Category Archives: Gear


Yes. Yes I did.

Jason and I went to Mecca this weekend – aka REI – and picked up a few things during another one of their big sales. Tops on the list: hydration systems. We have both experienced what a pain in the butt it is to just rely on water bottles when hiking. Lesson learned.

Jason picked up a bladder to use with his huge backpacking pack. Since we will no longer be trekking from camp to camp, I don’t really want to haul my big pack on our shorter hikes. So instead, I bought a Camelback hydration pack, not just a bladder. But I had to make sure it went with my bag ensemble ๐Ÿ˜‰

The front pocket is just big enough for my hiking needs. Plus, it has all sorts of little organizing slots. Love!

I plan on swapping out my side-slung North Face bag on our weekend hikes for the Camelback as well, so it’s not just for our vacation. While I absolutely love the bag and it’s a nice, smaller alternative to my larger daypack, it makes carrying water nearly impossible. At least that’s how I justified it to Jasonย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Maybe it will make it’s debut this weekend for National Trails Day. You’re planning on getting out this weekend, aren’t you??

Thank you everyone for the well-wishes about my new gig with CampingGearTV, both here on the blog and on Facebook. I’m super excited about it, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on all the cool gear I’ll be trying!


Working with My Strengths

When Jason and I found out we got into the High Sierra Camps, I laid out a plan to help us get ready over the course of the following months:

  • December & January – Conditioning
  • February & March – Learning
  • April & May – Shopping
  • June & July – Practicing

While no step would be completely restricted to this timeframe, I wanted to have some direction as I prepared. Conditioning is an ongoing process and my fitness plan continues to evolve. I haven’t spent a lot of time “Learning,” because, honestly, there’s not really a ton for me to learn. Since Jason and I are engaging in backpacking-lite, I just need to know how to hike and what to pack.

Today, I officially skipped a step and worked from my strengths: Shopping! Jason and I burned through our REI dividend and 20% off coupons very fastย  ๐Ÿ˜€

The most essential pieces of gear that Jason and I needed to purchase were our backpacks…and that’s exactly what we picked out today!

I cannot stress the importance of going to a outdoor outfitter, being properly “fitted,” and trying different packs. I went in with a specific pack in mind and left with something very different. We each tried on three different packs, but we went with the men’s/women’s comparable packs from Gregory: the Deva 70 for me (appropriate name, huh ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and the Palisade 80 for Jason.

Jason is super excited to match with me and loves red…NOT.

I LOVE my new bag! I hung out in the store with it on for quite a bit and found it to be the most comfortable of those I tried on. The pretty blue color and lots of pockets didn’t hurt eitherย  ๐Ÿ™‚

For reference, here’s our full suggested shopping list for the High Sierra Camps:

  • Backpack
  • Sleep-sack
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking shoes (for backup)
  • Light shoes (for around camp)
  • Water bottles or hydration system
  • Toiletries
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Small flashlight
  • Chapstick
  • Mini first-aid kit
  • Moleskin
  • Clothing:
    • Brimmed hat
    • Wool cap (for chilly nights)
    • Bandana
    • Sweats (for sleepwear)
    • Wool socks and sock liners
    • Hiking shorts
    • Long pants
    • Zippered turtleneck
    • Flannel or wool shirt
    • Sweater, medium-weight
    • Wool gloves or mittens
    • Light jacket
    • Waterproof poncho or rain jacket with hood
  • Camera *
  • Binoculars *

* Optional

We picked up a couple of the other items on the list today, too. We both got sleep-sacks and headlamps. Jason swore he would never get a headlamp, but both I and the employee helping us at the store recommended them.

I really wanted a pink one, but apparently those are designed for children ๐Ÿ™

Let’s just say that one of the hooks to getting me into camping/hiking was the opportunity to shop ๐Ÿ˜€ . But that simple hook has definitely led me to some amazing experiences. So if loving to shop is wrong, I don’t want to be right.


Bring on the Heat!

It’s November in Wisconsin, and everyone is on edge anticipating the coming winter. I love the moderate temps of fall and spring, but the cold is starting to creep up. Great.

The fabulous folks at Columbia asked me to participate in their Omni-Heat Field Test program. Omni-Heat is Columbia’s new thermal technology, and I have it in their Heat Elite Jacket. As one of those people who is always cold and as a Wisconsinite, I hole-heartedly accepted!

The Heat Elite incorporates both the thermal reflective and thermal insulation technology. A few facts about both:

  • Omni-Heat Thermal Insulation: Helps maintain warmth, prevent heat loss with the highest heat retention per gram in the industry. (It’s also eco-friendly)
  • Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective: Keeps you 20% warmer by reflecting back the heat your body generates, yet helps regulate body temperature by allowing excess heat and moisture to escape.

I’ve been wearing the jacket for a little over a week, and it definitely keeps me warmer than other fleece jackets that I have. Actually, it has been keeping me warmer than my nice wool coat from LL Bean.

Temps haven’t gotten so cold outside as to really put the Omni-Heat to the test, but I can say that the jacket heats up really fast when I’m wearing it inside. Today, I had it on in a cold rain, and it kept me very comfortable. Once it is cold enough to need gloves and a scarf, I’m guessing that this jacket will keep me nice and toasty. And for someone who’s always cold, that’s a welcome thought ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Oh, I almost forgot to mention my very favorite part of the jacket: Monkey Thumbs!

I am currently obsessed with monkey thumbs!

Once we hit some hardcore cold, I’ll be sure to write an update on how the jacket performs.

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