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One of my first hikes involved a moment that would change my outdoor aspirations forever. It would open my eyes to the possibilities of the adventures you could have outdoors.
Travelling along the well beaten track along a popular hiking trail, some hikers emerged from the side, pushing through the thick rainforest vegetation onto the clear, well maintained path I was on. Their clothes were dirty and worn, their age showing in the faded colours and repair patches adorning elbows and knees.
It was clear they had been on an adventure away from the crowds on the marked hiking trail. It immediately piqued my attention and I wondered where they had been. What adventure had they been on?
WHAT EXACTLY IS OFF TRAIL HIKING?
As I later found out, they had been going off trail hiking. And it held its own wonders for those that pursue it.
So what exactly is off trail hiking?
Going ‘off track’ or ‘off trail’ is when you venture off the established or marked hiking trails. It can be to simply explore, or in the case of adventure activities, a way of getting to certain locations to do your thing.
In Australia, it’s commonly known as bush bashing and in the United States, bushwacking. Those names probably more aptly describe the activity of going ‘off trail’ as any thick vegetation you encounter can often feel like a bit of a battle.
But that's the nature of it, as hard work is always required to access amazing places!
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SKILLS YOU NEED TO HAVE FOR OFF TRAIL HIKING
Going for a hike ‘off trail’ is a rewarding and exciting experience, especially if you are new to it. But it also comes with some extra risks, and some important things to remember and know before you go. Taking the time and putting in the effort to learn certain skills for it is crucial for you to have a good time, and come back safe.
Before starting, it’s important you already have good hiking skills as this is the most basic skill set required. You can learn more about hiking in my post about it here:
And most importantly for off trail hiking, always go in a group! Never go alone unless you are very experienced, and even then, consider the extra risk of being on your own!
So with that in mind, here are the skills you need to have before you go off trail hiking!
Navigation
Finding your way around off the marked trail and in the wilderness is about more than just taking a GPS and knowing how to use a map and compass. Developing your situational awareness is key to having a good sense of where you are and where you want to go. Situational awareness will also help you when visibility is low, like thick vegetation or low cloud/fog.
What is situational awareness? Situational awareness, in terms of outdoor navigation, is your perception of environmental elements in relation to you, and your occupation of the surrounding space. It’s about knowing where you are in relation to your surroundings.
Situational awareness is honed through experience. It may come to some quicker than others (some may even just ‘have it’) but it’s important to not give up on it. Everyone can learn it!
Above all however, you need to know the fundamentals of navigating with map and compass, and it’s also a good idea to have a GPS unit with you as well.
First Aid and Survival
Having basic first aid knowledge should be something everyone has. Some countries even make it mandatory to have a first aid certificate for getting a driver's license!
You should of course know the important stuff like performing CPR and controlling bleeding and managing broken bones. But remember to also learn about the extremes of temperature, like hypothermia, hyperthermia and heat stroke.
Survival skills are vital as well. Knowing how to make a fire, build a shelter, read the weather and landscape, and also stay safe from poisonous plants, insects and dangerous animals is pretty important as these are often encountered more often when venturing off the marked trail.
You should always do a first aid course to learn first aid, and try to do refreshers at least once a year to keep your skills sharp. For survival skills, you can read many survival books on the subject, and most things, like building a fire or shelter are fine to do on your own for practice. However, for the most in depth knowledge, a professional survival course is highly recommended!
It’s also a very good idea to have a PLB in your group. In most outdoor locations, mobile phone reception is patchy or nonexistent. When venturing off trail, it's almost certain you will not be able to contact anyone in an emergency. So as well as having a PLB, it's also a good idea to leave your trip intentions with a trusted contact that can raise the alarm if your group does not return.
Risk Assessment
Doing a risk assessment before and during any outdoor activity isn’t just something outdoor guiding companies do. The more ‘adventurous’ the activity, the more risk assessment will go into it.
But even if we are just hiking we should get into the habit of assessing the risks. What risks and dangers can we commonly expect to face on our trip, and also in a worst case scenario?
Risk assessment in the outdoors is all about thinking of things like:
► What are the dangerous plants, insects and animals of the area?
► Will there be terrain like canyons, cliffs, creeks, rivers and thick forest?
► What’s the weather like? Are there thunderstorms predicted or incoming, or any wind, cold, snow and heat that will affect the trip?
And it’s also about what you are currently doing:
► Is the method of travel safe and efficient for the terrain I'm on?
► How will I make it to the bottom (or top) of that drop/cliff/hill?
► What happens if I lose my balance on a river/creek crossing?
► Can I reverse my path if something were to happen?
Assessing the risk is about being aware of what is happening and what can potentially happen. In mountaineering for example, we often talk about transitional phases. The long slow slog up the valley requires less focus than the short technical section up on the mountain for example.
Knowing when to be aware and focus, and when to be relaxed, will only come to you with practice, experience, and the willingness to pay attention.
Honesty
Some honesty will go a long way in keeping you safe when you go off trail hiking. Being honest means you stick to turn around times, admit when you need to turn around for some reason, and take the opinions, feelings, and well being of your group seriously and into consideration.
It’s also about avoiding summit fever, that desire to make the goal no matter what. It may be well known in mountaineering, but is also found in almost every other sport and activity. It can be easy to forget about our rules we set before starting, getting caught up in the moment while we are out on our trip.
Scrambling
When moving over terrain off the marked trail, you'll frequently encounter sections that may move beyond your horizontal preference of incline. Being able to deal with steep or vertical parts requires good scrambling skills.
Scrambling is when you often use your hands and feet in combination to progress steep sections, but not so steep that they require ropes and climbing gear. This is entirely subjective in that some people will feel comfortable on something, while others will not.
If you want to find out more and improve your scrambling ability, have a look at this post:
It has lots of useful information and clearly defines what you need to do to improve your scrambling skills!
Leave No Trace
We should already be practising good leave no trace ethics when we spend time outside, but when venturing off trail, it's even more important! Avoid making new paths and minimize your footprint of your travels. Avoid campfires if they are restricted, and even if they aren't, consider not having one anyway. Leave no trace is really about common sense. Keep it clean, carry out all rubbish, and leave it pristine. You can read more about the leave no trace principles here. This can also be considered for social media and keeping off trail locations hidden. Avoid geo-tagging places you visit.
Having a good base of skills to draw upon will in turn give you the confidence to venture out on your own off trail adventures. If you lack the skills, or the confidence, go out with established hiking groups to learn all you need to know.
The post: 6 Skills You Need to Have for Off Trail Hiking, first appeared on The Vertical Adventurer.
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The Routeburn track is a fantastic great walk in New Zealand. Offering a journey through deep Beech forests along bright blue rivers, stunning alpine terrain complete with lakes and wide ranging vistas, it has become a highly sought after trip for both those living in New Zealand, and also those visiting.
The majority of hikers complete the Routeburn track in summer in the months from November to March, and you’ll often find the track quite crowded (by New Zealand standards) in this period. Many are also under the assumption that in winter, with snow blanketing the ground, that it is off limits or not doable.
Not at all!
For those experienced enough, or even novice hikers with the ability to make cautious decisions and be conservative in their choices, there is a way to see the best parts of the Routeburn in winter, and without the crowds!
WHY WINTER CAN BE A GREAT TIME TO GO
Winter is a bit of a hate it or love it season I’ll admit. If you aren’t too fond of it, enjoying winter is possible, and at the minimum, being able to make the best of the season is a sure way to make it more enjoyable.
Winter landscapes can offer a truly unique perspective to the natural environment. And in the case of the Routeburn track, less people allow you to enjoy the track in a new way and have it all to yourself.
But before you go you need to plan and prepare, as well as be aware of the risks!
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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!
When hiking in winter or venturing into any alpine terrain, there are risks that you need to be aware of, and some of these are especially magnified in the winter and spring. So before getting too excited about tackling the Routeburn in winter, here are some of the risks you need to be aware of and consider in your planning:
Avalanche
Anytime there is a slope above you with snow, there is a avalanche risk. Often, you may not be able to see the slopes above you, especially in the valley floor. Avalanches can reach incredible distances (run outs) from their point of release.
Always assume there is a risk, even when the forecast may say otherwise. In the case of the Routeburn track, there are known avalanche paths that cross the track, and during or after heavy snowfall, as well as on clear days with the bright sun, avalanches do occur. It is wise to be especially conservative with avalanches.
The best way to handle avalanche risk is to do a avalanche safety/awareness course. They are well worth doing to gain some more understanding of the subject.
You can find an online course HERE, however this is not a substitute for an actual avalanche safety course and will in no way prepare you for what you may encounter!
Weather
Alpine weather can change in an instant! My time climbing mountains has shown this time and again. Mountains form their own micro climates and all the wind, rain and snow is magnified by the steep sides into violent displays of nature. No forecast is 100% certain. Being prepared with the right layers is just the beginning. Learn to make good decisions by knowing when to turn back, and always check the forecast before you go!
Snowfall
An obvious feature in winter is snow, and the more there is of it, the harder and riskier your trip becomes. Plodding through deep snow is exhausting and requires the use of snowshoes or skis. If you do not have boots rated and designed for snow travel, anything higher than ankle deep will not only be uncomfortable, but could be dangerous. Frostbite is a real danger if you are spending extended time walking through snow.
Hypothermia
When you get too cold and your body can longer heat it up as fast as it is losing it, hypothermia kicks in. It’s a medical emergency and a silent killer. Wind, rain and snow are the obvious contributing factors, but it doesn’t need to be windy or snowing for you to be at risk. What you wear, and your decision making, will affect whether this turns into a real problem or not.
If you injure yourself while hiking through snow, are you prepared with the right gear, and will someone know where you are and come looking for you?
To get a full idea of the risks of venturing beyond the bushline into alpine terrain, have a read of my article about alpine dangers.
While all this may sound like doom and gloom, more so if you are a novice, you can still do part of the Routeburn track if you plan and prepare properly. We will look at some options below which may suit you.
YOUR GUIDE TO HIKING THE ROUTEBURN TRACK IN WINTER!
Before starting any trip, you should visit the DOC office in Queenstown (Department of Conservation) to get the latest updates and talk your plan through with them.
A PLB (personal locator beacon) is highly recommended. You can hire one from Locator Beacons NZ at one of the many outlets around.
So, provided you have prepared accordingly with the right gear, clothing layers, a plan to stay safe and turn around options, you could look at some of the following ideas for a trip along the Routeburn track in winter.
Options for the Routeburn track in winter:
1) Carpark to Routeburn Flats Hut (Day Trip)
A trip to the Routeburn flats is quite easy for any moderately fit hiker. The terrain is mostly flat and follows the Route Burn river with its stunning blue water. There’s a few little side stops to rest and enjoy the scenery, and in winter, it’s usually free of snow on the ground, though heavy snowfall does happen a few times each season.
2) Routeburn Falls Hut (Day Trip)
If the way to the Routeburn flats hut is free of snow, a trip up to Routeburn Falls hut is well worth considering if the forecast is looking great. The going gets steeper from the valley floor but is well worth it for the incredible views! The hut is well built and comfortable, though facilities are limited in winter. For most hikers with some trips under their belts, doing this trip in a day is easy and a great way to get part of the experience of walking the Routeburn track.
Tips: The hut sits just on the edge of the bushline so is relatively sheltered from the worst alpine conditions. Keep in mind that snow from a previous day/s can still be on the ground so keep an eye on the forecast both before and during your trip.
3) Routeburn Falls Hut (Overnight Trip)
Just like above, spending a night in Routeburn Falls hut is a cool experience. You would be lucky to find another person staying, so will practically have the place to yourself. Unlike summer, hut fees are heavily reduced as well. You can leave the tent behind and use the bunks, but just remember to bring lots of warm clothing, and use winter rated sleeping equipment!
4) Going Past Routeburn Falls Hut
In winter, going past Routeburn Falls hut is much riskier and should be carefully considered against the weather forecast, the current conditions (including avalanche conditions), and your skills. If all of them show green, you can consider a trip to have a look, but even experienced hikers rarely venture past Lake Harris, and the track that cuts above Lake Harris would be treacherous in snow and ice.
Like anything in the outdoors, investing in skills to allow to venture into new terrain and handle challenges pays off with the experiences you can have. The Routeburn track is amazing in summer, but in winter, it can be magical and a place few get to see.
For some more winter hiking tips, have a read of this:
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Hiking in winter can be an amazing experience, with white landscapes offering stunning vistas. It's also generally a lot quieter on trails, so if it’s the peace and quiet you are after, this can certainly be found!
Knowing how to hike in a snowy winter will make you a more knowledgeable hiker and outdoor adventurer. It’s important to put the effort into learning about the risks and conditions before you go, but the reward can be well worth it!
YOUR GUIDE TO HIKING IN WINTER
Plan Your Trip
Like any trip in the outdoors, a winter hike should first start with some planning. Research your intended route and check if it goes through avalanche terrain. If you are unfamiliar with this, stick to flat hikes in valley bottoms. When doing your first winter hike, start slow and pick a shorter hike to get used to what you will encounter and find out what it's really like.
Check the Forecast
If a decent dump of snow has just happened, or is about to, consider an alternative plan and try to get out in better conditions or leave it for another day. Not only is hiking through deep snow exhausting, it requires special gear like snowshoes or skis to stay on top of the deep snow.
Making sure that you aren’t going to be caught out in bad weather is also very important. In alpine terrain, the weather changes extremely quickly and can catch you unawares. Wind can be downright dangerous as it lowers the temperature significantly. Also, new snow or a change in wind direction almost always means that the avalanche risk is heightened in certain terrain.
Layer With the Right Clothes
Having the right clothing is not only important for comfort, but also for your safety. In winter, even if its forecast to be nice and sunny during the day, make sure to always take ALL layers. Layering is a skill, and should be honed with each trip you do. You can read more about it in my post about layering which has examples.
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A quick note: Some of the links in this post might be affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission – at no extra cost for you, which helps me cover the costs for this blog, or at least, I can buy a slice of cake every now and then. And I only recommend things I would buy myself, or already own.
Footwear
Hiking in the snow requires boots that are waterproof and insulated. For very short hikes, you can probably get away with your regular hiking footwear, but to be comfortable and safe, its best to have the correct shoes. You should also consider using gaiters to keep snow out of your boots. Deep patches of snow can be found anywhere along trails, so having gaiters keeps your feet nice and dry!
Take the Right Gear
Being prepared is always a good idea, no matter the activity or time of year, but in winter it's especially important. Don't skip on the essentials!
Taking the ten essentials is recommended for every trip into the outdoors. Rather than individual items, it’s been refined to a ‘systems’ approach which is adjusted for each trip.
These systems are:
1. Navigation. A map in a waterproof container, compass, altimeter or GPS device.
2. Sun protection. Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat and clothing.
3. Insulation.Layering with the right clothing.
4. Illumination. Headlamp with spare batteries.
5. First-aid supplies
6. Fire. Can be a lighter or waterproof matches.
7. Knife and repair kit. For any gear you are carrying and to help with basic tasks.
8. Nutrition. Add an extra days worth of food for multi day trips for emergencies.
9. Hydration. Water and hydration salts.
10. Emergency shelter. These can be bivvy bags or emergency space blankets.
And in winter, consider whether you need extra traction like microspikes which can attach to any shoe. Like mini crampons, these are great for moderate terrain and help you get traction in the snow. Also, for deep snow, snowshoes that help you float on the surface and not sink are a must!
Hiking poles are a lifesaver, and will help you balance and move more efficiently. I was never a fan of hiking poles until I started hiking in snow.
Avoid Hypothermia
Hypothermia is one of the main dangers of being out in the cold. To avoid it, make sure you have layered correctly for the conditions and have spare warm layers, have emergency equipment found in the ten essentials (specifically your space blanket or bivvy bag).
To learn more about hypothermia, click here.
Be Prepared to Turn Back
When conditions and/or the weather worsens, it's important to have the discipline and common sense to turn around and go back to safety. By turning around, and making that call sooner than later, you can save yourself a whole lot of trouble (or danger). When starting out on your winter hikes, don’t push the limit, make the call by being cautious and conservative.
OTHER WINTER HIKING TIPS
Stay Hydrated
As hard as it is to consume liquid when its cold, it’s actually even more important in these conditions! Your body uses a lot of water to keep you warm, and with cold temperatures, the air is often quite dry, adding to the issue. So make sure to consume plenty of water while hiking in winter. A good tip is to bring a thermos with a warm drink. I find taking a sip of hot tea or coffee the ultimate treat when winter hiking, almost as enjoyable as the hike itself!
Snack on the Go
Every time you stop for a break on a winter hike, you lose precious heat. Its best to keep moving, even if its at a very slow pace. Taking an extended lunch break is also not the best thing, so eat snack size portions so you can minimize the time you are stationary. Picking foods high in fats and balanced in carbs also helps.
Keep an Eye on Each Other
Most importantly, keep an eye on your hiking buddies and look out for each other. Sometimes we may be too proud or shy to say we are cold, but it’s really important to be able to speak up! Have an open, honest policy about sharing. Likewise, check in with them periodically and see how they are going.
While it may seem like a little more work and effort to get out on the trails in winter, you get to see a beautiful landscape, blanketed in pure white, quiet and serene, and this I think is well worth pursuing!
Have you hiked in the snow before? Did you enjoy it? Share your thoughts below in the comments!
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I didn’t want to look at the map. Sometimes, it’s better not to know. But finding out what’s in the canyon… well that, that I couldn’t resist! When the hard work and curiosity hit an equilibrium, you always have a recipe for an epic adventure!
Having descended one of New Zealand's best canyons a few weeks earlier, Eagles Nest was a close neighbour with the same appeal. Although easier in technical grade, it was still inescapable and featured over 40 abseils. Efficiency was key, as was having experienced team mates and favourable weather.
DO WE HAVE TO GET IN THE WATER TODAY?
A cold snap had hit the south island. My watch showed single digits that night and I was kicking myself for bringing my summer sleeping bag as we camped next to the car. A restless sleep and blaring alarm saw us gear up and set off in the frigid morning with another hour of darkness to navigate the thick bush.
The icy air was not exactly inviting knowing we had to brave the cold water later on!
To get to the Eagles Nest, it was a long approach, up to five hours, gaining 1115 meters of elevation.
Stumbling blind, head torches flicking left and right, the soft, springy moss was not at all appreciated that morning as legs pierced the natural trapping pits made from rotten logs and tree roots covered so inconspicuously.
There was no track in this area, few repeat descents had been done on Eagles Nest, so it was up to us to find the best path. My two friends, Elias and Rachel, along with myself, were loaded with more canyoning gear than was comfortably possible to carry. We chugged up the steepening slope, fighting vegetation and darkness in equal measure.
When the sun did finally show, it stayed stubbornly up on the mountain tops. But the worst part awaited us just out of reach of the warm rays. A mere 30 meters of thick brush and brambles separated us from a home stretch to the top...
A long 30 minutes later, scratched up and with burning skin, we had the final gully to reach the small plateau, after which we could ease ourselves into a nice walk across the tussock.
WE’RE IN!… SORT OF
Arriving at the creek as it disappeared over the cliff edge five hours after starting, we hurriedly stuffed our faces with some food and wiggled into wetsuits. Some searching found the first anchor, a bit of webbing which we threaded our rope through, and then we tossed it into the sky, eager to begin.
I have to admit, those first abseils were a bit… unappealing. Slippery, with partial excursions into the vegetation on each side, it was not the epic start I had hoped for. As the canyon was still quite open, finding the anchors was also taking more time than anticipated. We had to decide whether we keep looking for something existing, or build our own.
Since these abseils were nothing special anyway, we soon decided to scramble down and around all the drops we could, until we reached the canyon proper.
THE ‘ADVENTURE LEVEL’ INCREASES!
As we progressed, the canyon was changing character. Rock replaced green scrub and trees. Water intensifies as its funnelled into the narrows. And soon we were peering into the inescapable depths of the Eagles Nest.
There’s an overwhelming sense of anticipation when approaching a canyon and sighting the dark, high rock walls. To the untrained, it may manifest itself as dread, a place where nature is in full control, and we, the uninvited. For the experienced, it’s a challenge, a pursuit of beauty and intangible rewards alike.
That first abseil into the unknown, that’s what I really love.
We quickly lost track of which abseil we were on. Ten? Twenty? It didn’t matter. Eagles Nest opens periodically, and on this day, despite my love for the most narrow enclosed canyons possible, I was enjoying the extra sunlight after a cold morning start.
(click to enlarge pictures)
Eagles Nest might not be as enclosed as I would like, but it certainly makes up for it with long abseils down strikingly carved rock. On some abseils, the water twists, changing direction suddenly. Long slabs of grippy rock, small overhangs, narrow jets of water; the canyon has it all.
And like all canyons, there are many downclimbs as well. Bridging across gaps and careful backwards climbing, they add a sporty feel to the trip. The only thing missing, like many of the canyons in the Dart valley, are deep pools for jumps.
But when the adventure level is this high on a trip, you tend not to notice that as much. New Zealand offers its canyoning adventures with a good side of ‘wilderness’, and that in itself is worth pursuing.
THe REASONS WE DO IT
Before long, we sense the end approaching. The canyon kept up the amazing abseils right up until the end. Like with all canyons that have a ridiculous number of drops, you do tend to get over them towards the end. It wears you down slowly, physically and mentally. The constant sound of water rushing, the repetition of pulling down the rope, stacking it, then repeating, it’s a drain.
And its with that weariness that we still had to expend yet more effort on the walk out. Feet drag, packs feel even heavier, and conversation turns to food, it’s always about the food!
The car in sight, the never ending walk ends as suddenly as it began, thirteen hours later when we set off. We were exhausted.
But just like anything in the outdoors, there’s hard work and reward. We hike, climb mountains and rock faces, descend canyons and caves. We get muddy, dirty, cold and wet. And it’s always worth it for the enjoyment we get out of it.
We all do it for different reasons. Curiosity drives me to find out what’s down there. And when we had finished descending the Eagles Nest, we were all tired, cold and hungry, and yet, satisfied.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
OUR STATS
Descent: Early March 2019
Times: 13 hours car to car. 6.5 hours in the canyon.
Gear: 1x 60, 1x 70 meter ropes. Petzl rockpec hand drill, 12 bolts, hangers and quicklinks, as well as 15 meters of webbing.
Estimated Water Level: With no snow about above the canyon on our trip, flows were low.
WANT TO DO EAGLES NEST CANYON?
This canyon is for highly experienced canyoning teams only! Building the experience and skills takes time and effort, but is well worth it! Having the right gear is also a must!
If you are ready, you can get the topo from the Kiwicanyon’s website HERE. Be sure to have extra anchor materials and bolts, including a way to place them (hand drill, cordless drill).
Remember: There is no escape for most of the canyon, it is highly committing!
My GPS track for the entry can be found below (click the Wikiloc button to be taken to the web page to download):
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Who doesn't like a night under the stars? One of the best ways of going ‘light’ while spending nights outdoors and getting close to nature is with a bivy sack! Some love it... others not so much. Here is how to make the most out of a bivy sack with your guide on choosing and sleeping in one!
Bivying is the practice of sleeping in the outdoors with only basic protection from the elements. A bivy sack (or bag) is a simply a single layer material bag that you sleep inside.
Shortened from ‘bivouac’, a bivy can also refer to a temporary shelter, like under large overhanging rocks, in caves, under trees or anything else that can be found.
In this article however, we are just referring to the material sacks commonly used nowadays.
For the modern person sleeping in the wilderness, specialized bivy sacks can be found in almost every gear shop. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages over your tent setup which we will explore below.
WHO USES A BIVY SACK?
Anyone spending a night or more outdoors can use a bivy sack. Hikers, climbers and many more, use them to keep backpacks lightweight. In mountaineering for example, they are often carried even when not expecting an overnight stay as a backup emergency option should something happen and the need to bivy arises.
Anyone going on solo adventures may also be considering a bivy bag as a lightweight alternative to a one person tent. Before buying one, it’s important to know why you are buying one, its pro’s and cons, and how it should be used.
THE ADVANTAGES OF BIVY SACKS
Weight: One of the biggest advantages of a bivy sack over a tent (even a one man tent) is weight. Most bivvy bags weigh less than 500 grams (17.6 ounces), and more often between 300-450 grams. Carrying less weight always equals to a more enjoyable experience.
Warmth: Great for colder climates, they also usually add a few degrees or warmth. With the minimal air space inside, your body will heat it much quicker.
Space: Bivy sacks take up very little room, both in your pack and on the ground. You will need far less space than a tent and can set up in some pretty cool locations you wouldn’t otherwise be able to fit into!
Easy to use: With no guy lines or poles, they are very easy to set up. They can be used in seconds, which is great for those looking to have less chores to do at camp. Keeping things simple is always refreshing after all!
THE DISADVANTAGES OF BIVY SACKS
While it’s great to save weight (over a tent), this saving comes at a cost. They can be uncomfortable for some people who aren’t fond of them, especially with some bivy models lacking something to keep the head panel off your face.
Keeping all your gear inside the bivy sack, which is usually not an issue in tents with their larger internal space, becomes a hassle at times and requires some forethought on how to best approach it.
Also, very bad weather (like torrential rain) can be quite uncomfortable in the small space. Condensation is perhaps the biggest disadvantage in bivy sacks. This needs to be considered when purchasing one.
So while bivy sacks may not be suitable for everyone, making sure to use them in the correct way is sure to improve your experience. Next up we will look at how to choose a bivy sack!
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CHOOSING YOUR BIVY SACK
While there are many models of bivy sacks, there are essentially just a few things to really pay attention to.
Materials: With the advances in waterproof breathable materials like Goretex or E-vent, its best to stick with one of these as opposed to the older, non breathable bivy sacks. Since both warm and cold climates can cause condensation inside, you really want it to breath as much as possible, and getting a Goretex or E-vent type material is the best way to go.
Design: When looking at which bivy sack to buy, there are a few design features to look out for and consider.
Mesh panels around the head are a big advantage in that when the weather is fair, you can leave the Goretex hood off and will have next to no condensation while still protecting you from insects. Taking note of all the ventilation options is key when buying one, and can really make the difference in how much condensation you will get inside.
A small hooped tent pole is included in some design, and for a very small increase in weight (almost marginal), it can make bivying much nicer by keeping the head panel off your face.
Fit: While most bivy sacks will accommodate every sized person buying them, it's best to check beforehand if the dimensions will actually suit you. You may wish to allow for extra room for storing some gear in there as well. If you can see the bivy sack in a store this will make the process much easier. When buying online, try to gather as much information as possible to make an informed choice, and also check the return policy of the store you are buying from in case you need to return it.
Weight: Of course the whole idea of getting a bivy sack is to save weight over a tent, so make sure you are happy with the weight of the bivy sack you are looking at. You should definitely be looking at the bivy sacks weighing under 500 grams (17.6 ounces) as there are a few one person tent designs out there weighing in around the 700-800 gram mark.
My personal recommendation for bivy sack:Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy. This bivy sack has all the additions you need, is breathable, and is roomy!
HOW TO USE A BIVY SACK
Setting Up: The same rules apply to bivy sacks as for tents. Choose an area of flat ground that will not flood if it rains, is free of sharp objects, not in the path of humans or animals (like an animal trail), and is safe for you to sleep in for the night (away from a fire pit, out of avalanche zones in snow ect).
Sleeping Mat: Some models will have straps to hold your sleeping mat in place. Using a sleeping mat is recommended since you lose most of your heat through the ground. The straps help keep the mat in place as you toss and turn.
Turning in Your Sleep: Without straps for your sleeping mat, its essentially the same as if you are in your tent, but the bivy does tend to want to roll without. Lifting half your body and then the other, you can generally stop the tendency for the bivy to roll. If your bivy does not have straps, you can install some by using flat elastic straps and gluing velcro material on the middle ends to be able to adjust it, and then gluing each end to the bivy base.
Pack Contents: There are several ways with dealing with all the loose items that are left over after you have your sleeping setup inside. Depending on space, you can stuff the items around you, or leave them in your bag and use your rain pack cover to protect it. This is not very efficient in heavy rain however, so a large pack liner that your bag can also sit inside also works perfectly. Remember to keep food with you inside, or hanging it up in accordance with the local practice, depending on where in the world you are.
Dealing With Moisture: Generally, you always will want to leave the head cover off (using the mesh instead) and only cover up if it rains or snows. This allows the best ventilation possible. If it does rain or you have to cover up, still leave a small hole even though your bivy may have Goretex or similar and is said to ‘breathe’. In practice, it never does breathe as well as you think.
Sleeping on Snow: When sleeping on snow, make sure that you are in a safe place for the night, not under trees loaded with snow, or avalanche paths. You may find the condensation freezes overnight, and this leads to the Goretex being even less ‘breathable’.
Additional Improvements: Adding sleeping bag straps if they are not already in there is a nice addition that makes it easier if you tend to toss and turn alot.
To resolve bivy sacks that do not have a hooped tent pole for keeping the head cover off your face, some steel wire can be used and made into a tripod shape. This weighs about the same as a hooped tent pole. Remember to bend the wire ends back onto themselves so it won’t poke through the bivy sack! Some bivy sacks have a small loop for connecting a short single cord to a tree branch or hiking pole.
A small tarp, even just for your head (known as a head tent) can be great if expecting heavy rain. Consider this adds weight to your total setup, but by using small tarps, or a poncho even, you can still keep this well under a one person tent.
Using a water resistant sleeping bag is recommended as the issue of condensation becomes less of a problem. Most modern, high quality sleeping bags are made with these sorts of materials.
WHAT IS IT LIKE SLEEPING IN A BIVY SACK?
It’s the first question people ask anyone using a bivy if they haven’t tried it before. So what is it like sleeping in a bivy sack? Here is my review after spending many nights in one.
Having used my bivy sack in hot humid rainforests, on snow, mountainsides and many other places, and in many different weather conditions, its given me a good idea of what works and what it’s like.
Sleeping with the head panel open, and using either the mesh or just keeping it the whole thing open, is the best way when conditions are clear. I will usually do this even if I know rain may come later during the night, and just close it up when it does rain.
When I do have the head cover zipped up due to rain, I will still always keep a small hand length portion unzipped. Water does not usually splash up into it. A heavy downpour is not fun, mainly for getting in and out of the tent. I have a spare dry bag for my shoes, which are often very dirty, so I don’t have to put them in with my other gear.
The hooped tent pole keeps the mesh and head cover off my face, and is a must have addition in my opinion. Without one, I find it almost impossible to feel comfortable. Most people would feel the same way, though hardcore bivy lovers do not mind it.
For my extra gear floating around, I try to take as much as I can into the bivy sack with me (including food and rubbish), and whatever doesn’t fit will go into my backpack, which in turn goes into my oversized pack liner to waterproof it.
I tend to toss and turn a lot in my sleep, so the sleeping mat straps are an amazing feature. Without them, I do tend to notice it, though I would not buy or not buy a bivy sack purely because of this feature. You can always add them yourself.
Otherwise, sleeping is exactly the same as a tent. The ability to watch the stars on a good, clear night makes up for those occasional bad weather days.
Going solo or when spending time in the mountains, I find myself using my bivy sack more and more now. Initially I was hesitant, and the bivy sack sat in the garage for months before I tried it out. Now, I try to take it whenever I can, especially on solo missions and when trying to save weight.
Using a bivy sack is something that can be a great way of keeping your backpack light for overnight trips in the outdoors.
Have you tried a bivy sack? Got your own tips? What did you think? Share in the comments below?
A quick note: Some of the links in this post might be affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission – at no extra cost for you, which helps me cover the costs for this blog, or at least, I can buy a slice of cake every now and then. And I only recommend things I would buy myself, or already own.
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Whether you have mastered getting out every weekend on an adventure or are still getting there (in which case I have just what you need right here), having some friends to do it with pretty much makes it way easier, and keeps it fun of course! But what happens if your regular partners cancel or bail, or, you just have no (adventure) friends?
In this day and age, the small niches of outdoor activities are much easier to get into thanks to the internet. No longer do you have to grind away in social circles, trying and hoping to meet the right people.
Right now at our fingertips, a whole world of adventure buddies awaits!
FINDING ADVENTURE BUDDIES!
Knowing where to look makes all the difference! But also knowing HOW to ask is important. For most of the suggestions below, I’ll outline some basic principles to help you get the most out of that platform.
In all interactions with people online and also in the real world, it’s worth being cautious to begin with. Never go on an epic adventure straight away, start slow on something easy that you could handle by yourself.
Meetup.com
This was the place it all started for me. Meetup.com is a great website for getting into different activities, and not just outdoor ones. After going to my first meetup event, a short hike, I instantly started connecting with people and making outdoorsy friends. Many of them are still my friends years later.
After a year of attending events, I took the over the group and ran it for about 2 years. At each event I saw how people bonded and became friends, and I’m fairly certain many of them are still friends to this day.
To get started on Meetup, look up the activity you want to do, and simply join a handful of groups that look promising.
A good idea is to see how the group is run, and look for things like how many people they allow on an event. Too many is not good. Also, see if they take safety seriously by giving appropriate warnings or cautions. This isn’t a definite indicator, but helps a little.
Attending an event is simple, you just RSVP on the website (or app) and then go on the date specified! To see how it all works, you can read my post about it right HERE.
Everyone is in the same boat on Meetup events. Most are new to the activity, and just as eager as you to get to know other people.
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Facebook Groups
In the last few years, Facebook groups have become increasingly popular for seeking out adventure buddies. To find the groups, search for the activity in your area and then simply join!
The hardest part is putting up a post looking for someone. Once you have done it a few times, it’s much easier.
A good idea is to be honest about your skill level when posting. There will always be other people at your level in the group. If you are seeking someone more advanced, some incentive always helps, like offering to drive, buy beers or dinner, as these people will always be getting these kinds of requests. So be different, and appreciate their time!
If your post doesn’t receive the attention or reply you were looking for, simply delete it and post again in a week or two. Sometimes, timing is everything, and many people may simply have missed your post of been busy at the time.
Instagram
Though it’s not the most obvious place to find people, you can occasionally meet adventure buddies on Instagram. Commenting or direct messaging is how its done, and it’s a good idea to build a relationship with the person first before going that next step. Unlike Facebook groups, it’s a more personal medium, and requires the right social tact when approaching people.
When messaging people, always consider how your message will be received. If it's out of the blue with no prior interaction, it may be best to comment on their photos first and have conversations that way before going all out.
Tinder
Believe it or not, the dating app ‘Tinder’ is now becoming very popular for meeting adventure buddies! Since location and hobbies can be matched, and practically every single person is using Tinder, many have reported great success in finding an adventure buddy. And hey, if you are single, you might even find your other half in the process!
The key for using Tinder for finding adventure buddies is to make your profile look platonic, rather than going for the usual dating setup of photos and description. To see how one girl is finding adventure buddies on Tinder, have a look at her article HERE.
Activity or Interest Based Apps
With our phones becoming practically glued to our hands, it’s no surprise there are new apps emerging built for the sole purpose of meeting like minded people. Adventurocity (Iphone only) is one such app, but there are many others, often made for locals of countries.
Head into your Apple or Android app store and search your preferred activity (or things like outdoor/adventure buddy). In the future, I predict these sort of apps will only grow.
Forums
Before Facebook and mobile apps, internet forums were the place to meet up with people. Many still exist and are very active. Just like Facebook group posts, put up a post with what you are looking for, stay honest with your abilities, and try again if it doesn’t work.
The downside to forums is that you receive email notifications to replies on your post, rather than a instant phone notification like from Facebook or other mobile apps. Emails can get lost in junk folders, and some people prefer having them come through only once a day turning on their phone settings to match this. Still, it's always worth pursuing all avenues if you want to find a cool bunch of people!
In the Outdoors
And of course, you will always meet people in the outdoors. I've met many friends while out doing an activity or just being outside. Those natural interactions have led to some great adventure buddies who I have gone on to do fantastic trips with. Say hello as you pass people on the trail, be open to meeting people.
The best thing about the outdoors is the community you join. Nothing beats the friendships you make out there and the bonds you form!
Got any of your own tips for meeting adventure buddies? Leave a comment below!
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When working the standard 9 to 5 week, trying to get out on the weekend can often end in the opposite happening for many people. Without proper planning, it’s easy to just let the weekend slip by with excuses of chores to do, bad weather, or needing a rest.
I’m no energizer bunny myself, I feel the strain of the workweek like any other person. But year after year, I consistently make it out on an adventure on 90% of the years weekends, and continue to build my outdoor skills and tick off a bunch of trips I’ve got on my adventure wishlist.
So if you want to get out more and have epic weekends, here’s how to do it!
YOUR GUIDE TO MAXIMISING YOUR WEEKEND!
Its starts with some ‘life preparation’. After all, if our life is tailored to make weekend adventures uncomplicated, well, it’ll just be much easier to do them!
Stay Organised!
If we keep everything in our life organised, things get much easier when the weekend rolls around. Keeping your home tidy, for one, makes it certain you don’t waste a whole weekend day catching up on it.
The same goes for your schedules. Keep days free for social stuff, catching up on work (if you need it), or anything else that can quickly overtake your best plans. Its ok to say no to social events, you can always catch up another time!
Keep your outdoor gear organised in containers or shelving, with every item having its place. Trust me, you’ll forget less stuff on your trips, and packing it all away when you return at the weekends end is also simpler.
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Try Minimalism!
Minimalism is the lifestyle of keeping things simple. It’s amazing how what was simply ‘life’ hundreds of years ago (less junk in homes ect), is doing a full 360° in our consumerist society with more and more people adopting the simple life; and they are happier and mentally healthier for it!
You can take it to any level you want, but in the most basic sense, try to reduce what you use, how much you buy, and what you own that doesn’t add any value. Clean out the garage and house and then stop it from filling again. Haven’t used it in a year? Get rid of it!
Do the ultimate spring clean, and then aim to keep it that way. One way I found myself accumulating less was living in a van for 7 months. No that was a lesson in space saving!
Take Rest Days
It’s easy to burn yourself out. I’ve done it a few times and it’s no fun at all. It’s important to schedule rest days. Chill out and do nothing. You can even set aside the odd weekend to do this! I often like to do my rest days when it’s a rainy weekend. I'll keep going until it sets in, then eat junk food and watch movies! I also like to keep certain days during the week free to get an early night and recover. Your body and mind need it, and in order to keep doing it, you gotta look after them!
Have Backup Plans
One easy way to have your plans for the weekend fall through is by not having backup plans! Always have a bad weather day option, and account for the unexpected cancellation of your adventure buddies. A great idea is to keep a list of trips you can do on bad weather days. This means you don’t have to spend ages trying to decide what to do.
Diversify Your Activities
Going hand in hand with your backup plans are having multiple activities. Enjoying winter when it snows and you aren’t fond of the cold is much easier to do when you have some activities to do at that time of year. The same goes if your area experiences blasting hot summers. Think about what you like to do, how it fits in your budget, and also fits in with the location and climate around you.
By following these tips, you’ll find it much easier to follow through on weekend plans and make epic things happen. Another awesome way to do this is to take the occasional mini retirement! Either way, with a bit of practice, maximising your weekend becomes easy!
Got your own tips for how you like to maximise your weekend? Leave a comment to share it!
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Adventure sports are on the rise. Outdoor brands are selling more gear and traditional sports participation is decreasing with a big increase predicted for adventure sports, perhaps even overtaking the traditional ones in the future.
So why all the hype?
As someone who spent a long period of life inside, away from the outdoors, I was probably the last person you would expect to start climbing, canyoning, or caving.
But now I do, and I go out in every spare moment I have!
After many years of adventuring in the outdoors, as well as leading my 2000 member strong adventure club, here’s what I noticed on how adventure sports will change you!
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THE 10 WAYS ADVENTURE SPORTS WILL CHANGE YOU
It starts off with the obvious:
1. Become Healthier
It’s no secret, being outdoors is good for you. When we are outside we move naturally, especially over rough terrain, which gets all our body parts in motion and the blood circulating. We get fitter. When we do adventure sports, we increase this effect further by pushing ourselves more than we normally would.
2. Connect With Nature
Connecting with nature has become more important of late as our cities of concrete overflow into the landscape. Adventure sports often result in a deep connection with the environment. As examples, climbing, skiing, canyoning are often at their most enjoyable when no one else is around. With just you and nature, it’s hard not to ignore the texture of the earth and rock, the flow and colour of the water, and the scents drifting into your nostrils.
3. Connect With People
It’s strange how much you can trust a new climbing partner and connect with them without even knowing their full name. I’ve done this many times when climbing with new people. Most adventure sports are similar. You are instantly in tune with the people around you. On top of that, many adventure sports will teach you about how people work, how they manage stress and anxiety, their humour, and how they adapt to new situations. After all, these things are important in adventure sports partners, so it’s natural to gain these character reading skills for life in general.
4. Find Your Zen
This is the most cited reason for people to actually start doing an adventure sport. They want to find their zen state, to be in the moment. A place where nothing else matters but the present. We are bombarded by media, work, rules and social expectations. Finding an escape to enjoy just yourself in the present time is not only sought after, but even good for you!
5. Fear and Stress Management
Going out adventuring for the weekend and then coming back to normal routines and problems during the week can make it all seem… easy. Some problems are always going to be difficult, but when you just spent the weekend challenging yourself and solving the physical and mental problems that go with it, you gain a understanding of HOW YOU react to stress and fear. Life isn’t about avoiding these things, its about managing how you react to them and actually feeling them, not ignoring them (there's that zen state again).
6. Gain Humility
As humans, we do tend to get a bit full of ourselves and think we are far superior than we might actually be. Adventure sports put a reality check in play as we realise that nature, like the terrain, animals, or weather, can just as easily smite us. Being in the mountains makes you feel small, and that’s because you realise the sheer magnitude of your surroundings in comparison to you. And nothing makes you think ‘I’m just a small human’ than an incoming thunderstorm in the backcountry!
7. Self Confidence
Seeing the many people in my adventure group overcome challenges and get out of their comfort zones showed a unsurprising result. They grew confident. I felt the same. Adventure sports develop your confidence as you grow, learn and experience your chosen sport. It’s hard not to be confident when you do things many shy away from. You stepped up to a challenge, and you feel awesome!
8. Know Yourself
How well do you know yourself? How do you think you would manage a crisis? Or a new fear? Adventure sports nurture growth without you even knowing. You overcome fears and challenges and each time you do, you figure yourself out a little better. Many participants of adventure sports also report they feel they have their passions and purposes figured out in life. I include myself there. I know one thing for sure. I’m happiest when I’m outdoors and having fun!
9. Appreciation
It’s hard not to see the incredible views, experience some small risks, and not come out with an appreciation for life, our fellow humans and the big blue ball we call home. We can see more from going outside than we can sitting staring through the window. Our views broaden in every sense of the word. I know my fellow adventurers deepest fears and why the laugh and cry. I know the craziness of the weather with even a small elevation gain in the mountains. And I know how sensitive the environment is each and every time I go outside, with the pollution and encroachment effects we have on this planet.
10. Balance
With balance in life, comes happiness. It’s not just about the adventure sport. It’s about the people you do it with. Those scenic views and sounds of wildlife free. And the sense of satisfaction that comes out of having a fantastic day outside, muscles sore but smiles big.
Have you tried an adventure sport? Do you have a passion of your own? Let me know below in the comments how it has changed you!
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Like most rock climbers, we all love our climbing gear. Often, we can’t get enough of it! So what exactly do you get someone if they love climbing? If we don’t do the activity ourselves or know the latest trends and gadgets, it can be a bit overwhelming on what to get.
It doesn’t have to be like that though! I have put together a list of some of the best gifts you can get your climbing friend/partner/family member.
They will love any of these!
And for the ultimate gift, check right at the bottom to see what will truly impress them!
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Please note: The post below contains affiliate links.
GIFTS FOR ROCK CLIMBERS FOR UNDER $25
Reel rock is the absolute best series for climbing films! Each year, a new Reel rock goes on tour and showcases some brilliant films. Here’s the trailer for one of my favourite ones: Reel Rock 11 https://youtu.be/Ju3cJbQHgEs
No climber has ever said no to extra chalk. Friction Labs makes some great chalk and it’s a easy gift for any climber.
Whether trad or sport climbing, climbing tape is a must have! Many climbers even have a roll permanently clipped to their harness!
Once the holds start getting smaller, the wear and tear on the fingers increases. Looking after your hands, especially with the drying effect of climbing chalk, is a good way to keep skin injuries at bay. Hand cream can be applied after a days session and reinvigorates the skin. You’ll notice the difference!
I have bought many cheap water bottles and all have broken- except my Nalgene water bottle. BPA free (naturally) and durable, I have dropped this from 30 meters while rock climbing and it survived, though I don’t recommend testing it this way! The wide mouth makes refilling from creeks easier as well. Also, you can never have enough water bottles!
For those who are meticulous about looking after their hands, the ClimbSkin hand file is there to keep the skin smooth and take away burrs that happen from slipping off holds.
Any boulderer will love a new brush, and just like chalk, you can never have enough!
A great read delving into the mind of Alex Honald who is undoubtedly the most well known rock climber now. Known for his free solo attempts and here it also goes right into his mind with some key insights to his way of thinking.
This is one of my favourite books written by a climber not many have heard of. Andy Kirkpatrick certainly doesn’t look like your typical climber but he has some incredible mental perseverance and some insane stories to tell. A must read!
GIFTS FOR ROCK CLIMBERS THAT THEY ARE GOING TO LOVE!
A knife is handy to have no matter what outdoor activity you do. It’s very lightweight, easy to open and is a perfect size. I keep it clipped on my harness all the time.
After climbing for a while, you’ll come to realize how important it is to train all your opposing muscles. As climbers, we tend to be unbalanced, so sorting out your fingers with this training tool from Metolius is a great way to balance them again.
These mini hangboards are a great way to travel and train. Or they can just be hung in the house or off a tree in the backyard. Either way, these are a great way to train for climbing!
Keeping your rope clean is a must do, and the rope brush from Beal is excellent at giving the rope a solid clean. Also great for just brushing dirt off the rope while at the crag.
A beta stick, or stick clip as I call them, is a awesome way to start climbing harder routes as the first clip (the first bolt) can often be intimidating. It can also protect some first clips that may be dangerous, like some local crags that had 3 or 4 meter high first bolts!
A life saver for the neck when spending all day belaying! These glasses use mirrors to allow you to see the climber while you can look straight ahead! It takes a few moments when you first try it to get orientated but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
No climber will say no to a new rope bag. We all love them and keeping our ropes out of the dirt is a big priority.
When I started crack climbing I used tape gloves. They took time to make, and although reusable, they weren’t as convenient as these things! I love these for alpine climbs were terrain changes and you want to change your style constantly. I highly recommend these gloves for any trad climbing aficionado.
On those rest days slacklining is an awesome way to stay active and fit, and most importantly, get that great balance climbers require. My old local crag used to have a guy who set these up for everyone to use, and it was great to see the people walking past have a go and get into it!
I love the Gopros for their ease of use and ton of attachments. I generally take my Gopro on most trips now as they are small and light enough to not be noticed. New versions like the GoPro 7 also take great photos and that wide angle can be great for the scenery we see on climbs. Ill post some of my videos here soon as examples!
GIFTS FOR ROCK CLIMBERS (THAT THEY OFTEN FORGET)
A PLB is one of the best gifts for any outdoorsy person. A life saver in critical emergencies, its peace of mind knowing you have a way to call for help- anywhere on the planet. And for climbers, when we need help, time is critical!
While the PLB is great for its SOS function, the Garmin InReach Mini perfectly compliments a PLB with 2 way communication. Running late from a climbing trip? No worries! The InReach is exactly what you need to let your trusted contact know you are OK but just running late.
No trip into the wilderness should be done without a basic first aid kit like this one. I always like to add some extras like water purification tablets, a firelighter, and strong pain relief.
My survival bivvy travels with me on any full day trip into the outdoors. Used as an emergency shelter which will help conserve warmth, it’s small and light and should be in every climbers bag when venturing into adventurous terrain.
THE ULTIMATE GIFTS FOR ROCK CLIMBERS
► Guidebooks
I love nothing better than getting a new guidebook for an area I haven’t climbed in. It’s a gateway for new adventures with easy to access information on the routes, access and important information. A guidebook will make every climber happy!
► Go Climbing!
Of course after all the physical gifts you can get a climber, we often love nothing more than to just go climbing! Go out for a day, shout them some lunch or dinner, and it’s just a good a gift as any on the list!
Hopefully this list will get you started in finding the perfect gift for a family member, friend or partner (or maybe even yourself)! Getting gear to adventure more is always better than just getting more random junk to fill the house. Gear gets you places in comfort and safety.
Have fun out there!
Got any climbing gifts you’ve received (or really want) that you love? Let me know in the comments below!
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Blistering icy winds, miserable sleet, and knee deep powder. For some, winter is the end of the year in terms of fun and enjoyment (or life, for the super dramatic). And for others, they chase it around the world like other people chase summers.
So what is the difference between people that love winter and those that hate it? Sure, we all have some preference for a season which we love, but what stops us enjoying the ones we aren’t so fond of?
CAN YOU ACTUALLY LOOK FORWARD TO WINTER?
I remember before I started any outdoor activities I used to think winter was the time for staying inside, while summer was the ‘action’ season to do outdoorsy things.
Living in Brisbane with its humid heat and crazy sun, that couldn’t have been further from the truth as I found out. Winter was the perfect time to get out and hike, climb or ride bikes there.
When I then moved to New Zealand, I got a taste of actual winters with snow, ice, short daylight hours and the occasional miserable winter conditions. What made it even harder was my partner and I spent half of that first winter living in a small van!
No heating.
No shelter from the winds while cooking outside.
And just enough warmth at night to sleep.
But you know what? I actually didn’t mind it at all! Sure, there was some novelty about doing it for the first time. Looking back however, it was a great experience.
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I was also going ice climbing 1-2 times a week as I was taking my mini retirement at the time! Cold all day and then cold again at night. I couldn’t have enveloped myself in winter any more even if I tried!
Once we moved into an actual house, my stroke for winter only intensified.
Here’s why!
HOW TO ENJOY WINTER
There’s a reason I was so keen for winter. My outdoor activities.
Winter meant putting a halt to many of the hikes due to avalanche hazards. Rock climbing was harder to get motivated for due to the cold and often wet conditions.
But skiing was in. As was ice climbing.
And this is why my enthusiasm stayed high. And it’s why I look forward to each and every winter to come.
Keeping all your eggs in the same basket really shows its meaning in places and countries which get proper, snowy winters. Diversify your activities and you never run out of things to do!
“But wait, this will all cost a fortune, right”?!
I get it, many activities can be very mean to our wallets. But so are many other things in life. Choosing to have expensive cars or accommodation is a life choice. Eating out a lot rather than cooking at home, that’s another choice.
I prioritised adventure and planned to have everything I needed to have year round adventures by adopting a minimalistic lifestyle and cutting out costs that weren’t needed. If you make the effort, many of these activities are not as expensive as you think compared to the other choices we make in our lives.
It’s about working with what you have and where you live.
All countries around the world have rock climbing areas for example. And you might be surprised that you can get your basic setup for less than $250AUD (200USD)! With a bit of research, many activities can be easily setup and maintained by putting aside a little money each week.
YOUR TIPS FOR ENJOYING WINTER
► Diversify your activities. Look forward to each season with activities you love doing. Winter is great for skiing/snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice climbing, ice skating and ice fishing, just for some examples.
► If it’s hard on the wallet (which it always was, and still is for me), plan your seasonal sports over a few years. Each year aim to get another activity (until you reach 4, or more if you want) and look into ones that best fit into your lifestyle, budget and taste.
► Picking activities that blend together is both efficient for startup and ongoing costs. For example, most rock climbing gear is also used for ice climbing and canyoning. And all the same clothing layers are needed in many outdoor sports so you aren’t having to fork out extra once you have it.
► Having the right clothing layers and gear to keep you warm is crucial to getting full enjoyment out of every activity. Ice climbing, for example, is absolutely horrible without a good puffy down jacket to keep you warm in between climbs. Like the saying goes: there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
By planning ahead and being ready for winter with activities you love, you can make full use of your time and have adventures every weekend. No excuses anymore, winter CAN be enjoyed!
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