Not All Who Wander Are Lost: A Blog for Adventurous Women

Getting ready for your next backpacking trip

Posted by Jan Latham on Feb 26, 2015 4:31:33 PM

I'm sitting here looking at a lot of snow and dreaming about being on the Appalachian Trail instead!  It does seem like a long time from now but it'll be here quickly.    So, to satisfy that urge to backpack, this time of year is when I begin to take a look at my 'stuff' to see what needs repair, replacement, or maybe just some CrossBridgegood old fashioned cleaning and rehabbing!  

If you're like me, even though I clean everything after each trip I don't always rehab it.  So, if you haven't throughly cleaned/rehabbed your clothing/equipment/boots lately --- especially your rain gear and down jackets/vests --- it may be a good idea to consider doing that.  The accumulation of oils from our skin and dirt/dust (from everywhere) does decrease the ability of our garments to function well --- they don't keep us as warm or as dry as when they were new. 

The best way to insure their continued efficiency is to throughly clean them occasionally --- how often really depends on how often you use them.  Doing this will definitely increase the longevity and function of your clothing and your equipment.  It is best to use products for cleaning that are recommended by the brand you own.  If you don't know what your brand coat for example recommends you can find out either online or by calling their 800 number. 

The other part of cleaning is the rehabbing -- waterproofing.   Just so you know, you can apply an after market waterproofing product on any garment even if it didn't start life as a water resistant or proof garment.  The after market product doesn't completely waterproof the item but it does give it more resistance to moisture which is sometimes all you need.  I don't recommend using this after market product on the more intimate items of clothing such as under garments or socks though.  

Here are a few websites that give both specific products and walk thru methods for cleaning/rehabbing.  I especially liked the YouTube video 'speed up' of washing clothes --- wish my clothes washed that quickly!  

Dreaming of the Appalachian Trail!

Ten ways to lose weight from your backpack - click here  

 

Topics: backpacking tips and trips

Sweet Dreams on the Trail Part II: Sleeping Pads for Lightweight Backpacking

Posted by Jan Latham on May 30, 2013 5:00:00 AM

Sufficient rest is a main ingredient of a safe and enjoyable hike. While sleeping on the ground may not seem enticing, a proper sleeping bag and sleeping pad can make all the difference on camping and backpacking trips. This blog is part two of two. In part one, we gave recommendations about how to select a sleeping bag and in this blog we will focus on sleeping pads.

Purpose:  Insulation and Comfort

Comfort may initially seem like the most useful function of a sleeping pad, and it does usually have the biggest effect on a good night’s sleep, but this is actually a secondary purpose of using a sleeping pad. Insulation, in terms of bodily function and survival trumps comfort in the purpose arena.

How Do Sleeping Pads Work?

Sleeping pads are your 'layer' between your body (inside your sleeping bag) and the ground or shelter floor.  Sleeping pads trap and hold a layer of dead (non-circulating) air between your body and the cold (the ground and/or shelter floor). Your body heat will gradually warm this layer and it becomes another insulating barrier. Keep in mind that any part of the sleeping bag you are compressing (while sleeping) loses all its ability to keep you warm. Underneath your body it's the pad that will keep the ground or shelter floor from sucking all that precious body heat you've built up inside you sleeping bag.  That's why you need a pad to buffer you from heat-depleting contact with the cold ground (this is known as "conductive" heat loss). The insulation property of a pad depends upon how much air it holds inside and how free that air is to circulate.

Types of Sleeping Pads

Air Pads pad1 resized 600

These pads use air for comfort and must be manually inflated. There are models that are just air filled and others that do add a bit of insulated fill and/or reflective materials to increase the warmth factor.

Pros: Comfortable and lightweight.  Air- filled pads are great for backpacking or camping in warm conditions; insulated models can be used year-round.

Cons: Can puncture, though field repairs are not difficult.

Self-inflating Pads

self inflate resized 600 These pads were originally created by Therm-a-Rest®, and offer a combination of open-cell foam insulation and air. They come equipped with a unique type air valve that, when opened, allows air to enter the pad and thus are self inflating.  It is important to blow in additional air to inflate them completely.  There are several sizes, shapes, weights and women specific models. 

Pros: Comfortable; excellent insulation; firmness is adjustable; compact

Cons: Heavier than simple foam pads and more expensive. Can be punctured or ripped (field repairs are not difficult)

Foam Pads foam resized 600

One of the original backpacking pads that feature dense foam-fill with tiny closed air cells.

Pros: Lightweight, inexpensive and durable; excellent insulators; won't absorb water.

Cons: Less comfortable.  Stiff, firm, more bulky. 

Air Mattresses

These pads are the 'king' of sleeping pads and are designed for car-camping and comfort!  Many of us use these in our own homes for those unexpected 'extra' guests we have once in a while so they are as close to a real bed as you can get and use regular sheets.  (Yes, we know they would be wonderful on some of those nights backpacking when you’re dreaming about your bed back home, but they are way too heavy for backpacking!) 

Pros: Very comfortable. Easy and quick to inflate with a hand/foot/electric pump. Suitable for car or boat camping, or as a guest bed at home.

Cons: Relatively heavy and bulky. Pump required for proper inflation. Can puncture or leak. No insulation; for mild conditions only.

 

Want some more lightweight backpacking tips?

Ten ways to lose weight from your backpack - click here

Topics: lightweight backpacking, clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips

Sweet Dreams on the Trail Part I: Sleeping Bag Selection

Posted by Katie Flanagan on May 16, 2013 5:00:00 AM

Getting a good night's sleep is right up there with eating well in the backcountry.  It would be a contest to see which of those would get #1 billing.  To get a good night's sleep you need to have a sleeping bag that fits you and is the right temperature rating and a sleep pad that allows you a comfort level you can handle. This blog is part one of two. In part one, we will give recommendations about how to select a sleeping bag and in part two we will focus on sleeping pads.
Sleeping Bags  sleeping bag1 resized 600
There are a number of variables to consider when choosing your bag. It can be quite overwhelming, especially when ‘sticker shock’ takes over.  You really don't need to have an unlimited budget to get a quality backpacking sleeping bag, but you do need to understand what you are looking for.
Top 3 considerations: 
1.      Temperature rating:   Consider what season you are anticipating using this particular sleeping bag for and choose a bag rated for the coldest temperature you expect to encounter.  Often the rating in incorporated into the name of the product ---for example, Marmot Plasma +15 which tells you right of the bat that this bag is rated to a inimun temperature of +15.  Other brands that do not incorporate the rating system into the name will have the  rating on the tag and/or in the specs if looking online
2.      Weight vs. roominess: When backpacking, you want to keep weight low without jeopardizing comfort or safety. For some, low weight overrides all other concerns (comfort, durability, convenience, price). For others, weight is less important than having a roomy bag for a good night's sleep. Most bags try to strike a balance between these extremes.
3.      Type of insulation: Your main purchasing decision is between the types of fill: down, synthetic and the new DriDown™.  Each of these fills have advantages and disadvantages and your personal choice will take into consideration where and when you are planning on using the bag. 
  • Goose-down fills are very light, compressible, durable and breathable. While initially more expensive, they offer great long-term value. The ‘down’ side of down is that you must be more careful regarding moisture.  Down does not dry easily after it gets wet and also loses its warmth value when wet.  So—this is probably not a good choice for use in an area of high humidity and frequent showers/storms.   
  • Synthetic fills excel in damp, cold conditions and have less sticker shock up front, these bags also retain their ability to keep you warm even when wet.  The ‘down’ side of synthetic fills is that they are significantly heavier and less compressible than down a comparable down bag.
  •  A new product on the market is DriDown.  This is goose down treated to resist moisture – a wonderful advancement for down bags!
Ratings: 
If you happened to take an independent survey at one of your local outfitters in the sleeping bag department regarding what was the most confusing about buying a sleeping bag you would likely hear ‘the ratings’!  In the past sleeping bag companies all had their own independent rating systems so there was no way to compare or to be sure that the rating on the bag matched what you were looking for.  For years the European companies have used the European Norm (EN) 13537 testing methodology which allows for easier comparision.  Beginning in 2009 many of the U.S. based companies have also begun to follow this system.
The EN methodology produces temperature ratings you can trust and compare head-to-head with the EN ratings on other brands' bags. If you know the temperature range you'll encounter on your overnight trip, you can compare EN-rated bags and confidently choose the one that will best ensure a comfortable night's sleep.
Here's an example of the EN tag you'll find on all REI-brand 3-season backpacking bags: EN ratings resized 600
It is well know that women tend to sleep colder than men when comparing the same sleeping bag and the same conditions.  The EN 13537 testing reflects this fact, so you'll see separate temperature ratings and terms used for men and women on the product tag. 
Please note:  EN ratings are based on a sleeper wearing one base layer and a hat, and using an insulating sleeping pad under the bag.
So---what to look for regarding rating?  For women, look for the EN "Comfort" rating to decide if the bag will meet your needs. The lowest EN rating is their ‘Extreme” rating.  This essentially describes a survival situation.  At this temperature the bag will not keep you warm and toasty but is designed to keep a woman alive. 
What Temperature Rating Should I Choose?
Sleeping bags that display EN ratings can be expected to provide comfort to the temperature stated on the bag, keeping in mind the variables described above.
For non-EN-rated bags, select a bag with a comfort rating that is a bit lower than the lowest temperature you expect to experience. For example, if near-freezing temperatures can be expected, then choose a 20°F bag instead of a 35°F bag.
For any sleeping bag, you can always vent it on warmer nights by using the double-zipper to open the area by your legs. Or, simply drape the unzipped bag over you.
Here's a general rule of thumb on how sleeping bags are categorized:
Bag Type Temperature Rating (°F)
Summer Season +35° and higher
3-Season Bag +10° to +35°
Cold Weather -10° to +10°
Winter/Extreme -10° and lower

 

Non-EN rated sleeping bags:
For non-EN-rated bags, select a bag with a comfort rating that is a bit lower than the lowest temperature you expect to experience. For example, if near-freezing temperatures can be expected, then choose a 20°F bag instead of a 35°F bag.

Women's Bags:

With the increase in recognition that women are indeed built differently than me we have seen a increase in equipment designed for women.  Female specific backpacks are pretty common place at this time and now---women specific sleeping pads. These bags are specifically designed and engineered to match a woman's contours. When compared to men's bags, women-specific bags usually have the following characteristics:
  • Shorter in length
  • Narrower at the shoulders
  • Wider proportionally at the hips
  • Occasionally, extra insulation in the upper body and/or footbox
Sleeping bag lingo:
When shopping for a sleeping bag, you may read/hear some of the terms below.
1.  Names of the parts of a sleeping bag:
·         shell
·         lining
·         fill
2.  Sleeping bag styles:
·         mummy
·         rectangular
·         sleep quilts or bottomless sleeping bags
3.  Features to consider:
·         hood or no hood---that is the quesiton
·         zippers—right, left, full and ½
·         Stash pocket
·         Pad loops
·         Trapezoidal footbox
 
 

Topics: clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips, backpacking

Knotty Active Travel Tips

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Sep 27, 2012 5:00:00 AM

Whether or not you earned your knot-tying badge in Girl Scouts, remembering how to tie certain knots can be challenging on adventure travel vacations. I don't hang tarps regularly, or even clotheslines - but on active travel trips these two 'chores' are often a part of my routine. Be it in a hotel room or on the trail - tarps provide shelter and protection, while clotheslines are key to warm, clean, and dry clothing.
To hang a tarp or clothesline, a trucker's hitch knot is a good choice because it creates a line that is simultaneously taut and adjustable. Now remembering, how to perfect that knot is where I fall short. So when needed, I often refresh my skills with a quick lesson from a fellow backpacker or hiker. But, come the following season when I am out and about in need of a trusty trucker's hitch - I can never seem to get it quite right and resolve to practice. To keep up that resolution I sought out the assistance of YouTube. Among the collection of viral videos, bloopers, and music remixes, YouTube actually has quite a few instructional videos on knot-tying. I thought I'd share one that I found particularly useful. 
So watch this video, practice a bit, then, go impress a few girl or boy scouts with your knot tying ability. Maybe even help one earn their knot-tying badge.
Trucker resized 600


Topics: clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips, outdoors tips

Happy Birthday Appalachian Trail!

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Aug 16, 2012 3:30:00 PM

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This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Appalachian Trail. Quite appropriately a group of women with Adventures in Good Company is out backpacking a section of the “AT” this week in Vermont. The trip is just one of over a half dozen hiking trips we offer for women on the AT. Our women-only travel group is traversing about a 50 mile portion of the “green tunnel” that extends 2,180-mile stretching across 14 states from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Katahdin, Maine. Here’s a little AT history for you…

The idea for the trail was born in a 1921 article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects. Benton MacKaye proposed an idea that still resonates today — a path that would let people escape the demands and drudgery of daily life.It took 15 years for hundreds of volunteers, state and federal partners, trail-maintenance clubs and young workers with the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps to build the original path.

As many as 3 million people a year now visit some part of the trail to reconnect with nature and slow down. About 2,000 to 3,000 people each summer attempt a “thru-hike,” or journey along the entire length. Only 1 in 4 will succeed.

Day hikes and section backpacking (multi-day hikes sleeping in shelters or tents along the trail) are a great way to explore the trail. This week National Public Radio featured a discussion about hiking and the Appalachian Trail on its daily radio program “Talk of the Nation.” The program was a tribute to the AT and hikers/hiking trails everywhere. You can listen here to the program.

If listening to that radio program or just the thought of the a walk in the woods makes you smile – then think about celebrating the Appalachian Trail’s 75th birthday with Adventures in Good Company on one of these women's hiking trips.

 

2013

Wildflowers and Waterfalls (over 50) 4/14 - 4/20

Waterfalls and Wineries 5/16 - 5/19

Lodge to Lodge on the Appalachian Trail 5/19 - 5/24

Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking 6/23 - 6/30

Hiking the Great Smokies 10/19 – 10/26

Slackpacking Georgia 10/27 - 11/3

  Ten ways to lose weight from your backpack - click here

Topics: backpacking tips and trips, active travel, hiking

Cleaning gear POST hiking trips

Posted by Jan Latham on Jun 22, 2012 3:54:00 PM

 

 

hydration systemYou may be a whiz at cleaning your kitchen floor or toilet bowl... but a hydration system, backpack, or sleeping bag may not seem so instinctual.  Seasoned AGC guide, Jan Latham, shares a few tip on how to handle your outdoor gear with care...

Just got back from one of my favorite hiking trips for women—Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking with a wonderful group of participants who are now ready to do lots more backpacking and plan more active vacations! One of the questions that come up is ‘how to care for gear when you return home’. And---I have some answers!

Hydration Systems:

  • Fill the bladder and hose with warm water and no more than a teaspoon of chlorine bleach.

  • Soak overnight

  • Rinse very well with warm water

  • Separate hose from bladder and hang to dry. If possible hang outside in sunshine.

Never store a hydration bladder wet or partially full. Always empty and dry thoroughly. If, after storing, you find that the balder has grown mold follow the above procedure and soak for about 12 hours. There are also inexpensive kits, which can be purchased to facilitate the cleaning of the hoses. The kit includes a small brush on a long flexible metal rod that allows you to ‘scrub’ the inside of the tube. The mouthpiece can be detached and cleaned as well.

Backpacks:

  • First---always read the labels! Yes, I know---I’ve encouraged everyone to cut all labels out but you should have somewhere you’ve saved them or written down all the information! Make sure there are no specific instructions or cautions concerning the care of your backpack.

  • The easiest method:

a. Hang outside

b. Use a soft scrub brush to initially eliminate topical dust, mud and/or debris both inside and out.

c. Soak with your garden hose.

d. Use a small amount of neutral ph soap (liquid hand soap works) or one of the commercially available detergents made specifically for outdoor products. One is called “Sport Wash” but your local outfitter will probably have a selection. Dissolve in a large bucket and use sponge and soft scrub brush to wash.

e. Rinse thoroughly with garden hose.

f. Hang to dry---I initially start out in the sun but then move to a more shady area where the bag can dry slowly with the air currents. This decreases the exposure of the bag materials to heat and the breakdown of the fabric by the sun’s rays.

g. The above process can also be done in a bathtub. The bag can be submerged (place something heavy on top to keep submerged) and soaked before rinsing and continuing as above.

h. If there are stains that do not come out using this method you can use some of the commercial stain removers keeping in mind what the fabric requirements for your particular bag are.

i. Ideally backpacks should be stored with all zippers open, all straps loosened and hung in a dry environment.

j. Proper care of zippers, buckles, etc. includes inspection and cleaning. Look at the Zippers to make sure the teeth are straight with no missing teeth. If zippers are difficult to zip use a bit of soap to lubricate. When zipping try to always use one hand to zip and the other hand to hold the portion being zipped to reduce stress on the zipper. Buckles and rings should be inspected to ensure they are working properly and are clean. Replace if broken. Replacement buckles, rings, etc. can usually be found at your local outfitter or contact the maker of your backpack.

k. Patching of any holes or tears can be done using heat sensitive materials or seek professional help.

 

Next post... we'll talk about cleaning sleeping bags!

Topics: clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips

Backpacking for women: Multifunction keeps it light

Posted by Jan Latham on Jun 8, 2012 9:45:00 AM

One of the keys to lightweight backpacking for women is to look at everything we want to take and see if anything can be used for more than one function. This is especially important if we have a choice between two items - ask yourself, could one of them have more uses than the other. Here are some examples:

  1. Wind jackets are nice but they won't help if it rains - and rain is something you always need to be prepared for. A lightweight rain jacket can do double duty as a wind jacket.

  2. stuffsacks instead of a pillowCamping pillows are comfy and lightweight - but you need a stuff sack to keep your clothes organized anyway. So why not take most of the clothes out at night, just enough to have the size pillow you find comfortable.

  3. You need a wool cap, don't you? Maybe not! A buff will serve much the same purpose and has so many other uses I cbuff instead of a hatould (and will) write a whole separate article on them.

  4. I always bring gloves, lighter or heavier, depending on the season. But if they get soaked, I know my wool socks can act as back up mittens and keep my hands toasty.

  5. I used to carry a trowel for those times when nature called at inconvenient times but now I just use my hiking poles. And talk about a multifunction piece of equipment! We wrote an article on 10 uses for hiking poles.

  6. Do you need a bowl and a cup? Only if you insist on drinking and eating at the same time. I have a lightweight foldable bowl. After dinner I use a little hot water to clean it out and then make my evening tea in it.

There are other possibilities, of course, depending on how "hard core" you want to be. But I guarantee that every ounce you leave at home will be appreciated.And if you want to learn lots more tips and techniques of lightweight backpacking, join us this September for our Intro to Lightweight Backpacking course.

Do you have suggestions of multifunction clothing and equipment? We would love to hear them!

Topics: clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips

Appalachian Trail Backpacking – the movie!

Posted by Katie Flanagan on May 31, 2012 5:00:00 AM

You may be familiar with the storied Appalachian Trail. Affectionately known as the “Green Tunnel” or “AT,” it stretches approximately 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. Eight of AGC's adventure travel trips include portions of the Appalachian Trail. If the AT interests you, check out this 5-minute movie.

The video, titled “The Green Tunnel” documents the AT from start to finish. Thru-hiker (that is a hiker who hikes the entire 2,000-mile trail), Kevin Gallagher, condensed his six-month hike by using 4,000 photo slides he'd made along the hike to create a stop-motion film. Whether your a seasoned AT-er or interested in experiencing the AT in the future. Watch this video then take a look at one of our eight trips on the AT. Some are already full for 2012 but you can start planning now for 2013. The following trips still have open spaces:

Section Hiking the Appalachian Trail: Vermont – August 11-17, 2012

Section Hiking the AT: Extension – August 15-22, 2012

Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking – September 16-23, 2012

Slackpacking Georgia - JUST ADDED - October 14-21, 2012

Slackpacking Georgia (1 space) – October 21-28, 2012

Lodge to Lodge on the Appalachian Trail May 19-24, 2013

Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking – June 22 -29, 2013Backpacking

Slackpacking Georgia October 27-November 3, 2013

Topics: backpacking tips and trips, active travel, hiking

Tips: Attitude and Gear Check for Adventure Travel

Posted by Jan Latham on May 24, 2012 5:00:00 AM

Throughout years of lightweight backpacking and adventure travel I have learned that and attitude and gear are two keys in preparation for active travel! I believe that the most important thing necessary to become a lightweight or ultra lightweight backpacker is attitude! Having an attitude the you CAN do it and WILL do it is step one.

Next, take a close look at your gear and weed out those things that are not necessary but are the ‘just in cases’ or the ‘luxury’ items. These things are not 'forbidden' when backpacking but recognizing the difference between needs and wants when lightweight backing will help you drop pounds – literally!

To shed that weight, begin with the purchase of two important tools:

  • A digital postal scale. These are approximately $30 at---yes, the post office. You can even purchase one at Walmart. The digital ones are the most accurate and the easiest to read. The postal scale is the best tool against rationalization---you know---the one that goes ‘oh, this doesn’t weigh much at all, it won’t make any difference’. The postal scale shows you exactly what things weigh and how quickly those few ounces can add up to pounds.

  • A regular bathroom scale. Yes, the dreaded one! Again, digital is the easiest to use and the most accurate.

Now that you have the tools, divide your clothing and gear into three piles:

  • The first pile can be labeled ‘must go.’ This would include items such as sleeping bag, tent, food, and those types of items.

  • The second pile would be the ‘just in cases’ pile like the extra shirt, pants, etc.

  • The third pile would be labeled ‘would like to take’ such as that camp chair or that really cool but really heavy leatherman. Then---the attitude comes in----take only the first pile!

Then, weigh everything. And get rid of anything that is not useful such as tags, extra rope, webbing, buckles---anything that is ‘just there’ and serving no useful function.

Weigh all the things you eliminated and you’ll see you’re already lighter and on your way to enjoyable active travel.

backpacking

Topics: clothing and gear, backpacking tips and trips

Backpacking Adventures: Thoughts on Ultralight and Lightweight Backpacking

Posted by Jan Latham on May 11, 2012 10:58:00 AM

Jan Latham, Adventures in Good Company guideI go to the mountains on backpacking adventures to enjoy natural beauty and solitude. I want to get away from houses, roads, and city life. To do this I take very little stuff with me. Stuff that gets in the way of my mountain experience. For obvious reasons Ultralight is a perfect fit for me.

  • I don't need fancy food or hot meals.
  • I don't mind if the ground is hard.
  • I don't want a big fancy tent that reminds me of the rooms I left behind.
  • Books? I never get bored. There's always too much to see and something interesting to check out in the next canyon. And I need time to think in the quiet and solitude of the mountains. Something I get precious little of in my life.
  • When I'm in the mountains, I like to cover a lot of ground. I want to see as much as I can in the limited time I have.
  • I hate being a pack mule. I like the freedom of a light pack. It allows me to go further and through more rugged terrain without suffering!
  • I sometimes hike with people that are a bit slower or not as fast as I am. Ultralight allows me to carry a little extra weight for them, and substantially reduce their pack weight. With lighter packs we can get to beautiful remote areas that would be unattainable with conventional packs.

Editor's Note: If you want to learn how to go out for a week with less than 30 pounds on your back, please join us for Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking September 16-23. Jan will also be writing blog posts on the hows of lightweight backpacking.

Topics: lightweight backpacking, backpacking tips and trips