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!

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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.

In 20xx I’ll travel more.  5 tips to start traveling more now!


You’ve probably said and probably heard two dozen people say it. “I want to travel more next year” or “after I finish ( insert accomplished task) I’m going to start traveling more.” We used to say the same things. Now we travel whenever we can and I can only think if we knew these tricks sooner we would have started traveling so much more. 


1. Don’t be afraid to be a weekend warrior. If your job doesn’t give you any vacation time don’t fret. You only need 1 or 2 days to explore a new location. We’ve traveled to so many locations but by far we travel in the north east the most because it’s our back yard.

2. Treat your vacation time like a paycheck. Don’t spend it all in one place. Extend your weekends multiple times a year. Instead of taking two 1 week trips a year, take five 4 day trips a year.

3. Don’t treat vacations like your favorite meal at a restaurant. Try something new. By saying you want to travel more, you’re saying you want to see new places. Even if it’s 30 minutes from the last place you’ve visited, it’s new!

4. Don’t let a budget hold you back. A trip does not have to have to be something you save up for and get to enjoy months later. There are so many options: camping, campgrounds, home (or better yet condo) rentals, and hostels. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, you don’t know what you’re missing. We’ve stayed in some amazing hostels for $25 a night.  

5. Location, location, location. Flying on a regular basis is not normally an option for most of us. Point being, don’t be afraid to travel around where you live. In 5 hours you can travel to dozens of destinations. We’ve found amazing places we’ve never known about that were only two hours away. There is always a new adventure to be found.

We’ve been following these rules for a few years now and when we look back we can’t believe how many new places we’ve been to. The time to start traveling is now. Happy trails!

Basin Harbor Club- our Lake Champlain adventure

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Originally posted in Macaroni Kid Family Travel, July 2016 issue
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The mountains are calling, and I must go.
-John Muir

We are a family of hikers, mountain seekers, and lake lovers. Nothing makes our little family more content than hours spent in a kayak, or days chasing the next mountain summit. We are always on the lookout for a family friendly mountain destination that will be both entertaining for the kiddos, and provide a little fun for mom and dad (cocktails and kayaks anyone?!). Our latest travel adventure brought us to one of my favorite East coast states, Vermont… the land of maple syrup, craft beer and endless outdoor adventure.

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The Basin Harbor Club is a century old resort that is situated on the breathtaking Lake Champlain (fun fact: Lake Champlain is over 124 miles long!). Nestled between the famous Green Mountain range of Vermont, and the Adirondacks, the view from all sides of the resort is pretty fabulous. Like, stare at it in awe, all day and night type of fabulous. Upon entering the resort, the one thing that struck me immediately was the beauty and tradition of the property. There are gardens and fresh flowers everywhere, and the buildings and lawn activities reminded me of a camp I wouldn’t want to leave (the 80’s kid in me felt like I was on the set of Dirty Dancing, and that made me pretty gosh darn excited).

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We stayed in one of Basin Harbor’s 74 private cottages that are situated all around the large property. Our 2 bedroom cottage was adorable (& well appointed) and had a view of the lake, which we enjoyed at our 5:30 am wake up calls (from our boys, not the resort!). My kids (& equally my husband and I) were raring to go adventuring early in the morning, so after a local and delicious breakfast and copious amounts coffee in the main dining room, we headed to the waterfront. The amount of activities that Basin Harbor Club has to offer can keep an active family busy for days. The activities vary by the day, but there is definitely something to entertain all ages and interests. Stand up paddle boarding, golf workshops, flower arranging classes, Paint and Sip classes, and a tour of the lake on the resort’s boat, The Escape, are just a few of the activities that were offered during our stay. A must-do for all kid travelers is Basin Harbor’s Kids Camp- a summer camp type program for ages 3 and up that will keep the kiddos having fun and entertained all day by the resorts awesome recreation team (also, a perfect opportunity for mom and dad to enjoy an adult beverage and some adult conversation while relaxing on the waterfront!).

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Boat rentals are available at the dock, but there are also complimentary paddle boats, paddle boards, and even kid sized canoes to use on the beach. The highlight of our waterfront experience was definitely taking a paddle boat out to the giant water trampolines in the center of the harbor, and practicing our cannon ball jumps off of them!
Basin Harbor also has some pretty amazing hiking right on property. We hiked the Button Bay trail, which was an easy and flat hike, that ended with some of the most spectacular lake views we’ve ever experienced as a family. There is just something about Lake Champlain, and the backdrop of the vast Adirondack mountain range that leaves you in awe. A perfect example of nature’s splendor!

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Days of hiking and water activities are always followed by a treat (the maple creemees are SO good!), and a delicious meal! We were fortunate to be at Basin Harbor on a Tuesday night and got to experience the Tuesday night Harbor Fair. The special harbor fair dinner typically takes place on a beautiful dock overlooking the lake, but due to ominous weather they moved the buffet inside. After a delicious buffet, we headed upstairs to have fun with the resorts recreation department! The kids (ahem…and possibly the parents) bounced in a bounce house, had balloon animals made, and had their faces painted before playing some traditional lawn games that helped them earn tickets toward prizes. Everyone had a blast!

I overheard other guests of Basin Harbor talking about booking their reservations for 2017 before leaving this current stay. I can absolutely see why families return year after year. This is a place where electronics are turned off, nature is enjoyed and priceless family memories are created. A traditional, throwback resort nestled in the mountains is exactly what most families can use to decompress and reconnect (by disconnecting their devices!). I know we will be back, but, until then, we have priceless memories to reflect on and enjoy!