Tag Archives | Trekking

Camping tent overlooking fog on a mountain

3 Camping Tips for Maximum Outdoor Comfort

Some camping tips can be over the top. When really heading to the hills on a camping trip is all about getting back to basics; leaving the strain of the modern world behind and decompressing among Mother Nature’s glorious bounty. No screens, no deadlines, no 24-hour news cycle. Just you, your friends, your backpacks, and the wilderness. Pure simplicity. That’s why we love it.

That said, there’s a lot of unnecessary machismo around camping. Some people seem to think that camping has to involve at least a little bit of suffering. And if it doesn’t, you’re not doing it right. But I, for one, don’t subscribe to these theory. I love getting back to basics, I love being one with nature but I also love being comfortable, warm, and safe. And what do you know? It is possible to have it all.

Orange camping tent lit up at night in the dark wilderness

Here 3 camping tips for maintaining maximum comfort

(without breaking the bank or spoiling the adventure):

1. Don’t skimp on your gear

Even if you’re sleeping on a Caribbean beach, the key to camping is all about being prepared for the conditions. When you’re out in the hills and the sun falls below the trees, the night can get cold quickly. That’s why the first of our camping tips is about investing in good gear.

I know camping can seem like an expensive hobby, but that’s only true when you take a short-term approach. A good multi-season sleeping bag might cost you well over $100, which sounds expensive. But if you look after it well there is absolutely no reason it won’t last you for years and years.

And if having a comfortable sleeping bag means you spend more nights camping on your holiday than sleeping in hotels, then return on investment is a easy to see. You will easily make that money back in a night or two.

View looking at the woods from inside a tent with a sleeping bag

The same goes for a solid, well-made tent. Obviously a tent fit for purpose is going to cost a little bit more initially compared to a festival tent you might find in the bargain bin at a gas station. But when it comes to longevity there is no competition. I’ve had tents that have lasted longer than some marriages!

Camping is definitely one of those pastimes where spending a little more initially can pay big dividends down the road. And in most cases we’re only talking about a little bit more money for better quality. The difference between a standard sleeping bag and a good one is pretty much the cost of a meal out. Stay in this weekend, have a sandwich, and spend the savings on good gear that can go with you practically anywhere.

2. Think of your sleep

Nothing can ruin a camping trip quite like a sleepless night spent tossing and turning. Not only will that evening be spoiled but so will the following day. You’ll have bags under your eyes bigger than a sleeping bag and likely be so grumpy that fellow campers will secretly hope you become a bear snack! More important, when you’re tired you’re more prone to make mistakes, lose your footing, or get injured.

So getting sufficient sleep in the woods is not only for the benefit of your enjoyment, it’s also a health and safety issue. Fortunately, I have camping tips for that too. And the good news is there are a heap of things you can do to improve your odds of getting a good night’s rest when camping. I recommend you start by bringing something comfortable to sleep on.

Sleeping bag and pad next to a tent at sunrise

It sounds completely obvious but you’d be surprised by how many first timers show up with a wimpy grocery store roll mat. You’re sure to impress no one, least of all your back, by sleeping on one of those underwhelming pads. Camping technology has come along way, and now you can find lightweight roll mats and air beds to match any style of camping, from extreme backcountry to glamping.

If you already have an inflatable bed and find that’s not the most comfortable, then have a look at this handy guide on what you can do to primp it up before you pump it up.

3. Always stay dry

This is possibly the most important of my camping tips. Can you imagine being more uncomfortable than when you’re deep in the woods, realizing every single piece of clothing you have is wet? It might not be a problem during the day when  sunshine and body heat is working in your favor but when you lay down at night, however, things are going to get cold quick.

The solution is to always have an extra pair of dry clothes to change into at night. But don’t just trust that your backpack will keep clothes dry either. Most backpacks are not 100% waterproof, so you’ll be in trouble if the heavens open or you somehow drop your bag in the creek. It happens. More than you think.

Person crossing a clear river in their camping gear

Instead dry sack or even just a sturdy reusable bag to protect the clothes you’re not wearing. And always, always, change for bed. Even if your clothes don’t feel damp, they usually hold at least a little bit of your own sweat. As night falls, this moisture will evaporate and your body temperature can plummet. It’s definitely worth the extra effort to bring a change of clothes to make sure you stay dry and warm!

And there you have it, camping fans–three camping tips to improve your comfort and safety during your next camping trip. Remember the woods are fun, but they also demand our respect. Conditions can change quickly, and it’s up to you to be prepared. All you need is good gear and a sensible head on your shoulders.

What are your favorite camping tips for enjoying the great outdoors?


About the Author: Sarah Cummings is a freelance writer. When she’s not writing about sleep or practising yoga on the beach, you can find her hiking to new camping spots. She and her family are definitely adrenalin junkies who love nothing more than spending time in the Great Outdoors!

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Hiking torres del paine 5

Hiking Torres Del Paine: What to Know Before You Go

There’s something undeniably special about long multi-day treks through nature. They revitalize our souls in a way few things can. They offer us a different way of understanding a place, moving slowly, really taking a scene in with all of your senses.

I personally have hiked mountains in Ethiopia, and thru-hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier. I’ve hiked the length of small islands and the coast of Portugal. Each of these places left an impression on me that I wouldn’t have gotten through the glass of a car window. It’s no wonder I was called to Torres Del Paine National Park deep in the heart of Patagonia-often deemed the best place to hike in the world.

I chose to hike the Torres del Paine full circuit with the great outift over at Erratic Rock. While guides are not required for any of the treks in Torres Del Paine, and, yeah, I could have handled this trek on my own, going with a guide turned out to be an excellent decision. In retrospect, it made the whole experience more enjoyable overall (much more on that below!).

What to Know Before Hiking Torres del Paine:

Unpredictable Weather:

Want to be laughed at in Patagonia? Ask a local what the weather is going to be like for the next week. The term “four seasons in a day” doesn’t even seem to do this place justice. During the trek we experienced everything from beautiful 80 degree sunshine to driving sideways rain, 85 mph (you read that right) winds to a white out blizzard. Oftentimes it was as if the rain and the wind were at war with each other; just after the rain soaks everything in it’s path, a strong gust of wind out of Antarctica blows through drying everything within reach.

Crazy weather and wind on the trail

Crazy weather and wind on the trail

The crazy weather made it an authentic Patagonian experience. It’s also why going with a knowledgeable guide proved to be truly important when it came to our itinerary. The night before setting off, he adjusted our starting point to ensure we would go over the John Gardner Pass on a good day (avoiding the snow and sleet storm that seemed imminent in the coming week). As a result we had a wonderful day with spectacular views of Glaciar Grey from the the top of the pass.  Going over the pass with visibility for miles in every direction made comprehending the sheer size of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field a possibility.

Top of John Gardner Pass

Top of John Gardner Pass

Gear Necessities:

The Torres del Paine trek, more than any I’ve ever done before, required the right kind of gear for the trail. Many of the campsites provided little protection from the elements, and it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see someone’s tent take flight with the caracara birds in the area. The high quality four-season tents provided by Erratic Rock kept me warm on nights when the temperature dropped well below freezing. More importantly, the tent stayed stationary when the strong winds fought to carry them along.

Hiking torres del paine 2 Tough tents were not the only necessity, though. “I always thought trekking poles were for the senior citizens going for slow walks next to the beach,” thought Nick, one of six in my hiking group. It’s fair to say his opinion had changed thoroughly by the end of our circuit. With a full pack on your back, trekking poles support your knee and hip joints on the steep declines throughout the hike. More importantly, they acted as stability when we found ourselves on the narrow trails on the sides of mountains and the aforementioned wind gusts did their best to try and knock us off our feet.

Quick-drying base layers, waterproof outer gear, warm layers for the cold nights, dry bags for your electronics, and the low-tech but extremely effective trash bag around your sleeping bag and dry clothes inside your pack are all highly recommended as well!

Crowd Control:

One of the many advantages to doing the full circuit instead of just the extremely popular W trek is that the crowds on the backside of the park were much more manageable. As soon as we hit the W portion of the trek, the number of people fighting for trail space, tent space, and cooking space was much greater. At present, there is no limit to the number of people that can trek each day, and it’s understandable that people are coming from all around the world for the special experience here.

Hiking above Glaciar Gray

Hiking above Glaciar Gray

Again, here is where going with a guide proved to be well worth it. There were days where we spent more time exploring, and there were days when we hustled to make camp earlier in the day. After witnessing about 100 people sleeping head-to-toe on the cooking area floor because there was no room for their tents, the hustle to the Campamento Los Cuernos completely made sense.

While the crowds were a hassle in camp, on the trail most people were very courteous and friendly, realizing and respecting that everyone was there for the wonderful experience with nature.

Science Class:

Trekking in Torres Del Paine felt like my high school Earth Science class had come to life. Martian-shaped lenticular clouds that would have been at home in the sky of a Dali painting floated overhead. Weather systems traced mountain ranges and changed so quickly it was like watching a movie in fast-forward. The sheer size of Glaciar Gray suddenly made it easy to understand how glacial erosion works. The towers made of granite remain where the overlying sedimentary rock layer has been completely eroded away.

torresdelpainetowers

Torres del paine towers

I peppered Koen, our wonderful guide, with question after question about how this amazing place at the end of the world had been formed. He patiently answered all of my questions, and suddenly all those Science classes of my past became extremely relevant and equally fascinating.

We also talked extensively about how the massive glaciers were receding. Tree lines on La Isla reveal just how far Glaciar Gray has receded in only about five years’ time. It’s one thing to think about the theory of climate change and another entirely to see it personally. Despite already knowing the overwhelming importance of its effects and the pressures to reduce them, seeing such jolting evidence in real time left an impression I will never forget.

Trekking Torres Del Paine 6

With all it has to offer, Patagonia always held an air of fascination for me, and this is one of those trips that truly outpaced all expectations I had. A big thanks to Erratic Rock for organizing this wonderful excursion – one I hope to revisit before long.

 

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Rota Vicentina, Portugal

Hike Portugal on The Rota Vicentina

It goes without saying that the European continent has a lot to offer a traveler. Portugal, in particular, though one of the smaller countries, has a vast array of tourist attractions. Sometimes lovingly labeled as the California of Europe, the west coast similarities can be striking. Lisbon, for example, is built on hills and touts a big red bridge, much like the famous Golden Gate of San Francisco. Meanwhile the surrounding beaches, and the people who flock to them, are as colorful as they are beautiful.

Portuguese Coast along the Rota Vicentina

Portuguese Coast while hiking along the Rota Vicentina

Hike Portugal

Since one could argue that all cities are alike in some ways, touring rural locales, like by hiking the Rota Vicentina, is an ideal way to explore the country’s true beauty. A relatively new trail, the Rota Vicentina snakes its way along the southwestern coast of Portugal, where you’ll find preserved wildlife and a number of endemic species. It begins about two hours south of Lisbon, near Sines, and, depending on your level of persistence, continues almost all the way to the end of the world, or Cape Sagres as it’s also known.

Included within the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, it is 350 kilometers, or approximately 217 miles, in total and there are two routes by which you can trek the two-year-old trail. One path, The Fishermen’s Trail, winds its way along the coast, while The Historical Way carves its own path inland. Should indecision strike, you can take comfort in knowing that the paths cross and merge on occasion. This way you can pick and choose as you go, much like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but with more sand.

A farm on the Rota Vicentina in Portugal

A farm on the Rota Vicentina hike in Portugal

In addition to the natural wonders that sprout along the way, the beauty of this hike lies in its structure. Unlike other week-long treks, the Rota Vicentina trails are split between small villages sprinkled throughout the region. At most, you hike around 25 kilometers (15 miles) per day but even that isn’t entirely necessary. If you can stomach the weight of camping gear, there are also designated camping parks where you can rest your soles – and souls –  along the way.

The towns, which give you a quaint look into the mosaic of Portuguese life, also make the trek more appealing by breaking it up. Because you can find accommodation and nourishment at the mapped locations, you’re not forced to carry as much food, water, or gear as you would on other hikes of this length. The website has helpful recommendations for planners, though it can be pricey, and the trail itself is littered with friendly folks who are otherwise happy to lend a hand.

A town along the Rota Vicentina

Whichever way you decide to go, you will be widely rewarded with breathtaking views, ever-changing landscapes, and long-lasting memories. Ultimately, if you enjoy long, romantic walks on the beach, this trail was made for you. Only a handful of things could make the trip more enjoyable, if not easier.

Hints for Hiking portugal on the Rota Vicentina

A Backpack
In theory, you could go without one, but carts and covered wagons are a lot harder to get across the sand. The upside is that your backpack doesn’t have to be anything heavy duty, just something to get you through the day. Somewhere you can stash your sweatshirt after the morning chill burns off or store small essentials like chapstick and sunscreen.

Water
Ideally you wouldn’t tackle any trek without one. Most trekkers recommend going in spring, but your rebellious spirit leads you here in the heat of summer, you’ll need to hydrate. To be safe, you want two to three liters per person on average, and it’s best to plan ahead since there aren’t any refill stations between the villages. Besides, ocean water can be salty.

Gummies
Seriously. Gummies are great for hiking because they provide quick energy your body can burn, meaning the excess sugar won’t lead to a weight gain at the end of the day. After lunch, when your legs are heavy and you’re feeling sluggish, a few sweets will give your body the push it needs to get going again and power through. Chocolate is also a great option here, as long as you note that it gets messy when it melts.

Hike Portugal A Camera
Even if it’s only your phone, because it’s too beautiful not to show off. If or when you finally return home, pictures will help elevate your reputation as an awesome traveler. The combination of cliffs and sand, farms and lighthouses, land and sea will leave even you wondering if you’ve ever seen anything like it. Bring a camera if only to go back and check.

A Headlamp
A headlamp isn’t as necessary as it is complementary. On some of the longer days, it’s best to get started early. As in before dawn early. A headlamp frees your hands for climbing and catching yourself while still being able to spot the toads that serve as the soundtrack for your stroll. While I know that dark and early doesn’t appeal to everyone, a majestic beach sunrise in front of an island fortress definitely does.

Dawn on the Rota Vicentina

Sunrise on the fortress hiking along the Rota Vicentina

A Towel
You might think towels are bulky, but travel towels come quite compact and the beaches are as frequent as they are irresistible. Since some of them are nude, your towel can take up whatever space you saved for your swimsuit. Don’t worry about keeping your secret safe, the locals will get rowdy if anyone stops for a photo opp. So, go ahead, do as the Romans did.

A Knife
For lunch, après-lunch, and maybe even supper. Some of the best local hiking eats include meats and cheeses. Cured meat enthusiasts in particular will find themselves in chorizo heaven on this hike. With a new selection to choose from every day in town, you’ll always have something to open and your picnic will look indescribably more appealing if you bring a small knife to slice and dice.

BodyGlide
“What’s that,” you ask? Oh, just your saving grace. Bodyglide is essentially a personal lubricant, but not the kind that may come to mind. It comes in the shape of a deodorant stick, and, when applied to the body, can reduce friction and chaffing in areas that tend to rub. Even if you sport a thigh gap, I highly recommend it for your feet, chest, or any place your pack may wear. It beats a blister any day.

Ahoy Hostel Porto Covo

Outside Ahoy Hostel in Porto Covo

A Book
Mostly for entertainment. While most hostels have wifi, some of the places you’ll stay will not be all that modern, especially if you camp. A book is always good company on the beach, and if you bring a writing utensil it doubles as a place to take notes. You can jot down the places you loved and the people you met, or write yourself a reminder to review Ahoy Hostel and thank Nick for all his help.

Vinho Verde
Okay, so maybe don’t bring the Vinho Verde in your backpack, but definitely get it at one of your stops. Although the literal translations would call it a green wine, it’s not a thing of Dr. Seuss stories. Instead it’s white, slightly effervescent, inexpensive, and it pairs well with your well-deserved dessert. Sort of like a sparkly Moscato that’s as sweet and refreshing as your adventure.

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