7 Surprising Benefits Of Camping

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By Rita Myers

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

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

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

7 Surprising Benefits Of Camping In A Nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Benefit #1: More oxygen

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

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

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

 

Benefit #2: More physical activity

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

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

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

 

Benefit #3: Better nutrient absorption

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

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

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

 

 

Benefit #4: Sleep

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

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

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

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

 

 

Benefit #5: Eat Fresh

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

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

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

 

Benefit #6: Destress

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

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

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

 

Benefit #7: Bonding with family or friends

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

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

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

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

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

 

Take That Trip

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

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

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

 

Camping Solo

Camping Solo 1

By Andrea Willingham

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

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

So, one weekend last September, I dove in.

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

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

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

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

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

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Proxy Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was far from a perfect first solo camping trip.

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

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My first solo camp

Preparing for a Quest to Conquer Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro 1

By Mary Lyons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Your Gear On

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

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

CLOTHING AND GEAR

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Me with Meru in the distance on Day 2

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

Pullover fleece

Long-sleeve Climadry shirt for hiking during the day

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

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

Patagonia zip-off leg trekking pants

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

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

 

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

2 pair sock liners

2 pair Exofficio underwear

2 sportbras

 

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

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

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

1 pair thin gloves

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Unique vegetation on Kili makes for great pictures

Headlamp

Rain cover for my day pack

Journal and pen

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

Two bandanas

Quick-dry pack towel

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

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

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

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

 

Weighing In

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

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

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

 

Kilimanjaro – The Air Sure Is Thin Up Here!

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

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Kibo Hut at Day 4 Camp

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

Mustafa and Me at Gilman’s Point

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let’s Make This Happen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Our tents were the orange ones, spacious and functional

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

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

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

1) no shoes inside the tent

2) no trekking poles inside the tent

3) no uncovered liquids in the tent!

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

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

Tipping the People that Helped You Get There

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

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

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

Now You Know

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

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View of Meru Peak from our camp on Day 3

 

How To Start Backpacking and Be Fearless in the Wilderness

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 By Lucy Gomez

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

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

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

backpacking 2You’ll need:

  • A Trail Map
  • A Compass

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

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

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

 

Backpacking – will it be hot or cold?

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

  1. Check your weather forecastbackpacking 3

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

  1. Use your map to estimate your altitude

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

 

So, What should I wear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you eat and drink?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about water?

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

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

 

How does the sleeping part work?

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

Step 1.    Choose a spot

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

backpacking 8Step 2.    Check the terrain

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

Step 3.    Pitch your tent

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

Step 4.    Get out your sleeping gear

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

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

Need to know

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

Did you know that you should:

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

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

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

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

backpacking 9

 

Tips to Prepare for Fishing from a Boat

By Jameesa Alvin

Preparation

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.

Final Thought

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!

 

7 Quick Camping Drinks To Make For Your Daring Companions

Camping Drinks

By Rita Myers

Even if you’re going to give me all the luxuries in the world, nothing beats the great outdoors. After a long hectic week, I always try my best to bring my two sons and husband for a camping trip.

Sometimes they show up, often they’re unavailable. But I make sure to treasure my moments with them and make it as memorable as I can with camping drinks.

As fellow outdoorsmen – and women – I want you to experience the time of your life with your friends and family through drink-induced conversations.

A Simple Wrap Up!

Drink #1. Beer

Drink #2. Old Fashioned Pioneer

Drink #3. Sex On The Beach

Drink #4. The Fisherman’s Friend

Drink #5. The Backwards Forest Crawler

Drink #6. All American Mule

Drink #7. Wine

 

Our 7 Camping Drinks:

Drink #1. Beer

Camping Drinks 1

No matter where you are, beer is always an obvious choice to start with camping drinks. Although it “hits the spot” when camping, it’s not the most transportable to bring.

As a camper, keeping it light is one of the golden rules. Beer, however, isn’t light. It’s going to add a few pounds in your backpack. Of course, you’re not only bringing one on the trip (that would be lame).

Pro Tip: Bring beer cans over bottles. They’re lighter to bring along, greatly reducing the weight of your package. At the same time, you can crush them right after drinking.

If you think it’s still a hassle, you can always go for a powdered beer! Although it isn’t yet “conventional” it’s ideal for backpackers. You may refer to it as “freeze dried beer.”

Don’t even think of bringing a cooler and ice, it’s not going to help you on your travels. Ideally, you should be able to sit back and enjoy the surroundings in a stream.

Usually, after my husband and my sons have emptied our cans of beer we utilize the empty cans to make a smartly-made camp stove.  Take a look at this video to give you an idea:

 

Drink #2. Old Fashioned Pioneer

Camping Drinks 2

You can spice things up by kicking it old school. People may call it as a “copy” of the standard bar stable. When it gets down to it, Canada is the place to be when it comes to Maple leaves.

It’s not too far of a stretch to connect breakfast and campfires with maple leaves. My husband really likes the idea of joining the two together.

If you happen to be going on an adventure in a campsite which has maple syrup, then this is something you should try. I honestly think everyone should make their own Old Fashioned Pioneer at least once in their life.

It doesn’t take a lot of preparation, you can do it by mixing few shots of bourbon whiskey. After which, add in some syrup and grab some club soda – you’re good to go!

 

Drink #3. Sex On The Beach

Camping Drinks 3

At least that’s how city folks know it for. But for awesome campers like us, it’s called as Sex on the Bank. The name is pretty self-explanatory.

Sex on the Beach is a timeless drink which is often found in bars. In addition, it’s available in nighttime drives worldwide. However, we don’t have much access to a bartender, unlike our city friends.  Unless bars have their bartenders “For Rent” but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  We always make our own drink by bringing our nifty camp cooler.

Here’s what we usually do, just get a bit of vodka, orange juice, and cranberry juice to get things heated.

Hey, if you don’t mind bringing along red wine, it doesn’t hurt to mix it up. If anything, it only gets this more interesting. My eldest son loves to bring wine along with our trips. You should try it as well!

 

Drink #4. The Fisherman’s Friend

Camping Drinks 4

After a long day of scouting around the woods, my family and I tend to get groggy-eyed first thing in the morning.

This is especially when we’ve trekked for quite some time, I always wake up my three of my boys (including my husband since he still acts like a child most of the time) by making Irish Coffee!

If there’s anything that forces them to get up and get ready for the day, the instant jolt of the “magical recipe” does the trick.

Put up some refreshing smiles on the faces of your friends and family by grabbing yourself bourbon and caffeine, combine those two and you have an awesome recipe to set you out for a jam-packed day in the woods!

Seriously, it works perfectly. If this added to our camping drinks worked for my three stubborn boys, it’ll work for anybody!

Drink #5. The Backwards Forest Crawler

Camping Drinks 5

You have to admit it, the name’s pretty cool among camping drinks. But I think the previous name was cooler. Before it was changed, the drink was known as “Death in the Afternoon.”

The legendary drink was created by none other than Ernest Hemingway himself. It’s a deadly drink that really knocks the light out of you.

During my youth, I had some unfavorable experiences with this one when drinking in the woods. I was with a couple of friends, and I was light-headed before I could realize why.

I wouldn’t want to give it your family – especially to your kids. Instead, I encourage you to try out the altered and safer version of the deadly drink.

Backwards Forest Crawler is a safer version of Death in the Afternoon. To make the altered version, you can mix absente with champagne.

The old one carries a heavy punch, maybe too heavy. It calls for absinthe, which I would never recommend.

It’s not being sold in most places as it is considered illegal due to its dangerous components. Stick with the generic, and you’ll do swell.

Don’t even think about trying out the original formula. Do me a favor and save yourself!

 

Drink #6. All American Mule

Camping Drinks 6

If you’re the type of person who’s a fan of mixed drink connoisseur, then it’s most likely that you might have heard of what the Moscow Mule is.

Just in case you haven’t, it’s the result of combining in vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice. This is often being served with the use of a copper mug as it’s being referred to as “Vodka Buck.”

It was a couple of years back when I heard about Moscow Mule, my friends had invited me over for a drink. I was surprised to hear about its newer version as it’s intended for camping.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t ask you to fill up your backpack storage with mixtures and bottles. You just have to simply get a can of beer and pour in vodka. As camping drinks go, it doesn’t get too much simpler!

Most of the time, even if we planned on drinking beer, someone would always bring Vodka around. If my eldest liked wine, the youngest has a habit of adding in Vodka for an All American Mule.

Since I knew this was the routine, adding in a bit of ginger ale doesn’t hurt. It makes everything better. And for the last part, just pour a lemonade packet to your newly made mixture – then you’re done!

Preparation time only takes a few minutes. If you want to whip up something special for your daring companions other than “just” beer, you should give this a go.

Drink #7. Wine

Camping Drinks 7

If there’s anything we can agree on, it’s that wine is the best drink for camping when you don’t want to hit your head too hard. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging you to bring in bottles of wine.

Initially, I thought that was the case as well. That was back in the year 2012 when my eldest son asked me if we could bring wine along on our trip.

Now, I thought he was crazy! Bringing in wine for the trip could mean broken bottles and potential injuries. However, he surprised me with wine in a pouch. WOW!

If your camping buddies haven’t heard about it yet, you can shock them in your journey. It really makes a great birthday gift surprise when you’re already out in the open woods.

You can go and search for a variety of boxed wine. Ideally, you can just get rid of the box (it’s just going to be a hassle) and only bring in the bag of wine.

In addition, if you want to kick it cooler, you can always go for canned wines. They’re ideal to bring along in any situations – a day hike or a week-long trek.

 

Let’s Grab a Drink!

There’s no rocket science on how to be happy. Sometimes going out on an adventure with your loved ones is all that you need. And maybe a couple of drinks, too.

I’ve already tried most of these camping drinks with my boys, and our goal is to try on new drinks every time we go camping.

I hope you enjoyed the article! Don’t forget to leave a comment down below if you have any questions or would like to let us know of any of your camping drinks. Share this with your friends and family to inform them of your next big exploration!

Camping Drinks 8

 

Microspikes Are My New Best Friends

Microspikes 1

By Emily Pennington

“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.

Microspikes 2

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!

Microspikes 3

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?? 😉

Microspikes 4


Inspiration for the (Female) Adventurer’s Soul

Inspiration 1

By Andrea Willingham

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.

Inspiration 2

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.

“A man on the road is solitary. A woman on the road is alone,” writes Vanessa Veselka in her essay Green Screen: The Lack of Female Road Narratives and Why it Matters, in The American Reader. She continues, “This is not cute wordplay, but a radically different social experience. Often, I was asked why was I travelling. But over time, I came to understand that the question was not ‘why,’ but ‘how.’”

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

Inspiration 3“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

Inspiration 4This 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.

 

Inspiration 5Book | 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.

 

Inspiration 6Film | 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:

Inspiration 7“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!

Inspiration 8

Enjoyed this article by Andrea?  You can see more of her work on her website.

 

The Appalachian Trail – What to Expect and How to Prepare

Appalachian Trail 1
The infamous 2000 mile marker has probably moved due to rerouting of the AT since 2003, but hitting this milestone is a huge accomplishment for every thru hiker. Lucky for us this road doesn’t have much traffic!

By Mary Lyons

How did I get this crazy idea?

Appalachian Trail 2In 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!

Appalachian Trail 3It 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!

Appalachian Trail 10My 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.

Prepare Physically

Appalachian Trail 9A 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.

Practice

Appalachian Trail 7I 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.

Prepare Mentally

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.

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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.

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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?

Plan Financially

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.

Appalachian Trail 8As 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!

Appalachian Trail 5There 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.

Appalachian Trail 5Packing 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What To Do If You Lose Communication While Camping

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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.

 

Maintaining Reception

lose communication 2If 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.

 

lose communication 3If 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

lose communication 4If 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.

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Article provided by Lizzy and our friends over at AVG Anti-Virus.