Winfields Outdoors has released its best blogs for 2018 and what a fantastic resource this is for anyone who loves spending time in the great outdoors.
In all, Winfields Outdoors has recognized 136 blogs from around the world across the following six categories:
Best General Outdoor Blogs
Best Walking and Hiking Blogs
Best Camping Blogs
Best Caravanning & Campervan Blogs
Best Outdoor Activity & Health Blogs
Best Travel Blogs
Within the announcement of their 2018 best bloggers, Winfields has included a brief description and links to every one of the 136 blogs included so readers can easily check out all the outdoor blogs shown under each category. This makes a great page to bookmark so you can visit blogs that appeal to you. You can visit the page which includes all the links to each blog HERE.
There is no doubt you will find a lot of excellent information, resources and even entertainment from looking through such a comprehensive list of quality blogs.
Recognition of Camping for Women
Everyone at Camping for Women were really pleased to have been recognized as 1 of 7 blogs within the Camping category. Ashley McGovern on behalf of Winfields Outdoors said it was a “no brainer” to include Camping for Women as a result for their search fresh, exciting outdoors content. She said she thought our contributor’s writing was really informative – something thoughtful to share with their own adventure-happy audience.
Those we need to thank
Camping for Women is extremely grateful to all of its contributors who so freely share their own skills, knowledge and experience with fellow women outdoor adventurers the world over. This recognition is absolutely a tribute to their generous spirit to share detail of what they love so much.
We also really appreciate the loyalty of our subscribers and readers who interact so well with our contributors via the blog posts so positively. This level of communication between readers and contributors highlights very much of a community feel even though the people involved are often geographically half a world away from each other. We are nevertheless bonded by our shared love of nature and spending time outdoors.
It’s times like these when people outside your own immediate community recognize your efforts to make a difference for lovers of the outdoors, that you feel very grateful for all that are involved. We are extremely thankful to many for adding their voice, the latest being Winfields Outdoors.
About Winfields Outdoors
Based in Europe, Winfields Outdoors is a major outdoor retailer that can boast excellent outdoor and indoor displays across most of its 8 brick and mortar stores within the UKshowing tents, porch awnings, motor home awnings, campervan awnings as well as all the camping equipment, caravan accessories, outdoor clothing, outdoor gear and footwear. Established since 1971, they have strong relationships with leading manufacturers within the camping and caravanning industry and state that their advice and after sales service is second to none. Their website is https://www.winfieldsoutdoors.co.uk/
From the moment I started down the Hoh River trail carrying my backpack, I started to sweat. The place with thick with moist, hot air, like a tropical rainforest transplanted to Washington State. Drapes of moss hung from the huge branches of old-growth Douglas fir, Western Hemlock and cedar trees. Bright green ferns carpeted the soft, soggy ground. I breathed in, stuck somewhere between a steam room and a sauna, and tried to enjoy the stifling beauty of the Hoh Rainforest. My boyfriend and I were making our way 10 miles to our campsite on our three-day summer backpacking trip.
The Hoh Rainforest is gorgeous, located in the northwestern most corner of Washington State in Olympic National park. It gets a yearly total of 12 to 14 feet of rain, which is heaven for moss and ferns. The first part of the trail runs along the Hoh River, tinged a milky slate blue from glacial sediment.
When we first started our trek, we weren’t sure whether we’d do the entire 40 mile round trip hike up to Blue Glacier, which would mean 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in one day.
Usually, people spend their second night of camping at a campground near the glacier, but there were none available for us. So we’d have to set up in one spot and od the glacier as a day hike.
Our first day of hiking was an easy and mostly flat through the prehistoric-looking rainforest, and we found a secluded spot to pitch our tent on the gravel bar near the Hoh River. It looked like something out of Alaska, with mist that clung in the evergreen trees and an icy, fast-moving river. We hunkered down for the night with dinner and a fire, and decided that yes, we wanted to see the glacier. Neither of us had ever seen a glacier up-close-and-personal, and with the current state of climate change, we wanted to hike to a glacier before it was too late.
We got up early to prepare for the 17-mile hike and stuffed our daypacks full of food. The trail wound up, and up, and up, through the greenest forest I’ve ever seen. Gigantic nurse logs lined the trail, sprouting with ferns and baby trees. We refilled our water bottles with icy stream water fed from a glacier. We gained elevation like nobody’s business under a cloudy, murky sky.
Finally, by early afternoon, the clouds began to burn off. I started to catch small glimpses of the Olympic mountains through the trees; snow-capped, jagged grey peaks. The Hoh River rushed by in a deep canyon far below us, and I was reminded of just how high we’d climbed.
The trail started to get narrow and sketchy. I stepped slowly and carefully, very much aware of the gritty sand beneath my feet and the staggering drop-off to my right. At one point, we had to shimmy down a ladder into a canyon, then climb switchbacks up the other side. Meanwhile, the clouds had burned off completely, leaving an achingly beautiful blue sky in their place.
My legs were tired, and we still had 1,000 more feet of elevation gain to go. My feet burned inside my my rigid hiking boots. But I was determined to see that glacier. We paused to fill water and have a snack in a flower-filled meadow, and drank in the alpine beauty as we sipped in cool, refreshing water.
The last 500 feet were up a rocky cliff, some of it we we had to trudge through snow. When we reached the top, I was blown away by the beauty and immensity of blue glacier.
It stretched before us, pouring down the mountain in a gigantic river frozen in time, the ice fall tinged an icy blue. Above, the jagged summit of Mount Olympus rose, as if daring us to climb. We saw some mountaineers don helmets and start their trek across the glacier, most likely to camp for the night before a summit attempt.
It’s one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Thousands of years of glacier were at eye-level, and I stared at the expanse for a long time. Below us, a white mountain goat rooted around in the brush. I was so glad we’d hiked to see the glacier, but was dreading the hike back down.
It was 2pm and it was 8.5 miles and 5,000 feet down, down, down, back to our campsite by the river. We didn’t stay at the glacier long so we could get back before dark.
The hike was brutal. My muscles screamed with the effort, my feet felt like they were walking on pebbles. The balls of my feet and heels ached with the exertion and I practically ran the last 200 yards back to our site, just to take off my shoes, to find some sort of relief.
I collapsed on the sand after I pulled off my boots, letting the coolness soothe the fire in my feet.
But there was more work to be done. We had to gather wood and water, start a fire, cook dinner, empty our packs. We decided to fill one of our bear cans with water so we could take a hot shower. It was a painstaking process, heating two cups of water at a time to a boil on our Jetboil stove and then adding to the cold river.
When the water was warm enough, Tom poured it over my head and I scrubbed the sweat and dirt from my body and hair. Cold air hit my wet skin and I ran to dry by the crackling fire. I’ve never felt more alive than in that moment, feeling the cleanness of my hair, hearing the rushing of the river nearby, smelling sand and pine and wood smoke. I feel that backpacking takes us back to our senses, the feelings in our bodies. We connect to the earth and ourselves with a primalness that can’t be found in the comfort of an apartment, on a soft couch, in front of a TV.
Both of us felt wild and in tune in those moments after we taxed our bodies to the limit, then bathed by the warmth of a campfire. Nothing has ever felt better.
Sleep and rest also felt good. Once our bellies were warm and full, we crawled into bed. My blow-up camping pad and sleeping bag felt like a 5-star luxury hotel, a much-welcomed rest from the grueling day. I fell asleep thinking of alpine peaks, glaciers, the vastness of the sky.
The next day, we hiked back out another eleven miles. My feet were still sore from the day before, and by the end of the hike, I could barely move. Each step felt brutal, and I was thankful to once again be at the Hoh Visitor’s Center, at the car, pulling off my boots for flip-flops. It was 2pm.
We’d hiked to Blue Glacier and back in about 60 hours. Insane.
Sometimes I ask myself why we push so hard. One summer it was the John Muir Trail, the next this hike to Blue Glacier. And then this summer, we may hit the John Muir Trail again.
I think that in our mostly sedentary lives, it feels good to get out and test our bodies, to see just how far they can go. It feels good to be in the true depths of nature. It feels good to be rewarded with a stunning view, with a soothing, hot campsite shower. And I’m still rewarded today with vivid memories, with the knowledge that, “Yes, I can.”
About the Author:
Kristin Hanes is a journalist and writer who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. Besides sailing, she loves anything adventurous and outdoorsy, including hiking, backpacking and traveling. Besides staying active, Kristin also loves cooking, salsa dancing and drinking a good beer. You can follow her adventures on her blog, www.thewaywardhome.com
Camping with the kids can be a wonderful experience, but we all know that’s it’s not always easy. After all, it’s important to keep them occupied and entertained so that they don’t get bored – especially on rainy days or the evenings where adventuring through the woods is no longer an option.
Camping games are often the best course of action, and they not only provide them with masses of fun, but they can also bring everyone closer together.
To help you choose the best camping games to play with your kids, we have gathered the top five – and they can be played with children of all ages. Plus, we have made sure to keep the mess to a minimum so that you have less to worry about.
#1 Campfire Stories
This is a classic camping activity, and one that is perfect for the evenings just before you all settle down for sleep. It’s perfect for kids of all ages, and you can decide what kind of stories are shared around the fire.
Whether you are exchanging scary tales or want to keep things calm with some relaxing bedtime stories, the choice is yours, and the kids will love it all the same. However, we highly recommend that this activity is accompanied by roasting marshmallows or a healthy dose of S’mores!
#2 Camping Olympics
This game might end up with your kids a little muddy, but it is great fun for every member of the family. It’s a fully customisable game, but the objective is to split into teams and race to complete an obstacle course. You can choose how difficult it is, but things like weaving between cones and crawling through hoops that have been wedged into the ground often prove to be popular choices. You could even go one step further and use some netting for everyone to army crawl under.
#3 Scavenger Hunt
This makes a great activity for hanging out at the campsite, but also works amazingly for when you are out on the trail, and the kids are starting to get a little bored. You can buy insect and bird bingo books or make them yourself, but the aim of the game is to find and mark off as many as you can.
For older kids, you can even increase the difficulty and include specific types of plant or leaves for a bit of a challenge. It’s an educational game and will help keep their minds engaged while you hike.
#4 Rock Painting
Rainy days happen, and they aren’t always the best, but there are ways to keep the little ones (and big ones) occupied. Ditch the classic colouring books and take some time to gather a few smooth rocks when you arrive onsite. You can put these aside and use them for rock painting when the rain comes.
Rock painting is a lot of fun, and you can create an amazing range of animals and plant life on them. Plus, it will keep everyone busy for hours as well as make for a wonderful bonding activity. It makes for the perfect memento from a family holiday.
#5 Ring Toss
This is a classic game, and one that we have all played at least once. You can pick up loads of portable kits for ring toss that you can bring with you to the site, and it’s a great way to entertain the kids in the evening while they are waiting for dinner.
The game has simple rules, and presents them with a fun challenge, Plus, it allows for some friendly competition between family members, and it is a game that the adults can join in with too. You could even up the stakes with a children vs adults round.
Hopefully, you have a few ideas for what to do with the kids when it comes to keeping them entertained on your next camping trip. There’s so much to do, and these games are sure to help get rid of some of their boundless energy. We hope that your next family adventure is a brilliant success!
This new format is not limited by letters, questions, fears, worries, or problems; rather, it is expanded by them.
Let me explain.
You might remember how, for a while, I had the honor of answering questions through an advice column called “Ask Natalie.” I fielded letters about back-country ethics and front-country relationships, and every so often, I’d be delighted to receive a follow-up comment or two. When Nicole [Camping for Women] asked me if I’d like to make the column into a video series, I was nervous, but delighted, but so totally nervous. I have always been more motivated by fear of regret than plain ol’ fear, so I agreed, and off we went into the jungle of YouTube.
For a few wild and wonderful months, I was filmed answering the letters I received, and I got to read entertaining and kind comments from those who viewed each episode. As an advice columnist, I was having a ball responding to what was being said.
However, as someone who chose psychotherapy as a profession, I’ve always been keen on listening to what isn’t said. Often, we don’t talk about our most important questions, our strongest fears, or our most fervent dreams. We carry them in us, but for a thousand different reasons, they never make their way into words. I was reminded of this when the inevitable happened: Natalie the advice columnist ceased to receive regular requests for advice. At face value, I thought this was a lovely thing. I figured it meant that readers of the column were calm and content. Upon further thought, though, I wondered: What isn’t getting asked?
And so here we are. Each month, I will ask the questions, and I will answer them. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s exactly what we all do day-in and day-out: We have experiences, and internally, we run a dialog with ourselves. This happens even more often when we are adventuring and having new experiences. “What’s that?” we ask ourselves when we see something we’ve never seen before. “Wonder what’s going on there,” we’ll internally murmur when we glimpse a tense interaction between strangers speaking a language we do not understand. “Why is this happening?” we’ll silently wail when we face hardship on a hiking trail. We don’t often speak these questions aloud, of course, but we pose them to ourselves.
Your participation is what turns a silent musing into a true dialog. My hope is that I will open the door to some of the experiences we have as adventuring women, and you will walk through it with your own perspective and knowledge. I want to feature your written comments, video responses, and audio recorded thoughts. All of these forms of feedback are welcomed in the new “Ask Natalie,” and in that sense, you are as much an author of this new column as I am. (And for what it’s worth, if you ever do have a problem you’d like some advice on – we can still do that here!)
If I can be super candid with you all, I have to say, I’m very excited about this new direction. I’m excited for you to be even more involved with “Ask Natalie,” and I’m excited that as a journal of sorts, we can feature all sorts of media. I’m excited that I won’t feel as compelled to have makeup on when I send Nicole my contribution to the column! Mostly, I’m excited that we can create a little place where we shine light on those corners of our experience that aren’t covered in the outdoors and travel magazines.
We can talk about what it is like to be women facing new adventures and growing because of them.
Thank you for coming along with me on this new journey!
It’s been a fantastic weekend camping and you’ve made it home after a long car drive. Everyone is off to work or school tomorrow, you’re exhausted and there’s a car full of camping gear, some of it wet and dirty. What do you do?
Depends on the circumstances
Option 1: Forget about it until at least after work tomorrow, and preferably not even then. Just have a shower and go to bed.
Option 2: Offload the gear, then forget about it until you have time. Maybe just clear out the by-now festering cool box and find everyone’s toothbrushes, but leave the rest.
Option 3: Clear out the car, put dirty things in the laundry ready to be washed and hang out wet things to dry. Pack away food and other perishable items, but probably leave your home looking like a hurricane’s hit it.
Option 4: Sort out everything straight away, so the only evidence left that you’ve been camping is a few washed and wet things hanging on the clothes line.
Obviously in an ideal world, option 4 is what we are all aiming for. In the real world, it often doesn’t happen that way. The best option depends on how late you return.
Priority 1: Washed and fed people
If you arrive back home in the middle of the night, the most you’ll want to do is find your toothbrush, have a shower and go to bed. If you’re arriving back home with kids any time after mid-afternoon, probably the main goal is to get them fed, washed and in to bed. At least make sure you have what you need to get through the night and the next day.
Food-wise post camping, grabbing a bought meal on the way home is very attractive. It’s a good time to pick up any essentials you’ll need for the next day such as milk or bread. Good post-camping easy meals include eggs cooked in whatever way, baked beans on toast, or anything that is easy to heat and eat.
Priority 2: Unpack the perishables
Hopefully you’ve used up most of your food, especially perishable items. It’s good to unpack them as soon as you can. Unpacking a camping coolbox is not fun, but it’s even less fun if the food starts festering.
Chances are your plates, cutlery and cooking items will need a good home clean. This is not a huge priority, but should be done sometime, with everything packed again ready for the next time.
If you have bags of rubbish, put them out in your bin as soon as possible. Chances are they are already festering.
Priority 3: Wet gear and airing items
If gear is wet, it is a good idea to at least hang it out so it can dry and not go mouldy or musty. Unless you live in a humid climate, usually the next day is fine but obviously the sooner the better.
Wet tents are probably the hardest to dry. Ideally it’s great to pitch them in the back yard for a sunny day or so, but this is not always possible. Smaller tents can be hung from a decent sized clothesline, pegging the corners of the groundsheet to different lines so the inside gets a good airing.
Even if they’re not damp, it’s a good idea to air out sleeping bags. Turn them inside out or unzip them and place them in a warm sunny area for a day or so before putting them away. It’s best to store them out of their packing bags, well fluffed up. Self-inflating mattresses are also best stored inflated and flat.
Priority 4: Cleaning and repairing
When you have time and a little energy, just after a camping trip is the best time to clean or repair items. Any issues should be fresh in your mind. Undoubtedly you would have forgotten about it when you pack next time.
Priority 5: Get things ready for your next trip
Unpacking is the best time to get ready for your next camping trip. As much as possible, make sure everything is well packed with all the tent pegs, etc, so you can grab it and go next time.
It’s also a good idea to pack all camping gear together in one area. People who regularly go camping often have packed basically everything they need for their next camping trip when they unpack, apart from fresh food and anything they only can’t spare (eg spectacles).
This makes packing for the next camping trip a breeze.
The easiest way to get to Ladakh is by flying from Delhi to Leh (the biggest town in Ladakh). It’s a two day drive from either Srinagar or Manali and you will pass over some of the world’s highest motorable passes. Be prepared for road closures, altitude sickness, motion sickness, and at least a few adrenaline filled moments.
Carley Fairbrother, British Columbia Canada.
Carley is a self-declared nature nerd from British Columbia, Canada. She spent seven years as a backcountry park ranger in northern BC before becoming an elementary school teacher. She enjoys hiking, canoeing, cycling, climbing, wild foraging, snowshoeing, skiing and most things outdoors. She also runs a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching people about nature and inspiring them to get outside. She travelled Ladakh in the summer of 2017 with her husband, Clay.
Best time to visit:
Peak season in Ladakh is mid-June to August. The weather is warm and all of the roads are open. However, September and early October are less crowded, and monsoon season is over, making the roads safer and rivers on trekking routes easier to cross.
Climate/weather/temperature & appropriate dress
Ladakh, nestled in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, is classified as a cold desert. Winter temperatures average well below freezing. In Leh, summer temperatures can get into the high 30s (celsius) during the day, but nights are still chilly, and most treks will take you into higher elevations where temperatures are cooler. There isn’t much shade n Ladakh, so when the sun is shining, it is relentless. Expect a windchill of -20° celsius if you are going over 6000m.
Bring warm clothes, especially if you are trekking or climbing. Don’t forget a rain coat. June-September is monsoon season throughout India, even in the desert.
Leave your shorts and tank tops at home. While Ladakh can get hot, it’s important to note that local women, even the ones who wear western clothes, will rarely show their arms or legs. While nothing horrible is likely come from you wearing shorts, covering your shoulders and legs shows respect for the local culture. Plus you may save yourself a nasty sunburn. Bring light breathable pants and t-shirts.
Main attractions/Must dos
Just being surrounded by them may be enough, but here are a number of “trekking peaks” over 6000m. These peaks are advertised as non-technical, but usually require ice axe, crampons’, and rope, so unless you are an experienced mountaineer, they are best attempted with a guide. At 6,153 m, Stok Kangri is by far the most popular, but it is far from easy. It requires at least three days (usually 4-5) of trekking, a midnight start on summit day, a glacier crossing, some nerves of steel, and plenty of acclimatization.
If clinging to the edge of a mountain with an ice axe doesn’t appeal to you, there are many milder treks. The Markha Valley trek is a popular 4-10 day trek. It is one of the few treks in Ladakh that offer homestays the whole way, so there is no need to carry a tent or hire ponies. There is also lots of information available on the route and is easy to do without a guide.
Many people travel to Ladakh solely for the culture and history. Ladakh is sometimes referred to as “Little Tibet,” and is culturally and geographically similar to Tibet. There are plenty of ancient monasteries and palaces to explore.
Key Highlights for me
Sunrises at 6000 m
We climbed two mountains over 6000 m while in Ladakh, Stok Kangri and Mentok Kangri Both required midnight starts, so dawn hit as we were nearing the top. They were both extremely challenging, exhausting, and a little terrifying, especially when trying to navigate at night. Once the sun came up, we got our second wind and up we went.
Our trek through Changtang
Chantang is part of the Tibetan Plateau and home to the nomadic Changpa people. We spent seven days crossing it do get to the base of Mentok Kangri, our first climb. Among the highlights were the settlements of Changpa nomads, spotting the numerous kiang (wild asses), camping while surrounded by grazing yaks, ponies, donkeys, and goats.
I loved exploring the many old, crumbling buildings. My favourite was the ruins at the top of the hill above Shey Palace.
Things that make this experience different or unique
This is easily at the top of the list. No matter where you are in Ladakh, you are surrounded by breathtaking views. Be it giant mountains, windswept plateaus, or lush green valleys, Ladakh is the perfect blend of vibrancy and sparseness.
I found their honesty and kindness refreshing after the hustle and bustle of Delhi. I especially enjoyed the Changpa Nomads, with their genuine smiles and tendency to sing while working.
From the domesticated yaks and donkeys to the wild asses and blue sheep, I loved all the animals I saw in Ladakh. We didn’t see one, but there was always the chance of seeing a snow leopard.
Ladakh is home to most of the highest motorable passes in the world. They navigate steep mountainsides on narrow, bumpy tracks. They are often closed from landslides, and motorists often have to cross creeks, gullies, and washouts. By then end of the trip, I was sick of them, but they sure did get the heart pumping.
Things visitors should be aware of
Leh is at 3,500 metres, which is high enough to get altitude sickness. To travel most places, you will have to travel even higher. Be aware of the symptoms and give yourself lots of time to acclimatize. Consider bringing diamox to help you acclimatize.
High altitude can alter your stomach flora, which, combined with India’s reputation for water and food borne pathogens, can be a nasty combination. Be wary of any raw foods that might have come in contact with water, including fresh juices and ice. Bottled water is safe, but I’d recommend bringing a pump and treating your own water, as Ladakh has trouble dealing with all the empty bottles. Consult a travel doctor about antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea before you go.
Don’t count on internet access. In fact, count on not having internet. It can be down for months at a time.
Always have lots of cash stashed away somewhere. There are plenty of ATMs in Ladakh, but most of them don’t work. Look for ATMs with lineups.
If you aren’t on a time crunch, don’t book a tour until you get there. You can probably get a better price if you plan from Leh, and you’ll have some flexibility if a good opportunity comes up.
While here you should:
Trekking should be at the top of your list. It’s the best way to meet locals, spot wildlife, and get a feel for Ladakh.
Climb a mountain
If you can, don’t miss out on your chance to climb a Himalayan Peak.
Climb to the roof of Namgyal Tsemo Fort to watch the sunset over Leh.
Visit Thiksey Monastery, a short drive from Leh. If you go early in the morning, you can listen to the monks chanting and avoid the crowds. The 15 m statue of Maitrya Buddha is the biggest indoor one in Ladakh. Its intricate details are pretty.
Ride the bactrian (two-humped) camels in Nubra Valley. This ended up being more of a tourist trap than I’d hoped, but it was still completely worth it.
Ladakh is a good deal more expensive than the rest of India. Expect to pay 30-50% more for food and accommodation than in the rest of India. You can probably get good deals on the shoulder seasons (spring and fall).
Transportation is probably the biggest expense. Public transport isn’t as easy as the rest of India, so most tourists opt for taxis, which are unionized and have fixed rates. This means less stress haggling, but higher fares. Try to make friends at your hotel and share rides or keep your eye out on bulletin boards outside the many, many tour agencies for bulletins of people wanting to share taxis. Expect to pay around $100 -180 USD a day for a taxi and driver. Flights to and from Delhi cost around $100-300 USD.
A fully supported trip with a certified mountaineering guide, ponies, and a cook will cost around $50-100 per person per day, depending on how many people are in your group, your haggling skills, permit fees, and transportation costs. Be wary of price that are too good. You will pay less if you have more people on your trip. Just a mountaineering guide is around $25 a day. Trekking guides cost considerably less. Equipment rentals will cost around $12 a day per item. Trekking peaks over 6000 m require permits, which can range from $50 to $300 or more. Many places in Ladakh require inner line permits, but don’t panic – they are easy to get and cost a few dollars a day.
Medical – There is a hospital in Leh. Most larger towns have a small medical centre, and there are roadside medical tents at some villages and army checkpoints.
Transportation– The airport in Leh has scheduled flights to Delhi, Jammu, Chandigarh, Srinigar, and Mumbai. Taxis and public buses are easy to find and both have central stands near town. There are many motorcycle and bicycle rental shops.
Banks/ATMs – There are several banks on the Main Bazaar. The State Bank of India has the most reliable ATMs.
Internet – WiFi is available at most hotels and tourist restaurants. An internet cafe on Main Bazaar has extremely slow computers. Unfortunately, Ladakh experiences frequent region-wide outages.
Phone – Phoning home can be tricky. We needed to call home, and ended up using local’s cell phone because the internet phones were down. Satellite phones are available in some villages for emergencies. Cell service is surprisingly good along the roads, but SIM cards are hard for foreigners to get because of the proximity to the borders.
Tour Operators – There are hundreds of tour operators in Ladakh offering car tours, cycling, motorbike tours/rentals, cultural tours, bird/wildlife watching, meditation and yoga, white-water rafting, climbing, and paint balling (yes, paint balling).
Restaurants – Most tourist restaurants have similar menus with a variety of Ladakhi, Indian, Chinese, Israeli, and Western food. Take a short walk away from the tourist areas for cheap Indian food.
Shopping – Leh is absolutely packed with shops selling pashmina shawls, made from the wool of the adorable pashmina goat of the Changtang Plateau. There are also plenty of handicraft and souvenir stores selling hippie clothes, wool hats, and knickknacks imported from Nepal.
If coming here, don’t forget to bring:
A good first aid kit. There is a hospital in Leh anda few first aid posts in Ladakh, but if you hurt yourself trekking, you are on your own. Make sure you bring antibiotics for stomach problems and consider bringing diamox for altitude, though it’s definitely better to acclimatize naturally.
Good travel insurance. Check the fine print. Most travel insurance companies will exclude mountaineering injuries, and you can bet they’ll count any ascents of Ladhaki peaks as mountaineering. Also check if they will cover mountain evacuation and any other dangerous activities you plan on doing.
If it’s in your budget, a SPOT or DeLorme inReach will give some peace of mind to your family. These devices allow you to send messages and your location via satellite.
A Diva Cup, or a similar menstrual cup. Tampons and sanitary napkins can’t go into the toilets, and really shouldn’t go into the composting toilets on trekking routes. If you can’t stomach the idea of a reusable cup, bring your own tampons (they are hard to find in Ladakh) and put them in a trash bin or burn them.
A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses. Hats drive me nuts, but I learned the hard way and nearly fried my nose off on our first trek. After that, I got a hat.
Reviewer’s rating out of 10
I give it a 9. I loved the mountains, and the unique culture, but after six weeks, I really missed the forests and lush vegetation I’m used to in Canada.
My first backpacking trip turned out to be an utter disaster. The trip consisted of a backpacking, snow-shoeing trip up the mountaineering route at Mount Whitney in California. I labeled myself as a failure, and the weak link in the party of 3 whom attempted the trip. Granted it was my first time backpacking and had not been prepared for the struggles that were endured.
My trip started to unravel when I realized I had inadvertently grabbed the wrong sleeping bag for the November camping trip. I remember laying down to sleep and my shivering turned into jaw shattering convulsions of my body attempting not to freeze. It was the only time in my life I was afraid to fall asleep, because I did not think I would not wake up — I wanted to appear tough, so I stayed silent.
I said many prayers the next morning when after an emergency blanket, hand warmers on arteries, and my down jacket literally saving my life I decided to always be properly prepared for my subsequent camping trips.
My next camping trip was also to Yosemite National Park, but it was a trip in September and we were packing in our tubes to float on a lake. My roommates at the time & I paired off to help ensure we didn’t forget anything.
My sense of accomplishment came from my list of things I would need. My camping skills were significantly more adept for summer and fall camping then they were for winter camping to be sure. I was paired with my roommate who I lovingly call Jelly Bean, she had far less equipment than I, so I volunteered to gather the needed supplies and food.
With our packs set and the car loaded, we headed southwest from Las Vegas Nevada to our destination. We arrived around 11 am and immediately set out on the trail. I am a slow hiker & had to be kind to myself during the hike that it was only my second time doing a backpacking trip, so it is ok that I was the slow one in the group. I find that if I use my hiking poles it becomes significantly easier for me, due to the fact that I have a constant fire like pain in my feet from Plantar Fasciitis. If I had one piece of advice to readers here, it is to be kind to yourself during these times — you are doing more than 3/4 of those sitting at home on the couch watching Netflix all weekend. If it takes you longer to climb, hike or walk….who cares…..you are moving and not letting self-doubt and fear stop you from exploring your own boundaries.
My companions were kind and offered frequent stops for me, and encouraged nourishment along the way to help Jelly Bean and myself keep going.
When we finally arrived at our camping location, I was so excited to pull out my two-man tent and use it in the REAL WILDERNESS. I pulled out the tent sack, and after unrolling it realized with a sinking feeling that the only thing contained within was the fly & the little bit of sand from the prior trip.
I panicked……what was I going to tell Jelly Bean……..I just stood there trying to conjure the actual tent with my mind. Jelly Bean came over and asked, “What is wrong Janiel?” …….I replied softly, “Uhhhhh, we have a problem”.
I’m so glad Jelly Bean is a good sport because she just laughed at me and said, “Of course you forget the tent! Guess we are sleeping with the bugs tonight”. I promised her that we would have adequate shelter from the cold, and there are plenty of people who camp with much less than what we had. A lean-to was decided upon, and the comedy continued. We had the fly, a tarp, and there was a large fallen tree and plenty of rocks.
I tied the strings on the fly around a few rocks, threw them over the fallen tree and Jelly Bean did the same for the other side, but just tacked the strings down to a pile of rocks at the other end to anchor it.
There were tree limbs everywhere so we stacked rocks and bark on the side of the lean two where the breeze was coming in & some branches on the other side with pine needles as our door. Sleeping bags were inserted and we still had enough daylight to fix our dinner.
Our other roommates who were John Muir Trail Veterans & highly versed in camping supplies watched us build this with entertainment value to rival that of HBO. After all was said and done, Jelly Bean and I were quite proud of our Lean-to and when put to the test it worked exceptionally well.
So, if you ever find yourself lacking supplies in the wilderness, just be creative, mother nature always provides a way. Despite my forgetfulness, Jelly Bean and I now have a memorable story and a certain pride for surviving in Yosemite with our Lean-to (#wildernessbeasts).
Happy Travels, Happy Tales and see you on the flip side! Big thanks to Camping for Women for allowing me to be a part of this amazing group and hope to share more adventures with you in the future.
Whether you grew up in an outdoorsy family, or are just now discovering the joys of outdoorsmanship, there’s a lot to know and a lot to learn about this wonderful world of exploration and adventure in the great outdoors. And despite what the media and history books might have you believe, women have always been a part of this world as well, if not perhaps in different capacities at different times. Believe you me, we have always found our own ways to take part in the fun! One of my biggest pet peeves about the traditional pubic portrayal of outdoor recreation is that you have to be tough, or strong, or masculine to participate. I would argue that spending time outdoors can help you become stronger, but it is by no means a prerequisite to getting outside, challenging yourself, or adventuring.
As women, we are so often deeply socialized to believe that it’s not safe for us to be alone or outdoors without a man along with us. I think in recent years this myth has become increasingly dispelled, but I’m still frequently surprised by how many women I meet who struggle with this. That said, because many of us in the US (and many other countries) live in a culture where we do worry about these things, there are some best practices we can follow to ensure our safety, boost our confidence, and maximize the fun.
Do your Research
Anytime I’m planning to go out on a hike (especially if I’m planning on going solo), I put in a little bit of research ahead of time. I’m looking to find out things like how long the trail is, if it closes at a certain time, how strenuous, what the conditions will be like, whether there is cell service, what the road condition is, how far away it is, and how crowded or remote it is. A simple Google search can find you most of this information, but many areas also have good guide books, visitor centers, and ranger stations to consult.
Funny story: Last June I decided to solo hike up in the mountains not far from where I live. It was a warm, sunny 80-degree F day. I thought I had done my research – I Googled it, read some blog posts about the trail, looked it up in my guide book. However, when I arrived, I found the road cut off by a wall of snow halfway up the mountain! Turned out, I had completely missed the detail about the trail only being accessible July-September. So don’t just “do” your research. Also keep in mind what to look for, depending on where you’re going! 😊
Fortunately when I came across that wall of snow last spring, I had come well-prepared for any conditions. I had plenty of food and water, warm layers that I had been sure I wouldn’t need, a change of shoes and socks, and even had a trekking pole in my car. I parked at the edge of the snow, and hiked in another mile or two and had myself a lovely picnic lunch! My friends often laugh at me for being overprepared whenever we go hiking, but I guarantee you about 85% of the time, someone ends up needing something that I just happen to have thought to bring.
Extra layers, rain gear, a change of socks, extra water, extra snacks, first aid supplies, and a back-up plan I think are the best ways you can be prepared for any outdoor day hike or overnight trip. Take a photo of the trail map for where you’re going, too, if there is one. Whether this is on a kiosk sign, in a guidebook, or online, get a picture of that map, because you may want to consult it later!
Focus on keeping your bearings as you hike. Note which way the water is flowing if there’s a stream or river (you can always backtrack upstream or downstream if you know which way you came from). Keep an eye out for landmarks. Note the direction of the slope if you’re on a mountainside or hill. Listen for traffic if you’re near a major road. If you’re a real nerd like me, you’ll probably try to learn the local flora and fauna ahead of time – what grows near water or in dry areas, which plants are edible, which are dangerous, the geology of the landscape. Being aware of your surroundings and the signs of nature around you is an enormously useful tool for becoming comfortable in the outdoors.
There’s a lot to be said for trusting yourself, and I think it’s actually easier to trust yourself when you’re alone rather than when you’re in a group. In recent years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable calling it quits even when the rest of the group wants to keep going. If you’re exhausted and your body says, “Nope, I’m done,” or if you have that tingling sixth sense that something just isn’t right, trust your gut. Make a plan with the rest of the group to either wait for them, or meet up at an agreed time and place. Stick with a buddy if you can (usually if you’re hiking in a group, there’s probably at least one other person who feels the same way you do!). Clear communication is essential when you’re looking out for your own needs and safety outdoors. Anyone who makes you feel bad about having to stop or turn back is not worth your time.
Attitude is Everything
Whether you’re hiking alone or in a group, attitude really is everything, and it can be the difference between a great experience, or the most miserable day of your life. There’s a practical component to this as well though – having a positive attitude can actually increase your chances of survival in some emergency situations. Sometimes called “The Attitude of Survival,” having control over your state of mind can help you keep calm, clear-headed, and thinking straight even when you find yourself lost, in a sticky situation, or unsure of things. As difficult as it is sometimes, we are almost always in control of our attitudes; it can be hard to switch from being panicked or upset to feeling determined and upbeat, but it can be done and it can empower you to find the strength and resources you may need to change the situation you’re in.
These are just a few of the “tools” I keep in my own personal mental toolbox as an outdoorswoman. What are some of yours? What kinds of experiences have you had that have made you the outdoorswoman or outdoorsman you are today? What tips do you make sure to follow when you’re out adventuring? It’s always great to learn from others who enjoy similar activities and have their own tricks of the trade to share!
Bhutan had been a dream destination of mine for a long time, since before I moved overseas. Fifteen years ago I saw a quick blurb about it on television and thought, “I have to go there.” Just a couple of years ago, I finally went. Bhutan is more accessible than many people realize, even though it only has two airlines that fly into the country. The government does limit tourism numbers, but they have never reached their yearly limit since tourism began there in 1974. That year, 287 tourists visited Bhutan.
A lot more tourists do visit these days, but you’ll probably never see a crowd the entire time you’re there. What draws people to this beautiful Asian country? Trekking. Bhutan offers numerous trekking options, but all will be a bit challenging because of the altitude, although I did not experience headaches or altitude sickness like I did on Kilimanjaro. The highest point on our trek was 14000 feet, but we didn’t sleep at that altitude.
My friend Alan decided to join me for this trip, and I was pretty surprised since he lives in Boston. I lived in Kuwait at the time, so the flight was much shorter for me. We decided to see some cultural sights, do some day treks to popular monasteries like Tiger’s Nest, and do a three-day trek. The three-day trek began in the Haa Valley and included two nights camping, three days trekking, and unimaginable views every day.
Walking the Walk in Bhutan
We started near the small (tiny?) town of Haa Valley where we walked through some farm land and gradually climbed throughout the day. After a leisurely picnic lunch at 12000 feet, we continued on for about an hour and camped at Saga La at 11,800 feet. We arrived at camp around 2:00 I think, and I fell asleep in my tent just as rain started to fall. We had tea and snacks around 3:30 and dinner at 6:00. Lots of time to rest, read, write, and chat. Our guide never stopped talking, but fortunately for me, he shared some fascinating information about Bhutan and seemed willing to answer any question I asked, even if the subject was a bit sensitive.
The next day we started out around 8:00AM and had about five hours trekking, but with frequent rest breaks that we didn’t really feel we needed. It wasn’t actually that strenuous, even though we were trekking between 13000 and 13800 feet nearly all day. We had amazing views of Chomolhari on this day. We arrived at camp just as a hail storm and rain hit, but our guide, Sonam, and the other members of the staff set up our camp and managed to dry our tents on the inside so we could wait out the rain. On this night, we camped at Ningula above 13000 feet where we were surrounded by rhododendrons and had an incredible Chomolhari view the next morning before the clouds moved in. I’m glad I was prepared for the cold at that elevation.
On day three we started around 7:00AM so we could finish before the afternoon rains, but not to worry! It didn’t rain at all on this day! We ascended to the highest peak of the trek, Kung Karpo, at 13500 feet where there is a small temple highly revered by Buddhists. From there we walked down to Chelela Pass through the thousands of prayer flags where we met our driver. Day three had a couple of steep climbs, but wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The steep climbs were fairly short and had switchbacks.
We arrived at camp in the early afternoon both days and had plenty of time to read, write in a journal, have tea and snacks, and talk to our guide who has some interesting insights into Bhutanese culture and how it has changed in last 15 years. If you do decide to book a trek in Bhutan, take some time to talk to your guide and learn about the country and the culture. Be prepared for some surprising answers.
Our views were mostly of Chomolhari and the mountains on the border of Bhutan and Tibet. With such stunning scenery, we didn’t miss technology at all. Trekking in Bhutan shouldn’t be taken lightly though, because of the elevation and rain, which when combined with cool temps can be dangerous. My trekking company, Snow Leopard Treks, sent me everything I needed to know before arriving so that I could be prepared.
Preparing for Your Haa Valley Trek Bhutan
Or any trek in Bhutan really…
Preparing to trek in Bhutan is not difficult because the tour operator will provide nearly everything you need. Mine did at least. If your tour operator doesn’t specify what they provide and what you should bring, ask them. Don’t arrive unprepared because, oddly enough, you cannot buy any gear in Bhutan. It’s not like Kathmandu where you can arrive with nothing and buy whatever is needed for trekking, although I don’t recommend that. There are no shops selling gear or even trekking clothes in Thimpu or Paro.
Most likely, tour companies will provide the tent and either a foam or air mattress. Snow Leopard Trekking provided a wonderful foam mattress and even a pillow! But you will need to bring your own sleeping bag, trekking poles, headlamp, and clothes. Although, for my Haa Valley trek, I didn’t even use my poles. I carried them for three days and never once used them. The downhills weren’t that steep and I preferred to use my hands for balance on the brief steep, rocky downhills. Our packs were light, so I didn’t feel the need to use poles.
We left anything we didn’t need for our trek with our driver, who took our belongings to the hotel where we would stay after finishing our trek. While we were not worried about anything being stolen, we didn’t leave any valuables or paperwork behind. Carry these things with you.
Specific tips for preparing for a trek in Bhutan
1)Shoes are very important and a personal choice. I wore hiking boots, but for the Haa Valley trek, hiking shoes would work just as well. Because trekkers only carry a day pack with the essentials for that day’s trek, the support of a boot isn’t really necessary. The terrain isn’t particularly rocky either. In my opinion, based on my backpacking experience in a variety of terrains, I think trainers, hiking shoes, or hiking boots are all suitable for this trek. I think it depends on what you are comfortable in and the level of support you need.
2)Socks are also important. It’s cold at these higher elevations. Wear wool! Wool socks help prevent blisters and naturally repel water. They keep your feet warm and dry and offer additional padding. I’m a big fan of Smartwool socks. A sock liner can also help keep your feet warm and prevent blisters.
3)I recommend a sleeping bag with a 0 degree rating or lower. It’s cold at higher elevations, no matter what time of year it is. If you get hot, you can always stick your leg out.
4) It rains all year round in Bhutan, even when it’s not the rainy season. You’ll need a rain jacket and pants, and a pack cover for your day pack. You should carry both with you while hiking. Horses will carry your sleeping bag, clothing, and anything you need at camp, but you’ll need to carry your rain gear, camera, etc. You’ll need to bring a backpack or duffel bag to use for anything you want the horse to carry. Your backpack will be carried inside a waterproof duffel.
5)A headlamp comes in handy in camp for getting around, making a midnight toilet run, or reading in your tent. We had a toilet tent, so as the only female in my group, I was thankful for the privacy, even though it was basically a portable toilet over a hole in the ground. It was fully stocked with TP, too.
6) Other things you might want to bring include a hat, pack towel, bandana, sunscreen, lip balm, and wet wipes for washing your face. The sun can be relentless when you’re at that elevation.
On being the only female…
I would like to add a note here about being the only female on my trek in Bhutan. The guide, horseman, cook, and helper were all male, and they probably will be when you do your trek as well. Women in Bhutan don’t often do these jobs. But not once did I feel outnumbered, threatened, or fearful. People in Bhutan are some of the kindest I have met during my travels. Everyone on my trek, except for my guide, was actually quite shy and reserved, but it could have been because they didn’t speak English. It was a wonderful experience and until I had to use the toilet, I hadn’t given a second thought to being the only female on the trek. But I was very thankful for the toilet tent.
Overworked, overstressed, not enough hours in a day, responsible for too many tasks, projects, or people? As a physiotherapist, I commonly encounter how a high demand, high distraction lifestyle manifests not only as mental anguish, but physical pain. However, recent research has shown you can actually reverse these negative effects by spending time immersed in nature. This is why I love backcountry camping – to routinely unplug from devices and reconnect with oneself. Here are the top 5 ways backcountry camping improves your health.
It improves mental capacity. Attempting to stay focused and productive in an environment of emails, texts, push notifications, advertisements and noise pollution is mentally draining. David Strayer studies how we can reset these effects by what he refers to as ‘the 3 day effect.’ He has found people perform 50 percent better on creative problem solving activities after they have spent 3 days immersed it nature. The tranquil sights and sounds of nature don’t require the same level of mental focus as our typical day, giving our brains a chance to rest and recover. This actually restores our mental capacity so when we return to our usual tasks, we are actually more productive.
It improves physical health and training capacity. Paddling or hiking trips require daily, multi-hour, low level aerobic exertion. More commonly referred to as zone one heart rate training, during these trips you are working your heart at a low level of your training capacity over a long period of time. Zone one training builds the base of your cardiovascular fitness, which improves your physical recovery time and teaches your body to burn fat as energy. Not to mention zone one heart rate training lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and decreases the risk of heart attacks. Though the intensity of paddling or hiking may not be up to your usual workout standards, you are allowing your body to recover while continuing to be active, so you are getting health and fitness benefits at the same time as you rest from exertion.
Less is more. It’s hard not to get caught up in our consumer driven society. Keeping up with the proverbial Jones’ can leave us unfulfilled and constantly consuming more. However, one gruelling long portage through a boggy swamp is enough to reconsider the extra amenities. Pack simple and light. You don’t need much to meet your needs in the backcountry.
The appreciation for an abundant fresh water supply. Living in Canada, I have grown accustomed to fresh drinkable water flowing endlessly from the tap. Though when backcountry canoeing, water is readily available in the lake and river systems, it is not so easily consumed. Here you must consider how to safely collect and purify drinking water. It’s a small extra step, but it brings the ease of first world water consumption to the front of our consciousness. We are extraordinarily lucky to have an abundance of fresh water in Canada, a privilege billions around the world will never experience. This serves as a reminder not only to be grateful for the world’s fresh water sources, but also to be conscious of consumption and preservation for future generations.
Let go of what you can’t control. You can’t control the weather, neither literally nor figuratively. Sometimes the conditions won’t be all that pleasant, and you will have to push forward and tolerate the discomfort if you want to make your destination. Likewise, sometimes it’s going to storm heavily and you’ll need to stop moving. These things happen. Yes it will slow your progress, but in the end that’s ok. Eat, nap, meditate, rest, refuel, refocus, and then push on. Certain aspects of life are simply out of your control. It’s not good luck or bad luck, it just happens. My advice – avoid checking the weather forecast. If you approach each day in the backcountry without expectations, you will always be able to find gratitude in what you are given.
If you have never experienced backcountry camping, but are at all conscious about your health and fitness, I would certainly recommend you give it a try. You may be impressed by the wellness benefits you gain while exploring the world’s natural beauty.