First things first. Let me begin by saying that I think thru-hiking is incredible, wonderful, fantastic, life-changing, eye-opening, challenging and beautiful (just to use a few descriptors). It’s no secret that I’m a big fan. There is nothing like starting at one point, be it the US/Mexico border or at any trailhead, and knowing that everything you need for your journey is on your back and for now all you have to do is walk, eat, sleep and take time to enjoy being alive on this earth. I’ve been lucky to accomplish a few big and “smaller” thru-hikes thus far, having completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 and 2016, most of the John Muir Trail in 2015, and one of the most epic “smaller” thru-hikes I can think of, the Wind River High Route, stitched together by Andrew Skurka.
Obviously gear choices are a huge part of planning a thru-hike and can make or break your hike to a certain degree. My first seven hundred miles on the PCT in 2013 I started off with the wrong shoes and it could have easily taken me off the trail. Luckily I settled into a nice comfy pair right when I hit the Sierra Nevada and the rest is history. Equally important is a good resupply strategy that fits your individual needs and style. You can have all the latest ultra light gear but if you are not eating enough calories or not listening to your body’s needs you might find yourself dragging down the trail, or in some cases having to leave the trail altogether—unfortunately I’ve seen this happen more than a few times. Nutrition is paramount when you are hiking anywhere from 15-35 miles per day, day in and day out. You are burning an insane amount of calories and your body needs good proteins, carbs and nutrients to carry on each day and recover.
There are several different “styles” to how people go about resupplying. One way is the “I’ll see how it goes when I get there” style which is easy enough to do on well established trails like the AT or PCT when you have well known resupply spots and towns along the way. However, some spots are less than ideal—such as a gas station mini-mart, for example—and you start to wonder how many more Pop Tarts you can stomach. Going about your resupply this way can end up being costly and some people are more susceptible to the ill effects of such a diet. I’ve seen a lot of people lose a startling amount of weight because they aren’t getting enough calories. Not to say that this strategy doesn’t work well for some people, as many can find the right balance of foods that work for them. In my case, I just know my body doesn’t do well for extended periods of time if I’m not eating well. It’s worth noting that from 2013 to 2016 there were four times as many people on trail and some places that are crucial to resupply (like Kennedy Meadows) ran out of food altogether and some were left scrambling, figuring out what they were going to eat at the beginning of the Sierra leg.
Another style is the “I’m going to plan, prepare/ buy everything and have it ready to be shipped before I even set foot on trail.” When my fiancée and I did the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 this is exactly what we did. We wanted to save money by buying in bulk, taking advantage of any pro deals/sales we could get and we meticulously counted out all meals and snacks down to to every last ounce and calorie. One of my favorite moments was going to a grocery store armed with coupons to buy Cascadia granola that was on sale and we ended up paying like a dollar a box and filled up an entire grocery cart with granola. We got some really good looks and when we got home we were able to build a castle in the living room with granola boxes. And yeah, turns out I totally got sick of this granola way sooner than I had thought I would pre-trail!
We did our best to consider things such as: variety, healthy food vs. junk food, and spreading things out over time. This method is great for many people, especially people who have special diets or are super health conscious because you can really make sure that you are getting the nutrients that you need. Also for those who are resourceful and have the time to make their own delicious dehydrated meals. Personally, between work, life and PCT planning there was no way we had much time to spend time with the dehydrator.
The next time I hiked the PCT, fortunately I was able to draw from my experiences in 2013, and knew exactly what items to include in our resupply boxes and the places in town where a resupply was preferred. Let’s call this the “half plan, buy and ship/half wait and see how I feel when I get there,” resupply style. I was able to do some bulk ordering online, took advantage of sales on bars and snacks when I saw them in stores and knew exactly what I wanted as a staple for my dinners on trail. I first tried Good To-Go’s Thai Curry on my 2015 John Muir Trail hike. My hiking partner and I had only bought one at the local REI and I can picture the exact camp spot where we first opened up the package and exclaimed, “oh my god, there’s broccoli in here!” We were on the trail for 11 straight days and the sight of broccoli and other vegetables was almost enough to bring tears to our eyes. We could not get over how good the ingredients were and how incredible it tasted. It was pretty much one of, if not the best, meal I have ever had in the backcountry. I am not exaggerating either. I have logged over 8,000 plus backcountry miles and have tried pretty much every backpacking food option on the market, and nothing even comes close to Good to Go. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s not filled with preservatives, excessive amounts of sodium, or other ingredients that can disrupt digestion during a hike.
I try to have a healthy mix of foods that I know are really good for me and hopefully have the taste to match and then just straight up high-calorie junk food like candy bars, chips etc., that make up a decent portion of any thru-hiker’s diet. I can eat junk for a bit because, well, it’s tastes really good (duh!) and it has a lot of calories for energy. That said, I definitely notice a difference in my body and energy level when I eat healthier snacks and meals. It’s just a matter of balance and that’s why Good To-Go meals are awesome—they are the perfect combination of light weight, calorie and nutrient dense, and they just taste damn good. It was like Christmas when we would get a resupply box that had some Thai Curry, Mushroom Risotto or Smoked Three Bean Chili.
If you find yourself lucky enough to have enough time to thru-hike, whether it’s just a week or two or an entire summer, definitely do it! You will not regret it and you will realize it’s much more about the journey than the destination. Definitely set yourself up with great gear but also some great food to fuel you through your journey however you go about it.
Next up for me is hopefully a thru-hike of the Grand Canyon which only roughly a dozen people have ever completed and I know Good to Go will be a vital part to my resupply plan. Thanks for reading and happy hiking!
When people think of winter (or winter-like conditions in Spring) the last thing that often comes to mind is sleeping outside, whether in a tent, snow pit or a simple backcountry hut. In fact, the first words that often come to mind are cold, uncomfortable and not fun.
What if I told you that you could happily and comfortably head out into the depths of winter to camp? What if I told you that I could change the former words to fun, comfortable and even cozy?
The difference between a good night and a bad night out in the mountains during the colder months comes down to a few basic things. We have personally learned these things through trial and error, which by the way meant some cold nights out. Hopefully through sharing these tips we can help you to avoid those harsh nights out and start you off on the right, warm, foot!
TOP THREE TIPS:
1) Eat Right and Stay Hydrated
Not all calories are created equal when it comes to spending time in cold temperatures. Higher fat foods and complex carbohydrates are your friend as they are a slow steady form of energy, keeping your core temperature warmer for longer. Complex carbohydrates like hot oatmeal or granola are a fantastic simple start to the morning. Add in some of your favorite nut butter to up the fat and calorie content and you have a breakfast that will keep you warm and satisfied for hours.
Our new favorite is the Good To-Go Granola which can be made hot or cold. For a warm, spicy version try the Oatmeal—it’s loaded with chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, hemp hearts and spices like cinnamon, turmeric and cardamom. Try adding freshly sliced apple to the oatmeal for an amazing breakfast!
Keep snacking and don’t let yourself go hungry. Snacks like cheese, sausage, dried fruit and nuts are all great, tasty, high calorie options to keep you warm and feeling satisfied throughout the day.
Keep up your fluid intake by constantly sipping on fresh water throughout the day. When you are at camp drink hot fluids—tea, hot chocolate, cup of soup—these will keep your core temperature warm and they are delicious.
2) Stay Warm
Having the right gear is the biggest factor in either enjoying winter camping or never wanting to do it again. Layering is the best way to manage warmth. Instead of only having one large insulated jacket, it is important to have a system that allows you to remove articles of clothing as you are on the move and need to dump heat, but also gives you the opportunity to layer up as the need arises. Here is an example of my winter setup:
1x Merino Wool Base Layer long sleeve shirt
1x Merino Wool Base Layer long john’s
1x Down Puffy Jacket
1x Synthetic Puffy Jacket
1x Gore-Tex Shell Jacket (windproof and waterproof)
1x Toque (wool hat)
1x Buff (to use while moving)
1x Merino Wool Socks
1x Thick Gloves
1x Thin gloves (to use while moving)
When camping always make sure to bring extra, dry base layers. Since it is inevitable that you will sweat during the day, it is very important to have dry layers to change into once you reach camp. Don’t forget when it comes to staying safe it’s worth it to invest the extra money in good quality gear—buy cheap, buy twice!
3) Be Safe
Snow not only changes the look of a landscape, it also changes how you travel in that landscape. It’s not as simple as heading out onto the same trails that you would in the summer. Travel is now slower, especially if you are pushing through deep snow, the amount of daylight in a given day is less and slopes are now loaded with feet of snow. This all means that we need to head into the backcountry fully aware of conditions and consequences.
Take a basic Avalanche awareness course, head out with the appropriate gear and know how to use it. Take into account the dwindling daylight and the time it takes to break a trail in snow. The more we can learn the safer we can be and this means we can enjoy winter that much more!
So there really is no need to pack away your tent for the winter season. All it takes is a little preparation, a positive mindset and some tasty food to make winter camping a regular part of your outdoor life.
Story and photos by Spring and Leigh McClurg | pebbleshoo.com
When I got an email about shooting photos and writing a blogpost for a collaborative giveaway from three awesome companies, I needed a little time to interpret the theme, “One Last Chance to Disconnect”. As it’s the end of summer and many folks hunker down for the cold months ahead, packing away the camping gear and hanging up the boats and bikes, the timing seemed to work, but what did the idea mean?
For me, “One Last Chance to Disconnect” isn’t about disconnecting from our devices, rather it’s about disconnecting from the tether that keeps a lot of us in our places and limits our ability and freedom to roam. By carrying a solar panel with me, I can do work from the road, keep my batteries charged and leave the concrete jungle behind to explore wilderness advocate and philosopher Sigurd Olson’s notion of “One foot in and one foot out”. In this day and age it’s hard to be all-in for the nomadic, traveling lifestyle, so it’s important to find the balance maintaining my relationship with the wild while maintaining my relationship with my community, family and friends. By being able to go on extended backcountry trips and have the ability to keep: my phone charged, my Delorme inReach charged, my headlamp charged, and my batteries for my camera charged—I can share these experiences with everyone else and get them motivated, excited and inspired to pursue their own adventures.
The Arc10W solar kit from Voltaic Systems is a simple, rugged and reliable approach to keeping the juice at 100%. I can set it up when I arrive at camp and strap it to the outside of my pack when I’m on the go, and charge any of my devices in the sun in no time. And while I don’t always have access to a full kitchen to make delicious meals, I carry a few things with me to make me feel like I do.
After 20 years of wilderness travel, and thanks to Jetboil and Good To-Go, I’ve finally found the best combination for quick, easy, delicious and nutritious meals in the backcountry. With the Jetboil MiniMo, I don’t have to prime stoves or deal with rubber o-ring gaskets on fuel pumps. I just start it up, boil water and go. I don’t have to worry about things falling apart in the backcountry. All the things that make the solar panel great are what make the stove great—simple, rugged and reliable. And when it comes to food, I don’t like to make a mess. I prefer quick, easy and delicious. With a serious culinary background and simple, real-food ingredients that you know and can pronounce, the makers of Good To-Go put a lot of time, effort, thought and passion into the food they sell and we eat. All the meals are gluten-free and more than half their line is vegetarian. I usually opt for the two serving bags as I need the higher caloric intake being the 6’3’’ guy I am. It also works out well that my favorite food on the planet is Pad Thai, and it just so happens Good To-Go makes the best one I’ve ever tasted.
With a full belly I can recharge my internal battery while my peripheral ones charge from the sun. I can stay out longer, experience the moments that last a lifetime, and come back to share them with everyone, encouraging their own opportunities to explore, create and live a full life. Don’t let your batteries run out before it’s too late.
(photos and story by Brian Threlkeld)
Even the slightest wave from any hint of wind seemed to splash water in the canoe. Ned and I knew the hazards of piling all of our stuff and our large bodies into a craft better sized for two pre-pubescent boys (which aptly describes our maturity levels but not our physical stature), but we figured, “Hey, the trip is mostly flat water, right?”
We were on our last day of a four day trip on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail trying to keep up with our nearly twice our age friend as he began his 1500 mile paddling odyssey from the Adirondacks of New York to the northern-most point of Maine. From there he will switch from a canoe to a kayak, and start paddling out to the Atlantic Ocean on the St. John River and down the entire coast of Maine. Just writing that makes me tired, but John is still out there paddling as I sit in a warm coffee shop reflecting on the short portion of our trip.
Paddling north on the Saranac River, we heard the water moving faster through the river channel and as we rounded the bend we saw the first set of rapids. A quick move around a downed tree on the right and we were fully into it.
“Rock straight ahead,” Ned warned.
“Yep, I see it. Give me a draw on the right,” I instructed.
While Ned tried directing the bow, I made a big draw stroke in the stern but it was too late. We hit the rock, flipped the boat and were instantly in the cold spring melt-off of the river. Too concerned with keeping all of our gear together, the temperature of the water didn’t even register.
Back in Maine, and before we left, Ned and I had been packing, repacking, calling outfitters, borrowing gear and finally loading up the car for the seven-hour drive from Portland, Maine to Long Lake, NY. We had made hasty plans to meet up with our friend, John, on his second day into a 75 day canoe and kayak trip dubbed the “PaddleQuest1500.” At 60, John is a force to be reckoned with. He’s in top notch shape and his positivity is contagious. This trip had been a dream of his for a long time, and of course, Ned and I hatched ours over a few beers one night in the weeks leading up to John’s departure. We borrowed a boat, PFD’s, paddles, dry bags, paddling jackets and pants, and even next-to-skin layers made for paddling. We obviously needed all the help we could get to pull off this trip. Thankfully our friends at Good To-Go, provisioned us with tasty meals to stoke our furnaces each night as we recounted each day on the water and zipped up our sleeping bags to stay warm in the 20 degree temps we saw each night in the Adirondacks. During this time last year, the lakes were still covered in ice and snow, but due to the mild winter, ice out came early this year and we saw ourselves paddling in 60 degree temps during the day, but anytime we dipped our hands in the water we were quickly reminded of the solid state these lakes were in just a few short weeks ago.
We met up with John in the small hamlet of Long Lake, enjoyed a delicious meal at the local inn, and crashed out early to get a jump start on our first day of paddling. We awoke to calm waters and were excited to get the boats wet. Paddling north up the 10-mile lake was wonderful. It was as if we were traveling on a mirror the water was so calm. Long Lake drained into the Raquette River and after a few more miles of paddling we came to our first portage trail. With heavy packs on our backs we worked our way over a rugged and muddy mile to put back in on flat water. As the afternoon waned, we found ourselves at the three-wall shelter that would be our camp for the night. Water treated, stove cranking, hot food, bellies full. A bit of rain overnight kept things brisk and damp in the morning as we packed up and put back on the slow-moving river. We portaged the boats again and stood on the shores of Upper Saranac Lake facing a stiff headwind and whitecaps on the water. We all took a moment to be thankful we didn’t have conditions like this the previous day! After a quick lunch we launched the boats and didn’t stop paddling for what felt like hours, but it was realistically only 30 minutes or so. We’re strong like that. More portages, more paddling, a trip through the upper locks and we called it a day by the time we arrived to an island campsite on Lower Saranac. After Ned made a few casts that came up empty on the fly rod, John and I started up the stove to boil water for our delicious dinners of Thai Curry, Classic Marinara with Penne and Smoked Three Bean Chili. Now you might be thinking, “These guys brought some serious fine dining cuisine with them!” and you wouldn’t be wrong, but preparing this dinner doesn’t take a full backcountry kitchen. In fact, you just add boiling water and wait a bit while you share stories of the day, the month, the year—whatever! Of course eating food out of a bag is convenient, but rarely tasty. However, the folks at Good To-Go have done things right. All the ingredients are real and the dehydrated food comes back to life so much better than freeze-dried. Disclaimer time. I shoot photos for the company, but I promise my opinion is not biased. Even before I started working for David and Jen I was buying their food and relishing every bite. Seriously.
Sleep came quickly and morning came even quicker. We paddled through another set of locks onto Oseetah Lake and headed north to the town of Saranac Lake. We met up with the folks at St Regis Canoe Outfitters who helped shuttle our car and provided us tons of good info on the remains route for the next two days. Ned and I also arranged for a set of wheels to be dropped off at the beginning of the 5-mile road portage we had coming up the next day (and I tell you what, they made that walk a breeze!). We walked around town, had some lunch and a pint, and put back on the river for the afternoon. By the time we made it to Franklin Falls Pond, it was getting close to dusk and we were ready for more food and bed.
A beautifully calm sunrise got us up and ready for the day. By the time we’d lay our heads down that night, we’d have a full-value day. We made quick work of Franklin Falls Pond, portaged around the dam, paddled across Union Falls Pond, portaged around that dam, and put back on the Saranac River. Lots of dams in the Adirondacks. Within two miles, the river grew louder, we hit the rock, and you know the rest.
Of course John was able to pull out into an eddy and help rescue Ned and me from our predicament. Unfortunately, in doing so he scraped the bottom of his kevlar boat to the point a serious fiberglass repair was in order. We still had a few more rapids to paddle before taking out for the five-mile portage, and after searching around for a bit and a bit of bushwhacking, we found the faint trail that took us out to the road. Ned and I found the stashed wheels (Thank you Mike Lynch!) and we made our way down the road. We discussed options for repairing John’s boat and determined the best course of action, with rain in the forecast that night, would be to hitchhike to my car, come back and grab our stuff and head into town for a night in a hotel where the fiberglass patch could cure overnight and John wouldn’t have to skip a beat for gashing his boat while trying to help Ned and I. After five miles of walking, I finally caught a ride and made it back to the car thirty minutes away. As soon as I started driving back to the guys, I saw Ned’s arm wildly waving out of an oncoming truck. We both pulled over and made sense of the situation. Ned had thought I wouldn’t be able to hitch all the way to my car and he had scored a ride to come help if it was needed. We got lucky catching each other, and the family driving the truck Ned was in invited us all back to their home for a superb meal of prime rib, grilled potatoes and veggies, and of course a couple pints. It was late by the time we loaded up John’s boat on my car and we made it into the closest town with a hotel by nightfall. John knew the place from previous travels, but what he failed to mention was that there was an indoor water park attached to the hotel! We were as kiddy as schoolboys and with fifteen minutes to spare, we downed board shorts and received awkward looks from the presumably fifteen year old life guard on duty as we giggled our way down multiple waterslides until they kicked us out. Next stop was the brewery, again attached to the hotel, and after a few more pints we went to work patching John’s canoe and hit the hay soon after.What a wild day. When morning arrived, we ran some errands in town (after Ned and I hit up the water park again), and drove back to where John could put back on the water without missing a beat. We said our goodbyes and watched as our friend continued his amazing journey by himself.
It was such a wonderful time on the water with John, and we were so happy to share the tiniest bit of his experience with him. Knowing he’s still out there going strong makes me excited about the prospect of meeting up with him again soon! Much thanks to everyone who helped us get out there: Good To-Go, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Wenonah Canoe and DeLorme inReach!
story and photography courtesy of: Brian Threlkeld and BST Photography