Blog

Lessons From the Trail

“Originally published on allwomenalltrails.com.”

“If you face the rest of your life with the spirit you show on the trail, it will have no choice but to yield the same kind of memories and dreams.” – Adrienne Hall

IMG_20190528_103519_004
Devil’s Toll Gate, Ozark Trail. (Photo by Madeline)

Why do I hike? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that, I could go buy that new camera lens I’ve been wanting. Hmmm…maybe I should start charging people when they ask me!

My reasons for hiking are numerous! But today I’m going with the theme of lessons from the trail. And just those could fill a book! Maybe someday I’ll corral them all into one place, but for now I’m just going to share a few of them with you.

My first experience with hiking (I had hiked before as a kid, but never knew it as such. We were just walking through the woods lol!) was a trip to the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. We spent 3 days and 2 nights primitive camping in the Compton area and hiked 3 different trails. I was totally unprepared for what these trails would throw at me. Especially on day two, when we hiked to Hemmed in Falls. Getting there wasn’t so much the problem. Getting back to the trailhead was. The whole way down I kept thinking “how am I going to make it back to the top?” I had no self confidence, no faith that I would make it back up out of there. I was embarrassed for being so out of shape (the other 3 girls were thin and fit), and I was sick from being dehydrated and overheated. I certainly did not feel like I belonged there. The trail was not meant for overweight, inexperienced people. If I could make it back to the car alive, I was never going to do anything like this ever again. But the other adult in our group kept saying “you CAN do this” anytime I would have to stop and rest (which was a LOT). I finally started saying it to myself, and I finally did do it. I made it back to the top. I’ve never been so happy to see a trailhead sign.

DSCN0376
Triumphant pose after surviving my first hiking trip.

I fell in love with hiking on that trip. In spite of my self doubt and feeling like I was going to die, in spite of my decision to “never do anything like this again”, I actually could not wait to do it again. And so I started looking for trails near home. And while I found plenty of trails, (the Ozark Trail was a short 20 minute drive from my house) getting people to hike with me was a little more difficult. Not because they didn’t necessarily want to, but because the schedule of a work-from-home-mom is considerably different than other women’s schedules. When my friends were off work, I was busy being a mom and wife. When I was free (during the day, on weekdays) they were working or in class. Yep, all of my friends at that time were either working moms, single with full-time jobs, or full-time students with part-time jobs. Being a WFHM has its rewards, but it can also be very lonely. Especially in small communities! I’m very jealous with my family time, so leaving them at home every weekend just was not an option for me. And for awhile I was stuck. But then I discovered hiking groups! Women only hiking groups! Here was my answer! And I couldn’t wait to join. Unfortunately, even though there were groups in MO, the group hikes were out of my reach because they were on weekends, and located near the cities. At least a 2-3 hour drive, one way. If I was going to hike, I would have to hike alone. That was a little daunting for a newbie hiker, nevermind that I was a female. Which reminds me, if I had a dollar for every negative comment or question about being a solo female hiker I would have enough cash to buy my dream (ultralight) backpacking setup and go on that thru-hike that’s waiting very patiently on my bucket list for the day when my kid graduates high school and heads off to college. But I couldn’t stay away from the trail. I had gotten a glimpse of the magic, the healing it offers. And I desperately needed more of it. So I went.

IMG_20190711_101938_182.jpg
Klepzig Mill, Ozark Trail.

If I’m being honest, I’m not certain when or where my first solo hike happened. I’ve hiked solo so often that those details from that hike have faded. But I remember the emotions. A lot of fear, and self doubt. But also determination and excitement. I almost turned around several times on the drive to the trailhead. Then it took me a solid 20 minutes just to convince myself to get out of my car and start down the trail. But when I returned safely to the trailhead and my waiting car, I remembered how it felt to see the trailhead after hiking up from Hemmed in Falls and I realized didn’t feel the same this time. I was sad my hike for the day was over, I was already missing the trail. I wanted more! I haven’t been afraid of it since. It’s a funny thing, to be afraid of the trail. But for whatever reason I was afraid of it. Maybe because subconsciously I knew it would change me, and change is scary. But change brings growth, and for me growth is addictive.

IMG_7755-18
Berryman Loop, Ozark Trail.

Even though I wanted to hike all the time, making myself prioritize time for it was still difficult. While scrolling through Instagram one day I spotted a post talking about the 52 Hike Challenge. Basically 52 hikes, in 52 weeks and it’s free! I signed up immediately, and started hitting the trails. I fell behind during the summer, because I’m a cold weather person and the midwest humidity is ridiculous. I caught up in the fall and finished in time. I’ve completed the 52 Hike Challenge twice now, and attempting my 3rd. Although moving twice and some health complications put me way behind this year so I’m not sure I’ll hit #52 by January 4th 2020. But the 52 Hike Challenge did what I needed it to do. It kept me accountable to myself. It kept me motivated to make trail time a priority. I’ll probably sign up again next year, just so I have that weekly reminder to make time for the trail. To make time for healing, learning, and loving myself.

IMG_0729-9
Finish of 52 Hike Challenge, Adventure Series 2018.

To say I’m no longer afraid of the trail, does not mean I no longer have moments of fear while on the trail. I still get stuck in my own head on occasion, and every sound or movement converts to a bear/cougar/serial killer and I have to reign my imagination back in. Although once, when I was hiking with my dog we had an interesting experience. Piper (a giant, fierce looking floofball of a GSD) was always in front of me on the trail. She was fearless and I admit that definitely boosted my confidence. One time though, she suddenly turned and darted behind, me where she stood staring into the woods off to my right. It was mid summer, with all the trees and underbrush in full bloom. I couldn’t see more than a few feet into the woods on that side, so whatever she sensed wasn’t visible to me. I heard some rustling (big rustling) and instantly thought it might be a bear. I then thought it could be a cougar, but I didn’t think one of those would make that much noise. Whatever it was, suddenly grunted and took off running the opposite way. I never got a look at it, but my brother suggested it could have been a wild hog. Either way, Piper wanted nothing to do with it and it wanted nothing to do with us so we continued on down the trail and arrived home safely.

IMG_20190419_223934_301
Picking up trash at Montauk State Park, April 19th, 2019.

Aside from that instance and a couple close encounters with venomous snakes I haven’t been worried by the wildlife that inhabits the wilderness surrounding the trails I hike. Glimpsing the various critters that call the forest home has become one of my favorite parts of hiking. Watching the bright white behind of a whitetail bounding through the woods, the scurry of squirrels and chipmunks, and the silent swoop of a hawk grabbing lunch as I walk by. It’s simply amazing to me, and I drink in every moment. As a photographer and artist, the views and wildlife I see while hiking provide a constant source of inspiration for me. One day coming off the trail I spotted a hawk, sitting on a rock in the middle of the river eating the biggest crawfish I had ever seen. Perfect timing, and thankfully I had my camera. Another time I spotted my first beaver, but didn’t have my camera. I can’t share that memory in photograph form, but it will be there until I’m ready to sketch it…and maybe even paint it.

IMG_1012-8
Red-shouldered hawk, Montauk State Park.

As a general rule the people I meet on the trails are there for the same reason as me. At least to some degree. They’re usually pleasant, and at the very least just ignore you as they pass by. One guy though, was not only unpleasant but downright pushy and obnoxiously interested in what 2 adult women and 1 teenage girl were doing on trail without a man along. He started the conversation by saying he left his hiking partner behind because he couldn’t keep up…what a great friend right? Then wanted suggestions of other places to go in the area. We warily watched him clambering and jumping around on the wet rocks above the waterfall we were resting by while the my friend gave him some suggestions of nearby trails and attractions. After he hopped over to the opposite side of the stream and became preoccupied with taking pictures, we headed down the trail in a bit of a hurry hoping he wouldn’t follow. Once back to our car at the trailhead we stopped to have lunch and rest before going on to the next trail on our list. Sure enough though, here comes this guy. Who proceeds to sit at the other picnic table and watch us. I was uncomfortable, I think we all were. My friend said to just watch him in return. “Most people who seem like they’re up to no good will back off once they realize you’re aware of them and they see you’re keeping tabs on them.” So we all watched him watching us, and eventually he seemed to lose interest. We packed up our lunch stuff and drove to the next trailhead to finish that days adventure. I wanted to visit Hawksbill Crag, the quintessential stop for most visitors to the BNR. This was my second visit to that area and I wanted to check this spot off my list. But once on the trail it was deja vu…because here was our creeper. We met him on our way back to the trailhead, and there hadn’t been anyone else back on Hawksbill so we knew it was possible we were the only ones on the trail besides him. At that point I was no longer uncomfortable, I was mad. The teen girl in our group was extremely nervous however, so we put her in between us and booked it back towards the trailhead. Just before we started up the final hill we met another guy who turned out to be the creeper’s companion. This guy was super friendly, but just a bit perturbed at being left behind by his “friend”. We instantly felt a little less wary, but remained watchful as we made our way back to the car. This encounter started out uncomfortable and a little scary. But in the end it made me angry because there was absolutely no need for that guy to act like that. Thankfully in the 5 years since I started hiking that sort of thing has only happened once.

20190512_153748
Devil’s Toll Gate, Ozark Trail. (Photo by Madeline)

All of these experiences (and many more I didn’t mention) have taught me I’m strong, I’m capable, that my worth is so much more than my looks. That my pace as I go down the trail doesn’t have to match the pace of other, more fit people for me to be a “real” hiker. My body’s performance is limited only by my mindset, because I can make it up the mountain and back to the trailhead if I just tell myself I can. That I can control my imagination and not freak out over weird noises (came in handy when I solo camped for the first time this past summer!). It has taught me to look for the wild things, and enjoy their beauty rather than fear them. That while I can’t control other people’s actions and attitudes I can control how I respond to the situation. Most importantly it has taught me that I do belong on the trail….everyone does.

IMG_20191113_111508_148.jpg

Thanks for reading! This was originally posted on the All Women, All Trails blog. All photos taken by me unless otherwise stated!

Give Back Give Gear

I personally know how the outdoors can change lives. Through some of my darkest moments, and most difficult trials, escaping to the wilderness has provided healing and hope. It’s why I constantly encourage others to head outside. It’s why I’m passionate about making the outdoors accessible to everybody. Thanks to the people behind Hikeology Org, I now have an even greater opportunity to help people get outside!

I’m beyond excited to be working with Hikeology, a nonprofit organization of outdoor enthusiasts, whose mission is to support and inspire those struggling emotionally, physically, financially or from exclusion by sharing experiences on the trail together. Those at Hikeology also believe in nature’s ability to heal, and know that the rewards from overcoming challenges on the trail are transformative and transferrable. Our goal is to instill a lifelong love for outdoor adventure as we embrace life’s trials together with newfound strength and purpose. You can join us on this epic journey to help others get back on the right dirt path!

We just launched our Give Back, Give Gear Campaign and this is the perfect opportunity for you to make a difference in someone’s life! Whether you choose to buy new gear from our Gift Registry or donate used gear, every donation is greatly appreciated and will be added to our gear library for use at all of our Hikeology events!

Here are some examples of the gear we need:

  • Reusable water bottles
  • Water reservoirs
  • Day packs
  • 2-3 person tents (w/ footprint & rainfly)
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads
  • Headlamps

These are just a few examples, you can view the whole list on our website or on our registry.

**Please take into consideration that used items should be in functional condition and intended for outdoor use.**

The shipping address will automatically populate when you buy from the registry site, but if you would like to donate used gear you can ship it to the address below:

Hikeology Org
280 Merchants Dr. Unit #1003
Dallas, GA 30132

Giving Tuesday

It’s better to give than to recieve, right? Well Giving Tuesday is upon us, so here are a few great causes that you can give to! You may not receive a physical gift in return, but you’ll have that warm fuzzy feeling that accompanies a good deed!

Hike With Heart

Help raise money for Ability Tree First Coast who provides for the special needs community in Florida by offering Recreation, Education, Support, and Training.

Hikeology

Hikeology is a nonprofit organization of outdoor enthusiasts, whose mission is to support and inspire those struggling emotionally, physically, financially or from exclusion by sharing experiences on the trail together. They believe in nature’s ability to heal, and know that the rewards from overcoming challenges on the trail are transformative and transferrable.

Leave No Trace
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. The Center accomplishes this mission by delivering cutting-edge education and research to millions of people every year.

Rhizo Kids International
Donations help support RCDP research programs as well as a yearly conference. The conference is where our RCDP families learn and discover ways to improve the quality of life for their children. Without supporters like you, these things would not be possible.

Orca Conservancy

The Orca Conservancy is committed to the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale population and protecting the critical habitat in which they depend.

Ozark Trail Association
Your support helps the OTA conduct maintenance, construction and development events throughout the 400+ miles of Missouri’s longest National Recreation Trail, the Ozark Trail.

Shop Small Saturday

My family doesn’t Black Friday shop, instead we choose to #optoutside! Skipping the crowds, noise and stress of holiday shopping for a stroll through the woods is our new favorite way to survive the busy holiday season. We do however, love to support small businesses! So for #shopsmallsaturday I’ve put together a list of small businesses, some local and some not so local, but all offer something awesome to help fill your holiday shopping list while supporting the backbone of our economy! I’ve included the holiday sales that they will have available to help you make the most of your gift-giving budget!

KULA CLOTH

If you follow me on any of my social media platforms then you’ve already heard me talk about Kula Cloth. Especially here recently because they’ve dropped FIVE new designs and they’re all gorgeous! These are perfect stocking stuffers for the adventure loving women on your list! This week only get 15% off ALL Kula Cloths with the code WHIPPEDCREAM15 at checkout!

OUTDOOR PANTRY

By far my favorite brand of outdoor meals! They’re made with real, nutritious ingredients and have all the flavor you expect from home-cooked meals! Because they’re freeze dried instead of dehydrated they retain their nutritional value, and they’re texture is better than any other outdoor meal brand that I have tried! Outdoor Pantry has also just released their Adventure Starter Kit that includes everything you need to hit the trails! (Including one of their new, hand drawn stickers designed by yours truly!) These kits are on sale and available for preorder here!

RAWLOGY

Looking for something to work the kinks out after a long day on the trail? Rawlogy has the solution for that! Lightweight, durable, compact and eco friendly massage balls made of sustainable cork and natural rubber. These balls were used by hikers all up an down the Pacific Crest Trail this year, so Rawlogy is focusing their sales to give back to the trail through the PCTA. From 9a.m. – 11:59p.m. EST on Cyber Monday, Dec. 2 recieve $2 off all Rawlogy products in their shop*. On #GivingTuesday, they’ll match that $2 for each product sold and donate it to the PCTA! Also recieve free custom engraving (up to 3 letters) on cork massage balls, sets, or cork rollers purchased from their shop*.

*promotions exclude purchases made on Amazon.com.

BLUE RIDGE HIKING COMPANY

What better gift to give than the gift of adventure? Book a trip for your bestie, your parents, or yourself! Plus BRHC now has a store full of all the gear needed for the aspiring thru-hiker on your list! For a full rundown of their holiday sales tap this link! While you’re shopping I highly recommend grabbing one (or all) of Jennifer Pharr Davis’s books for the reader on your list!

KOI CAT CREATIVE

Amanda McIntyre is an award winning graphic designer, who specializes in branding with backgrounds in both print and web desin. She is a very gifted painter, who finds inspiration from the foxes and bears that pass through her back yard and the rolling hills, wildflowers, an mountains of her New England home. Amanda is also a stay at home mom, which I personally know is a full time job but always worth it! Amanda’s work was most recently exhibited at Frelinghuysen Arboretum, in Morristown, NJ. You can purchase her prints and originals in her Etsy Shop!

JOSHUA TREE SKIN CARE

Holiday season means winter is here and along with that comes weather that can wreak havoc on your skin! Keep your skin nourished and in good condition with Joshua Tree Skincare. They’re running a great Black Friday deal with up to 50% off!

EPIC WIPES

For an epic adventure that results in epic dirt baths, there are Epic Wipes! These wipes are 16X LARGER than a standard wet wipe, so you only need ONE to get the job done. Epic Wipes are gentle on your body and respectful of our Earth! They have deals dropping for Black Friday and Cyber Monday so I’m including their codes, and you can watch their social media platforms to find out what savings these codes will provide!

Friday’s code:EWBlackFriday2019

Monday’s code: EWCyberMonday2019 and EWStockingStuffers2019

EXPLORE MORE

Explore More wanted to create a monthly subscription that would stand out and be different from the other subscription options out there! Their mission is to inspire you to explore more of every area of your life. Each month is packed with inspiration and challenges to help you live every month to the fullest! Through December 16 their monthly subscription is on sale for only $7, so take advantage of this deal while you can!

AMY BERTRAND TYRE ART

Have someone on your list who loves art? Amy Bertrand Tyre offers beautiful and unique hand-drawn pieces like the Monstera pictured below! I have a few of her pieces and the quality + detail are top notch! Right now everything in her shop is 20% off, and for the month of November each order comes with a free gift!

ART TOOLKIT

Expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin developed the Art Toolkit and Pocket Palette from her work painting around the world. The Art Toolkit is a versatile and rugged kit that includes all you need to start sketching and painting from mountain to urban adventures. The Pocket Palettes are compact watercolor palettes that feature four different sizes of stainless steel removable pans. With a magnetic base, there are countless possibilities for rearranging the pans to customize your palette! Maria offers paint filled palettes as well, including one featuring her favorite 14 paints. All supplies have been field-tested by Maria to meet her standards for quality! Learn more at art-toolkit.com and receive a special 15% discount through Dec. 8th with the code ATKCHEER.

THE HEALTH FOOD STORE

If you’re driving through Houston, MO. this holiday season, stop by The Health Food Store and shop their wide selection of health foods, natural soaps, essential oils and handmade gifts by local artisans! Everything is currently 15% off*!

*offer excludes the granary and pre-existing sales

JOYFUL EXPRESSIONS PHOTOGRAPHY

Ok, shameless plug for my friend who is a wonderful photographer! If you’re in south-central MO. check out her Facebook page to see her amazing work and book a shoot for 2020!

Picture of my baby girl taken by Joyful Expressions Photography

ART BY KIEARA LONNING (Hammock Momma)

I hope you guys don’t mind if I add myself to this list?! I’ve been sketching since I was big enough to hold a crayon. But I never imagined that one day I would be stocking an Etsy store with my art, much less that people would like it enough to purchase it! I’m so incredibly grateful for everyone who has supported me and helped me chase my dreams! I have some of my hand drawn stickers available in my Etsy shop, and I’ll be adding Christmas cards and sasquatch magnets later this week! I also have a few custom slots available, just message me to discuss pricing! Wed. Nov. 27th through Mon. Dec. 2nd everything in my Etsy shop is 15% off, no minimum and no code required!

I’m so thankful to each of these companies for letting me include them in my list for #shopsmallsaturday! Make your holiday gift-giving even more meaningful by supporting these and other small businesses this holiday season!

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you purchase an item through them it will not cost you anything extra, and I recieve a small percentage of what you spend. This helps me fund my adventures and this blog so that I can continue to bring you the content you (hopefully) enjoy reading! Thank you for your support!

New Kula Cloth Designs

Kula Cloth just dropped their newest designs and we are in love!

‘Bee Kula’ is by far my favorite and it is designed by Amanda McIntyre, the lady who brought us the unikula “Alpine Dreams”. The Bee Kula is everything I want in a pee cloth! Sustainably sourced, antimicrobial, and bee-autiful! Also, a portion of the proceeds from this Kula will benefit a non-profit that focuses on native pollinators!

‘Twinkle Tents’ is designed by Emery Smith, and benefits the Washington Trails Association. The gorgeous colors of this Kula are so in-tents!

‘S’mores Kula’ is also designed by Amanda McIntyre, and benefits the Washington Outdoor Women’s Coalition. This one is my daughter’s favorite of the new designs, which isn’t surprising at all considering how many s’mores she can put away in one setting!

My favorite thing about all three of the new designs is that they benefit great causes, and that’s definitely something I can get behind!

Kula cloth has been a game changer for me, and I carry one everywhere I go. Hiking, trail running, road trips, even shopping trips (ever do your business only to realize there’s no TP in the dispenser?).

These make the perfect stocking stuffer for the adventure loving woman in your life! While you’re there grab one for yourself, you won’t be disappointed!

See you on the trails!

Want to read my review of Kula Cloth? You can do that here.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you purchase an item through them it will not cost you anything extra, and I recieve a small percentage of what you spend. This helps me fund my adventures and this blog so that I can continue to bring you the content you (hopefully) enjoy reading! Thank you for your support!

Best Bug Repellent

The majority of the people I know get really excited for summer, and can’t wait to get outside and hike, swim, kayak, etc. I’m completely opposite. I love the cooler months, and even enjoy being out in the winter. Summer months with their heat, humidity, ticks and mosquitos typically put me into a sort of trail hibernation. But this summer I was determined to stay active, and not let myself morph into an A/C dependant couch potato. The heat and humidity are forces I can’t really combat, so I opted to get out earlier in the day or later in the evening. The bugs however, were something that could be dealt with. I just had to find the repellent that was up for the job.

I’ve used those bug sprays made with DEET, but the smog and smell from those only seemed to repel ticks and aggravate my sinuses. They did nothing for the mosquitos, and unless applied directly to my skin (yuck) seemed ineffective against chiggers.

So I researched what other hikers were using. And by research I mean I scrolled through my Instagram feed for suggestions and then Googled those products for more in depth reviews and specs. The name I kept seeing was Sawyer Products. I already knew of this company from using their water filters, and I like the work they do to help bring clean water to those who don’t have access to it. So I was more than willing to give their bug repellent a try and at the same time support a company that is making a difference.

I decided to go all in, and bought the Permethrin clothing treatment. And since I’m not a fan of using bug spray on my body I decided to pair it with their Picaridin lotion. I’ve never treated my clothes with permethrin before, so before I started I sat down and read the entirety of the box…all of the warning labels, all of the directions…everything. Yes, I am that person. You’re welcome, and I apologize to those people who have made the mistake of asking me for information and thereby subjected themselves to the flash flood of details that are sure to follow. If this ever happens to you, just hold up both hands and tell me to chill.

The application process for Permethrin is very simple, and definitely not rocket science, but it is very important to follow the instructions. (The spray is toxic to cats while it’s wet, so make sure your kitties are kept in a separate area until it’s dry!) Make sure you are in a well ventilated area, and by that I mean outside. Don’t spray this stuff in your house! Lay your clothing out on a tarp (or an old sheet, something like that), or hang it on a clothesline. Do not treat clothes while you are wearing them! And don’t get this stuff on your skin while it’s wet. Spray your clothes in a sweeping motion (shirts, pants, socks…don’t spray your underwear) until the outer surface is slightly moistened. Then allow them to dry completely for at least 2 hours, or up to 4 hours in humid conditions. Once they’re dry you are protected from ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, and mites for up to 6 weeks, or 6 washes.

For protection on your exposed skin, apply the Picaridin lotion in a thin layer. Don’t exceed two applications a day, and keep it out of your eyes and mouth. Don’t let the kiddos get it on their hands (because kids are always putting their hands in their mouths) and make sure to apply it sparingly around the ears.

I’ve used this combo to hike trails, bushwack through the woods, trailrun, sit by the river and swing in my hammock this summer and I haven’t had a single tick or chigger. And the only mosquito bites I’ve attained were when I wasn’t wearing my treated clothing or forgot to apply the Picaridin before going out. I’ve found my winning combo, and I know I’ll go into my fall hiking season stronger because I stayed active all summer. Thanks Sawyer!

These opinions and views are my own. I did not receive any compensation for this product review.

The directions I gave above are a brief synopsis only. Please be sure to fully read all instructions and warning labels before using these products!

The 10 Essentials For Hiking

The 10 Essentials is a list of survival items to carry with you on day hikes, to be prepared in case of an emergency. A lot of people have their own version of what is a necessity, and some carry more or less than the 10 essentials that are traditionally listed. I am one of those people who likes to be prepared (somewhere between casual prepper and doomsday prepper) so I always carry the 10 essentials, even on my shorter day hikes. Better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them. Plus, they don’t weigh enough to slow me down.

The 10 Essentials list is as follows:

1. Navigation

2. Sun Protection

3. Insulation

4. Illumination

5. First-aid

6. Fire

7. Repair Kit / Tools

8. Nutrition

9. Hydration

10. Emergency Shelter

I like to add an 11th item to this list, and that would be a trash bag. There is always trash on the trails, and while I may not be the one who left it there, I will do my part and pack it out. I also have a handy trash grabber my husband bought me for my birthday that makes it easier and quicker to grab trash while on the move!

IMG_6497

1. Navigation

Navigation tools are traditionally a map and compass. In today’s world there are other options, like a GPS device or an app on your smartphone. While those are great tools to have and know how to use, I always recommend that you also carry a good topo map and a compass. Furthermore I recommend taking a navigation course and learning how to properly use a map and compass. A good topo map and compass can be used to see where you’ve been, where you’re going, and where you are. It’s good practice to track your progress on the map during your hike, and use the topographical lines and contours to identify surounding landmarks and stay found. It’s much harder to get lost (even if you’re bushwacking) when you know your location on the map! A good resource (in the US) for topo maps would be the USGS (United States Geological Survey), or for options that are revised regularly and depict a certain area you may prefer maps from National Geographic (my personal preference), DeLorme or Beartooth Publishing. For maps of long distance trails contact the trail association that oversees it, for example the Ozark Trail Association for the Ozark Trail or the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for the Appalachian Trail. While you don’t neccessarily need the most expensive compass, I would recommend one a little more reliable than one of those $5 zipper pull compasses. I use the TruArc 3 from Brunton that has adjustable declination. These and most other styles of compass are available at your local sporting goods store or online. Once again I advise you to take a navigation course and learn how to use these tools, otherwise they’re not going to be of any help once you’ve been lost in the backcountry for 4 days and are contemplating which hiking buddy to eat first. REI offers co-ed and women only navigation courses. If you don’t have an REI near you there are online options, but first I would suggest a quick Google search to see if there is a local hiking group or outdoor shop who may offer them. Hands on learning with a group may help with retaining what you learn, plus you may make new hiking friends that live near you!

IMG_6321

2. Sun Protection

It’s important to protect your skin and eyes from UV rays when recreating outdoors. A wide brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, and sunscreen along with clothing designed to block UV rays are the winning combo. My choice for sunscreen is Joshua Tree Skin Care. Their organic products are safer for my skin and the environment. For sunglasses, my go-to brand is Blender’s Eyewear. They’re affordable, comfortable and durable. I’ll admit I don’t currently own a wide brimmed hat, but my trucker hat combined with a Buff to cover my neck works also. And I have found that clothing designed to block UV rays helps tremendously and makes my sunscreen go farther. Even in summer months I will sometimes choose to wear long sleeve shirts and legging/pants in place of tank tops and shorts. And because they are made from light, moisture wicking materials I don’t really notice that I get any hotter than when I have more skin exposed. In fact I seem to be able to cool down quicker when I stop because my skin is shielded from direct sunlight. Growing up I always thought my dad was just a crazy old cowboy for insisting that long sleeves were cooler in the summer…now I totally get it lol!

IMG_6342

3. Insulation

Weather can change quickly, especially in higher altitudes. It is always good to carry some form of insulating layer and rain gear. While I don’t experience drastic weather changes in the midwest that I would if I were hiking somewhere like the Presidential Range or the Rockies, the weather here can be unpredictable to a certain degree and I’ve had sudden rainstorms make an appearence more than once. These usually come with cooler temps and wind, which can feel good at first but all that sweat combined with lower temps can chill things quicker than you may realize. In the warmer months I carry a thinner, wool blend 1/4 zip and my rain poncho. For the colder months I switch those out for a thick fleece and a waterproof hardshell. Combined with the layers I’m already wearing these are usually sufficient. Of course I always check the forecast before leaving and if there is a possibility I may need them I will add the appropiate layers to my pack. A dry pair of socks is also a good addition. In the event of an emergency that keeps you out overnight when the temps can drop a dry pair of socks can be a great morale boost as well as helping to prevent hypothermia.

IMG_6351

4. Illumination

I don’t typically hike at night. Not for any specific reason other than by the time evening rolls around I’m either back at home with my family or parked by a campfire roasting marshmallows. But one thing I always make sure to have in my pack (with fresh batteries) is my headlamp. I honestly don’t fear being out overnight because I know I’m prepared with the neccessities to survive. But take away my headlamp and that quickly changes. Just having light to see makes the mental obstacles of being out after dark (and possibly lost) easier to hurdle. And aside from using it for the obvious reasons (navigating a trail after dark) it can also be used to signal a SAR team if you are injured and awaiting a rescue. While headlamps range from simple one setting numbers to everything-but-the-kitchen-sink options I would recommend one with a low/high setting, red light setting, and strobe setting. Those options should be adequite for any intended or unintended after dark excursions.

IMG_6357

5. First-aid

This seems to be the essential that causes the most debate among outdoor recreators of all sizes and experiences. Some maintain a ziplock bag with some variation of painkillers and anti-bacterial ointment along with ducttape is all that’s neccessary. Others carry a full kit, oufitted with all the “what if” bells and whistles and could perform a minor surgery if need be. My kit is somewhere in the middle, and although not as extensive as some it is easily the heaviest item in my pack. I started with a kit from an outdoor retailer, and then added/removed what I deemed neccessary based on my own research and experience. I also periodically hike with my daughter or a group of friends so my kit has enough items for 2-4 people. When I trail run this kit is much too heavy, so I used an empty Nuun tube and created a mini first-aid kit that contains anti-bacterial wipes, moleskin, a dose of tylenol or ibuprofen, sterile pads, a needle with thread, and duct tape wrapped around the outside of the tube. This kit is small and weighs almost nothing compared to my larger kit, and when doing shorter, solo hikes I usually trade out the larger kit for this one. One item I would like to suggest adding is an emergency whistle. Should you get lost or injured this can be used to help SAR find you and can be much more effective than yelling.

IMG_6381

6. Fire

I don’t normally eat cooked meals on my day hikes, which means I don’t carry my camp stove. So if I get lost, the temps drop and I need to stay warm a fire might be neccessary. Even in an emergency situation, fires in a wilderness setting can be hazardous so please use caution when building/extinguishing campfires. Matches in a waterproof container, a lighter, or a magnesium rod with a striker are obvious options. I would recommend adding a small waterproof container with some sort of dry tinder in it. Some people use cotton balls soaked in vaseline, others collect lint from the dryer, or carry small bits of steel wool. If you find yourself in this situation and you don’t have any dry tinder, you can peel a small amount of bark from a cedar tree, roll it between your hands to “fluff” it, make a sort of “nest” or ball out of it, and then place it under a teepee of small stuff. Once you ignite it, gradually feed it larger fuel until it catches and you have the size of fire you need.

IMG_6397

7. Repair Kit/Tools

This is definitely a varied essential. Some peope carry very technical multi-tools, a sewing kit, patches, etc. I personally carry a fixed blade knife, a small amount of tenacious tape, a needle and thread, and a small bit of duct tape wrapped around my lighter. While folding knives or multitools may be more compact than my fixed blade knife, it is what I’m used to and comfortable with using.

IMG_6413

8. Nutrition

Sometimes I may go a little overboard with this one. But I like food, and I don’t like to be hungry. I also got in the habit of carrying lots of snacks because sometimes that is the only way to coax my kiddo down the trail! Plus I’m always willing to share whatever snacks I have with my fellow hikers. For bars I prefer either an RXBAR, or a Clif Bar. And if I’m headed out to crush a lot of miles I may throw a GU Energy Gel in there, just in case. I love the Salmon Fillet sticks from Epic Bar, and their Wagyu Beef sticks are pretty good also. I definitely love to carry fresh veggies and fruit with me, it helps break up the monotony of prepackaged food items. Sugar snap peas, baby carrots, cucumbers, grapes and apples are my favorites! I know lots of people love trail mix, and I don’t mind it in moderation lol. But I typically buy the ingredients I like in bulk and make my own at home. Freeze dried fruit is a good addition to trail mix, like the blueberries and strawberries you can get from Outdoor Pantry. One ingredient I must have is coconut! I love everything coconut, and baked coconut chips are my absolute favorite. I prefer the Hungry Buddha Coconut Chips, and I love the variety of flavor options they have!

IMG_6424

9. Hydration

The most essential, essential on the list. You can miss dinner and it likely isn’t going to hurt you (unless you have a medical condition like diabetes), but dehydration is another matter entirely. I always insist that people who hike with me bring an adequete amount of water for the hike. In fact if you’ve planned a hike with me I’ve probably driven you crazy with my constant reminders to “bring plenty of water!” But it is a serious issue. After getting severely dehydrated on my first hiking trip in Arkansas I’m overly cautious with my water intake. And I often carry more than I need, but I’ve actually had a couple instances where my hiking partner didn’t bring any water. Thankfully I had enough to share. This is one area where I don’t compromise, and if you meet me at the trailhead and you didn’t bring water I’m likely to leave you behind. I’m not even kidding. I always carry two, 32 oz. Nalgenes with me and a filter so I can refill when I need to. My filter of choice is the MSR Trailshot. It’s lightweight, compact and simple to use. If you would like my full review and the specs on it you can read that here. Another good addition to your hydration kit is some form of electrolyte replacement. Especially during summer months! There are a lot of good options, and after trying several of them I will say my preference is Nuun Hydration. They’re clean tasting, have just the right amount of fizz, and aren’t loaded with sugar like some popular brands. Nuun has 5 different formulas that come in a variety of flavors. When hiking or running I use Nuun Sport to replace electrolytes, and at the end of the day I use Nuun Rest to help my body recover and prepare for the next days activities.

IMG_6487

10. Emergency Shelter

I’ll admit I haven’t always carried this essential. I honestly felt a little silly stuffing a tarp and tent stakes into my daypack. But after considering most of the places I hike do not have cell service, and a lot of the times I have my kiddo with me I decided it was more than worth it should we get stuck out there overnight. Although a hammock doesn’t really qualify as a shelter I typically have it with me as well, because I love mid-hike naps lol! Another good option is an emergency bivy, which you can find at most outdoor stores.

IMG_6428

11. Trash Bag

While not really considered part of the essentials list, there is a growing number of 11th essential hikers who are choosing to pack out the trash they find on trail during every hike. In fact one super rad lady on Instagram has started quite a movement with her 11th Essential IG profile, and if you have IG definitely give her a follow! You can use pretty much any type of bag to pack out trash, but if you’re looking for something a little more durable then check out the Deuter Dirtbag available on the Leave No Trace website.

My Essentials

Beyond the 10 Essentials, is a list of items I don’t leave home without. Not because I’m paid to say that, but simply because I find them to be essential to my adventures. I’m going to share these items with you, because they have truly made a difference for me and I think they could do the same for you!

1. Kula Cloth

Yes, it’s a pee cloth. I know, it sounded strange to me also when I first read about them. But now I’m a believer, and take one on every hike, run, bike ride, and road trip I go on. For a full review with all the specs you can go here. If you want to purchase your own piece of art in pee cloth form then you can shop for them here.

IMG_6434

2. ArmaSkin Sock Liner

Your feet are the foundation (literally) for all of your adventures. Blisters used to be an issue for me, every hike and run I went on. Since I added the anti blister sock to my wardrobe I haven’t gotten a single blister. Except the one time I forgot to wear them on a 4 mile run. I haven’t forgotten them since lol! If you would like to read more about them, you can do that here. If you need blister protection as much as I do visit their website and use code “hammock15” for 15% off your purchase. (This isn’t an affiliate code, the people at ArmaSkin were just kind enough to set that up so I could pass it on to my followers!)

IMG_6445

3. Buff

Buffs are extremely versatile and very popular among outdoor recreators. Use it as a headband, neck gaiter, UV blocker, to strain the floaters out of your water, arm sling, sweat mop…the uses are almost endless. There’s even a record setting hiker who used one as a skirt once, and if you don’t know that story you can read it in her book, “Thirst: 2,600 Miles to Home“.

IMG_6453

4. Bug Repellant

While my favorite season for hiking is definitely late fall through early spring, if I stopped hiking for the entirety of the wamer months I would probably go insane. So for the sake of my sanity (and my husbands lol) I have learned how to combat the mosquitos, chiggers and ticks that we have an overabundance of here in the midwest. I treat my shirts, pants, socks (outer layer only, not my liners), and boots with permethrin. There are three methods for treatment. If you are uncomfortable with handling permethrin yourself there are companies who will do it for you. Simply send them the clothing you want treated, they treat it and send it back to you. Or, if you feel up to the task (it’s really not difficult) you can do it at home. You can use the soak method, or you can use the spray. I prefer the spray, even though the soak method is said to last longer. The spray lasts 6 weeks, or 6 washings and this is perfect for me because by the time I need to retreat my clothes I’m usually wanting to switch some of it out. I use Sawyer permethrin spray, which comes with detailed instructions and is very user friendly. Just be certain you are in a well ventilated area (like outside), wear gloves, and make sure you put your critters up until this stuff is comletely dry. You can hang your items to be sprayed on a clothesline, or lay them out on a tarp. Spray them according to Sawyer’s instructions, let them dry 2-4 hours (depending on the level of humidity where you live) and you’re good to go! As a second line of defense I use the Sawyer Picaridin lotion on exposed skin (do not apply near eyes, mouth and only sparingly around your ears). I fully expected to come home after my last camping trip with at least a few bug bites, but I’m happy to report no evidence of mosquitos, ticks or chiggers was found!

IMG_6467

5. Tripod

Definitely not a neccessary piece of gear. But my favorite way to remember my adventures is with photos. And I take lots of them! But when hiking solo it’s hard to get photos of me without it being a selfie. Likewise with a group! Our group photos are usually a group-selfie. A small, inexpensive tripod that can hold my phone doesn’t weigh much, and won’t take up a ton of space in my pack.

IMG_6479

6. Epic Wipes

A shower in a wipe, infused with eucalyptus essential oil and made from bamboo so they’re completely biodegradable. They don’t leave a sticky residue, which means there’s no need to rinse. I don’t usually carry one in my pack for day hikes, but I always have a couple in my car for after those really muddy hikes.

IMG_6461

7. Toilet Kit

Not listed as an essential for survival, but it is definitely an essential! My toilet kit consists of a KulaCloth, a small amount of TP (for those jobs that a Kula can’t do), a Deuce of Spades, ziplock bag (for packing out used TP), and hand santizer. The Kula is snapped on the outside of my pack for easy access, and the rest goes in a small waterproof stuff sack from Sea to Summit.

IMG_6484

You can research the best gear, the best clothing, and the most popular choice of essentials, but when it comes down to it everyone is going to have different preferences. I know what works for me, it may work for you and it may not. And that’s ok! The items on the 10 essentials list can help keep you safe should an emergency arise while in a wilderness setting. My goal and the purpose of this blog is to inspire you to get out and hike, camp, kayak, mtn bike, or even just go for a walk around your neighborhood park. I believe time in nature is important for our mental, physical and spiritual health. But at the end of the day I also want you to arrive home safe, so you can go adventure another day! Now, lace up those boots, grab the essentials, and go explore! (But don’t forget to bring along plenty of water!!!)

IMG_6531

 

All photos are taken by me unless otherwise stated. These views and opinions are my own. Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you purchase an item through them it will not cost you anything extra, and I recieve a small percentage of what you spend. This helps me fund my adventures and this blog so that I can continue to bring you the content you (hopefully) enjoy reading! Thank you for your support!

Echo Bluff State Park & Cave Spring

“Hiking is not escapism; it’s realism. The people who choose to spend time outdoors are not running away from anything; we are returning to where we belong.” Jennifer Pharr Davis

 Easily my favorite quote, by my favorite author. I’ve used it numerous times, because it resonates so deeply with me. When I head out the door to hike, run or just swing in my hammock I’m not running away or avoiding responsibilities. I’m going to a place where I belong…outside.

LRM_EXPORT_21361278910959_20190429_111401032
Blessed to live in such a beautiful place!

2019 has been such a crazy year for us. Lots of new changes, from addresses to job descriptions. I feel like I’ve been caught in a continual whirlwind, and not making outdoor time a priority has definitely contributed to that feeling. So when we set the date and place for our monthly ladies group hike, I decided to make a weekend of it!

The ladies I was hiking with couldn’t join me Friday, which meant I would be spending the first night at the campsite solo. Something I had never done before. I was slightly nervous, and enormously excited! Solo camping was on my bucket list for 2019, and I LOVE checking things off my lists.

Our chosen hike for August was the Cave Spring trail that starts at Devil’s Well, an underground lake located in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Another item on my 2019 bucket list, I had never been to Cave Spring but the photos I had seen had me drooling.

IMG_20190806_090512_872
Our August group hike crew!!!!!

Once we had the date and time to meet set, I started researching local campgrounds and state parks. I initially thought to camp at Montauk State Park, because I know it so well and have camped there before. But it was farther than I wanted to drive on the morning of our hike so I settled on Echo Bluff State Park instead. And I’m so glad I did! I chose walk in site #1, and it was perfect. Close enough to the shower house to be convenient but far enough from all the other sites that I had complete privacy (except for the kid who thought the path to my campsite was a bike trail at 7 a.m. Saturday morning).

Echo Bluff started as a youth summer camp in 1929, called Camp Zoe. Over the next 75 years it changed hands 3 times but remained open and served to provide hundreds of children with fond memories of summers spent outside, riding horses, learning archery, hiking, and swimming in Sinkin Creek. The youth camp closed in 2004, and over the next 6 years Camp Zoe was used to host music festivals. In 2010 federal authorities closed them down and the owner pled guilty to “maintaining a drug involved premises.” The state acquired the property and construction on Echo Bluff started in 2015 and the park held it’s grand opening on July 31st of 2016.

LRM_EXPORT_644878716079465_20190821_204609209
Echo Bluff over Sinkin Creek

I arrived at Echo Bluff around 4p.m. on Friday, giving myself plenty of time to set up camp and then relax the evening away in my hammock. And that’s exactly what I did! I almost thought I would be bored, spending the evening alone but instead it gave me the opportunity to come and go as I pleased (a moms dream come true!).

LRM_EXPORT_645042122748309_20190821_204852616
Sunset over the campground at Echo Bluff

Since I was expecting company the next night I brought along our family car camping tent. An Ozark Trail Instant Up…which takes about 60 seconds to set up. Within 10 minutes I had my camp ready for the weekend and dinner started (I wish my house would come together that quickly lol!).

untitled-6167
The GSI Halulite Kettle and Outdoor Pantry makes a winning combo!

My dinner choice for the evening was the Quinoa & Black Bean Chili from Outdoor Pantry, and if you haven’t tried it yet I definitely recommend it! They have a wonderful selection of meals, with delicious vegan/vegetarian options (like the chili I mentioned above!), as well as some newly released comfort foods like Chicken & Waffles!

After dinner it was reading in my hammock until just before dark and then I headed in for the night. Now, I was definitely looking forward to a cozy night in my tent. I had two sleeping pads, one inflatable and one foam to help keep my hips from digging into the ground which is usually an issue because I’m a side sleeper. I also brought my Sierra Designs Backountry Bed and a regular size feather pillow. I mean how could that not be comfy? Unless of course, the inflatable pad should spring a leak in the middle of the night…thank goodness I brought the foam pad!

LRM_EXPORT_644971336392034_20190821_204741830
Watching the day come alive from my favorite spot!

After fighting with a leaky sleeping pad and getting about 4 hours of sleep, I finally gave up around 6 a.m. and just started my day. And by starting my day I mean sitting my hammock to eat breakfast and read lol! Can camping just be my life 24/7? Later that morning one of my friends brought her hammock and joined me for a visit before we headed to the trailhead to meet up with the other ladies.

Devil’s Well is only about 20 minutes from Echo Bluff. But beware! A good chunk of that drive time is the gravel road to the trailhead. You don’t need a 4X4 vehicle, but you definitely need decent ground clearance. My next visit I’ll be driving our Suburban instead of the Malibu!

(These three photos taken by Kelly!)

Devil’s Well is an ancient sinkhole with an underground lake at the bottom. The lake is approximately 400 ft. long X 100 ft. wide, and with a depth measuring 80 ft.-100 ft. it holds about 22 million gallons of water. The water in Devil’s Well flows underground, and is part of the supply system for Cave Spring. The small bit of water you can glimpse through the opening at Devil’s Well will eventually surface in Cave Spring about one mile away on the Current River. That distance would be as the crow flies, it’s actually two miles from Devil’s Well to Cave Spring via the trail.

IMG_20190811_183237_713
Looking down into Devil’s Well

IMG_20190805_080338_003
Using the MSR Trailshot to filter water from Cave Spring. Photo taken by Madeline.

Thanks to the wonderful Midwest heat and humidity we were more than ready for a break once we reached Cave Spring. The freezing spring water was exactly what we needed to refill our water bottles, and the cool air coming from the cave made it a perfect spot to stop for lunch. The only downside to our time there was an overload of canoers and kayakers enjoying the prime floating season on the Current. I love to kayak, so I understand the draw to be on the water! It just so happened we all showed up to the same place, at the same time. Still, we were all able to (mostly) share the space. One canoe had a floofy pup on board, which of course held our attention for quite awhile! The refreshing Current River, the beautiful blue of the spring water, friendly dogs, old men in speedos, all made for an unforgettable experience…seriously, some of that cannot be unseen!!!

LRM_EXPORT_109783366086974_20190804_202656006
Madeline and I enjoying our post-hike feast!

Post-hike we went our seperate ways, and I headed back to my campsite with a friend in tow. We opted to cool off in Sinkin Creek, which lasted about 20 minutes before a storm rolled in. Our next big idea was to spread all of our food out buffet style between us and eat while lazing in the tent and listening to the rain. Is there anything more cozy than rain on your tent roof, a down sleeping bag, and a smorgasbord laid out in front of you? If there is I haven’t found it yet! After the rain ceased we went for a walk through the campgound, and ended the evening swaying in hammocks and chatting about the day’s adventures, and laughing about the speedos.

Sunday morning came with sunshine and birds singing (my favorite way to wake up!) and the promise of another day filled with adventure! We ate our breakfast of Muesli from Outdoor Pantry, cinnamon scones from Trader Joe’s, chocolate Clif Bars and drip filter coffee. Meals are better when you pool you’re resources! Thanks for sharing Madeline!!!

LRM_EXPORT_645088876698447_20190821_204939370
The best coffee is made when you’re camping!

Then we headed for one of the trails inside Echo Bluff state park because we are ridiculously addicted to hiking and can’t get enough! It was only supposed to be a 1.1 mile hike, a loop trail with a short spur at one end. However it just kept going, and going, and going. When I checked our mileage we were at 1.5 miles and the trail kept going. But for the sake of time and not wanting to get lost (that part of the trail was not on the map) we turned around. I don’t know where that trail goes, but now I’m curious and want to find out lol! After our hike we headed back to break down camp, making sure we didn’t leave any trash behind. It’s very important to leave your campsite clean, no matter if it’s in a maintained campground or out in the backcountry. If you have questions about the Leave No Trace principles you can always ask me or go to www.lnt.org and read up on ways you can leave it better!

LRM_EXPORT_127076342271158_20190805_072558596
One last hike before heading home!

After that sweat sesh (thank you humidity!) we decided to go back to the creek and swim until it was time to go. And yes, we definitely yelled at the giant bluff the park is named for to see if it would echo. And yes, it does echo! The creek was surprisingly deep enough to actually swim in, which this 6 ft. tall hiker chick was super thankful to discover. We glady would have stayed in the creek all day if real life didn’t demand we return home before nightfall.

Echo Bluff turned out to be one of my top 5 MO State Parks to camp at and I plan on going back soon with my family. And if tent camping isn’t your style they also have full service RV hook-ups, cabins and a lodge (complete with a store and restaruant) to choose from. There’s something for everyone!

Cave Spring was even more beautiful than I thought it would be! I can’t wait to go back (after floating season dies down!) and explore more of the area…and maybe throw up my hammock to take a nap!

IMG_20190819_104218_411[1]
Cave Spring

This adventure was a much needed chance to hit the breaks and recharge after a chaotic start to my year. There’s no shame in taking a minute to care about yourself, and fill your cup so you can spill some of that into someone else’s and maybe make their day a little more sunny. So! I’m challenging YOU to make time for an adventure, to fill your soul, and then tell me about it! Where did you go? Who did you go with? Hopefully there are no old guys wearing speedos in your adventure lol!

There are a lot of items that I use to make my camping and hiking life easier and more organized. Here is a short list of some items I used on this trip!

  • Kula Cloth, the first intentionally designed pee cloth…for everywhere you go!
  • Joshua Tree Skincare sunscreen and lip balm helped protect exposed skin from the sun!
  • Epic Wipes, biodegradeble and infused with essential oils they’re a great option when a shower isn’t!
  • ArmaSkin’s anti-blister sock liners, I never hike without them! (Use ‘hammock15’ and save 15% off your purchase!)
  • GSI Halulite Kettle and Ultralight Java Drip make the perfect cup of coffee!
  • Outdoor Pantry’s meals are lightweight but heavy on nutrition and flavor!
  • Sawyer Products Permethrin clothing treatment and Picaridin lotion are the winning combo for repelling ticks, mosquitos and chiggers!
  • MSR Trailshot water filter packs down small but packs a punch when it comes to making your water safe to drink!
IMG_20190813_090741_274
See you on the trails!! (photo by Kelly!)

 

All photos are taken by me unless otherwise stated. These views and opinions are my own. Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you purchase an item through them it will not cost you anything extra, and I recieve a small percentage of what you spend. This helps me fund my adventures and my blog so that I can continue to bring you the content you (hopefully) enjoy reading! Thank you for stopping by!

 

The Best Meals for the Backcountry

untitled-6195

For me a very important part of any outdoor adventure is food. I mean, your girl likes to eat! But not just anything. While I don’t necessarily need a gourmet meal in the backcountry I also don’t want to sacrifice hot meals for cold bars and snack cakes. Traditional meals present a problem though because they are heavy and require too many cooking utensils, and after a long day of hiking, too much energy to prepare. That’s why I’m so happy I found Outdoor Pantry’s freeze dried meals!

untitled-6165

I’ve tried several different brands of dehydrated/freeze dried foods, and in those brands a variety of meals. I have never been fully satisfied with taste, texture, and ease of preparation until now. These meals have exceeded my expectations!

untitled-6167

All that is required to prepare your breakfast/lunch/dinner is a heat source and water. Outdoor Pantry meals rehydrate in their own pouch so there are no dishes to do (aside from licking your spoon clean!). Dishes are my least favorite chore so that fact makes me a pretty happy camper!! And some of their snacks don’t require rehydrating, you can just eat them right out of the bag!

untitled-6180

With 16 breakfasts, and 21 entrees you have endless choices and ways to mix it up! Plus 22 snack items to choose from! My favorite snack so far is the Strawberry Yogurt Bark, which is freeze dried strawberry yogurt littered with slices of strawberry and chocolate chunks! It was also a favorite with my picky 7yr old!

yogurt-bark.jpg

One of the highlights for August is the Hunters Pack Variety Box, which features 4 of their best selling meals along with a bag of their delicious granola! This box was put together by Gabe Perrish of Backwoods Pursuit, so you know each meal was chosen with hunters in mind! You can find that box in the featured section on the Outdoor Pantry website. And if you are looking for vegan or vegetarian options Outdoor Pantry has plenty of choices for you! I highly recommend the Quinoa & Black Bean Chili!

20190807_172604 (2)

Even more than the minimalist cooking style and ease of preparation that comes with these meals, I love the detail to wholesome nutrition that is put into each Outdoor Pantry breakfast, entrée and snack! Real, healthy ingredients (that you can pronounce!) are selected for each meal/snack and then put in state of the art freeze driers which helps the food retain 97% of it’s nutrients. Not to mention the flavor, color, texture, taste and shape! My Quinoa & Black Bean Chili contained sweet potatoes, and they looked, tasted and smelled like sweet potatoes! Mind blown!

untitled-6196

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, and at my last camping trip I got to share breakfast with one of my best friends! We decided to split the Gluten Free Muesli Cereal since we also had scones to share (thanks Madeline!). At first I wasn’t certain if I would like it, I had muesli once before and didn’t care for it. But I had never tried it hot so maybe that’s where I had gone wrong. Whatever the reason for not liking it before, the OP muesli completely changed my opinion! And it was PACKED with yummy, nutritious ingredients, like coconut (my favorite!) and pumpkin seeds!

LRM_EXPORT_127091791546152_20190805_072614045 (2)

 Bottom line, I would 10/10 recommend Outdoor Pantry for camping, backpacking (freeze dried meals are lightweight and pack a nutrient filled punch for each ounce!), disaster preparedness, or even just for a quick lunch at the office. And with vegetarian/vegan options they have something for everyone!

untitled-6214

Outdoor Pantry is a woman owned business based out of Tucson, Arizona. I’m proud to be able to partner with this company as an ambassador and help promote a small business while bringing you information and honest reviews on products that will help you get out and chase your adventures!

LRM_EXPORT_127009841351392_20190805_072452095 (2)Photo credit of this shot goes to my friend Madeline, thanks for capturing my goofy side!!

All photos are taken by me unless otherwise stated. These opinions and reviews are mine.