Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Good Night's Sleep

On the backpacking trip attempt last October, I took my son's sleeping bag.  Mine was too heavy and didn't fit into the compression sack I had purchased.  Though I tried the sleeping bag out for size to see if I fit in the youth bag, I didn't really try it to see if I could really hunker down in the bag (You know, in case I needed to be comfortable outdoors in a Nor'easter).  Surprise! I couldn't really snuggle into the bag, and I was cold the whole night.  So with the REI member dividend, the first thing I wanted to purchase was a new sleeping bag.
I settled on a Kelty Cosmic Down 20.  I wasn't really looking to get a down bag.  I have this fear of it getting wet and losing its ability to keep me warm.  But this down is treated and is called DriDown.  DriDown stays dry 10 times longer than traditional untreated down, it retains 2.7 times more loft when exposed to moisture and humidity than untreated down and it dries 33% faster than untreated down.  And don't worry about the treatment of the down, the whole process and the treatment were rated non hazardous to human health, safety and the environment from an unbiased 3rd party internationally recognized agency.  Originally I was going to get the women's bag.  But it's a pinkish color.  Let me stop here a moment to ask, why do all companies think women's stuff has to be pink? I hate pink.  I think pink for a sleeping bag is stupid- unless it also has a Disney Princess on it and is sold to a 4 year old.  Seriously, why would any outdoor gear manufacturer think that "Hey women who use this stuff want pink"? 
Anyway, back to my bag.  I checked out the men's version of the bag (in a nice blue color I might add) and found they made a men's short bag.  It saved about 3 ounces of weight compared to the women's bag (and it wasn't pink).  I compared the length (66") to other sleeping bags and found it was comparable to some of the women's bags, so I ordered it.
The bag arrived yesterday, and I immediately took it out to try it on for size.  Definitely enough room to hunker down in, and definitely warm enough.  I was sweating after only a few minutes.
All that is left to do is figure out the food (going with the ease of some Mountain House meals I think), the clothes (waiting to see what the weather will bring) and exchange a leaky sleeping pad and too big compression sack at REI (darn I so hate going to REI....).  That just leaves working on my endurance and planning a test run with the tent and new Tyvek footprint before we go.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

HYOH: Hike Your Own Hike

Last October, we set out on our very first backpacking trip to hike the 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland south to Harper's Ferry.  Prior to leaving, I predicted there would be some type of weird thing (really, you can read about it here), and of course we had a Hurricane and a Nor'easter heading our way.  The hurricane veered off course, but the Nor'easter was making a direct hit.  We decided to go anyway.  The time had been taken off of work and the planning had been done so off we went. 
When we started out, things weren't too bad.  It was lightly raining, but it wasn't too cold and it wasn't a heavy rain, so we trudged onward.  By the time we made it to the first shelter (the Raven Rock Shelter), we were dealing with injuries, and before long, the weather started to turn. 
We opted to stay the night in the shelter where most of us were up all night listening to the wind and the rain and the large limbs banging on the roof.  It was a wild storm, and I'm thankful I was in a sturdy structure and not my tent. When morning came (very early since we didn't really sleep much at all), it was decided that we needed to end the adventure and head home.  At the time, we were all comfortable with the decision being the right one, even though we were disappointed.  Unfortunately, there was someone on social media who made comments about being "quitters".  This person tried to claim they were trying to give a pep talk, but in the end all the comments were borderline mean.  The other unfortunate thing is that I let it get to me.  I began second guessing the choice we all made, second guessing my ability to even backpack and ended up depressing myself.  There were several times when I considered taking all my gear back to REI and being done with the dream.
There were others on social media, namely those from a Women's Hiking Group, who were sympathetic.  They let us know it was better to "live to hike another day" and mentioned how some of them canceled their trips without even attempting it like we had.  While that made me feel better, I still beat myself up over it. It wasn't until listening to a podcast (The First 40 Miles that I've mentioned before) that I finally got it.  In their episode 13 "Are You Hiking Your Own Hike?" they discussed the top 5 Tips for Hiking Your Own Hike, and #5 resonated with me:
  1. Remember that it’s not a “Winner Takes All” sport
  • Hiking and backpacking is a non-competitive sport where the only players are you and Mother Nature.
  • You’re not separate teams, you’re kind of on the same team, but not always playing the same game.
  • Snow, washouts, mudslides, freak thunderstorms can totally change your plans
  • Learn to respect Mother Nature and be flexible
  • If you go home early you haven’t “lost”
  • No one who leaves a trip alive ever “loses” 
(quoted from The First 40 Miles Podcast episode 13 notes

I don't know why it took this podcast to get through my head what others had been saying all along, but it did. 
Message finally received.

So when you're out in the woods hiking, and a situation arises where you have to end the trip early or alter your plans in some way, it's okay.  You will never beat Mother Nature.  More importantly, you don't have to feel like you need to beat any body.  And if you live to hike another day, that makes you a winner.  Because you aren't dead.  It means people who sit at home on their comfy couch while you're out walking to a privy 100 yards away at 3:00 am in the middle of a Nor'easter dodging falling tree limbs don't have the right to judge any decision you make for safety reasons. 
Our trip attempt from October will just be another one of those "Remember when we hiked in that crazy Nor'easter?" story to go along with all the other stories that have similar remember whens (oddly, we have quite a few of those stories).  And looking back, I think that makes us pretty kick-ass.
So get out there and Hike Your Own Hike

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Weighing In

On the first attempt at our backpacking trip, I just packed the pack and put it on and weighed it using the bathroom scale.  It was heavy.  Big E (my husband) and I tried shuffling things around and trading items, but we really had no clue what weighed what, so the trading and shuffling wasn't very effective.
I had seen different posts on groups online about how they weighed each individual item, and honestly, I thought that was silly and overkill.  Then I listened to a podcast that discussed the same thing.  The idea is, if you know the weight of each item in ounces, you can make decisions on each individual item and shed the pounds that way (shave ounces, shed pounds).  I have since become obsessed with the weight of all my stuff.  In fact, the new sleeping bag I ordered is actually a men's short because it saved me $10 but also because it was 2-3 ounces lighter than the woman's version.  So, anyway, yesterday afternoon, I sat down and started weighing everything.  So far, I'm at 18.5 pounds (including the pack).  This doesn't include clothing, food, water or the tent.  It also doesn't include a first aide kit because I realized how heavy they were, so I'm going to rethink my first aide supplies (really, I don't think I need tongue depressors for finger splits when a twig will work nicely in a pinch- not that I plan on breaking a finger).  It did include 3 pairs of hiking socks, which are surprisingly heavy.  Since I'm taking sock liners (essentially a thin pair of socks worn under hiking socks to help prevent blisters), I think I can get away with leaving behind at least 1 extra pair if not 2.  I'm also not planning on taking too many clothes.  Not that I have any intentions of naked backpacking (though there is a naked backpacking day on June 21st FYI).  Clothes are heavy, so if I can take the bare minimum, I'll be good.  Basically, I'll have to wait and see what the weather is going to be like.  I'm hoping for warmer temps so I can wear shorts and leave the base layers at home.
Saving ounces here and there by deciding what is really important to take is how I hope to keep my pack weight as close to 20 pounds as possible.  If I can manage that, I'll be good to go!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dividends are a Glorious Thing

This was my Easter basket.  The Easter Bunny didn't bring it, I had to buy it all myself, and I got in trouble with the husband for how much I spent.... but still worth it.  Three of the four of us heading out on this trip went to REI this weekend to get some last minute items.  March bring REI dividends and 20% coupons and both were burning holes in my pocket.  I ordered a new sleeping bag (it cost me $2 and change after the coupon and dividend), got some loksaks for food and trash, a waterproof compression sack for the new sleeping bag (but I got the Large instead of the Medium, now I want to take it back to get the Medium), a dry sack for holding all the food and hanging it from a tree (which I need to practice doing), freeze dried food, some ultra light tent stakes and a plastic bottle to use as a flask. But, because I want to lighten my load, I'm thinking of for going the flask. I think I'm going to be way too tired to bother with whiskey. 
Following the shopping spree, we hit a nearby pizza place with some of the best pizza I've had in a while, to have a planning meeting and lunch.  We worked out a game plan for our overnight stops, and talked about food and what items could be shared to save weight in each others' packs.   It was an awesome day.  The excitement is definitely building for this trip.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Backpacking Command Central

It's starting to get real, folks.  This weekend, 3 of us are making a trip down to REI followed by a lunch meeting to plan out the particulars of the upcoming trip.  Things have a way of sneaking up on you even when you're paying attention.  This time next month we'll be on our second day of our trip, provided we don't have any odd weather occurrences.
In preparation of our meeting, I've been mapping out our stops each day and the mileage between each.  We have some options about where to stop, and I imagine we'll come to a consensus this weekend.  I still need to figure out the last 2 days/20 miles that my mother and I will be doing.
I've also been working on the plan for what's going in my pack.  I'm determined to lighten my load this time around.  I borrowed a digital scale so I can measure each thing that goes into my pack.  Last time I just packed my pack with everything I planned to bring and weighed myself on the bathroom scale to see how heavy it was.  It was 27 pounds, and to me that was heavy.  My husband's was 30+ pounds.  So, following the suggestion from the backpacking podcast I've been listening to (The First 40 Miles), I'm going to weigh each item and make decisions based on the weight of those individual things.  I know one thing I'm going to make sure I do is to not pack the stuff I need for the extra 2 days in my pack.  When my dad comes to meet us at Harper's Ferry, I'll make sure that extra stuff is in the vehicle he's bringing (food, change of clothes, etc) so I don't have that extra weight.  I also plan to offload stuff I don't need for the extra days.  My mom and I can share my 2 man tent, so she'll be able to leave hers with my dad, and she and I can split up mine between us to lighten the load.  I'm thinking those extra 20 miles won't be too bad as far as pack weight, and that's just fine with me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Podcast Review: The First 40 Miles

During my Pinterest browsing, I came across this podcast in a search of backpacking things.  It caught my eye because it's called The First 40 Miles which is similar to the Hiking 40 for my 40th title of this blog.  40 must be a magic number.
So I've been listening to the podcast to see how it is.  Some podcasts are just painful to listen to, even if you're extremely interested in the topic.  This podcast isn't like that.  I've enjoyed the handful of episodes I've listened to so far.  The format is simple: it starts with an opening story or insight, then discusses different topics (like items you can leave at home, surprising places to find backpacking supplies, weight of items, etc) and then reviews a backpacking item.  There's also a Backpack "Hack of the Week" that gives instruction on how to make backpacking items (nut bars, "kitchen sink", etc).
The episodes are only about 20-30 minutes long, but I find that to be a perfect length.  It's informative and to the point and holds your interest.  I like to listen to podcasts while at work or while I'm cleaning or working at home- basically anywhere you listen to the radio you can listen to a podcast and learn something.
Overall,  I would highly recommend this podcast to anyone who is relatively new to hiking and/or backpacking or even for people who have gone backpacking before. I'm already planning on using some of the things they've had on their "Hack of the Week" segment, and I'm going to utilize the ideas they've talked about.  So if you want to get some basic info on hiking/backpacking check out The First 40 Miles

Friday, March 18, 2016

Christmas in March

Our rescheduled back packing trip is fast approaching, and just in time is my REI dividend.  It's really just like Christmas.  While I have already managed to procure the items I need for the trip (i.e., pack, boots, tent, etc.), I do really want a new sleeping bag. 

The sleeping bag I own now is great.  It keeps me toasty on camping trips.  However, it isn't meant for back packing, which means it's large, bulky and heavy.  Plus I purchased it from Sunny's Surplus some time ago- and their stores have been closed since 2007.  I used my son's youth sized bag when we went for our first trip attempt.  I tried his bag out at home and thought it fit. But when I went to use it in the middle of a howling nor'easter, it just wasn't long enough to hunker down in. 
So thank goodness for REI's member dividend (and 20% off coupon).  I've chosen a new sleeping bag that is only 2lbs8oz and I'll end up paying under $10 out of pocket when it's all said and done.  That leaves more money in my pocket to spend on other stuff I need.  I'm compiling a list now of all the little odds and ends I need to get before the next trip. 
Only 34 days to go!