The world is a weird place (and probably not the safest to explore) right now. We hope you’re tucked in and doing OK. Staying healthy. And staying home. But if you are (and if you’re like us around the office at Menasha Ridge Press), you’re definitely longing for a backpacking trip. To be out in the woods, alone, sounds pretty good right now, if we’re honest. And in the spirit of encouragement we’re thinking about learning some new backpacking skills, specifically in the “ultra-light category.”
This is an area that appeals to a lot of backpackers, but it can also be scary, as you don’t want to go “all in” and then find yourself on day two out on the trail, missing some crucial piece of gear. So we’re thinking. . . while we’re stuck at home, why not practice in the backyard? That way we can run inside if we need an extra layer or make adjustments so that we’re ready when all of the trails and parks open back up.
To tackle this project, let’s consult Rick Light’s Backpacking the Lightway. Rick has years of practice in this area and has a solid sense of how to help more traditional backpackers make the transition to a lighter load.
Modular Packing Systems
Rick is big on organization. You certainly have to be when every milligram counts. In the book, he makes the case for developing a personal modular system based around certain categories of essentials with your trip in mind. Each “system” is actually just a stuff sack with the required gear. Imagine being so organized that you could go to your gear closet and grab your Warm Weather Layers System, Medical System, Nutrition System, etc. That’s the dream, folks. And it helps take some of the questions and anxiety out of “going light.”
The nine systems Light recommends are:
- Hiking System (things worn, not packed, like poles, boots, etc.)
- Clothing System
- Shelter, Sleeping, and Lighting System
- Navigation System
- First-Aid, Repair, and Personal-Hygiene System
- Communication System
- Fire System
- Nutrition System
- Specialty-Gear System
Even though we’re just practicing in the backyard, it’s a great exercise to think about each gear list (make sure you read through the official Leave No Trace guidelines) and what all would go into your systems, put each system together, and then . . . get it all into the pack. And not just into your pack, but balanced well (yikes!).
Because everything must go in the pack (even for our backyard practice run) it’s helpful to think about organizing around these modular systems. Learning to take some weight out of your pack isn’t always about doing without or just buying lighter, more expensive gear. It’s mainly about being smarter and prepared in a way you don’t have to be when you’re just throwing everything into the backpack.
So stay home, stay safe, and pick up some new camping skills while you’re home. Richard Light’s Backpacking the Light Way is a solid read for folks just starting to explore the world of ultra-light backpacking.
While our neighborhoods and the outdoors are strong, no one is immune to what’s currently going on around us. Things can be very tough, and there’s plenty to worry about—beyond the chance of getting sick: work, paying bills, and buying groceries. We hope you’re able to stay safe as you navigate your corner of the world today, and we here at AdventureKEEN would like to help as best we can. That is why we have been working with our authors and editors to provide some of our book content for free.
We invite you to check out BeWellBeOutdoors.com (#bewellbeoutdoors) for free resources focused on pre-K–12 education and activities. We’re even offering up an inspirational or thought-provoking quote hoping that it will bring a little spark of calm to your day.
Every Tuesday and Thursday we are making free pages from our stellar line of activity books. Here you will find lots of coloring pages, crossword puzzles, word finds, mazes, and much more. Each page has been designed to be printed out at home or used on a tablet device. So grab a device or the crayons and find a place for the kids to sit down and work away. Hopefully it will occupy any kids you are looking after while keeping them thinking about the outdoors.
These once-a-week activities are built with learning and education in mind. Our Home Lesson pages are all about getting the kids outdoors to explore whatever patch of grass, backyard, bug, or tree they can find. With these print-outs, you’ll be able to join the kids as they do things like make their own fossil imprints and go on animal track hunts. Just click to download the worksheets, print them out, and get outdoors!
These daily images are simple and to the point. All the images have been taken from the vast image library here at AdventureKEEN (having been in outdoor travel publishing as long as we have, we have a LOT of great images to choose from). We’re hoping the quips, sayings and insights shared will offer just a second or two of thoughtful calm during a stressful day.
You can find all of that info and more across all of our social channels using the hashtag #bewellbeoutdoors. We know the impact that being in nature can have on our spirits, emotions, and energy. We encourage you to #bewellbeoutdoors as much as you can. Steal 5 minutes on a balcony. Find a sunny seat in a lobby. Just enjoy what nature has to offer. It’s good for you.
We don’t know what lies ahead and none of the solutions seem perfect, but we hope the resources we are posting throughout each week at BeWellBeOutdoors.com will be helpful as we navigate the days ahead together.
Take care and stay safe. #bewellbeoutdoors
Today, the last Saturday in April, we were all supposed to be celebrating Independent Bookstore Day 2020. But due to all the stay-safe-at-home rules around the country (you are staying safe, right?), the official event has been moved to August 29, 2020. August feels a long way away, doesn’t it? We’re feeling like it is. So after you mark your calendar for August 29th, come back and read some of the tips below on how you can celebrate, shop, and love on your local indie bookstore.
Loving on Indie Bookstores
Things are going to have to go digital and online this month, as we wait for Independent Bookstore Day 2020. Here are three thoughts on how to celebrate the community cornerstone that is your indie bookstore.
Number 1. SHOP It’s that simple and it doesn’t have to be much. But you’re stuck at home and need something to read, right? Just search online for your local indie store and see how they’re doing things these days. Some have curbside pickup. Some have online ordering. Some are getting creative and even delivering by bike. And many are using Bookshop.org to manage online orders. Bookshop.org gives some of its profits back to the indie shops that use the service. And you don’t have to buy a book. Buy a pencil or a T-shirt to wear with your sweats while you’re self-quarantining. The goal is to help the shops stay open and take care of their staff. One day we’ll all be able to get back out and visit the indie shops in person and we’ll be glad they were able to stick around.
Number 2. IF AUDIOBOOKS ARE YOUR THING, sign up for Libro.fm. You can grab a monthly membership or buy audiobooks one at a time. The cool thing about Libro.fm is that you get to select a local bookstore as “your bookstore” when you sign up. And whenever you buy an audiobook they split the profits of the sale with your bookstore. They have lots going on right now like Virtual Bookstore Party and Socks for Binc. You can check out all of their deals, discounts, and happenings on their site.
Number 3. KEEP UP WITH ALL THE HAPPENINGS on the official Independent Bookstore Day site. Sign up for the event newsletter and follow the organization on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They’re doing a great job keeping things moving. And be sure to interact with them. The folks behind Indie Bookstore Day are not only fun to follow, but they really want to hear from the book community.
We are passionate about indie bookstores here at AdventureKEEN. We love our indie bookstore partners and the communities they represent. We sincerely hope you make it to a local bookstore this August to show your support too.
Spring weather is no joke. The temps are high. The temps are low. The sun is bright and the wind is blowing or the rain lasts a full day and the wind is howling. With most folks staying safe at home (and we here at AdventureKEEN hope you’re well and practicing smart social distancing), many are getting outside to hike, bike, or take a walk with the family. And the spring weather is certainly a factor.
Spring kicked off about a month ago and officially lasts until June 20, 2020. Which means we have a few more weeks of lingering snow, tornado season, lots of rain, and temperature swings. One of the best ways to navigate all of this is to know your clouds and understand what’s happening in the sky above you.
What Cumulonimbus clouds say about the weather: Often called towering cumulonimbus for the heights that they can reach, these clouds mean only one thing—thunderstorms. The violent updrafts that cause these storms tend to occur when the surface (or the area just above it) is warm and humid. Thunderstorms emerge from the strongest updrafts and can offer some of the most dangerous, but also the most visually captivating, of all weather scenes.
What The Clouds Look Like: Cumulonimbus clouds are likely the most famous types of nimbus clouds. A cumulonimbus cloud has a broad base because air is being drawn toward the primary updraft before being forced upwards. The strong updraft creates localized low pressure underneath the storm, which causes the storm to act like a vacuum, sucking up the warm, moist air around it, with collision and coalescence happening at the base of the cloud over a broader area than the main updraft area. At the surface, this can also lead to brisk straight-line winds, both preceding the thunderstorm and occurring again after it departs.
One of the best ways to get up to speed on why the weather “does what it does” is with Ryan Henning’s Field Guide to Weather. This pocket-size book packs in a great deal of need-to-know weather information from a certified meteorologist and shows us one of the telltale signs that a thunderstorm is on its way. The author goes on to discuss government-issued watches and warnings, as well as weather safety. The simple explanations are useful in easing the mind of a frightened child, and the in-depth details help adults learn to understand and prepare for the weather ahead.
So be safe out there. Pay attention to your local weather reports, and look up in the sky for yourself. Our spring trips into the outdoors are much more meaningful if we’re aware of our surroundings and understand what’s happening in the sky above us.
By Mindy Sink
As I was updating the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver and Boulder, I found myself learning new things—about myself and hiking. I hit the trails mostly on weekends to complete more than 60 hikes for the book in every season. Here are my takeaways that seem relevant to life, both off and on the trail:
1. Meditation doesn’t require sitting still.
I have never been able to meditate. Finding quiet time to sit in a comfortable position and let my mind go still leads to what yoga teachers call “monkey brain.” That is, my thoughts are racing around in my mind. Yet without trying at all, my thoughts would quiet on the trail. In fact, I would mentally plan in advance what problem or issue in my life to think through while on the trail. Then I would arrive, get my backpack ready, set my GPS, and start off… and nothing. By the time I returned to the trailhead after a few miles I felt calmer and sometimes realized that what I had thought was a problem really wasn’t. Om.
2. Be grateful. Or, I like my body.
I recently read an article about how we—as humans—are all increasingly out of touch with our bodies. Essentially what the author was saying is that we aren’t using our bodies, and when there is a problem, there’s a pill to take, so the true cause of a pain or other symptom is often ignored. Add to that all of the body judgment so many of us have about ourselves or others. Rather than just being awed at what our bodies can do, we push them to have certain shapes or skills (or even harm them). When I was signing on to research and write my guidebook, I boasted to my editor, “Imagine the shape I’ll be in!” How embarrassing! Who cares? By trail 30-something I was just grateful to my body for getting me up the sides of mountains and safely back to the trailhead. I stopped caring about my shape and began treating my body with more kindness and appreciation for the hard work it was doing.
3. It’s probably not personal.
I like hiking alone, but I also like to hike with family and friends. I think it’s safer to hike with companions. When I started doing my guidebook research and posting pictures on social media, people came out of the woodwork asking if they could join me. Family, close friends, people I hadn’t seen in years, all asked to hike. “Yes!” I said to every single one. Then many of these same people would vanish mid-text. There was a moment where it bugged me, but as these good intentions piled up, I found my sense of humor and empathy. For one thing, I barely had time to join me on the trail! At any moment, people might be busy with family or work or find themselves ill or not up for a hike in winter, and it doesn’t matter. Instead I saw this as a chance to appreciate that they’d reached out in the first place. (Sometimes it turned out to be a good thing I was hiking alone anyway, as I would get a little lost or discover poor conditions; it was a relief to not feel responsible for another person on the trail.)
4. You got this. Or, believe in you.
Given my deadline, as well as travel plans in another country during peak hiking season, work, family, and just life, I had friends say, “You can’t do it.” Not in a mean way, but in a math way. Ouch! But it’s not personal—and I had a deadline—so I just did the work. Yes, at times things felt out of balance in my life, but it was finite; after some time on the trail, my mind felt calmer, so I wasn’t worried. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it; I just kept hiking and doing the math and moving forward with my deadline/goal in mind.
5. A little stubbornness goes a long way.
I’ve always been a stubborn person, for better or for worse. If you’re into the zodiac, I’m an Aries through and through. There were many times on trails where I was tired or confused or fed up or not sure if I could do it, and I just kept going. For example, I hiked a mile on the wrong trail, turned around to the trailhead and started over, making my 8.5-mile hike a 10.5-mile hike one day. To be sure, this was no Cheryl Strayed moment on the Pacific Crest Trail, just a lady less than an hour’s drive from a comfortable home and a hot meal who was feeling unsure and weary and time-starved. Yet in so many ways in life this lesson can serve as a reminder to push through bouts of discomfort to achieve a goal.
6. Connect where and when possible. (Say hi to your fellow travelers.)
There’s something about being among
ancient, massive trees and rocks to make a person feel small in the universe. I
ended up doing many hikes in the off-season, and this meant seeing fewer hikers
on trails than I would have in the summer months. I would get so excited to see
them, ask about trail conditions, and share a laugh about something or other.
How amazing to connect with other people! Now that we are so often looking at
our little devices, hearing them unexpectedly ping in the wilderness (I used an
app on my phone for my GPS), human-to-human connection feels increasingly rare
and therefore special when it happens.
7. Preparation is vital.
I think I’m in the majority when I say planning is something I’m planning to get to… eventually. When it came to hiking every weekend, as opposed to just once in a while, I had to train myself to get my backpack prepared ahead of time, to research what I was getting into, to call ahead and ask about possible closures or trail conditions, to maybe buy additional gear, and so much more. The more prepared I was, the more enjoyable the experience—even in less-than-ideal conditions at times.
8. Stopping is just as important as going.
Given my schedule, I often wanted to just get to the end of the trail. Not so fast there! What’s the point if I don’t pause to see where I am? Gosh, the views. So often I was hiking in a place I had driven by my whole life, or even hiked before, but I was seeing it with new eyes, from a different perspective. Yes, I was being mindful. Remember to pause, look around, take a deep breath, and have a moment of gratitude and awareness for being in this time and place.
9. Love begins with the self. Or, keep hydrating.
It’s nice to be pampered and taken care of,
and I certainly earned some massages. Yet caring starts on the trail—not after—with
doing what your body needs in terms of drinking plenty of water, eating
nutritious snacks, and taking a break as opposed to pushing on to the summit or
rushing to the finish. When we fill our own cup, so to speak, we can be there
for others, too, and research shows that giving to others simply makes us feel
good. When I had to plan my own refueling, it reminded me to be kind to myself,
to take care of me, and, in that way, I became more able to spread kindness to
others I met along the way.
10. It’s the little things.
I didn’t do a thru-hike (or even a full segment of a thru-hike!) or climb a famous mountain or do anything extraordinary, but I did something that challenged me and I’m better for it. It wasn’t about competing or punishing my body; it was about doing something that was fun and finding ways to share it with others. None of us has to be the best, to have the most likes or follows or sponsors; we just get to improve daily and with each new hike.
About the Author
Mindy Sink is the author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver and Boulder and Walking Denver, which her daughter, Sophie Seymour, contributed to. She contributes regularly to The Denver Post, Colorado Parent, and other publications. Before becoming a guidebook author, Mindy worked for The New York Times Rocky Mountain Bureau, covering regional topics. Mindy also works in healthcare communications. She lives in Denver with her husband, Mike Seymour; their daughter, Sophie; and the family’s non-hiking cat, Marvel.
One of the positive aspects of the current crisis is that more people are going outside more often. Even folks who are not naturally inclined to get moving are doing so. Walking is something nearly everyone can do, but people are also rediscovering the joys of riding a bicycle.
Cycling is an excellent way to be outside while keeping a safe distance. A short spin around the neighborhood is always rejuvenating and can be done quickly. Longer rides close to home are excellent for maintaining healthy habits in this time of social distancing.
Elizabeth Skinner, co-author of Bicycling the Blue Ridge, has noticed that more people have turned to their bicycles for exercise and fresh air. “In the past few weeks, I’ve seen bikes all over my neighborhood: kids on bikes, adults on bikes, bikes strewn all over yards and in driveways. It has reminded me of the freedom and empowerment that I discovered on my bike as a kid.”
As with all outdoor activities, it is important to ride a bicycle safely. Elizabeth shares some simple and practical tips for hopping on your bike and enjoying the great outdoors:
- Check your local guidelines: Visiting parks and trails has been discouraged, and many are not currently open. So choose a place that’s close to home, and verify that it is available for biking. Most importantly, make sure that you comply with local guidelines for social distancing.
- Pick a quiet time to go: Whether you’re zipping around your neighborhood or pedaling along a country road, skip the busiest places at the busiest times. Instead, go whenever and wherever the fewest people are out and about during daylight hours.
- Bring your family: A bicycle ride is more fun when shared with others, but group rides have been highly discouraged. Instead, go alone or share a ride with your immediate family members. Now more than ever, it feels good to get out of the house, out of the yard, and into some open space. Remember to implement bicycling safety practices, such as wearing a helmet, obeying traffic laws, and riding single file.
- Carry what you need: Try to avoid stopping to buy water or snacks. If you think you might need either—or anything else, for that matter—bring it along. A small backpack works nicely.
- Be safe: This isn’t the time for dangerous terrain or daredevil stunts. A serious injury means a trip to the hospital, which could put you at greater risk for exposure to viruses and which could further tax a hospital staff that might already be overwhelmed with patients.
- Keep it clean: Follow guidelines from the CDC to protect yourself. This includes washing hands often; avoiding contact with your mouth, nose, and eyes; and wearing a mask over your mouth and nose while in public.
Elizabeth also encourages cyclists to look ahead to the coming months, when we return to our normal routines. Planning a future trip and imagining where to take your next long ride might be a fun mental exercise for you and your family.
For Elizabeth, that place is the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The beauty and solace of the Blue Ridge mountains is the perfect balm for these stressful, uncertain times.”
Bicycling the Blue Ridge, 6th Edition by Elizabeth and Charlie Skinner is the definitive guide to Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It features detailed, mile-by-mile descriptions that provide information on lodging, restaurants, stores, and bike shops. Professionally designed maps and elevation profiles are also included, so you always know where you are, where you’re going, and what to expect along the way. The guidebook is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.
About the Authors
Elizabeth Skinner and Charlie Skinner have spent the last two decades bicycling, hiking, and exploring the Piedmont, foothills, and mountains of North Carolina. They share their love of outdoor adventuring with two daughters and continue to pass along their years of experience to grateful readers. They live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.