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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Four season Gortex coat with removable fleece inside from North Face (Gortex is NOT necessary! It’s just what I already had.)
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
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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 🙁
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
A Trail Map
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…
Check your weather forecast
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!
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…
Base 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?
None 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…
Breakfast: 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?
Well, 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!
Step 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
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!
Preparation begins well before your hit in the water and involves everything from normal boat repair to servicing rods and checking all your terminal tools. Essentially, you should undergo a complete check of everything; test your engine, check the battery and electronics are working, and rods are performing well among other things.
How regularly do you see someone at the edge of the water with engine failure or your friend, who realizes that his/her rod has gone just as he/she tried to catch a fish? These are little facts that occur far more regularly than some of us would like to admit.
All in all, everything must be in place and ready before heading out. Bad planning and preparation can destroy a fishing trip. Do it well prior and you will not waste precious time preparing when you should be catching fish.
Focus on detail
Better fishers always do it right. At the end of the day, you only have yourself to take the responsibility. It is good to inspect all your tools before going in the water thoroughly.
When it comes to everything being in working order, some think it is best to often change rods. I should say that this is might be good depending on how much wear and tear you have. Braid, can last more than a year, but should still be checked regularly.
Check the leaders by running your fingers over them as well as physically checking them for wear or nicks. Then, test all joints and lastly have a swift look at the hooks. Do not be afraid to test your joints, flexibility on them to make sure they are completely sure. If I have any doubts about any part, change it.
Have your target
Fishing truly has shifted over the years, and as fishers get more and more skilled, their procedure has developed into more of an expertise. If you are beginner you can take essential fishing tips from many guidelines. Nowadays, if you want to fish, you have to select a certain focus species and set yourself up well.
Even temporal fishers head out looking for certain species, spinning for bream in a branch offshore. Paying attention to all your resources and efforts on one type, then utilizing the shotgun way and hoping for anything that occurs to be around, will make you more efficient.
Schedule your attack
Once you understand which overall areas have been giving fish; the next step is to get more specific about your game plan for the day. This truly is key to being a better fisherman/lady. It does not matter how good you are; there are daily changes that require taking account of, like tides and weather. Tidal data is important and shows the motion of water. It is always good to fish within the tide shift. Hence, if there is an early morning tide shift, it is well worth waking up early to catch it.
Spinning Rod and Reel
If you have not bought your spinning reel, you should first assess what kind of reel will go well with your needs. There are good websites and bass pro shops and cables to get you started. You should also visit Cabela’s, bass pro shops, or Gander Mountain and discuss with their fishing department to get an idea of which rods might be good for you.
With the best preparation, you will have the best fishing activity and hence success since preparation ensures that you are in a good mood to carry out fishing.
Overall focus on the tools you be using in the water and the prevailing weather of the water mass you will be doing your fishing.
Lastly, have the right confidence and mood to facilitate the same. Above all, you are going to be the best fisherman/lady ever – and above all, have a great time!
“Why have I never used these before?!” I quietly exclaimed to myself as I skipped down the side of an ice-covered ridge in Yosemite National Park. Rather than boulder-hopping and mountain-goating from stone to stone as I had on my way up the mountain, I was suddenly free to move, parading over frozen streams and mini-waterfalls with the grace of a Bolshoi dancer. The reason? Microspikes.
I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to buy a pair, or why my little forest-obsessed heart was so afraid and untrusting of winter gear in general. Perhaps Southern California had begun to make a permanent impression, declaring all things cold to be untrustworthy cohorts of the Norse gods, or perhaps I just hadn’t found the right winter monkey posse to push me past my comfort zone. In any case, I am now a convert to the religion of microspikes!
In case you’re new to the scene, like me, here’s the scoop: microspikes are a step down from crampons, tiny sets of metal spikes attached to rubber that quickly and easily snaps up and around your regular hiking boots. They’re mostly used for hiking and mountaineering when ice may be present on the trail and the slope is not greater than 25-30 degrees. The best part? They aren’t like other winter gear that costs $100 or more! One set of these on Amazon will only set you back about $30, and they work like a dream. I bought the Uelfbaby set with 19 spikes, and I couldn’t be happier. Getting out in the fresh powder atop a frost-bitten cliff in Yosemite has made my Scandinavian bones begin to crave the chilly thrill of winter sports. Snowshoeing, frozen ascents, and cross-country skiing are all in my near future, thanks to the wake up call these little foot bayonets provided. I think this may be the beginning of a tremendously fun and gear-centric snow season! Does anyone have an ice-axe I can borrow?? 😉
“I’ll be at the ball field all weekend with Jane’s soccer tournament. Then somehow I have to get Jake to karate and Jill to her softball game.”
Does this sound familiar? It’s become almost a badge of honor among moms to see whose kids can be involved in the most extra-curricular activities. Then you have the whole “competitive” leagues that required the family’s life to revolve around financing and scheduling vacations around competitions. Don’t get me wrong. My youngest was involved in competitive dance for nine years, but that wasn’t our life. She also had to choose dance or another activity. We couldn’t afford more than that, and I certainly wasn’t going to have every weekend consumed with travel to one convention center after another.
Parenting is all about balance.
These days (wow that makes me sound old) it seems like more and more family activities involve everyone doing their own thing. Even when the family is at home, often everyone is on their electronic devices, totally unaware of what the rest of the family is doing. As a teacher, I’ve never had a student come in Monday morning excitedly telling me about their fantastic weekend on a ball field or in their room playing video games. However, if there is a Boy Scout Jamboree or if their dad takes them on a fishing trip, even if it rained the entire time, I hear all about the food, hiking in the mud or the big fish that got away!
Girl Scout Camping Bonfire
In our quest to have a balanced family life and well-rounded happy children, you can’t go wrong with taking your kids camping. Here are 6 reasons why:
1. Your children can see the country inexpensively.
My childhood pop-up camper (pictured: me in the back, my mom, our exchange student from Brazil, and my brother)
Compared to hotels or condos, campgrounds are cheap. You can buy a nice tent for around $100 or less. Tents today are a snap to set up compared to the tents of my childhood. We didn’t have much money growing up and started out in a tent, then went “big time” with a small, used pop-up. Camp food is way cheaper than going out to eat every meal. Even if you are just cooking breakfast and doing sandwiches or hotdogs for lunch, and eat supper out, you will still save a ton compared to staying in a hotel.
Our first family tent (pictured: daughter Lauren, now 22 and her cousin Nathaniel)
2. Camping is great exercise.Hiking, Chopping, and Canoeing
Getting a campsite set up is great exercise for children, and they won’t ever realize it. We would always bring logs for the campfire, but it was the job of my girls to gather the kindling. Back and forth from the woods they would trudge carrying as many twigs as their little arms would carry. Growing up camping, I remember being the “raker”. It was my job to rake the leaves from away from the fire pit, then I would spend hours raking out my house, arranging camp chairs and logs for benches so everyone would want to come visit my house. Then I would change my mind and repeat the process all over again. I remember one trip where my brother and I spent an entire day trying to roll an old, super-heavy stump over to our fire pit. Unfortunately, we were never able to get the thing to burn!
Then of course there’s riding bikes everywhere, climbing on the log and jumping off (repeated frequently for precision), canoeing, and hiking.
3. Kids learn to relax and shut out the world.
Lauren loved to relax and draw in her sketchbook early in the morning.
Rachel relaxing while coloring
In this day and age, kids are under tight school and extra-curricular schedules. Some of the stress is self-social media induced. Fortunately, a lot of the places we camp have no cell signal. There is nothing to do but relax and play. My oldest daughter (She is now twenty-three) recently told me some of her best memories involve the two of us getting up at the morning light when the whole campground was still quiet. We would start a little fire and she would sit in my lap with a blanket talking about anything and everything. Little did I realize how special those mornings by the campfire made her feel.
My youngest, Rachel, has always said that she hated the outdoors. I think her early exposure to camping and trips to the lake is starting to come back to her. She has had a super hard freshman year in college. For a girl who doesn’t like nature, I’m seeing a whole lot of pictures of her laying in her hammock, hiking, and picnicking at the lake.
Rachel, now a college freshman, hiking with friends
4. Camping teaches the appreciation of nature.
I grew in a rural area with woods galore. When you have that kind of daily exposure, you become comfortable with nature, and it becomes part of your world. Back then, there wasn’t the fear of child abduction so we were allowed to play all day long in the woods, climbing trees, and building forts.
My girls grew up in suburbia with only a few small trees in our yard unlike the unlimited access to nature that I had growing up. Times may have changed, but going to a state campground hasn’t. Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts pretty much teach the same outdoor skills that were taught when I was a Girl Scout. I was a Girl Scout leader for nine years. The girls that started as Brownies in second grade turned into seasoned outdoor lovers by high school.
5. Camping teaches kids new skills.
Learning to make a campfire & fishing. Yes, that’s me with a catfish!
I built my first campfire with some coaching from my dad. I was able to use what I learned to teach my daughters and my Girl Scout troop. It never ceases to amaze me when people assume Joe (my husband) has made the campfire. Girls can be fire masters, too!
Growing up poor, we couldn’t afford to go to the community pool, so I learned to swim at the state campground. My girls also learned swimming while camping at a state park. My youngest still has distinct memories of being in charge of lunch when she was tall enough to put the hot dogs on the grill. To say she was proud of “cooking” is an understatement.
I asked my daughter Lauren what she learned most from camping. She said it helped her appreciate the silence of the mornings. She learned to use her creativity to create “kingdoms” in the tent and make toys out of sticks and rocks. Considering she is in graduate school working on an art history masters (all paid for with scholarships), I would say any camping mishaps were well worth the imaginative skills she learned!
6. Your family forms close bonds when camping.
Pictured: I’m playing cards; my grandma cooking & my mom, brother & I.
My fondest memories of my brother involved playing marathon rounds of card games. Long after our parents would go to sleep, we would still play cards. After my brother and his roommate (our cousin Joey) went off to college, they would meet us at the campground next to the university. So then our marathon card games increased to involve three. When we all married, we still went camping with the six of us playing cards long into the night. A few years later, the camping tradition continued with our children all becoming camping buddies.
My cousins’ boys, my nephew Nathaniel, and daughter Lauren
Pictured: Cousins at the campfire, Rachel & Lauren playing in the camper, Lauren & Nathaniel
My biggest regret is selling our little pop-up camper. I had divorced my first husband and thought there was no way I could manage my two young girls and set up a camper by myself. I should have had more confidence in all that camping had taught me. I’m now back camping again. Even though my kids are now longer living at home, they still enjoying meeting hubby Joe and me at the campground and sitting around the fire. I’m looking forward to the day their future children can get the same benefits from camping that their mothers and grandmother have enjoyed.
This post is dedicated to my mom who gave me my first camp cooking lessons. At the young age of 48, she passed away way too soon, but the memories of her cooking up camp breakfast and snuggling with me around the campfire will never leave me.
~ Carmen Baguio
I miss my camping mama!
Carmen and Joe Baguio are a middle-aged couple who started their travel blog http://www.packyourbaguios.com a year ago. Their goal is to encourage other empty-nesters to learn to become adventurous travelers, campers, and cyclists.
I confess: I’m a sucker for a good story with a strong heroine, and we’re not talking Scarlett O’Hara here. We’re talking that rare breed of female lead that somehow seems to elude most mainstream media, disproportionate to the number of male protagonists that dominate our literary landscape and cultural narratives.
Although this topic has become of great interest to me in the last few years, I have tended to shy away from addressing it, frankly because I don’t want to be pegged as some feminazi whining about the patriarchy. That’s not why I’m writing this. I am writing it because I think there are a lot of other people out there — men and women alike — who enjoy hearing the stories of female characters just as much as I do, and just as much as we all like stories about male characters.
I will be the first to admit that some of my favorite stories of all time center around the dude protagonist. Anyone who knows me knows that Into the Wild was one of my biggest inspirations for going to Alaska myself, and before that, Kingbird Highway fueled my teenage obsession with birdwatching and hitchhiking.
In my early naïveté, I wanted so badly to have the adventures that Chris McCandless and Kenn Kaufman had in their solo treks across the US, following in the legacies of even earlier explorers like Lewis & Clark and John Muir. But I was always torn between the dichotomy of being told I can accomplish anything I want, and that I am more limited because I am a woman, vulnerable by default.
Oddly enough, I never actually experienced the gender bias myself until I moved to Alaska. Growing up in a family of strong women and graduating near the top of my class in college, nothing ever held me back, though I was aware that my privilege was unique. Yet suddenly when I embarked on my own life of adventure, everyone seemed concerned for my safety and success, probably more so than they would have if I was a big, burly dude. And for good reason.
In rural Alaska, I found myself in a man’s world. For the first time in my life, I was being called at in the streets, followed occasionally when I went out for a walk, offered drinks, sex, and even marriage, and told I was “beautiful” or “cute” by complete strangers. Most of these things are easy to avoid or ignore, but it brought to light the unique challenges faced by female travelers — challenges that possibly make their stories all the more compelling, because they are being dealt with in addition to the usual adversities of any other adventurer.
My experience has been similar. When I’m in uniform as a park ranger, I’m occasionally met with surprise when people find out I’m from so far away, or that I travel just for the experience of it. “Why would you want to come all the way up to Alaska?” or “Why did you leave?” or “You’re so brave to do this by yourself.” One older lady even said to me (I kid you not), “It’s so interesting they’re letting women do this now. I met another young female park ranger this year, and I just couldn’t believe it!” A lot of people still have an antiquated view of the mustached man with pith helmet, so the idea that travelers today can be any one of us is quite a different pill to swallow.
Are female adventurers less common than their male counterparts, or simply less noticed? Sometimes I think the latter may be true, which is perhaps why I’m so intrigued by their stories when I do hear them. If you are too, check out some the following and feel free to share some of your own favorite heroine books and movies in the comments.
Book and Film | Wild
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves…” ― Cheryl Strayed
I first heard about this book in the summer of 2013, being criticized for similar reasons that Chris McCandless was criticized for in Into the Wild. In many ways, the story is the same, only this time it’s a woman who goes into the wilderness to escape demons of her past, ill-prepared and misguided in her efforts and judgment. It’s great! It’s raw and honest and lays everything out in the open. Unlike McCandless though (spoiler ahead!), author Cheryl Strayed does not succumb to the deadly forces of nature, and instead lives on to write this memoir. It’s exciting, yet a realistic look at the challenges and torture of hiking over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with no prior experience. The movie adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon came out in 2014, and did a surprisingly good job of capturing the spirit of the book. My one qualm with it was that it focused more on Strayed’s emotional grappling with her past and less with her experiences on the trail than did the book. I would have liked to see more of her trail stories depicted, but perhaps that’s a good argument for both reading the book and seeing the movie – you can get a good taste of both that way.
Book | The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost
This book far exceeded my expectations, capturing the very essence of the coming of age journey that so many young woman travelers experience. I wish I had read it about 7 years ago, when I first traveled abroad. It is the story of Rachel Friedman, a college student who finds her love of travel after spontaneously spending a summer waitressing in Ireland. There, she meets a free-spirited Australian woman who inspires Rachel to spend the next year traveling for the sake of the experience, and together they encounter wild adventurers across three continents, as the title suggests.
It’s a fun read, relatable for anyone who has ever fantasized about traveling the world with their best friend but has absolutely no idea where to start or how to do it. Instead of worrying about that though, Rachel learns to just go for it, inspiring the reader that anyone can do the same.
Book | Life List
Life List is particularly interesting because it is the true story of a woman who finds her adventurous side after raising a family and spending some 30 years as a humble housewife. At the age of 50, after being misdiagnosed with only a year left to live, Phoebe Snetsinger sets out to turn her hobby of birdwatching into the most exciting quest of her life. She ends up spending the next 18 years traveling the world in search of rarer and rarer bird species. Although she often takes guided birding tours in each place she goes, her journey is far from sheltered, as she encounters accidents, a kidnapping, and malaria among other misfortunes. But despite all this, Phoebe is never deterred and it is truly her enthusiasm, commitment, and perseverance that makes this such a compelling read.
Film | Open Road
This fascinating little film tells the story of a young Brazilian artist who lives a solitary and nomadic lifestyle, on a journey of self-discovery. It has a definite independent film-vibe, excellent character development, and a dash of mystery as the story unfolds and the heroine struggles with the desire for human connections while also holding herself at a distance from others. I think it’s a common struggle for many young people who take off on their own, and this film does a good job of taking you along on the journey without revealing it all too fast. It’s a bit slow-paced and the scenes are acted out so naturally you could almost forget you’re watching a film.
Film and Book | Tracks:
“The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision.” ― Robyn Davidson
Literally, it’s a true story about a girl in the 1970s who decides to walk 1,700 miles across the Australian desert with 4 camels and her dog. What’s not to love about that? The book has been out for a long time, but I’ve only seen the movie so far and it immediately became one of my favorite movies I’ve ever seen. Like so many other stories of this caliber, it has a number of flashback scenes alluding to Robyn Davidson’s troubled past, but unlike some of the other stories, these don’t seem to completely dominate her motivation for her journey. Ultimately, she is simply on a quest to prove to herself that she can do it. As a character, Robyn is fascinating and you can’t help but empathize with her: she does what she needs to get what she wants, but rejects offers from others to accompany her on her trip because she wants to have the experience alone. Without giving too much away (because you really HAVE to watch this film), she finds that in some sense, shared experiences are what make life worthwhile — and survivable.
While I am continuously building up my personal library of strong heroine stories, I will leave you with these for now. I invite others to share their favorite heroine stories as well — and most of all, I hope you will be inspired to go out and live your own. Adventure on!
Enjoyed this article by Andrea? You can see more of her work on her website.
In 1996 I met an author who would change my life and never even know it. His name is David Brill, and he is a freelance writer for men’s magazines. He spoke to a writer’s group I was in about his thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in the 1970’s because he had just written a book about it 20 years later. The title of the book is As Far as the Eye Can See and it includes excerpts from his journal as well as his thoughts looking back on his experience.
The day he came to speak to my writer’s group about this book, I had the worst hangover. I had never hiked a day in my life and I had never even heard of the Appalachian Trail, even though I grew up in Kentucky only three hours away. I had decided that if “this guy” wasn’t interesting, I was going to leave and go back to bed. David Brill spoke for about 5 minutes before I realized the magnitude of what he had accomplished, and I was hooked. My hangover was gone. I had to do this.
I bought his book for a whopping ten dollars, got him to sign it, and when everyone else left, he and I were left. He took time to answer my questions. He also asked me if I preferred bourbon or whiskey. I wreaked of alcohol, but no longer felt my hangover. I was excited! I had a goal!
It was seven years later, in 2003, before I actually completed my thru hike. I never even set foot on a trail until 2000, and never carried a backpack until 2001! But I never lost sight of my goal, and on March 25, 2003, I began a journey that would instill an insatiable wanderlust in me that I still haven’t satisfied. On September 3rd, I summited Katahdin in Maine. This day is more important to me than my birthday, especially now that I’m over (cough, cough), uhh, let’s say 40 and leave it at that.
I had a lot to learn before hiking 2,172 miles with what would eventually be whittled down to a 20-pound pack. Here’s what I did to get ready, including some mistakes I made. My dog, Oscar, even got in the action, although he was not exactly an outdoorsman. He made sure to sample the beef jerky though.
Let’s Get Started!
My first consideration when preparing for the Appalachian Trail was about experience. I had never hiked or backpacked or even camped really. There was a lot to learn and that meant getting prepared and getting out in the wilderness to learn how to use my gear. I joined a hiking club and met a lot of people who knew a lot more than I did about backpacking, sleeping, and eating in the wilderness. I went on many weekend trips with them in southern Arizona and western New Mexico. It rained on almost all of those trips, and my friend Steve said I was cursed. Here we were in the Southern Arizona desert, and it rained every damn time I went on a camping trip with The Ramblers, and never when I didn’t. I felt pretty prepared for rain when I started the AT.
Boy, was I wrong! Nothing could have prepared me for that much rain! 2003 is still the wettest year on record for an AT hike. Lucky me. My big toes looked like white prunes for three months. But that’s not what this post is about! If you’re planning a long-distance hike, or just curious how to prepare for one, read on.
A lot of people think they need to be in great shape physically before starting the Appalachian Trail, but that’s not necessarily the case. The trail conditions you, no matter what shape you’re in when you start. But your chances of a successful thru-hike will improve if you aren’t struggling physically at the beginning. One of the best ways to get in good physical condition for hiking is by going hiking. Surprise! Carry your pack, wear your shoes, and get out in the wilderness to walk over roots and climb over boulders. Then go out the next weekend and do the same thing.
I did day hikes with a fully loaded backpack even when I had no intention of camping. As I walked, I took a mental inventory of everything in my pack and how I could make it lighter. My first pack was an Osprey I found on sale at the local outfitter in Tucson. Great pack, but heavy! It weighed 7 pounds! A pack for the AT shouldn’t weigh more than 3 pounds, but it took experience and trial and error – and money – for me to figure that out.
There I go, talking about gear. I love gear. Gear is an important part of preparing for the Appalachian Trail, but preparing mentally is just as important. Even avid backpackers and campers can struggle mentally to keep going, to take that next step over that next rock or climb that next boulder. Even the most experienced might weep at the sight of yet another false summit. I was far from experienced, so I expected some mentally tough days, and I was right.
My longest backpacking and camping trip before I hit the AT was four days and four nights in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico (yes, it rained!), and I planned and completed those four nights and days on purpose. I read somewhere that if you could hike and camp four days and nights in a row, you could complete a successful thru-hike. My friend Steve, a fellow Rambler, and I planned a trip. He said he expected it would rain since I was going. He was right. It was just the two of us. The nights were below freezing. My shoes were wet from trekking in the snow (and rain!) and frozen hard as a rock every morning. I slept with my bladder of water inside my sleeping bag to keep it from freezing. Can’t say I loved hiking and camping on this trip. Love of hiking and camping came later, on the AT.
Preparing physically, whether by hiking, running, weight lifting, yoga, whatever you like to do, can help to prepare you mentally. Just keep going. Most of the time, hiking on the AT really is what you will want to do that day. Hey, beats working, right?
Money. A huge consideration. During a thru-hike, you most likely won’t be earning any unless your stocks are doing better than mine were. Fortunately, lodging along the AT for the entire 2100+ miles is free if you want it to be. I met two Canadians in 2003 who I don’t think spent even one night in town. They each finished their thru-hike spending less than $1000 each. It can be done, but not by me. I enjoy a night in town occasionally, to sleep in a bed, eat restaurant food, and restock at a blindingly bright grocery store filled with temptations I couldn’t carry and people who smelled like soap, which I did not.
As you research town stops along the way, you’ll start to get an idea of how much money you might need to get you through your hike from start to finish. Your biggest expense will be food. You will eat a lot, even while you’re hiking! You will walk or hitchhike out of your way, off the trail, just to get a restaurant meal of fat, cheese, grease, carbs, protein, and quite possibly other things that you would never consider eating if you had not just walked 20 miles with all of your belongings on your back. That said, you won’t spend much money on anything else if you purchased your gear and shoes before you started walking.
Plan to Eat!
There are two theories on resupplying food. The most popular is just to resupply along the way in town stops and buy enough to get you through to the next town stop. In my opinion, this is the least expensive and least troublesome way to resupply. I, however, didn’t figure that out until I’d completed about half the trail. I resupplied along the way, but I also used resupply boxes I packed before I started – a lot of them – and got them weighed and paid postage, and then left them with my sister to mail to me along the way. The problem with this is I probably spent more money doing it this way and, well, plans change. I didn’t even use all the boxes.
Packing these boxes after a trip to Costco was an adventure in itself. I had a small kitchen and no dining room table, so these boxes were everywhere. I came home one day to find a couple of them on the floor and the beef jerky packages torn open! Guess who worked really hard to knock those boxes off the counter? Yeah, my little 20-pound Oscar! He was fat and happy on the sofa when I got home, and I found beef jerky all over the apartment for the next two weeks. He’d hidden it away for later! Lesson learned. Keep your resupply boxes in a room with a door that closes! I had to forgive him though. He stayed with my sister (another sister) during my trek, and had to be neutered at age 13 while I was out having the time of my life.
Even with resupply boxes, I still had to buy certain items along the way. One advantage to having resupply boxes sent to post offices along the way is that if there are certain things you really like, or if someone wants to send you homemade goods, as my family did, then they can put them in the boxes. My sister sent me two dozen chocolate chip cookies, an entire pineapple upside down cake, and a loaf of sourdough bread in one box. Between me and two other thru-hikers, none of it made it past the post office porch.
Resupply boxes add another element of planning that, in my opinion, is unnecessary. There are plenty of opportunities to resupply and vary your diet along the way. Some things you will never get tired of are easily found in towns, like Hershey bars. They travel well in a backpack and no matter how many times they melt in that foil wrapper, they’ll still be good at the end the of a 20-mile day.
Plan to Sleep
Hotels and some hostels are another expense you’re likely to be tempted with. An actual bed, a shower, and a place to dry out your stuff is a welcome change for most hikers. Most hostels are either work-for-stay or very cheap. Hotels can range from $30 a night to very expensive in larger towns if you want to go that route. This is where having a guidebook comes in really handy for planning. I have another post about AT Guidebooks. Town stops are important for several reasons, but you can decide how many of them you want to make and how much time you want to spend in town. Keep in mind, the more time in town, the more temptation to spend money, and eat two pints of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting. I don’t recommend that.
I saved $3500 to get me through my hike and the next month after it since I wasn’t going back to work right away. I had plenty of town stops and luxuries, including beer and restaurant food, along the way, and still had money to get me through the month of September before going back to work as a teacher. Even though that was 13 years ago, I still think $3500 is more than most thru-hikers start out with.
It’s Time. You’re Ready. Do It.
One last comment on preparing for the Appalachian Trail. Learn from others. Check out www.trailjournals.com and learn from others. Read their accounts. Read your guidebooks. You can read more about guidebooks in my post Appalachian Trail Guidebooks. Buy your gear and use it, especially in the rain. Then get dropped off at Springer Mountain and hike your hike. It’ll be the greatest experience of your life.
For many of us, there is nothing like going into the great outdoors to get away from the stress and strife of modern-day life. Unfortunately, however, while being out in the wilderness is great to unwind, it’s still nice to have some connection to the outside world, which is why we also bring our phones with us. However, trying to get reception can be a huge pain, and if you ever lose your device while out in the woods, it can be almost impossible to retrieve it. For that reason, we are going to go over what to do if you lose your communication and how to find your phone with AVG if it is lost.
If you are worried about losing your signal while out camping, you can plan ahead by bringing other devices that can offer you cell service no matter where you are. These include mobile wireless routers, cell phone boosters, and portable battery chargers to help you maintain access to your device at all times. These are the best ways to stay connected, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones.
If You Lose Signal
For those that didn’t plan ahead, you can help improve your signal in a couple of ways. First, you can find a clear, elevated area that can give you more direct access to a signal, or you can craft your own makeshift antenna. Chip cans and aluminum foil can help boost your phone’s range if you know what you’re doing. Fortunately, there are plenty of tutorials out there that can help.
Losing Your Phone
If the worst happens and you misplace your device while camping, all is not lost. If you have AVG as your Android security and antivirus, then you can track your phone’s location, even if it’s off. This will help you pinpoint where exactly you left your phone so that you can retrieve it. Fortunately, if it’s in the woods somewhere, then you shouldn’t have to worry about someone stealing it.
Overall, the best way to keep your phone in tip-top shape while camping is to plan ahead and have AVG antivirus installed beforehand.
Many of us live for the time when we get to experience the outdoors. We are constantly planning the next great escape from the city to again be at peace with the serenity, majesty and wonder of nature.
Often in our pressured, busy lives it is so easy to forget a few things that would make our experience in nature all the better. How many times can you recall running late to get away from your routine and in your rush, you overlooked things you wished you hadn’t? If you’re anything like me (human, that is), then you can surely relate.
And let’s face it. On some outings, be they for a short or a long while, there can be so many things to remember, depending on what you are doing and who you are doing it with.
So with the above in mind, a few Camping for Women contributors have come up with some checklists to help make our planning and getting things together a little easier. There are 6 checklists that we have put up initially and more will be added to in the future.
Enjoy the Free Checklists!
The totally free checklists that have been prepared for anyone to download and use below:
The Hiking and Backpacking Checklist by Lynley Joyce
You can also tailor these checklists by adding other things that may be particular to your circumstances, activity or location.
And in the future, Camping for Women plans to add to these checklists with different activities that readers tell us are useful. Future free checklists and any updates to these initial lists will always be accessible from the Resources tab at Camping for Women.
You will be able to download which ever free checklists you like in future directly by going here.
We sincerely hope you get great value out from these checklists and that they save you some time and hassle that often goes with forgetting to take something that you really felt you needed to have.
Be sure to share this resource with your family and friends who love the great outdoors too!