Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category


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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