So, its been quite a while since I have put the fingers to the keyboard for anything other then work or some for a purpose of then blogging. Hiking Forward has taken a back seat and life has taken over and Gear Forward has taken more and more of my time. Many of you who have followed me for sometime know that almost three years ago I began a organization now formal non-profit to help kids who have outdoor gear deficiencies get outdoor through the donation of outdoor gear. I am proud to say that Gear Forward is many a huge impact in the world of the kids and the organizations we donate too.
I am here to blow the dust off this blog and refocus my own personal attention to it. I love the things I have captured over the years via this outlet and appreciate what the outdoor community has given back to me through it and most importantly I cherish all of the friendships made from the opportunities afforded to me via this vehicle.
Okay, so what has been up with me? Well besides the huge effort and working being put into Gear Forward, I have found a way to go camping a bit. Less, then what I want... but no matter how much you, it's never enough.
The best and most recent adventure that I partook in was #LHX2018. I along with a few other friends hiked a portion of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in Western Pennsylvania in late April. The trip was designed for outdoor influencers to get to know one another and to just enjoy the experience of connecting with one another and connecting with the outdoors. Connecting with the outdoors can sometimes be a chore for those who are influencers in the outdoor space as everything, every experience or piece of gear has to be captured to market yourself or the gear.
While I have felt this way... it has past. Towards the point where Gear Forward was becoming a real idea and Hiking Forward was ramping down, I did feel this way and was now enjoying the idea of the effort to go out. I would look at my gear in terms of what I needed to photography, try or video this weekend instead of what I needed.
This trip, I took what I needed and took the time to really stretch my legs. I may have stretched my legs a bit too much as I was donned the trail name "Cruise Control" and ended the day in a lot of pain after a 15...err uh 16 ummm 19 mile day depending on who you ask.
Connection, bonding, physical limit pushing, relaxation and chill time were all undertaken for me during this recent adventure. Since April the storyline has been about work travel and less about leisure. Although the family and I have made it to Arkansas to paddle the Buffalo River and camp on the White River. Unfortunately, this trip had to be cut short due to a work trip but we have already scheduled another trip back for next year and to stay longer.
We have taken another small camping trip recently here in Illinois that was fun for the family. We haven't been to this park since the girls were much smaller and we owned a large travel trailer. This was Boston's first time "camping". He has gone backpacking with Grace and I but never camping. He had a blast swimming and the lake fetching his stick. I spent a quiet afternoon with him afterwards that was just amazing.
Oh, and I made these "A"mazing bagel breakfast sandwiches. Oh My Gawd (mouthful omg) they were awesome!
I have to attribute this re-joining of the blogisphere to both Diana Richards and Jen Glasgow Potts. Both gals, I consider friends, amazing independent kick ass taking names adventurers and they are the two people I rely on the most for making Gear Forward a success.
While I have been busy managing, directing and growing Gear Forward I feel as though I have let my outdoor or adventurer street cred go. I don't feel bad about this as I know what I am focused on is helping to grow outdoor cred for kids in need and I would turn all of my adventures in to let these kids see and experience what I have.
But Jen and Diana have truly been and continue to live my Hiking Forward mantra of "Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying". Not a day goes by that I do not see a waterfall pic or a summit pic of Diana and her trusty 4-legged companion Roxy on my phone on her Instagram account. Diana does all this while being a full time teacher... A teacher folks! and she is a dynamo when it comes to the things she does for Gear Forward.
And Jen, well damn! I have some catching up to do in my own mantra living here. Jen just came back from a 2 plus week trip out on the west coast (with her husband "Turkey") with tons of amazing stops in between. Even though the summit that was the point of the trip never happened due to fires, she have pivoted and made the most stellar change of all. Jen is changing her world, minimizing her work schedule, taking stock of her life and what is important and doing it. Less work... more outdoors and more things that are important to her.
Writing, blogging, and sharing my experiences centered me. Being focused on the positive and the future is a good thing. Just sitting down sharing the stories of these two amazing ladies today makes me feel good and give me something to strive for. And if I have do a tenth of what these ladies do... I will have a ton to write about and share with you.
I am focused a ton on outdoor gear for Gear Forward... Hiking Forward will return to its roots and focus on the meaning of connecting with outdoors our fellow brothers and sisters we enjoy sharing it with and what is next as we continue to "Keep Hiking Forward".
The Teton Sports Escape 4300 Backpack holds 70 liters, which is enough to hike in the wilderness for a week!
While the main compartment is a top-loading,large opening with a divider for putting smaller items, there are lots of smaller storage areas throughout. It has 2 long, zippered side storage areas where I put my collapsible fishing pole and tackle. I use the large bottom-access storage area for my sleeping bag and a jacket in case the weather changes. In one compartment on the top hood, I keep my toiletries, and in the other I keep my whistle, headlamp, matches, and first aid kit. My favorite compartment is a small zippered pocket in the waist belt because I can have easy access to a granola bar or trail mix while hiking without taking the pack off. Just be sure to empty all these compartments when you come home, or you might think you lost your knife while it is just hiding in your backpack. It has happened to me.
The Teton Escape 4300 backpack is designed long and narrow, just like me. This isn’t a youth backpack, and would be too big for many younger hikers. But I’m very tall for my age, and the torso adjusts from 17-21 inches, so it fits well now, and I should be able to continue to wear it as I grow. I found this pack very comfortable to hike in as I could maneuver around tight spaces without getting hung-up by a bulky backpack. When our scouting group went through a short, very narrow cave, my backpack fit just fine while friends with wider, smaller-volume packs were scraping and pulling their packs to get them through.
Backpacking for Kids
I strongly encourage parents to take older kids backpacking. When backpacking, always carry a water filter and plenty of easy-to-prepare food and don’t sweat the rest. I like short, hard trails, ending at a fun destination like a waterfall or swimming hole. Be sure to fish for a few minutes in ponds, climb to the top of every rock, cut vines to swing, and catch crawfish in the creeks.
Room for anything you want to take with you backpacking for several days
Relatively lightweight for a large pack (4.75 pounds)
A snack pocket on the waist belt
It is green, my favorite color!
The only potential problem with this pack is that there are so many pockets that you can easily forget where you put something. Be organized, and have a plan for where you put each item when you pack!
Keep Hiking Forward!
We are just a few short days away from the calendar turning to September and being in the post-labor day schedule of tailgates and fall camping trips. If you are looking for a way to spruce up these activities for you and your friends look no further then your trusted friends at Coleman and Walmart. Together with Walmart's easy free 2-day shipping you can have just what you need to make your next event special.
When it comes time to feeding your family and friends on a camping trip or a tailgate you regularly spend money purchasing plastic cutlery, bowls, dishes and cups... to then just throw it all away. This practice is a total waist of money, time and is harmful to the environment.
We just purchased (2) Coleman Enamel Dishware sets from Walmart to replace all of the worn out plastic plates and bowls and disposable cutlery for our camping adventures in out Little Guy Camper. Something about the red enamel pattern and feel makes me feel like we are eating in a teardrop of the past, from the 50's or 60's, picnicking on side of the road on the way to a far west national park.
Right now on Walmart.com, they have multiple groupings of great Coleman Products for tailgating and camping. Each grouping has just the right essentials for what you need to have a great fall tailgate or a fantastic camping adventure with Coleman.
This 24 piece dinnerware set will last a lifetime in your rv, campbox or as a part of your tailgate set up. So, if you want to separate yourself from all the other campers and tailgaters and set your table right this fall, head on over to Walmart or Walmart.com and pick up some Coleman gear.
Keep Hiking Forward!
No matter where you and your family go this summer one thing is certain we all need toilet paper. But some may not be aware that depending on where you and your family may seek your summertime adventure that it is best to use a different kind of toilet paper.
Many outdoor and camping toilet applications require a septic safe toilet paper to ensure the system doesn't get clogged or if you and your family are RV'ers or are using a portable toilet the proper tp is needed to keep everything working the whole weekend.
Scott Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper is definitely a summer essential if you are boating, camping, rving or even spending the weekend or longer in a cabin on a septic system. Scott Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper dissolves four times faster in water versus your normal household toilet paper.
This capability to dissolve quickly ensures septic systems, your rv or boat systems or just your simple portable toilet won't clog on your trip. A clogged or full system from expanding tp versus dissolving tp will make for a very unhappy weekend.
Planning your weekends out accordingly always ensures that as a family you remember all the essential equipment and supplies and keeps you from having to run to the campstore or back in town for supplies. These supply runs always end up costing your family time away from your planned activities and costing you lots of money. Small town stores and campstores specifically don't carry a lot of stock and they tend to increase prices to offer you the convenience of buying what you need while camping.
Be prepared this season and purchase all the Scott Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper you need at one time so that you don't get stuck paying in both time and money on your next adventure.
Scott and Amazon have teamed up to offer a $2.50 coupon to help you stock up for the season.
Click on this image to access the coupon and purchase your Scott Rapid Dissolving Bath Tissue today.
The Teton Sports Trailhead +20°F Ultralight Sleeping Bag is much superior to my old similarly priced sleeping bag for one huge reason: the Teton’s zipper never gets stuck. When camping, I usually turn in for the night dead-dog tired and cold. Even though Dad always warns me to zip slowly to not snag the fabric, I always jerk the zipper.
With the old sleeping bag, the zipper would get hopelessly stuck, and Dad would have to fix it while I sat cold and guilty for getting it stuck again. Over the past year I have slept in my new Teton bag on several camping, backpacking, and canoeing trips. The zipper always zooms up, and I begin to feel warm pretty quickly. The Teton’s quality zipper is what makes it stand above others in its price range.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Flowers are blooming, the Spring weekend holidays have just passed, the trails are calling, the question is, are you ready for some family outdoor time and a good old fashioned adventure? But, you don't have a tent. The old tent is musty and smelly, or too small and cramped, or it's missing all the poles. Whatever the reason, never fear Wenzel is here with a tent that is amazing! Easy to set up by two people in a jiffy. Roomy and spacious for a family with gear! Oh and the important part, this tent won't break the bank.
In addition to all of these great features the Portico offers some other family friendly features that all family tents should have. As any family with kids who are experienced in camping will tell you one of the most frustrating things is dirty shoes in the tent. The Portico offers outer pockets for shoes, sandals, etc on the outside of the tent to ensure your tent stays clean and dirt or mud free during your camping experience. But won't the shoes, socks, sandals, etc. get wet? No way! Especially if the rain-fly is on the tent to not only protect the tent from the elements but also provide a great vestibule to enter and exit the tent without getting wet. This area also provides a great spot to sit in the shade, store some addition gear you may not want in the tent or create some shade to help cool your tent. Simply put this vestibule is another great family friendly feature of the Portico.
In addition to these features the Portico also offers a front facing E-port allowing you to bring in power to your tent (if at a site that has power - or if at home in the backyard) for inflating air mattresses, charging devices or other power needs. With the E-port there is no need to keep the main door unzipped and let in unwanted flying pests.
Space in a tent is always a concern when camping as a family. Many tents are rated for just people, not people with gear or the utilization of substantial air mattresses for added comfort versus sleeping on the ground. The Portico is spaced appropriately to allow for a family with gear and air mattresses to stay comfortably in the tent.
When I get gear to test I am always the primary tester of the gear unless it is for my girls, but I always talk about the value of the product, durability and quality of the item, things my girls don't often consider. They are more concerned with the cool factor, comfort, color options etc. When Wenzel asked me to test and review their new line of family tents I jumped at the chance and wanted to try something new.
I wanted to be the observer, I wasn't going to be the tester this time for these products. I know that many of my readers (hi there!) are avid outdoor gear heads or avid adventurers. But I also know that many of you are also newbies to the outdoor world and need some honest analysis about gear and a helping hand in making the right decision on outdoor gear with a limited budget for your family. So I figured, why not let a a young family, with a "very" active 3 year old boy try out the tent. Oh, did I mention they have never been camping as a family?
Let me introduce you to Sammy (my godson) and his parents Steve and Jaime. Sammy, can't say Uncle Scott... So I am referred to lovingly as "Uncle Snot". (pause in the review for cuteness "awww" and or mild "laughter"). ......................................................................................................................................................................................................... Okay. Carrying on. This, as I previously mentioned was Sammy's first time camping and The Greene's first family camping experience/adventure, a perfect opportunity to see what a newbie family thought of this great tent. Sammy just loves camping in general now, and I think a lot of that had to do with the Portico. The Portico, is now classified by Sammy as "My Tent!".
I have always professed our collective need to get our kids outdoors early and often to show them the simple things and the lessons in life that can only be taught outdoors or made clear around a campfire. But a young family won't continue to return to the outdoors, if they aren't comfortable, at ease and can set up and take down their camping equipment quickly and efficiently. A young family also wont't take the first be step to become an outdoor family if the large pieces of equipment they need cost them and arm and a leg.
Wenzel's group of family camping gear is the ticket for families young and old to get outdoors and build the memories that will last a life time. Video games, tv shows, and apps on phones won't be the memories kids will remember when they get older. Being outdoors catching fireflies, eating s'mores for the first time or picking up sticks for the fire (Thanks for helping me Sammy! - Uncle Snot appreciates it) will be the things that our kids will remember and carry on. Why did we go outdoors as kids with our families? It's simple, our grandparents took our parents and wonder and excitement and simplicity was found and so our parents took us outside to find that same wonder. A tent is the key to adventure for our families and our kids. So, go buy a good tent, one that will last, because like Sammy, they are going to get hooked on camping and that tent is going to get a LOT of use.
Not a single time do I hear from Sammy without him asking me "Uncle Snot can we go camping.... NOWWWWW?" "Sammy Buddy! It' February and it 15 degrees outside now" "So?" He will reply. Sammy is now hooked. I encourage you to get your family hooked just like the Greene family who has a couple more planned adventures upcoming this summer due to a great first camping experience, largely due to the comfortable, easy to set-up and family-minded Wenzel Portico.
Sammy's mom and dad continually commented about how cool (temperature) the tent was, positioned near a treeline and with plenty of ventilation the tent never got stuffy due to lots of attached guy-lines to ensure proper ventilation even when the rain-fly is attached. In addition to the external pockets as a mom, Jaime really liked the internal storage pockets (4) in the Portico as well as the gear loft for important items needed in a jiffy.
As mentioned before the tent was used in this application with a large queen air mattress, gear for a family of three and Sammy who also happened to be using one of Wenzel's awesome Blue Moose 40 degree sleeping bag. Space was never an issue in this tent for the family and left room for Sammy to still move around as a three year old does and will.
The Wenzel sleeping bags designed for kids with kids in mind are a fantastic value and will keep your favorite little guy or gal warm at night and get them excited about camping. Sammy instantly feel head of heels for his Blue Moose bag and regularly wanted to go and "nap" in it to his mom and dad's surprise. The sleeping bags stuff sack is strung to be used as a backpack. To the average adult this may not be even a feature of note but to a kid getting his first sleeping bag it is a huge deal. It also serves as his/her first backpack too. Soon your favorite lil camper will be marching around with their sleeping bag on their shoulders asking "Can we go camping nowwwww?"
Durability, comfort and affordability as the adult areas of concern are all checked off on these sleeping bags. The cool factor, colors and design get a big thumbs up from Sammy! And that is what it is all about!
Check out Wenzel's website for more about these great family camping products.
Wenzel Blue Moose 40 Sleeping Bag
Wenzel Girls Backyard 30 Sleeping Bag
Wenzel Portico Tent 8
Wenzel Portico Tent 6
As always... Keep Hiking Forward!
Portico 8 Tent Specs
Boys Moose 40 Sleeping Bag Specs
You know, "Breakfast"! Like waffles on a Sunday morning or... Warm ooey gooey cinnamon buns on a Saturday morning? Wouldn't having those weekend comforts of home be amazing to have when on trail or while camping on the weekend? Well now you can.
Being able to have that experience of a real breakfast would be amazing but to have it for a fraction of the calories and a lot healthier too... Is Beyond Cereal.
Introducing the new Quest line of Cereal Protein Bars. These bars (as pictured above) come in Chocolate, Cinnamon Roll (Mmmmmmm) and Waffles.
At just 110 calories, you won't feel guilty like you would if you were home this weekend eating multiple helping of waffles. You are an active person, a weekend warrior, who still gets to eat his/her favorite breakfast in a protein bar. These bars are also Gluten free and pack 12 grams of protein to help you reach the next summit and beyond.
Local carbs and high fiber make this the ultimate morning treat to start your day outdoors.
The question is now... where do you find these bars? That's easy! Head over to your local Vitamin Shoppe and check out the huge selection of quest Beyond Cereal Protein Bars. Better yet... Click here to check out the Quest Bars on Vitamin Shoppe website.
Enjoy those Quest Bars All!
And Keep Hiking Forward!
Ever thought that backpacking would be a lot more fun without having to lug a tent everywhere and sleep on some ridiculously-priced, flimsy mat? A hammock is the answer you’ve been looking for. Mine is practically weightless and sets up between two trees in a snap.
I know you are thinking "that sounds great, but I sleep on my side and could never be comfortable all curved in a hammock." I thought the same thing until I found on the internet that you are supposed to sleep diagonally in the hammock, and then you’ll be able to lay flat. Here’s how I do it:
How to Sleep On Your Side in a Hammock
First, roll over on your side as close as you can get to one edge of the hammock. Then back your head up until you are lying diagonally in the hammock. By positioning yourself diagonally, you will be able to lie flat in the hammock which is very comfortable.
Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock
My Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock sets up easily using the included ropes. When my family went camping recently with some other families, some of the dads took a turn in the hammock for a few minutes. They all said it was very comfortable. When the dark crept into our camp, I went to sleep in the hammock with a friend’s tent almost right underneath me to keep me company. I had a good night's sleep. For my birthday, my parents bough me the Adventure Hammock Mosquito Net to go with my hammock, so now I can sleep in it even in the middle of the summer when bugs are the worst.
I usually sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed. Since my brother has a hammock, too, I think it would be fun to try sleeping between the same trees in our hammocks so it would be kind of like being in our bunk beds.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Jr. Hiking Forward Correspondent
Yeah, I said it… It’s January and cold here in Illinois as you might imagine. In order to get outside with the family and friends sometimes you need to make compromises because not everybody enjoys the thrill and honor of camping and sleeping outdoors when it is 7 degrees outside. Weirdos!
In order to get people to this point of enjoying the outdoors in all four seasons you need to sometimes ease them into it. Instead of tent camping maybe it’s the right time to introduce a rustic cabin with winter hiking. This weekend I will be doing just this with the family and some friends. A place and trails I know well be the destination along with no adequate cell service or wifi (sorry kids!).
Unplugging and disconnecting from the outside world even for 24 hours is a must for getting people aware of their surroundings and realizing they can live without these daily necessities. A word burning stove, rustic but amazing meals and winter hiking will soon fill their memories and lighten their future opinions of re-engaging in this type of activity again.
I encourage you to think of others when you are planning your winter outdoor adventures, and think of how you too can bring others along to experience all of nature’s wintertime splendor. You might have to make a few compromises from your normal methods of being outdoors, but you might enjoy the company and will surely enjoy sharing in your outdoor craft and sharing the outdoors.
Keep Hiking Forward!
2016 has been a pretty amazing year for my family and our outdoor adventures
This year has also been wonderful for my own growth as an outdoor educator and volunteer.
I've got plenty of ideas and plans to keep me busy in 2017. Most importantly, the arrival of a second Tyke Hiker to join Embry, due in March. Until then, we enjoyed a few hikes over the last few days to celebrate 2016.
We kicked off at the Retzer Nature Center. Embry loves clearing the trail so she did her best to make sure the trail was void of pine cones. Of course, we had to stop at fallen trees and stumps along the trail for some easy natural play. Embry especially enjoys the stump jumps as long as they don't lead to rump bumps.
We walked through various habitats. From prairie to the pond with woods along the way, we always enjoy a good trip to Retzer.
Them to cap off the year, we enjoyed a trip to our neighborhood nature spot, the Weiland preserve.
Embry always enjoys being the hike leader, though her tendency to want to stop and explore everything she sees does make for an interesting hiking pace. It compares to stop 'n go traffic, but with a lot more enthusiasm.
We took our usual route, enjoying and not avoiding what Embry calls "slip sloppy" ice. We saw tracks, scat, and collected every stick we could handle along the way.
I absolutely love the winter scenery. Being able to see into the woods from this barren perspective makes it seem the trees go on forever. There's just something so serene and calming about a winter walk.
Of course, the chuckles and silliness of a three year old tend to break the serenity quickly.
Near the end of the trail, Embry was mesmerized by the ice. She counted the leaves trapped in the ice and was especially enamored with the frozen footsteps and the bubbles trapped inside.
But, nothing is more fun than "ice skating" on the curb line ice and cracking as much as possible on the way home. Bring on more adventure 2017! We'll be ready!
Keep Hiking Forward!
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