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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7 Songs to inspire you to travel in 2017!

Matt (the Live and Let Wander daddy of the fam), and I have been an item since the late nineties. We met in high school and almost instantly bonded over our mutual love of sushi, 80’s movies, and punk rock. We were both musicians (he slapped the bass with friends in a garage band who covered the Foo Fighters and Blink 182, while I was a theater geek who sang everything everywhere), and our passion for music has been in the forefront of our relationship for the past 17 years.

 

We have rocked out at countless concerts together, and have jammed for endless hours together while dreaming up our next adventures (usually while also drinking beer. Beer and music always make for a good starting point for adventure planning).

 

Music moves us and inspires us, and certain songs just light that fire under us….they make us want to get out there, and see the world! Here are a few of our favorites that always give us that wandering feeling…

 

HOLIDAY- WEEZER

 

“Don’t bother to pack your bags or your map, We won’t need them where we’re goin’ We’re goin’ where the wind is blowin”  We love this quote so much we had it turned into a wall cling and it’s currently the focal point in our boys bedroom.

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SOCIETY- EDDIE VEDDER

 

When you want more than you have You think you need And when you when you think more than you want your thoughts begin to bleed, I think I need to find a bigger place ‘Cause when you have more than you think You need more space”  No song reminds us better that life is not about how many things you can acquire but how many experiences you can cram into one life. This is our pre travel song that reminds us why we spend our money on travel instead of things.

 

MOVING MOUNTAINS- THRICE

 

“I speak in many tongues of many men, Argue with angels and I always win”  The lyrics are not heavily worded around travel however this song is like much of The Alchemy Index album RAW.  It reminds of the the dirt on the trails and the weather on our faces. This is our hiking song.

 

THE WHALER- THRICE

 

“The boat and the plank, They are all that I know. The sea calls my name and so I must go”  Another song off of The Alchemy Index albums.  This is one of the water songs and you will find no better songs to ski or snowboard through fresh powder than those from the “water” and “air” album.  They capture the elements in every song.  The ebb and flow takes hold of you as you float along.

 

HOPELESS WANDERER- MUMFORD AND SONS

 

“Don’t hold a glass over the flame, Don’t let your heart grow cold, I will call you by name, I will share your road”  If the title of song doesn’t take hold of you, the song will.  With their fast paced folk Mumford rhythm, your heart will start pumping and your feet will start to travel even if your mind is not ready.

 

THE ONCE AND FUTURE CARPENTER- AVETT BROTHERS

 

“Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me, And when I lose my direction i’ll look up to the sky” This entire album is my favorite flight travel album. It puts me at ease (I am an uneasy flyer), and sets me up for whatever adventure I am about to embark on.

 

ISLAND- THE STARTING LINE

 

“Let’s sail away, Find our country, We’ll build a house and get tired of palm trees, Let’s get away, Let’s push our lives aside” I mean, don’t you ever just want to build a house on a remote island and open a juice bar? No? Just me? I think I like this one because it makes me think of the beach. And being the mountain dwellers that we are, we don’t get to the beach all that often!
We hope that 2017 brings you new adventures, countless memories made, and beautiful music!  

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

5 Tips to know before backpacking with your toddler.

Hiking with young ones can be amazing and it can be amazingly difficult. When our almost 2 year old (now 3 year old) reached his first real summit after two hours of sitting in his pack and exclaimed “woooow”, as only someone can who’s never seen a view like that, it was all worth it. Here are 5 tips for backpacking with toddlers.
1. Every step out is a step you need to take on the way back. Seems quite obvious, but when your young one is done with it all, the way back can seem like forever away. Build up on your distances to feel out how they do. You may be pleasantly surprised at how long they enjoy being out in the wild.

2. Be prepared, for it all. They may be perfectly content on long hikes until “it” happens. “It” can be anything: hunger, a bug bite or sting, thirst, too hot, too cold, or just boredom. Bring snacks (lots!), water, sunscreen, first aid and most importantly, talk to them a lot. Play “eye spy”, pick leaves, acorns and rocks for them to inspect on the ride. Also very important: dress them for the temperature based upon them sitting still in the elements. You may be warm in 50 degree temps but if you were sitting still, it would be a different story. Check their hands, ears, nose and toes to see if they are getting cold and watch for flushed faces, sweating and redness if they are getting hot.


3. Know your limits. You have to carry them, plus all of that gear that makes you a prepared parent…and carry it all back. Pulling a muscle or becoming fatigued puts you and your little ones in a dangerous situation. Just like you should build children up to lengthy hikes, you have to build yourself up to the hikes you plan to undertake.

4. With beauty comes danger. Every once and awhile we read tragic stories of children or adults becoming seriously injured on hikes because they took unnecessary chances. Many of the most beautiful locations on your hikes can be extremely dangerous to young ones. Use extra caution when your young ones are around. Be sure to never take an eye or hand off of them when they are out of the pack. No photo opp is worth the risk of injury.


5. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Even if you are feeling good and don’t need a break doesn’t mean your little one doesn’t need time to stretch their legs. Take them out of the pack for a while and let them explore. It will make each hike that much more interesting.

#Cabin Life!

So the story goes, I grew up with my father and uncle saying several times a year that they should buy land upstate (NY). Over and over again they would say it without ever acting on it. They’d also say how the price just kept going up and that they should have bought last year.  

20+ years later, I had just ordered the brand new car that I had been wanting for years. Elisa was pregnant with our first adventurer. I was watching tv one day when a commercial came on for buylandNY or some site like that. They were advertising 30 acres for 30,000.00. I stopped and thought…what am I doing? For the price of my new car, I could have a property that my soon to be son could enjoy for years.


I canceled the car and convinced Pops to start looking with me. The search brought us to a 20 acre lot with an 1800’s log cabin on it. It has electricity and a well (like the kind you throw a bucket into) and I love it. It’s our time to truly disconnect from our devices and connect with each other (no cell, no tv). Five years later, it’s our home away from home. The boys constantly ask when can we go to the cabin again and they cry every time we leave. It makes me think about all of the memories I wouldn’t have if I had bought the car instead. How many memories the boys wouldn’t have. 


Some decisions are ordinary and some seem to change you forever.