Making backpacking fun for toddlers!

Some people find backpacking gear a logistical nightmare. When you first start backpacking you try to pack for unexpected weather, and every situations under the sun or storm clouds. After backpacking for a few years you begin to trim down the gear you thought you needed when you started because you released you can get through so many situations without every piece of gear.  That works great until you decide to bring along a 5 year old and a 3 year old and your dog. With kids you have to keep them comfortable and good gear can go a long way to help with that. The only problem is that all of that gear has to be carried.

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Our carry situation included a 5 year old who can only carry only 4 lbs.  Mom who had to carry the majority of the gear and dad who had to carry a 3 year old and the tent.

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We had just enough room for all of the gear and and everyone was excited to get on the trail.  We reminded ourselves that kids don’t particularly want to walk for miles on end but instead play and adventure.  On our trip we stopped often. We stopped at the first river crossing about 30 minutes in to drop packs and throw some rocks.  We soaked our hats to keep cool and our pup jumped into the river. We snacked and headed out.  Short breaks will help raise their spirits and keep them excited. We kept that order going and let the boys set the pace and decided the length of our breaks.  Keeping them involved in the decision making process helps to keep them interested.

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If you cared enough to read this then you probably have not taken your children backpacking before which means you are probably in need of gear.  Here is what we did for some gear. Weight was the single most important factor, followed closely by cost. We went to our local family owned outdoor store (Ramsey Outdoor store for those in NJ) for some new gear for us and picked up a few cheap no namers off Amazon for the kids because let’s face it they don’t know the difference. You can get the kids lightweight summer sleeping bags and inflatable sleeping pads(essentially pool rafts) off Amazon on the cheap.  To be honest we opted for thermarest pro-light sleeping pads not as cheap but much better quality and they come in kids sizes.  For a hiking family it was a worthy investment.

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Car camping would have been much easier but we decided to give our boys the real experience of going deep into the wilderness and spending the night with no one around.  They got a taste of backpacking and they can’t wait to get back on the trail!

What’s on your adventure bucket list for 2018?

I really like to consider myself as someone who lives in the now. I try to cherish the precious moments in the present, not dwell on the past, and just take things as they come. But, I also can’t deny that I am a bit of a type A planner when it comes to our adventuring schedule. It’s not uncommon for me to start planning our next trip while a few days into the one we are on. I am always thinking about places I want to see and things I want to experience! And, as each year comes to an end, I tend to revisit and add on to my bucket list. My long list is, well…long. But, here are a few on my short list that I thought I’d share. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for adventures to put on your own list in 2018!

 

  1. Iceland
  2. Hike Mt. Etna
  3. Get my scuba certification
  4. Vacation in Europe for an entire month
  5. Hike to Havasupai Falls
  6. Vacation on a houseboat
  7. Go skydiving…again
  8. Hike a 14’er
  9. Go on a road trip from San Diego to Yosemite National Park in an RV
  10. Stay in one of those over water bungalows on an island
  11. Eat octopus in Greece
  12. Go rafting in Grand Canyon
  13. Drink a pina colada on every US Virgin Island
  14. Spend a month in Hawaii
  15. Hike Macchu Picchu

 

Xo Elisa

 

I heart the PNW.

Every year we try to venture out to new mountains. That being said, some mountains keep calling us back.  One of our tricks to venturing out every year on a budget is flying into different hubs which usually drops the cost of airfare dramatically. That works well for us because we are able to fly out of NYC. We fly into different hubs and then drive and drive to hit up different mountains.

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2017 brought on copious amounts of snow in the north west and luck was on our side.  We flew into Seattle for about $330, hopped in the car and drove 4 hours north to hit up Whistler. We stayed at the hostel and enjoyed feet (yes feet) of fresh powder. The hostel in Whistler is about $30 a night and one of the best I’ve been to.  The powder in the PNW is not the powder I’ve come to love in Colorado, but it’s still fun. It has the name ‘cascade concrete’ for a reason. Our first day of riding the back bowl was still closed and we lucked out on day two when we hiked up to earn some turns in virgin snow.  After two days of bliss, our luck only continued.

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We drove 4 hours south to ride at Mt. Baker. Mt. Baker had just been closed for 5 days because a killer storm came thru and devastated the roadway up to the mountain. Baker is truly a boarder’s Mecca and our luck was unprecedented. The mountain was steep, the powder was deep, and the food/lift tickets were cheap. This was my first visit and Baker definitely made its way into my heart. I don’t normally repeat visit a mountain, but I definitely plan to go back to stay for several days in the future.
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We finished off the trip by meeting up with fellow Deuter ambassador, John Soltys, to do some snowshoeing around Mt. Rainier in an area named Paradise. He hooked us up with Tubbs snowshoes and the full guide experience. Our luck still did not run out and we had a bluebird day, which is a stranger to the PNW.  Since we had to catch a plane back to NYC that night, the trip was relatively short but amazingly beautiful. John is out in the PNW weekly and he is no stranger to Mt. Rainier and the area around it. He took us out for a few hours and turned it into a lifetime of memories and information. Snowshoeing in Paradise quickly added Mt Rainier and the Wonderland trail to my bucket list.

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We were sad to leave, but the PNW did not disappoint and there is so much exploring to be had.

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Till next time PNW…I will be back.

Preparing for the trek up Mt. Whitney

I have been backpacking on and off for over 15 years. Throughout college, it was something we did occasionally but it was when I finished college and started working full time that the trail really began calling me. Backpacking was always my thing and when we became ambassadors for Deuter, doors into the outdoor industry opened up for us.  We now had contacts with other amazing ambassadors from around the country. So, when fellow ambassador Benny Haddad of Sea to Summit Productions put out an open invitation for a mountaineering trek up to the summit of Mt Whitney, it was a quick yes… and then a quick realization that I knew very little about mountaineering. Here are some of steps I took to prepare for this journey.

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Those who know me and have gone backpacking with me know that I do everything I can to not be the one the holds everyone up. Immediately after agreeing to take part in the trip, I decided to take a two day beginners mountaineering course to get the basics under my belt. For those in the northeast, New Hampshire’s White Mountains provide the most severe conditions available, so I decided to take my training there. I had to act fast to get my training with an ice axe and crampons while there was still snow available. Google quickly pointed me in the direction of NorthEast Mountaineering, who offers guided services, training and even lodging in their bunk house.

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The two day course started off in the Bunk House with how to dress and pack for a cold weather expedition which I was mostly familiar with and then it moved outside. Outside, they went over proper fitting of the crampons, how to hold and walk with the ice axe, general spacing while walking and how to keep a slow but steady pace. From there, we went over self arrest techniques from multiple positions and different techniques for walking with crampons both up and down the mountain. We skipped the bunk house and decided to camp at a local fire tower. The views were amazing and the 6 miles out and back was worth every step.  Day two went into some more advanced techniques that we probably weren’t going to need for Whitney but it was good to be be opened up to the concepts.  They included repelling, building snow anchors and glacier travel. The course did not disappoint. The basic techniques were reviewed enough times that even five months later, when it came time to climb Whitney, we remembered them well.  

 

 

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My everyday life is lived at around 700 ft elevation, which makes climbing to 14500+ ft a real concern for altitude sickness. From what I’ve read, the only things you can really do to try to avoid it is drink more water and eat more than usual on your trip.  The last tip was to breath faster than normal to increase the oxygen you’re taking in. Aside from learning the basics, I began physical training 6 days a week. Before I started training, I considered myself an active person, but I never exercised. I built myself up to 3 and 6 mile runs. I would do a 3+ mile run on Monday and Wednesday. The 6 mile run took place on Saturday mornings.  On my runs, I would add interval sprints up hills and they try to continue jogging on the flats.  On Tuesday and Thursday I would head out on the mountain bike and try to hit trails with decent climbs to engage different muscles in my legs.  Finally, on Wednesday I hit the gym. I focused more on a circuit style of training that involved push ups, pull ups, weighted step ups (30lbs), squats (30lbs), crunches, planks, supermans, and leg presses. The focus was mostly legs followed by core/back with sets of 20 in each exercise.

 

 

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You’ll never be able to plan for everything you’re going to experience on the trail but if you put the effort in before hand you can at least feel confident that you will be able to get yourself through the majority of the issues that arise.

Amazing pictures captured on our Mt. Whitney trek by Benny of Sea to Summit Productions.

–Matt

A note to my younger self on my 35th birthday: A quick moment of reflection

The week of my 35th year on this planet is here and it’s kind of tripping me out.

It’s not because I feel “old”, but more because I can vividly remember my own parents when they were this very age. I can so clearly remember warm days with my Dad mowing the lawn, and watching his beloved Mets, and my mom always ready with a Pop-Ice and calling us from the front door to come in once our street lights went on around 8:30. And, the crazy part to me is, that it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. Yet, here I am, turning that same age, and calling my own kids onto the deck for a Pop-Ice (organic, of course. Yay for 2017.).

From that time in the early 90’s until now, I’ve learned a few things. Seriously, just a few…I am still far from a wise adult offering sage advice and I often wonder how I am as adulty (a bit of neologism for ya) as I am (and expected to be).

But, alas, here are a few things I’ve learned, and would note to my younger self… if I could go all Marty McFly on myself, of course:

  1. What is old will always be new again. I kick myself for not saving my black velvet choker collection from 1992, and I am forever peeved that my mom didn’t save her sunglasses from the 80’s.
  2. Travel while you are young and don’t have as many responsibilities. Take a few years after high school, sleep on some couches, eat ramen noodles and see the world. Sure, you can travel after you have a job. Sure, you can travel after you have a house and kids. It’s just much harder, logistically. Don’t rush into adulthood so quickly.
  3. Do not dye your hair blond. You will cringe looking at those photos when you turn 35.
  4. Having regrets is ok! I know we now live in the world of YOLO, NO REGRETS and FOMO (ok, now I sound old), but I think having a few helps you grow as a person. Every mistake made is an opportunity to change for the better.
  5. Spend more time with your Grandparents. Ask them more questions. Listen to their story.  Because when they are gone, you will miss them profoundly.
  6. You don’t need stuff ←– Also, still telling myself this presently and daily. House, cars, shoes…that stuff doesn’t make you happy, so stop spending your money on it. Go walk up a mountain. Go lay on the beach. Go cuddle your babies. Those things make your heart happy. Spend more time…spend less money.
  7. You will never make friends like the ones you made in elementary school. Yours are the greatest, and they know all the stupid shit you’ve done. They will turn into family. Cherish them always!
  8. Remember how you ate hostess cupcakes everyday for lunch and Chunky Monkey ice cream every afternoon during high school? Enjoy it! Eat more of it! It’s all kale smoothies, and portioning desserts once you hit your thirties.
  9. Don’t be so hard on yourself. ←– Also something I am still telling myself daily. Try your best, always be kind, be a good person who is true to yourself and don’t stress about the rest. It’ll all work out and you are doing okay.
  10. You only get to do this life thing once, so live it. Do what makes you happy.

Also, drink more bellinis. They are your bliss.

CHEERS to 35!

xo Elisa

Trip Memory: A throwback to 2013- Our first family trip to our nation’s capitol

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In the midst of the political chaos that our great nation is facing, I am (for some reason) yearning for a trip back to D.C. I have such fond memories of our last trip there with the boys, and look forward to taking them back there soon. Below is an article I wrote back in 2013 about a weekend trip there…when we were only a family of 3! Included are some great tips for heading there with the family!
I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane, like I did!

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ROAD TRIP!!!

For my husband and I, traveling was a major part of our life before baby, and we vowed that we wouldn’t change that after our family grew! But, as we were to find out, traveling with a family can be expensive. Add in a destination that requires a flight, and you could have yourself a costly vacation.

A few weeks ago, we took our first Macaroni Kid West Morris Road Trip to the Washington, D.C. area. We spent a long weekend having fun at museums, eating at delish family friendly (but mommy & daddy approved) restaurants, swimming and just relaxing. Holy smokes, did we have a great time! The easy 4 hour drive took us to Alexandria, VA, a suburb right outside of the D.C. area. Alexandria has a Hoboken or Princeton-like feel, with adorable shops, tons of restaurants, and more strollers and dogs on leashes than I have ever seen in a small city.  After settling in, we took a drive to the National Waterfront. We lucked out and had a beautiful day to walk around the water front, do a little window shopping and visit the National Children’s Museum. Admission to the museum is $10 for children & adults ages 1 year and up. We spent a full 3 hours at the museum exploring, playing and learning. Older children will have a wonderful (& educational) experience exploring the foods, clothing (dress up!), and even transportation of other countries. And the “Our Town” exhibit replicates a small local town, and allows children hands on experience in a mock Fire Engine, Pizza Parlor, and even a shipping dock! And of course, it wouldn’t be Washington, D.C. without a little politics! Children can participate in choosing a “candidate” by listening to platforms that may be of interest to them (i.e. why or why not soda should be allowed in schools). National Children’s Museum has a unique partnership with Sesame Workshop, which means their under 3 area (under 3 ft. tall, or under 3 years old) is adorned with every toddlers favorite Sesame Street characters. Elmo, Abby, Big Bird and more are photographed on the walls, and Cookie Monster’s food truck can be driven to places that only a toddler’s imagination can take them. My son (15 months) loved this area! The small area to climb on was a big hit (like a small obstacle course), as well as the toys, felt and magnet boards, and puzzles. If you continue through the Under 3 area, you will find classrooms that have at least 2 different crafts being offered on a daily basis. If that isn’t enough to keep you busy, there are also mini productions and story times in the theater! We truly cannot wait to get back there and enjoy it again!

Our last day was spent exploring Washington, D.C. The National Mall and most of the museums were just a short 15 minute drive from our hotel (including a bit of normal traffic). The majority of the museums in D.C. are free of charge to get in. So fantastic for a family, because we all know how bored kids can get. You can visit the parts of each museum that your find interested, and then head to the next one! My son was pretty excited about the Museum of National History (if your kids have seen Night at the Museum, they will be even more excited!). The elephant in the lobby, animals, dinosaurs and the ocean exhibit were all big hits. This mommy liked the Harry Winston exhibit (Valentine’s Day ideas, anyone?!).  For older children, the Air & Space Museum will be incredibly exciting. The IMAX theater programs and the giant airplanes hanging from the ceiling are always crowd pleasers. The Spy Museum would also be a lot of fun for an older child. Of course, with the various monuments, Capitol Building, White House, etc… there are so many things to do in D.C. that one trip is not enough! We visited many, but will be back to finish soon!

Other than the in museum café’s, there is not much in the way of restaurants by the National Mall. Luckily we parked right by the popular Food Truck scene. Good food trucks beat a casual restaurant for me any day. This is the link that has the popular Food Trucks in D.C.; we ate at the Crepes Parfait food truck in the link. Amazing.

The Washington D.C./Alexandria, VA area was a fantastic 3 day weekend trip. We look forward to returning soon!

 

Why is traveling with my children so important?

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I want you to close your eyes and fantasize about going on the vacation of your dreams with your family…your husband, your wife, your kids….

Are you day dreaming of a tropical beach, and laying on a lounge chair drinking a frozen daiquiri while the kids play for hours in the white sand? Or, are you picturing your beautiful family smiling in front of the Arc de Triomphe while noshing on a perfect croissant?

Now, open your eyes and remember this is real life. And, in real life, when traveling with your family, and especially young children, your strawberry daiquiri is most likely watery because you didn’t drink it fast enough due to separating non stop sand fights between your kids, and your toddler is most likely having an epic meltdown in front of that epic Arc.

So, you ask, if this is the case, and this is the reality of traveling with young kids, then why the heck have we traveled with our children over 20 times in the past few years?! The answer is simple: although it might not always be easy, or “picture perfect”, the experiences and memories made as a family far outweigh anything else.

Our day-to-day lives are filled with school drop offs, appointments, cell phones, meal preps, household maintenance and work. We go, go, go. When we travel, even if we are only a few hours from home, we slow down. We talk uninterrupted. We make eye contact. We laugh more. We connect. Without fail, I always find out something new about my kids each time we travel.

And, possibly, moreover the family connection and memories, we travel because it affects our children in such a profound way. Each and every place we visit raises questions of culture, future adventures, and personal discovery. I can see them grow on each new trip, and their “where are we going next” excitement in between in each trip is infectious, and drives us to never stop adventuring.

Although they might not remember all of our trips when they get older, I know that they are forever changed for the better for having the experiences. And, I am forever changed by experiencing the new adventures through their eyes.

xo Elisa

 

Want to make beautiful music while traveling? Our 5 favorite ways to bring our love of music into the outdoors or on the road!

If you haven’t guessed it by the title of our blog, we love music. Our boys’ room is music (and travel) themed and even has the quote on their wall, “Don’t bother to pack your bags, or your map, We won’t need them where we’re going, We’re going where the wind is blowing” from the band Weezer. We have been known to dabble with a few instruments, so we figured we would share the instruments that we thought were the best for travel.
The instruments I focused on were small, inexpensive, and could withstand the elements. Most are easy enough to learn the basics and you can be well on your way to playing them with just a little practice.
UKULELE. It’s small, light weight, easy to play and sounds great. Kala is one of the best uke makers on the market. For outdoor enthusiast like us, Kala makes a plastic uke (the Kala Makala Waterman). Play it while rafting, play it on the summits and play it in the rain. The sound does not compare to the wooden versions, but with a price tag of $45, I place this at the top of my list. We were able to pick up this uke at our local family owned outdoor store, Ramsey Outdoor.  It’s great that even outdoor retailers understand the joy a little music on the road can bring you.  By learning 4 different chords (Am, C, F, and G) you’ll be able to play hundreds of extremely popular songs. Oh and if all of that was not enough, they made the uke transparent.

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HARMONICA. This is much more difficult to learn to play but small enough to put in your pocket. It’s relatively rugged and doesn’t have to be tuned. Just take it out and play. They cost between $3 and $45 and you can get a quality one for around $20 so you won’t have to break the bank to try this one out. Down side to the harmonica is each one is in a different key so other people will have to play songs in the key of your harmonica.

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The ocarina is not as well know, unless you played the Legend of Zelda growing up. It also is small enough to fit in your pocket or even hang around your neck (which may result in being picked on, so, don’t say we didn’t warn you!). If you buy a clay or plastic one you don’t have to worry about the weather. Melodies are easy enough to learn and you’ll take all of your friends back to their high school years with your legend of zelda tunes. They cost between and $8 and $30.

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THE MOUTH HARP. I know what you’re thinking, what’s next? The spoons?! It’s small, inexpensive and can hold up to bad weather so here it is.  It can be found in almost every country in the world and depending on the materials it is made out of you can get some crazy sounds. You can grab one for a few dollars so you won’t really be out to much if you give it a try. A disclaimer that my wife insisted I add- your tent mate might decide to take their chance sleeping in the wilderness, far away from you, if you bring the Mouth Harp along (she is not a fan).
Last on our list is just behind the mouth harp, it’s your voice or maybe mine. Singing can be amazingly beautiful to those that are good at it but even if you’re tone deaf…who cares! Singing with friends around a fire is always a good time and if someone in the group has a mouth harp, you can all bust them even if you guys can’t hold a tune yourselves. It’s free and takes up no extra space. Chances are you were going to bring it on your trip anyway.

And if you needed a little more of us in your life, here is a little video of us using our new Kala Makala ukulele.  Keep your eyes glued to our instagram account for a ukulele giveaway curtesy of Ramsey Outdoor.

No matter what you choose to bring with you music and travel go together amazingly.

A Presidential discussion everyone can agree on: The Presidential Traverse

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Any avid hiker in the northeast knows about the Presidential Traverse.  A string of nine (or 10 if you include Jackson) summits threaded through the White Mountains of New Hampshire with water falls, glowing moss, and stunning summits, it’s no wonder this venture is on most hikers’ bucket lists. It was on mine and it only took me three attempts. Like so many others, my first two trips were canceled due to hurricane-like, 110 mph winds on Mount Washington. Little known fact: Mount Washington held the highest recorded wind gust for 62 years at 231 mph.

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Traverse Gear Check

I was looking to shed a little weight, so I packed my Deuter ACT Zero with all of the essentials. The Trail consists of 20,000 feet of elevation change over 23 miles, so I ditched the big camera bag and stuffed my point and shoot into my Deuter Zip Pack Lite. I’ve never used it for that purpose but was stoked to find out it fit perfect.

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One Day Or Two?

The Prezi can be done as a one-day sprint from dawn to dusk or as an overnighter. Wanting to spend as much time as possible in the mountains, we chose to do it over two days. We hiked it from north to south instead of the reverse. Hiking and rock scrambling 4,000 feet in the first four miles up to Mount Madison is an endeavor all in itself. The boulders we scrambled over were pitted and sharp from the intense weather, and I could only compare them to lava rock found in Hawaii. After you reach elevation, the hardest part is done and you can take in back-to-back summits miles of tremendous views.

rispoli4-1280x540This article was originally posted on the Deuter blog, check it out and give it a follow!

5 Budget Tips to stay warm on your next winter hikes!

I love researching gear almost as much as I love using it.  I truly believe that there is no one perfect piece of equipment, but with that state of mind there is always room for improvement.  The best equipment  can make your experience that much easier and more comfortable, but at a cost.  Top of the line shells, mid layers, and base layers could cost you well over $2000.00.  Some people may not have to bat an eye at that but I can’t even afford a Gore-Tex jacket right now.  People have been hiking throughout the winter long before $2000.00 outfits were ever an option.  Here are some budget tips to keep the money in your pockets and your feet outside.

 

  • Base Layer – skip the name brands.  I bought a cold weather merino wool base layer shirt for $20.00 on amazon from Sub sports.  I’ll admit it isn’t as silky smooth as the name brands but at less than half the cost you can still be warm without breaking the bank.  In my most recent snowshoe backpacking trek, the temps were low but the wind was almost nonexistent.  I snowshoed almost the entire trip with only that base layer as my only top. And yes, they sell pants too.

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  • Sleep Warm – Besides making sure your sleeping bag is the appropriate temperature rating for where you’re sleeping, boil water and slowly pour it into your water bladder (with cold water already in it).  Make sure it is good and warm and then take it into your sleeping bag with you.  It will keep your warm and your water won’t freeze overnight!

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  • Keep your socks dry – For an additional $14.00 you can get a cheap pair of gators off amazon.  Now admittedly, I have Outdoor Research Gators ($55.00).  Gators can keep the lower portion of your pants dry and keep snow out of your boots.  Being wet on your winter hike is bad news but there are ways around it.  Make a small investment and keep your legs/socks dry and warm.

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  • Outer shells – As noted above, I can’t afford Gore-Tex shells yet.  I already own a hiking rain jacket and I use it all year round.  With a proper base layer and mid layer a rain coat can keep you dry and keep the wind from sneaking in.  It is not very breathable, but I have never had a problem regulating my temperature by unzipping the jacket or its vents.  At a fraction of the cost it will do, until you can afford the best.

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  • Make warm meals – Oatmeal in the morning and your favorite freeze dried camping meals.  Oatmeal/fruit packets like Munkpack are great for hiking and it the winter and they are better warm.  Heat them up in hot water and warm up your core.  Also, the best hiking freeze dried foods must sit for almost 20 minutes before your can eat them.  Tuck them in close to your core and stay warm why you’re waiting.  I’ve been enjoying Backpacker’s Bistro.  No funny ingredients and it taste like real homemade food. Also, if you’re camping out- eat late.  Eating right before bed will also help keep your core warm when you get in your bag and will help you fall asleep more comfortably.

 

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