Monthly Archives: October 2016

Know More About Deadly Thoughts to Cut Your Travel Short

We all want to travel for as long as possible, right? Well the key to lasting a gap year instead of a few ‘gap months’ is to keep an eye on your finances and plan your travels well. I’ve been travelling, a few times, and I see the same seven deadly thoughts send people homeward bound every time. All they needed was a dose of my tried and tested advice and they could’ve been travelling around for as long as me.

1. “We might as well just get a taxi,” aka sloth

Going for that cheeky upgrade in transport, or choosing a slightly better hotel, or choosing a taxi when you could just walk, may seem like the equivalent of just a few pence when you’re in your South East Asian destination, but add that up over time and you’re just throwing money away. This lazy attitude will only serve to have you home sooner.

Walk; you never know what you might see compared to a whizz around in a taxi. And when it comes to working out how much a few rupees or rupiah are in pounds choose to compare it to a meal, or a night’s accommodation in your chosen destination instead, rather than it’s equivalent back home. That should stop you jumping in a taxi when you could get the bus.

2. “Wow, that’s so cheap! I’ll have two,” aka greed

I’m terrible for this. When the cocktails are half the price I’ll drink twice as much, cancelling out any savings and making me feel three times as rough the next day. I’ve also been guilty of doing this with clothes, jewellery, bags and even food. I absolutely cannot resist a bargain, which means I’ll spend even more to increase the savings. All this junk not only weighs me down but it makes my purse a lot lighter too. Stick to the original plan and just have one.

3. #FOMO, aka envy

If you start eyeing up your fellow travellers wanting to do all the adventures they are, wear the cool clothes they’re sporting and still always say yes to a drink or five whenever anyone asks you, you’re not going to last very long in the world of the gap year. I’d advise you to be selective in what you say yes to, at least after the first few months anyway. Of course your gap year is about trying new things and experiencing life out of your comfort zone but you need to make sure you can afford to say yes before you do, otherwise it’ll be a flight home booked on the credit card before you can even say ‘Bank of Mum and Dad”.

4. “I’m travelling, I deserve it,” aka gluttony

When you’re travelling around the world it’s tempting try all the food, everywhere. No local fare left unturned. I’ve done this, and can guarantee that the pounds will leap from your bank account onto your newly plump arse. Be selective in your eating and go for little and often if you want to try as many local dishes as possible.

5. “We don’t need a condom,” aka lust

No glove, no love. Or, if you’re not gonna sack it, go home and whack it.There’s no better way to escape your brilliant life of freedom and travel than to welcome a new pregnancy into the world. However hot and steamy your sesh make sure you’re protected. It’s not only a mini me you need to fear either, but you never know where your new and sexy object of desire was the night before, or the night before that. If they’re prepared to go bareback with you there’s no doubt they’ll have done it with someone else. And that, my friend, is how you get those grizzly diseases you learned about in high school.

6. “For fuck’s sake,” aka wrath

I can guarantee there’ll be many moments while you’re travelling when the anger can bubble up inside. The lack of queuing etiquette around the world, unclear signs in airports when you’re in a rush, not being understood when you don’t speak the language – just a few examples of times when the rage can threaten your experience. Don’t let it. Impatience, intolerance and lack of understanding on your side will only serve to ruin your time in a country. All that tutting and cursing under your breath won’t mean anything to the intended, so choose to be happy and chill your beans.

7. “I don’t need anyone else,” aka pride

Whether you’re too proud to ask for help with directions, help with working out you need to do in your activity or too proud to talk to people or to be nice, this limited thought will affect how fun your travel experience will be. Close yourself off to new experiences and new people and you’ll never do anything interesting. Life is always more fun with a new friend so drop that pride and go for it. Balls out.

How to Choose a Suitable Backpacking Clothes

Whether you’re going backpacking for two nights over the weekend or two months on the Appalachian Trail, you’ll need basically the same fundamental pieces of clothing for layering, with variations to address the specific weather or environmental conditions you’re likely to encounter.

Layers are key. You can stop and remove a layer when you start to sweat, and add a layer when you start to feel chilled. As for the latter, heed the mantra of outdoors experts: It’s easier to stay warm than to get warm. (For more information, see our article on Layering Basics).

Within this framework, the individual clothing choices you make will likely be based on a combination of the following factors, which may require tradeoffs:

Functionality: Features to consider include fabrics that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, sun-protective, antimicrobial to avoid odors, and able to rebuff insects where ticks, mosquitoes and other pests are a nuisance. Also consider how pockets, zippers, hoods, vents and many other details affect the performance of the pieces you choose.
Weight vs. comfort: Some will forgo the convenience of added features in order to save ounces while others will opt for comfort despite the added weight.
Fabric Basics
hiker zipping up his layers
Here’s a quick primer on typical fabric choices for key layering pieces:

Wool: Once maligned for being itchy, wool is now getting its day in the sun. Ultra-fine merino wool is itch-free, naturally breathable and moisture-wicking, fairly fast-drying and not prone to odors. Wool makes ideal socks, hats, tees and base layers. Despite all these benefits, some people avoid wool because they feel their skin is sensitive to it, and it can be expensive.

Polyester/nylon: These synthetics tend to be very quick-drying and quite durable. They make excellent pants and shirts. Some people find that synthetics can feel a bit clammy and they start to stink more quickly than natural fabrics.

Silk: Because silk moves moisture off your skin more slowly than synthetics, it is considered best only for moderate cool-weather activities. “Treated” silk has been chemically modified to enhance wicking. Silk makes a soft, luxurious layer and adds no bulk, but it can be prone to odor and is potentially vulnerable to abrasion and sunlight.

Cotton: There’s a reason experienced hikers and backpackers warn their friends, “cotton kills.” Though it’s a comfortable option for lounging around, cotton should be avoided for active pursuits. Cotton doesn’t efficiently wick moisture away from your skin, takes a very long time to dry, and is a poor insulator. It’s especially important to choose a wool or synthetic option for base layers and socks.

Shop Women’s Hiking Clothes

Shop Men’s Hiking Clothes

Base Layers
hiker in baselayers
Your base layers are important because they manage moisture and keep a layer of warm air near your body. Choose a wicking fabric such as polyester or ultra-fine merino wool to keep your skin dry so you stay warm and comfortable. Wool can have a cozier feel than a slick synthetic fabric, a nice touch in colder temps.

Underwear: For backpacking trips, underwear is a matter of preference: Some men prefer boxer length, some women prefer the boy-short cut. Some women swear by wool undies, others only wear nylon-spandex mesh undies. Some backpackers prefer not to bother with underwear at all. If you do wear underwear, make sure they’re airy and breathable, (which means not super tight) and are not cotton—once damp, cotton takes a long time to dry, which is uncomfortable and can cause chafing and yeast infections.

A general rule of thumb: Bring two to three pairs of underwear. Rinse out a pair as often as you feel it’s warranted.

Bras: Choose a pullover sports bra without any clasps. Those metal or plastic parts can dig into your skin if they end up under your pack straps. Consider bringing an extra bra, or bring a super-lightweight camisole to wear while your bra is drying.

Tank top/camisole: A versatile piece, this lightweight top has many functions: adds to core warmth, makes a lighter alternative to a T-shirt and makes a good sleep top on warm nights. They may be made of silk, fine wool or synthetic fabrics.

Base layer top and bottoms: Also called long underwear, and available in different weights, these are a must for cool- or cold-weather backpacking. Choose from crew necks or zip-necks, which are a nice option for their ease of venting. Bottoms are multifunctional: You can hike in them under rain pants on rainy, chilly or windy days; they feel good to put on when you arrive in camp; and you can reserve a clean pair to sleep in.

Shirts, Pants and Shorts
detail of convertible hiking pants
In general, bring one to two T-shirts, one long-sleeve shirt and one pair of lightweight yet durable synthetic pants. A pair of ultralight running shorts with a built-in brief can be a boon for hot weather: You can also swim in them and wear them while you wash and dry your pants.

T-shirt: Again, go with wool or synthetic. One tip is to bring two tees: one for hiking, and one to keep clean for sleeping in.

Long-sleeve shirt: Here’s where locale comes in and where specific fabric benefits come into play. If you’ll be hiking in the sun-drenched Southwest, for example, it’s smart to bring a long-sleeve shirt rated UPF 50+ (many have an extendable collar for added neck protection). If you’ll be trekking Northeastern forests, consider a long-sleeve shirt as well as long pants that contain an insect repellent to discourage ticks, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, black flies and more.

Convertible pants: Creek crossings and hot weather make convertible pants a good choice. Zip-off pants give you a real pair of shorts with nice gear pockets, but can be fussy to reattach; also, some find that the zipper can dig into their legs. Roll-up pants are a popular option, with button tabs above the ankle or near the knee. Cinch-pants also let you adjust the length.

Yoga pants/tights: These are a comfy choice for putting on at camp. While stretchy and easy to hike in, if your trail involves any rock scrambling or dense brush, think twice: They won’t be as durable as nylon pants. (Tight clothing also does a poor job of protecting you from mosquitoes.)

Hiking skirt, dress or skort: Most are stretchy and skorts have a built-in liner. An insulated hiking skirt over yoga tights can be a great way to add warmth in cooler weather.

Mid Layers
hiker wearing a puffy midlayer jacket
Here’s where warmth comes in. A standard recommendation is to bring two of these layers, usually a simple lightweight zip-neck fleece top and a puffy jacket, but adjust as needed for your specific trip.

Fleece top: This is one of your most versatile pieces. On colder days, you can wear it while hiking and/or sleeping. On warmer nights when you don’t need to wear it sleeping, it serves as a soft pillow. Even if you’ve been hiking in a tee all day, a fleece feels good to pull on as the sun goes down. To save ounces, choose one with a quarter zip and no pockets.

Puffy insulated jacket or vest: Again, depending on the weather forecast, you may want a fairly substantial down jacket if it’s going to be cold or snowy. If milder temps are on tap, bring a down vest, lighter-weight down jacket or synthetic insulated puffy. It’s good to be prepared for any sudden downturn in temperature. Any of these should compress compactly. For more in-depth information, see our article on How to Choose Insulated Outerwear.

Soft shell: A third option is a soft-shell jacket. Often these are water-resistant (not waterproof), may block wind, and may have a light fleecy lining for a bit of warmth. You still need to bring a solid rain jacket, though, for keeping dry in a storm, and soft shells are not very compressible.

Rain Jackets and Pants
hiker wearing a rain jacket in the rain
See those dark clouds gathering? You’ll be glad you have your hard-shell outerwear. Choose a rain jacket and pants that are waterproof and breathable, which makes them fairly comfortable to backpack in. Remember: Keeping dry is key to avoiding hypothermia.

Also choose a jacket that’s got pack-compatible pockets and an adjustable hood so you retain visibility as you hike. Pants with full-length side zippers can be the easiest to get on and off while leaving your boots on. Look for pants with an elastic or adjustable waist, and pockets, which are nice to have.

Tip: Even on dry days, some backpackers wear hard-shell outerwear as protection from wind and cold. And some hikers believe rainwear is the only layer that keeps mosquitoes from biting.

Accessories
Keeping your feet, head and hands comfortable is crucial to a successful backpacking trip.

Socks: Socks are one of the most important items you can bring backpacking. If possible, try out all kinds of socks and sock combinations well in advance of a long backpacking trip so you know what feels good with the boots or shoes you’ll be wearing. A wool/synthetic blend with plenty of cushioning works best for a great many people, especially those wearing boots. Many people like to wear a pair of thin liner socks underneath a heavier pair. If you’ll be hiking in trail runners, you may want a lighter-weight pair of socks.

Sock tip: When you stop for a lunch break during the day, take off your boots and socks and let your socks dry in the sun. Dip your feet in a stream or lake if there is one, and let them dry out too. Do the same at the end of the day in camp, so you go to bed with clean, happy feet in a clean pair of socks dedicated to sleep.

Hats: Bring two types: one for sun protection, one for warmth. If you’re fighting sun in the desert, consider a wide-brimmed hat or a billed cap with a sun cape attached. Your warm hat can be a simple wool or synthetic cap, one you can also sleep in.

Gloves for warmth: As long as the weather stays fairly mild, you can get by with a pair of stretch three-season gloves with a smooth exterior that resists light moisture and a fleecy interior that offers a little warmth.

Gloves for sun: Even our hands need UV protection, so wear sun-blocking gloves on desert hikes. These can be full-fingered or half-fingered and can be found in hiking or paddling departments. Look for a pair rated UPF 50+, or at least UPF 30.

Other accessories: A cotton bandana (finally, cotton gets its day) or a polyester neck gaiter are great to have for all kinds of reasons. Either can be worn on your head to keep hair out of your eyes, or around the neck for sun protection (or warmth, in the case of the neck gaiter).

Sleepwear
socks on a backpackers feet looking out from inside a tent
No matter how long your backpacking trip is, you’re bound to end up with dirty, smelly clothes that you won’t want to sleep in. One way to deal with this is to keep a clean tee and bottoms reserved only for sleeping. A lightweight pair of socks adds the final touch.

Tip: Keep the clean sleep socks inside your sleeping bag so you don’t lose them; keep the other items in a stow bag separate from your smelly hiking clothes.

How to Clean Your Clothes While Backpacking
hanging clothes and towels to dry in a backcountry camp
The most environmentally friendly way to wash your clothes is simply to rinse them. Dunk them in a rushing river or scrub them on lake stones and you’ll be surprised how much grime comes off.

If you must wash an item, and have a portable folding sink or bucket (or even a cooking pot), you can carry some water a good 100 yards away from the source and scrub that item with a little bit of soap. Hang or lay your wet clothing in the sunshine to dry.

More Information About Backpacking Food

tt3When you’re out in the backcountry putting in full days of activity, you want food that will nourish you, strengthen you, revitalize you and taste really good. This article will help you plan your backpacking meals and snacks.
How Much Food Should You Pack?
When pondering how much or little to carry, err on the side of taking a little more. One of the Ten Essentials for an overnight trip, in fact, is a supply of extra food. A reasonable goal is 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. of food (or 2,500 to 4,500 calories) per person per day depending on your size, weight and exertion level.

On the other hand, don’t overdo it. A common blunder is to pack too much food, forcing you to lug unwanted bulk and weight. Experience will teach you what amount of food works for you.

Meal Planning Considerations
Taste: Eat what you like. Don’t try to convert your taste buds to new types of food deep in the backcountry.

Calories: Don’t inaugurate a diet program during a multiday hike. You’ll need ample calories (and water) to fight off fatigue and headaches.

Nutrition: It’s fine to tear into a candy bar during a trip, but for the long haul you want to rely on complex carbohydrates and proteins. Intelligent quick snacks such as nuts and dried fruits provide more stable energy for your muscles than that candy bar.

Weight and bulk: Stick to lightweight and low-bulk backpacking food as much as possible, especially on long journeys. Consider repackaging foods into resealable plastic baggies to minimize bulk and garbage. Be sure to clearly label the baggies and include cooking instructions.

Ease of preparation: Unless you are an experienced camp chef, keep things simple. Always include no-cook food items in case your stove malfunctions.

Availability of water: This can vary greatly depending on where you’re going and can influence what backpacking food you choose to bring.

Fuel: Check the cook time for foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, quinoa, etc. and make sure to plan for enough fuel (some of these dishes take a deceptively long time to cook).

Cost: Convenience has its price. Freeze-dried meals and energy foods can be expensive, but at the end of a long day when your weary body only has enough energy to boil water, such luxuries are justifiable.

Meal Options
Fresh foods: Refrigeration is one of those luxuries you leave behind at the trailhead. Most fresh foods are good for one day inside your pack, maybe two. Carrots usually last longer.

Dry foods (pasta, noodles, instant rice, soup mixes, drink mixes) are light, take up minimal volume inside a pack and offer you some decent taste alternatives.

Freeze-dried/dehydrated foods are super convenient. While relatively pricey, they deliver above-average taste and sustenance for very little weight.

Canned foods have a place in your pack only if the trip is short and your hunger for familiar food is high (some typically canned foods also come in vacuum-sealed pouches). Tuna or other canned meat products can be a nice toss-in item for a pot of rice, for instance. But skip foods packaged in traditional 15-ounce (or larger) cans or bottles. The weight and bulk just aren’t worth it.

Spices can boost the appeal of backpacking food. Consider bringing pepper, garlic powder or salt, basil, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, cinnamon or whatever else is essential to your home kitchen.

Flavored beverages can taste mighty refreshing after a few days of nothing but water. Powdered drink mixes offer a nice mid-trip treat.

For winter camping, bring extra food to help keep your internal fires stoked. Carry your ready-to-eat items close to your body during the day so they are not frozen solid when you want to eat them.

Backpacking Meal Ideas
Breakfast

Backpacking breakfasts can range from fast and basic (an energy bar) to a lavish spread involving pancakes, eggs, meats and coffee. A hot meal can give you an extra boost, true, but a light snack means no cleanup and a quicker start to the day.

Popular choices: Instant hot cereals, dehydrated eggs, pancake mix, breakfast bars, granola, dry cereal, instant tea, coffee, powdered milk, juice, fresh fruit, dried fruits.

Lunch

Rather than take a prolonged break for a midday meal (involving unpacking, preparation, cleanup and repacking), a quicker strategy is to graze on a series of modest energy-boosting snacks throughout the day.

Dinner

This is your reward for a day of exertion. Backcountry gourmets don’t mind the extra challenge of creating hearty meals out in the great scenery. Most weary backpackers, though, opt for the just-add-boiling-water convenience of prepackaged freeze-dried or dehydrated meals, or simple dishes such as pasta.

Popular choices: Packaged meals, pasta, instant rice, ramen noodles, instant soups and sauces, instant stuffing, instant potatoes and tuna. Consider bringing along some favorite spices (onion and garlic powder, basil, oregano).

More Information About Backpacking Tips for Women

There are more women backpacking today than ever before and women are inspiring other women to get out there: The jump in number of women hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail can be attributed in great part to Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 transcendent memoir, Wild.

Whatever motivates us to hit the trail, most of us women find our backpacking experiences to be empowering, soul-enriching, even life-changing. Whether we hit the trail solo or with others, for a single weekend or for months on end, the ability to carry what we need on our back in order to commune with nature, and with other outdoor enthusiasts we meet on the trail, is simply unmatched in other aspects of life.

If you’re young or old, a first-timer or veteran hiker, you’ll find inspiration from other female backpacking enthusiasts. Following are some suggestions to help you prepare for your next trip. Many of these tips apply to both men and women, while some will address common concerns that women backpackers face.

If you’ve never been backpacking before, or need a refresher on the basics, be sure to read our article on Backpacking for Beginners.

Gear Considerations

Regardless of your gender, of course you need to make sure you have the right gear to head into the backcountry, including the Ten Essentials. That also means the following:

Camping and hiking gear: Make sure your pack is comfortable, you know how to set up your tent, you have a quality sleeping bag and pad, and you know how your stove and water filter work. Bring along repair supplies for the above. Note that there are women-specific options for backpacks and sleeping bags that may provide a more comfortable fit and better performance than unisex or men’s styles.

Clothing and boots: Make sure you have clothing appropriate for the weather and your destination. Fast-drying underwear is of particular note for women because it helps you avoid yeast and urinary tract infections. Also, be sure your boots and feet are comfortable. For more tips, see our articles on how to choose backpacking clothes and how to choose hiking boots.

Hygiene items: In addition to basics like hand sanitizer and personal wipes, women do have some specific gear considerations for hygiene.

Menstrual supplies: Many backpacking women like to use a menstrual cup because it reduces the extra weight of carrying tampons and it cuts waste. It’s a good idea to carry a “go kit,” an ultralight stuff sack or dry bag that holds your clean supplies along with a separate sealed bag for waste. For more information, see our article, Backpacking With Your Period.
Pee funnel: Planning to backpack in cold or rainy weather? A specially designed funnel lets you keep your pants on and stand up to pee; and, with practice, you can use it in your tent at night with a bottle.
Pee rag: Some women suggest using a cotton bandana instead of toilet paper when you pee. Tie it to the outside of your pack to dry in the sun. Rinse it as often as you can.
Safety items:

Safety whistle: This can be a deterrent to animals and humans as well as a way to call for help.
Bear spray: This could come in handy for bear attacks (or human interactions if warranted).
If you’re traveling solo or to very remote locations, you might also consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) with satellite messaging so you can send an “I’m fine” message once a day (or at a pre-established date and time) and so you can send an SOS if something serious happens. Also, before you go, always leave your detailed itinerary with someone you trust.

Mental Preparation

Remember that knowledge is power, so before your trip, do your research and make a mental plan for how you will deal with the following possible scenarios:

Human encounters: The people who go out on trails for long distances tend to be friendly, helpful and generous. That’s not to say unfortunate things can’t happen. Here are some tips women backpackers have shared that help them feel prepared to avoid and deal with dodgy situations:

Avoid camping within one mile of a road or trailhead. Stick to camping in established campsites.
Avoid camping on or near a game trail. You don’t want animals—or hunters—literally running into you.
Trust your gut. If you meet someone you feel uneasy about, don’t feel you have to answer questions about where you’re heading, camping, etc. Feel free to make up an excuse to leave them. Tell them you have to make your miles that day, or are getting an attack of giardia—so goodbye! Stride off confidently.
Wear a large, fixed-blade, holstered knife in a prominent position on your belt. That can make someone think twice about hassling you.
Carry a can of pepper spray made for personal self-defense if that makes you feel more secure.
Don’t hesitate to use your safety whistle if you need to. Three blasts is the universal call for help.
Animal encounters: Are there bears and cougars where you’ll be hiking? Learn how to store your food using bear-proof methods and what to do if you encounter a threatening animal. Definitely carry a can of bear spray if you’ll be in bear territory, and hike in a group of three to four or more. See our articles on Backpacking in Bear Country, Food Storage Basics and Bear Canister Basics for more information.

For smaller potential hazards, such as snakes, again, find out if any poisonous species may be found where you’re going, how to identify them, how to avoid them, and what to do if you encounter or get bitten by one.

Getting lost or injured: Carry a detailed topo map, GPS and compass and know how to use them to avoid getting lost in the first place. See our articles about reading a topo map and how to use a compass. On a long-distance trail, know ahead of time where your “escape” routes are to civilization if you get sick or hurt and need to cut your trek short. Chances are, if you’re on a well-traveled trail, someone will stop to help.

Loneliness: Being alone for days on end can be a challenge—and also empowering. You’ll solve your own problems and make your own decisions without input from others. If you prefer to backpack with someone else, especially as a newbie, find a partner through your own group of friends or local hiking clubs. If you’re solo on the trail, help create a community of other solo hikers. And then there’s the tried and true companion, if your route allows: a dog.

Physical Preparation

Spending multiple days hauling a pack weighing 30 or more pounds up and down uneven terrain will challenge you in countless ways. From head to toe, you’ll need strength coupled with a solid level of cardiovascular fitness. An ideal pre-trip training plan includes the following:

Cardio workouts (hiking, cycling, elliptical training, etc.),
Training hikes with a weighted backpack (increase weight and distance over time to build stamina)
Resistance workouts to build strength and stability
Also, before tackling a long-distance trail, practice short trips of at least a couple days.