Wisconsin Pharmacal Company – the maker of Potable Aqua® water purification products – is working with relief organizations in Haiti to supply Potable Aqua Germicidal Tablets to those in need. Haiti currently faces a surge in cholera cases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, creating a desperate need for clean drinking water.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. It is highly common in areas lacking clean water and proper sanitation.
Our wonderful ambassador, Logan Boon, has some advice on finding adventure while working a 9 to 5 job:
Is it just me, or do other people drool over their favorite Instagram accounts, wishing that they could live out the lives of those wanderers, adventurers, and explorers who seem to do just that for a living? I watch their lives and get jealous at all of the cool places they get to go and the incredible things they get to do. But when I come down with the inevitable FOMO that follows, I have to remind myself that while my adventures have to be built around a 9-5 job, my dog, and my home, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
In fact, I love it.
It’s a hard balance, trying to live in both of those worlds.
I crave the ritual of getting up and going into the office Monday through Friday, and being able to do work that I’m passionate about (that has absolutely nothing to do with outdoors or adventures). But at the same time, I also want to go to all the places, see all the sights, and have all of the experiences that fill up my adventure bucket list.
So here I am, a regular person, with a regular job, and yet in the past month I’ve gone to Mexico, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, the Colorado National Monument, and so many places in between. As I write this post, I’m sitting in the mountains, fitting in one last ski weekend for the season. Next weekend I’m celebrating my birthday inside a tent under the stars, and the weekend after that I’m headed to the Grand Canyon to complete the Rim to Rim to Rim run that I’ve been dreaming of for years.
So how do I make it all work?
I started a new job about a year ago; one that has significantly less vacation days than my last one. Even so, I’ve been able to pack more adventures in than ever before by being strategic about when I take my time off. My favorite way to pack in mini adventures is through long weekends. By taking a Friday off, I can head out immediately after work on Thursday night, sometimes driving up to five hours before reaching my campsite (and you can get a LOT of places in five hours). For the next two and a half days, my adventures are strategically planned to fit in every single thing I possibly can, from sunrise to after sunset. With the exception of maybe one big trip per year, virtually all of my adventures come through long weekends.
When I look at my year, I plan out the different adventures that I can have each season. Winter is reserved for playing in the snow and bigger trips further afield, taking advantage of the two weeks my office closes for Christmas and New Years. During the March-May “mud season,” the mountains are getting some of the best powder of the year and when they’re not, I head to Moab and southern Utah to stretch my legs on the desert trails. As soon as the snow begins to melt in the high country, I frolick in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming’s mountains until finally the days get shorter and the nights get colder. Fall colors are incredibly fleeting in Colorado, so I try to reserve the first two weeks of October to go see the aspen trees in all their glory. By planning out my adventures on a seasonal view, I can prioritize where to go and when…and, when there’s an adventure I want to go on, but I don’t have time to fit it in, I can already start adding it to the next season’s wish list. LIkewise, when one plan falls through, I already have my list of seasonal adventures to fill its place with.
All of my gear is pre-packed into adventure-themed boxes. I’ve got one for winter adventures with all of my ski and snowshoe gear, one for car camping, one for backpacking, one for running-related adventures, and so on. I also have a pre-packed first aid bag, that has all my essentials like my PA purification tablets, so I don’t have to worry about finding clean water, my knife, some duct tape, and my SPOT Tracker, in case I run into any serious trouble in the backcountry. This way, when I have a last minute idea or invitation, all I have to do is grab the appropriate box and I’m on my way without worrying about forgetting anything.
I’m lucky in that I have more than a few friends who don’t even hesitate when I ask them if they want to drive 6 hours to Moab the next weekend, run across the Grand Canyon (and back) in a month, or go trekking in Patagonia next year. Having the right adventure partner can make all the difference, and can add incredible value to the experience, not to mention company on those long hours of driving.
But what happens when there’s no one available to go on an adventure with you? Don’t be afraid to go alone! Trust me, it’s scary at first, but once I got used to it, some trips I even prefer the solitude of sleeping alone under the stars and having nothing but my own mind to keep me company.
It’s inevitable with planning that things will go wrong. Campsites I think will have room will be full when I pull in at 11pm, exhausted from driving for 6 hours. That’s okay, because I usually have a backup location, can find a dispersed site somewhere along the road, or I can put down the seats and sleep right in my car. When Heidi and I were trekking in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, I had packed for 70 degree weather, and woke up to 6 inches of snow on our last day of backpacking. I put on every layer I owned and hiked faster than I have ever hiked in my life to keep warm. Twice last year, when I was still getting used to traveling alone, I adjusted remote, backcountry camping plans to day hikes because I just wasn’t comfortable with it yet…and I got to see and hike and experience even more than I had originally planned because of it.
My trips nearly never go exactly as I thought they would, but it’s usually those last-minute surprises that turn them into even greater adventures.
It’s easy for me to get stuck in the habit of go-go-going all the time. It’s good to remind myself that I don’t have to drive five hours, get on a plane, or go to the next state to find an adventure that’s worthwhile…my backyard is full of them! Whether it’s a low-key weekend at home, or a midweek nature pick-me-up, I don’t have to travel far to get my fix.
Our wonderful ambassador Heidi Kumm recently spent some time in Mexico. Check out what she had to say about the lack of clean water:
I’ll tell you time and time again that I’m a mountain girl but, even this wilderness lover has a little place in her heart for city life. Just a few weeks ago I hopped on a plane from Denver to Mexico for a week of exploring…nowhere near a beach; instead I opted for the city of Monterrey + its surrounding mountains. I don’t know what you know about Mexico but I do know that the general consensus is “don’t drink the water”. There are a variety of reasons behind that, I’m sure, but the details aren’t really that important when you’re talking contaminated water. No one wants to get sick while on vacation! No one, trust me.
So, what’s the best alternative to potentially contaminated water in the city? Traditionally it is bottled water. Pay a few bucks for a handful of plastic and potable water, no big deal, right? Except what happens when you’re doing a lot of outdoor exploring/really want to stay hydrated? Now you’re spending a lot of money on water…and you’re tossing a lot of empty plastic bottles into the trash [recycled or not; it still adds up to a LOT of tossing!].
Unfortunately it did not even cross my mind to pack my PURE water purifier with me. It lives with my camping gear, not my impulse travel stash. I had no plans to leave the city limits, why would I need a water purifier? Well, two days + many water bottles into my trip I was wishing I had something to purify the tap water with. Even in the fancier hotels, everything came in plastic water bottles! I felt so wasteful.
Looking back, it could have been so simple! With the PURE water purifier I could have planned a day ahead + purified all the water I would need for any upcoming adventures or hikes into the surrounding mountains. I would have easily saved 10-15 bottles of water in just a week! Technically more than that if I swapped out all restaurant water for tequila…just saying.
Guess what will definitely be making its way into my pack before I head down south for another soiree? Yup, you guessed it, my PURE water purifier. Because one week was wasteful enough for me, I can’t imagine 4-6 weeks of just plastic water bottles!
Our ambassador Karen Ung wrote a great post on how to make family backpacking fun! Check out her blog at Play Outside Guide
Backpacking with little kids is an exercise in patience as it seems that more time is spent playing than hiking. While you could push them to go faster, if you accept the pace and embrace the fun, you will all be happy campers. Here are some tips on fun family backpacking.
How do you make backpacking fun for the whole family?
See original Outside Magazine post here.
On the W Trek in Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park, you’re never far from view of the iconic, glaciated granite spires that sore eight thousand feet into the air above Patagonia. The trek boasts stunning mountain scenery: turquoise alpine lakes, enormous glaciers, and beech forests covered in old man’s beard. Weather on this track is notoriously temperamental but is most stable during our winter.Intrepid runs tours for the uninitiated, but if you’ve been on an overnight and feel comfortable navigating in a Spanish-speaking country, you can do it yourself. Tack on a few more days to do the Circuit—a 10-day, 52-mile journey around the entire Torres Del Paine National Park, including the W.
2. Ozark Highlands Trail – 165 contiguous miles (218 total); 10-14 days; October to Early February
The Ozark Highlands Trail is one of the few American trails etched into the wilderness mostly by hikers, who completed a large portion of system after federal funding stopped flowing in the early 80s. Switchbacks and connectors sling you east and west over ridgelines and flat topped mountains (maxing out at 2,380 feet), littered with creeks, ponds, and a forest of red cedars, white oak and pawpaw groves. In summer, the water sources tend to dry up but the humidity soars. It’s doable in fall and spring—just be wary of cold and wet March and April weather—but if you go in winter, when the days are in the mid-50s and night’s at around freezing, you’ll have the place all to yourself. Stock up inFayetteville about 45 minutes away. Only have a few days? The 37 mile stretch between Fairview and Ozone is especially beautiful.
3. Tongariro Northern Circuit – 3-4 days: 27 miles: December to April
Tongariro Crossing is a 12-mile path that shows off New Zealand’s most otherworldly capabilities—if you’ve seen The Lord of the Rings, you’ll know it as Mordor. Plenty do it on an 8-hour day hike, but there are another two or three days of less crowded emerald lakes, volcanic peaks, and golden tussock-filled valleys, in the wilderness beyond. Doing it all requires getting permits, which start to sell out towards the end of the year. You can use the hut system, which have heat and water during the southern hemisphere summer.
4. Black Canyon Trail, Arizona: 7 days; 82 miles; November to April
Feet have pounded Black Canyon Trail for as long as people know. What began as an early Native American trading route became a stagecoach path on the frontier, then livestock road in the 20th century, and as of 2008, a National Recreational Trail, run by the Bureau of Land Management. The bike-friendly trail winds along the floor of saguaro-clad dessert at the feet of the Bradshaw mountains and through classic frontier scenery. Stock up in Prescott or Phoenix, which are both about 40 miles away. And even though it’ll be nice and warm, wear good long pants and boots—this is rattlesnake country.
5. South Coast Track, Tasmania, Australia: 6 to 8 days; December to April
Once a journey of survival for shipwrecked sailors is now an undulating playground of empty gold-sand beaches, primitive jungles, and the high alpine passes of the Ironbound Mountains. The trailhead to one of the roughest hikes on the island of Tasmania—The South Coast Track—is reached only via the air: fly into Melaleuca from Cambridge airport on the mainland. You’ll need a permit and supplies, which you can get through Par Avion, the airline that operates the route. If you’d like a guide,Tasmanian Expeditions has been running small group expeditions since the 1980s.
6. Mountains of the Moon, Uganda: 8 – 9 days; 43 miles; December to March
Think of the Mountains of the Moon trail as the longer, more remote, alternative African alpine summit to Kilimanjaro. The trek includes the summit of Margherita Peak, Africa’s third highest, with views over Southwestern Uganda’s snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains. Our winter is the only season you won’t need crampons to summit Margherita; it’s also the best chance to see the rare Rwenzori leopard. Pick up a guide in Kampala or Kasese or book ahead of time with Mountain Madness, which leads guided 13 days tours that include gorilla tracking.
7. Waitukubuli Trail, Dominica
The Caribbean’s longest walking trail is driest and coolest in winter. It snakes through Morne Trois Pitons National Park, known for its boiling lake and waterfalls, and crosses the Central Forest Reserve and northern jungle, before skirting the northern coast to Cabrits National Park, where you can jump into the Caribbean and check out Dominica’s oldest fort. Along the way you’ll stay in local communities, either camping, at bed and breakfasts, or in home stays. It’s fairly simple to do this one alone—the Park will help you prepare food and accommodations, but you can also find a guide in Soufriere, the town closest to the trailhead.
I just returned from three months in Europe, mainly Switzerland. As I pulled my oversized Columbia duffle back into the Geneva airport for my return to the United States I was oddly proud of it. It was perfectly packed, underweight and manageable. Plus, ever item that I repacked into the bag for my trip home I realized everything had been used or needed on the trip. Perfection, in my opinion.
When I packed for two weeks of backpacking in Chile earlier this year I spent a solid week creating color coordinated lists, repacking and triple checking my bags to ensure I had all the right gear. With all that meticulous planning for a two week trip you’d think it would have taken me a full month to prepare for my even longer trip to Europe, but it didn’t. My packing for Europe took me a few hours, the night before my early AM flight…there were no lists, just a few piles of essentials on an empty bed that I tetris’ed into my bag. It all worked out, thanks to a little luck and a lot of creativity.
All of that pat-myself-on-the-back’ing aside, there are a few things I really wish I had packed and a few things I didn’t know I’d be so glad to have…
PURE Potable Water Filter — my trip consisted of a healthy mix of backpacking, city exploring and mountain living. For the most part, the countries I was in were filled with potable water, but no one wants to get sick half way through a trip in a foreign country. I didn’t need to use the filter in the cities, but it was really comforting to know it was available to me. While out on the trails it was great to have a reliable water filter — saved me money at huts that charged for bottled water and keep my pack lighter as it allowed me to refill my hydration pack from streams while on the move.
Canvas Purse — this almost seems silly to list, but in the US I don’t bother toting around a purse, somehow I’ve become that girl that only needs her credit card, ID and cellphone when on the move. I bought this purse right before I left, on a whim. It has been amazing to have! It’s just big enough to carry a jacket, a water bottle, notebooks, chargers and other randoms. Plus, I could easily wear it across my chest which made it feel more secure even though I never felt unsafe in the cities I visited.
Notebooks — another simple item, so simple I almost forgot them. Yes, them! I have managed to almost completely fill two notebooks since I started traveling. One was all about the thoughts and feelings, the other has much more “practical” scribblings. I used them a lot while in motion on trains and planes, as well as while avoiding my phone/computer and conserving data. Heck, this post was written on out paper before I finally gave dug up my laptop to make it a bit more shareable.
Colorful, Comfortable Layers — when you’re packing for three unplanned months in the mountains, between seasons you need a lot of clothing options. Especially when you’re trying to be as prepared as possible for cute city days, lazy hostel days and cold trail days. You hear people talk about layers all the time…so much so they kind of sound boring. But if you can get your hands on a few colorful tights and a mix of coordinating/complimentary tshirts, long sleeve shirts and maybe a vest, short skirt and hoodie you’re set. Add in a scarf, boots and a pair of just-above-the-boots socks and you’ll be so set the idea of dressing yourself out of a fully stocked closet seems terrifying [yes, I am actually intimidated by my closet and all of its options!]
Tangent: While traveling in Austria and Czech for two weeks in November I literally lived in two pairs of leggings, above the ankle boots, wool socks and a combo of my khaki skirt, blue long sleeve, purple hoodie, gray vest, orange puffy and white scarf. It kept me warm while working on a rural farm and I actually felt like I fit in while exploring the cities. I’m not a very fashionable person but I made sure to do laundry before I returned to the States, just so these combos were available for my two weeks of family time before I return to real life and a closet of winter clothes!
International Phone Plan — I got a lot of mixed opinions from travelers when I asked about phones before I left the States. A lot of people told me I could just pick up a phone when I got to whatever country I was visiting but that made me nervous. After a week with the Columbia Sportswear crew at the UTMB races I would be on my own…I wanted a phone I could depend upon to call home, book accommodations and GPS my way around neighborhoods I had never heard of before. I ended up with a T-Mobile plan which turned out okay — there were definitely some bumps in the road and their customer service leaves a lot to be desired but their phone plan will get you 1GB of data, free texting and WiFi calling [IF your phone allows it, don’t make the mistake I didn, triple check that!] for about $70 a month. Not bad, really.
Would Have Liked
Better Running Gear — I’ll keep this broad since it’s such a personal preference but nearly every day I seriously wished I had packed more aggressive trail running shoes, my Ultimate Direction Wink pack and my SPIBelt. I had great running shoes with me [I pinky puffy heart my Pearl iZumi’s] but I wore them down quickly with a few hundred miles of hiking, running and scrambling. I also had a running pack but it was untested before I packed it and ended up not fitting very well at all…had I packed my UD pack I probably wouldn’t have pined away for my SPIBelt. That belt would have been great for the runs where I didn’t need my ill-fitting pack but needed a place to stash keys + ID.
Second Converter + Battery Pack — the single converter and battery pack I had worked just fine, but when you’re spending days on the trail it would have been so handy to have an extra battery pack…that I could have charged with my second converter. Outlets can be a hot commodity in hostels, if you’re the first one into the dorm room you take advantage of every outlet you can until everyone else starts hording them!
Bivvy Sack — I packed a lot of camping gear for this time, gear that I technically didn’t use but was really glad I had as a backup option while hiking. That said, I would have much preferred a bivvy sack for more discrete camping when the rules were questionable and a lighter backup plan for when I was only packing a tent for “uh, I got lost” worst case scenarios.
Climbing Shoes — when I was packing I intentionally left my climbing gear behind for a friend to use, little did I know I would have loved to have it in Switzerland. I’m not a gung-ho climber per say, but I do have fun in a harness and I just happened to be staying with some avid climbers surrounded by some killer crags. I did just fine in borrowed gear but there is something about having your own gear, gear that you trust.
Potato Chips, Ice Cream, Marshmallows, Mountain Dew — okay, so there is some sarcasm here, but there are some “American” foods that I really missed while I was aboard! Yes, they technically had all the basics but their selection was slim and the prices were high! I guess the upside of that is the fact I got a lot of cooking and baking experience with a new, healthy appreciation for vegetables and working with what you happen to have in the hostel fridge!
If I may say so myself, I think I did a pretty solid job of packing for this trip…now I just need to keep all that confidence in check so I don’t get too cocky on my next trip and leave behind my passport or something important like that!
What’s a must-remember essential you always take along while traveling?
What have you forgotten in the past, how did you make do?