#VanLife Q&A: Ask Me Anything

Oh, van life. Even after my year spent living on the road, I still get questions about van life all the time. It’s such a romantic idea for adventurers, and I admittedly have my moments of longing for life in a retrofitted Sprinter van. After getting so many reader comments asking for insight and advice on living in a van, I decided to put a Q&A together to put it all out there.

My retrofitted 2005 Dodge Sprinter van, which I lived in for 365 days.

“I was just so inspired by your blog and reading about your 365 day trip around the country in a van, I wanted to know more about your planning for it and what you had to take into consideration to just pick up and leave your life behind for a little while.” – Natalie W.

The decision to start this whole “van life” thing came on a whim while I was living in Colorado. It was about 6 months after I had gone on a monthlong cross country road trip after graduating college. I didn’t have any debt, and hadn’t yet touched my life savings. I was freelancing with LivingSocial, so I could work anywhere with a wi-fi connection. It was the perfect timing to pick up and hit the road – so I decided to take advantage of it!

“I want to live a life like you traveling the world in a van but the only thing I can’t understand is money, how did you find yourself to be able to pay for food and gas for a year? I want to spend my life adventuring like you but money will hold me back, any advice?” – Raymond

I moved back to Florida and saved up for a year before finally heading out on the open road. While I was out on the road, I frequently picked up freelance writing gigs and copywriting work (but it honestly added up to peanuts).  I also totally blew through my entire life savings during the trip – which is something I regret. I was b-r-o-k-e at the end of my trip, and it made it really hard to transition back to the “real world.” I would definitely recommend securing steady on-the-road work if you’re going out on the road, unless you save up like $20k+ for spending money.

DSC_2159DSC_7940“Did you work at all on your adventure? How much money did you save up before you set sail? Did sponsorship’s cover a lot of your costs?” – Connor M.

I attempted to work a respectable amount during my trip, but didn’t do enough to make it sustainable. I took freelance writing gigs often within the outdoor industry, and worked as a ghost copywriter picking up jobs like writing 100 product descriptions for Office Max office supplies. My trip partner Niko even spent a month working as a delivery man for an organic mattress company in Boulder, CO at one point to help pay for unexpected van trouble.

Sponsorship is something I get asked about almost on a daily basis–and a lot of folks have misunderstandings of what a typical sponsorship relationship looks like. I am not a professional athlete, so my sponsorships primarily come in the form of support through gear and travel–my paid partnerships with brands typically focus on content creation. That said, partnering with amazing brands like Goal Zero, Teton Sports, and ClimbOn! was tremendous in getting my van outfitted. Their generosity helped me supply my trip with quality solar equipment, camping gear, and eco-friendly toiletries–three very crucial things for van life! [Read more…]

Flying South for the Winter: Why I Spend my Holidays Roasting in Florida

The idea of holiday cheer invokes a certain mental image: sleigh rides through soft snow flurries, sipping scalding hot cocoa to cure rosy cheeks, waking up to icicles and frozen wonderlands. My version of the holidays is a bit different – the only reason you’ll have rosy cheeks is if you forget to put on sunscreen before hitting the beach.

Flying South for the Winter: Why I Spend my Holidays in MiamiTo celebrate the holidays, I always head south to Miami, Florida.

Journeying down to one of the southernmost destinations in the country started out as a quick seven-hour trip down to my hometown during my college years, but it has since become the only place I could imagine celebrating Christmas. It’s more than just seeing my family and old friends – a hot, humid holiday has become my favorite annual escape.

For the next week, I’ll be climbing at Rumbling Bald in North Carolina. It’s going to be beautiful, but I’m already dreading life in the van in freezing weather. That whole winter wonderland thing is totally void when it’s 28º in your van and you wake up with dripping sheets of frozen condensation above your head. Changing into freezing cold underpants and socks in an unheated tin tube is not a joyous occasion, folks.

But it’ll all be worth it, because at the end of the week, I’m making the 11-hour, 800 mile trek down to a place where I’ll spend Christmas Eve eating dinner under palm trees and sleeping with the windows open to catch a breeze.

This year, I’ve got a few outdoor to-dos I’d like to tick off while I’m enjoying winter in Miami:

Boating from Matheson Hammock Marina

When I return home, one of the first things I ask my dad is, “how are the boating conditions?” On a bad year, it’s just a bit too chilly and windy to hit the water – but on a good year, it’s game on. We load up the cooler with sandwiches and fruit, tow our boat out past the mangroves at Matheson Hammock, and jet out into the bay for a day of cruising. That first day of feeling the salty air rush past my face while we speed towards No Name Harbor is one of my favorite moments of freedom (in any season).

Cinnamon roll and a chocolate milkshake from Knaus Berry Farm.Strawberry Picking at Knaus Berry Farm

If you haven’t tasted a homemade cinnamon roll or sipped on a freshly blended strawberry milkshake from this charming farm down in Homestead, you haven’t lived – Knaus Berry Farm is the real deal. A world-famous destination, this family-run institution draws Saturday morning crowds that wait hours for a box of cinnamon rolls. You could catch some sunshine just by standing in line, but I like to make it an outdoors experience by enjoying my milkshake while combing through rows of strawberry bushes and picking my own. If the season is right, you can pick your own tomatoes too.

I really love Knaus Berry Farm because everything is done with old fashioned way. They only accept cash, the family bakes and harvests everything fresh, and you can taste the love in each bite.

Hiking at Everglades National Park

While winter wildlife for most might involve herds of elk and moose sightings, my wintertime animal encounters will take the form of alligators, great blue herons, and manatees. There won’t be any elevation gains during hikes through the swampy terrain, but the sunshine is still enough to make you break quite a sweat. While I adore mountainous landscapes, there’s something special about the tropical waterfront scenery at the Everglades.

Bonus points: Stop at the historic Robert Is Here fruit stand on the way to the park for excellent milkshakes and local produce. You can even knock out some last-minute gift shopping with a large selection of locally made jams, dressings, and edibles.

Biking in Coconut Grove

For years, the first thing I did upon returning to Miami was hopping in my little hatchback and taking a drive down the canopied Old Cutler Road. It’s a fairytale roadway lined with enormous Banyan trees that often create an enclosed tunnel over the pavement. These days, the idea of wasting all that gas seems a bit rude, so I’m trading four wheels for two and riding my bike down my favorite scenic drive. Along the way, Wayside Market provides the ideal pit stop to cool down and refresh.

Napping in my hammock is my favorite outdoor recreation in Miami.Napping in a Hammock

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the most adventurous activity on my winter holiday itinerary – but this is a crucial to-do. Especially enjoyable in the late afternoon when the sun begins to ease up a bit, there’s nothing that relaxes me quite like a long nap on the hammock that sits beside my pool. This is also an excellent opportunity to reflect on all the folks up north who are shoveling snow from their driveway. Ha! 

* Y’all, I’m noticing a trend here – I really like adventures that involve making stops for milkshakes and snacks. Oops!

For most people, winter holiday travel is a suitcase jammed with puff jackets, wool scarves, and thick thermals. For me, it means not forgetting to pack a swimsuit.

Spending the holidays in shorts and sandals isn’t exactly the conventional way to celebrate the season, but boats, hammocks, and beaches have become my version of an annual tradition. It wouldn’t be Christmas if it wasn’t in Miami. My yearly adventure to my hometown has become a sultry solace in a season I otherwise spend shivering and bundled up begging for warmth. Plus, seeing Santa in swim trunks and a Hawaiian shirt is just too good.

Where do YOU head for the holidays?
Do you flock towards snowy destinations, or escape to the south?

*This post sponsored by Nature Valley.

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Nature (Even When You’re Not in Nature)

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Nature (Even When You're Not in Nature)Living in a van on the road for the past eight months has been the ultimate way to immerse myself in nature every moment of the day – but this lifestyle just isn’t a permanent reality. I got my first taste of “being stuck indoors” while Niko spent a month working in Boulder – and quickly learned that I needed to get creative when it came to getting outside. Since we can’t spend every day out in the wild, why not make the most of the fresh air we can easily access on a daily basis?

Here are five easy ways to stay connected to nature any day:

1. Go for a walk.

Seriously. It’s that easy.  So many readers complain about how hard it is to get outdoors when you live in suburbia – but after a week of house-sitting in Westminster, CO, I am here to debunk that myth. All you have to do is find a plot of greenery within walking (or a short drive) distance, and you’ve got yourself potential for mini adventures. In Colorado, I found myself exploring Lake Standley each morning while walking the dog I was sitting. Every excursion introduced me to new flowers, little creatures, and more fresh air than my lungs could handle – and it was all within a stone’s throw of the house.

And it’s not just because I was in Colorado, the land of epic adventures. In my hometown of Miami, there are a number of destinations waiting to be explored. There’s the neighborhood park full of canals and climb-able trees, the mangrove hammock and marina where crabs litter the bike paths, and even a historic bayfront estate – all within a five minute drive of my house.

2. Take your work outside.

When folks sit in a four-walled room staring at nothing but concrete and computer screens all day, it’s no wonder they get stir crazy. Just because you have a dozen deadlines to complete by next week doesn’t mean you’re confined to the clutches of a cubicle – pick up your work, and bring it outdoors. Move your home office to the back porch for an afternoon, or add sunshine to the agenda with an extended working lunch break at an outdoor café.

If all else fails, and you absolutely must stay indoors – open up a window, and take a break every hour to gaze outside and refresh your senses.

Ditch your dining room, and take your meals outside!3. Ditch your dining room.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, mealtime provides a perfect opportunity to inject a little outdoor time into your schedule. If the weather is welcoming, there’s no reason to eat cooped up indoors – relocate your plate to the patio, or set up a blanket on the lawn for a picnic-style feast. I’ve found that food tends to taste better when it’s enjoyed with a nice view. Bonus points if you’ve got a garden nearby: fresh basil is a readily available condiment!

While I eat most of my meals outdoors these days, I actually miss mornings spent sitting outside on the little porch of my old house in Tallahassee – it was such a pleasant way to start the day, chowing down on hot oatmeal while the crisp air woke up my body. Make it a goal to eat at least one meal a week outside, and soon you’ll find that it becomes an everyday habit.

4. Trade TV for stargazing.

After a long day of work, it’s absolutely excusable to want to do nothing more than sit around and let your mind unwind – but that doesn’t mean you should head straight to the television. Instead of ending your day staring at yet another screen flashing with mindless media, turn off the boob-tube and go outside to enjoy the evening.

Stargazing is obviously ideal with a clear night sky, but there’s more to be had than just an eyeful of twinkling lights. Relax to the sounds of crickets in the grass and wind blowing through trees while the crisp nighttime air breezes over you. Bonus points if you have a hammock! For Niko and I, sprawling out on a patio was a great way to have some “together” time – it’s pretty romantic to sit out under the stars, instead of zonking out next to each other on a couch watching reruns.

Our little hammock camp at my house in Miami.

5. Pitch a tent (or hammock) in your backyard.

We all get a little cabin fever when we’ve spent too much time residing indoors – but few people seem to embrace the quickest cure: go camping in your own backyard. Especially great if you need to break in some new gear before heading out into the backcountry, setting up camp in your yard is a fantastic way to “get away” without having to really get away.

Pitch your tent (or hammock), haul out some sleeping bags, get a little fire pit blazing, and bask in all the fun of camping – any day of the week. For the full experience, try to avoid going indoors for any reason. Cook your meal over a fire, roast some marshmallows, fill up water jugs, and if your backyard permits, do your business in a bush too!

While it’s all too easy to feel like your outdoorsy style is being cramped by your day-to-day life, it’s just as simple to inject a dose of adventure into your week. Try out each of these five methods of getting “outdoors” without straying too far from home, and figure out what works best for your lifestyle. Maybe it’s spending one night a week in your backyard campground, or maybe you’ll find that eating dinner outside quickly becomes a nightly ritual. Anything to keep your adventurous spirit alive in between big trips!

How do YOU stave off cabin fever when during long periods of time between outdoor adventures? Share your best tips in the comments! And for more outdoor inspiration, check out the Nature Project Tumblr powered by Nature Valley.

 * Compensation for this content was provided by Nature Valley. Opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  

How to save money on gas and food while traveling

There are two absolute expenses during any road trip: fuel and food. Most other factors can be fudged, but there’s no denying the need to continually fill your belly and your gas tank. While these expenditures are inevitable, there are a few ways to finagle savings and discounts.

Saving Money on Food

Fresh, cheap food is easily found at local farmers markets.Minimizing food costs while traveling boils down to one essential rule: make your own meals. The expenses of eating at restaurants too frequently will create a huge dent in a tight budget, so limit your amount of culinary splurging. Focus on experiencing local food by stocking up on produce and meat from outdoor markets and vendors. Cook veggies and meat with cheap staple foods like rice and ramen noodles (which make a great alternative to pasta if you don’t use that icky flavor packet).

Not sure where to find a farmers market in the area you’re visiting? LocalHarvest.org has a great database where you can locate the nearest farmers market using the area zip code, and find out what days its open, what they usually offer, etc.

While grocery shopping, you can often take advantage of great food offered at a discounted price due to things like dents in cans, approaching expiration dates, and damaged packaging. Our favorite experience thus far has been the “Manager’s Special,” where we got a two-day old rosemary olive oil loaf from the bakery for $1.49, and a bag of fancy sea salt and pepper chips for 89¢ because the packaging had gotten messed up. We’ve also snagged organic yogurt with honey for a few cents, milk that wasn’t expiring for another week, and even totally fresh meat through the whole Manager’s Special shtick. I totally dig it.

Oreo and butterfinger donuts at the Food Ranch in Orangeville, UT.

At smaller establishments that serve made-daily hot foods and baked goods, visiting towards the end of the day could deliver discounts on foods that would otherwise end up in the trash. Best example: The Food Ranch at Joe’s Valley. Like clockwork, every day sees a new wave of ½ off price changes on things like breakfast burritos and warm pizza sticks. The best discount to be had at the Food Ranch is on their world famous donuts: around 5:30-6:00, you can snag an entire dozen for about $2.50. I’m talkin’ butterfinger, oreo, maple with coconut, and the doughiest sugar-raised donuts this side of the Colorado River – if they haven’t sold out already.

Saving Money on Gas

The GasBuddy.com app is a lifesaver for finding cheap gas.When it comes to keeping the van chuggin’, I’ve found there to be far fewer methods of creatively obtaining cheaper gas – but it’s still possible. The first tip is to avoid gas stations located directly off the highway. If you drive a mile or two away from a major thoroughfare, you’re likely to see a significant drop in prices. Another option is to download a gas locator app like Gas Buddy, which uses crowd-sourcing to present updated prices for all the gas stations around your current location.

We also have a City Market card from our visits to stock up on groceries in Moab, which also works at Kroger, King Soopers, Fry’s, and a few other supermarket chains. This loyalty card accumulates points for every dollar spent at any of the franchises, and certain point levels qualify for 10¢ per/gallon discounts on a fill-up at the on-site gas stations. Filling up the van easily costs $100 each time, so every penny we can save on gas makes a difference.

Living on the road may seem like an expensive affair, but being mindful of your spending and seeking savings can make extended travel an entirely manageable lifestyle.

Dirtbag Beta: Climbing at Hueco Tanks without a Reservation

It’s no secret that Hueco Tanks State Park is home to one of the best bouldering areas in the United States (and arguably the world) – which means that a lot of people want to come and climb. The evidence of past overuse is abundant throughout the park, and to combat the influx of visitors, Hueco Tanks designed something called the Public Use Plan.

Only 70 climbers are allowed into the park each day.

Of those spots, 60 are available through pre-registration. During the peak climbing season, these spots fill up fast – so what’s a climber to do?

The remaining 10 spots may seem like a long shot, but Niko and I didn’t have a single reservation during our trip to Hueco Tanks, and were able to get in every single day we were there.

The park opens up the 10 walk-on spots at 8:00 on a first-come, first-served basis – with a twist. If you’re camping inside the park, you can line up directly at the headquarters, but if you’re camping at the ranch, you line up at the entrance gate 2 miles away. And the folks inside the park get first dibs. Another issue is that if the climbing reservations are full, the campground likely is too. But you can still get in!

There’s a fairly simple sequence of events you have to unlock to get in, and it goes a little something like this:

1. Wake up EARLY.

Whether you’re camping inside the park or at the Hueco Rock Ranch, the most crucial part of snagging one of those elusive 10 walk-on spots is getting yer ass up, and I mean early.

Niko and I woke up every day at 5:45 to make the 10-minute drive from the ranch to the front gates. On the first two days, we were first in line, but as the weekend drew closer, we found ourselves beat by one or two cars on the final days.

The Craggin' Wagon lined up at the gate at Hueco Tanks State Park, ready for a day of climbing.

NOTE: Depending on who you ask, some rangers may tell you that folks get in the line at the gate the night before – but this is NOT allowed. There’s a cop who lives in the area, and is not so thrilled with all the climbers, so he’ll gladly issue you a ticket. Do not sleep at the gate overnight!

2. Bring breakfast.

Once you roll into the queue at the gate (or at headquarters), you’ve got a couple hours to kill before the rangers open the gates and let you know the status. We went back to sleep in the van a few mornings, but the best days where when we cooked breakfast and brewed coffee in line. If you’re lined up directly at headquarters, bring a laptop and take advantage of the free wi-fi.

3. Consider buying a Texas State Parks pass.

We calculated the costs, and if you’re staying at the park for more than five days with two or more people in your car, or 10 days by yourself, you are better off buying a park pass than paying the 7$ entry fee each day. And you make the process a bit easier on the rangers each morning.

Hueco Tanks State Park, a true mecca for American bouldering.4. Be patience and think positive.

If you don’t get one of the initial 10 spots during the morning, don’t worry. You’ll be put on a waitlist, and at 10:00, the park releases any reservations for people who haven’t shown up. While you’re waiting, don’t hover around inside the park office – go hang out in your car, make some coffee, and wait for the rangers to let you know the status.

If all else fails, you can hop on a paid tour to get you to one of the other mountains. Some are professional guide services, and some are held by volunteers – but they all cost a pretty penny. You can pay up to $25 per person to get on these tours, so it’s really a last resort for the true dirtbag.

If you want to climb anywhere beside North Mountain, you’ll need to book a tour – but there is more than enough climbing on the main mountain to keep anyone occupied for weeks.

Additional advice on Hueco Tanks:

–       If you can, visit the park on weekdays. You have a much higher chance of getting reservations and walk-ons.

–       Keep calling the park to check for reservations (in a kind and respectful manner, of course). Niko and I called every day leading up to our visit to check for spots, and a few randomly opened up through cancellations.

–       For a tasty and cheap taco dinner, head to El Pasito’s on Montana. The burritos cost us $2.69 each, and tacos are equally inexpensive. You can get everything from menudo to carnitas – and beer.

–       The nearest grocery store to Hueco Tanks is Vista Mercado on Montana, but on the way in through El Paso off I-10, you can stock up on the cheapest produce I’ve ever purchased at Pro’s Ranch Market. It’s huge, loaded with Mexican food (both grocery and ready-to-eat), and outrageously affordable. Get a churro and some freshly squeezed orange juice!

Got additional advice for getting into Hueco Tanks?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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!

Two weeks to travel across the country! – A road trip planning Q&A

As much as I love to share the stories of my adventures, my best satisfaction comes from hearing about my reader’s own excursions into the outdoors. When reader Jordan Blair e-mailed me with a few questions to help him prepare for his upcoming road trip from Virginia to California, I thought answering his inquiries would make for a great post to help others plan their own trips.

Check out this road trip Q&A, and let me know if there’s anything I missed! Jordan is heading out in a few days, and is open to pretty much anything along the way – so leave him a few comments with your favorite destinations, eateries, and travel advice! He’s planning a stop in Salt Lake City, but other than that has a very open two-week agenda.

[Read more…]

A guide to the Outdoor Retailer summer show with #ATQA

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or so I hear. The annual Outdoor Retailer show is gearing up to begin its popular summer event, and I’m gearing up for my first ever attendance at this legendary gathering of outdoor brands, reps, and industry enthusiasts.

So what can you expect from the OR Show? Well, frankly, I haven’t a clue. Fortunately, last week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel chat took an in-depth look at the event – and in lieu of the standard chat recap, I thought it would be much more fruitful to turn our conversation into a mini guide to Outdoor Retailer’s summer show.

[Read more…]

Tips for beating the heat during summer adventures

I have always been a summer gal. Winters were never my thing, and nothing pleased me more than the promise of a hot summer – until I started climbing and camping. Now that I understand the torture of sleeping in a tent that’s steamier than a sauna, and the agony of hiking up the side of a mountain with sweat puddling in my boots, I’m not quite as big of a summer fan. 

Despite the heat and brutal sun, summer remains a prime season for adventure. You just have to know how to cope with the summertime swelter.

After a recent trip up to Tennessee for a weekend of bouldering, I found that one can effectively battle the side effects of summer – you just have to employ crafty tactics for beating the heat. Here are my top tips for staying cool while embarking on summertime adventures:

Stay hydrated.

Let me say this again – stay hydrated. After working on the Hydration Summit with GeigerRig, I learned how incredibly important it is to continually be pumping your body with water. Nothing will zap your outdoor chutzpah quite like dehydration; and it’s all too easy to forget to drink enough.

Personally, I’ve found that a hydration pack is key to making sure you’re drinking enough, and drinking regularly. I used to solely carry a Naglene bottle around, but it’s such a hassle to drink from while you’re on the move. A hydration pack with a convenient tube allows you to take a quick sip without slowing down. (Pssst, stay tuned for a GeigerRig hydration pack giveaway coming up this week!)

Don’t want to take my word for it?
Check out my interview with Gatorade Institute veteran John Seifert for an expert opinion.

Take it slow.

Where’s the rush? Niko tends to practically sprint during crag approaches, and always leaves me panting in his wake. Overexerting yourself is a waste of energy, and will only serve to get you real hot, real fast. Get an early start, and alleviate the pressure of “getting out there in time.

Slow your roll, keep an even pace, and remember that whole hydration thing. Stop to sip water frequently – your body will thank you.

Take a siesta.

Summertime swelter isn’t just hard on your body; it makes rock downright impossible to hold onto. Those sexy sloped crimps on Cleopatra at Stone Fort? Forget about it once the sun hits that sultry slab of sandstone. Attempting to project a boulder that’s been baking like an oven is frankly a waste of time – so save your strength, and go take a nap.

Seriously. Niko and I hit our heat threshold around noon, just in time for the sunshine encroach on even the shadiest of spots. We hiked back out to the car, drove to a more appropriate parking lot (napping on the gravel at a golf course is kinda frowned upon), and quickly settled in for a nice afternoon sleep session. With crash pads splayed out on the ground, we enjoyed a nice lunch break and rest before heading back to the crag to finish up our climbing conquests.

Did it help me climb better? You’ll have to judge for yourself, but I’ll tell you this – after a satisfying nap, I returned to a route, Super Mario (V4), that had plagued me for over two years, and quickly sent it.

Seek the shade.

This one feels like a no-brainer. When you’re out in the boulder field, hang out under trees and overhangs. You’ll likely be sweating either way, but keeping your body out of the sun helps to prevent the bright rays from zapping all your energy out.

My favorite shady spot? Certain caves, boulders, and cracks tend to offer unbelievably cool pockets and drafts of air. I’m talking a stiff 70 degrees of refreshing bliss if you find the right little nook. The boulder problem Cleopatra is one of those spots. Snuggle up in the corner, and you’ll notice a huge temperature drop.

Keeping your cool and maintaining a hydrated body are key elements to making the most out of your adventures into the heat. Do you have any tips or tricks for staying cool while hiking, climbing, or exploring outside? 

Introducing “Simply Adventure” – Reinventing the art of adventure in 2013

In May 2011, Niko and I embarked on a five-week trip across the country to climb, explore, and gain a new perspective on living. My leg of the journey began along the Atlantic coast in Miami, and together we traveled across mountains, prairies, and forests until reaching the Pacific ocean. After over a month spent living out of my parent’s Pilot, waking up with the rising sun, and spending afternoons splayed out in the sunshine of boulder fields – we returned home entirely changed.

It was quickly realized that we needed more.

We spent the next six months apart, with Niko studying in Tallahassee while I voyaged out on a seven-week solo trip and moved out to Denver for the fall and winter seasons. Upon reuniting, we decided our lives were better spent together – but that togetherness had a purpose.

We were built for a life of adventure.

And so, the plans began to form for a yearlong trip across the entire length America. At first, we dubbed it “The 2013 Trip,” but this epic journey deserved a more proper name – and thus, Simply Adventure was born. 

What are we doing?

We’re two perfectly regular people, proving that adventure is within anyone’s reach – all you have to do is choose a trail and follow it. We’re selling everything we own, buying a used van and building a home on wheels, simplifying our needs, and traveling America to discover everything that the land of the free has to offer. Our strongest passion is climbing, and through our journey we plan to support and advocate for local climbing communities and organizations. We also want to revive a love for living locally, focusing on local eateries and farmers markets.

Why are we doing this?

The common thread in all of our passions? The land.  We’re going to spread an appreciation for the unrivaled nature that sprawls across our country, and we hope to inspire others to embrace the values of land stewardship, conservation, and taking full advantage of what the outdoors has to offer. Whether it’s working to ensure access to a climbing crag in Tennessee, or supporting local farmers in California, we want to give back to communities who love the land.

We also want to demonstrate that what we’re doing isn’t some special journey reserved for a handful of folks daring enough to break free. Simply Adventure is a journey for EVERYONE. This experience is accessible to anyone – and we want you to come along for the ride. We hope to inspire you to forge you own path, dream about your own epic trips, and hit the road towards your adventure.

Where are we going?

Frankly, we want to go everywhere. Our map is still evolving, but we have a rough idea of our seasonal destinations. The adventure begins in January 2013, with a few months of climbing around the southern states to avoid the brutal winter up north. Once spring has sprung, we’ll begin meandering towards the mid-west and Pacific coast. Summertime will be spent in the northwestern region, and across the northernmost states. As the heat resides and the colors of autumn begin to blossom, we’ll follow fall along the northeast, and back down to our beloved southeast. The trip will conclude with a circuit around our favorite southern climbing areas.

For Katie, this trip will be the cherry on top of a lifetime of American travel. With only a handful of state lines left to be crossed, Katie will fulfill her goal of visiting all 50 states by summertime. And Niko? Well, he’s always up for exploring new territory.

So, how can you get involved?

Without you, our trip is meaningless. Simply Adventure is about inspiring, challenging, motivating, and educating others. We want to bring you along during our adventures, and we want to provide everyone with the opportunity to take part in the journey. By sharing our experiences, providing valuable tools and resources, helping local communities, and spreading the good tidings of adventure, we hope to create a new breed of explorers. We want you to adventure.

You can keep up with us through social media, personal contact, the blog, and even joining us during the trip. We’ll be documenting the trip as we go, via The Morning Fresh, and will be collecting material for a series of books, including photography books and a guide for creating your own epic adventure. (Stay tuned for an upcoming Kickstarter to help us fund the dream!)

Check out all the ways to stay in touch with Simply Adventure and The Morning Fresh:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SimplyAdventure
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SimplyAdventure
Instagram: http://statigr.am/themorningfresh
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/themorningfresh/
Yelp: http://simplyadventure.yelp.com

The journey has just begun – and we invite you to travel with us during every step of the way. Updates shall begin flowing, plans will solidify, the dream will inevitably grow, and Simply Adventure will soon come to full fruition. Will you join us for the adventure?