become a happy hiker

hiking/backpacking is something i’ve taken up in the last couple years. my friend estelle and i have traveled to california, north dakota, and various local places to explore our adventurous side. there’s something about packing limited supplies in a backpack that’s nearly half your size to trek through hot days and set up camp for cold nights. it’s exhilarating. BUT, it doesn’t have to be a week long hiking trip without a shower, eating nothing but dry, lightweight meals over a fire… i love day trips to state parks where i can wear a small pack and think about nothing but the birds chirping and the stream rushing. have you ever had the urge to backpack atop a mountain or hike through the local state park that you drive by every day on your way to work? now is your time! i’m going to share some tips that i wish i’d have known before going on a day/week trip, share some helpful websites full of hiking/backpacking information, and hear from  people who are seasoned and early in their hiking/backpacking career!

happy hiker helpfuls:
take a compact saw, you never know when you’ll have to cut an old log apart for your fire.
make your own fire starters. here’s how i make mine with supplies i already have [and usually throw away]: dryer lint, empty toilet paper rolls, candle wax. clump a dryer lint ball up and dip half of it in candle wax, then stick it inside a toilet paper roll! voila – you have yourself some fire starters that you don’t have to carry out!
bug spray. bugs are #1, #2, and #3 on my most disliked things in the world. i will never go into the forest without bug spray! if you have any tips on DIY bug repellant that works, PLEASE let me know! How to Choose Bug Repellant
– blister protection whether it’s New Skin, Blister tape, or extra duct tape estelle says, “blisters can ruin the trip.” Blister Protection Tips
some way to filter water. bringing enough water for an entire trip is too heavy and just silly. find a way to filter stream water and check with the park to see if there are dispersed wells. Water Treatment Expert Advice
sleeping bagquality vs. quantity. even if it’s 40+ degrees at night, i wold recommend at least a 0-15 degree sleeping bag. It may be a bit more bulky than a 15-40 degree bag but trust me, it’s worth being warm at night! How to Choose a Sleeping Bag
bring a dog.
be prepared for rain.

Q & A:
[disclaimer: i am not an expert and the information i have is from experience, online, or advice from others.]

Q: how important is it to have hiking shoes? Would regular tennis shoes work?
A: i will always prefer hiking shoes. they have more structure and ankle support for the terrain. tennis shoes are absolutely okay but if you’re serious about hiking, i would recommend hiking shoes. visit REI for help choosing hiking boots!

Q: what foods and cooking gear should I bring?
A: i have some tin bowl/cups that i use over the fire, i always bring a small stove with bleuet fuel cubes in case it rains or i don’t make a fire. one set of reusable utensils, a couple silicone collapsable bowls and a a small cast-iron skillet! as far as food goes, i don’t want to buy freeze-dried food for every meal (boring & expensive) so i bring baggies of potato flakes, oatmeal, granola, noodles, canned mushrooms, baked beans, etc.

Q: how do you find out if you can have a fire where you are hiking/backpacking? (who can tell you the rules about fire in parks/campgrounds?)
A: before going, always check out the park website – they’ll have all park rules and regulations, trail maps, facilities, etc. if you have any other questions, always call the park office/ranger to see what the fire danger is (high, medium, low) and it varies by day so be sure to call right before leaving not week(s) in advance.

what is your favorite part about hiking/backpacking/camping:
“the view, the sound or lack of sound, less humans more trees, campfire food.”
“getting away from normal routine and spending time outside.”
“personal reflection, trees, using fun gear”

find dozens of “how to choose” articles, checklists, and advice articles here at REI!

Sierra Trading Post – a discounted website for us outdoor lovers.
(it’s a branch of TJmaxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods so obviously it’s the best.)

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San Diego
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Winona, MN
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Sheyenne National Park, SD
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Winona, MN
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