Beautiful Treks in the North of Italy

By Alessia Morello

If you are a trekking lover, the north of Italy with its thousands of trails is the ideal place to go.

Whether you decide to go trekking in the Alps, Dolomites or Friulian Dolomites, the scenery will always be spectacular and full of pleasant encounters such as deer, eagles, marmots, cows and goats… and yes! Sometimes you can find bears but is very rare to meet them.

In Italy the flags to follow in the paths are white and red, and usually very well marked so don’t worry and always follow the rule n.1 “never leave the path”.

Here my top 5 of the most beautiful Treks in the north of Italy divided into regions:

Trekking in FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA

L’anello delle Dolomiti Friulane – The ring of the Friulian Dolomites

In the middle of the less known dolomites is an incredible 4-day trek that reaches the Pacherini, Pordenone, Padova and Giaf shelters where you can sleep and refresh yourself. You will cross the wonderful and wild valleys of the unknown groups of Pramaggiore, Monfalconi, Spalti di Toro and Cridola.

Prepare yourself on high altitude walks, to the overcoming of many forks at several meters in altitude more than once a day, to established paths and the trek along the beautiful gentian trail and under the symbol of this region: the “Campanile di Val montanaia”. Breathless.

Have a look at a video I made from this area:

 

Il sentiero degli Scalini – The path of the stairs

The Passo dei Scalini Trail is located in the Western Julian Alps and is part of the Jof Fuart group. Starts from Sella Nevea at 1180 m. and arrives at the passo of the Scalini at 2022 meters in 3 hours between woods, alpine huts where the cheese is produced, waterfalls and high altitude views. Carrying on you can arrive at the Corsi Hut at 1874 meters. This shelter is an amazing red building totally surrounded by a semicircle mountain range and hundreds of rock goats.

The walk is not so difficult but long so if you are not trained for this when you arrive at the top turn yourself around and come back.

Beautiful Treks in the North of Italy 1

 

Trekking in VENETO

Trekking from Cortina D’ampezzo to the Croda da Lago alpine Hut

Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the most famous and glamorous alpine destinations in Italy in summer and winter. During their winter season many famous sky races are organized here and in the amazing summer time it is possible to explore the dolomites through some amazing paths.

This trek is not so difficult but gives you the chance to see stunning views in just 4 hours of walking. The Hut is at 2042 meters but keep walking to the lake above, as the peaks of the mountains reflected in the calm waters of the alpine lake are something to be seen once in a lifetime.

Beautiful Treks in the North of Italy 2

 

Trekking in TRENTINO ALTO ADIGE

Trekking in the Dolomites high panoramic view – Alta via panoramica delle Dolomiti

This itinerary offers one of the most beautiful scenic views that you can admire throughout the Dolomite area! The first part of the trek can also be walked with kids until the hut in 1.5 hours, but the second part is recommended only for trained hikers. From the Valcroce mountain station you climb up Bressanone and through the pastures you reach the Rossalm hut, after which you could proceed to the “Gampenwiesen” meadows.

An amazing trekking that give you the chance to visit Bressanone as well, famous for having the majority population speaking German, for the beautiful churches and gardens, bridges and fountains and its spas. Really recommended!

 

Trekking the Tre cime di Lavardo from Misurina Lake – Le tre cime di Lavaredo dal lago Misurina

If you only have to choose one of these treks I will not make it difficult to choose this one. The tour of the three peaks of Lavaredo is one of the most beautiful landscaping trekking in Italy. It starts already, from 2320 meters, from the Rifugio Auronzo which can be reached by car and rises up to 2454 meters in 4/5 hours. You can find more info here from the official site: http://www.tre-cime.info/it/sesto/sesto/vivere-sesto/tre-cime-di-lavaredo-unesco.html 

Beautiful Treks in the North of Italy 3

 

Beautiful Treks in the North of Italy 4

 

The Dolomites have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site so you can imagine which shows with different scenarios await you.

Italy is famous for the sea but the mountains are also amazing and the food you can find there is healthy and at zero kilometer. This means that milk, butter, meat and vegetables are produced in the same valley you stay during your holiday. Beyond the support you give to the farmers, you can eat fresh food without preservatives and additives.

Sleeping and eating in alpine huts helps small communities to stay alive and to allow us to have unique place to stay.  Another cool thing is that all the treks in Italy are managed and maintained by volunteers for free so spend time in this little villages is really important for the Alpine villages.

So what are you waiting for!?

Italy is waiting for you!

 

______________________________________________________________

 

Alessia Morello lives in the north-east of Italy. After working for several years around the world she decide to stop and come back in her homeland and do the things she loves like trekking into the Dolomites with her dog Giorgino and creating posts and videos for her blog. She grew up doing outdoor adventures with the family and now the nature is part of her life. Other interests? Rock climbing, mountain bike trails, cooking vegetarian recipes and having fun!

Follow her travels at www.theitaliansmoothie.com and on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Glamping Southern California Destinations

By Lucy Gomez

Are you wondering about what glamping Southern California means? Did you know that there are a lot of places where you and your loved ones can go glamping? Get to know these amazing destinations by reading the information below.

For people who don’t know, glamping Southern California means going camping while enjoying the beautiful glamourous sky that is full of stars in comfort. Glamping is short term for glamour camping, wherein nature is giving you the best that it has to offer as you enjoy personal comforts.

Some nature sites already have everything that you need for camping or just relaxing, while some will require you to bring pillows and a sleeping bag.

 

Glamping Destination #1 Treebones Resort

Treebones Resort will let you cuddle with your loved one while enjoying the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. The good thing about this place is that you no longer have to bring pillows nor sleeping bags, because the place will let you enjoy a queen size bed, crushes that are cushy, electric lights, and heaters. Enjoy the view outside while you relax on their deck chairs, which is also perfect for sunset lovers.

Glamping Southern California 1

Another good thing about Treebones Resort is that there are heated pools, a spa, outdoor bar, restaurant, and a sushi bar. Some other activities that you can enjoy here are kayaking and hiking.

 

Glamping Destination #2 Greater Palm Springs

Greater Palm Springs will let you enjoy a campfire to keep you warm, while a nearby private tent awaits you after a tiring day. Toiletries and sleeping bags should be brought by the guest since the private tents do not have sleeping bags inside. Enjoy the amazing sound of nature while relaxing under the stars. During the day, enjoy seeing desert kit fox, javelinas, cheetahs, and Giraffes.

Glamping Southern California 2

Another good thing about Greater Palm Springs is that they offer a private tour of a desert, which offers the different animals and amazing deserts in the area.

 

Glamping Destination #3 Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is a four-hour drive from the south of Yosemite Valley. Relax in their cabin with the amazing wilderness. You will surely enjoy the one-mile hike from the parking lot because once you reach the tents, you will surely enjoy the mega style and the glamping that you can do there. All the canvas tents are equipped with cozy beds, with luxurious blankets and rugs. There are also propane lanterns and the amazing view of the Sierra Nevada.

Glamping Southern California 3

Another good thing about Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks is that they offer a delicious breakfast and a hike to the high summits, alpine lakes that are jewel-like, and mountain meadows.

 

Glamping Destination #4 Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park will let you work to be able to enjoy the place. This work means you need to do some hiking or a horse packing to different campsites inside the park. This site is open from June through the early days of September. You will love the distances of each park, since they are ten miles apart, which will give you plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. You will also get to see the Tuolume Meadows, which is known to have the best view in the area.

Glamping Southern California 4

The Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks is offering a cabin with a wood stove to keep you warm during the night. They serve family style dinner and breakfast, which you and your family will surely enjoy.

 

Glamping Destination #5 Costanoa Lodge

Costanoa Lodge will let your bike around the redwoods that are towering. You can also do some horseback riding through the coastal meadows and enjoy the tide pools and beaches. The site offers a tent with bedding, WiFi, and electricity. There are other amenities around the area, including body treatments and spa massages, which you will surely love after a tiring day.

Glamping Southern California 5

Another good thing about Costanoa is that they will let you enjoy skylights and fireplaces to make your stay enjoyable.

 

These are the glamping Southern California destinations to go to with your love ones. Get close to nature by staying one of these ideal sites for glamping Southern California.

Did you enjoy the list mentioned above? Then sharing it with your family and friends is essential, for them to have an idea on where to go to next time they want to go glamping.

7 Surprising Benefits Of Camping

7 surprising benefits of camping 1

By Rita Myers

Camping trips are a great activity for both family and friends. Often it’s what we do when we feel like we need to “take a break” or “get away from it all.”

Personally I sometimes plan sudden camping trips when I feel like my family and I are overworked or stressed from our daily life. And the results are wondrous! We usually come back home refreshed and recharged.

From personal experience as well as a bit of reading, here is my list of the 7 surprising benefits of camping. I hadn’t really thought of these before, even as I definitely felt the positive effects camping has had on me and my family. Benefit #3 definitely surprised me!

7 Surprising Benefits Of Camping In A Nutshell

Benefit #1: More oxygen – Because there are less pollution and fresher air in campsites and countryside!

Benefit #2: More physical activity – There are more opportunities for physical activity!

Benefit #3: Better nutrient absorption – Being under the sun does more than give you a good tan!

Benefit #4: Sleep – Nature has a way of helping us fix our sleeping patterns!

Benefit #5: Unplug from the world – There won’t be any electrical sockets where you’re going, and that’s a good thing!

Benefit #6: Destress – In the middle of nature, everything is just so much simpler!

Benefit #7: Bonding with family and friends – What else are you going to do on a camping trip?

 

Benefit #1: More oxygen

If you’re used to an urban environment, then you’re used to air that is polluted and quite low on oxygen. But out in the countryside, away from busy streets and factories, the air is a lot cleaner and fresher. More importantly, the air has much more oxygen than you’re used to

Additional oxygen intake helps trigger the release of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin is the “happy hormone,” which prevents depression and stabilizes our mood.

7 surprising benefits of camping 8

More oxygen also improves our brain function. Our brain uses up a lot of the oxygen we breathe in – up to 20%! The oxygen-rich air help enhance alertness and quick thinking.

 

Benefit #2: More physical activity

Between unloading your camping gear, pitching your tent, gathering wood for your small campfire, and setting up your supplies, you will be engaged in a LOT of physical activities . And that’s just from the time you arrive up to the time you’ve finally set up camp!

Physical activity helps you burn calories and gives you the chance to stretch your muscles, especially if you work on  an office chair throughout the week.

7 surprising benefits of camping 3

There are many other physical activities you can do while camping, such as hiking, biking fishing, and even some exercise sessions. Be sure to plan out your activities so you can bring the necessary gear!

 

Benefit #3: Better nutrient absorption

This one surprised me when I discovered it. It turns out that being under the sun does more than give you a good tan!

Sunlight always feels great on your skin. That is no accident. Sunlight bombards your body with Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps you absorb more calcium and phosphorus for your bones and teeth. Vitamin D also boosts your immune system!

7 surprising benefits of camping 4

Of course, throughout your camping stay, you’ll be out in the sunlight while walking, resting, even eating. That entire time, your body is soaking up Vitamin D. Imagine: just by being in sunlight, you’re already reaping the rewards!

 

 

Benefit #4: Sleep

One other benefit of sunlight is that it keeps our bodies from producing melatonin. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant hormone. Its key function is to help regulate our sleeping pattern.

Ordinarily, our bodies produce melatonin during the evening, after the sun sets, because exposure to light inhibits melatonin production. However, with modern technology, our bodies are exposed to artificial light even during the evening, and this interferes with our melatonin production cycle.

7 surprising benefits of camping 2

That is why a camping trip, far away from artificial light and relying only on the natural day and night cycles, can help us greatly in fixing any sleeping problems we might have such as insomnia.

On top of that, you’ll naturally be tired after a day of nearly non-stop physical activity. What better way to cap off your day at camp than by getting some quality, restful sleep?

 

 

Benefit #5: Eat Fresh

This benefit will require some advance planning, but is well worth it. Camping trips take us away from the usual conveniences of fast food and quick-fix meals (unless we bring them with us).

Light a fire and cook your meals over it for less fat and less oil in your dish. Some campsites allow fishing in nearby lakes or rivers. Take advantage of those for some of the freshest meals you’ll ever cook up!

7 surprising benefits of camping 5

Aside from these, fresh fruits and vegetables make for versatile camping food. They stay reasonably fresh throughout the trip and require very little additional preparation. Fruits can be eaten as-is, while vegetables can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, or even roasted over the campfire.

 

Benefit #6: Destress

Our daily lives are a constant source of pressure and stress. Even at home, we receive work emails with follow-ups for deadlines or pending work. Children have schoolwork to worry about. Even social media, which is supposed to connect us to each other in positive ways, can also be a source of stress and anxiety.

That is why a camping trip is such a welcome respite. The opportunity to just unplug from the rest of the world and focus on yourself and your family is uncommon by today’s routines. Camping trips offer such opportunity, along with so many other great benefits along with it.

7 surprising benefits of camping 6

To maximize this period of rest, I highly recommend switching off your gadgets – there’s a good chance your campsite can only make emergency calls anyway. Some campsites do offer WiFi access, but I sincerely advise against using it. It will be difficult to enjoy nature and your company if you are bringing your sources of stress and anxiety along with you.

 

Benefit #7: Bonding with family or friends

Camping trips are the absolute best time to bond with family or friends. There’s just so much to do.

There are many camping games to choose from that are fun and offer an opportunity to get to know your companions better.

You can take reasonable hikes to nearby locations for the sights.

If you camp near a lake or river, you can fish or even take a swim.

7 surprising benefits of camping 7

The best part is, any activity you can think of doing, you’ll be doing with family or friends. Getting to socialize with your companions while having fun activities helps to deepen your bonds.

 

Take That Trip

How did you like this article? I always look forward to camping trips with my family because these trips allow me to spend more uninterrupted time with them, away from things that demand our undivided attention such as work or school. As someone who loves the outdoors, I also look forward to getting a bit more sun each time. It doesn’t hurt that there are all these great benefits to camping too!

One thing I noticed, in hindsight, is that I sleep better during our camping trips, and my sleep is always more restful and energizing. It turns out that there’s a whole lot of science and nature working in the background, helping me fix up my body as I sleep!

7 surprising benefits of camping 9

What other benefits do you get from your camping trips? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and share the article if you enjoyed it!

 

Anarchy and Otter Pops in East Jesus

East Jesus 1

By Emily Pennington

What do you do when one of your best friends invites you to a debaucherous birthday weekend at an off the grid artist commune deep in the California desert near the Salton Sea? Attend whole-heartedly and experience EVERYTHING you can, of course!

East Jesus is a non-profit, off the grid intentional community founded by the late Charlie Russell in the ass-crack outskirts of Slab City. If you’ve never heard of Slab City, well, it’s known as “the last free place,” and is basically a makeshift town made up of people in RVs and trailers who are, essentially squatting on government land about 4 miles outside of Niland, CA (85 miles southeast of Palm Springs). There’s no water, no power, and no resources, just a bunch of abandoned concrete slabs left over from a WWII base, Camp Dunlap. Oh yeah, and it’s 110 degrees during the daytime in the middle of October.

East Jesus 2

In spite of the fact that the sun was actively trying to kill me and nearly every other living thing out there that weekend, I had a freaking awesome time. First off, I got to stay in the best hobo accommodations that money can’t buy – a hand-painted Totoro trailer with tentacles for a doorknob. I got a hand-picked tour of the sculpture garden when I first arrived (this is the only part of East Jesus accessible to tourists unless you’re visiting a resident), which features a hodge podge of assemblage pieces and art cars, broken glass and duck decoys, and a non-functioning Mercedes that has been lit on fire so many times that it is lovingly referred to as the “Car-B-Que.”

To be honest, the daylight hours at East Jesus are brutal. I mostly lay around eating Otter Pops, talking about art and trying not to get bitten by horseflies in between dunks in the cool pool that seriously saved my Scandinavian booty! But, at night… wow! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am not a desert person. But, something about the camaraderie of a group meal, the intense flickering of flames from a rusted out Mercedes, and the deep black of the night sky as the stars make their nightly, nomadic journey was truly magical. I giggled my ass off with new friends and ran, half naked, sprinting full force into the interminable blackness of the desert in search of Slab City’s famed hot springs. I soaked my tired bones and stayed up to see the sunrise.

East Jesus 4

Now, East Jesus does concern me a bit in the way that many intentional communities concern me, and that is this: I think that, too often, great ideas and experiments in off the grid living are executed in a way that is too far-out, too anarchic, and too poorly packaged for anyone of consequence to take note. The rebellion and chaos themselves seem to take center stage, which can serve to highlight the cracks and weaknesses of these spaces, rather than shifting focus onto some of the truly innovative strategies for clean living that they are implementing. Maybe it’s too much to ask, but I would sincerely love it if a solar-powered, leave-no-trace community sprung up within 30 miles of Los Angeles so that the impact of these ideals could be more easily shared with the population at large, since finding a wide reach and making the project feel accessible are the fastest ways to shift culture.

East Jesus 5

But perhaps their inaccessibility is precisely what makes these spaces special. Certainly, Burning Man is a bit more pure because of the massive amount of foresight a pilgrimage to Black Rock City takes. Maybe they are meant to serve as beacons for the brave as they journey across the long night, burning like “fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding,” as Kerouac so aptly put it. There is definitely a large amount of magic hidden in East Jesus; don’t let Wikipedia fool you into thinking it’s a roadside attraction. Have an adventure and see it for yourself.

East Jesus 6

 

Glamping Takes on a Whole New Meaning in Africa!

By Mary Lyons

When I first heard the word “glamping” it didn’t take long to figure out what it meant. As someone who was used to carrying her own backpack, stocked only with essentials, for several miles and then setting up camp in the wilderness, I think I had a different perspective on glamping than most people. To me it meant car camping, having someone else build a fire, and eating at an actual picnic table. A wooden hut at a campground with showers and a store to buy candy? Wow! Now that’s some serious luxury camping! There’s a pool? At a campground? Awesome! We’re glamping!

After two trips to Africa, I now fully understand that none of the above is glamping. I always thought I could never afford to stay at the beautiful campsites I saw in the coffee table books about Africa. And while I still can’t afford many of them, teaching overseas at least meant I could earn enough money to have a genuine glamping experience in Africa. Actually, I had two.

 

GETTING MY GLAMP ON – THE SERENGETI IN TANZANIA

My first safari in Africa was a year and a half ago in Tanzania. I wanted my first safari experience to be on the Serengeti. Wasn’t it Toto that sang “I miss the rains down in Africa”? That’s what I wanted my first safari experience to be like. I knew that the tents would be semi-permanent structures, but I didn’t realize that my meager 500 USD a day had bought me a glamping experience until I actually arrived.

Make no mistake, a safari is expensive. Even a cheap safari experience is expensive. At 500 USD a day, that’s a relatively inexpensive safari. I spent my first night in Tanzania in a stunning hotel at the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. (Say that three times fast!) Technically, this night wasn’t glamping because I was in a gorgeous hotel. It was so gorgeous, I’m going to post pictures anyway even though it doesn’t qualify as camping in any way!

Hotel room at the Ngorongoro Crater
Luxury digs at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
Bathroom at our hotel at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

My next two nights were where glamping got really interesting. My campsite in the middle of the Serengeti could accommodate up to 10 people, and there were six total, so three of the five tents were in use. There was a kitchen tent, which we didn’t get to see, and a huge dining tent, as well as a spacious tent for relaxing and having drinks at the end of a long day of safari-ing.

We were welcomed with freshly squeezed juices and a cool towel, and then we were given a tour of the camp while porters took our bags to our tent. There are certain rules in a safari camp, one being that you never go out alone without an escort when it’s dark, for obvious reasons. Another rule in this camp was that if you wanted hot water for your shower, you just had to tell them what time you wanted to take a shower, they would bring hot water to fill your tank outside, sing a little song as they walked away, and you hop in the shower in your tent where the water was so hot, you had to turn on the cold water as well.

Common living area and open bar on the Serengeti

Yep. Hot shower. In my tent. In the middle of the Serengeti. Awesome. There was also a flush toilet and two sinks. This bathroom was nicer than most of the bathrooms in apartments I’ve rented.

What really made this experience luxurious was the service. The people working at the camp were just amazing. We received 5 Star service. These young men were so charming, funny, and gracious. The dining experience was just that – an experience! Breakfast and dinner were each served in three courses on linen tablecloths, and by candlelight at night. The presentation was beautiful and the food was delicious. In fact, the food at our camp was the best food I had the entire two weeks I was in Tanzania.

Dining tent on the Serengeti in Tanzania

I could hear lions outside the first night. Their low, throaty rumbles were intimidating at first, but eventually I fell asleep. Turns out two female lions would often get quite curious about the camp almost every evening. And J.J. the elephant sometimes slept between the sleeping and dining tents, flattening a huge swath of grass! We saw the evidence our second morning in camp.

 

WANNA GO GLAMPING IN BOTSWANA?

I loved every minute of this glamping experience in Tanzania on the Serengeti. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about doing it again, this time in Botswana. So just a year later, I made my way to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. What’s with these African names being so much fun to pronounce? Ngorongoro. Serengeti. Okavango. They sound so exotic. Oh wait! That’s because they are such exotic places!

The Okavango Delta is actually drier, with fairly low water levels, during the rainy season when I was there. It’s the rains that fill the rivers in Central Africa that actually flood the Delta. I visited the Okavango Delta region in January 2017. My friend John, from Philadelphia, joined me, and he’d never been glamping. Actually, I’m not sure he’d ever been camping. So, when I showed him pictures of the tent – with a claw foot tub in the middle! – he was pretty damned excited to come to Botswana, and so was I.

We stayed at Little Kwara Camp which can host 12 people, and when we were there, five of the six tents were rented. I thought I knew what to expect since I had glamped in Tanzania, but I was blown away by these luxurious digs. I had to tell myself to close my mouth, and then I had to tell John. After a flight in a tiny six-seater Cessna, we arrived at Kwara and were met by our guide, Wago, and our spotter, Mike. Wago drove the short distance from the “airport”, and I use the term airport very loosely, to our camp.

Mike was our super spotter on safari!

When we arrived, we were met by Charles, the camp manager, and some lovely ladies who work there. We had fresh guava juice and hot towels to refresh us before going on a tour of the camp.

Holy Schnikey! It was so beautiful! These structures are actually permanent and have underground plumbing. The living room area and dining area were huge, and constructed out of local wood, but open to the elements. There was even a small pool and a shop. But more importantly, there was an open bar, and anything you wanted to drink, you could help yourself after 11:00AM. The fridge had a special baboon-proof lock on it that the rather pesky baboons hadn’t figured out yet. There was also a seating area around a fire pit, and a view of a huge pond, stocked with hippos!

Swimming pool at Little Kwara Camp
Firepit in Little Kwara Camp on a rare dry evening

John and I were shown to our tent, and we couldn’t wait to see the bathtub! Our tent was spacious, beautifully decorated, and had a big back porch with a view of the pond, the hippos, and impala. But the bathtub? Well, isn’t a claw foot tub in the middle of the room just the epitome of glamping? It was to me! John didn’t say a word. He was still in shock, but I don’t know if it was because of the luxury digs or the open bar.

My lodging in Botswana’s Little Kwara Camp
View from our tent in Botswana
Bathroom in our tent in Botswana
The clawfoot tub did get used!

This luxury experience did not include losing any weight. We had breakfast at 5:00AM every day. Muffins, porridge with all the fixins, fruit, coffee, tea. At 6:00 we left for our first safari of the day, returning at 11:00 for brunch. Then the afternoon was free until 4:00 when we had afternoon tea of homemade cakes, cheese and olives, fruit, scones, quiche, all made right there at camp by the lovely ladies in the kitchen. After another safari in the evenings, which included a sundowner with drinks and snacks at 7:00PM in the midst of the Delta, we returned to camp for a three-course dinner with all you could drink by candlelight.

Time for afternoon tea in Botswana
Dinner by Candlelight Every Night in Botswana

The people who worked at the camp in Botswana were so warm and welcoming. I became quite fond of them, especially our guide, Wago and our super spotter, Mike. Glamping in Africa is an addictive experience. The people you meet and the sights you see will make you want to go back again and again. The glamping? Well, that’s just a giant bonus.

Mike, Wago, Me, John, and Charles on our last day in Botswana

 

Camping Solo

Camping Solo 1

By Andrea Willingham

I’m a pretty outdoorsy lady. My whole life, I’ve found both my deepest solace and greatest entertainment under the open sky or a canopy of leaves; in the maze of a forest, or the wide grandeur of mountains and ocean horizons. I feel safest when I’m out “in nature,” safer than I do in city surrounded by strangers. Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time outside throughout my life.

Thus, I was somewhat surprised last year to realize that of all the outdoorsy things I’ve done, camping solo had not been one of them. When I told a few friends about my plans to do it, the responses were almost universally, “Alone? Wow!” One group brought up the fact that it’s usually more of a “guy thing” to camp alone. That does seem to be the case, but I wonder why? I certainly know a few girls who camp alone, but all of this does bring up interesting questions of why camping alone isn’t more of a thing, and furthermore, why fewer women don’t camp by themselves (besides the obvious arguments for safety).

So, one weekend last September, I dove in.

I knew I was ready – or at least as ready as I could be. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time day hiking alone, so at least I knew I was comfortable with myself, my solitude, and my ability to make smart “survival” decisions on my own. One of the best ways to start mentally preparing yourself for your first solo adventure is to play the “What if?” game with yourself: “What if… I startle a bear around this next corner?” “What if… some guys start following and harassing me?” “What if… I get lost out here and have to spend the night?” “What if… my car breaks down and I don’t have cell service?” These are some of the big, scary questions that we are not only afraid to ask ourselves, but I think we are even more afraid that we might not know the answers.

So, I challenge you to ask those hard questions, and think through your answers. Even better if you play this mental game while you’re out on a solo hike! Or ask your friends and talk though what you might do. The more you play this game with yourself and start devising your contingency plans, the more you begin to feel confident in your own abilities to handle any situation, and the more you’ll feel prepared and excited to get out on your own and prove it to yourself.

So back to my own camping trip: Despite the fact it was my first time going out camping alone, I did very little preparation (perhaps feeling a bit too confident!). In fact, by the morning of, I hadn’t even started packing. But in a matter of about 2 hours, I had my little car loaded with my tent, sleeping bag, ground pad, a bag of food, a gallon jug of water, hiking boots, a change of clothes, camera, a guide book, and my journal. The essentials, a few comforts.

It was cloudy with patches of misty rain on my drive up into the mountains. Eventually I found the free National Forest campground I had picked out from some Google searching a few days prior. The campground was quite a bit smaller and closer to the road than I’d expected, but I decided to go hike to some waterfalls I had been wanting to see, and come back closer to dark to stake out my spot.

The trailhead to the waterfall was packed; families, couples, retirees. The further I went on the trail however, the more it thinned out, and soon I found myself captivated by the gorgeous autumn colors emerging and the strange landscape of volcanic rocks through which the path was cut. The trail wound into the dense forest, and soon I could hear the roar of the waterfall in the distance. Then, all of a sudden, there it was, towering mightily off to my left. Even from far away, it looked massive. Of course, I had to get closer. I followed the sound and the flow of the water back until it led me to the base of the falls. Surprisingly, no one else was there. For a short time, I had the whole place to myself.

Camping Solo 2
Proxy Falls

Eventually a few people showed up, so I took my leave, and hiked around a while longer finding more waterfalls and exploring the trails. By the time I made it back to my campsite though, it was completely full. Sigh. Well, worst case scenario, I could sleep in my car, or just drive home. But with still a few hours of daylight left, I decided to continue driving further into the mountains to see what I could find.

Another 20 minutes later and a thousand feet higher in elevation, I found myself at another campground. It had plenty of spots isolated from one another, so I was sold.  I found a spot with a nice view of the lake, and I set up my tent just as the first of the night’s rains began sprinkling in.

One drawback of packing everything the morning of my trip was that I forgot to bring the food I had planned on for both dinner and breakfast, meaning, I was left mainly with bread and peanut butter and potato chips. No big deal, but it did mean that my lunch, dinner, and breakfast were all going to be peanut butter sandwiches. Yum.

So, I ate my peanut butter sandwich while sitting on a log as the rain started coming in more heavily.  I tried half-heartedly to make a campfire, but it was already too wet so I gave up and crawled into my tent to do some journaling and reading before it got dark.  The rain poured heavier and heavier. Fortunately, my tent kept me dry and my sleeping bag kept me warm, so I was quite the happy camper.  (Sorry, not sorry for the pun!)

The night was long and damp, but I managed to get some sleep and by morning the rain was a tad bit lighter. Unfortunately, though a sizable puddle had formed under my tent and leaked inside — I knew I should have brought a tarp! Rookie mistakes. Oh well. My spirits were still high.

Knowing the rain was supposed to last all day, I packed up and enjoyed a leisurely drive back home listening to the radio and letting my mind wander.

I think that’s one of the best things about traveling solo: you’re on your own time. I realized when I was hiking the day before that I had no concept of how fast or slow I was going. Normally I’m trying to keep up with my faster friends, or holding back to stick with those going at a slower pace. But here, whether I was hiking or driving or hanging out in my tent, it didn’t matter how long it took me to do anything.

In retrospect, I was far more cautious than I needed to be, but often that’s what keeps you safe on your first time out trying something new. So I figure, embrace your cautiousness. Take your time. Let mistakes happen, because they will: I failed to claim my first campsite. I failed to start a fire. I didn’t bring all my food. It poured down rain. My tent flooded. I didn’t even mention the fact that my car nearly ran out of gas on the way up the mountain the first time, and I had to drive back down 20 minutes to the nearest gas station.

It was far from a perfect first solo camping trip.

But the bottom line is, I’d camp solo again in a heartbeat (preferably next time not in the pouring rain!), and I think others should give it a try too. Listen to your gut, but don’t psych yourself out.  It’s so important to be able to find contentment and comfort in your own thoughts, and confidence in your own abilities and decision-making. And taking a simple trip out into the wilderness on your own is an incredible way to discover and develop that for yourself.

Camping Solo 3
My first solo camp

Band on the run

Band on the run 1

By Robin EH. Bagley

We’ve all seen that iconic plains animal, the American Bison, in Custer State Park. They loaf, wallow, saunter, and thunder around the park like they own the joint. Perhaps they do; I don’t want to argue with a buffalo. Yes, I’m using the vernacular; if you’re from South Dakota, they’re buffalo. Anyway, my point is that the buffalo really aren’t the most interesting animals in the park. If you’re looking for entertainment, grab some apples or carrots and drive the Wildlife Loop Road. You’re looking for the park’s famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) Begging Burros, or as I like to call them, the Band on the Run.

What’s a herd of wild burros doing in Custer State Park? Are they burros or donkeys? And are they really wild? Excellent questions. Let’s start at the beginning.

Band on the run 4

Donkeys have been domesticated for thousands of years; the first records of domesticated donkeys date back to approximately 4000 BCE in Lower Egypt. Domesticated donkeys’ wild ancestors were the wild asses, Equus africanus asinus. They made their way from Africa to other parts of the world; around 2000 BCE they were brought to Europe. The first donkeys in the Western Hemisphere arrived in 1495, on a supply ship bound for Christopher Columbus’s expedition. So, to be clear, the donkeys gamboling about in Custer State Park are not wild in the same sense that the buffalo are. Donkeys are a long-domesticated animal, which makes them much easier to approach. For the record, NEVER ever approach a buffalo. Ever.

Band on the run 5

My long-burning question was really whether this herd was burros or donkeys. Custer State Park naturalist Julie Brazell cleared that up by explaining that burros and donkeys are the same species, Equus asinus. So it’s correct to call them either name; they won’t answer anyway unless you have snacks.

Burros were released in the park in the mid-to-late 1920’s; they had been used to haul visitors to the top of Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak). When that activity stopped, the burros were turned loose in the park where they continue to flourish. I had heard, but have not been able to confirm, that the animals were also used to haul supplies for the employees at the fire watchtower on the peak. Anyone who has climbed that last quarter mile to the top can appreciate how handy a pack animal would be for hauling a week’s worth of groceries!

Band on the run 6

Today this fun bunch can be spotted in Custer State Park, usually along the Wildlife Loop Road. They have been known to stop traffic as they meander down the middle of the road trolling for snacks. If you’re eating something you’d rather keep for yourself, don’t step out of your vehicle with it – they have been known to snatch food from indignant spectators. If you plan to feed them, please bring appropriate food such as apples or carrots and avoid junk food. One day when I was out shooting photos, a family stopped alongside me and the boys had no snacks. One brother was game, grabbed a couple of carrots I was proffering, and began feeding his new friends. The younger brother was a bit apprehensive of the crazy carrot lady and told me very formally, “I’m not a rabbit.” But when he tried feeding gummy bears to a burro, his father intervened and they happily took a couple of carrots to feed her instead.

Band on the run 3

Also, they are large animals with hooves so mind your feet and avoid standing behind them in case they kick. Their ancestors hauled visitors, but this bunch runs free and are not trained for riding, so don’t go playing cowboy. Be safe and enjoy this entertaining bunch in Custer State Park.

Custer State Park is a 71,000 acre state park in South Dakota’s Black Hills. It’s located five miles east of Custer, SD on Highway 16A or about 40 miles south of Rapid City, SD via Highways 385 and 16.  The park is great stop on your way to Yellowstone National Park. For more information on the park, visit https://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/.

Band on the run 2

The piece Band on the run was originally published by the author on the Black Hills Travel Blog. It has been updated by the author.

Robin EH. Bagley is a freelance writer and social media manager who spent most of her years in South Dakota, from the prairies to the granite spires near Custer. She loves to camp, hike, and paddle but is a reluctant mountain biker. She has recently relocated to Sheridan, WY near the Bighorn Mountains and is getting accustomed to hiking in bear and moose country as opposed to buffalo country. If you meet her on the trail, you can hit her up for a granola bar or Band-Aid.

 

Preparing for a Quest to Conquer Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro 1

By Mary Lyons

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak on the continent of Africa and thousands of people summit Uhuru Peak at 19,300 feet every year. My dream to summit Kilimanjaro was born about ten years ago after I had been living overseas for a year. For the first time in my life, I actually had a disposable income to use for travel. For some reason, my dream to summit Kilimanjaro got put on the back burner for several years, perhaps because it is an expensive venture and I also wanted to include a safari and a trip to Zanzibar.

Kilimanjaro 13
Sign at our first camp – Every camp has a sign like this

About two years ago, I decided to bite the bullet, or break the bank I guess, and go to Tanzania to conquer Kilimanjaro. I booked the trip in May 2015, but my departure date was January 2016. The travel company I used in the UK had told me a year before when I contacted them, that I needed to book early because January is peak season for climbing because of the optimal weather.

After I booked the trip, the tour company sent me all the information I needed to prepare, but there were some things that were not clear to me, like who was going to carry what. I was used to carrying everything myself and their info made it sound like I would carry my own clothing, but that wasn’t the case. Other things were abundantly clear, like the bill! High altitude trekking does not come cheap, no matter what company you book with.

Kilimanjaro 5
Day 1 Starting our climb at 9000 feet – Everyone was thinking, -This is easy!-

Here are some tips that I hope will help you to prepare for any high-altitude trek should you decided to undertake such an adventure. I feel I should include a disclaimer here. I actually did not make it to Uhuru. Altitude sickness got the best of me, as did lack of sleep due to a snoring tent mate and headaches due to altitude. I did make it to Gilman’s Point, at 18,500 feet, and I’m proud of that, although it wasn’t my goal.

Getting Your Gear On

One of the things I needed to do in the States was buy clothing. I lived in Kuwait during the school year, and it’s impossible to find adequate gear there for such cold temperatures. Temperatures on Kilimanjaro are at zero (Celsius) or below once you get above 12,000 feet, and during the big push on the last day, it’s about -20C. I spend my year between two deserts where I can wear flip flops in winter. I was not prepared for -20C!

This is a list of what I took with me, based on recommendations from the travel company. I did the Rongai Route which was advertised as five days, but the 19km descent from 12,000 feet on the last day meant it was actually 6 days.

CLOTHING AND GEAR

Kilimanjaro 3
Me with Meru in the distance on Day 2

Four season Gortex coat with removable fleece inside from North Face (Gortex is NOT necessary! It’s just what I already had.)

Pullover fleece

Long-sleeve Climadry shirt for hiking during the day

Patagonia thermal underwear – 2 pairs, one for hiking on the last 2-3 days + one for camp and sleeping

Short sleeve Climadry shirt for hiking on the first day, starting altitude 9000 feet

Patagonia zip-off leg trekking pants

Marmot rain jacket and pants (you’ll need the pants to keep warm on the last day)

Fleece pants (for the last day where you have four layers on bottom, five on top, ski pants also work)

 

2 pair Smartwool socks (I wore both on the last day)

2 pair sock liners

2 pair Exofficio underwear

2 sportbras

 

Kilimanjaro 9
Mustafa and Jonas, both amazing guides – Mustafa got me to Gilman’s Point

1 wool scarf (only used it for the final climb, but actually took it off halfway up)

1 wool hat (in addition to the hood on my North Face coat)

1 pair thin gloves

1 pair insulated ski gloves (only used during the final climb)

Vasque hiking boots (again, Gortex is NOT necessary, do not spend the money on it)

 

Rented a sleeping bag from The African Walking Company for about 40 dollars

Therma-rest ¾ length ¾ inch thick mattress (most companies do not rent mattresses)

 

Kilimanjaro 10
Unique vegetation on Kili makes for great pictures

Headlamp

Rain cover for my day pack

Journal and pen

Nikon pocket digital camera (with extra battery – sleep with both to prevent batteries from dying, and carry close to your body during the day)

Two bandanas

Quick-dry pack towel

Facial wipes/toothbrush and toothpaste/sunscreen/night cream and eye cream (Hey, I’m a woman in her 40s! Gimme a break!)

Others in my group carried mosquito repellent. IMO, it is not necessary. The altitude is too high, you’re fully clothed all the time, and malaria is not a concern in Tanzania.

Kilimanjaro 19
Kilimanjaro in the distance – I believe this was taken on Day 3 of our climb

2L water bladder with insulated tube to go inside my daypack – In my opinion, there is a significant advantage to carrying a bladder as opposed to water bottles. There were 8 people in my group, and everyone except me carried bottles. Every time they wanted water, they had to take their packs off. I didn’t. During the climb on the last day, their water froze in the bottles. Mine didn’t because it was in my pack next to my body, even though I had five layers between me and the bladder.

 

Weighing In

It sounds like a lot of weight, but your porter will carry everything except your day pack which contains your rain coat and pants, camera and batteries, gloves, hat, scarf if you want, sunscreen, snacks, water, and I carried my journal and a small book.

Kilimanjaro 4
The porters passed us every day carrying 27kg each – Here they come!

You will most likely be limited to 15 kg total, not including your day pack contents. I left clothes and anything I didn’t need at the hotel. The hotel where you stay the night before your climb is the same hotel you will return to after you finish.

 

Kilimanjaro – The Air Sure Is Thin Up Here!

Preparing for altitude sickness is foremost on everyone’s mind before they climb Kilimanjaro, but there is no way to predict how your body will react. That said, I do think there are some things you can do to prepare. There was an expert climber in my group who was preparing to climb Mt Everest. I talked to him a lot about altitude. He was also a spinal surgeon from New York. You never know who you’ll meet in Africa. He was also married 🙁

Kilimanjaro 16
Kibo Hut at Day 4 Camp

One way to prepare yourself for high altitudes is to expose yourself to them. If you have access to an area with peaks above 12,000 feet, climb them and see how your body reacts. If camping is available at those high elevations, spend the night. I had the worst headaches at night.

Mustafa and Me at Gilman’s Point

To prevent and combat the effects of altitude, drink at least 3 – 5 liters of water a day. Ibuprofen was my friend and when my headaches were persistent, I took 2 every 4-6 hours. Drink when you’re not thirsty and eat when you’re not hungry.

I lost my appetite completely on Day 4, before our midnight ascent on Day 5. I ate some soup at our early dinner, and went to sleep at 6PM, but by midnight, I was running on empty and couldn’t get anything to go down. If I were to attempt it again, I would ask for plain white rice and maybe take saltine crackers with me to eat before ascending at midnight.

Kilimanjaro 6
The descent from Gilman’s Point at 18000 feet, looking down at camp at 15000 feet

There’s a medicine called Diamox that is supposed to help with altitude sickness. Make sure you investigate this option thoroughly before deciding whether or not to use it. There’s a reason a prescription is required to take it. It can also have the same side effects as altitude sickness, which is ultimately the reason I decided not to use it.

Most companies offer the option of using oxygen for the final ascent only, for an extra cost.

 

Let’s Make This Happen!

Kilimanjaro 16
We saw several of these on our last day after we got back down to 10000 feet
Kilimanjaro 20
Jonas was our contemplative guide with a smile like the sun

Peak season for climbing Kilimanjaro is January to March and June to October. January to March means you have a better chance of seeing snow, although you likely won’t see snow until your final ascent. The glacier atop Kilimanjaro is shrinking at an alarming rate. There’s also less chance of rain during these months I have mentioned.

Peak season means it can get crowded on some of the routes, although I didn’t think the Rongai 5-day route was crowded in January. It was busy, but not crowded.

Booking several months in advance is critical if you’re going during either of these peak seasons. If you are planning to hike the Coca-Cola route (Marangu Route) it is especially important to book many months in advance. This is the most popular route, partially because sleeping huts with dormitory style accommodation are used for accommodation along the way. People who prefer not to camp (and not use a camp toilet!) choose this option, but they book up many months in advance.

Kilimanjaro 21
Hans was voted most photogenic out of all the guides. You can see why.

Choosing a tour company can be daunting and some people feel it isn’t necessary. I have met people who just went to Tanzania and hired a guide and porter, and started trekking. It can be done and can cost a lot less than booking through a tour company. However, you won’t know what you’re going to get, or how qualified and experienced those guides and porters are. I wasn’t comfortable doing that, especially when I had never hiked at such altitudes before.

Kilimanjaro 15
Day 4 trek – Looks easy, right- Clean, flat. Ha! We were near 15000 feet and moving at a snail’s pace

Do thorough research on tour companies before deciding. Prices and departure dates can vary, although not as much as you might think. Tour companies outside of Tanzania are well-connected to companies within Tanzania. You pay the tour company, say in the UK, and they pay the local company who in turn, pays their guides and porters.

The cost of a Kilimanjaro climb will vary, but to give you some idea of costs, they could run from between $200 – $500 a day for a climb depending on season, route, number of people in your group, and the tour company you choose. Mine was expensive, but the quality and level of service cannot be beat.

Kilimanjaro 14
This is both a starting and ending point, depending on which route you take. It was our end.

 

It’s Not Glamping, But It’s Pretty Darn Close!

Accommodation on Kilimanjaro can vary widely, depending on the route and tour company you use. But overall, unless you book the Coca-Cola route, you’re going to be sleeping in a two-man tent with a tent mate. Most tour operators will try to discourage one person in a tent because porters are limited to carrying 27kg. They carry these tents from camp to camp, so when someone books a private tent, they actually put a burden on the porters.

Kilimanjaro 11
Our tents were the orange ones, spacious and functional

The tents are spacious, and the porters will carry your air mattress and sleeping bag. When you arrive at camp, your tent, mattress, and sleeping bag will be all set up for you and any personal belongings they carry will be inside the tent. Now that’s service! The African Walking Company also provided a toilet tent so that we didn’t have to use the gross park toilets. This was much appreciated!

Kilimanjaro 18
Me with our Chief Guide, Florence, who was so charasmatic and born to do this job

Tour operators also provide a dining tent. The meals are amazing. Three hot three-course meals a day are standard with most tour companies. They want you to eat as much as you can because it helps ensure your success in reaching the peak. We were also served tea and coffee in our tent in the morning, but I have some tent rules I follow that I also made my friend follow. They are:

1) no shoes inside the tent

2) no trekking poles inside the tent

3) no uncovered liquids in the tent!

We kept our tea and coffee outside the tent for the most part, but I eventually declined it altogether.

Kilimanjaro 17
Meru Peak was visible for much of our trek up Kilimanjaro and was just as photogenic

Tipping the People that Helped You Get There

One of the things I liked most about this adventure was that we were given an actual guide to tipping the guides and porters. There are different levels of porters and guides, as well as the cook and chief guide. The tipping scale gave us a range of how much to tip and luckily, we had a mathematician in our group who could figure out how much we should all put in the pot. These 33 guides and porters were so amazing, we gave them the maximum amount.

Kilimanjaro 2
All 33 guides and porters as well as my group of 8 at the tipping ceremony on the last night

I want to include a word about over-tipping. Over-tipping is not beneficial to those who receive it or to climbers who come after you. It instills unrealistic expectations in the guides and porters, and disappointment when the group after you doesn’t over-tip. Please stick to the guidelines supplied by the tour company.

Now You Know

A good tour company will provide you with all the information you need before making a decision about whether or not to book a tour and climb Kilimanjaro. It’s a serious endeavor that takes planning and preparation. Hopefully my two cents worth can help you do just that. I’d love to hear from you! Leave comments and questions below and I’ll be sure to answer them!

Kilimanjaro 12
View of Meru Peak from our camp on Day 3

 

The Liebster Award

Liebster Award

By Nicole Anderson

Camping for Women was just given the Liebster Award.

So what is the Liebster Award?

For anyone who doesn’t know what the Liebster Award actually is, it is a virtual award that is passed on from blogger to blogger as a show of support, and it also helps to promote any fellow bloggers that many enjoy reading.

The rules that apply when you are nominated for, and accept the Liebster Award are:

Liebster Award 1

So to start, we want to recognize and thank the person who nominated us:

 

Nominator:

For this award, Camping for Women was nominated by Lea of the blog Lou and Lea.

Lou and Lea

Lou and Lea is a Design and Photography blog for everyone who wants to step up their creativity game. On her blog, Lea shares her tips and tricks for creating graphics, art, and photo taking and editing. She gives advice on where to find Inspiration and how to live a creative life. With tutorials, how to’s and advice, Lou and Lea encourages to draw, Sketch and look for a beautiful potential Photograph everywhere in everyday life. Her goal is to inspire her readers to create a more beautiful life for themselves, simply through perceiving the world as an artistic place.

 

Answers by Nicole to 11 Questions from Lea:

Question 1: Summer or Winter?

For the most part, I prefer summer when I can go swimming, boating and fishing.  I would rather often feel too hot than too cold.

Question 2: Who is your favourite superhero?

At the moment I would have to say Wonder Women which is quite topical right now.  Amazon Women Rock!

Question 3: Which book could you read over and over again?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Question 4: Do you have any weird habits?

Sometimes, when thinking to myself in a waiting room, I can/have laughed out loud when I remember or associate with something really funny.  This has caused people to look at me wondering what’s going on.

Question 5: Are you a money spender or a money saver?

I like to be good at balancing both.  Not forgetting to live life now but planning for tomorrow.

Question 6: What was your funniest moment in life?

My friend and I accidently got left behind as the boat left the Arizona Memorial in the middle of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  That took a bit of explaining afterward.

Question 7: What are you the proudest of in your life?

That I was asked to give an address to Breast Cancer Survivors at the International World Championship Dragonboat Regatta, where I was also the youngest flag bearer for my country.

Question 8: Which famous person would you like to be?

Angelina Jolie.  I think she is pretty amazing.  She does great humanitarian work, while looking after her kids and in movies she even does her own stunts.

Question 9: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Antarctica – this region has always fascinated me – but I would take plenty of warm clothes!

Question 10: Which fictional character do you relate to the most?

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider!

Question 11: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

At the moment, more of a morning person.  I like to get an early start on the day.

 

And now those are answered, I should move onto the random facts part:

 

11 Random Facts about Nicole:

  1. Nicole’s nickname is ‘Nic’.

    Nicole Anderson
  2. She likes classical music when she is outdoors enjoying nature.
  3. One of her favourite movies is ‘Under a Tuscan Sun’.
  4. Before this decade is over, she wants to visit Antarctica.
  5. She enjoys blogging because it connects her with like-minded people around the globe.
  6. Despite her best efforts, weeds still manage to thrive in her garden.
  7. Nicole just can’t whistle.
  8. Most weekends she likes to take off and spend time in the Hinterland near her home.
  9. She likes to sketch with pencils.
  10. She loves chocolate and is waiting for the day when it is really good for you and you can enjoy without limits!
  11. Nicole loves dogs.

Nominees:

And now to the exciting part to introduce the 11 blogs that have been nominated in turn to receive the Liebster Award.  Below they are presented in alphabetical order.

Aicsthetic

Aicsthetic follows the journey of a 20-something creative from Manila who is an artist of three kinds. First, she snaps her travels through her eye-popping, turquoise aesthetic. Then, she bears both convictions to her readers with emotional anecdotes of the past and realizations of the present. And lastly, she manifests her bizarre imagination with a brush, a pencil, or a pen. All her thoughts are viewed through her pink-turquoise tinted glasses.

 

 

Altea Leszczynska

Altea Leszczynska is a professional artist (a painter and a photographer) and her blog is a cultural-lifestyle one. She writes about art, culture, fashion, yoga, veganism, beauty, wellness, and also shares with her readers her controversial opinions spiced with her montypythonesque sense of humour. Altea always illustrate her posts with photography directed by her. She writes in Polish and in English.

 

Bebe Shamo

Shamira Solana, creator of Bebe Shamo, a Travel and Fashion blogger from the Philippines and Ireland. She travels and dresses on a budget, share pictures and stories from her adventures. She’s also a YouTuber, aspiring actress and a dancer. She’s working full-time as Healthcare Assistant in the hospital and she started blogging after breaking up with her ex-boyfriend to stay productive and thinking positively to build her self-confidence. Now she’s more motivated than ever.

 

 

Clever Little Mouse

Clever Little Mouse was born out of a New Year’s resolution that blogger Pam Long made seven years ago: to do something creative every day. She’s been sewing and crafting since she was a little girl, but she never anticipated how much her skills and passions would blossom just from that one simple resolution. Her sewing room truly is her happy place, and her goal is to inspire others to take a chance, learn something new and let their creativity shine.

 

Eclectic Twist

Eclectic Twist is a fun and funky place for home decor and DIY inspiration and tips.  Here Tina Bousu shares everything from how to best shop at a flea market to tips for decorating a kids bedroom to redesigning and going through a kitchen reno to installing faux wood beams!  She also throws a curve ball in there every once in a while and shares posts about personal empowerment and building your confidence and “rock it” attitude! There’s something for everyone, it’s colorful, eclectic and fun! Tina really enjoys sharing with all of you and hopes you will give her blog a visit!

 

 

Lady Twiiti

Stubborn. Original. Optimistic. Vibrant. Chic.  This blog is about Twiiti.  She’s a 21 years old Namibian Blogger who’s passionate about writing, Words are her strength and she express mostly what she feels through writing. There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.  The Lady Twiiti blog is absolutely concerned with recording her inner thoughts, the things she wants to express to people and maybe even inspire your own thinking.  In her words…Please allow my fingers to play with the keyboard just a little… or just a bit more.

 

Maryanne Theodore

Maryanne Theodore is a personal and lifestyle blog about my personal stories and life experiences, lifestyle tips and treats, inspirational topics and because of my love to literary works, the blog happen to feature poems and fiction from other writers too. This blog is one which you can learn a lot from because the topics cut across many genres of life. Maryanne hopes you will have a wonderful time when you visit it.

 

Navigating Adulthood

Navigating Adulthood is a community for twenty-somethings, millennials and recent college graduates to help make the journey to being a bonafide adult easier. Think of this blog as a free online “adulting school” where you can learn the life skills they never taught you in school. Blogger Ying’s goal is to help readers become a more successful adults by providing tips, tutorials, advice, and inspiration. She talks about topics ranging from how to find a job to personal finance tips.

 

Shazia Chiu

Shaziachiu.com is run by Shazia Chiu, a realtor and freelance writer from Salt Lake City, Utah. She previously ran a travel blog called Gap Year for Two, which documented her year-long trip around the world. On her current blog, Shazia covers a range of topics including real estate, writing, travel and personal finance. Her blog also serves as a personal journal of her travels and day-to-day life.  Visitors can connect with Shazia by visiting her website or by finding her on Instagram (@shzchiu).

 

The Artful Appetite

The Artful Appetite is a food blog that features beautiful vegetarian and vegan recipes. Most of the recipes blogger Kate Minor posts she would consider to be pretty healthy. At one point in her life Kate was interested in becoming a dietician. Her creativity and artistic nature led her in another direction, but she is still interested in nutrition and healthy living! In addition to the recipe posts, she sometimes includes posts about her favorite restaurants and cookbooks, her travels, and her art. This blog represents a marriage of two of Kate’s great loves in life: photography and food. Being able to share delicious recipes in such a visually beautiful way is very satisfying for her.

 

The Modern Nest

The Modern Nest is a blog dedicated to today’s family home life. Its focus is on keeping it real…solving problems that today’s moms face without unrealistic expectations and always with a light-hearted attitude. In this internet nook you’ll find them talking about everything from the fun (DIY and decor), to the necessary (modern homemaking, organization), and the chaotic (parenting). So grab a cup of coffee (or wine) and go join them!

 

 

 

So congratulations to all those bloggers who have created such lovely blogs.  And in keeping with the rules, I have prepared 11 questions for your to answer as you start thinking about the blogs you would like to nominate for the Liebster Award.

 

Questions for the Nominees:

  1. What inspired you to start your blog?
  2. What do you like to do in the great outdoors?
  3. What would be your most memorable experience outdoors?
  4. What famous person (past or present) would you like to have dinner with?
  5. What is your favourite past-time or hobby?
  6. Where would you most like to visit in the world?
  7. What is your most favourite childhood memory?
  8. Is there a particular skill you would really like to have?
  9. How are you the most creative in what you do?
  10. What’s really great about where you live?
  11. What do you see eventually happening for your blog?

 

Thank you to everyone for reading.  Do check out all these great blogs.  Thank you again to our nominator Lea of Lou and Lea.  Thank you to our lovely nominees for creating such great blogs.

And the final thank you…well that is reserved for Camping for Women’s subscribers, readers and contributors.  Without your wonderful support, there would be no blog!

Best wishes everyone.

 

How To Start Backpacking and Be Fearless in the Wilderness

backpacking 1

 By Lucy Gomez

Imagine leaping into a fresh-water stream, feeling the icy shock as you plunge in and the buzz as you warm back up again… the most energizing feeling in the world! Stepping into the wild opens the opportunity to discover the world’s stunning beauty, and maybe even encounter rare wildlife too! On top of that, it’s proven to boost your body and mind. So what are you waiting for?

OK, so maybe that all sounds terrifying. Don’t worry though, it did to me once too, you’re not alone!

That’s exactly why I’ve gathered all the useful tips that we here at getcampingwild.com have learned so far about how to start backpacking. So, before you know it, your inner intrepid-explorer will be unleashed!

backpacking 2You’ll need:

  • A Trail Map
  • A Compass

Before grabbing your backpack, pick up the map instead. The easiest way to work out what you’ll need is to know where you’re going.

My best advice for getting started is to stay local, because discovering how easily you can access the wild wonders on your doorstep instantly gives you a native feel for how to start backpacking! If you still need some more inspiration, check out our post on The Most Famous Seasonal Campgrounds and see if you can spot one near you.

We’ve been asked a lot of questions about how to start backpacking over the years, like….

 

Backpacking – will it be hot or cold?

In the wild, this decision is totally up to Mother Nature, and she’s famously unpredictable. But you can get one up on her, and here’s how…

  1. Check your weather forecastbackpacking 3

We bet you’re super familiar with the seasons in your region, but keeping an eye on the forecast means you’ll be aware of any freak storms threatening your trip!

  1. Use your map to estimate your altitude

The temperature drops 3.5°F for every 1000 ft you climb, and mountainous areas are known to have a climate of their own, too. When a warm sunny day becomes a hailstorm in minutes – don’t get caught without a raincoat, it’s not fun!

 

So, What should I wear?

When you are a five-hour trek into the wilderness, there is no hiding from the elements. If it’s cold, you need to stay warm in it, and if it’s boiling you need to be able to cool down. The solution? It’s all in what your wear…

  • backpacking 4Base layers – long johns and thermal vests are designed to keep your body heat in and the cold out. They’re cheap and easy to find in the underwear section of your closest shopping mall
  • Sports shirts – made from lightweight, breathable and fast drying fabric, you can get a bargain in discount sports stores
  • Long pants – either jogging or light trekking ones to protect your legs from stings, scratches and bites.
  • Small sweater – one of your ‘layers’ for intricate temperature control
  • Fleece – as warm and cosy as four small sweaters!
  • Raincoat – make sure it’s a strong, lightweight and breathable one
  • Plastic poncho – yep, just like those ones you get at waterparks and festivals, they’re unbeatable in sudden downpours!
  • Hiking shoes – you’ll need fairly firm ones to tackle the undergrowth, but don’t get the heaviest, as they’ll slow you down
  • Socks – specialised walking socks are vital for your first backpacking trip because they’re made from a silky fabric, so they keep your feet both dry and blister-free
  • cotton undies/sports bra – your most comfy pairs!
  • Swimsuit – ready for that freshwater dip!
  • Hat – be sure to protect your head in sun or snow!

How can you actually carry your whole life on your back though?

backpacking 5None of us are secretly snails. The trick is to simply bring all that you need and ABSOLUTELY nothing more. No really, or you’ll regret it – this is one of the biggest and hardest decisions for how to start backpacking! Especially when experts recommend carrying 30% of your body weight with you. For me, 30% of my body weight is 42 lbs, which is 19kg or litres, and I know I’ll be whining if I walk for five hours carrying that much! So I usually aim for just 15%.

Top tip – weigh your bag after you pack, then weigh it again when you’ve repacked!

Another mistake beginners make is shouldering all their weight. If you do that, we bet you’ll never want to go backpacking again! For a happy and healthy hike, make sure your backpack has a waist strap to carry the load, and an adjustable back to fit you.

Top tip – borrow from a friend for your first trip to keep costs down!

What do you eat and drink?

Bear Grylls might be happy to tuck into meals of bugs and berries, but we reckon you’ll be craving something a little less squirmy! After all, you’ll be burning plenty of calories, so make sure you get three square meals a day, plus a few snacks to sweeten your rest stops!

Here’s our team’s top trail menu, and all you need is a mini campstove, a metal cup with a lid, and a spork…

backpacking 6Breakfast: Instant oatmeal (add honey and raisins for extra goodness!) and a sachet of instant coffee

Morning snack: packet of mixed fruits and nuts or cereal bar

Lunch: Saltines, spread with Nutella or peanut butter, plus your favorite chips and a piece of fruit (apples and oranges have good backpack survival rates)

Afternoon treat: your favorite sweets, whether it’s gummy bears or fizzy worms, they’ll give you the boost you need (marathon runners do it!)

Dinner: Freeze dried packet meals are available in camping shops and just require a little heating, but a packet of instant noodles or pasta will also replace those much-needed carbs!

Top tip: Whatever you decide to bring on your first how to start backpacking trip, and every trip after that, make sure it’s sealed, lightweight, packed full of nutrients and doesn’t need refrigeration. Check out our post 7 Easy Foods For Camping’ for more ideas!

What about water?

backpacking 7Well, it’s a fact that you’ll need to drink much more than you can carry on day one, and another reason why your map is so important. When planning your route, trek via water sources like fresh springs or streams, then purify the water before you drink it.

Top tip: Boiling water for at least a minute kills the bacteria and saves you carrying a fancy filtration kit!

 

How does the sleeping part work?

There aren’t likely to be organised campsites in the wilderness, so you get to decide which patch of nature to call home for the night!

Step 1.    Choose a spot

It is generally advised to sleep near the trail, but not on it – about 100 yards away should be fine. Make sure you don’t block a water access point!

backpacking 8Step 2.    Check the terrain

There’s nothing worse than bedding down on spiky rocks, so choose somewhere peaty or leafy

Step 3.    Pitch your tent

Be sure to check you have all the parts before you leave home!

Step 4.    Get out your sleeping gear

Don’t leave home without a sleeping pad (I use my yoga mat). I’ll let you into a ‘how to start backpacking’ secret; although this is the most important insulating layer between you and the cold ground, some experienced campers don’t realise it!

You should also take a small pillow and sleeping bag to cosy up in. They come in sizes for each season – but the warmer the bag, the heavier it is. When choosing, estimate your nighttime temperature and match it to the range of the sleeping bag. Sleep tight!

Need to know

Now that you’re bursting full of top tips about how to start backpacking, there are a few more things to bear in mind (get it?!)

Did you know that you should:

  • Always give way to people going uphill
  • Never light a fire unless it’s allowed in your area
  • Bury your poop with a spade
  • Know the phone number for mountain rescue
  • Let others know your planned route
  • Pick up any rubbish you see, to save the landscape for future visitors, and for the creatures who call it home

For your first ever backpacking trip, we recommend going with a friend or a guide who knows their fauna from their flora. But if you go it alone and you get lost – don’t panic. Retrace your steps to the last place you recognise.

It’s also really important to make sure you’re in good shape before the trip – going running, swimming or working out in the gym is great for you anyway, but it can also be the difference between a good trip or an incredible trip!

And finally, you’ll be glowing with the accomplishment of having earned every single one of those fantastic views! So, take these steps towards how to start backpacking, and get out there to begin your own fantastic original adventure!

backpacking 9