"Women, books & the outdoors will save the world."
I first wrote the above sentence as Outdoor Book Club's "manifesto" back in 2015, a year and a half after I'd first stepped out onto the trail at Blandford Nature Center with 10 women, almost all of whom were strangers, on a freezing cold January day:
This photo was taken before I launched the website, before I'd met hundreds of women who also loved the outdoors and books, before I won a bunch of money to start a travel business in a 2014 business plan competition.
But the most important thing this photo represents?
The beginning of an amazing friendship with some of the women in the photo, whom I met for the first time that day.
On New Year's Resolutions
More and more, I notice people no longer set New Year's resolutions and instead pick a yearly word (or words) to live by. One friend picked the word "Adventure" a few years back, but found that 12 months of constant activity was exhausting. Not all the adventures she encountered were good ones. The next she picked joy. That seemed to work better. This year she chose “Engage.”
I love author and spiritual badass Danielle LaPorte. Whenever she comes out with a new book or planner I try to support her work through buying one, but frankly, I keep returning to her book The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals With Soul for inspiration (The Fire Starter Sessions is also really, really good.)
In the book, LaPorte suggests setting goals by how you want to feel. The feeling(s) are the goal. That way, there's room for moving and wiggling — if you want to feel “accomplished,” it doesn't really matter if you get the corner suite or lose 15 pounds, either way, you're a winner. You've reached your goal.
What does it look like in action?
Every year I have to think long and hard about which feelings I want to focus on. This year, after weeks of ruminating, I think I know what those words are. She suggests 2-4 words. I picked four words, but really they are two sets of two words; they work together.
CREATE and CONNECT
In 2015 I had to give up Outdoor Book Club, or at least the business model that I was operating it under. I couldn't do the guided trips anymore — not only did they suck the life out of me, doing all the prep, the marketing, providing the gear, agenda planning, making reservations, figuring out meals — they simply weren't profitable. I couldn't support my family emotionally or financially.
Four years later, it feels right to relaunch Outdoor Book Club as a movement. I’ve seen first hand how powerfully the combination of books and the outdoors resonates with women.
What does that mean?
It means I want to CREATE conversations around books, nature and women. And those conversations lead women to CONNECT.
Outdoor Book Club, in 2019 and beyond, needs to be about creativity and connection. If I'm not focusing on activities that do either of those things, then I know I'm focusing on the wrong things.
GRACE and GRITIn her book Grace (Eventually) Anne Lamott describes GRACE (which also happens to be my daughter's name) as "A ribbon of mountain air that gets in through the cracks.” She adds, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
I think of grace as "a proactive acceptance, love and caring for our fellow human beings — and ourselves.”
Grace often shows up in my life as:
Which brings us to GRIT.
I've been a fan of researcher Angela Duckworth's book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance for awhile — it uses actual data to help us learn how to be better people. While I can spend all my time trying to forgive myself and quiet my inner critic, I also need the grit to push through and meet my goals. Yes, it’s hard to keep pushing. No, we often don’t want to take one more exhausting step forward. But are we capable of hiking up our proverbial skirts and pushing forward anyway? Yes.
The answer is almost always yes.
Grace & grit: the peanut butter and chocolate of self-improvement.
The future of Outdoor Book Club
So if you've been with me from the beginning (and not just the beginning of this piece — though congrats if you just showed up here, started reading and are not at the end!), if you started watching or reading or following OBC way back in 2013 when I first conceived the idea, thank you. My gratitude is unbounded.
(If you actually went on a trip & endured my bumbling and scrambling event planning skills and still managed to have a great time, THANK YOU. Years later, I'm still inspired by your passion and commitment to books and the outdoors.)
If you're new around here, WELCOME. I'm so glad you're here. If you like what you see here and want to keep up with what's going on, stop by and follow/like the Outdoor Book Club Facebook page.
Here’s what you can expect going forward:
Also, what words will you be living by this year? Let me know so I can send some good vibes your way, or create something that might help you along your journey, or connect you with a person or resource that can help.
And of course I'll do it with creativity and connection; grace and grit. Because women, books & the outdoors will save the world.
Jill Hinton Wolfe
Chief Heroine, Outdoor Book Club
P.S. Please share Outdoor Book Club with a woman you love! Sign up for our newsletter, share the manifesto to your social media feed or join the online OBC community. We can't start a movement without an army of women's strength, grace and beauty behind it!
I'm taking a poll: How many of you believe in reading the book BEFORE you watch the movie? I ALWAYS believed in watching the movie first. Until recently.
Now, I think it actually makes MORE sense to save the more satisfying experience — reading the book — for last. When compared to the book, most movies are flat, boring. But something very cools happens when you watch the movie, THEN read the book: the book comes alive more fully and you're more engaged with it as you read.
Two personal examples are Game of Thrones (great series, even better books) and Dumplin by Julie Murphy. Both of them were pretty good on the screen, but once I read the books after watching them, I got pulled in with all sorts of nuance and depth that I hadn't gotten with the movie.
Just another perspective to consider.
In any case, there are a lot of great movies out there to inspire your outdoor adventures, or just inspire you to live more boldly in your everyday life. As of this posting, they were all either free or under $5.99, which is a pretty good deal for a couple hours of uplift and inspiration. Many of them I'd even encourage you to watch with your daughters.
So how do you feel about reading the book before the movie? Were there any movies I left off my list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
1. Bird Box (Netflix)
Ok, so this may not be one to watch with your kids. This is the thriller everyone was talking about around the holidays 2018. We watched this movie on Christmas Day, and it was a doozy — Sandra Bullock's character was flawed, but incredibly strong. Also starring John Malkovich, much of this thriller was filmed on the Smith River in northern California. Watch Birdbox on Netflix
2. Wild (Amazon)
This movie — and the book (Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) that inspired it — inspired a thousand women to get out on the trail and deal with their own ghosts and insecurities. Reese Witherspoon received an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Highly recommended. Watch Wild on Amazon
3. Losing Sight of Shore (Netflix)
Over nine months at sea, four women row over 8,000 miles from America to Australia. This documentary shows the beauty and disappointment that comes along with taking on a really, really big goal. It was so uplifting to see a group of strong women working together and supporting each other to reach that goal. Watch Losing Sight of Shore on Netflix
4. Maidentrip (Amazon)
A 13 year old Dutch girl sails the world by herself. Most of us can't imagine letting our daughters take on such an adventure, but watching Laura Dekker navigate the world on her sailboat is both touching and nerve-wracking. A great film to watch with your daughter. Watch Maidenhead on Amazon
5. Blood Road (Amazon Prime)
A documentary film that follows the journey of mountain biker, Rebecca Rusch, and her Vietnamese riding partner Huyen Nguyen as they bike the Ho Chi Minh trail, searching for the site where Rusch's father's plane went down during the Vietnam War. As a former mountain biker, there are few things as thrilling as watching women tear down a mountain, leaping into the air, and the emotional storyline of the movie just adds to that excitement. Watch Blood Road on Amazon
6. Intersection: Micayla Gatto (Vimeo)
Sponsored by Red Bull films, this short documentary is about a champion mountain biker who also happens to be a painter. Mountain biking + art = amazing things. Watch Intersection on Vimeo
7. Tracks (Amazon)
A young woman leaves her urban life to trek through the sprawling Australian desert with her camels. — another movie that was inspired by a book (Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback). The movie stars Adam Driver, who's one of my most favorite actors. Watch Tracks on Amazon Prime
8. The Journey of Natty Gann (Amazon)
I LOVED this movie as a kid, which probably dates me but I don't care. A girl and her wolf (YES) trek across the country during the depression in an attempt to find her father who left her behind to find work. Also stars a young John Cusak, whom I also love. Watch The Journey of Natty Gann on Amazon
9. Women In Fire (YouTube)
Ok, this isn't really a movie at seven minutes long, but if you're short on time, I highly recommend this short documentary sponsored by REI. It features women forest firefighters, and it's pretty impressive. REI Presents: Women In Fire
10. Mulan (Amazon)
Every budding feminist should watch this classic Disney film about a young Japanese girl who poses to be a man to help defend her family and her home against the invading Huns. Also, an amazing soundtrack to work out to! Watch Mulan on Netflix
What am I missing? What's your favorite inspirational film that gets you excited about camping, hiking & backpacking?
I was alone on the Manistee River Loop, rain driving hard on my tent, which was propped up with the wrong tent poles. My last-minute, makeshift campsite was perched perilously on the edge of a rushing river while thunder and lightning crashed all around me. My husband had only the vaguest idea of where I was. I had no cell phone signal, but even if I did, it wouldn't have helped me because I ran out of battery hours before. All I had was my dog, my book and no other choice but to sit and wait it out.
All because I made several mistakes that were completely avoidable.
Thank god our mistakes often end up being our biggest teachers — that night may have been the biggest learning experience of my life. What could have been a disaster actually showed me how strong I really was.
BUT that doesn't mean you can't avoid the same stupid, rookie mistakes I made. I don't want you to suffer the same kind experience needlessly! (Trust me, you'll have plenty of your own suffering to navigate on the trail, one way or another — but in some ways, that's why we do it, right?). So here are nine mistakes to avoid that will help you feel more comfortable, more safe and more capable while hiking (especially if you hike alone).
1. Break in your shoes.
I’ve struggled my whole life with finding the right hiking boots or shoes. Come to find out, experts recommend that you buy your shoes a half or whole size bigger than your normal shoe size. Although normally I wear a size 10, I just bought a new pair of Oboz Bridgers in a size 11 (that’s right, I’ve got giant feet) and it seems to have made an enormous difference. Apparently your feet can swell, especially in the afternoon and/or second half of your hike, so getting them a bit bigger significantly reduces wear & tear on your toes & heels.
That being said, when I was backpacking Isle Royale with six other women in 2014, I noticed that the women with the fewest blisters (and I had A LOT of blisters!) were those who wore running shoes. Hiking boots can often be heavy and clunky, so it just may be that your feet do better in running shoes than hiking boots. This may be especially true for shorter hikes. Experiment and see what works for you.
Whatever you do, do NOT wear new shoes or boots when going on a long hike! Recovering from blisters and lost toenails takes too long, so wear your new kicks first around the house or on a few dog walks before taking them out on the trail.
2. Dress like a rockstar.
And I don't mean leather pants. Instead, layering plenty of Lycra and poly-blend materials will definitely keep you more comfortable on the trail. For those of us who suffer from chafing or sweaty boobs and thighs, this rule is huge. Leave behind your heavy denim jeans and cotton bras. You need synthetic fabrics to be comfortable.
Synthetic materials allow your sweat to be “wicked” away from your body (apparently clothing is the only time anyone uses the word “wick”). Otherwise you’ll be peeling your clammy, sweat-soaked clothes off your body, and no one wants that. Plus it’s just unhygienic. Sweaty clothes stuck to your skin is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
When I was first starting out, I found it helpful to hear what other women recommended, so here is what I wear: I really like these leggings (with pockets!) for hiking, along with a “technical” short or long-sleeve t-shirt and a merino wool pullover. My clothes are dry and breathable so now I can focus on enjoying the woods and looking for wildlife, not how uncomfortable my butt feels in sweaty underwear (make sure those are synthetic as well!).
Finally, dressing in layers goes without saying; if you get hot, you can always tie a jacket around your waist or get some nifty convertible hiking pants where you unzip the legs to instantly create shorts. You’re not going to win any beauty pageants in those babies, but that’s kinda the whole point of being out on the trail, right?
3. Drink like a fish (i.e. water!)
Water is heavy but you cannot hike without it. It’s tempting to just leave it in the car or think that you’ll take a big swig after your hike when you get home, but staying hydrated on the trail means hiking longer and enjoying it more. If you need to, add fresh fruit or a powdered supplement like Nuun, but whatever you do, don’t leave home without just a bit more water than you think you'll need. The general rule is 2 cups (about 1/2 liter) of water for every 1 hour of hiking.
4. Avoid swamp butt.
I’m not one to beat around the bush (literally or figuratively!) — so I’ll just jump right in: Pack tissues in case you have to blow your nose or end up having to pee in the woods, which is a whole other topic. Bring a plastic baggie with you (I find doggy cleanup bags to be perfect for this) so you can pack out your trash. Even if there are restrooms at the trailhead, often they aren’t well stocked. Better to bring your own TP then have to do without (gross).
Pro tip: Wear a panty liner when you go hiking. My friend Laurel calls these her “piddle pads.” Basically you just pee, pull up your pants and let the panty liner catch any drips. Then when you get back to civilization, you can toss the liner in the trash. No need for toilet paper or packing out any gross garbage!
I also keep a small travel sized bottle of baby powder in my pack, and sprinkle some in my sweaty places about halfway through the hike. It’s also good to put in shoes when you start feeling a hotspot on your feet (hotspots = precursors to blisters).
5. Give a shoutout to your bestie.
It may seem silly if you’re doing a hike you’ve done a million times, but especially if you’re going alone, you need to give someone a heads up where you’re going and when you expect to be back. I have hiking friends who are perfect for this — when I send them a quick text about what trail I’m doing and how long I plan to be doing it, they don’t think I’m being weird or overly cautious; in fact, they always give me a friendly thumbs up or digital hug. It keeps us both inspired to do more activities outdoors.
6. Bring an ACTUAL map.
This was the biggest mistake I made on the Manistee River Loop, and I was very lucky that I didn’t get into more serious trouble. Thank god I did have my dog Howie with me, because I was stuck in that misshapen tent for over 12 hours (bringing the wrong poles for the rain fly was another TOTALLY BUSH LEAGUE mistake — not checking your equipment before you head out into the wilderness).
Your phone will NOT cut it as a navigational device — you should only use it as a backup.
You can guess what happened: First I lost my signal, and then my phone ran out of battery. I ended up being stuck in the woods, during a raging thunderstorm, for a whole other day, completely lost (I missed the path back to the campground where my car was parked). Anyone who's ever hiked that trail (and in Michigan, pretty much everyone who backpacks has at least heard of the loop) would probably scratch their heads at how someone would get lost on that trail, but yep, I managed to do it.
In contrast, on Isle Royale my friend Donna had the foresight to bring the excellent National Geographic Isle Royale map It allowed us to make much better decisions about how far we wanted to go, and which route we would take. Highly recommended if you plan to visit the island.
Print out your maps, even if they're crappy maps you print off the internet. It makes a HUGE difference in how much you enjoy hiking.
7. Set a turn back time.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, enjoying nature and contemplating the mysteries of life. But it’s a good idea to know ahead of time at what point you plan to turn around and come home. Otherwise, you might be tempted to keep going just another 15 minutes, and then another, and before you know it, you’re hiking back in the dark (which is scary as hell).
Plan your hike & hike your plan. Know when to quit and start heading back to safety before it’s too late.
8. Bring your sun hat & rain skirt.
On that fateful Manistee River Loop trip, I should have known better that the weather was going to turn back; I just got so excited about taking my first solo backpacking trip I didn’t really think to check the day AFTER I was supposed to be coming back. My boots were soaked in the rain, which caused some pretty nasty blisters. And it was just emotionally exhausting to be stuck in a tent in a thunderstorm for 12+ hours with nothing but your dog and your Kindle (yes I bring my device on the trail — I would have a hard time backpacking without it!).
Same goes for sunny weather — bring your sunscreen and hat in your hiking pack so you don’t come back with a peeling face. One of my favorite pieces of gear is the sunhat that my ex-husband brought back from the Army 20+ years ago, and I have no idea where he got it. Helps keep the ticks away too!
PRO TIP: One of the best tips I got this year was purchasing my rain skirt (or kilt, of you're into adhering to standard gender norms)— it's SO AWESOME. Not bulky of stifling like rain pants, plus it doubles as a table cloth or a small tarp that you can sit on if the ground is wet. You can pee much easier in a skirt, and you could even use it as a makeshift pack cover. I take it travelling with me now wherever I go, even when I'm not camping, because it packs down so small and is so handy when the weather takes a rainy turn.
Takeaway: you may have checked the weather yesterday, but be sure to check right before you leave as well. Things can change a lot in 24 hours (or even less).
9. Enjoy your view.
It’s easy to get caught up in the gear, the map, the turn back times, the snacks (bonus mistake: packing too much food) — but don’t forget the whole reason you’re outside hiking in the first place: to get some much-needed nature time. Look up! Notice how the sunlight falls through the trees, how the leaves sound underfoot, the way the water sparkles and the sound of the waves lapping gently at the shore. Enjoy hiking. Enjoy the hell out of it.
What hiking mistakes have you made in the past? Share the knowledge in the comments and help keep some other woman from suffering the same fate as you!
*Guest post by OBC intern Victoria
My parents were never considered the “outdoorsy” type. Our vacations consisted of Disney World, The Wisconsin Dells, beach towns down south, Jamaica, and relaxing on cruise ships for weeks at a time. Since going to college, I’ve realized many families are like this — so I wasn’t alone. With the “standard” vacations and time out of the Midwest, there was a huge part of Michigan that we were all missing: The Upper Peninsula.
For anyone who is unaware of what the Upper Peninsula is (like I was five years ago), we can jump into a mini geography lesson. Michigan consists of two major peninsulas — one that looks like a mitten, and another that is north of there. Typically the Upper Peninsula is forgotten about in trendy t-shirts or other memorabilia but it’s the main part of what makes this state so great.
With that being said, here are six places in the upper peninsula you need to drop everything and see as soon as possible.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Unfortunately, I wasn’t exposed to images of Pictured Rocks until college — I had no idea a place like this ever existed in Michigan. I finally made my first trip there summer of 2015 with a group of friends and later returned summer of 2016 to hike the whole shoreline. There are many things you can do in order to experience this natural beauty. There are kayak tours, sunset cruises, boat rentals, hikes and more. My preferred way of seeing the rocks is to hike the “Chapel” route. This hike is perfect for those who are getting their toes wet in the day-hike universe. I recommend bringing snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, long pants, shorts, and comfortable shoes. Regardless of how you choose to view this national park, it will leave you breathless.
Sugarloaf Mountain is one of my favorite places in the Upper Peninsula — once you make it to the top (the challenging part) you can see all the way to Lake Superior. Luckily, Sugarloaf is around twenty minutes outside of Marquette. So, after you’re done climbing up twenty flights of stairs you can enjoy a cold beer at Black Rocks Brewing Company or Ore Dock.
Fayette Historic Townsite
Fayette is an amazingly preserved historical landmark located in the southern region on the Garden peninsula. Fayette was once a community based on coal and iron manufacturing in the mid-1860’s until the 1890’s. The town was built right on the shore of Lake Michigan with large limestone cliffs surrounding it. There are many preserved houses and businesses that are free to roam. Fayette is great for anyone who loves a glimpse into Michigan’s historical past.
Marquette is easily one of my favorite cities in the state of Michigan. Marquette is your typical U.P. town — there are plenty of breweries, restaurants, shops, and sights to see (Sugarloaf Mountain as an example). Since Marquette is home to Northern Michigan University, there is always something happening around town. Usually it includes hammocking next to Lake Superior, jumping off Black Rocks, or kayaking around the shoreline — there’s always something exciting going on!
Kitch-iti-kipi (Big Spring)
The Big Spring is located just outside of Manistique, Michigan. Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. When you visit the spring you get on a wooden boat that brings you out into the middle so you are able to get a better view of the water gushing out of the fissures below. Every time I visit the Kitch-iti-kipi it never gets out! After visiting, I recommend grabbing dinner and a beer at The Big Spring Inn!
What did I miss? Leave your favorite UP activity in the comments below!
Editor's note: This blog post was written by Outdoor Book Club intern Victoria Walenga
Since millennials have entered the workforce they’ve been characterized as lazy, ungrateful, negative, and unmotivated. We’ve all heard it before — stories featuring millennials have been all over CNN, Fortune, and even The Guardian for the past few years. While these articles have been plastered all over social media millennials have rapidly taken over yet another valued space: the outdoors.
According to the results of the 2017 North American Camping Report, millennials are venturing into the outdoors more than ever before. Out of the total campers (around 75 million), millennials make up 38 percent, and 51 percent of millennials vow that they are going to increase their time outdoors just this year.
Comparing this research to my personal experience being an outdoorsy millennial reinforces the idea that we value freedom, adventure and being with others. For me, being outdoors is important because it allows you to have moments of clarity you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Millennials Are Taking Over the Great Outdoors
Based on my personal experience and research from the 2017 North American Camping Report, I have put together four highlights most people don’t know about outdoorsy millennials:
Are you a millennial? How do you feel about the outdoors? Comment below or tell us what you think on our Facebook page!
Editor's note: This blog post was written by Outdoor Book Club intern Victoria Walenga
At Outdoor Book Club, we believe there’s no better combination in the summer than wine, a good book, and some free time. With summer comes more social gatherings where you might want to impress your friends. This time you won’t be sipping whatever you have in the wine cabinet. Your wine will have a pairing purpose because it goes with your favorite book. But with so many books — and so many wines — to choose from how do you know which ones to try next?
Comedy / Funny Memoirs
If some of your favorite books are written by authors like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Issa Rae, Mindy Kaling or Amy Schumer, this is the wine you should pair with your next summer read:
Dark / Serious / Mystery / Murder / Scary
If you’re a dark, thrilling, mystery book connoisseur with favorite titles such as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, The Shining, Doctor Sleep, or Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, these are the wines you should pick up the next time you’re at the store:
Who doesn’t love the classics? If your favorite books include The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies, then this wine is for you:
I must admit, I am a sucker for all things romantic. If some of your tried and true books include anything from Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, T.S. Krupa, or Jane Austen then here’s the wine for you:
Uplifting / Inspirational / Self-Help
Last but not least, if you’re an avid reader of life-changing inspirational books that tend to revise your outlook on life, then here’s the perfect pairing for you:
Family secrets. Romance. Nazis. What else could one ask for in a sweeping, epic novel set in France?
[For the record, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah has nothing to do with Florence Nightingale, the famous nurse who basically invented modern nursing — just in case you're as goofy as I am.] It's the story of two sisters during World War II France who, while struggling with the death of their mother and the abandonment of their father, join the French resistance. It's an often brutal novel that explores themes of family obligation, patriotism, courage and redemption along the way.
I'm a bit of a World War II buff. My paternal grandfather fought in Germany as an artillery man, and my maternal grandfather drove skiff boats in the Pacific. I've seen the movies, read a lot of books and watched the miniseries. I know a lot about World War II.
[SPOILER ALERT — also, affiliate link alert. If you click on some of the links in this post, your purchase will go towards supporting Outdoor Book Club (which we're deeply grateful for).]
Except it turns out I didn't really know much about one really important aspect of the war — the German occupation of France. Before I read The Nightingale, the most I knew about the French in WWII was a particularly memorable line from The Simpson's. After reading this book, I feel like I know not only how the war affected French people as a whole, but specifically how it affected the women who were left behind when the men left to fight (and eventually got captured and thrown in prison camps).
Why I liked the book
As much as I complain about not having enough time to read long, sweeping historical novels, I love me an epic tale. This book had a lot going for it: Romance, intrigue, spies, Nazis and sassy women. I liked a lot of the complicated nature of many of the male characters as well.
It's worth mentioning that a lot of other reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon said they cried at this book — personally I'm not a big crier, but this did manage to tug at my heartstrings more than normal.
I found it fascinating how the author portrayed the lives of these French women: how they fought to survive without their men, what they did to try and save others who were less fortunate, how they
compromised in order to make things easier for their children. Reading this book, I asked myself the same question over and over again: what would I do in the same situation? Which of course makes it a great pick for book clubs.
There's also a nice little twist that runs through the story — I won't give it away, but I thought it was well-executed. These days it can be hard to really pull of plot twists well (we're all so jaded), but Hannah manages to do it in The Nightingale.
What I didn't like
There weren't a lot of cons to this book. I sometimes wished the author had added the same level of complexity to the female protagonists as she did to some of the male characters (especially to the younger sister, who I felt often came across as a sort of cartoon-character tomboy). The writing overall flowed, though several members of my book club couldn't help compare the writing to All the Light We Cannot See, another book set during WWII, and found it lacking (though they did admit the writing in the latter was superb and would be hard for anyone to beat).
The Nightingale manages to combine family dynamics, history, romance and tragedy in a way that feels deeply meaningful yet is still a page-turning thriller (at parts). It offers plenty of thorny issues to discuss and reflect on as a book discussion pick, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a solid, emotional novel that centers around family, history and hard choices.
Did you read the book? I'm interested to know what you thought. Leave your comments about The Nightengale in the comments below.
A lightweight tent will protect you from the elements and allow you to get a good night’s sleep. Some hardcore backpackers use a hammock made especially for sleeping (something I've been meaning to try for awhile now), or a few hardcore backpackers prefer basically a tarp or what’s called a bivvy sack.
If you’re new to backpacking, I suggest borrowing or renting a tent to gauge your preferences before you shell out the money for a new tent. Or, if you’re just going out for a night or two to see if you even like backpacking, just bring whatever you’ve already got.
What to look for
When you are ready to purchase a tent, it’s helpful to keep two things in mind: The weather and your priorities (i.e. size, weight and cost). Other factors might include how easy it is to set up, and possibly any bells and whistles you might want (tent lights, anyone?).
For purely weight reasons, you’ll want a tent that is specific to backpacking — they are lighter than regular "car camping" tents and come in sizes based on the number of people they can hold. Manufacturers tend to name their tents with a number (i.e. the Nemo Kunai 2P or the Alps Zephr 3).
Personally, I use a Eureka! Solitaire when I’m backpacking by myself or an ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 3 when I’m sharing a tent with someone else.
*Important: With a backpacking tent usually you can count on the tent holding only as many people as it says — often the manufacturers don’t leave room for gear. Thus the reason I have a three person tent is so that me, my husband and our gear (and often a dog) can sleep comfortably within its walls.
It's best to try out the tent in person by visiting stores that physically have the tents you’re interested in buying. That being said, both of my tents I bought sight unseen from the internet, but since the reviews were so good, I figured I was pretty safe from a regrettable purchase.
How much should it weigh?
A good rule of thumb is to keep the weight to less than three pounds per person — and anything less than that is fantastic, though keep in mind that your lower-weight tents are going to be noticeably less roomy. With a solo tent, it’s good to keep the weight to 2-3 pounds. Two people tents are usually around 3-5 pounds (but can go as high as 6 and as low a 1 pound).
How much should I pay?
You can get away with paying around $100 for a good two-person tent, or upwards of $2,000 (it turns out that roughing it is an expensive hobby). The bigger the pricetag, the lower the weight and the more bells and whistles the tent will have (generally speaking).
How tough should my tent be?
Most backpackers, especially those who only go once or twice a year, only need a three season tent which will be sufficient keep you warm and dry from spring until fall. Of course there are various options depending on the climate where you’re traveling — for instance, it’s nice to have a rainfly you can remove to look up at the stars if you’re camping someplace dry.
NOTE: Some people think they need to waterproof their new tent with special sprays — be forewarned, it’s not necessary and may even damage your tent. In order to keep you dry, your tent needs to have some breathability, otherwise the condensation gets trapped inside and that equals misery. Some people like to waterproof the seams of their tents, especially if the tent is getting worn, but for most new tents it’s not necessary.
Do I need a footprint?
A footprint is a ground cloth that’s custom cut to the size of your tent. It’s supposed to protect your floor from rips and tears. My personal opinion? Leave ‘em at home. They just add extra weight, and most tents are plenty durable if you pick the right spot to set them up.
TIP: ALWAYS PRACTICE SETTING UP YOUR TENT AT HOME BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT. Even if you’ve had the tent for awhile and used it several times, make sure you set it up, air it out and check to see if there are any holes or missing tent poles or stakes. I once went out on a three day backpacking trip missing a tent pole, and it poured rain. It worked just well enough to keep me basically dry, but I was pretty much pinned to the ground the entire night, and I had to closely watch the roof so that the water didn’t pool too much.
How to pack your tent in your backpack
It's likely that your tent is going to be, from a volume standpoint, one of the biggest items in your pack. Every backpack is different, and you'll have to do some experimenting to find out all the different pockets, straps and options you have with your pack, but basically you have two options as to where you can store your tent: either inside or outside your pack.
If you place it outside your pack, you'll have easy access to it in case of bad weather, but you'll also leave it open to snags and tears (this is rare, but it does happen). If you do have room in your backpack, you can compress the tent as much as possible — a lot of people use stuff sacks to protect and help compress the tent down, which can really help make more room in your pack for things like food — and then place it near the middle of the pack. Try to place it where it will be closer to your body, where it's more firm and closer to your center of mass. You can either roll up the fly and footprint (if you have them) inside your tent, or store them separately outside.
Strap your tent poles to the outside, either vertically near your water bottle or horizontally at the top or bottom of your pack. This will keep them from puncturing your tent or sleeping bag.
How to find the best spot to pitch your tent
Other tent tips:
If you choose well, your tent will serve you well for many years, and you'll come to have a certain affection for it. It kept you dry, was your home base for some exciting adventures. What other tips or questions do you have for tent buying? Leave them in the comments and we'll do our best to answer them.
Recently while driving my son to school we were listening to the podcast version of NPR's TED Radio hour. If you haven't yet listened to this show, I highly recommend it. They take 2-4 TED talks and condense them into an hour with a theme, like "7 Deadly Sins" and "Animals & Us," and delve deeper with the presenters during interviews. It's one of the most fascinating, educational and entertaining hours of my week. You should check it out.
The talk we were listening to was called "The Fountain of Youth," and the first TED Talk was Dan Buettner's How to Live to be 100. I'd highly recommend listening to the talk, but here's the gist: there are seven areas of the world where, on average, people live longer. Buettner calls these areas "Blue Zones."
What I found most interesting about Buettner's talk was the list of things that all seven of these areas have in common — basic lifestyle choices that make life better and increase longevity for the people who live there. Their lifestyles almost always include:
What struck me the most was that all these lifestyle elements are embodied by book-loving outdoorswomen. We move our bodies in ways that feel both purposeful and natural. Reading allows us to have a purpose and reduce stress. Often on our outings we celebrate the end of a hike with wine (and our potlucks are a smorgasboard of healthy, vegetarian meals). And of course we are a community, a tribe of like-minded women who support and encourage each other.
Another reason I was so struck by this talk was because I just recently conducted a survey of women that asked them about how much fun they have in their lives (a subjective term, I realize, but I decided everyone can define fun and play in whatever ways they like).
The results were incredibly depressing.
So many of these women said that they don't have time to get outside, try new things or hang out with their girlfriends. Almost as many said that even when they do make time, they feel guilty for doing so. Why? Why do we feel the need to deprive ourselves for others' sake, especially when it's clear that others don't ask us to do it? What is it about playing the martyr that keeps us from living a longer, more meaningful life?
If you're a woman who can relate to feeling like you don't have the time to move your body, connect with other women and basically just live a more balanced life, I'd encourage you to create your own "blue zone." Find ways to move naturally. Create a purpose in your life — maybe that's being part of a larger community. Have a drink with friends over a vegetarian meal.
When I was in the Army, we used to make a joke whenever someone wanted to stop doing a job they hated: "Hey, Johnson, tell your first sergeant I said to take the day off." (Obviously first sergeants as a rule don't give a damn about who lesser-ranking soldiers think deserve a day off.)
Hey lady: tell that tired, guilt-ridden voice in your head I said to take the day off. Ignore your inner first sergeant and make a conscious decision to create your own personal blue zone: Stop doing things that will shorten your life and make it misreable, and start making time for the things that will enable you to enjoy a long, meaningful life filled with friends, movement and being outdoors.
Guys. What are you going to do with them? You want them to be safe, but maybe they aren't quite prepared for the worst. The women of Outdoor Book Club want to make sure our favorite fellas are safe when they're out wandering around the great outdoors. Here's a list of tips you can give your boyfriend/husband/life partner/favorite dude in case he gets lost in the woods, and can't find his way home:
Before he leaves
Make sure he tells someone where he'll be
I get it — your guy doesn't want to look incompetent, and so rather than bother someone with a text or phone call, he'll just head out and not annoy anyone with his personal safety. But if he doesn't do this one very important thing, your boyfriend's chances of being safely rescued in an emergency are significantly diminished.
Not to mention that he'll have to deal with your annoyance and I-told-you-so looks after the search and rescue team drops him back off at your house.
Have him do his research
Your guy needs to know beforehand exactly where he's going, how long he'll be there and what potential hazards exist. Besides studying the area and his routes before he leaves, he MUST bring a hard copy map with him as well. Having a phone with GPS is handy, but phones run out of battery, especially when he's taking selfies out in the woods (all the while his phone is constantly searching for a signal that's not there). A paper map could be the difference between him spending a little extra time on the trail than he had planned, and you calling out a full search and rescue team to go find him.
Food: before & during
Have him eat a healthy, filling meal before he goes out into the wilderness, and have him pack emergency energy bars or trail mix in his fanny pack (he's got a fanny pack, right?). No "light" rice crackers or other low-calorie meals to help him keep his waist trim; this is the wilderness, he'll need as much fuel as possible if he gets lost!
Assemble an emergency pack for him
Speaking of emergency pack, there are a few other things he'll need if he gets lost. Now he may find a fire steel, space blanket, water purifying tablets, signaling mirrors, a first kit and a whistle intimidating, but teach him what these things are and how to use them. Even if he just plans to go out for a couple of hours, he should always bring an emergency survival kit.
Surviving in the woods
If he either ignored your advice or perhaps circumstances beyond his control caused him to really get lost in the woods, there are a few things he can do to 1) help get found and 2) stay relatively comfortable until he does get found.
Assess the situation
Once he figures out he's seriously lost, teach your man to stay put. That will not only increase his chances of being found, but it will conserve his precious energy. If he's with one of his guy friends, THEY SHOULD NOT SPLIT UP. It's likely that someone will come looking for them both, and it's better to find them both at once instead of taking on exponentially more risk by having to search for two lost guys.
Wherever he's decided to hunker down, that will be his "point zero," which he should mark with some clothing, a pile of rocks or anything else easily seen from a distance. He should also figure out the directions: the sun sets in the west, rises in the east, etc. If you can teach him how to spot the North Star in the backyard before he gets lost, that would prove invaluable in a lost-in-the-wilderness situation.
Find a good source of water
Your man can survive up to three days without water, but by the end of day two he'll be seriously hurting. Springs are the best sources of water, but those are hard to come by. He should've brought plenty of water with him for the hike, but if not, he should ration it as much as possible. If he runs out, a running stream is his best bet for reducing sediment and harmful bacteria. Other options include having him pack a small bottle of household bleach (empty eye drop bottles work well for this) in his emergency kit and add a few drops to his water bottle, or even filtering the water through a bandana (this won't do anything about bacteria).
But in a life-or-death situation with no water, he may just have to risk the giardia-induced diarhea that will show up a few weeks after he's rescued and drink whatever water is available.
Unless he knows what he's doing (and let's face it, if you're having this talk with him he probably doesn't), it's probably best that your man not eat anything that he doesn't know is safe. He can survive up to three weeks without food, so starvation is less of an issue than dehydration. He may be totally grossed out by the idea, but grasshoppers and grubs can provide protein in dire situations — but he should cook them, because sometimes insects can harbor harmful parasites.
Build a fire
Building a fire is both a skill and an art, and I think it's something that everyone should learn how to do (like swimming). He should gather plenty of firewood, and start the fire before he needs it — like before he panics as the sun sets. This will not only make him feel safe, it will also possibly act as a signal to rescuers. That being said, he should keep it small (big fires take more firewood & are harder to manage), and only build a fire in a place where it's safe to do so.
Find or build a shelter
It's going to likely get cold at night. Hopefully your man brought a sweatshirt, but if not, the woods has lots of options to make shelters. He can find a fallen or leaning tree, and create an A-frame shelter by stacking branches along the side (and insulating with leaves). If it's winter, a snow cave can actually be quite cozy, provided you don't use too much energy building it and exhaust yourself.
With just a little education and a well-stocked emergency bag, your man will do just fine lost in the wilderness. Good thing he's got such an awesome girlfriend/wife/life partner to give him the knowledge he needs to survive!
What skills or tips have you given your man if he gets lost in the woods? Share them in the comments below.
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
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