I recently had a chat with Amy Bushatz of Humans Outside where we unpacked our best tips for how to dress for outdoor activities in cold weather. As Amy and I talked about, winter layering can be really intimidating! We both feel passionately about helping to lessen this barrier and helping folks feel more confident outside in winter. That’s why I’m so excited to share this conversation with you.
Amy has spent at least 20 minutes outside for more than 5 years. She believes fully in the transformative power of spending time outside, even in small, simple ways. She encourages others to build the habit through her Humans Outside Challenge, which creates structure to help folks spend at least 20 minutes outside for one full year.
I was born and raised in Alaska, and Amy has been here for several years now. With our different backgrounds, we both offer our perspectives on winter layering, which helps highlight how...
Whether breezing across an alpine lake or soaring down a frozen slough, Nordic skating is a rewarding way to experience both beauty and playfulness outside.
Nordic skating is awesome because it can be more accessible and simple compared to many winter sports. The equipment you need to get started is not too expensive, and it takes less practice to learn the movement patterns. You won’t have to spend years trying to master the basics. You can be gliding around having fun on the ice in no time!
Finding conditions for fun and safe Nordic skating takes some planning and some luck. In Alaska, skating is often an early winter activity, when temperatures drop below freezing so ice can form, but the snow hasn’t yet arrived. Midwinter skating can be fun too – some cities maintain a plowed lake rink area for skating after the snow, and sometimes skaters get lucky after a warm melt spell or a big windstorm that clears the ice of snow. In...
Shoulder season is a key time of year for any outdoor adventurer. It’s that in-between time when it’s not quite good weather for summer activities like hiking, but not cold and snowy enough for winter sports like skiing, either. When we say “shoulder season”, we’re not talking about training our arm muscles! What we actually mean is the transitional seasons between the big seasons of summer and winter, like spring and fall. (Wondering where the term comes from? Us too. Here are some theories.)
Depending on the climate where you live, the exact timing of your shoulder season might look a little bit different from others. The most important thing to remember is that it’s a time of transition. It’s the time when you’re switching focus. We all experience transitions differently. So, tune into your body and take a moment to reflect on when these yearly transitions happen for you and how they make you feel.
Whether you’re dreaming of days in the mountains, along coastlines, or through the desert, planning your first backpacking trip is an exciting process. Congratulations on making moves toward this rewarding new hobby! To make your experience as positive and fun as possible, it’s important to find a beginner-friendly backpacking route that suits your experience level.
Here are some tips for finding the best route for your first backpacking trip.
When looking for ideas for your first backpacking trip, where should you start? Good news: there are lots of great resources to identify beginner-friendly routes. As you’re researching, try to find information about the same route from multiple sources. If you find broad agreement across several sources about a route, you can feel more confident in that information.
Pop into a local...
Many adventurers go into backpacking trips with the mentality that they will “use the trip to build fitness.” While a trip will certainly help make you stronger, striking out on a big adventure with no foundation of training can easily lead to getting in over your head or hurting yourself. Not the best way to have a good time!
While simply doing more hiking can help us build our trail fitness, it’s important to remember that hiking isn’t the whole story. By training our bodies as holistic systems and reinforcing healthy, functional movement patterns, we can be stronger hikers.
Strength training before and between our outdoor adventures helps us build the resilience we need for injury-free outings. When we’re not derailed by pain or struggling to keep up, we can have more fun and focus on enjoying things like the beauty of our surroundings and the great company of our trip companions. As we build...
After you have gained a full picture of what risks you’ll be dealing with on your trip, you can then formulate your risk and emergency plan. In order to do that, educating ourselves around risk can build our confidence and mitigate the real risks we might face. For backpackers of all backgrounds and experience levels, the best thing you can do for your own safety is planning and preparedness.
Before diving into this post, read up on the basics of risk management and safety in our previous post, which will lay the groundwork for this discussion. In this post, we’ll get into more detail about specific concerns as well as creating your risk mitigation plan.
In our last blog post, we talked about how to identify risks and introduced the idea of each major risk as a (metaphorical) lemon. Consider creating a document with a list of risks and how severe the risk is (i.e., how...
Risk management is one of the most important elements of planning for backpacking trips. Whether it’s your first trip or your two hundredth, spending time thinking through the hazards you might encounter and what you’ll do about them is essential both for your own safety and for those with you.
While you can never completely eliminate risk, appropriate planning means you will be more prepared if something bad does happen. Having a safety plan can mean big wins like smarter decision making, shorter time to receive rescue assistance, or the ability to handle the situation on your own without needing outside assistance at all.
Let’s dive into principles of risk management in backpacking and how you can manage your safety proactively and mindfully.
The first step to managing risk is thinking through and understanding what risks will exist on your trip. Thorough risk...
After a challenging day of backpacking, many people experience soreness around their hips. While sore hips are an extremely common problem for hikers and backpackers, the pain can put a damper on the rest of the trip. Thankfully, there are solutions! Let’s talk about what causes sore hips, then we’ll break down what you can do about it.
Our hips are key for powering the action of walking. They propel our legs forward and keep us stable and balanced. When you spend a long day out walking in the mountains, that adds up to a lot of hip exertion.
But it’s not just the long days. Backpacking adds another key ingredient: weight. Most of us don’t carry around 20-30 extra lbs for hours (or days!) at a time, but that’s exactly how we’re spending our days out on the trails. Our hips have to work much harder to power us with that much extra weight.
I recently had a last minute chance to sit down with Martha Rosenstein of Alaska Public Media and the Outdoor Explorer Podcast to have a discussion about transitioning from Summer to Winter. This is a big transition across the hemisphere - and feels a little extra dramatic up here in Alaska where you can blink and fall is already over! We discussed some different ways that can make the transition feel less drastic and more sustainable, you can see the list of topics below!
Closing out the episode, Martha chats for a bit with Heather Caldwell - a psychotherapist that practices in both Alaska and Colorado. Heather shares some more perspective on how to make a seasonal transition, you can check out more about Heather and her practice here.
The Tutu Test came together after one of this year's Ski Babes asked for some help identifying if she was using her outer glutes or not.
I had just taught a Halloween Ski Babes workout in costume (sweaty ballerina) and realized how helpful it was to be wearing a tutu when demonstrating proper hip alignment!
And so the Tutu Test was born. :)
The goal of the Tutu Test is to help you identify if your outer glutes are doing their part in stabilizing your hips.
And if they're not, I've got techniques in this video to help them pick up the slack.
When you're able to activate your outer glutes, you take some of the load off your IT Bands (if you have a chronically tight IT band this might be part of what's happening).
You'll also have better luck keeping your knees in alignment over your ankles, which is a huge part of helping prevent knee...
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