Wednesday, July 27, 2016

well huh.

So yeah. I'm a little surprised at the size of our new "2-3 person" backpacking tent. I *think* both of our sleeping bags will fit in there. Sometimes you just have to stare at something for a while before you start being ok with it.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What we've added this week


With the heat index over 100 in the past week, we haven't hit any trails. But we did hit the store. Here's what we added to our gear/supplies this week:

- A couple more dried meals: three bean chili, and Cuban coconut rice with black beans. I'm really looking forward to these.
- Water reservoir cleaner tablets. Boring.
- Mini salt/pepper shaker. Not that our meals are boring.
- Windproof, waterproof lighter. We got it home to discover it is NOT prefueled, so we had to go back for a can of butane. 

- Toe socks for Dennis. He gets blisters on his little toes, and got a pair of these socks in a surprise-of-the-month-club box from Cairn, and really liked them, so he added another pair.
- Lightweight hiking pants for both of us. Because I can't brush up against plants without being sure I'm going to get a poison ivy rash. 

We're getting ready to order our lightweight sleeping bags/pads and tent, and do a for-real overnight. Oh, it's getting exciting now. 

Things I'm still unsure about:
- how to best find firewood in the forest in the right size and dryness to make a decent fire. 
- the etiquette of pooping in the woods. There are so many opinions about this, and literally books written. It's not as simple as you'd think. I'll keep reading. (Living in a house of boys, I'm super comfortable talking about poop.)

Oh. One more thing. We were finally able to make it to an REI "garage sale." This is one of the benefits they hype when selling your $20 membership, but we always seem to be busy or out of town when they happen. Not this weekend. There was one that started at 8am yesterday, and Dennis and I got there around 9:30am, so I don't know what treasures we missed by not being early birds. I was surprised to find the sale held in the driveway behind the store, and it was fun to look through all of the previously returned items being sold at a discount (scattered out on the pavement!), but so many had notes about broken zippers or air leaks or stains that wouldn't come out... we didn't buy anything. At this stage, I'm most comfortable with a few more guarantees.

Onward and outward.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

So, we're backpackers now.

Last fall we decided that maybe we'd be more outdoorsy in our empty nest years. Inspired by movies like Wild and A Walk in the Woods, and by the opening of a local REI store, it was easy to say, "Yeah, let's give this backpacking thing a try." We went to a couple classes on trails and backpacking basics at REI, and then took the plunge into purchasing gear.

The first question we're asked when shopping for gear is, "What kind of backpacking do you plan to do?"

THAT is an excellent question. Because we don't really know. We'll start small with some local dayhikes, and then go from there. Hike the Appalachian Trail someday? Sure, why not? We don't know any better. So we try to get gear that can grow with us, and hope that we end up liking backpacking as much as we like the idea of backpacking.

I'll document our gear, and try to note as we go what works for us and what doesn't, in case it's helpful or interesting to someone else out there.

We didn't go with major hiking boots. We both got low-rise Merrells. Dennis is already thinking of getting gaiters to help keep small rocks or whatever out of his shoes. Mine feel pretty good but rub one spot on the back of my heel a little uncomfortably. Maybe they need more breaking in. I just bought liner socks, which also might help.

Backpacks. We literally spent hours at REI getting measured and trying different packs, and went through *3* employees, as they kept needing to end their shift or go on break. This gave us a chance to ask their different thoughts and opinions, so it was good, if not overkill. (Note that they're happy to throw some weight in the pack you're trying on, and let you walk around the store for a while to see how it feels.) We opted for an Osprey Atmos 50 liter pack and an REI Flash 60 liter pack. We should be able to use these packs for multi-day trips, particularly since Dennis and I will go out together and can share the carrying of supplies.

We also got this GSL Pinnacle Dualist cookset that includes a 7.5-cup pot, 2 bowls, 2 cups (that look like bowls to me) with lids, and 2 sporks, that all fit inside of each other and store inside a bag that is watertight and can be used as a wash basin. Separately we got a Pocket Rocket stove (that also fits inside the cookset). 

We each got a water reservoir that goes inside the backpack, with a hose that feeds to the outside and clips to the front straps of the pack. Dennis is using an Osprey 2.5L bag, and I got a Hoser Platypus 2.0L. 

So. I consulted some backpacking checklists and YouTube videos for ideas, which helped us to know what to throw in for first-aid/miscellaneous supplies as well as food, and then we set out on our inaugural hike to Ledges State Park, near Boone IA. The trails here aren't very long, but we wanted to do a trial run and see how everything felt. It all went really well, and we even cooked up dinner in the middle of the woods--dehydrated red beans and rice that just needed boiling water. I forgot to remove the "Do Not Eat" oxygen absorber packet from the dry mix before adding the water, but we didn't die. 

We were rewarded on our hike with this nice view overlooking the Des Moines River:

Next, it's time to shop for a tent and sleeping bags, and do an overnight trip!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Let's hit the trails

My husband and I are entering a new chapter of life... with one kid entering his junior year at UNI, and the other getting ready to start his college experience at TCU, the empty nest is in front of us. When we decided to start a family in our mid-20s, one driving factor was that we still wanted to be young enough to be active and have fun after the kids flew the coop.

So here we are. Apparently we're still young enough, if we can trust the perspective of our 25-year-old selves. 

Let's do this.