How to Prepare For Motorcycle Camping From a Woman’s Point of View

motorcycle 1

By Daniela Schoenberg

As a woman motorcyclist, you want to make sure you’re prepared for your exciting camping adventure. Taking your bike on a long ride to the great outdoors is a great way to spend time with friends, family, or just by yourself.

Whether you’re going for a short ride/stay or you’re in for a longer adventure, these are the things you need to know for your trip.

Before You Hit The Road

Make sure your bike is ready to go. If you’re mechanic savvy, then you can do some of these checks yourself. Perhaps you know how to change the oil, check the fluids, and the lights and controls. If not be sure to take the bike to your local mechanic to check it out before you head out on the road. You also need to check your tires to make sure they are ready to go. You want to purchase tires for motorcycles before heading out. You don’t want to be stranded somewhere due to the motorcycle tire you need not being in stock.

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Packing For The Trip

Make sure to pack your heaviest items towards the bottom of the bike or luggage compartment so it doesn’t mess up your road control. Also be sure you have the right motorcycle apparel for your trip. Be sure that you have a variety of apparel to protect you from the weather you may go through. If possible check the forecast for your route so you are not caught unaware.

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Planning out your route ahead of time is also a great idea. Make sure to have alternative routes in place as well should you run into issues along the way.

Most of all bring along your sense of fun and adventure. Taking a motorcycle road trip can be an amazing experience when you take the time to prepare.

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Repel Mosquitos from Your Campsite, Naturally

mosquitos

By Phoebe Hodina

Dealing with mosquitos

While the mosquito is a part of the ecosystem, it’s probably our least favorite part. Additionally, heavy exposure to DEET has been linked to all kinds of symptoms such as: headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, shortness of breath, and is particularly toxic for small children.

Here are some other, more natural options.

 

mosquito 1Lavender

Lavender not only smells fabulous—but it’s great for repelling mosquitoes as well!

There are a couple ways to incorporate it into your mosquito prevention.

 

mosquito 2Candles

If you have access to your car, or can bring lot of extra stuff while camping or glamping, you can bring some homemade citronella candles with a few drops of lavender essential oil added into the mix to strengthen it!

Works every time!

 

mosquito 3Lotion

You can also add about 15 drops per 1 tablespoon to coconut oil and rub it onto exposed skin.

You’ll smell heavenly, and have bite-free soft skin!

 

mosquito 4Rosemary

A Barbeque Addition

Mosquitos love to strike while cooking, and a great way to keep them away is to add a bunch of rosemary to your grill! Add a few stalks of rosemary to the grill to flavor your food, and keep away the pesky insects. You can also add in a few blocks of cedar to your fire to get a similar effect!

 

mosquito 5Neem Oil

Applied to skin

Known as the “tree of life”, the Neem tree is native to India, and produces an oil that is a natural insecticide. The best part? It works on humans too! Just apply it to your skin to keep away unwanted bugs.

 

Garlic

mosquitos 6Consumed via capsule or in meal

Some people swear by eating tons of garlic. Whether you just add it to your food, or take garlic capsules… people say that it helps keep the bugs away. Personally I feel the research is still out on this one… but I’m not one to say “no” to a tasty meal! As a side note… too much garlic may also keep away your loved ones. But everyone needs a bit of solitude sometimes, right?

 

mosquitos 7DIY Bug Keep-Off Spray

Applied to skin

You can create your own natural bug spray with some witch hazel and essential oils. Simply just combine the ingredients in a small spray bottle or mason jar, and apply liberally to your skin! You can divide or multiply the below as needed, I like to make a lot at the beginning of the summer.

 

Base: Witch hazel (1 cup)

Essential Oils (use at least 4 of these): mint, citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, tea tree (15 drops each)

 

mosquitos 8Stay Covered at the Right Times

Extra layers of protection

Early morning and dusk are peak mosquito times. Conveniently, it’s also when you’re likely to be able to wear longer sleeves and pants. Try to cover up during these times in the day for maximum mosquito armor.

 

Avoid Perfumes

Keep them off your trail

Artificial smells found in lotions, perfumes, shampoos, fabric conditioners, and strong-smelling sunscreens can all attract mosquitos. Try to avoid these as much as possible prior to your camping trip.

 

Happy mosquito-free camping!

 

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!

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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

Solo Female India 8

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!

Solo Female India 9

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!

Solo Female India 5

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!

 

6 Great Tips on Preparing for a Camping Holiday in the Mountains

By Kerry Anders

Not all holidays have to be spent laying on a beach. It can be just as relaxing to spend time camping and hiking in the mountains. Indeed, the beautiful surroundings and fresh air will do wonders for your health and well-being. A holiday in the mountains is a great way to unwind. To maximise your enjoyment of such a trip, there’s quite a lot of preparation to do though. Here are six great tips to help you out:

1. Pack well

For any hiking trip to be successful, you’ve got to pack some essentials which, according to Compare Travel Insurance, include:

  • Hiking boots: A tough, durable but comfortable set of hiking boots is an absolute must for any trip.
  • Sunblock: Don’t underestimate how long you could be spending in the sun. Take enough sunblock to cover you for the whole trek.
  • Layers: Bring clothing in layers rather than one big coat or jacket. Layers can be easily donned or shed as the temperature changes.
  • Road-tested backpack: You and your backpack are going to become well acquainted. Make sure you’ve tested it to make sure it is comfortable first.
  • Dry pack: Don’t want your belongings ruined by a freak rainstorm? Invest in a good quality dry pack.
  • Flip flops: You’re not going to be hiking all the time, and when you’re not, your feet will be glad of the rest.
  • Sturdy water bottle: You need to stay hydrated, so a reusable water bottle is an important item.

 

2. Know your levels

Only if you’re an experienced hiker should you head high up into the mountains alone. To have a safe trip, make sure you stick to routes that are within your fitness levels and ideally camp with friends. Mountain novices would benefit from group trips with expert guides, and families should opt for a gentler adventure tailored to younger kids.

 

3. Make a meal plan

Busy Creating Memories suggests planning an easy first meal to have once you reach the campsite – something simple like sandwiches. For all other meals, you’ll need to make supplies with you, so it’s best to plan ahead what you can cook on a camp fire and avoid taking too many perishable foods.

 

4. Have a first aid kit

In case of minor illnesses or injury, it’s worth taking a first aid kit – although you should always research the local pharmacy and hospital facilities too. WikiHow suggest taking the following things in your first aid kit, but feel free to personalise the items to your needs.

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Adhesive dressings (plasters)
  • Bug spray
  • Painkillers
  • Anti-itch Cream
  • Inhaler
  • Tweezers (in case someone gets a splinter or sticker)
  • Any personal medicine

 

5. Improve your sleeping arrangements

With the right sleeping arrangements, camping in the mountains is comfortable. In addition to good quality sleeping bags, you need an extra layer to separate you from the ground. Don’t skip this step, as it’ll keep you warmer. You can use blow-up mattresses or roll mats to place underneath.

 

6. Find out more about the campsite

When choosing a location to camp, there are lots of things to think about. Look at what’s around the camping ground, including popular sightseeing spots and adventure activities so you’ve got plenty to do. If you want to take pets with you, you need to check the grounds are dog-friendly.

Finally, Lifehacker’s top tip is to think about how you’re getting to the campsite. If you want to take more stuff, you’ll probably need a car and be able to park nearby. But if you want seclusion, you’ll have to hike to the right spot – and pack accordingly. Either way, get there in plenty of time to make your camp before dark arrives.

Have you been camping in the mountains? Share your tips with us.

 

Film Project: Don’t Date A Girl Who Treks

Marinel de Jesus 1

By Marinel de Jesus

Editor note: Click here if you haven’t yet read the original post ‘Don’t Date A Girl Who Treks’.

And now to announce a very exciting film project to promote women who love the great outdoors, Marinel shares this exciting development in her own words…

 

BACKGROUND

A few months ago, I attended an outdoor film festival in Washington, DC that focused on the adventure films that were produced by artists from all over the world.  The work presented was certainly admirable.  I was inspired.  A few months later, I watched yet another outdoor film festival and found myself, yet again, inspired.

However, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disconnect.  The first time around I felt the same feeling but couldn’t understand what it was about.  It was after the second film festival event that it became evident to me that the past two showings I watched were lacking in two things that mattered to me: (1) hiking or wilderness backpacking and (2) women.  It was at that point that I vividly recall noting this concern to my male friends who shared their honest opinion that filming an activity that focuses only on hiking isn’t as exciting or “sexy enough” as climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and all these other adrenaline filled sports.

“Okay, they have a point,” I begrudgingly said to myself.

Months later I was trekking with three guys in the Caucasus Mountains of the Republic of Georgia who were from Egypt, France and Sweden, respectively.  I raised the same question as to why there’s a lack of hiking or backpacking film documentaries at such events.  The answer was similar to the first.

I never asked my male friends about the women aspect.  After all, I was already dismayed at the responses dismissing the idea that pure hiking or wilderness backpacking as the subject of a film fails to even meet the standards that would compel any filmmaker to produce such kind of film.   So, I pushed the idea aside… but ONLY for a moment.

Film Project

Hiking with women trail leaders on the Kilimanjaro trail, Tanzania.

Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks

Film Project 3I was in China’s remote trekking trails in yet to be discovered Tibetan Autonomous Region of the country when I met May.  She was from Thailand who once trekked up the Everest Base Camp in Nepal.  As money was an issue, trekking or traveling for her was a major expense.  By fate, May and I met in some of the most remote trekking regions in Sichuan Province of China.  We ventured out to do the 30 kilometer high altitude pilgrimage trek in Yading Nature Reserve.  It was a trekking region that has yet to be fully explored by trekkers from the western world.  You can read our adventure in full HERE.

The piece, Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks, was inspired by May and all the wonderful solo women trekkers I’ve met in over a decade of trekking in the U.S. and abroad.  To be clear, the piece is not so much about dating, but rather it’s meant to be a way to celebrate women and their love for the mountain trails.  May was one of them.  To not be able to pursue her passion as often as she would want given the location of her home in Thailand that is devoid of mountain trails is a disappointing reality, to which I can fully relate.   In the small city she lives in, life is simple and money is difficult to come by.  For someone like May, it’s a devastating notion to accept the fact that she is unable to pursue her passion as easily as she would like due to her responsibilities in taking care of family members and the lack of finances to afford traveling to hike up mountains.  Personally, I would go crazy without regular access to mountains!

Our meeting was in 2014.  Yet, even now, May still reminisces about our pilgrimage trek in China.  In her correspondence, she often dreams about hiking up mountains, whether within her home country or outside of it.  I figured if May cannot trek an actual mountain, then I can bring the mountains to her from all corners of the world – thru the film project that is now underway.

The FILM PROJECT

Just shortly after writing Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks, I decided in September of 2016 to open my Brown Gal Trekker blog to the public.  I soon came to find out that the world seems to agree that women certainly must be celebrated for their passion and commitment to the outdoors.  I was thrilled to learn that the world echoes the same sentiment that I’ve had all along, and as a result, Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks was published by Dave’s Travel Corner (a pioneer website for independent-minded backpackers), Huffington Post and WHOA Mag (a publication that promotes women in the outdoors).  At the same time, the piece was promoted by various leading entities in the hiking world including BestHike.com and Hike Like a Woman.

Film Project 4You can find the publications via the following links:

Dave’s Travel Corner

Huffington Post

Whoa Mag

Women Who Explore

In late October, 2016, Bernard Chen, an award-winning photographer who I met months ago as part of the Great Himalaya Project (which still is currently a project via Brown Gal Trekker), reached out to me regarding ideas for future projects.  I then brought up to him the idea that has been brewing in my head, which is to create a short film based on Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks by showcasing women trekkers globally through a collage of photos and videos submitted by the trekkers themselves.  Bernard was thrilled at the idea.  We both agreed it’s a perfect means of promoting outdoor women from all walks of life and their presence in the media.

As the idea sank in my head that day, I recalled the earlier conversations about the boring nature of a film on hiking.  Then, my mind redirected me back to the feeling of disconnectedness that I experienced from the lack of female hikers depicted in the media. But then, I felt  a surge of excitement knowing that the landscape of the outdoor media world will change, soon enough.   That change is right within our control.  We just need to make it happen.

Film Project 2

SUBMISSIONS

This FILM PROJECT is a collaborative endeavor that is made possible through the help and support of female trekkers worldwide and various leading female-led outdoors entities such as Hike Like a Woman, Animosa, Fat Girls Hiking, Women Who Explore, Adventure Some Women & Camping for Women.

Hence, if you’re a female trekker who has photos or videos that you wish to submit, please send them to bgtrekker@peakexplorations.com

In addition, please provide us with the following:

  1. Your name
  2. Short background story on your photo
  3. Short answer to the question, “What does hiking or wilderness backpacking mean to you?”
  4. Your blog site (if you’re a blogger)

You’ll be notified when your piece is selected via e-mail.  Credit will be given to your submission.  You can subscribe to BGT’s blog if you wish to get updates on the project.

Also, we are raising funds to create the film.  Your donations are welcome!

Start by clicking here to check out some really cool T-Shirts that highlight the film project.

 

And also check out Marinel’s company that take adventurous women on some very impressive treks across the globe:

Peak Explorations

 

Camping for WomenCamping for Women is a proud supporter of the Date Date A Girl Who Treks film project.

We see this as a significant project to showcase the many amazing, diverse and talented outdoor women all over the world.

We are encouraging as many of our subscribers and readers as possible to take a proactive role in supporting this wonderful initiative.  Just can’t wait to see many of your images featured in the film!

 

Don’t date a girl who treks

 

Dont Date a Girl Who Treks

Don’t date a girl who treks

By Marinel de Jesus

She’s the girl with the uneven tanned body

Scorched skin from the rays of the sun from trekking the high passes.

She’s the girl with the high cut boots

And a pair of trekking poles that she depends her life on

She’s the girl who catches the sunrise and sunset

For either of them will suit her just fine.

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For this means you wake up at some ungodly hour

and race your feet to the tops of the mountains.

God forbid if she misses the sun’s spectacle

You’ll see her purse her lips in utter disappointment

__________________

But fear not

Because as soon as she sees the majestic peaks before her eyes

She will smile again in no time

She’s the girl who knows her summits’ names

And their heights from sea level

Her favorite numbers are those that begin at 3000 and above

In meters to be exact

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She will ask you where you are from

And feels a bit torn

When you come from a place closer to sea level rather than a range

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

Because she will not want you to wine and dine her

But rather would desire more of your time

As she would have you hike with her in the middle of nowhere

All day and all night.

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

Her heart is already taken

By those named Himalayas, Andes, and Alps

Unless you are willing to join in her pursuits of them

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She’s armed with gear you have not even heard of

Like her spot or go girl

And you must be curious to see how she uses them

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She has her battle scars called blisters that she wouldn’t want you to notice

When strolling in flip flops on a beach

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She will bask in the wilderness without a bed

Eating dehydrated food and trail bars

Find you appealing only when you can brave no shower for days

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For her soul is already full

Of memories of peaks and summits

Really, you’re just there to take a photo of her on top of one

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For her longing for mountains is constant

And you will hear an earful of it all the time

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She loves to be present in the moment

Rushing is for the city life

While allowing time to pass by slowly reminds her of that freedom

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For there will be no wild parties or hang overs

Just a meditative moment in the woods

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She will eventually go off the beaten path

And you will have to be there to save her

In times when she needs a helping hand

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For her sense of direction is via a trail map

Place her in a city and she’s lost

And you’ll be stranded in no time

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For she lives life to the fullest

If you cannot catch up to her when she flies

Then don’t think she’d even shed a single tear

If you tell her goodbye

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She will go exploring on her own when her heart so desires

And will only return to you when she finally misses you

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

She finds beauty in any situation

Even when the rain is pouring

Or the wind blowing too strong

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For she finds purpose in hiking the tallest peaks

Even if it means risking her health

Or risking her life

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For her creativity can take you to far off places that you never imagined wanting to go

In taking risks she finds a sense of aliveness

Be prepared to match her fearlessness

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For beyond the layer of toughness

There is a heart full of love and longing

For someone like you to cross her path

To share her adventures with

__________________

And if you’re lucky enough to date a girl who treks

She will have you join in her world of trekking

You will marry the mountains like she did

And in return

Her loving you is as honest as her passion for trekking

Your relationship will be treated as holy as a pilgrim’s kora

She embraces challenges like it’s another summit to overcome

And every single day you will savor the sunrises and sunsets like they were your last

She will challenge your limits only to become better each day.

__________________

Don’t date a girl who treks

For she will make you live and appreciate an irregular life

And fill it with so much magic that you will never ever want to walk off trail

without her by your side.

__________________

Brown Girl Tracker Logo Dont date a girl who treks 1

Click on the Brown Girl Trekker logo above to see so much more from Marinel de Jesus.

Crown Jewel of the Winds: Titcomb Basin, Wyoming, USA

Titcomb 1

By Nicole Atkins

Titcomb Basin is one of those destinations that will leave you changed. It’s nestled in the Wind River Range, in Western Wyoming. The primitive nature of the Winds has a way of arousing the deepest passions of your creative soul. With their jagged edges and unforgiving storms, they remind us who is in charge.

Titcomb 2

The Winds are notorious for unpredictable weather. So come prepared for any kind of adventure. The 15-mile trek to the basin can be hiked in a day. But to really appreciate the scenery, plan on spending 2-4 days making the ~30-mile round trip.

With a net elevation change of 1260 feet, it’s a moderate-to-difficult hike. You’ll start from the Elkhart Park trailhead in Pinedale, WY. Make sure you have a vehicle that can handle dirt roads.

After 4.5 miles you’ll reach Photographer’s Point. Prepare for some of the most beautiful mountain vistas you’ve feasted your eyes upon. Grab a snack and head downhill. In another mile, you’ll reach Eklund Lake and Barbara Lake. If you haven’t fueled up yet, you’ll want to. There’s a steep mile climb before you reach the next amazing viewpoint, looking down on Seneca Lake.

Titcomb 3

Some people set up camp at Seneca Lake. The Winds are home to bears and other critters so be sure to bear-proof your camping area. At this point, you’re 9 miles into your 15-mile trek so it’s a good stopping point.

Titcomb 4

Otherwise, continue past Little Seneca Lake. One more climb; after about 2 miles you’ll be looking down at your reward, Island Lake. She’s a beaut. Island Lake is another popular place to set up camp.

Titcomb 5

The push to Titcomb Basin is only another 3.5 miles of easy rolling terrain. Once you get there, drink it in. You can spend a day or so exploring the basin, or go beyond the basin to Gannett Peak (the tallest peak in Wyoming).

Titcomb 6

Take a dip in the lake if it’s a hot day, you earned it.

Titcomb 7

Give yourself time to deal with weather changes and mosquitoes (if it’s summer). They’ll eat you alive. Above all, take in the splendor that surrounds you.

Titcomb 8

When you’re ready, pack up camp and head back toward the trailhead. The story you’ll take with you is will be one of your favorites for years to come.

Titcomb 9

An Amateur Dirtbag’s Guide to Zion in the Winter

Winter in Zion

By Emily Pennington

“I feel bad about Ben,” J.C. muttered as we tip-toed down the razor’s edge of Angels Landing. “He would have loved this.” I nodded, squinting as I peered off into the brittle, orange canyon, 1500 feet below. At that exact moment, a pair of bouncy, brunette pigtails inched over the top of the trail where the chains meet their steep demise, carried by Emma, who looked nervous, wild, and full of vertigo. Ben’s curly head of hair followed shortly behind, smiling. I laughed out loud, grinning like a maniac. Emma had faced her fears and hoisted herself up nearly a thousand feet of wet sandstone to share this moment with us, suspended in the clouds as the sun began to wash itself over the striped walls of Zion National Park. Welcome to Utah.

Zion in Winter 4

In an epic bid to stretch the possibilities of weekend roadtrips away from Los Angeles this winter, I recently found myself planning my first trek to Utah and its fabled Zion. I’d been hearing about the place for the better part of a decade, clumped, red sandstone hoodoos littered with Pinyon Pine trees forming bright, panoramic canyons of enormous scale.

When you look up “best national parks to visit in the wintertime” online, Zion pops up high on every list, and it’s easy to understand why. The snow-capped rock formations create an all but subtle juxtaposition of copper and white that spans for miles in every direction, plus, the possibilities for off-trail peak bagging are huge. Despite snow melt causing unsafe sandstone conditions for many of our climbing objectives, we still had a gorgeous and varied January tumble through the park, and I hope these tips and highlights can serve to illuminate your own journey!

Zion in Winter 5

First of all, Zion National Park has winter weather that varies greatly. A friend of mine climbed Angels Landing in the snow over New Years, but upon our arrival at the trailhead 2 weeks later, we encountered merely wet, slippery sandstone. Temperatures can vary between 20 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which means you’re either dodging ice and snow or watching were you put your hands when you rock scramble so that stable-looking holds don’t crumble in your palms. There are also several chunks of the park, much like Yosemite, that are higher elevation, and therefore hold more snow and lower temperatures than the main canyon where the road traverses though.

Zion in Winter 6

We jumped on a ton of trails during our brief time in the park, and I sincerely feel that Angels Landing is the absolute best. You trudge up switchback after switchback cut into the edge of Zion’s main canyon before ascending an incredibly exposed class 3 route up the neck of a massive sandstone behemoth. There are signs everywhere informing you that 6 people have fallen from these cliffs in the last 10 years, so you feel like a complete badass when you push onward, death in your rearview, and begin to ascend the chains.

Honestly, it reminded me quite a lot of the Half Dome trail in Yosemite, an infamous and equally sketchy climb up the steep back of a massive dome. And, much like Half Dome, the crowds make the trail much scarier than it needs to be. Wear boots with good tread, take your time, and screw your head on straight when you need to pass people on the chains.

Zion in Winter 2

If you happen to make it to Zion when it’s below freezing or dry and without snow, there are a multitude of easy, off-trail class 3-4 scrambles to spice things up and satiate your danger bug. Cave Knoll and Firepit Knoll in the Kolob Terrace section of the park are bubbling over with alien landscapes, stacked, round hoodoos sitting like rust-colored teardrops in every direction. The ten mile drive to reach this sparsely populated section of the park will truly make you feel as though you’ve time-traveled into the wild west, with valley homesteads and ranches dotting the horizon.

Checkerboard Mesa was also high on our list of class 3 rock climbing in Zion, but after post-holing up to my thigh as we tried to navigate the drainage around to the back of the rock mass, we decided to call it and take awestruck pictures of the completely unreal texture on the wall’s front end. If you find yourself on the less popular east side of the park, I implore you to jump out of your car and hike off trail a bit near Checkerboard Mesa. The solitude and bizarre rock shapes are noting short of inspiring.

Zion in Winter 7
I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but I’d feel remiss if I didn’t take a minute to say it plainly – it is absolutely imperative to remember that, no matter how awesome or easy a route looks, climbing on wet sandstone is never a good idea! I can’t tell you how many times a member of my group grabbed a jug on a canyon wall to hoist themselves up, only to have it break off in their hand. We had at least 5 or 6 climbing objectives that we had to scrap last minute due to the quality of the rock that week in the park. If this does happen to you, do not despair! Angels Landing, The Watchman, parts of East Rim Trail, and the West Rim Trail were all jaw-droppingly beautiful and ready to be hiked.

If you only want a quick excursion or are with family or a less athletic group, the one trail I would implore you to check out is the Canyon Overlook Trail. We sped over to watch the clouds disperse just as the sun was setting, and the way the light trails meander through the Triassic canyon is pure magic.

Zion in Winter 8

With all my weekend warrior road-trips, I try to keep costs down as much as possible. One thing I adored about Utah that I haven’t found quite as close to the national parks in Cali was the abundance of cheap, clean motels that offer a free breakfast. For a thrifty $40-50 per night, you can get a double bed room in Hurricane, UT and drive a mere 20 minutes into Zion each day. I’m a backpacker dirtbag at heart, and we were blessed with weather that would have made camping within the park’s boundaries possible, but there’s something emboldening about knowing I’m going home to a warm bed that makes me push harder and longer in the snow, unafraid of wet gear.

Zion in the Winter 1

I used to get cranky living in Los Angeles in the wintertime. I felt stifled by the fact that all my favorite trails were covered with snow while I was held captive in a smog-ridden constellation of concrete that the sun beat down upon as though time’s essence held no weight. Then, one day I realized that we live in an absolute mecca for road trips, and my quest to become a weekend warrior, in earnest, begun. Winter shouldn’t keep anyone from exploring some of our nation’s greatest treasures. It’s often the most magical time to visit the national parks, and you’re sure to see things that summer simply cannot provide. So go on, declare a snow day. I dare you.

For more information about climbing in Zion National Park and off-trail rock scrambling, check out SummitPost.org

http://www.summitpost.org/

The cheap hotel I stayed at in Hurricane, UT (and would totally recommend for late night hot-tubbing) can be found here.

https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/days-inn/hurricane-utah/days-inn-hurricane-zion-national-park-area/overview

7 Unique Getaways for Outdoor Adventurers

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By Phoebe Hodina

Searching for unique getaways that still have a connection to the great outdoors? Well being in nature doesn’t always have to include a tent. Sometimes it can be a yurt, igloo or treehouse!

Unique getaways that give you a totally different experience

Here’s a list of retreats that will give you some great stories not only from their locale, but from your accommodations as well! Some are a little more rustic than others, but all are completely original.

Yurts

Yurts (also known as ghers) are traditional to Central Asia, and were popular with nomadic tribes. Many people in Mongolia still use them today. They are movable, covered in felt, round, and supported by expanding wooden slats.

There are retreats all over the world that allow you to stay for a reasonable price… It wouldn’t yurt to give one a try!

  1. A Garden Yurt
    Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany  

This is an original Afghani yurt, but with both electricity and candles. As a guest, you have access to part of a garden, a swimming pool, and nearby walking paths. All for the price of $34 a night, you can find it here.

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image credit: Air BnB

  1. A Yurt on a Quiet Hill
    Bellecombe-en-Baugues, Rhone-Alpes, France  

Spend some time at one of many cool unique getaways in the mountains of France! Nearby there is trekking, mountain biking, climbing, and skiing. And the view, is worth the journey. You can book it on Air BnB here.

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image credit: Air BnB

 

  1. A Blissed-Out Czech Yurt
    Pšov, Karlovy Vary Region, Czech Republic

This yurt is is located in Chlum, a small village in Western Bohemia near Zlutice, a small town. It’s a good place to relax, but also nearby cycling, horseback riding, fishing, ranching, and nearby countryside towns. You can book it here.

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Image credit: Air BnB

Igloos

  1. Classic Igloo Villages, With a Twist

Ötz, Austria
Austria has a unique igloo resort at Schneedorf. Guests stay in snow igloos and have access to snowmobiles, skiing, snowshoeing, fantastic mountain views and so much more. There are even igloo construction workshops.

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image credit: Ozytive

  1. Northern Lights and a Glass-Domed Igloo

SAARISELKÄ, FINLAND

Sure you could make your own igloo in your backyard… or you could trek north to really have a unique experience. While not exactly a traditional igloo, these glass-topped domes let you see the northern lights while snug in your bed. In fact, the Kakslauttanen Artic Resort has a whole host of unique getaways accommodation available. Prices range based on accommodations and time of year.

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Treehouses

Get off the ground, and into the trees! Staying in a treehouse is a breeze.

  1. Treesorting

Southern Oregon, United States
Out N’ About is a tree resort getaway in the Pacific Northwest. Among the obvious attraction of staying in a super-cool treehouse, guests have the opportunity to go participate in a variety of “Activitress” such as ziplining, hiking, horseback riding, and river rafting.

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photocredit: Tripadvisor

  1. Spherical Bliss

Qualicum Beach, Canada

These handcrafted, gorgeous suspended spheres taken the idea of a treehouse to new heights. The Free Spirit Spheres let you sway into your blissed-out sleep.

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photocredit: Free Spirit Spheres