Film Selections: California, September

Submitted By: Nicole Lesnett, Board Member & Wilderness Ambassador in East Bay, CA

Rediscovering a film camera that I was given as a kid has been a lesson in remembering how to look more closely. In remembering how to focus a lens. Film is often blurry. Film is expensive. Film gets me excited to inspect the dirt and to visit Walgreen’s and turn small outings into colorful somethings. I’m thinking it’s been a good project!

The following is a very small selection from a year and a half ago, romping around Northern California.

Sun going down in Steep Ravine
Picking over late summer scrub
Leaving a milky pastel view at Baker Beach
Hazy afternoon in Kirkwood
Seafoam succulents, burgundy stems
Day breaking from Mt. Tam
Trekking on

Review: Warbonnet Ridgerunner Sleeping Hammock

Submitted By: Mika Weinstein, Board Member 

On a brisk fall day, fellow Wild Woman, Sara, and I made the last minute decision to head out for a quick 23-hour trip to Annapolis Rocks in Maryland. In a stroke of luck, we made it to the overlook right in time for a sublime sunset.

We lounged in its glory and then set out to make camp in the dark. This was my first experience camping in a hammock. I’d been curious about them for a while, since it’s ultra lightweight (this one is just over 2 pounds) without being as expensive as a comparable backpacking tent. That said, Sara pitched a two-person tent just in case I needed to dive in and escape the cold or discomfort midway through the night. I was happy to have a backup plan if the whole thing turned into a debacle, but mainly I was excited about this new outlet for my hammock enthusiasm (my roommate has a permanent indoor hammock in our living room).


I tested Warbonnet’s bridge-style Ridgerunner sleeping hammock. As a first time hammock camper, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy Warbonnet makes it to use.

After fumbling around in the dark to find trees at the right distance apart, the rest was pretty simple. Having watched the video tutorial in advance, it took a minimal amount of jiggering to get the straps set up. The simplicity of the strap setup is really nice. I’ve seen a demo of the intricate knot required for stringing up other camping hammocks, and it takes some practice. The carabiner slung around the tree takes seconds and makes for easy adjustments. That’s key for keeping the hammock off the ground while you’re still learning the ideal placement height.


All told, I only have positive things to say about the Ridgerunner.

The mosquito net zips off for a nice open-air option (you can stuff it into a pocket near the feet), and even with it on there’s plenty of breathing room. Using the side zipper as an entrance makes for easy exit and entry without jostling your sleeping pad and bag too much (as opposed to other brands that have bottom entry).


There are aluminum spreader bars that hook in on the two short edges, which helps keep the hammock relatively flat and broad without you having to sleep diagonally. There was plenty of space to throw in my sleeping pad, which proved to be adequate insulation for that night. The spreader bars also make the long edges of the fabric taut, so you can brace yourself by hanging onto them while you get in and out.


The pockets (called “saddlebags” by Warbonnet) are a great bonus feature. I kept my cell phone and flashlight in there without worrying they would slide around during the night.

The only caveat is that you have to purchase a tarp separately, which can drive up the cost of the whole system ($190 for the hammock, $95-$140 for tarps). Even then, they have a 60-day return-for-any-reason policy, so there’s no risk in trying it out.

Disclaimer: Warbonnet provided a hammock in exchange for a review. The opinions shared here are an honest take from the author.

The Time I Visited Glacier National Park (aka My First Foray into the Backcountry)

This post is a reflection on Wild Wilderness Women’s first annual Babes Off the Beaten Path (BOTBP) trip to Glacier National Park. This trip was an opportunity to explore what it really means to be a “babe” while taking new and experienced backpacking women out for an exceptional outdoors experience. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, or if you’d like to chat about how you can support BOTBP 2017, please contact us!

Submitted By: Jamie Furlan, WWW Member

The neural pathways in my brain are on fire: they are in overdrive taking in and processing so much beauty. I look to the left—ancient mountains rise boldly to the skies; I look to the right—mirror-lakes reflect those stark mountains and eternal sky back at me. I breathe in and pull the scent of damp forest and earthy soil deep into my lungs. The air is sweet in that fresh air kind of way. The sun warms my arms, my face, my very core. The silence and the roar of nature fill my being.

I am surrounded; I am engulfed; I stand in rapture amid endless beauty.

My muscles contract and propel me forward and up, and I feel strong. It is enough to place one foot in front of the other, to climb, to take it all in.

I feel gratitude for the unadulterated experience, for the opportunity to share it with others equally in awe of the spaces we are inhabiting. I am grateful for strong breath, for trees, for boundless sky.


It feels good to disconnect from my urban life and, instead, adopt a more deliberate routine of unpacking my pack daily, setting up camp, pitching the tent, separating my snacks and toothpaste to be hung in bear bags after dinner. In the morning, I pull down the tent, pack up my bag, prepare to do it all over again.

There is comfort in the process – in doing and undoing and doing something again. Like intricate Buddhist sand art, the beauty is in the process, in the total concentration on the moment.

Over the course of the week, we eight ladies make our own kind of sand mandala made up of laughter over attempts at hanging bear bags; of the simple pleasure of a hot beverage on a damp, chilly night; of glimpsing streaks of the Perseid meteor shower on its pilgrimage across the night sky.

These moments are ours – we lived them, we breathed them, we carry them with us. When we venture out into wild spaces, we bring a piece of it back within ourselves.

On my trip to Montana I learned that the kindness of strangers extends far and wide. That women, when they come together, can be a powerful source of support and strength. That Montana is breathtakingly, heartwarmingly beautiful. That it’s a delight to spot a marmot against the rocks in the afternoon light.


Don’t Mind Me, I’ll Just Be Sweeping

This post is a reflection on Wild Wilderness Women’s first annual Babes Off the Beaten Path (BOTBP) trip to Glacier National Park. This trip was an opportunity to explore what it really means to be a “babe” while taking new and experienced backpacking women out for an exceptional outdoors experience. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, or if you’d like to chat about how you can support BOTBP 2017, please contact us!

Submitted By: Allison StraussBoard Member & Wilderness Ambassador in Portland, OR

By late morning, the rain mellowed to a mist and the wind died down. I was serving as ‘sweep’ at the time. The sweep is a steady hiker who acts as the caboose. She ensures no one is behind and unaccounted for, and by default, provides motivation to those in front of her. It was a position many of us took turns at. We took turns at the head of the pack too. I was pleased by our fluidity with this, changing positions throughout the day.

The gal in front of me and I found the rest of the gang waiting at a trail junction. Regrouped, the Babes made to start off again, turning toward the wrong branch in the trail.

“Um, I don’t think we’re going to Twin Falls…” I spoke up. I’d briefed the group on our route over a map before we broke camp.


But there was no mistake. While waiting at the fork in the trail, the Babes had agreed Twin Falls was worth a detour. It was a third of a mile there, meaning another third of a mile to return to the junction so we could continue on our route. As I did the math, I was hit with pride. Despite our rough start that morning with the weather, the group was game to add over half a mile to the day in order to see some waterfalls. And they made the decision collectively without me. It was a leader’s dream. The falls were nice too.


Photos credit: Sara Gassman

Accessibility in the Outdoors & The Camp Kit’s Role

What does making the outdoors accessible mean? This question was on my mind when I co-founded Wild Wilderness Women almost two years ago. We wanted to build a group that would empower more women to get outside, and do so in an intentional way that wouldn’t leave any women out. As we’ve grown, it has been a question our board has returned to again and again. How do we make sure we’re fostering an inclusive environment where socio-economic status, race, sexuality, and the variety of other characteristics that a diverse community of women may identify with don’t inadvertently prohibit them from feeling welcome outside?


The urgency of the question for me only grew as our board began planning our inaugural Babes Off the Beaten Path trip—an annual opportunity for Wild Wilderness Women to come together and build community while having an exceptional outdoors experience. For this first year, we’d be taking eight women into the backcountry of Glacier National Park for four days. Three of these women had never been backpacking before.

My mind immediately turned to cost, and the stress I remember feeling around obtaining all the gear I needed when I started diving into the world of backpacking. The truth is that it’s expensive to get started backpacking. Just the cost of the basics adds up fast.

  • Backpack: $200
  • Sleeping pad: $60
  • Sleeping bag: $150
  • Tent: $175
  • Stove: $50
  • Headlamp: $25
  • Total: $660

The cost of gear shouldn’t be what stops a woman from trying out backpacking for the first time, and we certainly didn’t want this to be the case for the women who were courageously throwing their fears to the wind and coming with us on this wild ride to Glacier. This is where The Camp Kit came in.


For far less than the price of buying all new gear, The Camp Kit offers easy rentals of everything a newbie may need to try out this great love affair we call backpacking. And, unlike some rental companies, it only sends high-quality gear—the type that you would want to buy for yourself. As a first-timer, this is important. Using gear that is old, smelly, heavy, or otherwise unappealing can affect the way a beginner internalizes the experience.

When Tara first joined Wild Wilderness Women, she didn’t have much experience camping. Day hikes, paddling on the Potomac, or biking along local trails were more up her alley. But, strapping a pack on your back, sleeping near wild animals, and spending multiple nights in a tent? She had some hesitations. However, when we announced our trip to Glacier, Tara excitedly signed up. She quickly embraced the opportunity to push her limits in a way that so beautifully encapsulated the ethos of our group’s mission. This was something we wanted to champion.


Photo Credit: Nicole Lesnett

Tara headed out on the Dawson-Pitamakan Trail with us this past August thanks to a 1-person backpacking kit from The Camp Kit. She got to experience what backpacking was all about without committing to dropping hundreds of dollars on gear. And, I can’t imagine what our trip would’ve been like if something like the cost of gear had held Tara back from joining us.

Tara brought incredible spirit to the group—encouraging all of us when we began to feel tired, letting us share in her excitement of seeing her first moose, and being the first to want to learn new skills, such as bear bag hanging or backcountry dishwashing. I asked her at the end of the trip if she thought backpacking was something she’d do again, and, guess what? Even with aches in the feet and stinky armpits at the end of the trail, her answer was—yes!

Accessibility in the outdoors is important across a variety of spectrums. For me, the financial barrier of getting started is one I feel particularly passionate about breaking down. I’m grateful for options like The Camp Kit that help do just that.

XO—Korrin, Co-founder & President

Header photo credit: Nicole Lesnett

The Importance of Accessibility in Being a Babe Off the Beaten Path

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!

Submitted By: Nicole Lesnett, VP of Engagement & East Bay Chapter President

I’ve been wondering why going to Montana for this first annual Wild Wilderness Women trip is important to me.

My first ever backpacking experience was a five-day hike through Stanislaus National Forest with U.C. Davis Outdoor Adventures. Thinking back, I made a lot of mistakes. I remember reading the clothing section of the packing list and assuming that it meant one shirt, one pair of shorts, and one pair of socks for every single day. I remember dividing up the food and not understanding why no one else grabbed the oranges and avocados. I remember trying not to cry the first day as we hiked five miles uphill in high elevation, my pack weighing over 50 pounds and resting completely on my shoulders rather than my hips.

There were so many moments where I did not believe I could continue. But as the days went on and we covered more and more miles, as we were shown how to wear our packs properly and devoured the food, as I shared my clean clothes and nursed my bruised collarbones and developed blisters, I found that I could do it. When the other participants and I finished the trail, we bought a gallon of chocolate ice cream and ate it in ten minutes flat. I was beyond content, I was sore and relieved and proud, and I was surprised to learn how disappointed I felt that it was over.

Going on that initial trek was a privilege in many ways. I was fortunate enough to have some money from graduation to cover the trip fees,  and to borrow most of the necessary gear from my outdoorsy momma. It was also a privilege to experience this challenging and awesome excursion with mostly women (though you were an irreplaceable, spectacular guide, Marshall!). Not once, with the exception of my own critical mind, was there a trace of doubt that I was capable of completing the trail. This has set the precedent for all trips since then—that women, new to backpacking or not, are unquestionably capable of such things.


Seven years and a dozen excursions later, this notion has certainly been tested.

There was the time that my friends and I brought about half the food needed for the six of us, and desperately shared one bag of salad between us for dinner on the last night. I’ve had a lot of good burritos in my life, but the one I had for lunch after getting off that trail was something else.

There was the time that two of us set out to tackle the Presidential Range in New Hampshire and were up on the ridge, much farther behind on the route than anticipated, when we learned that thunderstorms were rolling in. We got desperately lost trying to get to shelter, and when we arrived, didn’t have enough cash for the little covered site. We stayed there anyway, but were woken up every few minutes as lightning illuminated the shelter and thunder shook the foundation. The next morning we donned our $5 ponchos—arguably the best $5 ever spent—and hiked four hours out to a small highway, where a sweet couple eventually, graciously gave our muddy selves a ride back to our car. Satisfied with our level of roughing it for the weekend, we ditched all previous plans and drove towards the hot showers awaiting us at a hotel room in Portland, ME.


There have been so many mosquito bites and steep hills that I wonder why I keep coming back to it. I suppose there is something insanely gratifying—and supremely funny, in hindsight—about getting through the unexpected elements of backpacking. Coupled with endless endorphins, gorgeous views, and lovely views, I realize over and over again that there’s many reasons I keep coming back to it.  

My only frustration with this lucrative pastime is its inaccessibility. In my experience, it’s been easy to see that more often that not, I backpack with friends who are male, white, and/or middle-class. Needless to say, I love their company, but I’d also really love to go with my less wealthy, non-white, female friends too. It’s disappointing to see that “the outdoors” is frequently an exclusive place. Though in some fields it has begun to change, most outdoor sports are dominated by men. It feels starkly apparent each time I find myself bouldering or waiting for a wave, and realize I can count every single woman in a (literal) sea of dudes.

Misadventures Magazine, a publication “by and for adventurous women,” has some pretty enlightening graphics on gender representation in outdoor media. It’s also no secret that outdoor gear can be absurdly expensive, and that big name companies perpetuate needing the top-of-the-line equipment to do it right. Considering a range of supplies, this site found that the cost of buying the most essential components of backpacking gear could be anywhere from $300-$2,200, not to mention permits, gas, food, etc. for each excursion.

Ideal backpacking destinations are not exactly welcoming either. A heartbreaking article from Al Jazeera states that only 1% of national parks visitors are African-American, in part due to fear of racist treatment. It’s clear that backpacking can often require certain levels of privilege, and this isn’t right. Something so strangely wonderful shouldn’t be so exclusive.

What does this all have to do with being a part of “Babes Off the Beaten Path?” Naturally, I’m excited for another challenge in a completely new place. Mostly though, I’m looking forward to an experience with other women who want to change the notion of what backpacking has traditionally meant. Though I haven’t met them all yet, I admire each one for putting so much time and energy into something as challenging as weathering the elements while hauling a bunch of crap around. And more importantly, I admire them for wanting to make sure that any lady who wants to partake in this absurd, rewarding, life-changing activity can do it too.

This year’s group of gals may be a relatively privileged lot, it’s true. But hopefully we can still set a precedent that our activities are accessible to any self-identified woman, regardless of income or background. While there’s much more work to be done, establishing no barriers to participating in Babes Off the Beaten Path could be one step towards making the outdoors more inclusive.

Guest Post: Babes Off the Beaten Path

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!

Submitted By: LJ Dawson, A Wandering Vagabond

Days spent staring at my hiking shoes stepping, one two three; hanging from ropes above valleys, watching sunrises from the bare tops of mountains, holding my breath between a rivers crashing waves, grinning smiles full of powder, these are the moments that empower me as a person and as a woman. This is how I live my life most purely.


I was lucky, raised in the outdoors as much as the city, schooled with mountains and deserts with a bit of books and brick buildings to go along. My upbringing was incredibly unique in this way, and I often think how I would have found the wild if I my father hadn’t bestowed me with it along with my blue eyes.

I love the challenge and growth that leaving paved roads and gridded cities delivers to me. Being outdoors as a woman means being off the beaten path in more ways than physically though.

Society never talks about the path towards being an independent woman in the wilderness. It is almost a secret covered in vague references from pop culture, with features on Lynn Hill and other complete badass women in the outdoors. These stories inspire, but are rarely relatable.


If you are lucky, you have a family with outdoorsy females in it, but that is not common. Even if you have close female role models to look up to, getting into a part of society ruled by egoism and macho-ism is incredibly difficult as a young girl or young woman. This is not because women are meek and weak, but because our intrinsic traits are not valued as much as male values in the outdoor community’s social system.

Social bush whacking is required to become a Babe off the Beaten Path. Even with my vast background, I fought and am still fighting to gain knowledge and experience that male friends have picked up with less effort and work from the climbing gym to ski mountains.

My story is not an anomaly, and it leaves me wondering how many women miss out on the empowerment and happiness I gain from being outdoors. The reasons are obvious, but the solutions less so.

This is where the babe part comes in. When I get around the outdoorsy ladies, we always commiserate at the state of ego in the outdoors: “Gawd, I was trying to boulder at the gym and this guy would not shut up about this awesome V12 he sent in Moab,” or, “We were hanging out at the bar and ran into these cute skier guys, and then they wouldn’t stop talking about this crazy near death experience in the backcountry.” Or, “This one guy would not stop screaming ‘SEND ITTTT.’ I was warming up”

Any of us babes off the beaten path have run into the issue of how much we become one of the boys. Do we assimilate into the macho culture and join the competitive, adrenaline rushing practices? I thought that was what I would have to do join the inner circle.

All the macho-ism and ego has its benefits, but very little balance. A more feminine approach to outdoor activities, though rarely encouraged, has its own upsides. There is never one way to climb a mountain, but both paths lead to the top.


More and more women came into my life who were heavily immersed in the outdoors. I was shocked when they wore skirts, spoke quietly, and mentioned their feelings. This was allowed? I wouldn’t get voted off the island?

These role models inspired me to drop the fake attitude. Suddenly, I discovered that not only was it okay to voice a perceived weakness, to say no, I am scared, or slow down, but that often my voice was expressing others’ opinions and empowering the whole group. I saw power in the quiet words and less hells fury attack many of my male friends took towards the outdoors. I saw women treat days of backpacking with elegance, including dangly earrings and important spa days, and fellow river guides bring fashion to the river with gorgeous jewelry. These ladies shoved the macho-ism aside and were still phenomenal at the outdoors pursuits they chased. I was beyond lucky to have these women in my life to change my perception.

When we go into the woods, it becomes an intimate dance between the wild and our souls. It can only be our authentic selves dancing. As women, we must let ourselves be and interact genuinely with wilderness.

Where most men conquer, I find women dance with the environment. We are much more willing to listen to our instincts and the mountain or river telling us no. We surrender to the wild while many men try to fight and win. Embracing these attitudes will open the door to a more female inclusive community.

The outdoor community is run predominantly by a system that discourages women from participating and learning new skills. I believe it is not about overhauling the system or pointing fingers, but creating space to be filled in by women. More women participating physically and changing the dialogue of this community will create a blank page that new ladies can fill rather than fighting to cut out a space for themselves.

Being a Babe off the Beaten Path means refusing to sacrifice who we are to go places we love. A more balanced outdoor community will benefit the mountains and us.


So, just get out into the wild, ladies. Wear that dress down that river, or rock your pants. Take a risk and own yourself. Don’t try to fit into anything that you are not. Show up as yourself and dance and crawl up that mountain. Cry, laugh, and smile just get those feet moving. Be brave enough to take that leap in your own skin. And above all, bring other ladies out. Only good can come out of more women being outside.

Instagram: @awanderingvagabond

The Backpacker’s Wardrobe

Submitted By: Allison Strauss, Annual Adventure Maven

Excitement is building around Wild Wilderness Women’s backpacking trips this summer. For some, it will be their first such expedition, potentially mixing in nervousness with the excitement and raising many questions.

When someone else is doing the planning, the area you have the most control over before a backpacking trip is what you’ll wear. The clothes you bring will affect your comfort, and therefore how great a time you have. So discussing clothing seems like a good place to start in building first-timers’ confidence, whether you’re coming with us this summer or preparing for your own walk on the wild side.


First, put REI out of your mind. But everything’s so cool! Says the excited You. But everything’s so expensive! Says the nervous You. Tell them both that those cool and expensive things are variations on just a few necessities. Over time, the backpacking wardrobe has been honed down to a standard set that applies anywhere in the continental U.S. This guide will “unpack” that set, sharing its reasoning and its options.


1) Synthetic Underwear

Backpacking clothes are all about materials. Underwear should be made of some kind of synthetic (polyester, nylon, etc.). It wicks sweat, dries quickly, and minimizes odor. We tend to think of cotton underwear as the ultimate in comfort, but cotton is banned in backpacking, because it gets wet, stays wet, and smells. The cotton ban is particularly relevant for underwear, to prevent yeast infections. That said, I backpacked in cotton underwear for years and never got a yeast infection. The aim of this guide is to impart an attitude of intentionality, not fatalism.

–How many pairs?

One for each day, plus one or two extras. No need to get radical on your first trip!

2) Sports Bra

No complicated straps or plastic bits that might dig into you.


3) Wool Hiking Socks

The thick toughness of these socks is absolutely necessary to keep your feet from blistering. And wool wicks moisture, which also keeps your feet from blistering.

–How many pairs?

As with underwear, there’s no need to go radical here. It’s more important not to get athlete’s foot. For short trips, you might as well bring a pair for each day. For trips of five days or more—not that you should be doing that your first trip–I’d say a pair for every two days.

Note: Some backpackers are firm believers in liner socks–specialty thin socks worn under wool socks to reduce friction. I haven’t found they make any difference, so I say one less thing you have to buy. You can always try them in the future if you get into backpacking.

4) Sacred Socks

Many backpackers bring a pair of comfy, warm socks just to sleep in. So they stay clean, these “sacred socks” are usually packed in the bottom of the sleeping bag and never leave there.

5) Camp Sandals/Shoes

Lightweight footwear to give your tootsies a rest from hiking boots. Many backpackers bring Teva-style sandals they can wear over their socks. Backless sandals or shoes are discouraged.

6) Knit or Fleece Gloves

Fingerless recommended!

7) Knit or Fleece Hat

8) Sun Hat

Baseball, bucket, or safari style, so long as it can be stuffed in your backpack.


Rigid hats like those made of felt or straw are discouraged for two reasons. 1) The stiff brim in the back may bump against your backpack and drive you crazy. 2) The only thing to do with a rigid hat if you don’t feel like wearing it is to strap/tie it to your backpack. I encourage minimizing the number of things on the outside of your pack to keep items from getting damaged, tangled, or lost. This will also make it easier to pull on a pack cover if it rains.

9) Thermal Top and Bottoms

Think of thermals as your second skin. Their job is to insulate. Many backpackers sleep in their thermals.

Thermals come in silk, synthetic, and wool. Synthetic is ideal for backpacking, as silk can be too delicate for long-term use and wool can be too hot. But if you already own either silk or wool thermals, no need to run out and buy synthetic.


Thermal Tops!


Several examples of the popular thermal bottoms with shorts combo.

Note: Most of the folks in the photo above are wearing gaiters, those sheaths around their lower legs. Gaiters have stirrups that go around your hiking boots, keeping snow, sand, pebbles, etc. out of the boots. But I haven’t found them to make much of a difference, and am more comfortable without them. Unless your trip leader advises gaiters because of specific conditions, I’d say this is another item you can skip for a first trip, and test out on future ones.

10) Hiking Pants

These don’t have to be explicitly for hiking. Check the thrift stores! What you’re looking for is a tough material and a comfortable fit. Consider whether they’ll protect your legs if you’re pushing your way through bushes. You should be able to wear thermal bottoms underneath.

Note: Seriously, check the thrift stores. I’ve found Helly Hansen pants and Marmot shorts, both with the tags still on. And you’d be surprised at all the North Face jackets.

11) Hiking Shorts

These do not have to be explicitly for hiking either. Take them for a walk to make sure they don’t chafe or ride up between your thighs. Leave the shorts at home from late fall to early spring.


Note: Pants that zip into shorts are great!

12) Synthetic T-Shirts

I used to make a cotton exception with t-shirts and you can too. But I noticed a B.O. improvement when I switched to synthetic, and the armpits don’t get holes with wear. Invisible mesh gives great breathability. Swab with an anti-static dryer sheet before your trip.

–How many?

I’d say 1 shirt for every 3 or 4 days. If that means only one shirt for the length of the trip (as it probably will on your first), then bring an extra in case you spill hot chocolate down your front.


Note: Lots of women wear tank tops backpacking, but to give yourself the best shot at comfort (and therefore an enjoyable trip), I’d advise against tank tops, to minimize risk of your backpack straps from rubbing your shoulders. You can try tanks the next time, once you’ve decided you like backpacking come what may. Bring a t-shirt in case it doesn’t work out.

13) Fleece or Compressible Down Jacket


14) Fleece Pants

Wear over thermal bottoms at night and/or to sleep. Leave them at home in the summer.

15) Fleece or Compressible Down Vest

If you bring a fleece vest, you should be able to wear a fleece or down jacket over it. If you bring a down vest, you should be able to wear a fleece jacket under it. (No point in bringing a down vest and down jacket, since they can’t be effectively layered.) Think of yourself as a matrioshka doll—everything’s got to nest. Leave the vest at home in the summer.

16) Rain Jacket and Pants

These should be shells, meaning not lined with any sort of insulation. That way they’ll be comfortable if you need rain or wind protection but aren’t cold. Make sure they are marked Waterproof, that they’re not just windbreakers. These are your outermost layers and should fit over everything.


17) Hiking Boots

If you haven’t hiked in hiking boots before, or have not owned a pair you really liked, go to an outdoors store and try on an assortment of boots with a shoe department clerk. Tell him/her about the trip you’re going on. As you test different boots, describe what you’re feeling so the clerk can steer you in the right direction. Don’t be shy about taking however much time is needed and making the clerk go back and forth to the stockroom. (Go at a slow business time if possible.) If the clerk is pushing a boot that you don’t think is right, don’t settle for it just because (s)he is more familiar with boots. They’re your feet, and this is your big-money item in the backpacker’s wardrobe.

Before your trip, take your new boots for a hike or some walks on a dirt path. (Avoid wearing them down on concrete as much as possible) This will mold them to your feet and make them uniquely yours!


In Review:

  1. Intentionality, not fatalism.
  2. Synthetics and wool are your friends. Cotton is banned.
  3. Lightweight and compressible.
  4. Be a matrioshka doll. Make sure your layers actually nest.
  5. Check the thrift stores.
  6. Set your feet up for success.

See you in the backcountry!


Away is a Place

Submitted By: Ashley Barry, VP of Organizational Development

Last fall, I had the opportunity to combine two loves of mine: the outdoors and great company. Korrin and I set off on a long weekend in what we fondly call the Adventure Prius. Although rather small and of questionable wilderness driving ability, the Prius seems to get us to where we want to go: Away. Away from the city, responsibilities, task lists, mobile phones, the internet, and the other accoutrements of modern life. Cranberry Wilderness in West Virginia was the destination – ­about as “away” as one can get from Washington within a few hours of driving.

This photo essay is not a trip report, nor is it a backpacking “how to.” Rather, it is a call for women to get away, to get outside to discover what is inside and to reexamine what is really important in our lives. It is a call for women to put themselves and their spiritual growth first, a task with which many of us often experience difficulty. Put this task at the top of your list in 2016, and let the following guide you:

Get out and go


Have a little fun (and enjoy your morning coffee)



Stop to notice the little things





Take a moment to feel small



Accept that in backpacking, as in life, some trails are clearer than others (and prepare yourself with a good map, a compass, and orienteering skills)




Take time to breathe and find your center



Celebrate milestones


Don’t forget to look up


Celebrate the finish line (and have a pair of clean clothes waiting for you)


Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro (Alternately Titled: “The Time that Mango Juice Made Me Cry”)

Submitted By: Kelly Paras, WWW member (This piece first appeared on Flip Flop Caravan)


I’ve thought about Kilimanjaro everyday since I left it’s slopes, but haven’t been able to find my voice in telling its stories.

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It’s hard to put into words something so big and profound, especially when you feel paralyzed in the wake of it.

Coming back from the mountain was almost as challenging as the climb itself – nothing in my daily life felt as important or relevant or exciting. It was like now that I knew this intense feeling of being alive, everything else was inconsequential.

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I’d try to explain THIS THING, THIS MOUNTAIN as best I could, but too much had happened; the details became suffocating and I could never find the words to properly articulate the experience.

So I let it sit week and week, trying to figure out how to put it into words – then I wrote thousands upon thousands of words that somehow just didn’t feel right. (As a writer, this was disappointing, surprising and stirred up an awful lot of self doubt. I mean, really? This is what I do and I just can’t get it right).

And the words still don’t feel quite right honestly. But this is my best attempt, at long last, to put the experience into words. To capture the insanely rewarding week I spent on Africa’s highest peak.

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I’ve decided to focus on the summit push – the hardest day of the climb, the day that tested me in every way possible.

To say it pushed my limits is somehow hyperbolic and simultaneously a woeful understatement. Have I been through shit that was more challenging than this? Yes. But was it the single most mentally, physically, and emotionally demanding day I’ve ever had? Yes.

And it was also the day that drinking mango juice made me cry. No joke.


It only took about an hour for my Camelback hose to freeze solid. And it took me awhile to realize it. I would decide to take a drink, steady my feet and mentally prepare to suck the hose’s mouthpiece as hard as I could.

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But no water came out, and I was left gasping for breath. It was just after 1am and every movement took an excruciating amount of focus and mental capacity.

Each tiny step forward was calculated. By that point, I could scarcely feel my feet – they became a completely unreliable source for confirming that I was actually touching the ground. I had to look down, to see my legs moving, to will each step.

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My world became the two feet radius around me, cast by the glow of my headlamp.

There was nothing beyond this halo of light for me – this was my world. And it was hell.

A literal hell on earth.

I had to keep telling myself to push forward, to draw breath (shallow and labored though it may be), to focus, and to remember that I chose this. I was on a vacation of my choice. I wanted to do this.

But in the moment, I wanted to be anywhere else. Wanted it to be over. Wanted to be warm. Wanted a full breath. I questioned why I had wanted to do this thing at all.


After four days of hiking 6-10 hours per day, we were bearing down on the summit push; the night we’d been working towards.

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We arrived at summit basecamp (15,000 feet) in the late afternoon, ate dinner, had a briefing with our guides and went through a health check. The long days on the trail, coupled with the altitude, left us exhausted as we collapsed into bed at 7pm.

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Sleep was elusive though. Maybe it was nerves or excitement. Or maybe it was the thin air that robbed us of sleep. I wanted to pop an Ambien, but I knew I had far fewer than the recommended eight hours to sleep.

In fact, I knew I had only about four hours to potentially get some shut eye. The summit day wake up call was coming at 11pm.

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I dozed off and slept restlessly, wrapped in layers of clothing; a cocoon of down sleeping bag with only my nose peeking out into the cold air inside my tent.

And then I heard it, the porter’s light tapping on the side of my tent.

“Dada’s (sisters) time to wake up. Get ready!”

Had I slept at all?

We’d slept (?) in our hiking gear so that all we had to do was groggily grab our packs and head to the mess tent for breakfast – porridge, cookies and tea.

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I wore my glasses for the first time on the trek after having been told that it was impossible to wear my contacts to the summit – it was too cold and they would freeze to my eyes.

What. The. Fuck. I didn’t even know such a thing was possible. It was then that I started to really get nervous.

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It was midnight when we received a few final words from our guides, stepped out in the bitterly cold night and began a slow march into the darkness.

All we knew was that we had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how difficult a task that became.

I should mention that there are only three rules on Kilimanjaro, and they had been drilled into our heads the entire climb:

  1. Listen to your guides
  2. Pole Pole (slowly slowly)
  3. Sippy Sippy (drink all your water everyday)Image 11

We dutifully followed our guides. It didn’t take long for it to feel like a death march; we had no concept of where we were going or what was around us, we just followed unquestioningly with our heads down.

How our guides knew where they were going is just one of the mysteries of the mountain I have yet to understand. There was no trail or path, no signs, no cairns, they just knew the way in the pitch black.

Within an hour, everyone fell silent and everything felt frozen; limbs, face, body – but especially hands and feet. They were bricks that constantly needed to be checked on.

Hands still holding my trekking poles? Check. Feet still moving forward? Check.

Aside from the freezing cold, the black, the lack of oxygen, and the headache caused by the altitude, it was the wind that was the most cruel element. Gale-force gusts swept across the side of the mountain with relentless ferocity.

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Vicious billows knocked us around, often dismantling our single-file line. We had to watch out for each other and help one another back into line when the wind blew one of us aside. All the while, we had no idea if we were next to a sheer cliff-face or an outcropping of rocks.

It was the blind leading the blind through a cyclone. (We found out later that the winds that night were the strongest the mountain had seen in years – lucky us?)

Even though I was wearing multiple pairs of pants and more top layers than I ever had at one time in my life (long johns, a long-sleeves shirt, an Oregon Ducks tee shirt, a down coat, a down vest, a windbreaker and a ski shell), I was still chilled to the bone.

Time became an afterthought somehow, an analogous concept really. And something I simply didn’t allow myself to think about. It was too awful and depressing to dwell on – 6 more hours until sunrise, 5 more hours, 4 more hours.

Instead of thinking about time, I thought about what the beach in Zanzibar would feel like; sand underfoot, the tide lapping my ankles, hair sweeping across my face from a gentle breeze.

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I thought of nights curled up on the couch cuddling – how warm and cozy and simple those moments were. All I could feel now were the hurricane-force winds lashing my cheeks, stinging my eyes. Tears froze to my cheeks as they fell.

And I thought about Annie and Bobbi Jo, my friends on this god-awful ascent. They very well could hate me for this – this was my idea, this moment indirectly my doing. I might lose friends over this and I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

Image 14When the wind paused a moment, I would look up to the skies, so full of brilliantly bright stars. More stars than I had seen since nights spent in the remote isolation of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.

I’d never been so close to the stars with my feet still on the ground (literally).

Some stars were so bright I felt as though I could reach out and touch them; hold the infinite in my hands. And then it donned on me…these weren’t stars at all. These lights, in horrific fact, were the headlamps of the other climbers ahead of us.

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They weren’t stars and I had to go to there – I actually had to go that high up. It seemed impossible and I hated myself for that moment of clarity. Ignorance had been a cosmically romantic bliss.

I felt desperate for an alternative truth, but the only truth was that I was freezing on the side of a mountain and I had to keep moving forward.

Even with all of these thoughts racing through my head, there was nothing; time disappeared.

Minutes felt like hours, yet hours just slip away. It was an instant, a forever eternity.

There was a constant flux between being in total awe of what I was doing and where I was, and wanting to lay down and cry and be anywhere else besides the side of this brutal mountain.

Then, just when I was really starting to hate everything, I looked up and saw color in the sky. Color! Not black! The sun was about to break the horizon. My happiness and exuberance were unfathomable.

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Minutes later came a moment of pure joy; the sun hit my face, the wind stalled for a moment and I looked out on to an alien landscape of black earth for the first time.

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It was another hour of hiking before we reached Stella Point (18,885ft) to take a much needed rest.

Our guides were all smiles and jokes – we were beaten down monsters. But one of our summit porters pulled a thermos of tea out of his pack and by some small miracle its contents were still hot!

We each savored a half a cup of heaven as we caught our breaths.

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How the tea managed to still be warm after seven hours in those conditions was truly miraculous. I mean serious mountain voodoo shit.

For reference – I pulled my Nalgene bottle out of my pack and it was nearly frozen through. The Snickers bar that I’d foolishly been longing to eat for hours, was also frozen; so hard and dense it could have been used as a weapon.

That tea was magic.

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After our break, there was another hour of mountain ahead of us. But this section was easier for many reasons; we caught a burst of energy, there was daylight, it was a bit warmer, the incline was less severe, we could see where we were going, and we had the knowledge that this ordeal was nearly over…or so we thought.

Annie, Bobbi and I set off with a guide ahead of some others in our group and pushed on. For the first time in hours, we spoke. Or rather we coughed up words at one another, our faint voices trying to be heard over the howl of the wind that continued to blow us around like tattered prayer flags.

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This last bit to reach Uhuru Peak took us along the rugged rim of the mountain’s volcanic crater, a vast expanse of black rock.

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My skull was pounding from an altitude-induced headache and I tried to remember what it felt like to take a full breath.

My attention was fully focused on the ground and the crater to my right. That was until I dared to look left. I stopped cold and stood staring with mouth agape. A massive glacier seemed to be suspended in the air – it was black pumice earth, bright glacier and sky.

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I can honestly say that I have never seen anything quite like it. It didn’t seem real that such a thing could exist. My wind-chapped lips couldn’t help but curl into a painful smile.

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Our feet carried us still higher until we caught our first glimpse of the iconic summit sign of Uhuru Peak. The sign that we’d longed to see for days on the mountain, months of anticipation and really, years of dreaming.

Now here’s the thing, it wasn’t the euphoric moment I had anticipated. I mean, it was incredible, but it wasn’t the moment of catharsis that I had imagined. Or at least not in the way I imagined.

Instead, I saw it, gawked for a minute and then a gloriously unexpected realization came to my fuzzy brain – it’s over! We get to go down now!

I felt relaxed in that moment, satisfied with what I had accomplished, in the pride that the three of us had done it together. And I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.

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I thought of how glorious that first shower back at the lodge would feel. But that’s where my brain got ahead of reality.

First, we had to take pictures of this amazing place and snap a gals photo with the sign and our Ducks shirts – those tee shirts that were buried under so many layers of jackets. Instantly though, we knew we had a problem. Our hands were so cold that we couldn’t move our fingers, like at all.

I mean, I could only focus my iPhone photos by using my nose to hit the screen (I kid you not. I looked insane, tapping my nose to a phone over and over); there was no way I could grasp my jacket zippers. All dexterity was gone.

Thankfully, yet again our super-human guides came to our rescue. Props to Frank for dutifully unzipping 3-4 jackets (each), snapping some photos (dude wasn’t even wearing gloves during the climb. Seriously?!) and then zipping us all back up.

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We smiled the best we could through our monstrous condition. (Bobbi’s face to the far right sums up how we felt – fighting for happiness through pain, discomfort and exhaustion.)

We were on the summit less than 10 minutes, before we began bounding down the mountain thanks to another inexplicable burst of energy. It was 9:30am.

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On the way back down to Stella Point we passed another group of climbers in our team – they looked beat. One guy in particular could barely hold his head up, his feet dragged in an unnatural way. But we were all battered to varying degrees and he had several guides with him, so we thought nothing of it really.

My sudden burst of energy was short-lived as the reality of descending quickly came into focus. In the night, as we climbed ever higher, the ground beneath us was frozen, providing surprisingly solid footing even if we couldn’t feel our feet.

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Now I could feel my feet, but the sun had thawed the ground; no longer solid it was a 4,000-foot wall of dirt and loose rocks. It was slippery, treacherous and steep as fuck.

Every step turned into a slide and soon we were half-skiing down this damn mountain. That may sound potentially fun, but not when you’re physically and mentally fatigued. And not when the dirt sends clouds of dust into the air for you to choke on; to dry out your eyes. And not when this form of pseudo-skiing was wreaking havoc on your knees and smashing your toes into the front of your boots.

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These were probably the most dangerous hours of our entire time on the mountain.

I had long ago handed my pack over for a guide to carry (everyone had) so I could focus on not dying. Problem was, that guide was much further down the dirt slope than I was and so too was my water.

As the hours stretched on and the distance between hikers grew wider, my throat became sand paper; raw from the dust and lack of moisture.

I hadn’t had water or liquid of any kind since the summit and I was desperate for it. I would love to say that that was the only thing I could think about, my sole focus (crushing as it was) but I had bigger problems.

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My feet were in a loosing battle with the mountain. Every time they made contact with the steep angle of the slide, a dagger of pain shot into my toes, up my legs and caused my face to contort in what I’m sure were the most unattractive grimaces ever made. I honestly didn’t think I could take another step, and then I would take another step and the pain would spike all over again.

Annie and Bobbi were getting farther and farther ahead, each of us in our own personal hell. I simply gave up trying to catch up to them; I was just trying not to fall over, to make sure my toes didn’t fall off. Because that’s exactly what it felt like was happening.

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Between the pain, the dust, the exhaustion and the now the very evident dehydration, I was becoming delirious. When the path finally began to level out, my walk was slow, labored and ugly. In fact, everything was ugly at this point. Every damn thing about me.

I hobbled into camp and was met by an exuberantly cheery porter, wide smile on his face. He congratulated me on making it and handed me a plastic cup full of mango juice, “drink dada (sister)!”

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“Water?” I croaked desperately. I had never been so single-mindedly focused on anything.

“No dada, drink juice!” he replied in a sing-songy tone.

I burst into tears. Like full-on toddler tantrum-style tears. I would have thrown myself into a pile on the ground and screamed, but I simply didn’t have the energy for that.

Now, I know that the porter had my best interests at heart and that the mango juice would give me much needed sugars since my body had been physically punished for 13+ hours, but I couldn’t help it. The lump in my throat was too big and I had no control over my reaction.

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My little standoff lasted maybe :30 seconds before I just chugged the mango juice. It was better than nothing, right? And like magic, water was then given to me.

I had behaved like a child and was treated like one. I was reminded of my mother forcing me to eat my vegetables before allowing me to have dessert, the eternal parent/child negotiation.

I cannot tell you how silly and awful I felt about the tears – but I was a broken person in the moment. A broken person with no control over anything anymore.

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Annie and Bobbi watched the whole fiasco. I couldn’t tell if they were more concerned or horrified or entertained. But that’s the great thing about traveling with your best friends; these women have already seen me at my absolute worst, a complete breakdown on a mountain is nothing compared to what they’ve seen.

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And speaking of being at your worst, here we finally got a good look at each other. It was a goddamn freak show – we were mountain monsters. Battered, wind burned, sunburned, wrecked monsters.

I crumpled to the ground in front of my tent and dragged myself inside before slowly and excruciatingly taking my boots off. To my utter surprise, my toes were still intact and weren’t even bloody. They were however, bright red, swollen and brought new tears to my eyes when I touched them.

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I lay down and thought about what I had just done. Thought about what was still to come – an hour-long nap and then five more hours of hiking to get to our camp for the night. I started to panic about how the fuck I would possibly put my boots back on and hike another minute, let alone another five hours!

But before my mind could get to the brutal logistics of what lay ahead, I drifted off into the involuntary unconsciousness of sleep.

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