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

How To Keep Your Feet Warm During Winter Outdoor Adventures

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 29, 2014 10:00:00 AM

After the last blog post about How to Stay Warm in Winter a reader asked that question. And in this winter of unrelentinAWT1 copyg polar vortices and plunging temperatures, it's an important consideration.

Like hands, feet are more prone to get cold since your body attempts to preserve core body warmth by skimping on blood flow to your extremities. But that's where the similarity between hands and feet stops. Hands get cold because you often expose them directly to cold air as you take off your gloves to use your fingers, and because your fingers have alot of surface area.

Feet get cold because 1) your feet sweat. You may not feel it, but they do; 2) your feet are in contact with the freezing ground; and 3) like skin everywhere on your body, there is an imperceptible layer of moisture that protects the skin and needs to be protected. In order to keep your feet warm, you need to consider each of these.

1) Wear synthetic or the new wool socks. Good brands are Thorlo and Smartwool. I say new wool because in the old days we used ragg wool socks, which have their own set of problems. If you're going to be out for more than a couple of hours, bring another pair to switch into if your feet get cold.

2) If you are someone who can wear liners (some of us get blisters from liners), use a sweat-wicking pair as your first layer. You do not, however, want to wear two thick layers unless your boots are really roomy. Otherwise your feet can be so tight in your boots that your circulation decreases and your feet actually get colder.

3) Boots are your most important decision and what you buy depends on where you live and what you need them for. Like every other piece of clothing, you want your boots to be waterproof but you also want them to be breathable and there is always a tradeoff. Completely waterproof boots will also be completely unbreathable. But in cold and especially wet weather, it's a tradeoff worth making. In that case your best choice is to buy insulated boots that have a removable felt liner that you can take out and dry. Sorels are a common brand. The liner acts as extra insulation, particularly from the ground, and the fact that its removeable means you can dry it out. If you live someplace with predictably cold weather, these are well worth the cost.

But what if you live someplace that isn't ususally cold, it's just this winter (think Mobile, Alabama this morning). It's likely you couldn't find Sorels if you wanted to and you won't need them for long anyway. In that case, take your roomiest pair of boots, put some neatly folded newspaper in the bottom for an extra layer of insulation and then seal them up with a layer of duct tape on the outside. Or instead of duct tape, put a shower cap over each boot. Fashionable? Well sure, in that quirky kind of outdoors way. And definitely functional.

4) Get chemical heaters. These are little packets that you activate by crunching them up and they give off an amazing amout of heat. Do not put them next to your bare skin. But a packet placed inside your boot at the tip can keep your feet warmer for hours.

Remember, keeping your feet warm is not just a matter of comfort but of vital safety. Your feet are very susceptible to frost bite, as evidenced by the number of mountaineers without ten toes. But being adequately prepared can make going out in the cold fun and safe.

Topics: clothing and gear, outdoors tips, safety, preparation, how to

How to Stay Warm Outside in Winter

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 4, 2014 10:19:00 AM

Plunging temperatures this week may have you convinced there is no alternative to staying indoors with a good book until Spring. Think again! Staying outdoors and active improves your mood, fends off winter weight Deb snow queengain, and keeps your vitamin D level high. Of course you won’t want to stay outdoors if you’re cold, but follow these 5 simple tips and you’ll be able to play outdoors all day.


1.
 Keep your hands warm

Research has found that women really do have colder hands than men: when temps drop, the blood vessels in women’s hands constrict more so that blood flow is diverted to the core. The benefit is that women’s core temps stay high and thus help protect against hypothermia. But it also means that keeping your hands warm is more challenging for women.

 So are mittens or gloves better? The answer depends on you, the activity, and the outside temperature. If you’re doing something highly aerobic, or you require manual dexterity, then gloves can be fine.  But gloves are like sleeping bags – they don’t contribute warmth, they retain the warmth you have. Fingers lose heat faster when they are separated; if you can't find a pair of gloves that keep your hands warm, you are likely to find mittens preferable.

And what material should you use? Wool is the only material that keeps your hands warm if your gloves or mittens get soaked. Synthetics will dry quickly but they lose insulative capacity. Some gloves and mittens are made of GoreTex or a waterproof material and may be useful in damp conditions, but tend not to work in very wet conditions.

A pair of glove liners under a pair of thicker gloves can give you manual dexterity and help keep your hands toasty.  However, if you are someone whose fingers don't stay warm in gloves, wearing glove liners under mittens will actually make your fingers colder than if you just wore mittens. Personally my hands do better if I just whip my mittens off when necessary.


2.
 Wear layers of clothing

Your goal is to stay warm while sweating as little as possible. Several lighter layers both provide more insulation and are much more adjustable than one heavy layer. The only time you might need a down parka is when you are standing around or otherwise not active. Bring a daypack so you have some place to put your extra layers as you warm up or take a break.

Start with a BASE LAYER of silk or "lightweight" synthetic long underwear and liner socks. These materials draw moisture away from the skin (this is called "wicking") and help keep you dry and therefore warmer. Over the base layer wear a second, MEDIUM-WEIGHT layer on your upper body such as "expedition-weight" Capilene or Polartec, and wool pants or a synthetic equivalent such as Polartec or Capilene fleece. Over the second layer, add a third HEAVY-WEIGHT layer. This should be a thick material such as wool or fleece. Typically this layer will not be necessary, even in cold weather, as long as you’re active. As soon as you stop for a break, put this on. If you're overheated, you might think you want to cool down. You don't, at least not abruptly. By the time you think you’re just right, your body temperature is on a downward trajectory that will overshoot. If it’s raining or windy, you will also want to add the outer layer described below.

This fourth and final layer is called the OUTER LAYER. This layer is for protection from wind and rain and should be a parka or jacket made of a coated nylon or a waterproof/breathable fabric like Gore-tex, HellyTech, Membrane, H2No, or Ultrex. Be sure it keeps water out. Before making this important purchase, be sure that it fits you properly. It should be large enough to fit over all your layers. In particular, the hood needs to be effective. It should shield your face from the rain and turn with your head. Movement of your arms should not interfere with the hood. Put on a daypack; can you still raise your arms? Lastly, the wind pants. They should be comfortable, allow enough room for your layers, and permit free movement of your legs (for example, can you crouch comfortably?). Partial or full-length leg zippers are useful for easily putting your pants on over your boots.  Even when it is not raining or windy, we lose heat from convection, the movement of air against our body.  This layer eliminates that and keeps you substantially warmer.

When you start, you should be just a little on the chilly side. If you're already warm, you will quickly overheat and before that happens, stop and pull off a layer. On a cold day I often start with my lightweight and midweight layer with my outer layer over that, and then pull off the midweight as I warm up.
 

3.  Don’t wear cotton

 In the discussion of layers, we mentioned several kinds of synthetic materials. The reason is that cotton absorbs moisture like a sponge and then keeps it next to you. The damp material will cause you to chill severely in cold weather once you stop for a break.

This is just as true for underwear as for t-shirts.  A cold, clammy cotton bra next to your skin is uncomfortable at the least and can lead to severe chilling. You will be warmer if you stop and take your bra off, even though that means temporarily exposing a lot more skin to the elements. Prevention is better yet! You can either choose not to wear underwear or you can invest in one made of synthetic materials that wick sweat away.

 

4.  Stay hydrated

The most important part of staying hydrated is to drink plenty of water. Even if you're not sweating, you lose moisture simply because the air is so cold and dry. Like heat, moisture seeks equilibrium between places where there is plenty (inside your respiratory system) and places where there isn't much (the outside air). When you become dehydrated, your body functions less efficiently and you get cold more easily.

Do not drink alcohol until you are off the trail and back in your cozy lodging. Alcohol packs a double whammy in the cold. First, it causes your blood vessels to dilate. That makes you feel warmer, but it causes your body to lose heat faster. Second, it impairs your judgment. Hypothermia, the condition caused by excess heat loss, does the same thing. And of course you really want to keep as many wits functioning as possible when you are out in the cold. Alcohol can also contribute to dehydration if the alcohol content of your drink is above 10% and you drink large amounts.

Of course, if you stay well hydrated you will need to urinate more often. If you are lucky enough to be out in the snow, try a "snow wipe" (using a snowball for wiping yourself) is a true refreshing pleasure.

Another key aspect of staying hydrated is protecting your skin by keeping it protected form the sun and well moisturized. Chapped skin is not only painful, it means that the protective barrier of your skin has been damaged. Moisturizing cream with an SPF of 15 or greater will prevent that

 

5. Should you wear a hat?

Well yes, of course, it makes you look outdoorsy! And there are so many cute hats these days. But we used to think that more heat was lost from an uncovered head than any other part of your body because of the rich network of blood vessels that feed your brain. However recent research has shown that heat loss through your head accounts for about 7% of your heat loss because the head accounts for about 7% of your body surface. Of course 7% is not insignificant and that plus the fact that hats make you feel cozy make them well worth wearing.
 

6. Stay hydrated and eat lots of snacks 

This is my favorite tip! I started winter camping when I heard that polar explorers had to eat 5000 calories a day just to maintain their bodyweight. That might be a little excessive for a couple of hours of hiking or skiing, but there is no doubt that the snacks you brought with you, washed down by the thermos of hot tea you just happen to have in your pack, are not only tasty but also essential for staying warm.

Zero degree weather? Bring it on! 

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: clothing and gear, active travel, outdoors tips, health and fitness

A New Year's Resolution Worth Making

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 1, 2014 6:30:00 PM

If you make New Year's Resolutions about diet, exercise, or general self-improvement, the odds are you won't keep them. Don't be discouraged, breaking old habits takes time. But here is one that doesn't require you to sweat, make radical changes, or deprive yourself. Implement it and I guarantee it will change your experience of travel this year.

Disconnect from your electronic devices (smartphones, tablets) when you travel for pleasure. 

In the last 10 years I have too often seen peoples' vacations mentally ended by getting news from home or the outside world that they could do absolutely nothing about - but that took their attention from the present and diverted it to needless anxiety.

While cellphones without internet connectivity (i.e. dumb phones) can be distracting, the problem is much worse with smart phones: we not only risk getting interrupted by phone calls, but most of us, as long as our phone is on, will also check email, get text messages, and maybe even surf the web. All those activities shift our focus away from where we are and who we are with.

John Muir said "Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." 

So let's look at the most common objections to going without and examine some possible solutions.

1. Work has to be able to reach me! Really? Yes, expectations have changed. But mostly we are complicit in allowing those changes to happen and it's time we started fighting back. Twenty years ago, work couldn't contact you and the economy was doing just fine. Would they refuse to allow you to go on vacation if you were going someplace without cell reception (there are still places like that). Of course not. If that's really not possible, then either get a cheap dumb phone just for incoming calls or vacation some place that has a landline and tell them to call you if it's urgent. If your boss or coworkers can't just shoot off a quick email, you are likely to find that all those crucial matters can actually wait for a week.

2. My family has to be able to reach me! Particularly if you have aging parents or kids who are still at home, this can be important to your peace of mind when you're away. But that doesn't mean you have to leave your smartphone on. If you are part of a group tour, leave the phone number of the company running the tour and tell your family to call them. Or ask for your guide's phone number and leave that. If you're traveling with friends, set up a rotating schedule for who has their phone on and leave that with your family. Or get a dumb phone just for your trips. Even just having a few days without connectivity will be refreshing. 

3. I use my cellphone for a camera! Two possible solutions here. One is to turn your phone to Airplane mode so you can't get calls or emails. If you know you don't have self-control, buy yourself a camera. Really, decent digital cameras are so inexpensive these days. Your mental health is worth it!

Bottom line: The purpose of vacation is to break clear away from your every day life. Electronic devices, particularly those that are internet-connected, get in the way. Leave them at home. If you can't do that, leave it buried at the bottom of your pack and check it once a day (max). Decide how to minimize your use, even if its only for a day. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Happy New Year!!

Topics: outdoors tips, travel tips, health and fitness

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

When it comes to adventure travel, there is no bad weather

Posted by Marian Marbury on Aug 1, 2012 7:50:00 AM

hiking in the rainWhen it comes to adventure travel, there is no bad weather; there is only inadequate gear. It's one of my favorite sayings and I thought about it a lot on my recent trip to Switzerland. Especially as we hiked over a high pass in rain that turned to sleet, briefly to snow, and then back to rain as we descended to the valley below. At the end of the day, we were all damp and some of us were a bit chilled. But we had adequate gear and many of us thought the day had been rather magic with the shifting clouds.

So what is "adequate gear"? To some extent it depends on where you are. In the mountains, where weather is always changeable and a warm hut can be hours away, you definitely have to be better prepared than you do for a walk in your local park. But if you have the gear and know how to be prepared in the worst situations, then you will always be ready. Here are the critical elements.

  1. Rain gear  There is no such thing as perfectly breathable and completely waterproof rain gear - it is always a tradeoff. If it is totally waterproof (e.g. rubberized vinyl), it will not be breathable. Rubberized vinyl works great when the activity is not highly aerobic, i.e. paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. But if you're hiking, then it needs to be breathable or you will drown in sweat. However, if it is too breathable, it won't be waterproof.

    The bottom line is that you will always get damp when you're active and it rains for any length of time - either from the rain seeping in or from your sweat pouring out. But without rain gear, you will get drenched. If you are in the mountains, rain pants are essential to keep from getting soaked.

    Since rain gear will not keep you completely dry, to stay warm you have to depend on-

  2. Synthetic or wool clothing  I can't stress how important the "no cotton" rule is in the mountains or any cool environment. Once cotton gets wet, which it does quickly, it not only doesn't keep you warm, it actively robs you of warmth. The layer(s) between your rain jacket and your skin have to be a synthetic material or one of the new wool products. Even if the only cotton you're wearing is a bra, it can be a chilling experience (if you like going bra-less, this would be an excellent time).

  3. Gloves  Despite the virtues of synthetics, they are useless in cold and rainy weather as your only defense. Either you need a waterproof shell over them or you need wool. My go-to gloves are an old pair of light ragg wool fingerless gloves. If it is really cold, I switch to wool mittens.

    A good backup is to wear a pair of warm socks over your hands. I usually keep a pair in my daypack in case my socks need a change or I need additional hand covering. Cold hands are not only miserable, they are unsafe: cold hands become so stiff that you can't hold your trekking poles. Or undo your pants for that matter, and you know where that can lead.

  4. Hat   A wool or synthetic hat is good. I prefer something with a brim to keep rain out of my eyes but beanies can be adequate too. Keeping your head warm will definitely keep you feeling warmer.

  5. Boots  The important thing to remember about boots, whether they are all leather or a mix of leather and cloth, is that they periodically need to be cleaned and re-waterproofed. There are cleaning products specific for both. You can read how to do it in this Backpacker Magazine article.

    Having wet boots isn't the worst thing but putting on wet boots is very unpleasant. Remember never to dry your boots by exposing them to direct heat- it dries out the glues that keep your boots together. The best way is to remove the insoles and stick lots of wadded-up newspaper into them. It works amazingly well!!

  6. Food  Food is really critical because you will be burning more calories, but a sit down lunch is unlikely. So you want to have food that you can snack on throughout the day. That way when you arrive at the shed you remembered but the protection of the overhang has been claimed by the local goats, you can still get adequate fuel.

  7. A small thermos  I know this isn't essential. But I boughtthermos for a hiking trip a small flask (thermos) when I was in Scotland. Drinking hot sweet tea (no, no whiskey) is such a treat when you're damp and cold.

  8. Attitude  Really, this is the most important tool you have. You can't control the weather but you can control your attitude. The outdoors is no less beautiful in the rain, it's just different.
Those are my top 8. Please share your thoughts and additions. Don't let a little wet weather keep you indoors!

Topics: clothing and gear, outdoors tips, trip preparation

Preventing Wildfires

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Jul 12, 2012 5:00:00 AM

wildfire

When planning travel trips for women – safety is Adventures in Good Company's number one priority. So as our hearts go out to the tarnished 'homes' of wildlife and people alike out West, we are reminded of how important it is to take precaution before departing on one of our women's trips or while enjoying an outdoor adventure vacation for women. We'd like to share two sets of travel trips: one set of pre-trip preparations and one list of trail-wise precautions.

Before You Leave, Prepare Your House

  • Remove combustibles, including firewood, yard waste, barbecue grills, and fuel cans, from your yard.

  • Close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent a draft.

  • Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies.

  • Fill any large vessels—pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, or tubs—with water to slow or discourage fire.

Wildfire Prevention on Women's Hiking Trips

  • Leave campsite as natural as possible, traveling on trails and other durable surfaces.

  • Inspect your site upon leaving.

  • Never take burning sticks out of a fire.

  • Never take any type of fireworks on public lands.

  • Keep stoves, lanterns and heaters away from combustibles.

  • Store flammable liquid containers in a safe place.

  • Never use stoves, lanterns and heaters inside a tent.

Tips compiled from:

http://www.smokeybear.com/tips.asp

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/wildfire-safety-tips/

Topics: outdoors tips, safety

Dressing for your next hiking vacation

Posted by Marian Marbury on May 29, 2012 4:11:00 AM

hiking vacation resized 600

This picture of some women who were on our recent Wildflowers and Waterfalls hike perfectly demonstrates the equipment and clothing you need for a hiking vacation. The great thing about hiking is that after an initial investment, it's an inexpensive sport. But making the initial investment in these items will make your hiking safer and more fun - plus you'll look as great as they do!!

1. Trekking or hiking poles. Notice how every single woman has hiking poles? Why is that? Because they save your knees, give you a whole body workout, make your underarms look like Michelle Obama's, and help your balance. Yes, you can hike without them- but why would you?

2. A hydration system. I guarantee you will stay better hydrated with a hydration system, which allows you to take small sips constantly, than with a water bottle. And if you're better hydrated, you have more energy and endurance, and a better disposition. Yes, I used a water bottle for years. I would never go back to it by choice.

3. Synthetic shirts and pants. Their big advantage is that unlike cotton, they dry quickly. This always makes you more comfortable and in cool weather will keep you much warmer. And if you're practicing traveling light, you just take 2 - wear one, wash one out.

4. Padded hipbelt and shoulder straps. A comfortable daypack that fits you well and has padding will keep you comfortable for many more miles than the bookbag you borrow from your teenager.

5. Hiking boots. They can be low cut or over the heels (sometimes one is preferable depending on the terrain). But please don't wear athletic shoes- your feet will tire out much more quickly without proper support and you'll be much more likely to slide. Today's boots are lightweight and comfortable. And unless you have really easy to fit feet, don't buy them over the internet.

6. A hat. Ok, this is the only item that I'm not sold on. I like hats because they do a better job of keeping sun out of my face and protecting my eyes from excess radiation. But sometimes they make me sweat more, so I don't always wear them. Sunglasses and good sunscreen help do the same job.

So there you have it. We've written before about all these items. So if you're not sure what to buy or where to buy, please give us a call - we're always happy to help.

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: clothing and gear, hiking, outdoors tips

The Hunger Games and Adventure Travel

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Apr 2, 2012 5:32:00 PM

Hunger GamesOn Adventures in Good Company trips, participants often share some of their favorite books. The conversations usually results in a compilation of recommended reads. So, I thought I'd share a brainstorm after just finishing the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Now, I recognize that it is a work of fiction (science fiction/fantasy, at that) – but I couldn't help but “wanting to be like,” Hunger Games' heroine, Katniss Everdeen! She is an inspiration to any woman adventure traveler. And I think Katniss and AGC participants have a lot in common! Read on...there is no spoiler alert in this post, it will just make you want to read the bestselling book, watch the movie (a blockbuster hit in its first weekend), then be the Katniss Everdeen of your next AGC trip!

AGC participants and Katniss both know...

  • Essential supplies are critical for survival – Katniss's first priority was to secure a backpack full of supplies. AGC participants learn how to be prepared for all conditions - whether they’re out for a day hike, overnight, or week-long backpacking trip, essential supplies are lifesaving.

  • The importance of a good water source – be it filtering from a lake or purifying with iodine tabs, AGC participants learn multiple water purifying techniques. Even Katniss (fighting for her life) knew to wait 30 minutes (after mixing in drops of iodine) before drinking.

  • There is strength in numbers – Katniss and Rue paired up during their wilderness adventure. AGC participants are also surrounded by like-minded women and agree two is better than one.

  • How to just be yourself - Katniss won the crowd over by just being herself. On AGC trips, participants are able to 'let their hair down' and genuinely be themselves. AGC trips are unintimidating fun-loving atmosphere.

 

Topics: womens travel, outdoors tips

Hydration Packs - staying well-hydrated in the outdoors

Posted by Deb Malmon on Mar 29, 2012 3:12:00 PM

We have written in previous blogs, newsletter articles and even in the notes section of our packing list about hydration packs. But I wanted to emphasize again why this piece of equipment can be superior to water bottles for outdoor adventure travel.

For those of you who are not familiar: a hydration pack is a water bladder (usually 50-100 oz./1.5 -3 L ranges) that fits inside a backpack and has a long tube that stretches from the water bladder, through the pack, over your shoulder and to the front of you (when you wear it). There is some type of soft silicone valve on the end of the tube that allows you to “bite and suck” when you want a drink, but it closes off when you want it to just hang loosely.

I got my first Camelbak hydration pack for bicycling, but now I carry it on hiking adventures and sometimes even bring it for sea kayaking tours as well. DSCN2664

 

1) You will drink more, drink more regularly and stay better hydrated. With the tube in easy reach of your hands and mouth, you can drink as often as you want or need to. You don’t need to stop and get your water out of your pack, take your hands off the handlebars to get your bottle out of its cage or even stop paddling very long for a quick drink.  Plus it is fun to drink from a long straw.

2) It easily fits in a backpack (or fanny pack). Most backpacks made for hiking these days come with hydration pack compatibility.  Typically there is a separate pocket on the pack for you to put the bladder in and a portal in the top of the pack for the hose to fit through so it easily can reach around your shoulder strap to the front.  While there are still some backpacks with the hydration system built into the pack, more are separate, which means if your hydration bladder gets a leak, you do not need to buy a whole new pack; just a new bladder.   Also, with it being carried in a backpack you also have the room to carry camera, wallet, rain jacket, bike tools, snack, etc. The packs vary in extra cargo sizes, so pick one that is right for you.

3) The water stays cold/cool longer. How many times have you stopped to drink out of your water bottle on a hot hike only to find it like bath-water? The hydration pack keeps the contents of the water bladder cold for quite a while, especially when you put ice in it. You can also freeze the bladder when it is half full, take it out the following day, top it off with water and the ice chunk will melt even more slowly than ice cubes throughout the day. The top layer of water is not always cold, but there is nothing more refreshing than sipping through that layer and hitting icy cold water in the middle of a 30-mile bike ride or 10-mile hike.

4) You can carry a larger quantity of water. Getting a 70 oz or 96 oz. bladder allows you to carry a lot of water pretty easily and all in one space. You would need 3 to 4 water bottles to equal that. You don’t have to fill it totally full if you don’t want, but I have been on several hikes and bike rides where I drank it dry. And as you drink, the bladder empties and gets smaller, as opposed to drinking out of a bottle where you still have to carry the bottle around once it is empty. This feature also means it takes up less space in your luggage when traveling for the equal water capacity as bottles.

5) Cleanliness: I have found that my bladder has stayed much more clean and less smelly than any of my water bottles.  However, they do need to be cleaned, as does the tube. It is inadvisable to put flavored beverages in the hydration bladder due to the difficulty of thoroughly washing the tube. In that case bring a smaller water bottle for your Elixir/Gatorade/Crystal Light/etc and leave the bladder for water only. Most bladders have wide mouth/ziplock-type opening which makes it easier to clean as well as to fill with ice and fill in a variety of water sources (though many bladders are not a compatible fit with water filters)

The hydration pack is certainly not suitable for every situation (like winter sports or high altitude trekking - due to freezing temperatures). But more often than not it is the ideal choice for staying superbly hydrated while being active in the outdoors.

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: hiking, outdoors tips, safety, food and drink

Outdoor Adventure for Women - PFDs

Posted by Deb Malmon on Dec 29, 2011 1:22:00 PM

If you are a woman who loves outdoor adventure, you probably have noticed many women-specific items on the retail market.  Backpacks, climbing harnesses, sleeping bags, bicycles, etc. The design of gear oriented towards women is based on the general anatomy of the female body - narrower shoulders, shorter torso, and wider hips.

While I am definitely not built with this anatomical womanly shape I understand the need for differently designed gear and have seen countless women through my years of guiding benefit from women-specific fit.describe the image

One area that has seen recent growth is gear for women's kayaking adventures. From kayaks, to paddles to PFDs women are getting new, technical and better fitting equipment. One of the most valuable pieces of gear for women, in my opinion, is a women-specific PFD. If a PFD does not fit your anatomical shape it is not merely a matter of being uncomfortable - it actually can be unsafe.

What is a PFD and how should it fit? PFD stand for: personal flotation device (aka lifejacket) and is your most important piece of safety gear when paddling.

A good PFD will:

  • provide adequate flotation
  • be Coast Guard approved (most paddling sports require Type III)
  • fit properly: it should be snug around the torso with all the straps cinched down and when you pull on the shoulder straps the PFD should not rise above your lower ribs.   
  • be designed specifically for paddling: it will have less bulk around the shoulders, bigger arm holes to allow a full range of motion, and a shorter torso for comfort when sitting in a kayak.

Sizing:  Historically PFDs have come in men's sizing. Many of these PFDs come in small, medium and large, though some places definitely have just one-size-fits-all style of PFD.  All are adjustable to widen or tighten straps based on your size. 

Women, with almost any sized torso, often do not fit in this "universal design" of PFD.  And if you have an ample bosom, in order to fit around your torso, you usually have to go up a size in PFD. This oftentimes means it is too long in the back and too loose around the shoulders no matter how much you tighten the straps. So once you sit in your kayak seat it rises up around your chin or even ears. This can (and has) cause skin abrasions while paddling and interference with your stroke; but worse, if you fell in the water, the PFD is no longer snug around you which is the key to it helping keep you safely afloat.

Women-specific PFDs:  Women's PFDs allow for a greater range of adjustability and various foam panel configurations to accommodate different builds. They often have split paneling on the front of the jacket so that it wraps around the front of the body and keeps the bust securely in place.  

As with any gear or equipment for paddlers, there is no one PFD that can be considered "best" for all female paddlers. When selecting a PFD, each individual needs to take into account factors such as how well it fits, how you plan to use the PFD (for day trips or extended journeys), and how advanced a paddler you are-do you really need the tow rope loop if you don't even own a tow rope? 



Some features to look for in determining which PFD is right for you are: visibility; range of motion (for paddle sweeps and bending during rolls); length (the shorter styles are usually better fitting for women); comfort; and useful features such as mesh pockets or gear loops. 

Low profile PFDs: They have less foam on the front of the jacket (under the arms and neck), especially in the chest area. For women these can be a good choice; because we already have natural "flotation devices" on our chest, PFDs that are bulky (high profile) in the front can feel restrictive and uncomfortable. If the PFD you're looking at is low-pofile, coast guard approved and fits you well, then you can feel confident that it has enough flotation to float you even though it may look smaller than other designs. 

Own it. If you join us on a kayaking vacation and have your own PFD which you find very comfortable and well-fitting, bring it with you. Most places we kayak are going to have universal sized PFDs and they may not fit you adequately. Alternatively, if you like to join other groups on kayak trips and do not have your own PFD, and end up with ill fitting ones on the trip, consider buying one that is suited for your body. It will make your trip much more enjoyable.

And really- isn'that the goal of paddling - to be enjoyable? 

Topics: clothing and gear, womens travel, outdoors tips