My Very First Warm Jacket

Some may wonder why in the world I haven’t owned a decent outdoor jacket… ever.

It’s a valid question. I suppose the simple answer is I have never planned to be going on multiple long hikes during the winter before. All my previously owned coats/jackets were suitable for the quick in and out of the car trip. Winters have just always been cold, wet, and slightly miserable. Just the price you pay to live in such a beautiful part of the country, or so I thought. In all fairness, I just had no idea I was missing out.  I had looked at the jackets at REI before and when I saw the price tags I’m sure I surmised it was a ludicrous scam and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Perhaps it was the shivering during my last hike that led me back to REI to look at those winter jackets again. I then decided to look on-line and compare jackets prices, reviews, ratings, etc.  I chose the REI Strataloft  jacket in a beautiful blue color and I had it shipped to our local store for pick up. It weighs barely anything, can be stored inside its own pocket, and has great inside pockets, as well as oversized outside pockets so you can access them even while wearing a buckled backpack. I sound like a paid advertisement, but I assure you I am not getting paid. I am just super excited about this jacket!! Oh, I did get this on sale during Cyber Monday sales.

REI Stratocloud Jacket - Women's

How can something so light feel so warm and cozy? I never want to take this jacket off. The only bothersome thing is the occasional “shedding” of feathers. I wonder how many feathers can shed before the jacket loses its warm cozy feeling? Anyway, I am now more motivated than ever to get hiking new trails this winter! We have had our first snow storm and the temps look promising to stay nice and cold. And just FYI, I bought a pair of fleece lined leggings that I wear under my hiking pants and my legs stay so cozy too! As an added bonus to my winter clothing discoveries, I actually purchased gloves and a hat!

Oh No!! I just had a thought! I chose not to get the waterproof hiking boots so my feet could “breathe” more… Anyone  have suggestions for winter hiking boots??

If you have a favorite outdoor winter jacket let me know, just in case this one loses all its feathers, or I decide another jacket just for the heck of it. And don’t forget to share your knowledge of good winter hiking boots.

Feeling almost prepared,

Karen

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Bear Spray: Not for Humans

Most people would understand this simple fact. But on our recent trip to Glacier National Park we unleashed the power of the bear spray, twice. No, we never saw a bear. We faithfully read the entire instruction booklet that came with the canister of bear spray, allowing ourselves ample time to get quite nervous about having to use it.

On our first hike, Clutch decided to be a rule follower and test the bear spray. The booklet suggested testing the spray just to make sure it was working and to be comfortable with what would happen in case such a dire need arises. Clutch observed the wind was blowing away from us and decided to do a short blast of the canister. We heard it hiss and saw it release a mist. Great it works! We take a few steps and what do you know? The wind changes directions and we walk right into the bear spray mist! Coughing, crying, and gagging ensued followed shortly by giggles of embarrassment. Accidents can happen to anyone, right? We only walked through a very light mist of it after all, no harm done.

I was disappointed that we did not actually see any bears or grizzlies during our 12 day visit to the park. If you’ve been following my blog you know my bear encounters have been very calm and very friendly (hence my “Bear Whisperer” trail name). Seems everyone we met along the trail, going in the opposite direction of us, had seen either a grizzly eating berries, a momma and her cub crossing the trail, a moose swimming, or even a white fluffy mountain goat. And we saw plenty of indicators of recent animal activity, and even a few warning signs and closed trails. But no actual animals. Maybe this is why we decided that we needed to add a little thrill to our trip.

After finishing our overnight backpacking trip to Cracker lake which involved rain and wind storms, and literally hiking 2 miles through mud puddles and horse manure (be sure to avoid this popular horse loop on rainy days), we made it back to the trailhead and to our car. Parking is sparse so we hopped into the car and pulled out so a waiting car could take our spot. We pulled over just a few miles away to get out of our stinky, muddy boots and into comfy sandals. As I bent down to untie my boots I hear an all too familiar hiss of the bear spray! Clutch had not replaced the pin in the canister and was still wearing it on his pant belt! He triggered it when he turned to reach for his sandals and it was a direct shot in my direction! Luckily I knew to hold my breath and shut my eyes as I threw the passenger car door open and leapt out, running as far from the car as I could before I was bent over, face burning, coughing and spitting out whatever made it into my mouth.

It took me about 15 minutes to calm down enough to stand up and face my “Attacker”. I opened my eyes to see a very concerned face staring into mine. “Are you okay?”, Clutch asked. “I think so, just give me a few more minutes”, I replied. Clutch went back to the scene of the crime (aka the rental car) and realized the dark red oily spray had covered the entire passenger side roof of the car, window, seat, and door. I can’t say I was glad to absorb some of the mess, but will be forever grateful my head was down when the canister released its contents. My nose and lips burned for about an hour but no blisters formed, quite to my surprise. It took Clutch 2 days, a bottle of Windex, a jumbo roll of baby wipes, 3 rolls of paper towels, and other assorted cleaners to get that nasty stuff cleaned up.

I would like to go on record saying please never use Bear Spray unless a bear is within 2 feet and charging, and all other options have failed. I am now totally convinced a direct hit in a bears face will bring him down in a flash. I am equally sure that it will inflict so much pain it almost seems inhumane.

Oh, and one more thing… please pay attention to the whereabouts of your canister at all times.

Stay tuned for the BEST of our trip!

Karen

Goats and Compression Socks

Meet Cuyler:

Hiking Guru, Pack Goat Trainer, High Adventure Girl Scout Leader, Team Builder, and Trailblazer.

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She is the one who taught me to love hiking. Through her knowledge, experience, patience, and encouragement, I learned hiking wasn’t about rushing from point A to B as fast as you can. Hiking was meant to be enjoyed step-by-step; allowing the beauty of the surroundings to completely envelop your entire being. She introduced me to quality light-weight equipment, trekking poles, and the essentials of a good fitting backpack.

She also invited me to be part of a hiking trip to Switzerland! Yes, I will forever be in her debt!

 


She and her husband raise and train pack goats to carry extra supplies as needed on backpacking trips. Each goat can comfortably carry about 35 pounds. Not only are they useful, but they’re very entertaining as well. Eating whatever is in reach of their mouths on the trail, there is never any need to bring their own food. They seriously eat anything. Including packs. So one must be watchful. And they love to cuddle up right next to you anytime you sit down. Being cuddled by a stinky, horned creature is not exactly my idea of comfort; but it is nice to be loved. And even nicer to have extra supplies literally off your back onto theirs!

To learn more about Cuyler, her pack goats, and her unique Girl Scout troop, visit: NAZ Today (youtube)



Now, what do compression socks and goats have to do with each other? Nothing really, I just had both on my mind. I’m sure by the time I finish this article I’ll find a way to connect the two, though.

If one must wear compression socks, why not look stylish? Or even sporty, like a soccer player?! No reason at all. So, I decided to give these a try to see if they prevent that odd rash I occasionally get around my ankles. I put them on and gave them a trial run around the house.

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They felt great, almost massage like. I took them off several hours later and as you can see, they left a lovely pattern engraved into my skin.

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I’m not sure if this is normal or not. Deep etchings and clear enough to read the brand name? Is this an advertising strategy? If so, it went terribly wrong. Before you start a fund for my reconstructive surgery, I can cheerfully announce all signs of branding disappeared by morning. Phew!

Now for the question to connect the two themed article:

Should I wear these ever again? Or should they become a snack for the goats?

Human Fiber Deb

Should humans be protected from being used in experiments with ultralight backpacking needs?

Dee and I have been attending free classes at REI as part of our training program. We took a map and compass class, in which we learned all about topography, backstops, declination, triangulation, and how to put “the shed in the red” or “the dog in the house”. I felt like a pro learning cool ways to say “set your direction”. I can’t wait for the advanced (but not free) class coming up soon. Though Dee will be more ready than I will, as she took meticulous notes during the basic class, while I just sat nodding and smiling like I completely understood everything. Totally not true.

The last class we attended was “Lightweight Backpacking”. I felt like I already knew most of what was being covered, then the instructors excitedly started talking about this up and coming material that was going to revolutionize lightweight backpacking. I perked up immediately! “What is this amazing material called?” someone in the class asked. “Human Fiber” came the reply. Wait, what…?

Human Fiber?! Is this some sort of population control?

I became so distracted by disturbing thoughts of what exactly this “human fiber” was, that I could no longer focus on the class. I wondered what experiments had been held; either in the morgue or on live participants; and whether they were legal, moral, or even allowed to be discussed. Then pictures were displayed on a large screen of people wearing backpacks made of this human fiber! My thoughts were quickly turning into a nightmarish, horror movie plot.

Have outdoor enthusiasts become so obsessed with reducing their load that they are okay with people conducting experiments on human fiber? And what part of a human contains this miracle fiber?

As soon as the class ended I rushed home; completely disturbed, yet sickly curious as to how many miles one must hike before feeling it’s acceptable and rational to trade in a 3 lb backpack for a 8 oz human fiber sack?

A Google search for ” human fiber ” only led me to laxative ads.  Perhaps even google wasn’t aware of what the hiker community was up to. I re-entered a more specific search “human fiber used in lightweight backpacking top secret experiments”.  This time the search engine was equipped with enough info to take me to what must be a top-secret Internet site. Yes! There was the picture, there was the name of the company producing these human sourced packs, and wait… What the heck?

Ohhh… the instructors said Cuben Fiber, not human fiber.

“I need to text Dee!” I thought immediately.

Now it’s my (Dee) turn…

And text me she did. It went something (exactly) like this:

[Her] Didn’t the guy say human fiber?? 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
[Me] Lol! I thought he said Cuban fiber.. as in the country.
[Her] Hahahaha! I’m deaf and was freaking out about what part of humans they used.
[Me] I was kind of wondering myself what Cuban fiber was. So between the two of us we’re like, “Cuban Human Fiber? Are you kidding me? Is this why we rekindled relations with Cuba? This is wrong!”
[Her] I wondered why google took me to an ad for laxatives when I googled human fiber!
[Me] You’ve obviously never been constipated!
[Her] p.s. laxatives do lighten the load.
[Me] Hilarious!
[Her] I think I have a headline for my next post “Human Fiber Debate. Should humans be protected from being used in experiments with ultralight backpacking needs?”!

To be honest, I did think it was a bit odd that she took off like a bullet as soon as the class was over. I just thought that maybe 8pm was past her bedtime. When she told me she was thinking the entire time that the guy was talking about ‘Human Fiber’, I was rolling on the floor! I can only imagine the horrifying thoughts going through her head the entire time. Good thing I was taking notes, because I’m pretty sure nothing after that penetrated her brain. And at least now I don’t feel so bad for wondering, “What in the world could Cuban Fiber be?”.

The truth:
https://backpackinglight.com/cuben-fiber-dyneema-ultralight-film-outdoor-gear-apparel-cottage/