Hey everyone, it's Jason here. For those who are doing more than car camping, and perhaps doing backpacking or wilderness camping, here are some important tips for you:
1. Knowledge of where you'll be hiking/maps/gps/inform friends
This is oftentimes the most overlooked. Try to carry with you the most detailed maps you can find of the area you know you'll be in. Also a compass can be invaluable in a lost type situation. Try not to rely too heavily upon gps as well. One dunk in liquid will render most handheld gps units useless. All too often, basic navigation skills have been the difference between harrowing survival stories and disasterous tales of woe.
Having lived in the desert for most of my life, water is at the forefront of my mind in terms of what order my needs are to be met. Know how much water you need to bring with you for the trip/hike you'll be taking. Most people vastly underestimate how much water they really need. If you're hiking all day in a hot, arid environment you can use as much as a gallon of water per day! Studies have shown that hydrating 'as-you-go' (utilizing a bladder and hose type system installed in your pack) does a better job of keeping the body hydrated than the 'walk-until-I-nearly-collapse-of-dehydration-then-slam-a-bottle-of-water' method. If you're going to be an area that has abundant water sources then you could opt for one of the many water treatment systems out there from iodine pills to hand pumps/filters to Ultraviolet light purification. Food is also on this list although far less important (in survival type situations) than water. You could function without food for about three weeks before really bad things started happening. With water you've got about three days.
3. Differnt Packs for Different Needs:
The biggest consideration here is to consider what will you be using it for. Different packs will have different features based on what you'll be doing with it. Daypacks will be small and light but won't be able to carry a large load. If you're going on a weeklong hike in Yosemite you're going to want a larger, more stable backpack with a frame sheet and adequate hip support. I tend to err on the side of smaller and more lightweight. I'll always remember a piece of advice I was given while I was picking out my pack: The problem with buying a big pack is then you feel obligated to fill it with stuff.
4. Your Most Important Ally: Shoes/Boots
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will absolutely ruin a hiking experience like a bad pair of shoes. If you splurge on one piece of equipment, make it your shoes. Try on ALOT of shoes and find out what works best for you. Different brands and different models are made for both different feet and different strides. Try to buy your shoes one full size larger than what feels comfortable in the store. As you hike, your feet swell...quite a bit actually. Trust me on this one. This extra room can mean the difference between completing your hike in style or miserably hobbling to the foot doctor. One last thing...weight. I try to go with the lightest shoe I can get away with. The old adage is one pound on the feet is equal to five pounds on your back. Unless you're doing some treacherous snow field crossings or steep mountain passes you can probably get away with a lower cut 'trail-running' shoe as opposed to a higher up the ankle, proper boot.
5. Don't Scrimp Here: First Aid Kit
You'll have to customize this depending on your experience of what you end up needing. However, a good place to start is: Some way to sterilize (alcohol wipes work well), Some way to close up an open wound such as needle/thread or butterfly closures, Sterile pads, bandages, triple anibiotic ointment, burn oinment, sun block, surgical tape, and any kind of drugs such as anti-pain (Tylenol) anti-swelling (Ibuprofen) anti-fever (Tylenol or Ibuprofen), anti-diahreal (Immodium), and anti-histimine (Benedryl) for allergic reactions. Here again you must make some decisions that have to balance weight with functionality. In general the weight you use here can pay disproportionately high dividends if it ends up being something that really comes in handy, but it's easy to overdo it. Nothing in here is too heavy on it's own but it adds up quickly. As they say: Pounds are made up of ounces.
If you're doing a little car camping with the family then a big heavy tent is the way to go. Lots of space in the tent, durable, lots of features (ooh look, a hanging shelf). Of course, you don't need an expensive tent if you're goal is to go on the cheap, and the location of your camping adventure is free from most weather conditions. But if you'll be by yourself or with a partner on a backpacking trip you'll probably want to go with something lighter and simpler. The most basic of shelters is a bivvy sack (*as Tiffany mentionned). Next are tarp systems that need to be staked out and occasionally use a trekking pole as a means of support. Lastly are the free standing tents. Again, each one has advantages and disadvantages depending on how it will be used.
7. How to Choose Your: Sleeping Bag
When it comes to sleeping bags remember this: Warmth-Weight-Price Pick any two. That might be overstating it a tad but it's true. If you want a really warm, really lightweight sleeping bag it's going to cost you more money. If you want a cheap bag that keeps you warm, it's going to be heavier. You get the picture I'm sure.
Human beings are woefully inept creatures when suddenly removed of their sense of sight.
9. Stove/Fuel for Cooking
If you're planning on cooking on the trail then you'll need something to cook with. For car camping, a stove with multiple burners might work best for you. Attach a propane tank and you're off and running. For backpacking it ranges from homemade alcohol stoves made from an old tuna can to stoves that snap right onto a pressurized fuel canister. I find that on the trail I rarely do more than heat up water so I keep it pretty simple with a MSR Pocket Rocket. Super light and heats water very fast.
10. Make Fire: Firestarter
I usually carry a lighter for everyday firestarting needs and a magnesium stick with flint in case I need a waterproof/extreme condition method for getting a fire going. Wax dipped matches work great for wet conditions and dryer lint balls dipped in candle wax work as a great source of tinder and burns forever.
11. Additional Miscellaneous Things to Consider:
A few other items I would consider bringing would be some kind of pad to sleep on. Sleeping bags don't cushion you very well on a hard ground. I personally use a simple foam pad but choices in sleeping pads get all the way up to inflatable air matresses that are more comfortable than my home bed. I would also highly recommend making up a small 'foot repair' kit. Moleskin and 2nd Skin pads to help with blisters forming; anti-friction gel; small scissors. I usually keep these things among the first aid items.
Anything past here is going to be up to the individual. My favorite hiking adage is: Hike your own hike. Some people want to lug around a heavy book to read in camp while others might like to bring their ipods. There's really no wrong way. Well maybe one...not to go at all.
Hopefully, this was helpful to those of you interested in advancing your camping and hiking skills.
Be Well, my friends!
Thank you so much, Jason! I look forward to our next He Said* She Said feature next Saturday! If you would like to see some of our camping or hiking adventure videos, click here! XO, Tiffany
As you may know, I had never camped or hiked (much) before Mr. Bird hiked into my life. At that juncture, my so-called hiking experiences were relegated to tiny strolls around the Appalachian Trail , or walking long city blocks in Manhattan (*in platform heels, I might add!). My outdoorsy-ness has increased dramatically because of him. I would not, however, call myself a real "nature" girl. In fact, I am still squeemish about smelly bathrooms, large bugs, and doubt I will ever be able to sleep under a simple tarp (*cough* "bivvy sack") as die-hard backpackers seem to. This being said, there are a few staples that are absolute neccesseties for making your experience a good one.
1. Lightweight Backpack (*with a daypack for shorter hikes*)
I am a big fan of REI products in general. This is the pack we have, and it's perfect for what most hikers need. It's lightweight, has loads of features, and provides good support for your back, enabling you to carry most of the weight on your hips. Trust me, this is important. One year, I hiked with Jason and the pack bruised my collar bones because of too much weight on my shoulders. Ouch. This pack also has a soft water bladder compartment. Staying hydrated is key on hikes. When scaling Grasshopper Point with Jason (*you can read about this story here!), this water bladder was very comforting to me. I'll let Jason speak more about water hydration.
2. GOOD Hiking Boots
If there is one thing even the most casual of hikers/campers really shouldn't scrimp on, it's your hiking shoes. As I found through many blistered toes and heels, a poor fit, or inflexible shoe will really ruin your fun. I like the Merrell's quite a bit for their breathability, cushion, and fit. I definitely would reccommend trying your hiking shoes on before purchasing, as sizing and fit vary so much.
3. Wide Brimmed Rain/Sun Hat
Very Important to keep the sun off of your face, especially when hiking in the warmer summer months. Look for a crushable, water resistant, breathable hat. The Tilley Air Flow hat is my go-to favorite.
4. Air Mattress...
Ok. This one is really a luxury, but, it's a luxury that gently exposed me to the world of camping. We bring this every year with us on our PCH road trip. It would be far too heavy and cumbersome to bring with you wildnerness camping, but for regular car camping, it brings a bit more comfort to your sleeping bags. Remember to bring an air pump that is battery powered. And yes, it does make a bit of noise, but only for a few minutes. (*sorry, fellow campers... that vacuum noise is me...)
5. Stove with Fuel
Inexperienced that I was, I truly thought camping involved cooking things over the camp fire. One year, Jason and I bought bratwursts and cooked them on skewers over the fire. This would later be coined "the event that caused Tiffany to never eat Brats again", as I chomped into a crisp shell surrounding a raw center. It was as gross as it sounds. A small stove with fuel is a real life saver - boil water for coffee and to add to your dehydrated camp food pouches, and heat stews, soups, and chili. Much better than raw brats, trust me.
6. Flashlight + Mini Lantern
Oh so helpful for reading in your tent, which I happen to adore. Also helpful for late night bathroom trips, which i do not adore.
7. Blank Sketchbooks/Notebooks + Pens
I love bringing notebooks and sketchbooks with me when we go camping, but I've had a few notebooks dampened by a leaky tent. These notebooks by Rite in the Rain are waterproof. Yay!
8. Do Not Forget:
Moleskin, Blister Protector, Insect Repellant & Sunscreen. Yes, you will get blisters, your shoes will rub your heels raw, there will be mosquitos galore, and you should always wear sunscreen.
Hugs on the Journey!
With just a few weeks left of Summer, I find myself wanting to go camping just a few more times, take a few more hikes, repurpose the shells we collected, and sit outside enjoying these long summer nights before Fall makes her presence known. (*though, admittedly, Fall is my favorite season!)
And, we all know what happens next... just days before school is set to start, we scramble frantically to purchase school supplies, clothes, prep bookbags, and perhaps a nice "hello" gift for the teacher/class.
I'm making a commitment this year, however, to no wait til the last minute. No more frantic days.
So, you may think there are several weeks left til school begins, and several weeks left to enjoy the summer, but I encourage you to do both. Stay organized, keep focused, and make the most of your remaining days.
Here are the projects I've found which have inspired me to make the most of these remaining Summer days:
1. Home made fire starter. (For those camping trips)
2. (Pre Plan) Back to School Cupcakes for the class to enjoy!
3. Stay Organized
Via Freckled Nest.
Isn't this a clever idea to keep yourself (and all of the hats you wear) organized? When an item is done, simply remove the post it note! Genius.
4. Make a Collage of Your Summer Memories
Via John Cullen. (*I'm enthralled by his photography*)
5. Find permanent uses for those Collected Seashells!
I was thrilled to find this Shell Crafts collection on the Martha Stewart website. Now we have some very beautiful permanent keepsakes from summer beach going.
Hopefully, these activities have inspired you a wee bit.
Noise, it comes in many different shapes, sizes, and decible levels. Cars. People chattering. Children laughing (or screaming). The clanking of dishes. Jackhammers. Cell phones vibrating, ringing, and alerting. Computers chiming new email. Music, in our cars, in our homes, and background to every shopping experience. Dogs barking. Cats meowing. Papers shuffling...
It's no wonder we feel depleted. I know I do. There are some days, in fact, in which it's all a bit much. It's too much to focus upon. A constant barage of information - needs to be tended, communication to be responded, with every ring, bark, rev, thud, clank jolting my very last nerve.
Perhaps the loveliest aspect of camping in the redwoods with Jason a few weeks ago, was the disconnect from cell phone and internet service, and, the distinct absence of noise. We weren't answering our phones, responding to emails, replying to texts, checking our facebook. There was no traffic and construction noise. It was utterly, blissfully ... silent.
We've since discussed taking more trips such as this throughout the year. Usually, by the time we begin our Coastal California trip, our nerves our so wraught, it takes us days to feel, well, human again. Slowly, our time sitting by the ocean watching the sunset, or early morning walks in the woods, begins to slough off the grumpy, jittery, fatigue we've acquired over the previous 365 days.
It's no wonder that we return from this trip with a brighter and more optimistic perspective on life. The notebooks we bring with us return full of ideas, solutions, and imaginings. We no longer regard the future or the present with dread and pessimism. With the lingering, quiet moments we embrace on our trip, we are able to heal from the incessant noise we experience in daily life.
There is a real case for Silence, in all of the noise we experience in daily life, don't you think? The high amounts of stress and overwhelm can make even the strongest, most grounded among us lose our way, and often, our joy.
I decided when returning from our trip, that I wanted more Silence in my everyday, that it was down right harmful to my well being to not make time for Silence.
I make time for Silence now, the same way I would make time for Emailing, Blogging, Phone Calls, and all other busy-ness. I've decided to disconnect from my computer by 6pm, and to take one day during the week in which I am not glued to my cell phone and online activities. Instead of using my first hour of waking for Emails, I now use that first hour to sit in silence, or meditate. I also find time during the week to take a walk at a quiet park, or sit by the ocean, not doing a darn thing, save for watching those beautiful waves crash. I take long baths during the week, no longer multi tasking with listening to a podcast and reading a book all at once. I am making more plans to go camping as a family, to escape the busy noise of city life.
There is a passionate case for Silence, my friends, and it needs to be every bit as important to you in this Noisy era as any of your Busy-Noise filled hours.
I can tell you that the days I remember to take time to "be" in Silence, I feel... calmer, more peaceful. More Hopeful.
And that, to me, is worth it's weight in Gold.
And.... if you ever have a chance to visit, why not find your way to Washington State's Hoh National Park. Here you will find a tiny 100% noise free sanctuary - one square inch of silence.
Pure. Unadulterated. Blissful. Silence ....
PS: Are you joining in on Life in a Day?