatter. Take time to hear the beat of your steps and heaves of your breaths. If you need to stop a moment to tune in to the sounds around you, sometimes that is more valuable than making a strong mile time.

I hope these tips help you to stay happy and healthy on your adventures. Do you have any tips or practices that work well? Share in the comments below!

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Snowshoeing is an activity that can open your eyes to breathtaking new dimensions and faces of nature. Not only is it a fun and achievable goal to help you get outside during the winter, but it is an experience unlike any other that is sure to make an impression.

Though it can be overwhelming to think about planning a beginner trip in the winter weather, anyone can take a snowshoeing trip with the right preparation and mindset. For me, a cold-natured summer hiker, snowshoeing offers confidence in my own abilities and an outlet to enjoy the winter that I have grown to anticipate and love.

 

Planning

Begin by deciding where you would like to go snowshoeing. Options for beginners are wide and simple, making it fun and unintimidating to get out with little or no experience. Check out local Nordic centers and ski resorts for structured experiences, where you can rent, get navigation, and even have a guide all in one package. REI also offers snowshoe classes at many locations, giving you an instructor, rental gear, and fellow first-timers to learn with.

For a more self-guided trip, look up areas specifically designed for snowshoeing. For me, there is an easily reachable snowshoe area in a National Forest, complete with a warming hut and clear signage high enough off the ground to be visible even after a snowstorm. Another resource for reliable and easy planning is the gear shop where you rent your snowshoes from. Ask for the best beginner trail, making sure that it is flat, short, and clearly marked. If you need more suggestions, check out your options on the AllTrails or Hiking Project smartphone apps.

Your first day on snowshoes will be dramatically different from hiking. The cold, new environment and exponential amount of energy spent snowshoeing call for a trail far below your hiking level. Find a trail that is flat, and only a few miles in length at most. Your mindset should be that this is your introduction to snowshoeing. This is not about how many miles you can clock, or showing how tough you are in fairly extreme conditions. Your first snowshoeing trip is all about understanding and coping with the environment and movement it calls for, and of course, enjoying a different and exciting type of adventure.

Once you have a trail picked out, read over recent comments and trip reports. When scanning trip reports, look for up-to-date information on the snow, difficult or confusing sections, and road conditions on the way. In case you are not familiar with the area you will be snowshoeing in and cannot find any recent reports, contact the district’s Ranger Station for information.

Just like a hike, it is crucial that you have a map. Either find a physical copy, take a picture at the trailhead, or save the sections of your hike on a GPS.

As soon as you have information and feel confident that you can both reach the trail safely and navigate the area, check the weather as close to the trailhead as possible. Find a day with weather warm enough for you to be comfortable in the gear you own, and with clear visibility.

Lastly, decide who you would like to take with you on a snowy adventure. This is a great time to get other adventurers out, and can also be an incredible experience for your more indoorsy pals. Regardless of who you choose to join you, each person has to be prepared with the right gear. Here’s how to pack for a full day in a white wonderland:

 

Wear this:
  • Beanie
  • Buff, thermal balaclava or scarf
  • Thermal top (baselayer)
  • Non-cotton fleece or sweater (midlayer)
  • Puffy Jacket and Outer shell or snow jacket (outer layer)
  • Warm gloves or mittens
  • Thermal bottoms (non-cotton leggings will work)
  • Snowpants or quick-drying hiking pants
  • Wool socks
  • Warm, sturdy boots
  • Snowshoes (rental information below)

Layering is important for keeping you warm and dry on the trail, especially in extreme conditions. Take a look at this article for tips, tricks, and directions on putting together a strong layering system.

 

Pack this:
  • Backpack
  • Water bottles or bladder (you need to carry at least 2 liters with you)
  • Extra warm layers
  • Extra pair of wool socks
  • Food
  • Thermos full of warm beverage

 

Optional:
  • Camp stove, fuel, lighter, pot, and warm drink mix
  • Hand/toe warmers
  • Trekking poles
  • Camera
  • Trail journal

Never leave without:
  • Navigation
  • Light source
  • Sun protection
  • First aid
  • Repair kit
  • Fire
  • Emergency shelter
  • Extra food
  • Water purifier/ extra water
  • Layers

For a budget-friendly approach to the 10 essentials, click here.

  Renting Snowshoes

Depending on your location, there are a few possible locations to rent snowshoes. First, check local gear shops both where you live and near the trail you will be hiking. Compare prices from multiple shops, and if the trail you are going to tackle has an elevation gain, opt for snowshoes with a heel lift. Ski and snowboard shops are another excellent place to try, so call around to see which ones near you have a day snowshoe rental option.

 

On the trail

While snowshoeing, be attentive to your body. Spending a significant time exerting yourself in the cold calls for consistent snacking to keep up your calories. Eat more than you would on a typical hike, slowly throughout the day.

Proper hydration is key in keeping your blood flowing smoothly and your body temperature consistent, making it important to drink at least two liters on the trail.

While out in the winter, the key to staying warm is never getting cold. As obvious as it might sound, do not allow yourself to get cold and assume that you will warm yourself up again. Keep enough layers on, and make sure that you stay dry. If you need to pee, go quickly so that your body does not spend energy warming something unnecessary. Keep your core warm, and check up occasionally on your extremities to make sure they are receiving proper blood flow.

If your toes or fingers begin to go numb or your core will not warm up with movement (try jumping jacks) and drinking a warm beverage, the smartest and safest move for you is to turn around.

Being well planned and prepared for your day in the snow will allow you to fully and confidently enjoy your time in the wintry wild. Take pictures and enough time to appreciate the winter with all of your senses.

Snowshoeing will take you on a gorgeous tour of nature at her most silent and spellbinding. Suddenly, intricate details that have gone unnoticed in former seasons sparkle and reflect light, calling attention to tiny icicles and every variation of evergreen. Snowshoeing is raw and open, putting you in instant connection with the world around you. The beauty we so rarely take time to steep ourselves in of the mountains and forest covered in snow holds deep serenity and playful delight. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Stay warm out there!

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My family has a collection of tree trunk rounds, each with a year written on it. Some are small and symmetrical, while others have an awkward, lopsided shape. Some dates are older than I am, but give me a window into the past: the ones roughly dated in pencil must have been busy years, but the ones neatly wood-burned look like peaceful years.

My favorite family Christmas tradition has always been driving up into the mountains and cutting our own Christmas tree. We grew to perfect the process, carefully judging potential trees for our own living room and for the growing number of family members who began to ask for real trees, too. Grandma likes her tree not too full, but Nana likes it when the branches droop, like trees on vintage postcards. Each year, we would cut a little bit off of the trunk and add it to our quirky collection.

If you have ever dreamed of walking in the forest and cutting your own tree, here is everything you need to consider, know, and take along for the perfect Christmas tree expedition.

 

Is a Real Christmas Tree for You?

First, decide if you should have a real tree. While the scent of real pine is as crisp and Christmassy as you can imagine, people with severe allergies should consider that the tree will be inside for at least a week, during a time of year with minimal venting indoors. Think about how long you plan to keep the tree inside, and also where in the house you plan to place it.

Real trees shed needles, some more than others, depending on the type of pine, the atmosphere, and the amount of water they are given. No matter what type of pine tree you cut, it is guaranteed to create more housekeeping than a fake tree. You can keep the shedding under control by watering the tree regularly, making sure that contained heat does not dry out the needles. It is surprising how much water a tree can soak up in a day, so be sure to check it regularly. The water level in your tree stand should completely cover the cut section of trunk.

Lastly, real trees have to be disposed of correctly. In good news, real trees are more eco-friendly than fake trees, and can be either recycled whole or composted. Once you are certain that you are ready to try a real Christmas tree, it's time to plan your day in the forest.

 

Preparing, Packing, and Permit

Because cutting your own real Christmas tree requires work and exposure to the winter chill, good preparation and packing are essential for both safety and keeping your day full of fun and adventure.

Begin by deciding which National Forest you will cut your Christmas tree in. You will need to buy a tree permit for that National Forest, which are available at ranger stations and most visitor centers in the forest area. Call the local ranger district for more locations where permits are available. When you buy your permit, you will be given a map of areas open for tree cutting, as well as local guidelines for cutting trees. Read through the guidelines carefully, and be respectful of the National Forest land and workers. Many areas will have restricted wilderness or protected areas that you should avoid, and there is important information about how to cut a tree and which trees to cut in the guidelines.

This year while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw a family take a tree from a popular trailhead with no permit in sight. Clearly, this was not the time, place or situation for Christmas tree cutting. Just like refraining from leaving trash at a campsite and staying off of protected areas, respect and care are important while enjoying your holiday adventure.

Before you set out to find the perfect tree, make sure that you have a workable tree stand at home. While stands for fake trees only have one narrow opening, stands for real trees have adjustable arms to hold the tree in place, and bowl-shaped bottoms to hold water.

When your house is ready to receive some natural Christmas cheer, check the weather report and current conditions for your National Forest destination. Depending on where you live and the time of year, you might consider taking snowshoes with you to get deeper into the forest from the road. Pack according to the weather, plus a little bit extra. Sometimes stopping to assess a tree, walking through ungroomed areas, and getting your hands in the snow to find the trunk can make you colder than you would be on an everyday hike.

 

Once you check off this packing list, you are ready to go find your tree:

  • National Forest Christmas tree permit
  • A handsaw
  • Warm, weatherproof clothing and accessories
  • Sturdy, warm shoes
  • Snowshoes (depending on your location)
  • Ropes or bungee cords to secure your tree for the drive home
  • A sled or rope to help pull the tree (A sled is best if you plan to not go far from a road, and a rope will make sure that the tree does not hit your legs while walking back through all terrains)
  • Your favorite Christmas music, something warm to drink, and anything else to make your trip full of fun!

 

Cutting Your Christmas Tree

When looking for a Christmas tree, remember the height of the room where you will be placing it. When you find one that you like, try to measure the tree as best as possible before cutting it.

Walk all the way around each tree you are thinking about cutting. Check the fullness of the tree, the stiffness of its branches for ornaments, and if it has knots or dramatic curves that would impact it fitting or standing well in your tree stand. Make sure that you gently pull away other trees and branches growing against it, looking out for dead branches or sparse sections.

Part of the fun of searching for your own tree is seeing the variety of shapes, colors and sizes of pines. Take time to enjoy the forest in winter while you are looking for your Christmas tree, and mark the trees you are thinking of so that you can continue the search!

Once you have picked your tree, examine its base. Find a good spot to begin to saw, thinking through which direction you want the tree to fall.  Be very careful sawing the trunk from a sloped, low position. If necessary, have someone help you gently push/pull the tree in the direction you are cutting and hold branches away from you. Sappy pines can be sticky, so having an extra person to push/pull while you cut can keep your saw from getting stuck in the wood.

 

Safely Bringing Home Your Christmas Tree

When your tree is cut, tie a rope to the branches nearest to the base for you to pull it. Drag your tree with the most sparse side to the ground, protecting the sides you will likely showcase in your house. Be sure to attach the adhesive tree permit to a branch near the tree’s base, making it easily seen from the bottom.

Secure your tree tightly to the roof of your car (or you can put it inside if you have enough room), wiggling it to test the ropes a few times. The base of your tree should be at the front of your car to protect the inside branches from the wind.

 

Enjoying Your Tree

To me, it does not feel like Christmas until the house smells like pine and cinnamon ornaments. My family’s tradition of finding trees together and saving a little round of the trunk has become symbolic of the things I treasure most about this time of year. For the first time, I went to the mountains with just my husband this year to find our first Christmas tree, like my parents did years ago. Spending time together, in the beautiful forest at a meaningful time of year, has such an impact on how I view a season that can get too frantic and distracted.

Whether you only do it once or make it a tradition of your own, I hope you are able to escape into nature and bring a real Christmas tree home this year.

Merry Christmas, adventurers!

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Paddler, climber, thru-hiker, backpacker.

Guide, former professor, explorer, and leader.

Though you probably do not know her name, Whitney Thomas is a true outdoorswoman.

When I set out to interview her about women in the outdoors, I had no idea how strikingly real and powerful her insights would be. Instead of lingering on the lack of quality, technical women’s gear (and how so much of it is pink) or on the gender gap in guiding, Whitney took time to talk over why she loves the outdoors, and what all it has offered her.

She focussed on personal growth and improvement, as well as the unique mental place of every single person. Instead of talking over uneven power structures, Whitney describes the beauty of open dialogue inspired by the outdoors and outdoor programs.

Ultimately, from these questions and answers, I gathered that wilderness offers freedom from anything that ranks you as higher or lower than others. The natural world pulls you into a state of awe so pure and powerful that ego and stereotypes fade.

Even in a world where gender, race, and background are so sensitive, Whitney talks about practical ways to navigate rough waters, and how to get out and find freedom and connection in the outdoors.

I hope you enjoy her thoughtful and beautifully expressed perspective as much as I do.

 

  Q1: How were you introduced to exploring the outdoors? (Girl Scouts, family camping trips etc.)

“I think the way I got into the outdoors was a love of being outside from when I was a young kid. We did go on family camping trips and I remember those very fondly. I’m laughing because I was in the girl scouts for a short time and it was probably one of the worst experiences of my life… the Girl Scouts actually made me undermine my love of the outdoors because I was an incredibly shy and introverted kid… I had and still have sometimes, trouble expressing my emotions and defining my feelings, so that leads to a lot of communication breakdown. So I was in this very unconfident, low self-esteem kind of place as a kid, and the outdoors were sort of like an escape from that.”

Whitney talks about deciding to change her major to Outdoor Leadership early in college, with the advice from the program, “Don’t tell your parents until after you’ve changed it.” She said, “I really had this romanticized idea of what the wilderness was, about what outdoor adventure was, and it was all like the good things that you think about the outdoors; like sitting around a fire at night eating slightly charred food that, you know, tastes awesome...and all these false ideas and impressions.”

She says switching her major forced her to push her boundaries a lot, and helped her to develop personally, including growing her voice. Whitney describes, “It started this slowly growing love of the outdoors, but not just the outdoors itself, but rather this way to grow as a person as a whole.”

 

Q2: When do you think you started transitioning into being a guide or going into a leadership role in the outdoors?

“Part of the answer to this question is that I have really high expectations for myself that don’t really apply to anyone else, it's just kind of my code, like ‘This is where I expect myself to be,’ so I would say I did not transition to have a strong voice of leadership until probably about 2012 and I mean that's after I had worked at North Greenville for three years, that's after I had been in guide service positions for 3 or 4 summers or longer.

The reason I would say that it took me to that point was because I was still unconfident in my voice and who I was in the outdoors… I wasn’t confident that I knew what I knew. I hadn’t reached a level of conscious competence yet.”

In 2012, Whitney said she stopped trying to become like other leaders or make her voice sound like theirs. She recognized the value of her own style and methods and found confidence in herself and her leadership style.

“Conscious competence” was a term I had never heard before, and she expands on that idea in the next question.

 

  Q3: Do you think that the process of gaining confidence and developing a conscious competent level is something that everyone goes through? Do you think that being a woman impacted that process for you?

“I would say yes to both questions. On the question of conscious competence, that term is straight from one of the textbooks that I taught out of and I remember reading through this chart… it started off at basically ‘you don’t know what you’re doing but you sound like you do,’ like just enough to get you in trouble, and then it progressed up through these levels of, ‘OK, now you know kind of what you’re doing but you’re not sure about it,’ and then ‘You know what you’re doing and you’re confident in what you’re doing.” Eventually, it got to this unconscious competence, which is the highest level, where you know all of these things, and you don’t even have to think about knowing [them], you can just convey them naturally.”

Whitney says that one of the phrases she has been operating out of for the last few years is “Fake it til you make it,” meaning that being confident in what you are doing and remaining confident through the growth process will get you to the level you envision.

For Whitney, she says that being a female in the region where she is from influenced that. She explains it by describing trips to the hardware store. Before when she went to a hardware store looking for something specific, she was belittled and talked down to, even though she usually knew more than the employee “helping” her (for example, one time she was told that bungee cord is best for rappelling).

This power structure that she encountered impacted her confidence and courage to lead in her own voice.

She also describes a time when she had a very different experience. While living in another area of the US, Whitney went to the hardware store in search of a plug for a camper unit. She walked into the store with her research written down and told the employee exactly what she needed. This time, her experience was different than almost all the ones before. The employee pointed her to the right aisle, saying that it sounded like she knew a lot about what she was talking about.

She said, “ It was just so refreshing, to hear that change in the language, like, ‘hey, I think you know about this topic,’ and it was one of these huge ‘aha!’ moments in my mind because I thought, ‘Wow, I am actually being treated with respect right now, and I feel like they know that I know what I’m doing.’ And it was huge.”

Whitney says that she had similar experiences in gear shops, where male employees instantly assumed that she did not know what she needed or why. Walking into a gear shop and having a male employee not question her ability is still surprising and special to her.

For Whitney, she is finding refreshment by living in a new area, where she feels that women are treated with more trust and respect, and there are less barriers to becoming a strong female leader in the outdoors.

She emphasizes that both the positive and negative experiences have been true for her, but that other women might have different experiences.

“Basically, it all comes down to stereotypes…  I would be interested to know what other women in the outdoors have experienced, too.”  

 

Q4: How do you see power structures specifically impacting women in the outdoors?

“In terms of power structures in the outdoor field, I think that there is a lot more of a healthy push toward shared power [than in other areas].

Almost every place I’ve worked in the outdoors has been very attuned to feedback, so I see this really awesome back-and-forth dialogue in terms of the power structure. Even in the wilderness therapy structure I am working in now, feedback from the clients is really valued and taken seriously.

I think that it is really beautiful to see that shared structure of power and to address someone else in a respectful way, and not feel threatened for doing that. I think that is what has drawn me to working in the outdoors so much, and also what has made me more confident in myself.”

Whitney’s advice for having positive experiences as a woman working in the outdoors is to research the culture of companies and organizations and avoid ones with negative reputations. She calls herself “picky” when it comes to groups she will work with.

Her experiences of being a valued asset and voice are not the only experiences that women have, and she encourages others to be thoughtful about where they choose to work.

She emphasized that there are definite areas for growth, which is important to bear in mind, but notes that it is likely one of the most positive workplaces for women because of the effort put into sharing power and having open dialogues.

 

  Q5: Do you think that women’s leadership styles are valued at the same level as men’s in the outdoors?  

“I think this is another question that I have only seen from a limited lens, and I don’t want to base everything I know from that lens, because I want to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I think I definitely have seen females in the outdoors and in general very devalued… in several instances, and it makes me pretty sad. The first time that I saw a female leader really upset was due to that nature, and it made me very upset too, to see them in that very dark spot and then to have to wrestle with ‘why?’ as a student. It can be incredibly hard, especially (in her experience) in the Southeast… I really think it comes down to this: Everybody is going to be different.

Everybody is coming from a place where they were raised differently, or where they’re trying to overcome some of the stereotypes they originally thought were relevant. I’ve been in that spot, too. I had some stereotypes that I slowly came to realize were just wrong, and I had to go back to the foundation and work my way through it again to try to weed out the stereotypes, and I’m still in the process of doing that.

It’s never just one thing, it’s not just gender: its race, its background, it’s the way you speak… you know, any time you work with people, it's messy. And I think I have to just embrace that and say it’s not always just one issue, its each individual person that I encounter is going to be in a different spot.

They might not be in a spot where they are able to value my voice yet, or they might be in a spot where they are really able to value my voice, and vice versa. I might be in a spot where I see someone through a lens that might not be ‘them,’ and I have to think about that and work through it and come to see them as a whole person.”

 

Q6: Is there anything you want to say or any advice you have for women passionate about spending time in the outdoors?

“Ummm… give me a call so we can go adventuring!”

At this point in our conversation, I wrote that I would go adventuring with Whitney at the drop of a hat. She then said, “I would definitely tell them to fake it until they make it, and to be intentional about the communities they find. I would tell them to find people who build them up, and not stop until they find those people, either, because they are definitely out there…

I think that building up confidence in yourself… it might just be getting out there, finding a meetup group to go paddling or a club in your area, taking a workshop course, whatever it is, there are so many directions you can go, and I think that is one of the great things about the outdoors is you can really dream pretty big about what is going to grow you the most and then pursue that.”

Lastly, Whitney ends with this piece of wisdom that she practices.

"I would say don’t be discouraged, too… even if you’re in a hard time, keep smiling, it’s a process of growth and development.”

To the women reading this, or other groups who have encountered condescension, distrust, or unwanted beta in the outdoors community, I hope that Whitney’s positive perspectives and careful words are uplifting.

There are problems in how women are viewed and treated when it comes to the outdoors. We should continue to push for equal treatment, and for causes that will help more women to get out into the wild.

Nature, in her own magnificence and liberating diversity, is exactly the place for us to discover freedom and growth.

What have your experiences been?

How do you find freedom or confidence in the wild?

Do you think that the outdoors are the perfect place to foster shared power?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Gift Recommendations for the Hikers on Your List

The holidays are here and it's time to find a thoughtful gift for everyone on your list. And if you're like us you'd rather be outside than in the mall. So to help we've picked a few of our favorite gift ideas to help you find the perfect gift for the outdoorsy hikers on your list.

 

CloudLine Merino Wool Socks

 

Every adventure starts with your feet, whether it's hiking, backpacking, running, biking or snowboarding there is a CloudLine sock that will make a perfect gift. Made in the USA with ultra-soft merino wool and backed by a hassle-free lifetime guarantee so you know you're giving a gift that will last.  

Shop Now

 

 

Victorinox Classic Limited Edition 

Pocket knives make a classic gift. And a limited edition from Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox offers many options for a unique and thoughtful gift.

Shop Now

 

 

GSI Mini Espresso Maker

If you have a coffee loving hiker on your list give them the GSI Mini Espresso Maker and they can enjoy fresh backcountry espresso on their next hike.

Shop Now   Epic Hikes of the World

Give a gift that will inspire a few bucket list hikes and adventure travel with Lonely Planet's Epic Hikes of the World. 

Shop Now

 

 

Danner MOUNTAIN 600 WEATHERIZED Insulated Boots

For hikers living in colder climates, a pair of insulated hiking boots makes a great gift that will keep toes warm all winter. Our favorite pair is the Danner Mountain 600 Weatherized. Available in a men's and women's versions.

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Chums Surfshorts Wallet

Since we first picked up a Chums Surfshort Wallet it's earned a place as our favorite adventure ready wallet. Its ID window, small size, and zippered compartments have kept our cards and cash safe and secure. Bonus, the key ring is perfect for clipping to your packs key clip. 

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Sea to Summit Ultralight Hammock

This ultra-light hammock weighs in at just 5.4 oz so they'll barely notice the added weight in their pack and they'll be grateful for the added comfort when they stop for lunch. 

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  Platypus Platy 2-Liter Ultralight Collapsible Water Bottle

We have been carrying a Platypus Platy on every backpacking trip for over a decade. It weighs almost nothing and allows us to purify plenty of water for in camp use. 

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Goal Zero Venture 30 

This rugged battery pack is perfect for recharging electronics from the trail. It is even waterproof while in use, just make sure what you're charging is too. 

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The North Face Thermoball Traction Booties

Designed as post-slope footwear these insulated booties are also perfect for a post-hike warm up, relaxing in camp, or wearing at home. Available in men's and women's styles.

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Enamel Camp Mug

Enamel mugs are a classic and durable gift. Not only great for coffee at home but in camp, they are fire friendly so you can warm your morning joe over the campfire. 

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59 Illustrated National Parks Coloring Book

This adult coloring book of iconic National Park Posters is on top of our Christmas wish list. The pages are gallery-grade paper and designed to easily tear out so you can proudly display your custom National Park poster art. 

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GSI Outdoors - Santoku Knife Set

The GSI Santoku Knife set is a great gift for the camp chef on your list. 3 knives, a cutting board, towel, and soap bottle all fit in a zippered pouch to keep things organized. 

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Gibbon Slacklines ClassicLine Slackline

A Gibbon Slackline will help the athlete on your list work on their balance, core strength, and agility while having a great time. 

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