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
2016 Holiday Gift Guide
It's that time of year again! Time to stress and worry about what to get the person on your list who has it all, is constantly out and about camping, hiking, backpacking etc. Never fear Hiking Forward is here once again to offer some suggestions for gear items for that special outdoor person, family or even four legged outdoor nut. Not only will we offer a range of items for a variety people and interests we will also be offering items at a variety of price ranges, proving once again it doesn't cost an arm and a let to get outside. Are you ready? Here we go!
Teton Sports - Somina Ultralight Camp Cot
Okay, you're probably thinking... A Cot? Really? Yeah! It's a cot. But it's a ton light from the previous versions that Teton Sports has crafted, yet without sacrificing on comfort, versatility or functionality. It usually prefer the cot when car camping in the winter to get off the ground allowing me much better sleep. This ultralight cot is only 10 pounds and the carry bag doubles as a side pouch to keep all your smalls organized while camping.
Click here to check it out. Teton Sports
Serac Sequoia Double Hammock
I'm a sucker for a great hammock. And my holiday gift guide wouldn't be complete without a great hammock on the list. To me, a hammock is the ultimate stocking stuffer. Plus, hammocks already kinda come wrapped. Serac puts out a fantastic hammock, that is lightweight, comfortable for two and comes with the straps (a huge bonus and necessity).
Check out our review on this hammock.
Wenzel Sleeping Bags for Kids
It's never to early to get the kids used to and comfortable with sleeping in a sleeping bag. Wenzel offers a great and inexpensive line of sleeping bags for kids. If you have kids on the list this year who are curious about camping, sleeping in backyard or would just be excited to have their own sleeping bag, this is the one. The stuff sack straps allow the sleeping bag to carried as backpack. I got to experience my godson on his first camping trip this summer using this bag, he was so over joyed that it was his and he to got sleep in it every night. He, reminded us all that it was his sleeping bag and that it was comfy. He even made it each day. For the price, the experience of giving kids their first outdoor piece of gear is well worth it ten-fold.
Wenzel full line of sleeping bags
Wellness - CORE Dog Food & Snacks
If you have a four legged adventure buddy like I do, then you can't let the holidays pass without stocking up on great food and snacks to keep them at the ready for the next adventure. CORE by Wellness provides an amazing grain free and high protein option for your adventure pup to keep them lean and full of the right kind of energy. As winter approaches ensuring that the your dog has proper nutrition and protein in their diet is extremely important. Boston loves the CORE dog food, snacks and the Air Dried CORE for our hiking adventures. The Air Dried CORE is so much lighter then normal food and is far easier for him to carry in is saddle pouch.
Sunflair Solar Oven
I guarantee who ever you a buying for this year doesn't have anything like this. The Sunflair Solar Oven is a lightweight alternative option of cooking outdoors. Tired of propane? Not a huge fan of cooking over the fire? Then use the sun as you fuel. Sunflair has a variety of oven sizes with multiple assecories for your oven. We began using our oven this summer on a Labor Day trip. Two whole split chickens cooked in the sun. When was the last time you had fresh cookies on a camping trip? Now you can. Fish, casseroles, stews, pies, breakfasts and more... it will cook and or bake it all. One of the best parts about the oven is if you have kids they really want to get involved in the cooking and be a part of using the oven. In addition, another benefit overall is the lack of mess created by using the Sunflair Solar Oven over traditional methods.
Palisade Gear Hiking Sticks
When we come across a deal like this we just have to share it! Carbon Fiber trekking poles right not for just over $60.00. These poles have the feel and functionality of high end poles of more then double the sale price. The company while new and small has turned out an amazing product. And, in the season of giving and shopping small let it be noted that Palisade Gear is one of the supporting partners of Gear Forward who has generously giving gear to youth in need and is a small family owned company. So, if you going to spend your hard earned money on a pair of sticks this year for you or someone else who would purchase them for a large company, when you and purchase them from a generous, small and family owned operation?
Another item from the stocking stuffer (and belly stuffing) category. No matter who you are buying for this holiday season as an outdoor nut, one thing is for sure, they all need to eat when outside. Sasquatch Fuel (another small family owned company) offers backpacking meals in a paper envelope versus the normal foil envelope. What the difference? Well, you don't have to pack out your trash when you are done eating the meal. The paper envelope can be burned versus thrown away in the trash at the end of one's adventuring. Oh and by the way they are delish... buy a few for yourself. These meals are great for campers, hikers, and just to have around in case of a zombie apocalypse.
For more information about these meals check out our video review below.
We hope these items help you as you check off items on your holiday shopping list year. If you purchase any of the items on our list, we would love to hear how your loved ones or friends liked the items.
Have a happy, safe and adventurous holiday season!
Keep Hiking Forward!
The Tribe Provisions HydeTech 20 oz Water Bottle I received is amazing. It is a rubber-coated, vacuum-insulated, stainless steel water bottle with a clip. After a campout, I could not find my water bottle. When I found it a day later, the temperature was the exact same as it was when I lost it. The whole time it had been in the ever-changing temperature environment of being lost in our van.
Once while I was trying to unclip my water bottle while running up a hill, I dropped it. It rolled all the way into a ditch and didn’t have a scratch or dent on it. My sister Lisa has a similarly-advertised water bottle of another brand; however, the metal is thinner, and it is already dented.
Another thing I like about it is that it's insulation and coating makes it feel the same even when the bottle contains hot liquid. I’ve had other metal water bottles that burn my hands when I put hot chocolate in them.
I highly recommend the HydeTech 20 oz Water bottle especially to friends who don’t like lukewarm water, need an easily cleanable bottle (for when you forget that you put hot chocolate in it for a few days), and won’t break or leak at all.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Wow... Say that 5 Times Fast!
Hiking Forward's Can't Miss Father's Day Gift List
Hiking Forward's Fathers ahhh!
Hiking Forward's Cant' Miss Gift UGH
Okay Okay... Again this year we have put together an awesome list of items that just can't miss, no matter the type of Dad you are buying for this Father's Day.
All of the products below have been tested by Hiking Forward and none of them will break the bank and all are sure to put a smile on dear ole dad's face on Father's Day.
As a Dad I know there are a few things all dads enjoy... we love to relax, we love to chill out and we love to be comfy. Boys and Girls let me introduce you the WindPouch.
Before, We get to deep into discussing the Windpouch... Ladies, let me let you in on a little secret. Come here... closer "you are gonna want one of these too!"
Order TWO! Trust me. I got the Windpouch in the mail, I blew it up via the wind, get it now, WIND pouch... and within a matter of minutes, this happened.
Don't get me wrong... I love the Windpouch too, the problem is I never get to use it, because "someone" is always in it. So, ladies order two. Give one to the hubby for Father's Day. When he lets u sit in it and says "hey honey isn't this amazing and so comfy" then you say, "hmmm maybe I should order me one". Wink! You already did!
Tell them your ole pale Hiking Forward sent you. Now both of you can enjoy the summer laying on a cloud. Yes, that is exactly what it feels like. Oh did I mention it FLOATS. Yes indeed! So, a have pool? BONUS@ Live near a pond or a lake? SCORE! Going on a campout this summer near a river? You will be floating in style.
Windpouch on Facebook
You have probably heard me recommend Stanley Products for Dad's before as well as in general. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, to me the green metal shell is nostalgic and while the product is new it brings about the feeling of something old that maybe your dad or grandpa had. So, while to the gift giver it may be just a coffee mug or something to keep coffee hot in all day long... to the user it is durable, will never fail them and maybe just maybe it reminds them of their own dad or grandpa every-time they use it. And remembering those important people and the outdoor experiences they had together in ones life throughout the year... that is the most important gift of all.
It goes without saying that everything Stanley makes is made to last and take a beating. As a gift giver this is something important to take into account when budgeting for and purchasing a Father's Day gift... is the gift going to last? The simple answer when it comes to what Stanley makes is a resounding Yes!
No matter what Dad enjoy's in his cupStanley will ensure it stays hot or colder longer. No matter what kind of adventure or activities he participates in, Stanley has the right container to allow him to carry his favorite beverage.
For more information on Stanley Products click here.
So does Dad Fish? Does Dad Hike or Backpack? If he does he has to eat! Keep dad on the shore or on the trail and give him something tasty to eat. A new and environmentally friendly Backcountry meal manufacture is cranking out some tasty meals in disposable (burnable) packaging. Most meals come in foil packs that have been thrown away, so essentially packed out till you reach a proper trash can. 2-3 meals a day can create a decent amount of trash that one has to carry out on a backpacking trip.
For more information concerning Sasquatch Fuel click here.
Get Dad A New Pair of Shoes
Have you seen Dad's hiking/outdoor shoes lately? Uh Gross right? Time for a new pair of shoes/boots for the ole man! Oboz has a huge array of shoes for every occasion. I highly recommend the above pictured Scapegoat Low or Mid, as a great summer / fall shoe for hiking and outdoor activities. Comfort, lightweight and won't break the bank, and will last for multiple seasons to come.
For more information on all Oboz has to offer click here.
Tribe Provisions Adventure Bag
The Tribe Provisions Adventure Bag is the perfect bag for those weekend family camping trips or impromptu backpacking adventures Dad may take from time to time. The bag is lightweight, durable and comes with an attached stuff sack so Dad won't lose it, like he always is looses his keys. The bag retails for $49.95 so it won't break the bank either. Another great item that doesn't cost a lot and will replace something of Dad's that is older then dirt. Is your Dad still trying to use his sleeping bag from his Cub Scout days? Get him a new sleeping bag!
For more information about Tribe Provisions click here.
Keep Dad Stable on the Trail
Does your Dad simply look for a "good stick" when he is out on the trail to use as a hiking stick? (momentary pause as we shake our heads at Dad)...
Okay, get Dad some amazing lightweight Carbon Fiber hiking sticks. Typically sticks like these would cost twice as much. This is something dear ole Dad would never by for himself and probably doesn't realize he needs. But you know he does having walked behind him for years. And lets be honest dear ole dad isn't getting any younger.
Instant security and stability will now be the mantra when Dad is out for a hike or backpacking adventure. Trust me he will feel like the kid in school with the "new" whatever with these super light and durable sticks. These sticks collapse small and can be attached to most any of packs and have really comfortable handles and handstraps.
For more information on OutdoorMaster click here.
For more information on these poles click here.
Keep Hiking Forward!
And Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there!
In the backcountry, sleep is a luxury, food is a nicety but water is imperative. When in the wild, one is exposed to the elements and likely exerting themselves in a manner outside the norm. Knowing where to locate water and how to treat it so that it’s safe to drink is a critical skill to offset these realities. Locating the water is only half the challenge however. Having done your map study and read trail notes all over the interweb you know what your route offers regarding water sources (don’t bet on this however) and as you move where to expect the next stream, spring or river. Treating said water to ensure you don’t have any microbes that will give you “the mung” (giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidium, etc.) is the other half of the equation.
Ounces equals pounds and pounds equals pain. For every 1 liter of liquid add 2.2 pounds. This forces us to carry only a finite amount. Any multi day trip or emergency scenario requires a plan to replenish your supply. As a “best practice” in the backcountry, we each carry at least three liters and weather, terrain and consumption dependent do everything we can to stay “topped off” during our trips. Water carry and management is also a consideration. To ensure we can accomplish this, we also carry multiple methods of carrying liquid (Camelbak, Nalgene and collapsible Platypus bottles) and just as importantly pack out redundant water filtration options.
Below are some of the options you have that are proven and all under $100 USD:
A popular method of filtration is the pump like water filter and the 11 oz.Katadyn Pro Hiker is my preference. Easily employed, the activated-carbon core filter is contained in a robust plastic case with a pump handle at the top and two hoses. The bottom hose offers a teardrop like supplemental filter at the end that you drop into the source that is capable of filtering larger contaminants before it runs through the main filter. The other hose is where the filtered water flows through one of a number of adapters that fit different water collection receptacles. From a level of effort perspective, the Katadyn pumps 1 liter of water every 48 pump strokes so it takes no time to fill a larger Camelbak or Nalagene.
For cleaning the filter after repeated use, Katadyn offers their own cleaning solution, but we simply use 1 tablespoon of bleach in one liter of water and run it through the pump. We leave it out in the sun to dry after. Katadyn also sells a replacement element for the Pro Hiker that works with other filters as well. The original filter is effective to up to 1150 liters filtered.
As with all gear that is life sustaining, redundancy is key. Having two Pro Hikers is obviously an option; however, it adds weight and bulk and we have other less bulky methods available. Using ultraviolet technology, the SteriPen Ultra is a good alternative or complementary tool to the pump method. The SteriPen is powered with an internal, chargeable battery capable of filtering up to 50 liters without recharge. The operation of the SteriPen is simple in that you scoop water into a water bottle and place the device into the water and turn it on; stirring the filter for about 90 seconds. The LED screen on the SteriPen will tell you if when it is complete (with a big smiley face). You can set the device to filter 1 liter or ½ liter.
The SteriPen Ultra can be used up to eight thousand times and is 99.99% effective against a host of bacteria and protozoa. It also protects against cholera, dysentery, typhoid and botulism.
Two points that make this not my “go to” option are that fact that it is electronic, thus requiring a charge (car, solar panel, etc.) and an even larger concern, it requires “clear water.” The SteriPen is not effective in “cloudy” water or with high levels of sediment. For the amazing water sources offered at Yosemite, not an issue; however, we have filtered springs that were far from “clear” with positive results using a pump that would have been a non-starter for the UV technology of SteriPen.
To mitigate weight, maintenance and potential breakage or malfunction, one can simply avoid a pump or device and use tablets for water purification. The days of the gross halzone tabs used in the military are over, making way for products like Katadyn Micropur Purification tablets. Promising the same level of protection from the creepy crawlies in your water that UV or pumps offer, the 30 count pack weighs .9 ounces and equals a filtered output of 30 liters (equal to 10 fills of a large Camelbak). One tablet is needed per quart. The biggest obstacle to the tablet option is the wait time for it to take effect. Thirty minutes for Giardia and four hours for Cryptosporidium, so the end user should plan accordingly when thinking of when to “top off” and gauge water stops on their route.
This option is also an excellent “Go Bag” addition due to its three year shelf life, weight and lack of maintenance. Thinking of extreme situations like Katrina, one can find themselves like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” When natural or man-made disaster compromises sewage and water supply simultaneously, one can understand the need to have a simple, light option available to care for your family and pets.
A few other options in water treatment include life straws, gravity filtration bags and bottles with filters installed. Numbers of reputable companies have products that fall into one of these type collection/filtration methods.
Water filtration through gravity is a thru-hiker favorite and allows for multi-tasking. Popular models are the Sawyer Complete Water Filtration System and the Platypus GravityWorks Filter system, although there are plenty of others on the market as well. Boasting all the same capabilities to combat bacteria, giardia etc. the end user simply fills one bag and hangs it up as he or she continues setting up camp. The water runs from the “gray” water bag to the reservoir bag completely filtered and ready for use. It can provide up to 1.3 liters of clean water a minute. We haven’t personally used this system but would love to try it soon.
The Life Straw, which is a back up option on our packing list, is incredibly light and packable. Another “Go Bag” must have, the Life Straw is a mere 2 oz. and easily used. It is also one of the most inexpensive options we found. Simply pull the straw out and drink directly from the source or collect water in a Nalgene and drink. The filter offers the 99%+ protection level against all the same creeping crud the other filters do and is able to clean up to 1000 liters without replacement. To clean and avoid clogs, simply blow into the straw. Cons of the Life Straw include the inability to use with water bladders, cannot filter quantities of water for cooking, inconvenient “on the go” and not helpful for four legged friends.
Several companies offer a water bottle with internal filter system loaded within. The Katadyn MyBottle is a good example of this technology. Just shy of 10 oz. empty, the MyBottle filter acts almost as an Life Straw system within the bottle itself. The filter is married with the mouthpiece, so the user fills the bottle from the source and drinks. Like the Life Straw, this method doesn’t offer the ability to filter clean water for cooking or topping off your bladders, etc and there is a great deal of complaint from people regarding the squeezing required to drink. The MyBottle holds 24 ounces of water and can be used 155 times before the filter needs to be replaced. As all filters reviewed, the MyBottle and other like models prevent the wide majority of bacteria and protozoa.
Taste may be a chief complaint for any filtering options discussed when dealing with backcountry water. This might sound like a small consideration, but if you don’t “want” to drink, you won’t and it WILL cause you issues down the trail. Consider supplementing your packing list with something like Mio FIT or Powerade drops to add flavor and electrolytes.
Water collection, carry, filtering and conservation are all terrific topics for any outdoor person to read up on and research. Go beyond this short blog and dig into the topic. See how it applies to your sport, activity or planning needs, then share with others.
Hope you found this helpful. Stay safe.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike & Melanie
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means when you make a purchase, we receive a tiny bit of compensation at no added cost to you. We only promote products that we use and love, and any purchases you make go toward the cost of this blog. Thanks for all of your support, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured here, please comment and let us know.
Winter Gear Testing
It's the dead of winter here on the East Coast, and we are spending a lot of time planning and daydreaming about our upcoming backpacking season. With so much down time, we have had the opportunity to test some items to see if they will make it into our packs this year. We camp too far away from civilization to carry anything we don't love, so anything that we bring has to have a purpose and make our lives better. Here are a few of my favorites so far!
Lifelements Healing Honey Stick
This is a great product that I actually got to test out on the trail at Mount Rogers on our last trip there. It's a lip balm, it's a salve, it's a moisturizer. There's not much these sticks can't do. I tested both the chapstick size and the larger 2 oz size. The chapstick size is perfect for backcountry trips where weight is counted in ounces and every bit counts. I am a bit of a chapstick addict, I have Burt's Bees in pretty much every backpack and jacket pocket and at home I have an Eos collection that could fill a shelf at Target.
I like this because I can put it on in the morning and I don't find myself reaching for it constantly to reapply as I do some other chapsticks. I also really like that it is a multi function product, and I've used it on dry skin, bug bites, and other small annoyances with good results. I also love the fact that it is paraben free and cruelty free. It does contain nut butters though, so if you have a nut allergy, this is not the product for you.
Crispy Green Crispy Fruit
After years of just existing on apples and strawberries that I dry myself in my dehydrator, I was excited to see some freeze dried fruit at the local grocer that was a bit different. I immediately fell in love with their tangerines. They have 6 other flavors, including pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, asian pear, apple, and banana. I've tried most of them and while I'm not a big fan of the cantaloupe (not their fault, it's good, just not for me!), the others are amazing and I can't wait to bring some along this season. They are super lightweight and delicious. One thing to consider is that most of the flavors are only around 40 calories per package, so they won't fulfill much in the way of caloric needs, but they will still be a welcome snack and a nice little blood sugar boost out on the trail.
Snotty Brat Handkerchiefs
These aren't exactly new to my kit, as I've been carrying them for a couple of years now, but I finally broke down and ordered more for me as well as some for Mike. After spending time and money looking for soft hankies, these fit the bill and they come in great colors too. She will also customize them with a number of fun designs or your initials. I have used these for their intended purpose, blowing my nose, but they have also been super handy at wiping sweat, drying my feet after a soak in a cold creek, washing trail dirt off my legs, drying out our collapsible bowls, and more. They are reusable and have held up perfectly to many washings. They are also a much greener option than using baby wipes for everything. Baby wipes still have their place, but we use a lot less of them thanks to these babies.
Have you found any favorites this winter that you will be putting in your pack? Let us know in the comments!
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike and Melanie
The review of the Keen Chandler CNX is a fruit of cooperation with SoleLabz.com, website reviewing top rated hiking shoes, boots and sandals.
Keen - the company
Keen company started out firmly set on developing a hiking sandal that also offers toe protection. Their signature toe-covering black thick bumper was thus born. This happened in 2003, and they’ve been growing ever since by not just making some of the best hiking sandals out there, but by broadening the scope of high-quality footwear they manufacture.
In 2003, they were named “Launch of the Year” by Footwear News making them the new hot brand. In 2006, they relocated their headquarters to Portland, Oregon and got Kirk Richardson joining them after a 27-year career in Nike’s management. Salomon’s ex CEO James Curleigh joined them in 2008, and big names and achievements just became too hard to keep track of ever since.
Let’s take a look at what Keen says about Chandler CNX
The upper of the CNX is synthetic mixed with breathable mesh, ensuring light weight and optimal performance.
Toes are protected at all times by sturdy rubber rand. The model offers plenty of flexibility, and it locks the foot inside thanks to the secure lacing capture system. Collar and tongue are well-padded for extra cushioning. They also feature pull-out loops for easier on/off.
A contoured arch provides your little ones with superior mid-foot support. Outsoles are non-marking with multi-directional lugs, giving superior traction and making the shoe more durable.
- Breathable mesh lining
- Contoured arch for added midfoot support
- Lightweight performance mesh and synthetic upper
- Multi directional lug pattern for increased traction
- Non-marking rubber outsole
- Reverse strobel construction provides streamlined interior
- Secure fit lace capture system
Mine and Grace's initial thoughts
This is the first review in which we will be utilizing our new Hiking Forward Review system. The system is based on a five star review measurement, however we just use hiking boots instead of stars.
Grace has been wearing the shoes for a couple of weeks. We will continue to update our thoughts as she engages in multiple activities in them and time generally passes. We were both excited to find out that there are some hiking related shoes out on the market for Grace. At her age and size there is a limited supply of quality footwear for outdoor activities that is above and beyond normal sports. Keen to the rescue. Both Grace and I are quite familiar with Keen and their product line as all of us in the family can be found from April through October in Keens.
Keen is a company we already know and trust, so giving these shoes a try was not a hard sell for either Grace of I. Immediately you can tell from the material and stitching that the shoes are very well made and so far have no signs of wear that have caused defects in the manufacturing of the shoes. Grace is extremely hard on her sneakers. Her sneakers typically are worn out from the punishment she provides versus the soles giving out. While it have only been a few short weeks of Grace trying these shoes I doubt that the quality will diminish over time. Our initial quality rating is:
Without hesitation the first words out of Grace's mouth upon getting the shoes on was about how comfortable they were. She even mentioned this after our first initial hike in the shoes, when typically on the same route in other shoes she complains of her feet hurting. This along his a huge success in my book. Nothing will end an afternoon family jaunt in the woods then one the kids complaining about feet problems because they don't have the proper footwear, This is not their fault or yours. The availability of proper footwear for non-sport related is extremely sparse. The mesh top of the shoe allows for extreme breath-ability which enhances the comfort of the user in warmer temps. The traditional non-tie laces allow for easy on and easy off instead of having to take the time to tie up or untie when done with your adventuring. Our initial comfort rating is:
While it is hard to test true durability after only a few weeks of testing, we know that the shoes are well made and are a quality shoe. Our history and general awareness of Keen and their other footwear products that we have worn for years have lasted well longer then they should have. We both would be extremely amazed if durability of the shoe would be an issue. The protected Keen toe-box is a great feature of all Keen shoes but as a Dad, this is a great feature for the kids who tend to not look down when hiking.
Because of our initial experience with this shoe we believe it to be an immense value for parents of an outdoor minded child looking for proper footwear for hiking, camping or non-sport related outdoor activities. Our initial durability rating is:
Stay tuned as Grace continues to put these Keen Chandler CNX's to the test.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Scott & Grace
Are you one of those people who tracks everything no matter the activity? Yeahhhh, I thought so! You track your miles, calories eaten and burned you also track your activity level and heart-rate too I bet.
Well I can almost guarantee that there is one thing you try and track but haven't been able to track with too much certainty or accuracy. Tracking this, no matter the activity or season is rather important so you don't bonk, get dehydrated or worse yet. Water consumption is extremely important no matter if you are a general hiker, weekend warrior, cyclist or training for next big road race.
Finally, a company has developed a water bottle to do just this and with ease. Thermos has developed the Thermos Connected Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid. As hikers and general outdoor nuts we all have tons of water bottles strewn around the kitchen, garage, car and day bags. But, do any of them measure how much water you consume down to the sip? Yeah... I didn't think so. Do any of your water bottles tell you how warm or cold your water is? Ha! Exactly! Just as I thought. Hmm, do any of your water bottles nudge you to drink water? As I suspected, No, No and Heck No.
Well Hiking Forward Nation, let me introduce you to the bottle that can do all of that and more.
Learn More About the Smart Lid:
Learn about the Thermos Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid
With the temperatures dropping quickly (we had our first frost a few days ago!), if we still want to spend time hiking and camping, we will need to prepare a little differently. Winter tends to be colder, windier, and wetter. The days are much shorter, which means less hours on the trail. Footing can become more dangerous. However, do not let that list scare you away from camping and hiking when the seasons change, because there is one HUGE advantage to the cold dark days of winter. NO BUGS!!! (Insert happy dance) For the purposes of this blog, I won't be getting into trips where things like snowshoes, crampons, or sleds are needed. That falls into mountaineering and I lack advanced knowledge about that.
Mike has done a significant amount of cold weather camping and hiking. I have hiked in all sorts of conditions, but haven't backpacked in the dead of winter yet. So that leads me to my first tip: go with someone who knows. As with anything new, it always helps and makes things safer if you learn from someone with experience. But if the weather isn't too severe and you think you want to get a taste of what it's like in the winter, I still recommend not taking on this experience by yourself for the first time. Symptoms of hypothermia, altitude sickness, and dehydration can be hard to spot when you are the one suffering. For that reason, I recommend having a buddy or 2 along to help keep an eye on each other to prevent something minor from turning into a true emergency.
Plan, plan, plan
For your first winter camping trip, I would recommend going to an area that you are familiar with. But if you can't do that, get your maps ahead of time, look carefully at the routes, the elevation changes, & the location of shelters. Remember, you will have less daylight hours to work with, so plan your distances accordingly. Hiking through snow and/or ice will slow you down too, so you should plan on reducing your daily mileage by 50%. Know where the nearest help is located (Ranger's station or such). Know how far away you will be from your vehicle or help throughout the route. Basically, just know where you will be and where you are going as well as planning some bail out spots or routes just in case. Let someone at home know your plan and educate them on when they need to call for help for you. Let everyone in your group know the plan as well as contingency plans in case you become unable to lead the group for some reason.
Keep a close eye on the weather leading up to your trip
You can find backcountry weather reports at the National Weather Service site. If the area you are visiting has a website that they update (like the National Park system), check prior to your trip for alerts, trail closures, weather reports, etc. If you are traveling in an area prone to avalanches, check avalanche reports and avoid slopes of more than 20 degrees unless you have specialized avalanche training. Don't be fooled if the forecast calls for some warm days. This may just help snow and ice to melt and refreeze each day which can create difficult to see "black ice" and can make conditions tricky. Warm days can also lead to runoff and turn a babbling brook into a raging river, so keep in mind how the weather will affect water crossings. Understanding how the weather fluctuations affect the area you will be utilizing can help you plan better.
Dress for the conditions
In winter, it is more important than ever to follow a tried and true layering system. In addition to layering properly, in winter you will want to put away the trail runners and use boots. They will give you extra stability on slick footing, they will help prevent snow and moisture from getting into your shoes, and they provide more insulation than low cut shoes. If you will be in deep snow, you may want to also plan on using gaiters to help keep your feet dry and warm. Wool socks are a must, as they insulate even when wet. For wet conditions, I've heard good things about Goretex socks as well, but haven't tried them. I carry a pair of Neoprene socks that I can use if my feet are going to be wet for a while, and those can even be layered with a thin wool sock underneath. Always bring a warm hat, gloves or mittens, and sunglasses or goggles. Also, always bring a spare pair of gloves or mittens and a hat, because if you lose those items, your trip will take a turn for the worse quickly.
Evaluate your gear
You will need a sleeping pad that offers insulation from the cold ground, a sleeping bag rated for the conditions you will face, and a pack big enough to carry the extra layers and gear that winter camping demands. A tarp or footprint for your tent will help keep snow and water from seeping in and making you cold. If you have a sleeping bag that isn't going to be quite warm enough, a good liner can add another 15 degrees of warmth. There are many types of liners, and you can read about them and their various features here. If you find yourself without a liner in conditions that are too cold for your bag, anemergency blanket can be used as a liner in a pinch. A good sleeping pad arrangement for winter camping is to use two pads, a closed cell and aninflatable. The closed cell should be on the ground with the inflatable pad on top of it. This will provide enough insulation from the cold ground and having a closed cell pad is extra insurance should your inflatable pad spring a leak. Using a winter gear checklist can help prevent forgetting important items.
Eat to stay warm
Eating enough calories is one way to help your body stay warm, and your body burns more calories in the cold. Besides the extra calorie burn from staying warm, hiking through snow or challenging winter terrain adds to the number of calories you will be depleting. Plan to add at least 25% more calories to your diet in cold weather. For this reason, dehydrated meals are great. They are warm, have some water content, are usually pretty high in calories, and are comforting. Another tip is to bring along a small amount of olive or coconut oil. You can add a tablespoon to your meal or just eat it straight for an extra 120 calories. Remember you will need more fuel to heat water in cold weather, so make sure you bring plenty! Packets of hot chocolate, hot cider, or tea bags make a nice pick me up beverage when you need one before bed or in the cold, cold morning.
Learn first aid
Many symptoms of things like hypothermia, shock, dehydration, etc., are often subtle and may go unnoticed by an untrained eye. It's important to begin treating these things immediately and appropriately, as an injury or illness compounded by exposure to extreme weather can quickly become a life or death situation. Starting out your trip being properly hydrated, nourished, and dressed can go a long way to preventing conditions from developing. Ensure that you have adequate food and water, our bodies burn calories keeping warm, so it's important to make sure you keep "stoking the fire". Hydration helps keep your circulation flowing efficiently. Many people make the mistake of not drinking enough fluids in cold weather because they don't feel thirsty, but the dry wind can dehydrate you rapidly.
Other tips and hacks
You can put damp socks, mittens, and other small items inside your sleeping bag at night to help them dry. This won't work for large items, as they will add too much moisture to the inside of your bag and end up making you colder. Place your boots in a sack and put them at the bottom of your sleeping bag at night so they are dry and warm in the morning.
Put water next to you, away from the tent wall to keep it from freezing. If you are using bottles, place them upside down. Water freezes from the top down, so when you flip it over, you will have water to drink right away and ice won't clog up the spout or top of your bottle. Use lithium batteries when possible, they tolerate cold temperatures better than traditional batteries.Make sure your tent has enough ventilation for water vapor to escape. If not, the condensation build up will make your sleeping bag and everything else in the tent damp and cold. Do not put your whole head inside your sleeping bag. The moisture from your breath will cancel out the insulating properties of your sleeping bag.
Carry a sleeping bag warmer for emergencies. Carry some hand warmers just because they are nice to have and can help warm up frozen boots or cold hands & feet.
There is certainly a lot more that could be said about winter camping and hiking, and we will cover some more advanced camping skills in future posts. In our part of the country, winter is long and cold, so any fun you can have while waiting for spring to come is much needed. Hopefully these tips will encourage you to get outside this winter too. Being prepared and educated about how to handle the conditions will keep you safe and make your trips fun!
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Introducing Triple Aught Design
Both Melanie and I are planners by virtue of our backgrounds so when we started to list subjects we wanted to tackle for content I wanted to talk about some of the more boutique gear companies out there doing innovative designs with form, function, good QA/QC and guerrilla marketing. One of the older, yet still boutique gear companies out there is San Francisco based Triple Aught Design (aka TAD Gear). The name Triple Aught is a reference to the three zero moniker (000) engineers use to speak in thousandths of an inch, a value of high tolerance and quality control. The company maintains a robust, thoughtful website and two local retail outlets in San Francisco.
During our recent trip to Yosemite, we went to the "Dog Patch" section of San Francisco to one of the stores. We also visited Mrs Doubtfire's house but that is for another blog. The store is located in a converted warehouse that still boasts a steel roll up door and "changing rooms" made from wool blankets hung from a string. Don't get me wrong. The presentation is far from shabby. It was simple, clean and well laid out with a classroom in the rear for their CORE classes (more on that in a moment). The onsite customer service was excellent and I quickly learned they offer a first responder/military/veterans pro deal of 15% off retail.
So lets get to the "Gear" of TAD Gear. They break up their line into Apparel and Equipment, each with a diverse mix of products.
The equipment is broken out into Packs and Pouches, Knives, Lights and Tools. The firm's flagship pack is the FAST Pack EDC, a 1000 denier cordura day pack with a generous beavertail and robust belt system. Like most of the their line, both this pack and the smaller FAST Pack LiteSpeed are offered in their coyote brown and foliage green colors. You will find when you scan the website that both equipment and apparel share a muted palette of autumn colors and black/grey scale. This works from a practical sense (covers dirt/wear) and a tactical sense (big part of their customer base is military and police special operations). The pouch line offers internal and external modularity to the pack series and both packs have leveraged the military Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) webbing (mistakenly referred to as MOLLE by some) to add proprietary pouches, as well as military issue equipment.
Now I am not a knife guy. That is a whole other world that I have only a glancing understanding of, but by name (Winkler) and appearance the high end and custom line of knives and occasional hatchet are top drawer. I have no experience with their lights and don't know anyone who does (My friends and I have bet our lives on Surefire on more than one occasion) however, like most of their designs they appear slick and lean heavily toward practical functionality.
The company's Tool line is without a doubt the most eclectic mix of cool guy stuff. From their super cool Titanium Short Spork that Melanie and I both coveted to the Skeleton Key, a oddly shaped multi tool w/ the TAD Gear skull festooned on the top. Each piece of hardware is made of quality materials, sleek lines and innovative design. The website provides detailed descriptions and photographs.
My direct experience with Triple Aught stems from the clothing line. As stated, all of their clothes are what can be called tacticool color wise; however, the mix of colors is more aesthetically pleasing compared to the more tactically focused clothing lines of Crye Precision, Patagonia's military line or Arc'teryx LEAF. YKK zippers, double stitching and thoughtful design are all apparent and sizes are true. Their line of hard and soft shells all provide top of the line materials, user focused design and durability. A knock to the company that the salesperson was happy to assure us is soon to change is the lack of design options for ladies. Melanie was in love with their Stealth hoodie, but even the men's XS was not a good fit, so I know when it comes out in a women's version it will almost certainly be added to her extensive collection of jackets. I think the companies strength lies in their insulating layers. In the past, I have owned their Ranger hoodie and a merino wool zip up cardigan with full turtle style neck. With past experience with TNF Denali and Mountain Hardwear windstopper fleece jackets ,TAD's Ranger hoodie is hands down the best fleece jacket I have owned. With a hood that accommodates a helmet, thumb holes, pit zips and windstopper materials, I swore by this jacket during a winter in Eastern Afghanistan. The sweater I owned is no longer part of their line; however, all their merino wool apparel is soft, simply designed and is at home in town and the backcountry.
While in the San Francisco store, I bought their Force 10 cargo pants. The entire line of pants appears well designed w/ ample pockets located in a common sense fashion. The fit is true (maybe a little generous in the waist) supplemented with large belt loops. The different cuts of pant are offered in a variety of materials as well. I have yet to really shake these pants out but with fall upon us, I will begin to wear them on our trips and day hikes, replacing their equivalent from Arc'teryx.
With the thousands of dollars I have spent on gear that falls short, TAD has never let me down. But keep in mind the old axiom, "Buy once, Cry once." They are close in pricing with your higher end companies like Arc Teryx and Patagonia, but if you spend that money you won't have issue w/ quality, fit or support. Another caveat when working with Triple Aught is product availability. They are a small company and with that run a tight inventory control program so outages by design or size is a common occurrence. I followed up with them on an item through Facebook and received an immediate response to item availability questions and for me that goes miles toward return business.
Alongside their gear selection, Triple Aught is offering in the San Francisco area a myriad of classes like Field Forecasting, a course on weather prediction sans technology, wilderness medicine and esoteric skills like their Black Box curriculum, a kidnap and ransom mitigation course. They also offer combative style courses in Extreme Close Quarters Combat (ECQC) and knife fighting; all taught by local law enforcement subject matter experts.
I strongly encourage a visit to the website and Facebook page to really take in all that TAD offers. They have stayed close to their roots, design gear with a unique mix of style and function and continue to support the communities they serve.
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