One of my favorite trips/workshops to lead is intro to backpacking. I love getting outside with women who are open to trying new things, including getting outside and having an adventure. One of the first questions women always ask is "what should I wear?"
That's a really good question, because bringing the wrong clothes can mean the difference between loving backpacking and hating it. So to save you a lot of misery, I'm hear to tell you exactly what to bring on your backpacking trip.
Rule #1: Cotton is your enemy
Whether it's socks, underwear or jeans, stay away from anything that's 100% cotton (except for maybe your bandana). It holds water (read: sweat) close to your skin, making you feel cold and clammy plus encouraging bacteria growth.
So that means bringing synthetic blends. For me, that usually means bringing one or more of the wicking shirts I've gathered over the years from various 5ks and adventure races. Another good place to look for good backpacking clothes is in your workout clothes drawer. Many yoga pants, capris and even sports shirts are made of good wicking material.
Rule #2: Don't overpack
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see newbies making — bringing way too much, and thus overloading their pack and making it too heavy to carry enjoyably. Check your list, make sure you have everything you need, then leave the extra clothes at home. No one cares if you stink on the trail (in fact, getting dirty is part of the fun).
So without further ado, here's a list of backpacking clothing to bring on your next trip:
Convertible pants — these are pants where you can zip off the bottom third of your pants when the weather gets hot (and zip them back on at night when it gets cool)
Hiking shorts — for those days when you know it's going to be nice and warm.
Wicking t-shirts — You'll be surprised at how quickly these shirts dry out after a rainstorm or even just lots of sweat.
Long-sleeve wicking shirt — This shirt is going to serve a dual purpose: it will keep you warm if the weather is cooler, and it will serve as your sleeping clothes at night.
Fleece — This will keep you warm around the campfire. The good news is there are lots of different kinds of fleeces, with varying degrees of warmth (and packability).
Puffy vest — If you're doing spring, fall or winter camping, bring your whole puffy jacket to make sure you don't get cold, but in the summer months, a puffy vest is perfect. It's generally worth it to pay a little bit more for vests that are more packable.
Synthetic underwear — Underwear is one of the few things that I will risk overpacking. Wearing dirty underwear is not only gross, it's unsanitary, so throw in 1-2 more pairs than what you think you'll need.
Sports bra — How long a woman wears the same bra is a matter of personal preference (and time of year), so I'll let you decide how many you want to bring. The fewer the hooks, the better.
Synthetic socks — Again, pay a little bit more for some good hiking socks to help you avoid blisters and keep your feet dry and warm. A good rule of thumb is to pack 1 pair of socks for every two days you'll be out, but I'll also say that, like underwear, having an extra pair of socks never killed anyone.
Fleece gloves — I like the convertible gloves that allow you to have access to your fingers when you're trying to set up your tent or start a fire. It might be worth paying a little extra for these as well, since it's likely you'll end up using your gloves when breaking down firewood or grabbing a hot pot.
Hiking boots or sturdy shoes — I read recently that most thru-hikers don't wear hiking boots anymore; a good pair of athletic shoes are lighter and dry out faster when they get wet. This probably depends more on what type of hiking you're doing: if you're going to be going uphill or over lots of rocky, ankle-turning terrain, you're probably going to want to go with a good hiking boot. Your local outdoors outfitter will have some good advice as to how to fit & buy hiking boots.
Flip flops — Most newbies don't realize the pure pleasure of peeling off your hiking boots and socks at the end of a long day backpacking, and slipping your toes into a pair of sandals while you prepare your dinner or just sit around relaxing. Your trip will be so much better if your feet get some time to breathe at the end of each day.
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I was a voracious reader as a kid. I'd hide books in textbooks, under the covers, in my bunk at camp. My parents actually had to take my books away from me in order to get me to do my homework, complete chores and even to go to sleep. All that reading about girls who were out there living their lives, having adventures beyond my boring life in the suburbs no doubt influenced the fact that I now make my living reading books and leading women outdoors. So here are seven girls and one boy protagonists who I could not get enough of as a kid.
1. Ramona Quimby
“She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.”
Beverly Cleary was the first author I read religiously, and Ramona Quimby, with all her flaws, was the first protagonist I ever saw myself in. We even looked alike, with the same straight brown hair cut chin length, the same skinny legs and arms. I remember being inspired to finally lose my temper by Ramona's declaration of a bad word (spoiler alert: it was "guts") after a lifetime of always trying to be the good girl.
2. Pippi Longstocking
“Don't you worry about me. I'll always come out on top.”
The Queen Goddess of Badassery, Pippi Longstocking had no parents and a horse that lived on her front porch. Author Astrid Lindgren inspired generations of upstart young women with a heroine who was at once both vulnerable and brave, setting the tone for who I wanted to be as a young woman.
3. Harriet the Spy
“Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.”
While the generation before me was inspired by Nancy Drew, I was a Harriet girl all the way. I even had a notebook that I'd carry around with me, hiding in bushes and behind seats on the school bus, scribbling away at my observations of people (which didn't win me any friends, by the way).
4. Sam Gribley
“I must say this now about that first fire. It was magic. Out of dead tinder and grass and sticks came a live warm light. It cracked and snapped and smoked and filled the woods with brightness. It lighted the trees and made them warm and friendly. It stood tall and bright and held back the night.”
Who among us hasn't dreamed of running away from home and living in the woods? Sam Gribley gets the lone distinction of being the only boy on the list, but he was still a sort of heroine of mine. Written by Jean Craighead George and published 1959, My Side of the Mountain taught me everything I needed to know about courage and independence while also inspiring me to make Dandelion Fritters and feed them to my family (they were not impressed).
5. Julie (from Julie of the Wolves)
"Somewhere in this cosmos was Miyax; and the very life in her body, its spark and warmth, depended upon these wolves for survival. And she was not so sure they would help."
It was not until I started writing this blog post that I realized that My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves was written by the same author — hooray for Jean Craighead George! Another heroine who survived out in the harsh natural world by herself, Miyax/Julie made friends with wolves and survived on her wits and intelligence. A powerful story of conflict between two identities and two sets of traditions, I loved this story from the very beginning.
6. Becky Thatcher
“Maybe not, maybe not. Cheer up, Becky, and let's go on trying.”
Becky was not just Tom Sawyer's first love; she was mine too. I immediately fell into my first girl crush with this girl's blonde braids and surly attitude. Becky is probably the most "lady-like" of all my inspirational girl heroines, but I loved how she taught Tom that his showing off and his "boy tricks" wouldn't work, and if he wanted to win her, it would have to be with something more serious. I clearly remember wishing that Mark Twain had written a book about Becky, adding depth to her character and giving us more insight into her sheltered life.
“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable...”
Ronald Dahl's Matilda was magical and loved books — and I wanted nothing more than to be her, Wormwood parents and all. In fact, she's something of a feminist icon for me, as she flat-out rejected her parents' insistence that she be "seen and not heard," or that she was stupid and unworthy. Although I clearly remember wishing Miss Honey would grow a bit more of a backbone, I loved Matilda and everything she stood for.
8. Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small, but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”
The Little House on the Prairie books convinced me that I had been born in the wrong century. I wanted badly to eat maple syrup drizzled on snow and wished that my own father played the fiddle (instead of softball). My favorite of the series was the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, but I devoured all of the books in the series as quickly as possible. Later, when I discovered the TV series, I remember thinking it seemed like a totally different Laura.
Who were your favorite literary girl heroines growing up? Leave a comment below.
Sleeping Bear Dunes isn't the only place in Michigan for travel adventure. Here are some of the top destinations for those looking for a more lively vacation.
Hike cabin to cabin in the Porcupine Mountains
If you're looking for an easy transition between being a hiker and becoming a backpacker, consider reserving some of the rustic cabins or even one or more of the yurts available in the Porcupine Mountains. There's no running water or electricity, but they do provide some nice shelter beyond a tent. For inspiration, check out what these folks ended up doing for a six-day trip.
Be a spectator at the AuSable River Canoe Marathon
2015 will be the 68th year of this historic race, this non-stop canoe race starts at night with a thrilling LeMans-style running-start to the river in Grayling and ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, MI. Only professional paddlers should compete in the race, but being a spectator is the next best thing. Fans can cheer and route for the teams, keeping the paddlers alert and giving them a boost of morale and adrenaline. Diehard spectators follow the race from Grayling to Oscoda, and stay up all night! Spectators should be prepared for all kinds of weather conditions, bugs, traffic and thousands of other fans. Please read the Spectator Guide to help you prepare for your all night adventure.
Ride the zip line at Boyne
Want to experience a new perspective on the same hills and valleys that provided Ernest Hemingway with the inspiration for the Nick Adams stories nearly 100 years ago? Located along high ridges and over scenic valleys just outside of Boyne City, Wildwood Rush will strap you in and then let you fly through the forest canopy on over 7,000 feet of zip lines, cross five suspended sky bridges and enjoy the amazing views of Lake Charlevoix from six tree-top platforms.
Backpack Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
Leave Sleeping Bear Dunes to the crowds (or when you have relatives in town) — All of my favorite outdoorswomen (as well as Backpacker Magazine) swear by Nordhouse Dunes. You can pick your campsites when out in the wilderness, but if you want water & bathrooms for $9 a night, there are somewhat developed sites at Lake Michigan Recreation Area, adjacent to the wilderness (first come, first serve).
Ride The Michigander
Named one of the "Top 10 Multi-Day Rides in America" by Bicycling Magazine, The Michigander combines beautiful trails, Great Lakes beaches, lighthouses, rivers, virgin white pines, and a healthy serving of brewpubs. It's a perfect Pure Michigan route. An ideal ride for mountain and hybrid bikes on rails-to-trails riding (also includes route for roadies). Check website for route. Two-day and six-day options in 2015. Sponsored by Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance.
Take a sled dog ride
This is definitely on my bucket list, and when I saw that Snowy Plains Sled Dogs offers a romantic dinner for two by dogsled, I had my anniversary gift nailed (shh — don't tell my husband!).
Camp & paddle on a multi-day kayak expedition
Guided trips are some of the best ways to see Michigan's beautiful natural scenery by water. Paddling Michigan offers kayak expeditions that include paddling around Pictured Rocks and Grand Island; canoe trips can be made down the Escanaba and Michigamme rivers.
Jump off a cliff (and into Lake Superior) at Black Rocks!
Black Rocks is one of Marquette’s coolest attractions, where cliff diving into the frigid Lake Superior is a true rush — or wait until the middle of August when the water reaches a balmy 60 degrees. Brrr! To get to Black Rocks, park at one of the parking lots near the tip of Presque Isle and head towards the lake, going east. In a few hundred yards you find a 15-foot cliff that drops straight down into Lake Superior. Show up on a sunny summer day in and you’ll likely share the cliff with tourists and college students.
Visit the Michigan Icefest
One of winter’s newest silent sports, ice climbing combines challenge and adventure. With miles of sandstone cliffs lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls, Michigan is home to some of the best ice climbing spots in the country. Frozen waterfalls range from 20 to 210 feet tall, where you can take in in the scenic landscape that only a Michigan winter provides. The Michigan Icefest is the best place to hone your skills and meet other ice climbers.
Where else can you find adventure in Michigan? Leave a comment below.
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Jill Hinton Wolfe