8 Ways to Mentally Prepare for a Solo Adventure

By Marinel de Jesus

Mentally prepare 1Being a solo traveler, and even more so, a solo hiker or backpacker can be an intimidating endeavor to undertake.  I cannot emphasize enough the need to be comfortable when partaking in anything serious such as hiking or backpacking in the wilderness by yourself.  The same goes for traveling as it’s just not worth it to feel overwhelmingly anxious to the extent that it outweighs the joy of traveling or trekking solo.

I, too, have gone through anxiety over being alone on my travels or in the mountains in my prior travels/treks in the past 15 years.  Despite being fully prepared, sometimes, the unexpected happens and the best you can do is to stay calm.  That way you can assess your situation more clearly and decide on the most appropriate action. But before you even dive into going solo on an extended travel or trek, it’s important to take baby steps to get you to a point where solo hiking/traveling falls within your comfort zone.   Here are some of my tips based on my own personal experience with hiking/trekking/traveling solo that will help prepare you mentally for the solo experience:

Start small

If you are completely new to traveling or trekking solo, then start out with a day hike or day trip.  Then, as you feel more comfortable with solitude and organizing the logistics of your hike or travel, you can build that up by adding more days, thereby transforming it into a weekend trip.  There’s no reason to go extremely extravagant on your first time hiking or traveling solo.

Why would you want to spend so much money on a 4-week solo trip only to find out that you dread the experience of going alone?  Avoid regrets and do a test run first.  Start with a day or two, and then build up.

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Study your itinerary

Sure, at some point you will want to be spontaneous. Book the flight and go.  But to calm down that anxiety from going solo, it’s recommended that you do plenty of research on your destination or the trail you wish to hike.   You can never have enough information, especially if the place you’re traveling to or hiking in is a first time destination.  Even with a place you have been to before, I would still recommend doing plenty of research because oftentimes when we go with people, we tend not to pay attention to the logistics the way we normally would when it’s only us that we have to rely upon for guidance.

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Get advice and tips from others who have been to the trail or place you are eyeing

Mentally prepare 7This is part of your research and it’s crucial to take advantage of any resources that are out there for you to learn about the trail or place.  For example, when I went to China, the resources for the trails in that country were hard to find because it was either the trails were still unknown to the western world or the blogs or information were written in Mandarin.  However, still, I managed to find a few websites which turned out to be heaven sent as they helped significantly in planning my trip.  An equally better resource is, of course, an actual consultation with someone who had been to the trail or place of your choice.  The advice given is usually invaluable as you won’t find such information online or anywhere else.  Note that most people are more than happy to share their travel wisdom and experiences so there’s no reason to be shy.

 

Learn to love yourself

Somewhere along the way on your trek, travel or both, you will get frustrated with yourself.  You will make mistakes here and there.  Before you venture out on your own, it is important to have a good grasp of self-love.  By that, I mean, learn to be easy on yourself.  Be forgiving of your mistakes and learn to go with the flow of life.  Understand that mistakes are inevitable including yours, and that’s okay.  In addition, loving yourself also means taking care of you.  While on the trail or the road, eating healthy and maintaining a workout routine are critical.

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Learn to smile and be friendly

This should really be a given even if you’re traveling with others.  But in the world of solo trekking or traveling, a friendly demeanor can truly save you at times.  A smile can easily attract the right stranger to help you with directions or a fellow hiker who can become your trail friend for days.  At the same time, be mindful of the level of friendliness that you are exhibiting, especially if you are a female who finds herself interacting with a male.  An appropriate level of friendliness is the key.  Practice smiling and chatting with strangers in your daily life and you’ll soon make this a habit that will carry over to your solo adventure with ease.

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Practice fine tuning your intuition

Mentally prepare 5Expect chats and interactions with strangers when you venture on your own.  It’s part of the adventure, and in most instances, it’s really the highlight.  Oftentimes, the people you strike a conversation with in far-away places or in the middle of nowhere are exactly the ones that become your long-time friends.   At the same time, learn to pay attention to your intuition.  You have it for a reason.  Your intuition is your imaginary friend – it knows better than you at times even though the actual circumstances in front of you may not clearly support the sense of danger that your intuition is warning you about.  So, listen to that intuition the same way you listen to your body when you feel pain.  It is nagging you for a reason.

 

Disregard all the above preparation and go for it (assuming you keep an open mind)

Having said all the above tips, you can still opt to disregard them all and just take the leap into the abyss of solo traveling/trekking.  By doing so, you will learn at a faster rate all the above.  It’s a crash course that can potentially maximize the lessons learned in a little bit harder way.  As long as you are aware of the risks, then, sure, why not just go for it all at once?

So, there you have it.  This list is just a start.  Preparing your mind for that solo adventure is as important, if not more, as the things you put in your backpack.  So, take the time to prep!

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Tips for Becoming a Better Outdoorswoman

Outdoorswoman 1

By Andrea Willingham

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

 

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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! 😊

 

Be Prepared

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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!

 

Be resourceful

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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.

 

Trust yourself

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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

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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!

 

Avoiding Bear Problems in the Backcountry

Avoiding Bear Problems 1

By Carley Fairbrother

I went on my first backpacking trip when I was 19, and since then, solo backpacking has been an important part of my life.  It does shock people sometimes, though.  One of the first things people ask is, “what about bears?”

On the other end of the spectrum, I hear people talking about their bad habits and saying, “I’ve been doing it like this for years, and I’ve never had a problem.”

Both these mind frames can really ruin a trip.  On one hand, the fear of bears can hold people back from immersing themselves in nature, but on the other hand, being too relaxed about it can result in disaster.

What we really need to bear in mind (pun intended) is that bears think a whole lot like us.  We have similar food preferences, we’re both curious, neither of us are great hunters, and we’re both pretty darn smart. It makes sense that we run into each other so often in nature.  It’s helpful to keep those similarities in mind when considering how to avoid dangerous situations with bears.

Avoiding Bear Problems 2
Berries – a favourite food of humans and bears

 

On the Trail

Like us, bears want to avoid other large predators. It’s their instinct to avoid us, and knowing where we are will allow them to do just that.  They don’t like being surprised, and running into a potentially harmful creature like a human may trigger some aggressive behaviour.

Avoiding Bear Problems 3

A lot of people like to bring bear bells with them, so that they are constantly making nose.  However, I’ve heard of accounts of bears coming to inspect the curious noise.  This is unlikely to create an aggressive encounter, but it’s something to keep in mind.  The main reason I don’t use bear bells is that it stops me from hearing my surroundings.  Aside from the fact that I love the peace an quite of the forest, I feel a lot more comfortable if I can hear a large creature moving around in the underbrush.  Instead I opt for yelling periodically – something like “Hey bear ” or “Way O.” This also lets other people on the trail know that I am human.

 

Avoiding Bear Problems in Camp

Bears usually wander into camp because they’re hungry – no, not for human flesh, but for whatever delicious meal the humans have been cooking up.  Bears have very similar food preferences to us, though they are significantly less picky.  This means that you have to watch out for things like your garbage and sunscreen too.  To keep your camp safe, follow these three rules.

Avoiding Bear Problems 4

 

 1. Store your food (and other smelly stuff) properly

When it comes to storing food, it’s important to put it somewhere where a bear isn’t going get to it.  Anything that smells, such as chapstick, toothpaste, dishes, sunscreen, and garbage should be stored with your food. Some folks say to put the clothes you wore while cooking in the bear cache, but I don’t think that’s necessary unless you’ve spilled food on them or have been gutting fish all day.  And yes, a bear can smell your candy bar, so don’t even think of trying to store it in your tent for a midnight snack.  When it comes to how to store your food, there are a few options.

Avoiding Bear Problems 5

 

Use the bear cache provided: A lot of sites that are maintained by parks will have bear caches already set up.  They can come in the form of big metal lockers, a cable and pulley system, or, if you’re lucky, an old rickety ladder leading up to a sketchy platform.  Use these if you can.  If those aren’t available there are other options.

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Hang it from a tree:  This is probably the most common method.  It’s a pain in the butt, but all you need is a waterproof bag and some rope.  There are a number of ways to hang food, the simplest being to throw something weighted (I use my water bottle) over a tree limb, tying one end to my food bag, pulling it up, and tying it off to a tree trunk.  Of course, there is always the risk that I’ll lose my water bottle in a tangle of branches, and it can be hard to get it far enough away from the tree trunk using this method.  Speaking of which, your food bag should be 2 m (6 ft) or more away from the trunk and 3 m (12 ft) above the ground to actually get it out of reach of a bear.  Make sure your bag for this method is waterproof.

Avoiding Bear Problems 7

 

Use bear proof canisters: If you like camping in places with no trees (or small trees), hanging food from a tree is obviously not going to work.  Even in some forested areas, bears, being the smart critters that they are, have managed to figure out that getting that yummy smelling bag down from a tree isn’t actually that hard.  As a result, many busier parks, particularly in the United States, now demand that food be kept in a bear canister. This saves you the trouble of hanging it from a tree, but they are heavy (at least 1 kg/2 lbs) and bulky.

Avoiding Bear Problems 8

 

Use bear resistant bags: Bags such as the Ursack are made of tough, bear resistant fabric.  They are light and easy to stuff into your bag. The drawstrings are very strong, and allow you to tie the bag to a tree.  The downside is that a bear will be able to crush your food, and probably get a tooth or two through the fabric.  As a result, most of the parks that require bear canisters do not allow bear resistant bags.  This is, however, my preferred method.  If I’m camping in the forest I will put it in a 20 L dry bag and hang it from a tree.  If I’m camping in the alpine, I will hide it outside of my camp and try to tie it to a rock or a dwarfed tree.

Avoiding Bear Problems 9

 

Odour Proof Sacks:  There are a number of companies that make odour proof sacks. The most popular is LOKSAK’s OPSak.  I’ll admit that I haven’t used them, but many people swear by them. This should be used in combination with one of the other methods, and not a replacement for it. I’ve heard of people keeping their food in a “smell proof” bag in their tents. Bears have an amazing sense of smell; some sources say that a bear can smell a carcass upwind from up to 30 km (20 miles) away.  Sorry, I but I trust a bear’s nose over a piece of mylar.  However, many of these bags are very light and make an excellent supplement to your food bag or canister.

 

2: Store your food away from camp:

Don’t get caught up in idyllic campsites on TV and movies where happy campers are roasting their hotdogs over a fire with their tents only a few feet away.  Evidently, movie makers don’t know much about camping in bear country.  Sleeping near anything that smells like food is a bad idea.

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Don’t do this in bear country
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Planning your camp area

 The last thing you want is to draw a bear into camp.  This means cooking and storing your food at least 100 metres (or yards) away from your tent.  You also want to minimize the smell around your food to reduce the chances of a bear finding it.  This means eating 100 metres away from where you are storing your food.  Essentially, your camp should make a triangle, with each side at least 100 m apart.  If you need help estimating distances, that’s about 120 steps.  Unfortunately, some sites are set up with a cooking area or fire pit right next to the tent pads.  Evidently, it’s not just Hollywood who don’t know much about camping in bear country.  If this is the case, still try to find somewhere else to cook.


3. Keep you camp clean:

Going through all these precautions aren’t going to do you much good if you’ve left a bunch of smelly morsels of food around. Try really, really hard not to spill, and pick up what you can if you do. Don’t bury leftovers or put them in lakes or streams, even if you think they will decompose easily.  Aside from bear concerns, this could attract a variety of unwanted critters and disrupt the ecosystem.  Pack your leftovers out or store them and eat them for breakfast the next morning.  Try to eat every bit of food before washing your dishes; heck, lick your plate if you need to (no one cares about table manners in the backcountry anyway, right?). Remember, leaving a mess not only puts you in danger, but also the people who camp there after you.  Plus, no one want see little bits of your ramen noodles in the stream.

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Don’t burn garbage or leftovers.

 

If you follow these rules, it will go a long way to keep you safe.  Bears are just like us but hungrier, and better at smelling things (okay, they also have bigger teeth and shorter tempers).  If you keep food smells away from camp, store you food properly, and make noise while you hike, the only time you are likely to see a bear is from a safe distance.  While following bear safe principles aren’t guaranteed to keep you safe, the vast majority of bear attacks happen when people haven’t followed them.

 

To see all about avoiding bear problems in video form please take a look at the video below:

 

Ask Natalie video program for women outdoor adventurers starts today!

Ask Natalie Banner

By Nicole Anderson

If you have seen posts published on Camping for Women’s YouTube, Facebook or Twitter accounts over the past two weeks, you might already have seen the video trailers of the brand new and exciting ‘Ask Natalie’ program.

If you haven’t seen or heard what all the fuss is about yet, then do scroll through this post and have a look at this fabulous and latest development to come onto the scene.

 

So what is ‘Ask Natalie’?

Ask Natalie - Natalie McCarthyAsk Natalie is a dedicated free resource for all women outdoor enthusiasts around the world who are interested is so many aspects of the great outdoors that apply specifically to women.

This program will produce episodes on what women say they want to know more about and directly responds to their desire to have answers to specific questions.

The beautiful thing about this program is that anyone can get their topics or issues addressed and the entire outdoor women community benefits from viewing the responses while getting a lot of valuable insights and information.

 

To give you a bit of a feel of what Ask Natalie is about, check out this 44 second teaser trailer:

 

There is a slightly extended trailer at 77 seconds that has also received a great response:

 

Natalie McCarthy
Natalie McCarthy

About Natalie of ‘Ask Natalie’

Ask Natalie is hosted by Natalie McCarthy who is an experienced outdoor adventurer and happens to also be a licensed clinical psychotherapist.  Hence she is very qualified to assist with all sorts of issues and topics that concern women outdoors.

To further explain the purpose and nature of the show, Natalie shot the following video to provide a welcome and introduction:

 

 

 

The ‘Ask Natalie’ program is based on the successful ‘Ask Natalie’ column that was introduced by the dynamic Adventure Some Women  group website in the U.S. earlier this year.  The column’s popularity has really taken off since its inception with many topics being covered from women expressing the issues important to them.

 

If you have a question or issue you want covered

All you need to do is to send a message to AskNatalieColumn@gmail.com and your email will go directly in Natalie’s inbox.  For reasons of privacy and respect, no one else sees the email or its contents or your email address.

Once Natalie receives a question, she then responds after conducting any related or required research or enquiries.  Each person then receives an emailed response before the issue is covered in the written column or appears on the Ask Natalie program.

Unless individuals specifically state otherwise, each woman’s identity is never revealed and their privacy always professionally respected.  The focus of the program of course is on addressing the topic or issue and offering a number of possible options that women in a similar circumstance can take in these types of situations.

 

 

No Limits

This video program is all about addressing any matters that concern women in the outdoors.  If you have something that is troubling you, or simply want to know more information on a particular subject, then this show is definitely for you.

Not all matters are those that people sometimes feel comfortable in confronting.  Ask Natalie seeks to remove any limitations people might feel go beyond limits of the usual video show.  So long as the matter is genuine and you want an answer, the program does not back away from any issue.  Essentially it is one of the primary reasons the program was established.

Ask Natalie is all about making women feel comfortable in raising issues in a supportive setting and being taken seriously in a helpful, respectful way while maintaining their privacy.

 

 

Grounded in reality

Ask Natalie is a program that is all about ‘keeping it real’.  It is filmed privately by Natalie and not in a commercial studio.

Natalie tackles sometimes tricky or delicate questions in a very practical and down-to-earth way.  The intent here is to offer information that can be useful and provide pointers for viewers to maximise their time outdoors.

 

 

Ways of getting involved

Most people communicate with Natalie via email.  However, aside from emailing written questions, viewers can also explore the option to appear on the show if they wish.  This can be done either by sending in a recorded video via email or skype or even in person if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Oregon, USA, where Natalie is based.  Using Skype, anyone can get involved on camera.

 

 

Ask Natalie Facebook page

In addition to the new video program and the written column, there is now also a brand new Ask Natalie Facebook page.

The Facebook page is being directly managed by Natalie and it is a great place to share and discuss any matters also with other like-minded women.  All are welcome here.

 

 

Tweeting Ask Natalie episodes and issues

Ask Natalie has also just put together a Twitter page, again being managed directly by Natalie where subscribers, readers and viewers can connect and stay in touch via tweets.

 

 

Who runs the program

Magretha Palepale
Magretha Palepale

The Ask Natalie Program is a joint venture between Adventure Some Women (run by the charismatic Magretha “Mo” Palepale ) and Camping for Women.  Both Magretha (Mo) Palepale and Nicole Anderson are the program’s producers.

This program is being produced and shared weekly on the Camping for Women Channel hosted on YouTube.  The dedicated playlist for Ask Natalie is set up within the Channel where a new episode will be added each week.  The playlist which has just commenced can be seen by clicking here.

 

 

Ask Natalie episodes have now started

The first episode was just posted in the Ask Natalie playlist today.  The first topic that is being addressed is the stigma associated with older people being on the trails.  Check out this very first episode here:

 

 

This is just the first of many episodes to come.  Next week’s episode deals with ‘finding a crew’ which is responding to a question about how to connect with other like-minded women to adventure with who also love the outdoors.

The topics and issues that will be covered in upcoming episodes are as broad as they will be interesting.  With no issue being off limits, there is bound to be some fascinating discussion and information that will be covered.

 

So come join us and don’t miss out!

Make sure you subscribe to the free Ask Natalie program videos being hosted on the Camping for Women Channel.

You will immediately be notified each week as a new episode is posted and you can even raise your own issues as well.

To get subscribed, just click on this link to the Channel and hit the subscribe button, following any prompts.

 

I am so excited to be a part of this fabulous program and hope to see many of Camping for Women’s subscribers, visitors and readers enjoy and benefit from the program as well.

Best wishes to all

Nicole Anderson

 

Microspikes Are My New Best Friends

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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.

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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!

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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?? 😉

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Personal protection against bears – guns or bear spray?

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By Carley Fairbrother

I spent seven years as a backcountry ranger in northern British Columbia, and one of the question I got asked the most was, “do you carry a gun out there?”  They seemed genuinely concerned when I told them that I usually just carried bear spray.

To many folks in the north, and I’m sure wherever gun culture is prevalent, bear spray is seen as something a gimmick. I can understand that.  I have been approached by an angry grizzly, and let me tell you, that can of bear spray made me feel a little like I’d shown up to a formal ball in my Pjs.

Yet here I am, years later still traipsing around bear country without a gun. Here’s why.

bear spray 2Effectiveness of bear spray

This may be counterintuitive, but bear spray does work better at deterring bears than firearms.  It’s nasty stuff, and when an animal with the sense of smell 100 times more powerful than a human’s gets a face-full of it, it’ll usually stop its charge immediately.  Bears, particularly grizzlies, often continue their attack, even after a fatal shot. It’s not surprising then that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report that around 50% of people using firearms in a grizzly encounter still suffered injuries.  Those using bear spray suffered from much fewer and less severe injuries.

A 2008 study by biologist Tom Smith looked at 600 bear encounters in Alaska.  Bear spray proved 92% effective in the 72 cases that it was used.  Four years later, Smith did another study in 2012 looking at bear encounters involving firearms.  Depending on how you interpret the study, firearms were somewhere between 58% and 76% effective.

Speed and Ease of Use

bear spray 3Even a good marksman or markswoman will take at least a few seconds to unsling a gun, chamber a round, aim, and fire.  Even if you are in ready position with your gun, simply aiming is going to take longer than unholstering a can of bear spray.  To make matters worse, a bad shot may just make a bear angrier. Add to that the panic that comes with being face-to-face with and angry apex predator, and I’d say your chances are a lot better with bear spray.

Weight

Carrying too much weight isn’t just unpleasant, it can be dangerous.  If you are fatigued, you are going to be less aware of your surrounding, less likely to make noise, and slower to react in the event of a bear encounter.

A 12-gauge shotgun is going to weigh 6 or 7 lbs.  Compare that to 8-11oz for a canister of bear and there is no contest.  While a lighter gun may stand up against a black bear, a grizzly needs some serious power to bring it down.

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Unnecessary Killing

Just because a bear is angry at you doesn’t make it an evil creature that needs to die.  Remember, you are in its home, and it’s usually just defending itself.  Sometimes it’s only approaching out of curiosity, and spraying it will simply teach it that humans are best avoided.

That being said a predatory, habituated, or unusually aggressive bears should be reported to the appropriate authorities so they can take action if necessary.

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Human Safety

No matter how safe you are with your firearm, it’s hard to predict what kind of bad decisions you’ll make if you are panicked. There are plenty of stories of people inadvertently shooting themselves or their partners while hurrying to get a shot at the bear.

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What about Wind and the Short Range?

In good conditions, bear spray should shoot at least 16 feet, but some brands will shoot further.  This may seem uncomfortably close, but a bear further away will likely decide you aren’t worth the trouble before it actually attacks. You can also spray a bit earlier to make a cloud for the bear to run through.

In the Smith study, only five of the bear spray cases were effected by wind, and the spray still hit their target.  You may get sprayed a little yourself, but it’s a small price to pay.

bear spray 7

The Law

It’s now legal in many U.S. national parks to carry a firearms, but the ruling is still subject to state laws. Here in Canada it is illegal to carry firearms (with some exceptions for polar bears) in national parks.  Oddly, it is also illegal to carry bear spray in Yosemite, so if you plan on hiking there, bring your bear sense.

Things to Note

Now I want to make a few points clear.  Carrying any form of bear defence does not replace the need to use your bear sense.  Always make noise while hiking, stay aware of your surroundings, avoid hiking alone, keep you camp free of food smell, and know what to do in a bear encounter to avoid an attack.

Also, no matter what you choose to carry, know how to use it.  If you choose bear spray, practice unholstering your bear spray and removing the safety, and ALWAYS keep it somewhere where you can grab it.  Should you have an expired canister, practice discharging it.  If you choose a gun, make sure it’s going to be powerful enough and practice getting it ready and taking aim in a variety of situations.

Sources

U.S. Fish & Wildife Service. Bear Spray vs. Bullets: Which offers better protection? Living with Grizzlies http://www.bearsmart.com/docs/BearSprayVsBullets.pdf

Tom Smith et al.  Efficacy of firearms for bear deterrence in Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 76(5):1021-1102J. July 2012. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/326124/efficacy-of-firearms-for-bear-deterrence-in-alaska.pdf

Tom Smith, et al. Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management 72(3):640 – 645 · December 2008.  http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/bear/files/JWM_BearSprayAlaska.pdf

Video

Also, check out this video put together by Carley Fairbrother, together with a giveaway she is running this month:

 

 

33 Top Rated Hiking and Camping Gear on Amazon

Top Rated 35

By Kelly Price

This Top Rated list compiled for women outdoor adventurers only features products with at least 4.3/5 stars and 25+ reviews on the global Amazon platform.

When you’re out in the wilderness, it’s just you, Mother Nature and your gear. It’s critical for every product you bring with you to (1) do its job perfectly and (2) leave the smallest footprint possible. The gear on this list has been put to the test by thousands of explorers just like you, and they’ve all performed better than the rest.

 

1. A collapsible kettle that takes up very little room

Top Rated 1

Average rating: 4.6/5 stars (30+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I tested it over my propane grill and it did an amazing job heating the water. When it is collapsed it is about the size of a dessert plate so it saves space in my gear.”

 

2. A tiny but effective fire starter

Top Rated 2

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (1,400+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “A fantastic little tool, really throws some good sparks! Fairly large rod should last a long time, well made, comfortable finger grips, light weight, small enough to fit into any camping / survival kit.”

 

3. A pocket-sized outdoor blanket

Top Rated 3

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (50+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “Easy to carry and can fit in one hand, strong and durable, yet big enough for 2/3 people to lounge around on. We were able to use it as a base for inflatable airpads, or simply pull it out for additional friends to lay on it.”

 

4. A lightweight-yet-warm double sleeping bag

Top Rated 4

Average rating: 4.8/5 stars (40+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “This thing is awesome! We’re a big camping family (cheap vacation!) and all have our own sleeping bags. However, I loved the idea of a sleeping bag I could share with my husband and this is the perfect fit. It’s not too much bulkier than an average size sleeping bag, but once you open it up the inside is very spacious! The material is soft and definitely will keep us warm on a chilly summer/fall night.”

 

5. An ultra soft microfiber towel

Top Rated 5

Average rating: 4.9/5 stars (140+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I bought this towel for camping. It is lightweight and folds up very small for its size. The texture is sort of like a chamois, soft and kinda “rubbery”, for lack of a better word. It will absorb a ton of water. Far more than it needs to to dry you off after a shower. It does dry very quickly if you hang it in a breeze. Much quicker than a standard cotton towel.”

 

6. A hand crank power bank with a radio, flashlight, and USB charger

Top Rated 6

Average rating: 4.4/5 stars (340+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “This little jewel would provide invaluable during emergencies. It will provide 50 lumen LED light, AM/FM/NOAA radio and even a way to charge phones.”

 

7. A personal water filter

Top Rated 7

Average rating: 4.4/5 stars (340+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “As soon as I got this thing in the mail I went straight to the nastiest, most contaminated thing I could find. There just happened to be a sink full of soaking dishes that worked just fine. Couldnt taste a thing. I even spit some of the water out and it was nice and clear.”

 

8. A spork with a bottle opener

Top Rated 8

Average rating: 4.4/5 stars (1,700+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “Well made. Just right for eating that emergency can of pork and beans on the road. Clipped it to the key ring on my car’s AA Maglite along with the P-38 can opener and Gerber 1 1/2″ pocket knife. Too big for a pant’s pocket but just right for a coat’s. Of course it can be clipped to a purse or pack too.”

 

9. All-purpose nylon paracord

Top Rated 9

Average rating: 4.6/5 stars (1,700+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “Worked great! I brought this with me whenever I went camping or had other outdoor adventures. I used it pretty much every time. The hardest load I put on it was a hammock, which I only had to double the string from the tree to the hammock.”

 

10. A completely waterproof dry bag

Top Rated 10

Average rating: 4.9/5 stars (750+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “We used this dry bag on a trip to French Polynesia. Brought it everywhere-on a boat (standing on outside observation deck in tropical rain), a jet ski tour, a shark excursion, and lunch IN the water. Our stuff stayed totally dry. It’s a good looking bag, people asked where we got it. 10LB green bag, perfect size.”

 

11. A portable personal cooking system

Top Rated 11

Average rating: 4.8/5 stars (600+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “In the military this was extremely helpful when we had to be out in the woods for weeks on end. We got really creative in what we can make in the jetboil. We used the hot water for shaving, making coffee, hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, hot dogs, hot chocolate, if you can make something with boiling water, we made it.”

 

12. A bottle of versatile 18-in-1 soap

Top Rated 12

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (4,900+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I use this soap for shampoo, body wash, face wash, I put it in my bath, I’ve used it to clean my counters, I’ve used it to clean dishes.”

 

13. A water bottle that will keep liquid cold for 24 hours

Top Rated 13

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (2,600+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “1) Unbelievably effective at holding temperature. Have yet to see an occasion when there is not still ice at the end of the day, no matter how hot it’s been: sitting in a hot car, going through a double class of Bikram yoga (4hrs in 105 degree room!)
2) Incredibly well made. We have had other metal water bottles; they dent; paint chips or peels. Not this one; my son’s still looks brand new after hanging off his backpack, banging around for the past 3 months.”

 

14. A lightweight, durable backpack for day hikes

Top Rated 14

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (5,500+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I needed a packable, waterproof backpack for my trip to Brazil and this was perfect! I wore it while hiking through the jungle in Iguassu Falls, where weather was unpredictable, and it kept all my belongings dry. At one point, I was able to fit a change of clothes, sunscreen, towel, and a bunch of other items.”

 

15. And a bigger, more robust backpack for camping

Top Rated 15

Average rating: 4.5/5 stars (1,500+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “It has endured some serious abuse and keeps on taking it. I would recommend this pack to anyone at this point. As to the pack itself, it has tons of little features. It has locking mechanisms on the lumbar straps, 2 outside pockets that are literally the perfect size for a Nalgene, It has a pocket on the top for random things (I used it for flint and my back up plan of 9V battery and steel wool), At the bottom it has a place for your sleeping bag. All in all a fantastic pack for the price.”

 

16. A ventilated shoe for warm & wet hikes

Top Rated 16

Average rating: 4.5/5 stars (4,300+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I just used these as my primary shoe for a ten day hiking/white water rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. I used them for the 7 1/2 mile hike from the upper rim to the lower rim while carrying a 35 lb. pack and they performed exceptionally. My feet never got sore and my toes didn’t get bruised, despite the constant decline of the trail. I also used them during day hikes. Even when crossing streams, they dried relatively quickly and were still comfortable even when wet.”

 

17. And a heavier duty hiking boot for longer hauls

Top Rated 17

Average rating: 4.6/5 stars (4,30+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I pretty much submerged these boots in water ENTIRELY, and they are definitely WATERPROOF. They were also incredibly comfortable – I had multiple days of hiking for 12+ hours consecutively, and I cannot stress how comfortable they were. They seem pretty light-weight, great support, solid traction on all sorts of terrain.”

 

18. Fill them shoes with Darn Tough high performance socks

Top Rated 18

Average rating: 4.8/5 stars (40+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I am on my feet 12 hours a day wearing steel-toed boots and these help greatly with making my feet comfortable. I have gifted a few pairs to my coworkers and they have purchased several pairs afterwards. They are a bit pricey but I have a few pairs that have lasted 4+ years, if you wear them out, mail them to Darn Tough and they will send you a new pair.”

 

19. The classic Swiss Army Knife

Top Rated 19

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (4,600+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I think that this item should be standard issue to everyone. I have several and if I don’t have a reason to use it daily, someone around me does.”

 

20. A compact 10-piece cookset

Top Rated 20

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (2,300+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “This has to be the most complete camping cookware set I have ever purchased. Well finished, fine quality product, pretty solid and tight cookware, no rattling noise when you shake them. It includes a pot with a cover, a frying pan, 2 bowls for drinking water or soup, a soup spoon, bamboo handle spoon, a cleaning loofah and a stainless steel spork, and even though it does not contain a knife, the spork its strong enough to cut through meat, potatoes or carrots.”

 

21. A lightweight yet complete first aid kit

Top Rated 21

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (180+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “This one is a terrific size and weight for hiking. It fits anywhere in or on my backpack.”

 

22. A pair of lightweight convertible hiking pants

Top Rated 22

Average rating: 4.4/5 stars (460+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “These are great fitting, light weight, comfortable pants, perfect for hiking in. I will never wear jeans to hike in again. They have a nice straight leg (not wide at all) that fits my body perfectly, and I feel skinny and cute in them too! They also dry incredibly fast. I took these pants to hike around in Switzerland and didn’t want to wear any other pants, I loved these so much.”

 

23. An ultra compact sleeping pad

Top Rated 23

Average rating: 4.8/5 stars (100+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “Great bang for your buck. Inflates with about 15 breaths. Comfortable on the ground. Shields you from feeling every little leaf and twig under you. Obviously not best for very cold weather camping if you’re needing this to help insulate you from cold ground. But for basic camping and down to about 45-50 degrees it works.”

 

24. A handy headlamp

Top Rated 24

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (200+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “I have had several Petzl headlamps which have evolved positively in functionality (e.g. operating the switch with a gloved hand) and the Tikkina is, in my opinion, the perfect end result. The default “on” is bright enough for almost any pre-dawn trekking, approach, or climbing, without fear of running the batteries down. And if you occasionally need extra light, it is available with an extra click.”

 

25. A bottle of water treatment drops

Top Rated 25

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (340+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “There are many ways to get clean water these days. Filters, UV lights, charged salts, chlorine, iodine, etc. They all have PROs and CONs. I prefer the Aquamira drops over the other methods because I never have to worry about dead batteries, dead UV bulbs, broken equipment, foul tastes, or clogged filters. I keep several sets of these around.”

 

26. A state-of-the-art GPS watch

Top Rated 26

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (340+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “Did a lot of research on a device that can track my ocean swims, bike rides, runs, heart rate, etc. I have gone on an ocean swim, and it worked like a champ. Mapped my swim, calculated the distance and generated a SWOLF score. The hr sensor was working in the water, but I did go with a hrm-tri strap for better accuracy. Did a 15mi bike ride and it synced easily with my garmin cadence and speed sensor. Post workout data gave me every detail on my ride.”

 

27. A portable high capacity power bank

Top Rated 27

Average rating: 4.6/5 stars (900+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “This is personally the best portable battery I have purchased in my life. For the iPhone 6s a full charge lasts me a good 4 full charges, its small so its very compact and fits in the pocket nicely when you want to go places and it doesn’t bother you so much when walking around or running around.”

 

28. A 10-liter camping kitchen sink

Top Rated 28

Average rating: 4.5/5 stars (75+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “If you do any camping at all, you soon discover the need for something that holds water. Sometimes it’s for washing dishes, other times it’s for moving water up to camp so you can filter it, sometimes it’s just for washing the dust off your face. It’s always for keeping “dirty” water away from otherwise clean water sources, unless you’re into making someone else sick or messing up the environment.”

 

29. A pack of No Rinse bathing wipes

Top Rated 29

Average rating: 4.6/5 stars (35+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “Went on a 2.5 trekking trip through Nepal where you couldn’t shower every day – TMI, I know. These were a great alternative. One wipe is plenty for the whole body – remember you can use the other side. Plus, they packed really flat/neatly into my backpack. There really wasn’t a scent, I felt refreshed and it got the sunblock/insect repellant off surprisingly well.”

 

30. A waterproof notebook

Top Rated 30

Average rating: 4.8/5 stars (160+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “This is the best pad out there. I have carried one of these in my cargo pocket through training and now months in Afghanistan. I keep a daily journal in one and use another for important notes. I will always have one of these with me.”

 

31. A pair of low gaiters

Top Rated 31

Average rating: 4.3/5 stars (65+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “The gaiters were used over some 10 year old waterproof hiking boots on a route following paths cut by snow-melt fed streams that took us in and out of rocky scree, gravel, tundra grasses and 3 inches of fresh snow. I lost track of the number of low water stream crossings, but my feet stayed warm and dry thanks to the gaiters–can’t say the same for my companions. Product was also highly effective at keeping debris out of my boots.”

 

32. A pair of waterproof binoculars

Top Rated 32

Average rating: 4.6/5 stars (800+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “The clarity and magnification is pretty remarkable. They are really compact and light weight for what they are. Magnification is about the limit of what you can hold steady by hand without a rest. I went to a football game sitting in the nosebleeds and let a couple strangers next to me use them, they were blown away and ordered a pair on the spot!”

 

33. For extreme emergencies – a personal locator beacon

Top Rated 33

Average rating: 4.5/5 stars (180+ reviews)

Top Rated 34

Reviewers say: “My boat capsized offshore at 11:31 am. I turned on the signal. The colonel from the coast guard called my wife in the next 2-3 minutes to confirm that I was out fishing. The coast guard helicopter was sent to my location immediately. The helicopter was there very soon.”

 

To discover more top rated products on Amazon or to get in touch with the author, visit WeGravy.com – a new product curation site that hand selects the highest-rated products on Amazon.

 

Top Ten Tips for Solo Females Headed to India

Solo Females India 1

By Emily Pennington

So, ever the over-achiever, I did an enormous amount of research before embarking on my first solo trip to India. I jumped on phone calls and talked extensively with girlfriends who had been before, in addition to scouring top travel blogs and sites like TripAdvisor and HostelWorld. Below are the tips I found most helpful – many of which I discovered on my own out in the wild. Enjoy!

1. Cover Yourself.

I know, I know… It’s not the most feminist approach to open up with SHIELD YOUR BODY FROM THE INEVITABLE KNIVES OF THE MALE GAZE, but it’s important to remember that India has a much more patriarchal culture than the Western world. Misogyny is a very real thing, and literally everyone you meet will happily talk to you about their arranged marriages.

From the moment I got on my plane from Delhi to Rajasthan, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. A quick jaunt down the aisle to the bathroom meant 30 people staring at me, slack-jawed. Temples and tourists sites are no different. India is a BIG place, and there are loads of domestic tourists from smaller or less frequented cities who want to see all the same sites and palaces as you do but perhaps haven’t seen many Westerners.

The quickest way to avoid unwanted attention, sales tactics, and random street groping is to make sure you plan an afternoon of shopping for more traditional Indian garb one of the first 2 days you’re there. Make sure your breasts, shoulders, and legs are covered in baggy/loose fitting clothing. I liked to always carry a scarf and wrap my head up in it to appear even more inconspicuous. Think of it as dress up! It’s hot and quite humid in most parts of India, so the clothes you purchase there will be more appropriate for the climate. Don’t pack too much before you leave, because clothes are cheap as chips there and beautifully made, for the most part. Plus, you get the souvenir of a whole new wardrobe when you get home!

Solo Female India

2. Morning > Night

This one I learned by accident but kept it up the entire trip (thanks, jet lag!). Try to stay up as late as you can your first day in India, rather than opting for a nap. Go to bed around 9 or 10pm and wake up with the sun. In almost every city you visit, there will be sunrise yoga, markets, and morning rituals (especially along the Ganges River). The locals are out in full force, and the light beaming through the morning mist is stunning. A simple walk around your hostel’s neighborhood or along the Ganges will put you eye to eye with singing schoolchildren, local women doing their washing, sadhus meditating, and little Brahmin priests in training doing a very silly looking version of yoga. 😉

The few times I did venture out into the cities at night, it was cacophonous, crowded, difficult to get around, and full of traffic. Because India is not as developed as what I’m accustomed to, the shacks and vinyl signs marking storefronts began to all blur together at night, making it really tough to find anything, even if your rickshaw driver swears it’s “right down that alley!”

Also, it’s worth noting that many regions and cities in India are dry, so alcohol isn’t really an option if you want to go out at night and get wild. I did have one fun walk around Varanasi in the evening, but I was accompanied by friends (and, to be fair, we did get followed by a fake sadhu for about a mile). In my opinion, mornings are where it’s at in India!

Solo Females India 3

3. Stay on Your Toes but Remain Open to Experience.

“You’re going to get raped!” was one of the first things out of everyone’s mouths when I told them that I would be traveling through India alone and without a tour group. The notion that India’s misogynistic culture was pervasive seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Unfortunately, most of the rapes and violence against women that we hear about so frequently on the news involve Indian women. Eve teasing is a bit of an epidemic out there, and it’s a good idea to read up on it here.

That being said, I can happily report that I most certainly did not get raped and didn’t even encounter the random street groping that I’ve heard other female tourists complain about. Okay, maaaaybe once someone grazed my boob in a crowd, and maaaaybe the fake sadhu tried to touch my friend’s butt, but it was subtle and I did not feel threatened in the least. From the stories I’ve heard, if a man does try to grab you, especially on a bus or in a public place, shove him back, make a bit of a scene, and make sure that people know that what he did is NOT OK. The crowd will have your back. As I already mentioned in tip #1, I would highly recommend covering up to avoid unwanted attention. Random men will still approach you all the time, regardless, offering you tours or drives through the mountains on their motorcycle.

It’s up to you to stay on your toes and exercise good judgment. Be polite, yet firm. State boundaries and ask questions. If you’re one of those people who has a hard time saying no, practice saying no in the mirror before you jump on that plane. You’re going to have to do it. A lot. Carry pepper spray or something small if it helps you to feel safer when walking alone.

4. Take Photos with All the Cute Families!

So, yes, men will definitely approach you at random in the street to offer you tours or take a photo with you (a practice which maaaaay or may not be a weird, sexual thing so they can brag to their friends later). But, there are also huge droves of domestic tourists nearly everywhere you’ll go in the form of the cutest, friendliest Indian families that you’ll ever meet who are going to flip out that you are in the same temple as they are.

At first, it might be alarming to constantly be approached by people requesting ”1 photo?” at all the sites and markets, but I found it really fun to swan dive into the strangeness and take on the impromptu photoshoots that often involved a mother shoving a baby into my arms as she yelled commands to her children and other family members to pose in different variations, most certainly taking sooo many more than just “1 photo.”

Indian people were often really excited and genuinely curious about where I was from and what brought me to their country, so these little paparazzi moments felt like a fun and silly way to be a celebrity for a moment. I once got pulled to the front of the line for a bus ride down a mountain once simply because I had been talking to the sweetest family about their 3 year old’s digital camera obsession at the Monsoon Palace. The giddy memories are innumerable – a 12 year old girl was so excited to meet me that she kissed me on the cheek, and once, while hiking deep in the mountains, another little girl was so excited to practice her English with me that she forgot her name.

Solo Female India 4

5. Tigers and Elephants Are Real.

When my trek out of Rishikesh got cancelled and I only had 7 days left of my India journey, I decided that 8am yoga followed by a massive hike every day was the most logical plan B. On a friendly afternoon jaunt to one of Rishikesh’s well-known waterfalls, I skipped past langur monkeys the size of toddlers and scampered up a less-taken side trail with a lovely creek leading to the Ganges.

On the trail, I encountered lots of GIANT animal dung, thinking to myself, “Hmm. That’s odd, I don’t remember there being many horses in Rishikesh.” Later that evening in my guesthouse, the staff seemed really concerned that I had been out hiking alone, citing snakes, tigers, and ELEPHANTS as potential dangers if I stayed out too late. For real.

Lesson learned – If you’re going to hike in the Himalayas, don’t lose track of time and stay out past evening.  Stay on your toes if you’re going to hike alone, and tell a friend or someone at your hostel where you’ll be if you know you’re going to take a gypsy cab up to a mountain temple and scramble your way back into town (i.e. the famously frantic Neelkanth temple).

Solo Female India 6

6. Prioritize Community.

This was one of the best pieces of advice I got before leaving for India alone. Go to a site like HostelWorld.com and specifically seek out reviews from solo female travelers like yourself. They’ll almost always mention things like safety, how it is to walk alone in the neighborhood at night, and how easy it is to make friends in that guesthouse!

I highly suggest picking hostels/guesthouses with wifi in large common areas and communal breakfasts/kitchens so you can easily meet people. Places that made a point to offer tours of local markets and temples are great too, as it can often be impossible to find one once you reach the site itself, plus you really get to know the people you hike around with for the day.

It’s also important to remember that not every local is trying to scam you. I was wandering the alleyways of Varanasi with some friends and some freshly purchased 25 cent kites when a man stopped and offered to teach us how to fly them. Turns out, kites are HUGE in Varanasi, and there’s a massive kite festival there every year. We ended up spending the afternoon on the rooftop of an abandoned building right next to the Manikarnika burning ghat, doing what any respectable adults would do, flying kites! It was easily one of the most memorable moments of my trip, and it never would have happened if we didn’t take a chance on a friendly local with a great vibe.

If an Indian family invites you to dinner – do it! It’s a big part of Indian culture to be hospitable to guests, and the one meal I was able to share in an Indian home was better than any restaurant and accompanied by setting off leftover Diwali fireworks on the rooftop with teenage boys! I regretted not having time to accept offers to share a meal with a Brahmin priest and his wife on this trip and totally swooned over stories fellow backpackers told me about being taken in by a family and shown a more authentic version of Delhi.

Solo Female India 7

7. Take Care of Yourself.

Your health on this adventure is of utmost importance so that you can experience all the colorful ecstasy, unexpected brilliance, and frenetic insanity that India has to offer! Unfortunately, this does mean missing out on a few treats while in the country, but trust me, it’s well worth it. Even my strict adherence to these rules couldn’t stop me from getting a stomach bug!

First of all, don’t eat anything that hasn’t been cooked, liquids that haven’t been purified or boiled, or fruit that’s cut or doesn’t have its skin on. Even the oh-so-tempting mango lassis are made by soaking yogurt in tap water before blending, so don’t do it! No ice either. Buy bottled water for 15 cents a liter or bring your own filtration system (I had a SteriPEN with me). Keep your mouth shut in the shower and brush your teeth with a bottle of water too! Whew!

I must admit, I nerded out a little on the vaccines, but most last 5 years to life, and I figured it was a good idea if I wanted to take my little tukas on future adventures in third world countries. I highly recommend getting your Typhoid/Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, and Tetanus shots before you go.

I heard really mixed things from my friends about malaria pills, bombarded by stories about awful side effects and the apparent nightmares they can cause. I opted yes for the malaria pills, since the fact that it’s an incurable disease freaked me out to no end, and I’m happy I did. If your trip is confined to mostly Northern India, you’ll probably be fine without, but the newer pills they’ve developed no longer cause terrifying dreamscapes, I’m happy to report!

Lastly, bring traveler’s antibiotics! They will come in handy when you or a buddy fall ill and don’t want to traverse around town looking for a doctor who can prescribe you some. At the end of the day, though, this is all just precaution to make your trip even more excellent that it’s already going to be. Use common sense and take care of your body. The street chai is plentiful, and it’s nearly impossible to turn down. 😉

8. Planes vs. Trains

Ok, I’m about to unleash an unpopular and potentially bourgie idea. Planes are the way to go in India (am I a bad backpacker?). Especially if you’re on a 3 week or less trip. Here’s why: the train schedule in India is incredibly difficult to navigate. You’re likely to end up number 28 on a waiting list, and then you’ll have to log in and check the website every few hours the day before your journey to see if you even have a seat! Even the first class sleeper trains are small and crowded, and the meal situation is dire at best.

Planes, on the other hand, are clean, relatively affordable domestically, leave on time, and get you to your destination MUCH faster.

But, if you’re looking to ride a train just for the adventure and sheer insanity that will ensue, read on for my Indian train survival guide. First of all, I really wish that someone would have told me that there’s no dining car on the train, or, if there is, there’s no guarantee that your car will have walking access to it. Instead, people opt to hop off and on the train at certain stations, grabbing snacks at one of the many colorful vendors before the doors slam shut and the train takes off again. The problem with this is that they don’t announce in English how long the train will stay at each stop. In fact, they don’t announce anything in English, so you’re left to befriend your fellow passengers to figure out which town is your destination.

I would really recommend buying a pizza the day of your journey and having them package it up in foil or a Ziploc bag to take with you on the train – saves time and stress wondering how or what you’re going to eat! I’d also suggest bringing significantly more food than you think you’ll need. I got stuck on a train in rural India that kept getting stopped and patrolled by men with rifles walking up and down the aisles, turning a 14 hour train ride into a 17 hour train ride (and I only had 1 meal and a cup of chai the whole time). Portable, safe food is most certainly your friend.

Also, if you’re having trouble buying a train ticket online (it is by far the most confusing thing I’ve ever done on the internet), you can definitely take a taxi to the train station the day before you wish to travel and buy them in person. Two of my friends snagged tickets from Varanasi to Agra this way with much less fuss than I put my little type-A heart through! Lastly, The Man in Seat 61 is a GODSEND. A must-read for anyone taking the trains through Asia. www.seat61.com

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9. Bring Treats!

Everyone likes treats. They can be a great way to make friends at your hostel or interact with locals in a simple, organic way. I’m so grateful to my friend, Pam, for recommending this tip before I left. Nearly everywhere you go in India, you will see beggars, many of them children. Apparently these children aren’t even necessarily homeless, their parents might be right around the corner, putting them on the afternoon shift because, hey, cute kids make more money.

I was informed by a few people that these kids have to give their parents everything they bring in at the end of the day, but if you give them something tiny or edible (aka something that’s not worth any money to resell), you get to interact with these little guys and feel awesome, and they get secret treats that their parents don’t know about.

It feels weird writing about this, because it seems so, inherently classist, but I sincerely feel that bringing a smile to some of the poorer kids in India is a fun and incredibly worthwhile part of any trip. After kite flying in Varanasi, for example, we had extra 10 cent kites left over (because we didn’t crash them!), and we ended up with a small parade of children following us as we handed them out. The kids were happy, we were happy, and it was a stellar day. Do it. Trust me!

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10. Climb all the things. Dine on all the rooftops. Yoga with a view.

I brought my yoga mat to India. I didn’t need to, because any class you attend should have extras there ready for you, but I’m so glad I added this extra bulk to my packing list. India is FULL of amazing views. There are balconies and rooftop terraces in urban as well as rural areas, and even the most budget-friendly hostel usually has a dining or common area overlooking the city.

Waking up at 5am most mornings and doing yoga on the roof while watching the sun rise and listening to the sounds of the city waking up were some of my favorite moments in India. Plus, it centered my mind and body for the inevitable chaos that would ensue while venturing around on each day.

Utilizing these overlooks for dining or stretching provides a great way to feel like you’re still in the city, while taking a much needed break from it. Parakeets and flying foxes whiz by in Udaipur, singing children skip down the street, and calls to prayer are sounded.

I would also highly recommend climbing ALL THE THINGS. Climb trees on your hikes! Climb up the sides of waterfalls for a better view! Maintain a sense of danger nerd-itude when exploring. This is an adventure, after all. Any temple tours you see that involve hiking to the top of a mountain – do it! It’s incredibly serene and magical to watch the sun rise at Kunjapuri Temple, outside of Rishikesh, with a hot cup of chai in your hands. I am aching to go back and trek all the way to Tungnath next time – the highest temple in the world!

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No matter what your friends and family say to try to warn you against traveling to India as a solo female, it can be done safely and on the cheap. Do your research, book your travel/lodging in advance if you’re worried about where you’ll stay, and keep your wits about you!

Happy adventuring!

 

Know Your Knots Infographic

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Making Effective Knots Made Simple

Feel like you are all thumbs when it comes to doing knots?  You are definitely not alone!

As outdoor enthusiasts, we all know that we need to do knots with our ropes for everything from camping to fishing and survival.  It is obviously important when out in the wilderness to ‘know your knots’.

Know your knots 2First of all we all wish we knew more about doing effective knots.  Often knowing which knot to use for each situation can be a challenge.  Which knot is best for which situation?

The other difficulty is knowing HOW to do these knots correctly.  Even following someone else can sometimes be confusing as not everyone can explain things well.

So wouldn’t it be good to have something you could refer to and follow easily?  Kinda ‘Know your Knots 101’.

Knots are something we come across in everyday life, from tying your laces to putting on a tie, but what are some of the simplest, easiest to learn knots that can help you out while out camping, hiking, fishing or even sailing! Here you can check out a very cool infographic on some of the top knots for each situation, how to tie them and what you’re likely to use them for!

Sarah Brown from http://www.ptwinchester.co.uk/ has shared this very useful resource below:

Know Your Knots Infographic

Know your knots:

To conclude, the key to know your knots is to practice the ones you think you will need most.  The knots you choose will naturally depend on the type of outdoor activity you are doing.  Therefore practice, practice, practice…

Most of all keep this knowledge with you when you are out in the great outdoors because you never know when you might need it the most!

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Camping for Women sincerely thanks Sarah Brown and http://www.ptwinchester.co.uk/ for sharing this fabulous resource.

What you must have in your First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit 1

By Oceana Setaysha

A first aid kit is a must-carry for any hiker or camper who understands and respects the wild environment they are exploring. Regardless of the length of your trip, how far you will be traveling, or whether you’ll be going alone or with companions, you should have a personal first aid kit at the very least.

Why Build Your Own First Aid Kit

While you can certainly buy first aid kits in most pharmacies, outdoor equipment stores and online, there are a number of benefits associated with putting your own first aid kit together. The most obvious benefit is that you can tailor it to suit your specific needs, where you’re traveling to, what you’re concerned about and so on. However the second benefit is that you’re familiar with every part of the kit, having put it together yourself. You’ll know exactly what you have, and you’ll be prepared to use it if the opportunity presents itself.

There are some ‘basics’ that we like to include in our hiking and camping field kits, which we feel should be present in most well-stocked kits.  Purchasing a well stocked kit to begin with is always a good idea.  It is more economical that starting from scratch.  You can then build specific items from there to match your intended location.


Of course there will always be compromises; not everything can be carried. You may also choose to include additional items depending on your specific trip.

Here is a list of some of the essentials that should be in your own first aid kit:

Gloves

Packing gloves in your first aid kit, in a bag of their own so they don’t get tangled in any zips, is always a good idea if you think you might be treating someone else. However if you’re packing a kit just for yourself, they’re probably not required.

Drugs/Meds

If you take any kind of medication on a regular basis, carrying a backup in your first aid kit is a smart idea. Also present, at a bare minimum, should be painkillers, anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines.

Antiseptic Wipes + Betadine

You should always have some kind of antiseptic in your kit. Personally we choose to have both wipes, for cleaning up, wiping blood off tools etc.  We also have Betadine, which is an iodine solution to prevent infections.

Blisters And Minor Wound Kit

While we do carry other plasters and dressings, a specific blister and minor wound ‘baggie’ within your kit is handy.  It is something you can reach for easily. In ours we have wound closure strips for large lacerations, sterile gauze swabs, various sized plasters, padded gel plasters (for blisters).

Bandages and Dressings

In terms of the dressings and bandages we have, it will ultimately depend on how much you want to carry. If you have space we’d suggest an absorbent field dressing (military grade is best), a crepe bandage, a pressure bandage (for immobilizing or snake bites), and a small bandage that can be cut up. A sticky medical tape like leucoplast is also a smart idea.

Syringe + Blunt Needle

You won’t be giving anyone any shots, but a syringe is a useful tool for cleaning up a wound with water. While you can probably get away with just the syringe, the blunt needle increases the pressure to clean the wound out.

Tweezers

For removing splinters and thorns as well as for dealing with infected ingrown hairs on rub areas when you hike a pair of sharp tweezers are definitely worth taking.

Safety Pin

Safety pins are also handy for removing splinters, and offer a way to keep a sharp point in your kit without too big a chance it will stick you. These can also be used to make a sling tidy, and many other things on the trail.

Shears/Scissors/Swiss Army Knife

A pair of shears (with a blunt edge for quickly removing clothing) or a pair of scissors, are a necessity in a first aid kit. Of course if you’re trying to cut down on what you’re bringing a Swiss Army Knife or similar multi-tool will probably be suitable.

Whistle

If you’re injured and cannot seek help, yelling out for hours is exhausting, dehydrating, and not always loud enough to attract the attention of rescuers. A whistle on the other hand can be blown with minimal effort and create a far-reaching sound.

Lighter

A spare lighter is good to have in a kit for disinfecting tweezers or pins when removing splinters and thorns. Also, if you’re treating someone a fire should be your next priority after taking care of their immediate injuries. On a less serious note, some heat applied to a plaster can help it stick better.

CPR Mask

If you’re travelling alone, this is unlikely to be necessary.  Although if you’re travelling in a group a CPR mask allows you to administer CPR on another individual safely.  That is, without worrying about blood, vomit or saliva getting on or in you.

Head Torch

You might carry a torch or head torch with you in your gear.  However if you’ve had an accident and you’re not able to reach that torch having one in your first aid kit is a really good idea. Make sure it’s stocked with batteries!

First Aid Training

While the equipment that you have is pretty important, you should also consider undertaking a first aid course. Most of the time these courses are done over a single weekend, and are relatively affordable.  They provide an individual with all the skills they need to treat a variety of injuries as a first responder. As a hiker and camper you are often quite a distance away from mainstream medical care.  Therefore knowing these first aid skills might save your life or the life of someone with you.

 

And finally…

A First Aid Guide

Camping First Aid GuideAmanda Parent has put together a first aid guide for dealing with all common first aid situations.

This inexpensive and potentially life-saving resource is available electronically from the Camping for Women website.

Whatever you plan to do in the great outdoors, always play it safe by having all the essential first aid equipment, resources and knowledge with you.  You never know when you will really need it.