Know these winter clothing basics before you embark on your next winter adventure.

There is an abundance of gear out there for any outdoor adventure. When it comes to deciding which gear is the most important you have to ask yourself what you will be doing. If that answer is backpacking in the winter, like a Canada winter where the temperature drops well into the negatives, then quality clothing should be at the top of your list. Here are a few things to consider before picking out your new winter clothing gear.

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As far as hiking clothing goes, there are a few keywords to consider when choosing.

  • Moisture wicking – you are going to sweat out there and you want that moisture to evaporate instead of saturating your clothing. Wet clothes in the winter can quickly lead to scary words like hypothermia.
  • Quick drying – sometimes your clothes get wet, because let’s face it… you’re out in the wild! It rains, snows, hails, and sometimes you just fall and get wet. No matter how it happens you want to dry off quick. Because, again…Hypothermia = Bad.
  • Waterproof – If it is wet outside you don’t want any of that coming through to your base layers. For three season hikes you won’t need a waterproof outer layer unless the weather calls for it. For your winter hikes, a waterproof outer layer is a must. It not only protects you when it wet out but it also protects you from the wind. If you haven’t noticed the trend yet, wet clothing is bad when it comes to winter hikes.
  • Breathable – Breathable outer layers are so important. You could use a plastic bag as a jacket which would be waterproof but you would sweat like crazy, and that would mean, you guessed it!… wet clothes.
  • Insulating – You already know you need to stay dry, now you might as well be toasty out there. When you are thinking of insulation you have a few options not to different from your sleeping bags.  Synthetic, Merino Wool, and Down.

Layering is your friend. There is a standard 3 layers that you want to consider. Let it be known that cotton is the devil, ha but really.

  1. Base layer – This would be your long johns. Synthetic or (as we prefer) merino wool. Silk is also highly recommended for cold weather but in truth I have not tried it yet. These materials wick moisture away but synthetic seems to breed bacteria more, causing it to smell. We always lean towards merino wool when we have a choice. That applies to our hiking/snowboarding socks. For 2 blister free years now we have been rocking Cloudline merino wool socks and we will not go back.img_20160416_165137
  2. Mid layer – This is where you focus on your warmth. Micro fleece, or down filled jackets will be your friend. Down does not not insulate very well when it’s wet but it is super light , compressible and warm. Keep your trip location and weather forecast in mind when packing. I recently purchased an Ortovox merino wool jacket. I haven’t used it in extreme temps yet but can’t wait to put it through the ringer. Again merino wool = moisture wicking and if it gets wet it don’t fret too much because wet wool still works as a great insulator.20161213_225020
  3. Outer layer (shell) – You are going to shell out a lot of money in this department…get it? shell out?! Ha. I’m bringing up money because the words you’re looking for and are going to pay for are Gore-Tex or eVent. Less expensive shells will do a decent job at keeping the water out but they won’t release your perspiration to the same level as Gore-Tex.

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After you pick out your new gear, realize that winter hiking is not getting dressed once and heading out. It is a constant monitoring of your body temp and moisture level. Many times you’ll ditch a layer while you’re pushing yourself. The second you stop, you’ll start to cool off. The first thing I do when I take a break is throw on some extra layers. Then you start hiking again and within a few minutes you have to stop to shred that extra gear. It’s a little game but it keeps you warm, and dry. And, dry and warm is the name of the game when enjoying winter hiking! Happy Hiking!

Adventure today, Memories tomorrow.

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A warning: I get really sentimental during the holidays. Like, sappy, nostalgic, weepy mess kind of sentimental. This time of year brings out such a deep gratitude for life in general for me, but it also comes with an almost melancholy realization that life is short, my kids are growing up and we only have a few more fleeting years of their non-jaded innocence.

This is why whenever a generous family member or good friend asks me what is on the kids Christmas list this year, my answer is always an experience (well, Be-Bop, Rock Steady and the Ninja Turtle Lair is also on that list, but the jolly fat man has those covered). Sometimes, I feel awkward or even feel like I must sound ungrateful to suggest such a non-tangible item as a possible gift. But, in truth, my children need nothing (#blessed. For real.). And, as a mom, I crave more family time…more memories…more experiences.

You might think, but how is that possible, since I stay home with the boys, and we go on so many family trips and adventures per year?! But, it’s true! I crave seeing their little faces light up when they see the sharks swimming overhead at the aquarium, or when they see a dolphin for the first time on a whale watching boat tour. I relish in taking them to a new state, summiting a new mountain, or suiting them up as they are about to strap on skis for the first time. I also love seeing them experience something new alongside other loved ones and members of our family and friends. Their curiosity,and excitement is infectious and addicting.

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And, they have come to crave it too! We were so proud of our 5 year old, when he asked for an experience as opposed to a toy for his last birthday. Yes, that overnight trip to his favorite hotel in Lake George may have cost us a bit more than a new bike, but to us, that cost is worth it. The memories we made are priceless in our eyes.

Our favorite family conversations are those reminiscing of all the places we have been together and all the cool things we have done. I have to think that instilling these values of family time, adventure and a slight ere of the wanderer lifestyle will affect my children in a positive way as they grow older (true story- today, my son walked into my bedroom and exclaimed MOM! Why did you put the suitcases away?! We need them for our next vacation!).

I want to cherish every moment that we have together by making memories, because as the cliche tells us…it goes to fast. So, for now, I’ll continue to give them the gift of adventures, travel, and spending time together. You know, before they think they are too cool to hang out with their mom anymore.

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Backpacking with a puppy for the first time? Know these 5 tips before you go.

 

Backpacking with a puppy for the first time? Know these 5 tips before you go!

“Summit” is our adventurous Brittany Spaniel.  He climbed his first summit at only 3 months old and went backpacking at 4 months old.  

Here’s what we did to get him ready:

  1. Everyone who gave us advice about bringing home a new puppy stressed to expose him to anything that we wanted him to be comfortable around early on. Since we knew we wanted Summit to be a dog comfortable on the trails, we took him on daily hikes on our local trails to get him comfortable with declines (which he wasn’t at first) and inclines. We also took frequent trips to the stream. Give your pup frequent treats when they encounter anything new, so they associate that new obstacle with something positive. Be sure to have your puppy wear the gear that they will be backpacking in, as to get him (and you!) comfortable with how it feels and works.

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  1. Gear! Dog gear is no different than our gear these days.  They make dog packs, boots, sleeping bags, rain jackets and more! And much of the gear from the outdoor dog brands are made from the same materials as our gear.  Think about the gear you are bringing for yourself and I’ll bet your dog would appreciate similar gear! I came across a hiker/pup combo on my last hike and they highly recommended the company, Kurgo, for outdoor dog gear.  We outfitted Summit with the Kurgo Loft Jacket, Loft Bed, Go-Tech Harness, Quantum hands free dog leash, and Zip Bowls.  The Zip Bowls and the Quantum Leash were amazingly convenient.  I can’t wait for Summit to use a backpack but at 17 lbs I figured I would carry his food/water/gear for now. I’ve read that dogs should not carry over 20% of their body weight, but I’m sure that varies from breed to breed.

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  1. Plan on your pup needing more food and water than normal.  If you’re backpacking, freeze dried food is a must.  It’s lightweight, takes up less space and if you choose quality food, it’s high in protein.  We tried out Grandma Lucy’s freeze dried food for this trip.  This food was perfect for Summit and it smelled so good, I wanted to eat it! Another advantage is that you add water to this food so you know your pup is well hydrated.  Since we were backpacking in 30 degree weather, I warmed up the water first and gave him some extra so it was like a soup.  He loved it and I knew he was warming up his core, getting tons of protein and drinking lots of water.  For snack, I fed him freeze dried treats that were high in protein and that were always readily accessible, so any new encounters Summit came across could end in a reward. Those treats definitely helped with his first trip across a long suspension bridge over a roaring river!

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4. One thing I admittedly forgot about was naps. On day hikes, taking a break is sufficient for a little pup, but if you’re backpacking, plan in some nap times.  If you took your pup on several hikes before your big trip then you probably know when he is tired and needs a break.  Summit just sits down when he wants to take a break, so we’re lucky that he lets us know!  Our hike in was relatively short.  Day 2 was a little longer and had a 2,000 foot ascent.  We made sure to take breaks on the way up, but we also let him nap for 45 minutes when we came back down.  I even carried him for a few minutes when the ascent got a little too intense for his little legs.  If you already take long breaks, then you should be fine.  I have been known to skip breaks and push through but when hiking alone, but with Summit, I made sure to stop often.    

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  1. Take care of their paws.  Our trip included snow, ice and rain (sounds fun, huh?).  For humans, with the right gear those conditions might not be a big deal, but for a pup whose paws are not used to it, snow and ice might be a deal breaker.  We used Mushers Secret, just in case, but I do not know if it helped.   But, Summit did fine with the ice and snow so maybe it did help!  I reapplied it on breaks and made sure to check for cuts or cracking. Make sure to pay attention to your pups paws, just like you’d pay attention to your own feet, and check them for blisters!

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Bringing home a new puppy is a momentous occasion in any family, but in a hiking family, getting that pup out on the trail for the first time is just as exciting! Prepare yourself and your puppy, and you’ll be sure to have many exciting adventures in your future together!

Happy Trails!

-Matt