Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trail Gear that Serves a Purpose

When hitting the trails for a solo trip or with the family – my packing philosophy is always geared toward carrying as little as possible and keeping the pack as light as possible. The last thing I need on the trail is useless gear that adds weight to the weight of my pack. While it’s great to be prepared for every situation, I don’t want to carry my entire life with me on every trip.

Backpacking and hiking for me feels like a chance to get closer to nature; therefore a “less is more” approach allows my time in the great outdoors to feel more like hiking vs. hauling.  One of my favorite ways to work toward this goal is to use items that double their usage. Multipurpose gear saves space, weight, and sometimes, when the stars align, a multiuse item allows me to feel like the MacGyver of the backcountry.  Here are just a couple of my favorite essentials.

Poncho -  Nobody wants to be wet, so it’s safe to pack a poncho even if the forecast says it’s going to be hot, dry and beautiful. Luckily, the poncho has many uses for those dry days. A simple poncho can serve as a ground cloth, a much needed shade, a tent vestibule, and I’ve recently begun using it as a photography blind when snapping wildlife pictures.  I never leave for a trip without a poncho and with it’s many diverse purposes, neither should you

Trekking Poles are a solid investment if you plan on doing some steep climbs and they also come in handy for a bunch of other stuff too. A trek pole can replace a broken tent pole; scare off a snake, or even serve as a monopod to capture that perfect mirror-image mountain shot with your camera. All while helping you propel yourself forward, increasing your speed, and helping to alleviate some of the weight you are carrying.

Bandana The bandana is truly a godsend when it comes to camping. This little guy can be a lifesaver on the trails and showcase its use in a multitude of ways. I’m a big fan of using it a neck protector on those hot days, picking up hot pots from the fire with it, and in emergency situations, it makes a great water filter.

Pack light, move fast, and dominate the trails.

Monday, May 27, 2013

VisionSpring Offers the Whole Package

For people living and working in a developing countries, it is often difficult to establish a steady income to support themselves as well as their families. The ability to obtain and keep work can be even more difficult if one's eyesight is diminishing. Thankfully, organizations such as VisionSpring exist to not only distribute glasses to those in need, but also empower locals to become small business owners at the same time. This two-pronged approach effectively eliminates the reliance on outside help overtime, and allows a community to thrive by creating business for its members.

VisionSpring employs a classic Hub-and-Spoke approach in which optical shops function as "hubs", and the trained vision entrepreneurs who run these shops act as "spokes"who conduct outreach within their communities surrounding the newly created business.

By training locals to be the spokes in this operation, VisionSpring can focus on the big picture of the mission and allow the very community they are helping become a huge part of a lasting solution. It all goes back to the old "teach a man to fish" mentality - and how, realistically if you are focused on just providing a quick fix, in this case eyeglasses, you are not helping in the long term creation of a community that can sustain itself over time.

Thanks, VisionSpring. You not only caught a lot of fish - you taught a lot how to fish as well, and that's where change and growth really occurs in the grand scheme of things.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Living Life

If you find yourself with some time today, tomorrow, later this week, month or even year - you should use some of it to watch this incredible video. This is the story of Zach Sobiech, a teenager from Minnesota with the rare gift of embracing life and celebrating it every day. Zach was a writer of songs, admirer of the beauty in all things, and owner of a smile that that just looks so damn happy. Zach lost his battle with cancer yesterday, and if you have lost anyone you love, you'll know how much it hurts the ones left behind. My heart goes out to the family and friends of this extraordinary individual.

 If you find yourself with some time, take a breath and come to peace with the fact that there are bigger things at play at any given moment, and that sometimes the things in life that seem so big, really aren't. If you find yourself with some time today, take a moment and tell the people in your life that you love them and mean it. Thanks for wake-up call Zach, thanks for leading by example.

Thanks to Soul Pancake for the inspiration

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Herb Garden Inspirations & How to get Started

Growing your own herb garden, especially if you are a renter, is a great way to start the summer. At this time of year, grilling and salads are popular, and the gardener-at-heart can combine the fun of gardening with the savory expansion of their growing and cooking skills.  Whether you have a tiny space, huge balcony or backyard patio, container gardening is fun and portable.

Starting from seeds is the most budget-friendly way to begin. While you can buy starters at the nursery, growing herbs from seeds can be done with a bit of patience and time for their preparation. We usually begin in late spring in order to have the herbs ready for the summer.

Visit your local nursery to find the seeds and potting soil needed.  A shallow container, such as an egg carton, is the perfect place to start your seedlings. Some herbs to consider might be mint, basil, rosemary, chives, parsley, cilantro and others.  You'll want to divide the seeds by the herb type, putting three to five in a compartment. The soil should be kept moist by misting or sprinkling with water, especially as the seeds are starting. Cover with a plastic top to increase the humidity in your little greenhouse garden. The container and plastic will need a sunny location, free of drafts. Five hours of sunlight daily will be most beneficial for their sprouting. Remember, keep the soil moist!

As the seedlings begin to sprout, remove the plastic cover.  It is now time to water the sprouts when you notice the soil has dried out.

Continue with this method until the plants are between two and four inches high. It is now the exciting time to re-pot the seedlings. Find a nice, bigger container; they can go out on the balcony if it is sunny, on your patio, or even in a windowsill inside the house, especially one that gets an abundance of light.

Either plant herbs in separated containers, or keep them six inches apart. Water when the plants are dry and watch them grow daily. As new growth appears, begin to snip the mature parts for your tasty dining; experiment with new recipes that call for your herbs. Regular trimming and snipping of your garden encourages growth, making the herbs full and bushy. You now have a portable garden with savory herbs.

Happy Planting!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Arts & Scraps - The Ultimate Inspiration

I'm always on the prowl for a good idea, and if that good idea also benefits the greater good, i'm totally on board to help spread the word. I heard about Arts & Scraps through a friend of mine who had just moved to Michigan and was looking for some local causes to get involved in. Arts & Scraps is a non-profit organization located in Detroit, recycling 28 tons of industrial material into learning and creative experiences for 275,000 children annually. Arts & Scrapes offers affordable craft workshops, hosts birthday parties and assembles craft kits that can be purchased online. The organization accepts monetary donations and donations of new craft supplies and a variety of recyclable materials. I love this idea. Not only do they use only recycled materials (which is a wonderful teachable lesson for kids), but they also foster creativity and inspiration. Check 'em out! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Throwback Mountain Club Logos

It's always fun to look back and see how things change and remain the same when it comes to logos - and really just design in general. So often we change with the times and trends and offer colors of the season, bolder fonts and new buzz-worthy slogans. It means so much more when a logo really stands the test of time - a logo that registers with you for one reason or another when you find yourself in contact with it.

 I always got a kick out of the vintage patches my Grandparents snagged from their time on the road and backpacking through the Adirondack mountains. Patches that told a story in a single sketch and really made you want to visit and check it all out for yourself. Check out some of these vintage mountain club logos and their recent reincarnates. Although all but one have changed, I think they all stay true to the mission and tell a story one way or another.

Nostalgia never gets old.

Thanks to Vintage Mountain Depot for this great comparison.