Dear Natalie: Told You So

Ask Natalie Banner Dear Natalie: Who else does this?

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

Seriously, didn’t we tell you it was dangerous out there?

Signed,

Yourself, and society – again

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Dear everyone,

So yeah, it happened.

My friend Inga and I, both aiming for a grand total of at least 52 hikes by 12/31/18, decided to go on a quick hike one Saturday in February. The sky was a bit overcast. Gray skies on our valley floor, a mere 1000 ft. in elevation, often mean snow storms at 4000 ft. We opted, then, to avoid a mountain trail. Instead, we decided to hike at lower elevation, closer to home.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 1
Midway up, we were starting to see patches of snow

 

The trail started off damp and drizzly, but easily navigated. As we went higher in elevation, the rain got heavier, and by the time we reached our destination – a viewpoint at the summit of a foothill, maybe only 2000 feet in elevation – it was actively snowing.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 2
Inga, about a mile from our turn-around point at the top of the hill. The trail was quite snowy by this point.

 

We tried to relax a bit and enjoy our accomplishment, but the skies were angry, and the snow was freezing. “We thought we were going to avoid this,” Inga reminded me, and after rolling our eyes and muttering a few choice curse words, we headed back.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 3
Actively snowing at the top of the hill, looking out over the trees and a large lake. The lake is barely visible through the snowy air.

 

At some point during the hike, I told Inga the story of the first and only previous time I’d hiked this trail. On the descent, I stumbled on gravel and fell into a split, sliding a few yards down the trail and scraping up my legs. Luckily I was able to get up and dust myself off. Other than a couple sore spots and a few scratches on my shins, only my ego was bruised, and even that was minor; the only witness was my then-husband. “I learned my lesson,” I said, nodding to the fancy trekking poles I brought with me this time.

As we lost elevation, we navigated icy spots and chunks of accumulating snow. The faster we hiked downhill, the faster the snow turned to rain, and eventually we were walking between drizzle-drops on a muddy, soggy trail.

This is when it happened.

I was speaking, or maybe Inga was, but before I knew what was happening, I was in the air. I felt my right hand let go of one trekking pole, and as I noted the other still in my left hand, I heard the sound of a thin branch snapping. An explosion of pain shot up my left arm, and suddenly, the second trekking pole was gone. I was on the ground, right arm wrapped around the left, and I was sobbing.

It wasn’t a branch that snapped; it was some part of my left arm.

I tried to explain to Inga what happened, and though I was achingly inarticulate, she was right there, grabbing naproxen from my backpack. “The damn bottle won’t open!” she muttered, and as though possessed by Bear Grylls, I grabbed it with my teeth and opened it also with my teeth. As soon as the pill hit my tongue, Inga was tilting my canteen into my mouth, and I was back on my feet – still crying.

She took my trekking poles – one had flown six feet away, while the other had landed just next to where I had. She slowed her pace. I held my left forearm with my right hand, and we walked. Within minutes, it became clear that my wrist was broken; it looked like a pale, rubber prosthetic topped with a swollen hand-shaped water balloon that was tilted at a sick, unnatural angle.  Around this time, the trail crossed a forest service road, and we were able to bypass the trail and walk instead on more stable ground. A few miles later, we were back at the car, where Inga fashioned me a sling out of a blanket and began the drive to the hospital.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 4
Selfie snapped en route to the car shortly after breaking my wrist. My face is wet with tears, melted snow, and rain.

 

I waited a few hours in the emergency department with Inga, and our friend Jessica brought me snacks and additional moral support. Eventually I left with painkillers, a splint and a sling, and x-ray confirmation that I had broken my wrist in two places. Several splints and casts, two surgeries, and multiple medical appointments later, and my left wrist and forearm are internally reinforced with small steel plates and screws. Externally, they have the support of a splint and a heavy wrap.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 5
Me and my first (ugly) cast.

 

 If I hadn’t been hiking, this wouldn’t have happened.

For a few days, I was despondent about this. “Now I have to exercise in gyms,” I thought bitterly, screwing up my face at the thought of spandex and treadmills. “Now I’ll be scared to go up mountains,” I told myself, tears trailing down my cheeks at the thought of boring, flat, developed cityscapes. “Now I can’t hike alone,” I said, and that’s when I got angry with myself.

The fact is, my outcome would have been the same if I were solo. Yes, my friends offered me much-appreciated help and support – but if they hadn’t been there, I still would have ended up getting medical care. I still would have walked back to the car; after all, Inga didn’t carry me. I would have driven myself to the hospital, which, while painful and challenging, would not have been anywhere near impossible.

Another fact is that I’m also capable of getting injured at home alone, or shopping with friends, or running around the seven miles of hallways at my daily job.  There’s a legitimate argument that hiking is more dangerous than regular ol’ walking, but I would argue it’s safer than driving an automobile – something I do much more frequently.

I have fear that my injury – which is the most common bone break, statistically – will lend credence to the myth that outdoor adventure is an inherently super-dangerous activity, and certainly not a hobby one should pursue alone. Despite my initial tearful-fearfulness, I feel the same about walking in the woods as I did before.

In fact, I am moved to get outside even more. This injury has opened me up wider to the kindness and generosity people freely offer. My friends took shifts to care for me after surgery. My youngest brother re-routed his air travel to stay with me. My coworkers collected a generous sum of money to make sure I could order all the Thai take-out I wanted and would not need to cook while convalescing. They also signed two greeting cards with messages that entertained me for days. The computer gurus at my job fast-tracked dictation software for me, saving me from the time consuming task of typing with only my right hand. My friend brought by elastic, thread, and her seamstress skills to make my button-up pants easier to slide into. One of the psychiatrists at work even offered me his shoulder when I was required to elevate my cast.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 6
Photographic evidence of using a psychiatric doctor as an armrest. I figured I’d protect his identity, lest anyone try to take advantage of his kindness.

 

When I am reminded of the goodness humanity has to offer, I yearn more strongly for the beautiful, pristine places where I feel most connected to that goodness. If that means slipping my rain jacket over my cast so I can hike to those places, so be it.

With Love,

Natalie

 

 

 

P.S. – Have thoughts to share? Share via email at AskNatalieColumn@gmail.com

Contributors are identified by their first name, but you can request anonymity if you’d prefer.

 

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter

By Carley Fairbrother

Why Build a Snow Trench Shelter?

Imagine you are out for a snowshoe or a backcountry ski, and you get lost, or a storm makes travel too dangerous, or your friend gets injured. You need a shelter, and fast. Luckily for you, you are surrounded by one of nature’s most convenient building materials.

 

How to build an emergency snow trench shelter 1

 

Contrary to what your instincts might tell you, snow is a excellent insulator. While a snow shelter isn’t likely to get much warmer than 0° c, it probably beats whatever winter weather you are trying to hide from. Snow and ice shelters such as quinzhees, snow caves, and igloos have been used for millennia, and be rather roomy comfortable, but they also take a lot of time and energy to build.

 

How to Build an emergency snow trench shelter 2

 

Trench shelters are quick, effective, and can be built in many different snow conditions. They are not, however, very comfortable. If you have plans to stay overnight in a snow shelter for fun, I would recommend a snow cave or a quinzhee (see video below for how to build a quinzhee). With the right tools in your emergency kit, and maybe a little practice, a snow trench shelter should take less than an hour to build.

 

Some Helpful Tools

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 3

Mylar emergency blanket: I like to carry at least two with me, even in the summer. When wrapped around you, they will reflect your own body heat, preventing loss of precious heat. They can also be used to reflect heat from your fire, or can line the roof, walls, or floor of an emergency shelter. If you want to get creative, add tarp, signal, and fishing lures to a mylar blanket’s possible uses

Folding saw: This is a great addition to a winter emergency kit. Wood for making fires and shelters can be tricky since most of the dead wood is under the snow, and a saw makes collecting it a lot easier. You can make a trench shelter without branches, but they make building the roof and insulating the floor a lot easier.

Collapsible shovel: A shovel is a safety essential of you travel in avalanche terrain, but it can come in handy for any snow travel. I use mine to build a trench or a wall to protect myself from wind while I eat or rest. If you don’t have a shovel, bare in mind that it is important keep your hands warm and dry in a winter survival situation, so try to find something besides your hands to dig with, like a snowshoe.

Tarp: I carry a silicon 5’ x 7 poncho/tarp. A cheap alternative is to pack along one or two big, heavy duty garbage bag. An extra mylar emergency blanket could work too, though they aren’t particularly durable and could tear on a branch.

 

Get Building!

Step 1- Choose you Location

Choose where you want your entrance and what direction you want to lie. While sleeping with your feet close to entrance may keep you warmer, it will make for a slow exit if you need to get out quickly, so plan for your head to be near the entrance. You’ll want your entrance facing downwind, so take note of where any wind is coming from. A slight hill can make digging easier if the snow is deeper than six feet or so. Otherwise, find a level spot.

Step 2 – Break ground, err, snow

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 4

Dig a three foot hole where you want your entrance to be. Ground is a lot warmer than snow, so dig to the ground of you can.

Step 3 – Dig your trench

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 5

Now that you’ve gotten the right depth, it’s time to dig out the trench. It’s going to be up to your body to heat that space, so the smaller the better. Make it a little wider than shoulder width and around two feet longer than you body.

Pile snow up on the sides to make it a little taller (especially if the snow is less than three feet deep). If you have enough snow, pile it around the entrance as a windbreak too. If you get any big snow or ice chunks put them aside.

Step 4 – Lay the framework

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 6

Skis and ski poles make fantastic roofs, but even with them, extra branches will make it more stable and easy to work with. The important part here is to work with what you have or what you can find.

Step 5 – Lay down the tarp

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 7

If you have an extra emergency blanket, it could be a great addition here. Lay it down first. Try to spread your tarp so that the edges touch all the sides and secure it in place with anything you can find with weight; branches, ice blocks or packed snow will all work.

Step 6 – Bury it

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 8

Fluffy snow provides the best insulation, but use what you have. When I was building this trench shelter, I found a good ice layer, so I balanced them on my frame until the gaps were filled in, and then buried it in fluffier snow.

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 9

Step 7 – Add an air hole

Add a vent hole at the end or your trench by poking a stick under the tarp and wiggling it until it’s a inch or so in diameter. The entrance will probably provide enough air, but an extra hole for ventilation is still a good idea.

Step 8 – Insulate the floor

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 10

It may seem like it would make more sense to put the floor down before the roof, but roof building knocks down a lot of snow, so you’d likely find yourself rebuilding the floor anyway. Lay down green fir or spruce bows, or whatever you can possibly find to add space between you and the snowy floor. I used a sleeping mat for this shelter because I didn’t want to damage the trees in my yard. After the snow is totally covered, lay down your emergency blanket. It works best with some space between you body and the blanket, so add another layer of branches. They will also help the blanket stay in place.

Step 9 – Get cozy

How to Build an Emergency Snow Trench Shelter 11

Crawl in and fold any of the rest of the emergency blanket over you. If you have an extra, and it’s not in the roof, you can out it on top of you. Move you pack, or whatever else you can find, into the doorway to block the wind. Don’t make it airtight though; you need oxygen.

Never place the emergency blanket over your head. At worst, it could this cause suffocation; at best, it will cause moisture buildup that will keep you cold.

 

Some final thoughts

This could be modified for two people by making it wider, but still keep it as small as possible.. The closer you are to your friend, the warmer the both of you will stay.

As I mentioned, this is not a comfortable shelter. It’s hard to move around, or get in and out. Being alone in the dark, in a confined space, buried in snow is not something that I imagine a lot of people enjoying. Trench shelters do, however, get you our of the elements and give you something warm to lie on.

Another thing to remember is that no shelter will ever be the same. It will always depend on what you have with you, what your needs are, and what you can get from the environment. If you go into the backcountry in deep snow, it is definitely worth it to practice building snow trench shelters with the supplies you carry. The more you practice, the faster you will be, and the more ready you will be to improvise if need be.

Oh, and those mylar emergency blankets will never fold up again, so buy a few to practice with.

 

Watch Carley’s  short videos on this subject:

How to Build a Snow Trench Shelter

How to Build a Quinzhee

 

Dear Natalie You’re in Danger

Ask Natalie Banner

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

Don’t you know it’s risky out there?

Signed,

Yourself, and society

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear everyone,

At first, I would have answered this question in one, easy, short, simple word: No.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger

I started hiking in Ohio. For my friends from outside the U.S., or those geographically challenged Americans, Ohio is flat and fairly developed. There are virtually no bears in Ohio, and any other large predator animals have been well hedged into forestlands by development and roadways.  Ohio has more than its fair share of wide open farmland, and quaint, eye-blink sized towns populated by old folks and Amish families, but I can’t say I ever lost mobile phone signal anywhere in the state. In fact, I can sheepishly admit now, I was nearly 30 years old before I realized it was even possible to travel by land to a place that didn’t have phone service.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger
Dangerous, aggressive animal from the wilds of Ohio

So, then, when I decided to start exploring, it never occurred to me that it could be any riskier than a walk through my neighborhood.

It wasn’t until my impending move, for work-related reasons, to Oregon, that I began to fully understand that exploring the outdoors could have some element of danger. Oregon is a state where over half of the land is owned by the government; that’s an American way of saying it is undeveloped and wild. If we could straighten out the state’s undeveloped forest roads and fashion them into one long ribbon, it would wrap around Earth’s circumference with plenty of roadway to spare. I was moving into a place where it wasn’t just possible, but probable, that I would find myself somewhere far removed from foot-traffic, passers-by, and easily navigated, paved routes to civilization. It was prudent, then, to start studying the 10 Essentials, back country safety, and planning for emergencies.  I learned that it could be risky to venture out without a water purifier, emergency shelter, and a box of waterproof matches. I learned it could be dangerous to find myself confronted by a startled black bear if I were not armed with bear spray.

I also learned it was hazardous to hike alone while female.

This immediately did not sit well with me. I started debates about it with – well, with pretty much anyone who would humor me without filing a police report for verbal assault. “What makes me, a woman, more at risk than a man, especially if I’m better prepared?” I asked, and repeatedly, I heard the following responses:

  • “No one sexually assaults men!” (This is a blatant falsehood.)
  • “There are a lot of creepy people in the world.”  (Well, sure, but why are they hiking fifteen miles into the national forest to creep out women?)
  • “I’m just saying, I’d prefer to be out there with someone who’s carrying a gun.” (Okay, that’s your preference, but does that gun-toting someone have to be a man?)
  • “What happens if you get hurt and you’re alone?” (What would happen if a man got hurt when he was alone? Popular movies inform me that I should be prepared to amputate one of my own appendages – not an appetizing thought but hell, I’d do it if it was required for survival.)  

Many people would groan and say, “Ugh, this isn’t some woman thing – no one, NO ONE, should hike alone.” This always puzzled me. I figured, sure, it is always safer to travel in groups, regardless of your gender. Isn’t that how human society started in the first place? The collective is stronger than the individual? That said, certainly people do adventure alone, and not just for a few dozen miles of walking on dirt. Some people climb mountains alone, or row their boat across big bodies of water alone. Some people traipse across continents with only themselves and a backpack. These people survive. The distinct message I was getting was that survival was less likely if these people were women.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger
Photographic proof of how stoked I was to be solo day hiking a section of the PCT

I found myself feeling defensive after a while. By this time, I was well-versed on basic safety, and while I was not wilderness medicine certified, nor an outdoors expert by any means, I definitely was no longer green when it came to hiking the Oregon wilderness. Why did my sheer femaleness make me more vulnerable than someone else of equivalent experience? Finally, when a man repeatedly voiced his (admittedly mild) protests about my solo adventures, I pressed the issue: “Why does this bother you so much?” I asked. “Do you think I can’t handle it?”

“You can handle it,” he said. “I just don’t like the thought of you alone out there.”

That’s when I realized: It’s about love. We women are loved, and the world has sent a very clear message: When you love a woman, you protect her from threats real or perceived. The outdoors and all that we are still exploring is full of The Unknown, and The Unknown offers up boundless potential for threat. Thing is, it also offers up boundless potential for love – love of self, love of the world, love of experience, love of life.

I’ve set out to minimize risk through experience and knowledge. I believe we can never be too wise or prepared, particularly when we are exploring the world. But I’ve also committed myself to conveying – through my own activities – that outdoor exploration is an act of love. I do not get outside to feel like I am starring in my own version of a “woman versus the wild” program. I get outside to fill my heart, to be connected, and to refill my inner emotional wells.

Being alone in the forest is not how I put myself at risk. It is how I offer myself protection. And I want to paint that picture for the people in my life, and for you, the friends who feel this, too.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger

 

With Love,  

Natalie

P.S. – What legitimate, or not so legitimate, safety warnings have you heard? How are the people in your life responding to your quests for adventure? What fears do you feel as an exploring woman? Let us know via message, video, or audio recording (you can use the voice recorder on your phone!), and feel free to share pictures as well! We’d like to include your contributions in future posts. Share via email at AskNatalieColumn @ gmail.com   

Contributors are identified by their first name, but you can request anonymity if you’d prefer.  

 

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.

Mentally prepare 2

 

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.

Mentally prepare 6

 

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.

Mentally prepare 3

 

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.

Mentally prepare 4

 

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!

Mentally prepare 8

 

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

Outdoorswoman 4

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

Outdoorswoman 5
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

Outdoorswoman 6

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.

Avoiding Bear Problems 6

 

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.

Avoiding Bear Problems 10
Don’t do this in bear country
Avoiding Bear Problems 11
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.

Avoiding Bear Problems 12
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

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


Personal protection against bears – guns or bear spray?

bear spray 1

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.

bear spray 4

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.

bear spray 5

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.

bear spray 6

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.”

 

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