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Better Than Stuff: Meaningful Outdoor Gifts They'll Love

The holidays are a time of giving, and we've all heard the phrase 'it's the thought that counts.' But it can be hard pick just the right thing, and you have to worry about whether it will fit, or they already have one. This year, why not give your outdoor enthusiast something more meaningful than a new backpack or the latest Garmin?






Surprising Extremes- The Mueller Hut Hike

One of the coolest things about New Zealand- other than the absolutely fantastic geography and wonderful people, is their hut system in the national parks. Huts enable hikers to travel longer distances without carrying tents and cooking gear and make great places to get to know other hikers from around the world.

Tony and I decided to hike to the Mueller Hut in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. This park is epic. I loved the feeling of standing in the plains of the valley surrounded by towering alpine peaks. 
In New Zealand, you don't have to climb as high as you do in the states to reach "alpine" conditions. The Mueller Hut sits at just 6,000 feet / 1,800 meters, shorter than the tallest mountain in the Appalachians. Don't let the elevation fool you, the hut is definitely in an alpine environment and you should pack in preparation for that. We did, and we were glad for it. 

Preparing for Conditions
We booked our spots ahead to make sure there was room for us. These huts fill up fast in the high season. By the time the day came, we knew that our hike out the next day would be miserable in cold, pouring rain, but the following nights were fully booked so we couldn't change plans for better weather. We decided that the beautiful hike up would be worth the cold, wet hike down. Because the hut is in an alpine setting, and weather in the area is notoriously unpredictable, we packed both rain and snow gear.
On the way up, with a view down the valley
Tony taking a break on the steep stair section
The trail from the valley floor to the treeline consists of a series of incredibly steep steps that zig-zag in switchbacks. Beyond the treeline, the trail traverses a scree-field and a stroll on sturdy rock.The trail itself gains roughly 3,000 ft in 3.23 miles.

The steepness of the route and the stairs themselves were more challenging than I anticipated.

Past the steep scree field, into the big solid rocky section connecting pole to pole. 




As we gained elevation and headed into late afternoon, the weather started to roll in. Once we actually reached the hut, the wind had significantly picked up and the clouds were dense with incredibly low visibility. After sunset, the rain began.

How to Pick a Day Pack

Are you shopping for a day pack but feel overwhelmed by all the options? Will you be buying your first day pack? With so many packs on the market right now, choosing the right one can be tough. This post will help you make a decision with confidence and save you from buyers remorse.

I have owned and used lots of day packs over my 10 years teaching outdoors, in a wide variety of activities and conditions. I've learned what I need for different activities and environments. Now that I work at REI, I help people every day pick their perfect day pack. 

How To Stay Cool When It's Hot As $#*! Outside

Summer is *almost* here and it's already getting crazy hot and humid. For some reason, I tend to gravitate toward VERY hot places, and happen to go there during the hottest time of year. The most extreme example was heading to the Sahara in August!

I learned a lot from the cultures who have thrived for thousands of years in those insanely hot places, and now I'm sharing what I've learned.






First Some Science!

A crucial part of staying cool is understanding how heat
is transferred and how our bodies self-regulate. I want you to imagine that you are a little campfire. Why? Your body creates heat. What we have to do in summer and winter is figure out how to either hold onto that heat (in winter) or get rid of it (in summer). Imagine you're in a cabin with a nice little fire in a small fireplace. It's snowing outside. Do you want the cabin to be small or big? A little fire can warm a little cabin, but not a big one, so in winter we need a small cabin. Now let's imagine it's a hot summer day, and we've got that fire going. Now, we want our cabin to be big, and maybe we'll open a few windows and turn the fans on to try to let that heat out. Remember, putting out the fire means we are no longer alive, so all we can do is adjust the size of the room. This blog post is how to accomplish that.

Heat moves in 4 ways:
  • Conduction: The process by which heat or electricity is directly transmitted through a substance when there is a difference of temperature between adjoining regions, without movement of the material.
    AKA: touch cold things, don't touch hot things
  • Convection: the transfer of heat by the circulation or movement of the heated parts of a liquid or gas
    AKA use wind and water to take heat away from your body.
  • Radiation: the complete process in which energy is emitted by one body, transmitted through an intervening medium or space, and absorbed by another body.
    AKA: heat from the sun, body heat. Stand close to cool objects, stand far away from hot objects or put a barrier between you and the hot object. 
  • Evaporation: water molecules heat up until they have enough energy to transform from liquid into gas- effectively 'transferring' that heat into the surrounding atmosphere
How do we use the science of heat to help us stay cool?
We'll utilize conduction to transfer heat out by touching cold things- like ice and shaded rocks. When I was in Morocco, I would find a cold tile floor in the bottom of a building and lay on it- letting it suck away my body heat.  We'll prevent conduction by not touching hot things like sun baked black cars.We'll use convection to transfer heat out by swimming in cool water and standing in front of moving air.
We'll help our bodies radiate body heat by wearing thin, loose fitting, minimal clothing. We'll prevent our bodies from absorbing radiant heat by getting out of the sun and staying away from objects that radiate stored heat (like concrete buildings and black top parking lots)

The Science of Sweat
When it's hot, we sweat. Our bodies push a combination of water, salt and minerals out our sweat glands an onto our skin. When those molecules get enough heat energy from our skin, they evaporate, effectively 'taking' that heat with them. This process is not 100% efficient, and is very dependent on the humidity of the environment. In a hot and humid environment, like a jungle, sweat just doesn't work very well to cool us off, and instead we end up with soaking wet clothing. This is why it's so important to wear fabrics that help that water evaporate as much as possible- which I'll get into later.

Werner Kalliste Review: A Sleek and Sexy Badass Blade


The Kalliste by Werner Paddles is an elite performance, sleek and sexy carbon fiber paddle for low angle paddlers. This beauty will set you back about $400. Is it worth the money? Keep reading to find out why it's totally worth it.

Specs:
  • Shaft: carbon fiber available straight or bent
  • Blades: carbon fiber with foam core
  • Ferrule style: 180 degree feathering adjustment right and left
  • Weight: 23.25oz to 26 oz depending on length and shaft size/type



Features:
  • Foam core blades: buoyant carbon fiber blades make each stroke smoother and lifting the blade out of the water at the end of the stroke effortless
  • Dihedral power face: the three dimensional face of the blade eliminates the 'flutter' of the blade through the water which is present in paddles with smooth power faces. This makes your strokes more efficient and reduces wrist and arm strain. 
  • Smooth back face: a smooth back face makes for a smooth entry into and out of the water, unlike a fiberglass paddle which has a spine on the back face of the blade.
  • Smart view adjustable ferrule: gives the look and feel of a single piece shaft with a tremendous range of feathering which allows you to adjust the feather to both your paddling style and wind. There is nothing to get caught on your clothes or gear, and you can alter the feathering quickly and easily on the water. I love the way it looks and feels like a single piece paddle.

The Captivating Mystery of Wilderness



Wilderness is a refuge for the human spirit. 
I look out over wild places and wonder at their mystery. What secrets lie hidden in the depths of the forest? What will I discover around the next bend in the river, over the next precipice of mountain? For every step I take and every discovery I make, there lie millions ahead yet to be discovered. This is the magic of wilderness- that it both beckons us to explore, and yet no matter how far or deep we go, retains its mystery.
-Wayfinder Ali


Did you like this? You'll love these:

DIY Ultralight Adventure Travel First Aid Kit: Small Groups Multi-Day [Printable]

I never go anywhere without a medical kit. After many years of traveling internationally, my kit is now both comprehensive and as efficient as possible.  As a Wilderness First Responder, I do not want to get caught in an emergency without the basics like gloves, gauze and a Sam splint.

I want to make sure that I can properly care for myself and my companions. In this post I'll share with you what I bring and why.

The kit detailed in this post is for a group of around 4-6 people for up to a week-long trip.

Equip Your Mind: Knowledge is Paramount


spinal neck cervical stabilization sam splint wilderness first responder
Learning about spine stabilization during my
Wilderness First Responder course in UAE

The best kit is useless if you don't know how to use its contents. 

A medical professional can often save a life by improvising with whatever is at hand. The best way to prepare for any kind of emergency is to ready yourself with knowledge and practice.

I recommend taking a Wilderness Advanced First Aid or Wilderness First Responder class before traveling. WAFA is a comprehensive course that gives you the tools and mindset you need to handle medical emergencies in any environment. If you're planning a water-based adventure, take a lifeguarding class in addition to WAFA. If WAFA is too expensive, consider the basic Wilderness First Aid course.

Wilderness Medical Organizations
Wilderness Medical Associates



Pre-stocked Kits

I never buy pre-stocked kits because they are so pricey. I can stock a kit with what I want and need for much less money. A pre-stocked kit is a great starting point. It will equip you with the basics and is typically stocked based on trip size and duration which is incredibly helpful. If you choose this route, grab a pre-stocked kit that fits your trip size and duration, then customize it for your specific trip. For pre-stocked kits, I recommend the Adventure Medical Kit brand.  They come in absolutely the best bags. The bag unfolds to create a work space and they are very durable. Stay away from Wal-Mart and Target kits because they are made for use in the front country where quality care is close by. 



Things to consider when packing your kit:
  • Group Size- More people = more problems. You will need more of everything. If someone has a high fever, you'll go through Tylenol (acetaminophen) very quickly.
  • Trip Duration- longer trips mean more potential for sickness and injury
  • Trip Location- Will you have access to quality health care where you are heading? How far removed from that medical care will you be? Are there lots of pharmacies where you can restock? It is a smart idea to bring broad spectrum antibiotics to third world countries where they may be hard to find or fake. Some people even bring their own IV kits to places where contaminated needles are prevalent.
  • Planned activities- Going snorkeling? Bring tweezers and vinegar for sea urchins and jellyfish. Hikers need more moleskin and splinting supplies. Everyone heading to third world countries should bring extra re-hydration salts for food poisoning. High altitude trekkers should have detailed knowledge of altitude illness and stock their kit with Diamox
  • Pre-existing conditions- Prone to motion sickness? Bring extra Dramamine. Pre-existing conditions often worsen during times of stress. Ensure all travelers have extras of their prescription medications. Plan ahead for dealing with flare ups of issues like heart conditions, joint injuries, and diabetes.