Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

PB162499We’re planning a little backpacking venture this weekend. We’ll hike 3-4 miles in, set up camp, and then swim in the alpine lake and scramble the ridges above for a day or two.

This is a place we return to almost every summer, so I know the kids are very capable of the trail. But I wonder how much more of our gear those very capable kids can help carry. Of course, I googled it. Looks like there are percentages like 10-15- 20% out there, mainly in regards to carrying backpacks to school. For backpacking specifically, I found 25% of their weight.

I know my kids carried heavy packs in Mexico, walking for short periods as we traveled on and off buses and set up camp in different regions. At that time they carried everything they had: clothes for a week, a book, souvenirs. No way do I want them to carry that much on the trail. I want them to still be smiling even after an hour of hiking.

This week, we’ll watch the weight. And I’ll find a scale and weigh those packs, and report back here.


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Tenting Togetherness

P8040578While we’re riding more separately, with Noah on his own bike, we’re still sharing the family tent. I love our conversations at night, and we’ve worked out a sleeping arrangement that works for us.

The kids sleep on the sides, with the parents in the middle. And every night Tom and I trade places. So one night I sleep next to one child, and the next night the other, and I always get to sleep next to my husband. It works great and allows for varied snuggles and back rubs from the person next to you.

I love tenting as a family. I think we’re close to teenagers preferring their own tent, but meanwhile I’m savoring the fun of all being together.

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P8030564The new bicycle configuration, with Noah on his own bike, means that he’s quick on the uphills but the loaded bikes get far ahead of him – or need to brake a lot – on the downhills. This makes for interesting riding if it is very hilly, as it is hard to keep the group together.

We rode about 120 miles in the first 3 days. And then Noah was really tired. Even with Dana occasionally trading places with him, that was too much too fast.

So we’re feeding him much more (above he even has a lollipop in his mouth), scaling back the mileage, and planning some rest days.P8020553 There have also been a few unplanned rest stops. We’ve had a flat tire every day, with two for me in one hour, until we figured out I actually needed a new tire. The tube was bulging out through a thin spot in the tire sidewall, and when I applied my brakes it was just enough additional pressure. Next came the unpleasant pop that signals another flat.

Tom patched the tire with the largest patch we had, even left the backing on for more strength, and we bought a new tire at a nice shop in Sequim, Washington. We’re now hoping for more planned, rather than unplanned stops, although the one in the photo was a good spot – even had a little bench to sit on.

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P7270485Climbing Snowking Mountain this week involved the hottest buggiest approach I’ve ever experienced. Smartly, my friend Liz had brought her headnet. I have never worn one except on a 4-day backpack in the Talkeetnas in Alaska, and that one was borrowed. Watching Liz, I’m sold on the usefulness of it. If you can just know ahead of time what the bug factor will be.

The approach was biting black flies, but at the campsite elevation, the bug population switched to mosquitoes. We watched them swarm outside the mesh of the tent and were thankful we hadn’t gone with bivy sacks rather than the tent. The mosquitoes even came along on the climb the next morning – across the snow and to the rocky top. They  only disappeared towards mid-day, either it was too hot for them or their siesta time. We were thankful because that allowed us a much needed dip in a cold cold lake.

I kept wondering how I would have managed the incredibly buggy situation with my kids. Actually, I didn’t have to wonder that long. We’d have retreated. Much as I love being out, being bugged is just no fun.

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Cold But Intrepid

Last night we were bicycling home from a certain play rehearsal at 8pm. It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit with a cold wind blowing from the north. Since we had knit hats on under our helmets, several torso-warming items, and 2 pants layers, we weren’t really cold, just chilled around the edges.

My smart daughter wore ski mittens, but I had grabbed my usual long-fingered bike gloves, and my fingers were uncomfortably cold. If this weather continues, I might have to try a balaclava to keep the wind from sucking the warmth out of my cheeks. Even my eyeballs felt cold when I blinked.

Most of the route was on bike paths, but when we were on the roads, I figure the car drivers thought we were pretty crazy. But hey, we had our blinking lights, our bright yellow jackets, and a good attitude. It was mid-week adventure on what would have otherwise been a ho-hum evening. And that intrepid daughter of mine didn’t complain at all. Another proud parent moment, that she can deal with a little adversity, and that we can enjoy being outside together even in cold weather.

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The national economic situation is scary. I know people who have lost their jobs, and others who are worried. I understand cutting back on vacation travel and focusing those funds on necessities, but I think getting outside is still essential. Families need positive time together, fitness, connections to nature, and the personal qualities family adventuring helps grow, like creativity, ingenuity, and self-reliance. So make it doable financially by going do-it-yourself.

We bicycle tour inexpensively by tent camping and making cookstove meals. We backpack and kayak close to home, and rather than buy expensive freeze dried food, we pack our own, with Simple Foods for the Pack and Lip Smackin’ Backpackin’: Lightweight Trail Tested Recipes for Backcountry Trips as useful guides. We also borrow and share gear. Last summer our kayak took another family on a five-day trip, and this fall other friends tried out our tandem bicycles. Plus the tandems and the kayak were originally bought used.

Let’s help each other and keep families connected to outdoor adventure. How will you still get outside together? And what gear can you borrow or lend?

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My old Kelty backpack has been carried many miles and is showing a little age. When I pulled out my old friend this time, along with the familiar marmot-gnawed waist belt, I found one shoulder strap separating from the pack. Oh yeah. I remember noticing that on a North Cascades trip last summer, but of course when I got home I just emptied the pack and put it back on the gear shelf.

Now the backpack needs a fix, and that will require a little ingenuity, as my industrial needle and extra strong braided thread are at home and we’re far from there. While I believe duct tape takes care of almost anything, this calls for sewing. So I borrow a needle from my daughter’s felt crafting, nylon thread from a friend, and use a rock to help push the needle through the tough fabric. Score another point for do-it-yourself solutions.

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