The Year that Inspired a Lifetime of Travel: Top 10 Adventures of 2012

I already know that after my yearlong Simply Adventure trip, I’ll be claiming that 2013 was the best year ever – but there would be no epic future without the unbelievable year of traveling, new friends, and outdoor pursuits experienced during 2012.

The year began with me residing in snowy Denver, Colorado – and now as it comes to a close, I’m saying farewell to house-living in Florida, and preparing for life as a van-dweller. Woah. To wrap my mind around how I’ve ended up where I am today, we have to take a look back at the top 10 adventure moments of 2012. The list keeps getting better as we journey towards #1:

I'll totally admit it, I felt like a bad ass on those bunny slopes in Vail.10. Learning How to Ski in Vail, Colorado

Eager to take advantage of my temporary residence in Colorado, the elder Boués were incredibly amped when the chance arose for them to join me in the mountains for a weekend of adventure. In late February, they flew out to Denver and together we road tripped out to the Vail Ski Area for a few days of snowy bonding.

Having previously failed miserably at snowboarding, I took my first skiing lesson and conquered the bunny slopes – but the real highlight of the Vail trip was spending time with my folks, eating the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever tasted at Pazzo’s Pizzeria, and sharing my newfound love for Colorado with them.

9. Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona

Hanging out with one of Ursa Minor's Ecamper creations during Overland Expo.

Each year of my life now seems to include an epic solo adventure, and this year’s trip was my one-woman journey out to Flagstaff in late May for the annual Overland Expo event. The misadventure began with me tragically killing a young black bear while driving through the middle-of-nowhere in Texas, but quickly took a more pleasant turn as I connected with a group of fine fellas (like Dave Creech, David Croyle, Anthony Sicola, and so many more) who mocked my inability to finish a glass of whiskey, cooked up some mean tacos, and introduced me to the art of overland travel.

I gained valuable insights from the Hackney’s educational seminars, feasted on Overland Gourmet’s outstanding fireside fare, and spent over a week traveling across some of the finer parts of the country. J. Brandon, thank you for taking me under your wing and becoming a true friend.

8. My First Amtrak Train Ride

Niko and I first started dating a few days before Thanksgiving in 2009, which has led to a rather inconvenient occurrence of our anniversary falling on days when we’re typically spread across the state visiting family for the holiday. We were together last year for Thanksgiving in Denver, and this year I was determined to spend our third anniversary together – so I hopped on my very first, and highly anticipated, Amtrak Silver Star train journey from Miami to Tampa. It was an admittedly small step towards fulfilling my dreams of train travel, but I loved every minute of it – and can’t wait to embark on extended railway journeys in the future.

7. Sport Climbing at Red River Gorge in Kentucky

Climbing one of my favorite routes at Red River Gorge, Plate Tectonics (5.10a).Prior to my Arizona road trip, I spent 10 days exploring a lush gorge in the depths of Kentucky with Niko and the owner of Tallahassee Rock Gym, Rich. We met up with a crew of topnotch Floridian climbers for days spent hiking through dense greenery, avoiding pesky campers at Land of The Arches Campground, and gorging on pizza at Miguel’s.

I witnessed my friend Rachel take the scariest whipper I’ve ever seen while climbing a route called Amarillo Sunset, nearly peed on a young copperhead while drunk at The Zoo crag on Cinco de Mayo, and proudly on-sighted my first 5.10a leads. It was one of the most inspiring and motivational climbing trips I’ve ever been on.

6. Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City

Lovin' my experience at my first Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City!The climax of 2012’s integration into the outdoor industry occurred during the festive chaos better known as the OR Show. Thousands of gear junkies, media professionals, and brand representatives converged upon the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City for the ultimate outdoor industry experience.

Swept up in a whirlwind of introductions, meetings, and pitstops for beer, I was entirely overwhelmed as I filled my pack with free gear, brushed elbows with Alex Honnold, and reunited with the wonderful folks at Stonelick and Columbia Sportswear. The trip was completed with a gorgeous day of climbing at American Fork Canyon with the #ClimbChat crew. I’m already planning for next summer’s OR Show.

5. The Triple Crown Bouldering Series at Hound Ears, NC

Proudly showing off my score sheet - it may not have been a 1st place qualifier, but it was my strongest day ever. I’ve never been the competitive type when it comes to climbing, but when I heard about the annual climbing event at Hound Ears in North Carolina a few weeks before my birthday, I instantly registered Niko and I for the competition – this outstanding crag is only open one day a year for the Triple Crown Bouldering Series. Situated atop a ritzy gated community, the Hound Ears boulder field is a mecca for any style of bouldering imaginable. I sent my proudest climbs to date, placed 15th in my category, and celebrated the end of the competition with apple-picking at Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.

4. The Last Rocky Mountain Adventures and Leaving Colorado

Farewell, Colorado. At the end of 2011, I experienced a few career hiccups, and realized that in order to live my dreams of a life of adventure, I needed to leave Colorado and return to Florida to save up for the Simply Adventure trip. Before departing from the mile-high city, Niko and a few buddies flew out to Denver to spend their spring break climbing, hiking, and exploring. We traveled out to Horsetooth Resevoir near Fort Collins, made one last visit to my favorite sushi spot in Boulder, and ended my time in Denver with an excellent week of adventure.

During the first week of March, Niko and I packed up my little Scion hatchback, and drove me back down to Florida. It was a bittersweet moment, and I’ve been dreaming of the Flat Irons ever since.

3. Building, Renovating, and Expanding at Tallahassee Rock Gym

A panoramic view of all the construction work on the new climbing walls at Tallahassee Rock Gym. If you follow me on Twitter, gander at my Instagrams, or read my Facebook statuses, you know that one of the most important things in my life is the Tallahassee Rock Gym. It’s my home, the birthplace of my climbing lifestyle, and the spot where Niko and I first met. I’ve laughed, cried, and crushed there – and this year, we bought the warehouse space next door and began construction on an epic expansion effort. Everything was paid for out of pocket, every piece of wood was put up during long hours of volunteer work, and every inch of the new climbing area is loaded with love and dedication.

We’ve nearly completed the renovations, and on January 12th, we’ll host a grand reopening celebration. It’s the proudest project I’ve ever been a part of, and it breaks my heart to think about leaving this place for an entire year.

2. Joining Columbia Sportwear’s Inaugural Omniten Ambassador Team

The inaugural Omniten crew from Columbia Sportswear at Havasu Falls.One of the first shots from my GoPro - taken during a hike down a waterfall near Mooney Falls in Arizona.I still remember the day Adam from Columbia Sportswear sent me the first e-mail; he nonchalantly asked for my shipping address, claiming to be interested in sending me a few pieces from the new spring line. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I was speeding back to Florida to open up a mysterious package – which I quickly discovered was my invitation to join a group of ten outdoor influencers selected to become a team of gear-testers and adventurers. During my six-month Omniten experience, I was introduced to nine people who I now think of on a daily basis.

We met in Phoenix, Arizona for a press trip as complete strangers, and by the time we left Havasu Falls five days later, we all cried upon departure. During our Arizona adventure together, we were spoiled in Sedona with prickly pear margaritas and vortex yoga on Bell Rock, spent three days exploring the Grand Canyon and jumping from the waterfalls around Havasupai, and grew into an unforgettable little family. I can’t thank Columbia Sportswear enough for blessing me with the Omniten opportunity – it truly changed my life forever.

1. Buying The Big Yellow Van

The Simply Adventure duo at our finest; shovels in hand, climbing gear ready, and our big yellow van!Niko and I dreamed of it all year, and finally in October, our fantasies came to fruition – we took the biggest plunge of our lives thus far, and bought a used 2005 Sprinter cargo van. We gutted the interior and built ourselves a little home within the cozy cargo area. Niko crafted an amazing bed built entirely by hand, and we installed a kitchen cabinet and countertops. In a few days, we’ll officially move into the van – and our ultimate treasure from 2012 will guide us towards unbelievable journeys in 2013.

The BEST Part of 2012: The People

Even harder than trying to condense this year into just ten stand-out moments was attempting to somehow address each person who came into my life during 2012 – and it’s impossible, so my top moment isn’t so much a moment as an overall experience. From the Omniten crew and the folks in the outdoor industry to growing closer with my sister, the ultimate gift of 2012 didn’t come in the form of mountains or climbing gear – it’s all about you.

A poorly positioned self-timer shot of the ClimbChat group at American Fork Canyon!The whole Havasu Falls hiking crew gathers before we head out on our grand three-day adventure. I connected with, met, and traveled the country with strangers who quickly became family. We passed a bottle of whiskey around the campfire (in a can) at Overland Expo, led climbs in American Fork Canyon, hiked up and down the Grand Canyon and slaved over the renovation of Tallahassee Rock Gym. My adventures would have been incomplete without the people who helped create moments that I’ll carry for the rest of my life. Thank you, I love you all, miss those of you who are far, and can’t wait to adventure with you in 2013!

What was your best adventure from 2012?
What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Happy Holidays from TheMorningFresh.com

Things have been rather quiet around here for a few days – and I’m proud to admit that I’ve been enjoying some time disconnected from the digital realm and fully focused on connecting with friends and family down in Miami. I hope all you adventurers are enjoying the holidays as well, whether you’ve traveled back to your hometown to reconnect with family, or are spending Christmas out in Arizona with some fellow van-dwellers, like Beth and Forrest of 3 Up Adventures.

From myself, Niko, and the entire Boué family,

Happy Holidays!

Happy climber Christmas!

May your holiday be filled with lots of cheer and love, plenty of hot cocoas spiked with Baileys, homemade feasts, and outdoor adventures.
If you’re up north enjoying some snow this Christmas, eat a snowball in my honor!

A Beginner’s Guide to Car-Camping

Earlier this week, I received an e-mail from a reader who had some questions about camping in a car. I’m not talking decked-out Sprinter van camping; I’m talking about the nitty gritty, sleeping in your sedan car-camping. For most of us van-dwellers and seasoned road-trippers, car-camping is how it all began.

A shot of the Jeep from my 2010 road trip adventure.My first big adventure was a nearly month-long journey in the summer of 2010 – traveling from Florida to Utah in a cramped two-door Jeep with three of my male climbing buddies. To call it an adventure would be an understatement. It was one of the dirtiest, haphazard, ill-planned journeys I have ever embarked on – and it also sparked a lifetime of road travel (and began the adventure-driven purpose of this blog).

Here are my top four car-camping tips learned from that trip:

  1. Less is more. Whether you’re traveling alone, or with friends, you’ll quickly discover that less is more. When packing for any road trip adventure, try to minimize from the get-go. After my first car-camping road trip, I came home and realized that I hadn’t worn half of the clothes I brought, or even touched most of the gear and food I packed. Downsize, downsize, downsize. Trust me, you’ll savor those extra few inches of space.
  2. Do some pre-trip planning. During this inaugural road trip, I basically just jumped in the car and let the boys take the lead – another mistake. We spent almost an entire month on the road, yet climbed for less than five days total. Why? Because we didn’t plan ahead. We traveled out to Arkansas to climb at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, but didn’t realize that the summertime renders this crag a nightmare of overgrown vegetation and intolerable swarms of insects. We were totally unprepared, and it took a big toll on our trip’s overall success.
  3. You can (usually) sleep in National Forests for free! The majority of our nights were spent sleeping in National Forests, which we learned are for the taking for overnight stays. For bonus karma points, explore the area around you when you wake up, and do some litter pick-up to show some appreciation for your free nights stay.
  4. Beware the wind in Kansas. Seriously, beware the wind. We had a giant canvas storage container strapped to the top of the Jeep, and during a stretch of particularly nasty gusts, the wind tore the canvas apart – and we lost nearly everything that was inside. I escaped the situation missing only my sleeping pad, but our buddy Jeff lost all of his clothes and camping gear. Major bummer. (You can read more about it in this post.)

The second road trip I embarked on was a five-week coast-to-coast excursion in the summer of 2011 with Niko – a post-graduation celebration spent exploring climbing areas, meeting new lifelong friends, and living out of my parent’s Honda Pilot (which they claim still has a faint residual odor of dirtbag, oops).

Niko sets up a makeshift kitchen atop a rock during our 2011 car-camping adventure.

Here’s what I learned during that life-changing trip:

  1. Wal-Marts are a lifesaver for late-night pit stops. If you haven’t already, check out my guide to car-camping at Wal-Mart. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Organization is key. Living out of a small space requires diligent organization to maintain your sanity. I am a huge fan of plastic tub containers, in varying sizes. I have two smaller containers for gear/random stuff, and one of those standard large ones where I keep all my cooking supplies/food. I prefer the clear containers so you can always see where things are inside without having to dig around.
  3. Crack a window. While sleeping in your car, you may feel slightly uneasy about the idea of leaving your window open – but trust me, you need some fresh air. Otherwise, you’ll fog up your interior and wake up in a pool of humid, sweaty misery. I’m paranoid, and always make sure my windows are closed enough that a wrist wouldn’t be able to fit inside.
  4. Crash pads make excellent beds. If you’re a climber, this should be a no-brainer. Crash pads aren’t just for bouldering – they make fantastic beds. My Stonelick pad fits perfectly into the hatchback of my old Scion tC, and it created the ultimate little nest. Otherwise, sleeping pads or other mats will add some comfort to sleeping in your car.
  5. Always keep extra plastic bags handy. Frequent trips to Wal-Marts during trips inevitably leaves you with a supply of seemingly useless plastic bags – but don’t toss those horrible pollutants into the trash just yet!  They make fantastic mini-trash bags, serve as makeshift gloves for scooping leftover mash potatoes out of your pot (and, you know, picking up poop and the like).

Perhaps my most powerful car-camping experience was the seven-week solo trip I took in autumn of 2011. I learned a lifetime’s worth of car-camping techniques and wisdom, and had nothing but positive interactions with fellow travelers and adventurers during my one-woman trek from Florida to North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, and the south.

Here’s what I discovered during my 6,657 mile solo trip:

  1. Always keep your keys within reach while sleeping in your car. Let’s face it, sleeping in your car leaves you slightly exposed, and there’s no way around that. No matter where you are, or how safe you feel, it’s always a good idea to keep your keys within reach. Don’t ever leave them in the ignition, and it’s smart if you can keep them tucked somewhere out of sight from anyone who might be peeking in your windows.
  2. Similarly, when rearranging your gear to make room in your car for sleeping, always try to keep the driver’s area clear in case you need to make a quick getaway. Especially when traveling in a smaller car, you may find that you need to rearrange your supplies to make proper room for a sleeping area. My rule of thumb is to always keep the driver’s area clear in the event that I need to jump into action and drive away quickly.
  3. Hoarding napkins is always a good idea. This goes hand-in-hand with the plastic bag idea. Inevitable visits to fast food restaurants will leave you with a mound of un-used napkins, and tucking them into that cubby on the side of your door will arm you with an arsenal of clean-up supplies. Blowing your nose, cleaning up spills, wiping down cookware, you name it.
  4. Rest stops are not as scary as you think. This is one stigma that I quickly overcame while road tripping. Do not fear pulling off at an interstate rest stop to snag a few hours of sleep – everyone else there is doing the same thing as you. Major gas stations like Loves and Flying J’s also welcome weary travelers to spend the night in their parking lots, and I’ve never had a bad experience snoozing at any of those places. Be confident, be aware, and you’ll be a-okay.

One of the most joyous occasions of my life, finally seeing the mountains as I passed through the flatlands for one last time before settling in Denver.Additional advice includes concepts like spending one hour a week to clean out and re-organize your car, make sure all your registration and tags are always up to date, keep a real map handy for those times when your GPS fails you, and always follow your urges to pull off at random places along your adventure.

Once I depart on a yearlong adventure of living out of a car, I’m sure I’ll collect a novel’s worth of advice for car-camping, but until then, heed this advice and feel free to add your own tips and tricks in the comments section – and if you have any additional questions about car-camping, feel free to leave comments or shoot me an e-mail directly at katieboue (at) gmail (dot) com!

The One Thing College Doesn’t Teach You: How To REALLY Live

Friday marks a huge milestone for my little climbing family – many of them are finally graduating from Florida State University. Having graduated nearly two years ago, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this day for months – and as the topic of graduating into the “real” world has been floating around for the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time mulling on this idea of shifting from “college” life to “real” life.

What will you do today that will make you proud in a year?And I’m pretty sure most folks are doing it wrong.

There’s this horrible stigma that many of my collegiate peers fall for: this idea that after you graduate, you’re supposed to start settling (down, but mostly just settling). It’s touted as that time where you finally get a real house with non-beer-stained furniture, work 9-5 at an “entry level” salary, and focus entirely on things like weddings, babies, and car payments.

That’s all gravy, and are admittedly things I look forward to in the future – but where’s the rush? Where’s the balance? What about all those other things that are supposed to make life worth living?

So, graduates, here’s my send-off advice for you: Make sure you’re REALLY living now that you’re being freed into the “real” world. Make sure you head down a path of realness, not a path of pre-packaged so-called satisfaction that includes a handful of stock options.

You are young. You are free. You have time, and most importantly, you’re still in the phase of your life where eating cheap tacos is acceptable. So use this period of your life to do as much youthful, spontaneous, outrageous living as you can before you finally settle down and have a garage filled with holiday ornaments (yeah, I plan on having a massive collection of seasonal décor one day, so what?).

The number one thing I hear from my older colleagues and peers while talking about my big 2013 trip is this:

“I wish I had taken the time to do this when I was your age, it would be impossible for me to drop everything and travel for a year now.”

SO DO IT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. [Read more…]

Get Psyched for 2013: Limited Edition MAMMUT Calendar Giveaway!

I’ll be honest: after my not-so-rave review about Mammut’s Refine Skort for lady climbers was published on The Gearcaster, I figured my relationship with this premiere brand was surely demolished. I nervously sent them the link to my review, and much to my surprise, they actually thanked me for my honest feedback – and the skort has since been pulled from their product line due to a much stronger response to their Realization Shorts. That, right there, is what I love about the outdoor industry.  

The Déja Vu 2013 calendar cover from Mammut.

But Mammut‘s excellence doesn’t stop there. This week, they offered to give readers of The Morning Fresh a chance to win one of four copies of their limited edition 2013 Deja Vu calendar, featuring stunning photography by Stefan SchlumpfTwelve of their pro team climbers (like Sean McColl and Anna Stöhr) and mountaineers were posed in some truly creative abstract climbing scenes, including a bubble bath of chalk balls, a sultry spine lined with bolts, and a throne of ice axes.

For a look at the making of the calendar, give this sweet behind-the-scenes video a gander. Talk about a production – according to this article, the shoot required “500 cable binders, 160 ice picks, 400 chalk balls, 2,500 metres of rope, several cubic metres of wood and countless screws.[Read more…]

The easiest tent you’ll ever own: Review of the Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent

Here’s the first full review from my Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Adventurers.
Check it out, and stay tuned for the rest of the reviews!

Picture this: You’ve finally arrived at your campsite – and it’s now 2:30 AM. You’re exhausted from the drive, but your car is too jam-packed with adventure equipment to allow for sleeping comfortably in it. What’s the last thing you want to do right now? Spend ten minutes fumbling with tent poles and hooks in order to snag a wistful few hours of sleep before waking up and deconstructing your tent all over again.

Major bummer, dude.

Now picture this: Same late-night camping scenario, same levels of I-just-want-to-sleep, but now you’ve got a Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent. You grab the bright yellow sack that holds your tent, unroll it, and within about 45 seconds, you’re ready for bed. You snuggle up in your sleeping bag while your buddies fumble around with their clunky tents.

Niko sets up our Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent at Grandfather Mountain Campground in NC.

Major victory, dude!

When Niko and I received our Outfitter XXL Quick Tent, we were elated – even more so when we managed to go from a sealed package to a set-up tent in less than three minutes. And that was our first time EVER setting it up. We were both instantly impressed, but the real test came when we took the Teton Sports tent on its first adventure to North Carolina for the Hound Ears Triple Crown climbing competition.

After keeping us cozy through misty mountain mornings, light afternoon rain, and some pretty gnarly wind gusts – the Outfitter XXL Quick Tent passed our camping test with flying floors.

Here’s what I love about the Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent:

  • It is the easiest tent I have ever camped with. Both set-up and take-down are simple tasks that take less than a minute.
  • It packs down extremely easy, and the roomy stuff sack doesn’t require a battle to get the tent packed away. With a weight of only 4 lbs, it’s light and easy to carry.
  • The tent was designed as a topper for camping cots, but the waterproof base and sturdy structure makes it an ideal tent for ground camping as well (I have only used it directly on the ground).
  • Where many tents offer a small window or two, the Outfitter XXL is entirely wrapped with see-through mesh, so if the weather allows you to go without the rain-fly, you can wake up surrounded by natural beauty.
  • When the rain-fly is up, there is an ample vestibule area for keeping your dirty hiking boots sheltered from the elements without dragging them into the tent. Plus, the rain-fly is easily assembled with four simple clip-ons.
  • While a larger person may find this to be a one-man tent, Niko and I fit perfectly together in it. This is a great tent for adventure couples.
  • It’s my favorite color – and it totally matches my big yellow van.

Peek-a-boo, that's me creeping inside my Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent.There is only a single caveat I have with the world’s easiest tent: there are no pockets. But what I love about Teton Sports is their amazing receptiveness to user feedback. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if their next tent release features a pocket.

The bottom line: I would highly recommend this tent. It retails at $100, but could easily sell for upwards for $200. The value can’t be beat, but it’s the impossibly simple set-up that will win you over instantly.

Don’t believe my rave reviews about how quickly this tent sets up? Check it out for yourself:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctjyEtu8coo]

Want more from the folks at Teton Sports?
Send ‘em your thoughts on Twitter, or check out the Teton Sports Facebook page
– they’re always hosting giveaways and posting great outdoor content!

A question for you…

This morning, I read an exceptionally inspiring post on my fellow OmniTen-er Heidi’s blog, BananaBuzzBomb. She retold the events that transpired during her day off, an afternoon that turned from tackling mundane to-dos to dropping it all to live in the moment and go for a hike.

I’ll let her post do all the talking – but just remember to ask yourself this question every day:

Are you living in the NOW? Are you living in THIS MOMENT?
If you’re not, it’s never too late to start.

Are you living in this moment, right now?

Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Adventurers

During this season of gift-giving, there is no task quite as daunting as finding the perfect present for an adventurer. Unlike your cousin Betty, who is thrilled at the sight of yet another Bath & Bodyworks gift basket, outdoorsy folks seek practical and useful souvenirs from holiday exchanges. (Although, judging by the way we tend to smell, some heavily scented grooming products might serve us well, haha!)

Simplify your search for the ultimate gift for the outdoor explorer in your life with this holiday gift guide for adventurers – (the best part? All of these items are totally living-in-a-van worthy. But really, I’m taking ALL of these items on my yearlong trip, so they’re the real deal):

A Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Adventurers

  1. Columbia Sportswear Powerfly ($220) This down insulated Omni-Heat thermal jacket should be a stable of every adventurer’s wardrobe. It is suspiciously lightweight, and even comes with a tiny stuff sack for backpacking purposes, but this jacket is big on comfort and warmth. The Omni-Heat reflective lining uses your body temperature to amplify heat, making you up to 20% warmer.  Equipped with an Omni-Shield exterior to repel moisture, the Powerfly is versatile, protective, and the ideal companion for adventuring.
  2. Big Agnes Helinox camp chair ($89.95) If there is one item I have been coveting all year, it’s a camp chair. Often overlooked as an essential, having somewhere to park your rear end after a long day of adventuring is crucial to healthy levels of campsite content. The uniquely designed chair folds down into an impossibly tiny carrying case, eliminating the usual inconvenience of toting along camp chairs.
  3. Colcasac laptop case ($40-65) Any gift that delivers sustainability and planet-pleasing materials is a guaranteed winner for adventures. While a laptop case may not qualify as an outdoor essential, adventurers enjoy documenting and sharing their explorations almost as much as the experience itself. Made from hemp, bamboo, and jute burlap, these minimalistic sleeves are a fantastic off-the-trail item. (And they’re available for iPads, MacBooks, Kindles, iPhones, and even shoulder bags).
  4.  Tetonsports XXL outfitter tent ($100) This tent sets up in less than 30 seconds. Need I say more? No, no I don’t. Gift someone this tent, and they will forever think fondly of you as they pull up to a campsite at 2 AM and don’t have to worry about the hassles of setting up their tent. Automatic brownie points for life. | Check out my full review here.
  5. ENO SingleNest hammock ($54.95) When adventurers aren’t adventuring, we’re napping. I’ve had many a hammock in my day, but none have initiated a deep sleep quite as quickly as the ENO SingleNest. I opened up my new hammock, set it up between two trees, and woke up two hours later. They’re sturdy, light, and easy to pack into the attached compression stuff sack. Featuring quick-dry nylon, a 400 lb carrying capacity, and a tiny weight of just 17 ounces, these hammocks offer the perfect place for napping on the go – or in your backyard.

While these five items top my list of gift ideas for outdoor adventurers, other products worthy of mention include the Triple Aught Design Valkyrie hoodie LT, the Columbia Sportswear Reactor 35 sleeping bag, and the incredibly comfortable sleeping pads from Teton Sports. To impress the climber in your life, check out Mammut’s sweet Realization shorts.

Stay tuned for full reviews of
the Columbia Powerfly, Colcasac sleeve, and Big Agnes Helinox camp chair!

The Ultimate Jacket: Review of Triple Aught Design’s Valkyrie Hoodie LT

Everyone has it: that piece of gear that you just can’t imagine life without. It’s your go-to for every occasion – the least washed, and most worn item in your closet. Like a safety blanket, it offers comfort, shelter, and a trustworthy companion for adventures. For me, this item is the Triple Aught Design Valkyrie Hoodie LT.

The Valkyrie Hoodie LT From Triple Aught Designs (TAD Gear)From the moment I opened up my first package from TAD gear, I was smitten with the Valkyrie jacket. It’s softer than butter, loaded with clever little details, and offers the perfect combination of function and style. I was instantly in love, and instantly crushed to realize that I wouldn’t be able to wear my jacket for months (I received it in June, when it was still reaching 95º on a daily basis – not exactly jacket weather).

My first trip with my Valkyrie jacket was to the Hound Ears Triple Crown Bouldering competition in North Carolina during early October. The light, yet thick, jacket kept my upper body warmly bundled throughout the chilly evenings, and on the final day of the trip, the integrated Polartec Wind Pro fabric treated with water repellent offered a cozy haven while I was apple picking in brisk rainy weather in Hendersonville.Rockin' the Triple Aught Designs Valkyrie Hoodie LT while apple-picking at JH Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.

Since our first trip together, my bond with the Valkyrie jacket has continued to blossom. We wake up together in my sleeping bag, we snuggle up during long road trips, and we always enjoy a roaring bonfire together. While the overall comfort and form-fitting style of the jacket is lovely, it’s the little things that really keep me coming back for more. Seriously, I wear it on a near daily basis.

Rockin' the Triple Aught Designs Valkyrie Hoodie LT while apple-picking at JH Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.

Here are a few of my favorite things about the Valykrie LT Hoodie:

  • The hoodie features a structured hat shape that keeps the hood up even in windy weather.
  • Thumbholes places perfectly on the sleeve seams offer superior usability while adventuring.
  • Armpit vents create breathability for hiking or long approaches to climbing areas.
  • Pockets! I’ve never been so stoked about pockets. Two big standard front pockets, which offer dual purpose with a ‘secret’ storage pouch accessed from inside the jacket. Plus two additional discreet upper arm pockets – all with D-Rings and media portsfor ear buds.
    • Speaking of ear buds, there are two little clasps along the main zipper designed to help keep your ear bud cords in place. Genius.
  • All the zippers have little “zipper garages” they are tucked into when zipped, keeping them in place and out of sight.

There’s only one negative comment I can make about these jackets: they come with little cords knotted on each of the zippers, and I’ve already lost half of them. Not really a big deal, in my book.

Triple Aught Design logoOverall, this jacket has become my favorite piece of cold weather apparel I have ever owned. With a price tag of $215, it’s definitely an investment – but it’s 100% worthy of the cost. This is the kind of jacket you have for the rest of your life. It’s sturdy, durable, adventure-worthy, and I actually look good in it.

The Valkyrie Hoodie LT would be the ultimate present for any adventurous lady. Unlike most gifted sweaters, the Valykrie won’t spend the season hanging in your closet; it will be put to good use, time and time again.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on TAD’s heavy Merino wool Vesper sweater! Triple Aught Designs also makes a heavier version of the Valkyrie LT, and I can’t wait to test it out and compare it to the lighter hoodie.

*Note: The Valkyrie Hoodie LT was provided by Triple Aught Designs for review purposes,
but all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Simply Adventure Update: Van Renovations and Upcoming Surprises

At first, it seemed like this trip was years away – but we’ve officially surpassed the two-month countdown to our Simply Adventure departure! With the clocking ticking noisily in our minds, Niko and I have kicked preparations and planning into overdrive. Where have we spent most of our energy (and quickly dwindling savings)? Renovating the van, baby! 

 

After painstakingly cutting metal and sawing wood for the past week, Niko has finally finished his handcrafted bed frame for the rear of the Sprinter. He used a metal base to create a strong, reinforced frame, and then spruced up the appearance of the bare metal by adding a layer of blonde wood on top (which also added some rigidity and extra strength to the frame). He shaped wood sheets to create the platform, and voila, we have a bed! All that is missing is the foam topper, and a storage system beneath.

We also completed the staining of the kitchen cabinets (which we snagged for 20% off at Home Depot, score). Niko did the first few coats, and I finished it off with the final layer. We still need to install the countertop, but it felt like a huge victory when we finally hoisted the cabinets back into the van and admired our handiwork. We also very victoriously removed the enormous, and difficult, partition that divided the passenger area from the cargo section of the van. It feels so roomy now!


Here’s a little sneak peak at what the Sprinter is lookin’ like right now (stay tuned for a more detailed photo shoot next week!):

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