We always have hiking poles on the packing list of any hiking trip we offer. Here are the most common questions we get.
Why do you recommend trekking poles so highly?
Trekking poles contribute to your safety by improving your balance and stability, and to your health by saving stress on your knees. In addition they help conserve your energy by transferring some of the work to your arms and chest. As a result, and as an additional bonus, you also get an upper body workout with great triceps training.
What should I look for when I buy poles?
The short answer is to make sure their height can be adjusted, they have an upright (as opposed to cane-like) handle, and have wrist straps that can be adjusted. If you're just starting out, our advice is either to purchase an inexpensive pair (EBay,or some of the big box stores can be a good source) or borrow a pair of poles from a friend. Then go on a hiking trip where you can not only learn what they are all about but the correct way to use them. You’ll also see what others have chosen. Once you’ve gained a bit of experience and you know that hiking is going to be a regular part of your life, you can make a more informed decision about whether you want to invest in the ‘perfect’ pair of poles. For more details, read this blog post: http://blog.adventuresingoodcompany.com/blog-women-travel/bid/153280/Choosing-Trekking-Poles-for-your-Next-Hiking-Trip
Will TSA allow me to carry poles onto an airplane in my carry on?
If you ask TSA, you will most likely be told that carrying on your poles is not legal. However, our experience is that when traveling in the United States, it is very uncommon to be stopped. What we recommend is to pull your poles completely apart and put them in your carry-on luggage; if your luggage is designed to fit the requirements of carry-on baggage, the poles will just fit. Leave enough time at the airport to check your bag if TSA stops you. The advantages of carrying them on are that your hiking poles will definitely get there and it won't cost anything. The downside is that you could get stopped and have to go check your bag.
What are my options if I don’t want to risk a TSA run in?
The easiest is to put them into a checked suitcase. If you pull them apart, they take up very little room. Other options are to package them in rolled cardboard and check them as a second piece of luggage or to mail them ahead to your destination. Both of those can be expensive so another option, depending on where you are going and how long you will be there before you need them, is to buy them once you’re there.
Occasionally someone calls to ask advice on how to start an adventure travel company. Since I love talking about business in general and Adventures in Good Company in particular, I'm always happy to share my experience with the emphasis that it is simply my experience. So here it is:
The best advice I ever got was "Don't quit your day job"! At the time I was working halftime for a boss who was very flexible about how I worked my hours, so it was perfect. But I was past ready to leave and thought that the business could grow faster if I spent all my time working on it. Maybe that's true, who knows? The fact is that it grew much more slowly than I anticipated and I had alot to learn. When 9/11 happened 2 years later and for a few months the phone stopped ringing, I was very happy to have a source of income. It was almost 3 years before it felt marginally safe to leave my job.
The best decision I made was to not be the only guide but to work with women who had guided with me at an organization called Woodswomen. I knew and trusted them. While I would have made more money initially if I had done all the guiding, having other guides gave me the time to build the infrastructure and figure out marketing (two things I knew nothing about) while offering more trips. I did continue to guide because I loved it (one of the reasons I started the company) but by employing other guides too, I was able to build a business, not just create a job for myself.
Many people want to start travel companies because they love to be outdoors and/or they love to travel. There is a difference between loving those and wanting to be the guide responsible for other people loving those (see the post on becoming an adventure travel guide). And there is a difference yet again between loving the outdoors and travel, and guiding, and wanting to be in business. Fortunately it turned out that I loved all three and I loved the steep learning curve of how to run a business. But when I am not out on a trip, I spend just as much time in front of a computer as I did at the job I left. And it was 7 years before I had real vacation (no, guiding is not paid vacation). I'm still lucky if I take 2 weeks of vacation a year. It is also true, however, that when you love what you do, vacation just isn't as important.
Something else I learned was that developing itineraries, while important, was not actually the most important challenge in the first couple of years - marketing was. We could offer the coolest trips in the world, but if no one knew about them, it wouldn't really matter. I thought buying the mailing list of Woodswomen, the company we had worked for that had been around for 20 years, would be enough. It wasn't. Having that connection gave AGC some credibility but basically we mostly had to start from scratch. Fortunately it was just as the internet was becoming more common. The major investment I made of money was having a professionally designed website and the major investment of I made of time was learning how to do internet marketing.
Another key thing I learned was to be careful about how we spent money but to focus on making each trip excellent, not to focus on pinching pennies. This can occur in small ways, like buying a birthday cake. Or it can happen in more major ways. One of our recent trips was supposed to take place in a National Park that was shut down when the government shut down. Since it seemed entirely possible that the shut down would end any day, and since people had already planned their vacations and bought their flights, we didn't want to cancel the trip. But running it meant more lodging and restaurant meals than we had planned. But that was OK, making sure people had a good experience was way more important than making a profit on the trip.
Starting Adventures in Good Company was the best decision I ever made. It has combined constant challenge and learning with meeting lots of amazing people and getting to travel in fascinating places. I'm not sure if having a business plan is critical (I still don't have one and I still can't answer the question of what Adventures in Good Company should look like in 5 years) but knowing yourself, what you love and what your motivations are, is definitely the first step in deciding whether starting an adventure travel company is the right decision for you.
I’ve been looking into boots and I was checking out the Keen’s Targhee II Mid Hiker that you prefer. The guy at REI suggested I go with something a bit more stout (backpacking boot vs hiking boot) since it is a multi-day backpacking trip, rather than just a day hike. Do you have an opinion on that mindset?
Let me know what you think.
Wow --- asking me if I have an opinion is sometimes quite dangerous --- and (surprise, surprise) I do have an opinion.
The Grand Targhee II mid hiker is actually a pretty 'stout' boot and is considered a backpacking boot and not just a hiking boot. Unless you have some medical issues with either your feet or your ankles the lighter you can go, still maintaining support both in the ankle area and on the sole of the boot --- the better.
My preference is to have some ankle support (so the mid height is perfect) and have a sole with at least a 1/2 shank support and thick vibram (or vibram-like) soles. Many backpackers are good with the lower shoe-like profile of other boots that are even more lightweight. The Keen company has actually added a great innovation to their Grand Targhee II hiking shoe --- a tightening mechanism that holds the heel in place much better than before. You may even want to give them a try.
We will also be carrying 30 pounds or less which makes a difference. Perhaps the guy at REI is not familiar with Lightweight Backpacking and is thinking heavier loads? I've actually not heard of anyone thinking the Grand Targhee II is not a backpacking boot.
I'd also like to interject that recently a couple of the women who have taken the Intro trip and have continued to do the Appalachian Section trips with me have gone from the heavier, full leather (really stout) boots to either the Grand Targhee or the Asolo boot that is similar.
Best scenario --- buy the boots that feel the best in the store and take some hikes in them. If you find that for some reason you feel you need a heavier (or even a lighter) boot then REI will take them back as trade in.
Remember --- no matter which boot you purchase to get at least 1/2 - 1 size larger than you normally buy and do purchase a pair of Superfeet (or the equivalent) to use as the inner soles. The inner soles of even the best boot are not sufficient for comfort --- just toss 'em! You'll love the Superfeet!
I love these kind of questions! --- can't wait to hear more of the story.
P.S. Just so you know, I checked with my local REI store and spoke with their 'shoe person' and she was quite surprised that you received this advice. Their training is in line with what I also advocate --- the lighter the better (barring any medical/physical issues) and the 'stouter' boot is generally recommended only for carrying 60 pounds and/or for winter and over and even then, they still feel that you should purchase the lightest weight boot your feet can handle. I would take this guy's advice 'with a grain of salt' though.
Have a gear question? Ask Jan, our very own gear head!
We are all huge fans of using trekking poles on almost any hiking, trekking or backpacking trip. They so clearly contribute to your safety (by improving your balance and stability) and health (by saving stress on your knees), plus conserve your energy by transferring some of the work to your arms and chest, that we can't imagine why anyone would choose not to use them. Yes, they may take a little getting used to and instruction is helpful when you're first starting, but that should not deter you.
But there are so many options, how do you choose the right pair?
If you're just starting out, our advice is either to purchase an inexpensive pair or borrow a pair of poles from a good friend - and then come on one of our hiking trips where you can not only learn what they are all about but the correct way to use them. You’ll also see what others have chosen and after gaining a bit of experience, you can make a more informed decision regarding the ‘perfect’ pair of poles.
If you're ready to commit to a pair, below are a few details to pay attention to. I have listed them in the order of what my experience has led me to believe are the most important. I dare say that you can find these same details on most any internet site you search regarding hiking poles although they could be listed in a different order. (But mine is the correct one!)
2. Pole adjustment mechanism
7. Shock Absorbers
Being the lightweight backpacker I am, this has to be at the top of my list. The lighter the better! Remember, you will be picking these poles up and down hundreds (or thousands) of times during your hike/backpack and weight will be an issue.
There are several factors that influence the weight of your poles including the following:
- material they are made of
- the locking mechanisms
- whether they have ‘shocks’ on them
- if they have baskets
- what the handles are made of
Each of these details will be discussed below.
2. Pole adjustment mechanism:
There several types of locking mechanisms for pole adjustment. My favorite for many years has been the ‘twist’ type of mechanism because it was less ‘weighty’ and was quite reliable. Unfortunately most of the companies have turned to newer technology – currently I use what is called the lever locking mechanism. The types of adjustment mechanisms are:
- Lever Locking system
- Super Lock System
- Stop Lock.
All of these locking systems weigh in about the same so just make sure you understand your particular locking system and can operate it well under the conditions you will be using the poles.
You can get poles that separate into either 2 or 3 sections. My preference is for a 3 section pole for hiking and backpacking which allows the poles to be more compact in it’s collapsed (or broken down) position and fits into my luggage easily for travel. The 3- section pole is what almost all hiking/trekking/backpacking poles are. A 2- section pole is a stronger pole and I would suggest this if you were using your poles for mountaineering or ski-ing where there may be more stress exerted on the poles.
The most common types of material for hiking poles is aluminum or carbon fiber. The lighter weight material will be carbon fiber but that will be reflected in the cost of the poles as well.
This is definitely a personal issue, keeping weight in mind as the top priority. Options are:
- Rubber, which is good in situations where you don’t want your handles to absorb water such as mountaineering or winter sports --- it also insulates the hands from cold. Rubber is not generally recommended for warm weather hiking simply because rubber can be more abrasive to bare skin (when used for cold weather activities you are usually wearing gloves)
- Cork, which ends up ‘molding’ to the shape of your hand/grip. Cork tends to not absorb moisture which can result in slippery handles if you have particularly sweaty hands.
- Foam, which is softer and many hikers/backpackers feel keep your hands cooler. Foam does absorb moisture but does not become ‘sodden’ or misshapen with just hand moisture.
- Make sure that the poles you purchase are for your height --- yes, some of them come in regular and tall, plus some have weight recommendations.
- If purchasing one of the newer (and extremely lightweight) Z-type poles please make sure you understand their limits. Many of these poles DO NOT extend for downhill hiking. My personal opinion is that my knees really do want the extra support for those downhills so I would not choose this type of pole.
- If the brand you are considering has a ‘woman’s pole’ do check this out. These poles are often shorter (decreases the weight) and have smaller hand grips (comfort)
7. Wrist straps: Using your poles correctly is very important and having wrist straps that are adjustable are fundamental in learning to and using your poles correctly.
- Make sure that the wrist straps are adjustable and that you understand how to make those adjustments
My suggestion for hiking/trekking/backpacking is no baskets unless you are planning on doing your trip in the snow. If your poles come with baskets they can be easily removed and saved for a trip you may need them for.
9. Shock Absorbers:
This particular detail can be a bit more controversial. They do definitely add to the weight of the poles and the vast majority of hikers/backpackers feel that the shocks do not make a difference in comfort. In fact, poles with shock absorber can actually create a feeling of instability due to the movement of the poles and especially create that feeling in situations where you need to have good balance (rock hopping, narrow ledges, crossing streams, etc.) My personal opinion is that they are un-necessary weight and that the small amount of give in the poles is not sufficient to make a difference in comfort. So --- I do ‘nix’ shock absorbers.
10. Use: What will you be using your poles for? Will they be multi-use poles for both hiking and snowshoeing for instance or are they just for hiking/trekking/backpacking. Personally I have different poles for different uses but often you can get away with using the same poles for multi activities.
My personal preference for poles currently is the Komperdell C3 Carbon Powerlock. These poles fit my basic criteria, lightweight, reliable locking mechanism, good grip and collapses/separates into a size that fits into my luggage.
One of our guides just returned from the Canadian Rockies Hiking holiday, a hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies, and wrote "A participant suggested a topic for a blog...basically, it was 'why we are carrying all this stuff and wearing hiking boots when others are wearing flip flops and not carrying a damn thing' ".
It's a great observation!! I immediately started thinking of the time I climbed Mt Katahdin in my early 30s in a cotton tshirt and shorts on a gorgeous hot summer day. We had food and snacks in a pack but that was about it. We got up to the plateau where it started drizzling. Undeterred we walked across to the summit and sat to eat our lunch, while the drizzle continued and the temperature plunged 20 degrees. Deciding we needed to get going, we headed for the path we intended to take down. Unfortunately it was the kind of path that required being able to hold on to rocks. Our hands were so cold that we literally could not use them, so that path was not possible. When I turned to discuss our options, it became clear that my hiking buddy was past the point of coherent conversation and in the first stage of hypothermia, where apathy is the most common symptom. Finding a boulder where we could get out of the wind, we stood and held each other until our body warmth followed by some snacking got her mobile and thinking again. We returned the way we had come, reached the bottom safely, and knew we had been lucky to get away with being so ill prepared.
"Be Prepared" is not just the Boy Scout motto, it's the motto of everyone who spends significant time in the outdoors. What you should have with you will vary with the location and the time of year, so our packing lists are not all the same. But let's look at some of the common items and why we carry them.
- Hiking poles.There isn't a hiking trip we offer where these aren't on the list. The only difference is whether we put them in the Essential or the Recommended category. Most of our guides use them routinely on any hike for purposes of knee and energy conservation, and getting a great upper body workout. But when you're going steeply downhill or when you're tired, they add a large margin of safety.
- Synthetic clothing. When we climbed Katahdin, our cotton clothing got soaked and at that point was actively leaching heat from our bodies. Wearing a synthetic tshirt and having a fleece to pull out of our packs, even if we didn't have rain gear, would have made all the difference.
- Rain gear. But we were really dumb not to carry rain gear just because it was a gorgeous morning when we started out. Weather can change quickly and in unforeseen ways, especially in the mountains. Whether you carry a rain jacket and pants or just a jacket depends on where you're hiking, but a jacket at least should automatically go in your pack. One of our guides leading a hiking trip in the Swiss Alps ran into a hail storm on the day they did the 10 mile traverse from Schynige Platte to First. What could have been a dangerous situation remained an inconvenience because they all carried full rain gear and fleece.
- Hiking Boots. Hiking boots aren't always essential. If the path is flat and smooth, then wearing flip flops might be all you need. But what flip flops and athletic shoes don't offer you is arch or ankle support, or protection from rocks - all requirements for most trails. A pair of hiking boots that fit your feet well should be comfortable. Yes, I have seen a woman descending a Grand Canyon trail in heels. I can't imagine what her feet felt like on the way out (assuming she didn't break her ankle on the way down).
Probably 49 times out of 50, you will carry more than you end up needing. But that 50th time, when bad weather comes out of nowhere, the trail is unexpectedly eroded or rocky, or what you thought was going to be a 6 hour hike ends up taking 9 hours, you will be delighted to have what you need to stay safe and warm.
In response to a recent blog, one reader commented with a question: Does anyone have ideas about how to find hiking partners? This is actually a common reason women sign up for our trips. That is, they do not have many friends that enjoy hiking (or other outdoor activities) in the same way they do. For some, an “active vacation” is an oxymoron; for others an “active vacation” is exactly what they love about traveling with Adventures in Good Company. On an AGC trip you will be among women who enjoy outdoor activities, but our trips only last a week or two. The other 50 weeks in a year, some AGC participants find themselves without hiking partners to share in their pastime. Also, AGC participants looking to train for trips may not want to do so solo. If that describes you (or someone you know), below are 3 ways to find hiking (or other outdoor activities like kayaking and biking) and trip training partners near you.
1. Sierra Club: Local chapters of the Sierra Club often organize group outings which are generally open to members and non-members alike. There are no fees except for incidental expenses like part-entry costs. The outings are led by Sierra Club volunteers and include a range of activities including hikes, peak scrambles, bicycling, cross-country skiing, bird-watching, conservation-oriented walks, or forays into the remaining natural areas of our major cities. These outings can be a great way to meet people with similar interests. To find a local outing near you, visit: http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/chapter/ 2. Meetup Groups: According to their website: “Meetups are neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.” They are grassroots groups started by members of communities, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities. It is a way to connect virtually with others in your local community and then physically meet face-to-face to do an activity, discuss a certain topic, learn something new or just socialize. There are over 9,000 meetup groups throughout the world; one community may have meetup groups ranging in activities and issues such as outdoor adventure, running, movies, vegetarian lifestyles, entrepreneurs, scooters, and beekeeping. To find a meetup group (or start one of your own) in your community visit: http://www.meetup.com/find/
3. Your Local Gym: Accountability and a regular exercise/fitness training routine often go hand in hand. That is why many gyms have a bulletin board or even webpage to find training partners. It is a space when individuals can find others with similar schedules, interests, and fitness level to exercise and train together. Often time a local community center, YMCA, or even church will have a similar system; if they don’t, suggest they create one (if you have time, offer to get it started) – it will benefit the organization and its members greatly. For an idea of what a gym “classifieds” section looks like visit: http://ontario.kijiji.ca/f-workout-partner-Classifieds-W0QQKeywordZworkoutQ20partner
Our resident (and self-proclaimed) outdoor gear geek, Jan Latham, is always eager answer questions and pass along purchasing advice to inquiring minds searching for pieces to add to adventure travel gear selection. One of Jan’s areas of expertise and passions is lightweight backpacking. She continuously stays abreast of new developments in the lightweight backpacking arena with a focus on women’s gear. Recently, she was asked for guidance on purchasing a new backpack. Below are her reviews on and experience with (some firsthand, some second hand) the brands and products below.
MARIPOSA Ultralightweight medium backpack with hipbelt at www.GossamerGear.com
PROS: When these packs first came out I did not like the support system or the shoulder harness/hipbelt systems but this generation looks like those areas have been given more attention. There is an internal frame (removable aluminum curved stays) which is good (before you used your sleeping pad as the 'frame', which I don't like that at all) and the shoulder harness and hip belt have been beefed up and look good. It is really a great weight (27 oz) and I do find that the Gossamer Gear brand holds up and is good. The fact that you purchase the belt separately is a good thing, therefore you can get the correct size.
CONS: There are NO load lifters which does give me doubts about the way this pack will carry. The lack of this feature would probably keep me from purchasing it.
JAN’S EXPERIENCE: I have had one participant use the first generation of this pack. Her complaint at that time was that the weight felt more on her shoulders (lifters would decrease this weight) and although the improved aluminum stays should help some with that I know that the lack of lifters would eliminate this pack immediately for me.
Circuit pack at www.ula-equipment.com.
youtube review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C0Ah11MRjc
PROS: The weight of the pack at 39 oz is good. I like that it has hip pockets built in. Capacity is 4200 cc which might be a little big – it would be for me, but depending on the size/weight of your sleeping bag and tent, it could be a good size.
CONS: This pack really does 'look' good – wide hip belts, good shoulder harness. It has a single metal stay running down the center of the back of the pack for structure. It also uses rigid, foam padding for the back of the pack to increase comfort and structure.
ULA Air X Backpack at www.hikelight.com
PROS: This one looks like it has the same features as the Circuit pack --- does have a carbon frame so you're not using your sleeping pad as the frame structure. Not sure how this will carry --- no experience with it but it does have all the right features, lifters, padded shoulder harness and good hip belt.
CONS: The capacity on this one is big at 4600 cc. If you liked this one then I'd suggest trying the Circuit which is the same but a smaller capacity version.
Starlite at www.hikelight.com
youtube review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PihkAAwmNGc
PROS: I do love Six Moon Designs and think they've done a great job with re-designing gear to be both lightweight and functional. Again, this pack is basically without structure but I do like their optional hoop stay --- it appears to be dynamically shaped (similar to the Granite Gear support system) They also offer different belt and shoulder harness sizes and I like the weight at 30 oz (including the optional stays).
JAN’S EXPERIENCE: One of our participants used an earlier version of this pack without the hoop stays. It put a lot of tension on the shoulders with a 30 pound load so I would definitely recommend the hoop stays. I think it’s worth a try.
4400 Porter Pack at www.hyperlightmountaingear.com
PROS: OK, I have to say that this pack brings the 'gear geek' out in me! It is Cuban fiber, the lightest fiber available right now, plus its waterproof so no need for a pack cover. Has good hip belts and shoulder harness AND has some internal structure.
CONS: I do think the 4400 will be big but not sure you can fit your stuff into the next size down, the 3400. It is most expensive but personally I'd love to give it a try!
Golite Pinnacle Backpack at www.ultralitegear.com
youtube review older model http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo-JS0XV8Sk
PROS: This backpack does have a 'frame sheet' type internal structure which is what Granite Gear uses as well. Is has really good support with great transferability.
CONS: The minimal hip belt would discourage me from trying.
JAN’s EXPERIENCE: I did have a participant who used an earlier version of this. She did not have a problemwith the smaller hip belt and was quite happy with the pack.
Granite Gear's Crown VC 60
PROS: I like the Granite Gear suspension systems (good weight transfers) and their hip and shoulder belt/harness.
CONS: Down side to this style --- torso is fixed so either a short or regular in women's sizes.
JAN’S EXPERIENCE: I actually have the Crown VC one but have yet to use it --- will let you know what I think after loading it up and giving it a try.
What to do with all of this information…
Choose 2 or 3 and order them, give them a 'try on' loaded and just send back what you don't like. It's a hassle but that's what I end up doing too.
Jan’s Top 3
1. Circuit Pack
2. Six Moons Starlite
3. Porter Pack
Jan’s Honorable Mentions
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Ki
This is remains my favorite and the one I use. This can be used with or without the hood.
Leopard VC 46 Ki
The other day, I was walking on a nearby trail when I took a double take of a fellow hiker passing me. She was walking when I first saw her; my gaze turned down and I noticed she was not wearing shoes. My double take turned into a stare when she picked up the pace, turning her walk into a jog. I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed, stunned, or shake my head in disapproval at the ‘dangerous’ choice. Although I'd seen a barefoot runner, this was the first time I’d seen a barefoot hiker. A few years back, I became familiar with barefoot running when I read Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. In it McDougall sets out to learn about the world’s greatest distance runners, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, and their barefoot running tradition. It is a great read and while inspiring and interesting on a number of levels, it still did not leave me with the urge to start trotting or even sauntering sans shoes. Though others did get that itch - the book serves as a summons to the world's runners to ditch the shoes. It denounces fat-heeled sneakers as insidious abominations, responsible for most running injuries while getting trumpeted as the solution to aching knees and sore arches.
Where there is barefoot running, there must be barefoot walking and hiking, but it seems the motives between the two groups diverge. For runners, many believe (and studies have shown evidence both for and against) that running barefoot leaves one less prone to skeletal injury (to read about this evidence follow this link). From personal experience, one running partner of mine struggled with knee pain for many years. She learned about the barefoot running idea and didn’t take the full plunge to naked feet but traded her sneakers for a minimalist piece of gear known as five finger shoes. In them, not only did her knee pain subside, but she ran her first full marathon. On a recent trip guiding in Bhutan one of my participant’s hiking shoes were a pair a Vibram Five Fingers. She has put many miles on the shoes and loves the feel.
“The feel” is a recurring theme for proponents of barefoot hiking. The sensation of moss, pine needles, dirt, granite and roots below and in between toes can be exhilarating. Barefoot hikers describe the tactile tread as full of fresh pleasures and even a bit of a foot massage. Some claim that being barefoot nurtures proper posture and overall foot health. It certainly causes one to be more mindful of each step when hiking and therefore possibly more apt to enter a meditative or spiritual state while walking.
If barefoot hiking piques your interest, experts suggest starting at a slow pace and for short durations. Don’t attempt a mile on your first outing; 100 yards is a good distance for one’s first barefoot jaunt. And if completely naked feet do not sound fun, try the Vibrams or a less expensive type of minimalist footwear known as Xeroshoes.
I don’t foresee Adventures in Good Company changing our packing list to include Vibrams or Xeroshoes in the near future and we think trying it on a backpacking trip would not be safe or comfortable. Barefoot running/walking/hiking may be a passing trend. But until then, we welcome adventurers to experiment with different hiking styles and gear.
I've written before about adventure travel for women over 50 - how, barring illness or physical disability, women over 50 were just as capable of hiking, backpacking, kayaking etc. as women under 50; and that the major element to consider when choosing adventure travel was not your age, but your level of conditioning and desire for physical activity. It's not so much the level of fitness you can achieve (unless you are into competitive sports) that declines with age, but how long it takes to get there, how soon fitness declines, and how many recovery periods you need. Age also has the advantage of experience and attitude, which often compensate for any physical differences.
But honestly I, and many of the women who have traveled with us over the past 14 years, passed the 50 year-old mark years ago. So how about adventure travel for women over 60?
I was very lucky to have a mother who went on a 5-day canoe and camping trip in the Boundary Waters with me when she was 79 - but not many of us have had the good luck to have such active role models.
This probably explains why, when women call the office about a trip, they may preface their questions with "I'm 52 or 62 (or whatever) but I'm very active". Whenever I hear this, knowing that I sound very young on the phone, I usually tell women that I am 61. This is always met by a relieved laugh, and agreement that I do indeed sound about 25 and they had just wanted to be sure they hadn't accidentally stumbled into a group for 20-somethings.
Fortunately as our generation has aged, our perspective on what is possible has changed - and our daughters have many more role models for active aging then we did. We continually see women celebrate turning 60 by signing up for challenging trips, be it trekking To Machu Picchu, backpacking the Appalachian Trail, or climbing Kilimanjaro.
Now most women (and men) actually have no interest in doing something that strenuous - but that lack of interest is not age-related. If you don't want to climb Kili to celebrate turning 60, the chances are really good that you didn't want to when you turned 40 either.
This is not to deny that as we age, the probability of developing a life-threatening or -limiting illness increases. And even if we have remained healthy, most of us have more morning stiffness and a variety of aches and pains. But there is a silver lining here; these consequences of aging strip us of THE ILLUSION THAT WE CAN PUT THINGS OFF that we want to do. We will not be fitter or more skilled next year - unless we make that a goal right now and start actively working towards it. Our 60s are when we start realizing that making a decision not to do something this year could, through circumstance, become a decision never to do it. A choice to pursue one path is a choice not to pursue other paths - so we better choose wisely.
Do we offer adventure travel for women over 60? Absolutely. It's called our Trip Calendar.
The ‘official’ start of summer is around the corner! I have always been drawn to the season of summer, as a child it meant no school, long days at the pool, family vacations, and evenings spent chasing lightening bugs through the neighborhood. As I’ve grown older – my summers revolve less around the seasonal pastimes – but I do have an ‘itch’ to celebrate the change of season. The summer solstice, June 21 (in the Northern Hemisphere) is a perfect opportunity to celebrate summertime and soak up the sun in the great outdoors.
Throughout history and across cultures, the summer solstice has been marked with celebrations including religious ceremonies, rituals, and festivals. It is the longest day of the year and for many signaled the beginning of the growing season representing fertility and fulfillment.
- Do some sky observation. From an astronomical point of view, the summer solstice occurs sometime between June 20 and June 21 (sometimes June 22) in the Northern Hemisphere, and December 21 and December 22 (sometimes December 23) in the Southern Hemisphere. Most years it is on the 21st but due to the leap year in the Gregorian calendar, there is a change every few years to the date, to account for the leap years. If you'd like to witness the actual moment of the summer solstice in the sky, read How to witness the summer solstice and be sure to take all precautions to prevent eye damage.
- Sit outside and read a book. This is a good way to get connected with the sun and nature. Its simple, relaxing, and can be done morning, noon, or night on the longest day of the year whether it’s in your backyard, on your porch, or at a coffee shop. If you need a suggestion, here is a link to list of a “good summer reads” for women. http://www.womansday.com/life/10-captivating-summer-reads-108983#slide-1
- Plan some travel. Consider spending summer solstice away from home, at one of the key destinations where the summer solstice has been celebrated for centuries. In particular, Britain's Stonehenge is a must for the avid observer of the summer solstice. Stonehenge aligns with the sunrise on the solstice, making for spectacular viewing. However, you need to be there very early in the morning well rugged up because thousands of others will also be attending to celebrate the day as the sun rises. Two other places where people like to celebrate the summer solstice are Sedona in Arizona and Cairo (where an ancient sun temple was discovered in 2006). A list of summer solstice celebrations can be found in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice#Solstice_celebrations.
- Honor the sun. If you enjoy doing yoga, there is a set of exercises known as the Sun Salutation or Salute to the Sun which you can perform. These exercises are intended to exercise both your body and your soul, balancing both in harmony through both meditation and physical movement in one. Begin this exercise on the morning of the summer solstice and aim to make it a daily habit from this time on. For more detail, refer to How to do sun salutations in yoga and How to do the sun salute.
- Join an event near you. Communities and groups in your city may be celebrating the solstice in their own special way. Checkout local event boards at coffee shops or Google the name of your town and summer solstice to see if events are planned. There may be an annual event that can become your solstice tradition. Here is a link to a few community events throughout the U.S. and world: http://www.livescience.com/21059-summer-solstice-ways-celebrate.html