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Outdoor Guide: Spring Break Packing 101

Outdoor Guide: Spring Break Packing 101

You’ve made it through another snow-covered winter, so let the countdown to the beach begin! Next stop, spring break, and we've got sunshine on our minds. With spring break comes the indecisiveness of what to pack for the week-long vacation. Whether you’re boarding a flight to a tropical paradise or a resort along the Caribbean Sea, we have just what you need for all your packing essentials to make traveling a whole lot easier.

Packing for a trip to a sunny destination will be a breeze when you have a durable duffel bag to have throughout the vacay and beyond. From the flight until you reach the beach to have some fun, this bag is made to last so you can have fewer worries and more sunshine. Remember to pack your swimsuits and flip-flops, so you’re sure to have fun!

Before zipping up that duffel bag, don’t forget to pack a Grab-N-Go bag organized with all your smaller travel essentials. This lightweight multi-use bag is perfect for everyday necessities. Whether that be your makeup or keeping your travel documents safe, the choice is yours!

The beach is calling, and it's looking more desirable than ever to get your daily dose of vitamin sea. Bring a sturdy tote bag to carry all your beach day essentials. Pack your tote with your towels, sunglasses, and beach ball before you head out to get your toes sandy on the shoreline.

Before packing up for a day under the sun, your large Grab-N-Go bag ought to be packed, too. You wouldn’t want to let the tropical sun get the best of you while you’re enjoying your Spring Break. You can still get that sun-kissed look while this natural and organic sunscreen, which is perfect for both children and adults.

Overlooked putting on the sunscreen that you fortunately packed, but now you’re rocking the Neapoli-TAN look? It’s okay, soothe the burn with this after-sun lotion. It’s packed with organic oils and lavender and aloe to help nourish your body back to that sun-kissed look you were after. 

Let the spring break begin now that you've packed, may every day of your vacation bring a new adventure, friends!

Happy adventuring, friends!

 

Outdoor Guide To: Winter Camping

Outdoor Guide To: Winter Camping

Camping during the winter has a lot of bonuses to it, no bugs, more privacy, and beautiful views. Winter camping can be dangerous if not properly prepared. You'll need to be able to handle the freezing temperatures, snowy conditions, and unpredictable weather. Winter camping is a great place to experience snowy mountains, vistas, or overlooks. It is more difficult, but the reward is worth it!

The Location

The first thing you have to look at is where to go. A popular area is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Your backyard is a great way to try winter camping without being in the remote wilderness. Many State Parks, National Parks, and Campgrounds are open year-round. National Forests are also a great idea because, in most places, you can freely walk and set up camp anywhere. While planning, check the rules. 

 

Pack the Right Equipment

The right equipment will make your trip more enjoyable while keeping you safe. A lot of the gear will be similar to a canoe trip but more rugged.

Tent: The tent is the most vital part of your trip. It is where you will spend the nights, which is often the coldest time of day. There are a few things to look for in a winter tent.

3-Season Tents will work if the weather is pleasant, and you can find a spot sheltered from the elements. If you are camping within the trees and there is not supposed to be a winter storm, then a 3-season tent will work.

4-Season Tent is the best option and what we recommend. This tent will keep you much warmer and block more of the weather.

Large Tents are ideal because you can stash your equipment inside to keep it warmer. If you go too large, you will lose some heat, make sure it is large enough for extra gear but not too big.

Transporting Your Gear

There are two main ways to haul all of your gear while winter camping sleds or backpacks. Each offers advantages and disadvantages, but neither one is superior to the other. 

Backpacks: This is the most common method of carrying gear. However, the pack is often a lot bigger than your summer-time pack. Pack as light as possible but still have all the necessary equipment. For a 2-4 day trip, we recommend having something at least 65-liters. Backpacks are the simple option as they will always be on your back and don't have to worry about dragging them up hills. They will always be on your back, make sure it is still light enough to carry.

Sleds: These are common for longer trips. They are not always an option because of the terrain you will experience. They also require a way to be attached to you and might trip you. If you use a sled, it is crucial to have all of your gear tied down.

Winter Clothing

Base Layers: This is what is next to your skin. This layer keeps you warm while wicking the sweat away for you. Mid-weight options are the best because you can use them for most of the winter.

Middle Layers: This layer goes on top of the base layer. Most of your warmth comes from this layer. It is necessary to make sure you have proper middle layers such as fleeces and sweatshirts.

Outer Layer: This is the final layer, the one exposed to the weather. Its purpose is to block the wind and be waterproof. It is essential to make sure this layer is breathable yet warm. Jackets and snow pants are great examples of this layer.

Hats and Gloves: These items are essential to keep you warm. Make sure the hat will cover your ears and some of your face. Make sure your gloves are waterproof yet breathable. It is smart to have extra hats and gloves in case they get wet while you are camping.

Socks: This is the best way to make sure you have a pleasant time. No one likes to have wet, cold feet. They should be non-cotton material. It is vital to make sure they are snug but not too tight. Remember to pack more socks than you think you will need. 

Boots: You will want something waterproof yet breathable. If there is only a little snow on the ground, you can use our Merrell x Duluth Pack Common Threads Moab Boot, but if there is a lot of snow, you'll want a traditional winter boot. Make sure your footwear is compatible with your skis or snowshoes.

Ways to Travel

When winter camping, you will often be in the wilderness with no maintained trails. It is necessary to plan a way to trek in and not sink in the snow.

Snowshoes: Snowshoes are a popular option because they are relatively inexpensive and allow you to stay on top of the snow. You can use a backpack or a sled with this option. It helps to have poles to help with your balance. 

Skis: This option is great for areas with flat terrain. Skis will also allow you to cover more ground quickly, but they may sink into the snow more than snowshoes. Skis will work better with a sled, as long as you have some way to keep the sled from hitting your skis or running into you.

 

Cooking and Food Tips

If you are planning a multiple day trip, you will need to cook food. There are a few ways you could cook food. You can either use a light-weight stove or start a fire.

Light-weight stove: If you choose to use a stove, be sure that it will work in below-freezing conditions. It is also crucial to consider what fuel it uses and how heavy that will be. It may be necessary to keep the fuel in your sleeping bag at night to keep it warm and prevent freeze-ups. A great option is a backpacking stove because they are light-weight.

Fires: Fires are a great option if you do not want to haul the heavy fuel. Make sure you pack enough fire starter such as a Wax Canvas Fire Starters. You will also need to make sure you have the proper gear to cook over the fire such as, durable pots and pans that resist burning.

Food tips: You will be using a lot of energy while winter camping, so it is crucial to make sure you are taking in enough food and water. Warm and simple meals are the best option because they are easy to clean up and easy to make. Eating hot food is a great way to warm up too. Drinking enough water is also critical. You may not feel thirsty, but you have to keep drinking to keep your energy up. Melting snow is an excellent source for water, you could also drill a hole in a lake for water. Remember to boil the water for at least a minute to kill all of the bacteria.

 

Sleeping Bags and Pads

Sleeping bags are essential to ensure that you will have a good time and not get cold. A cold weather sleeping bag is best. We recommend your sleeping bag be for 10 degrees F lower than the lowest temperature you expect to encounter.

Winter sleeping bags feature a hood, which goes around your head to, prevent heat loss. They are often more form-fitting.

If you think your sleeping bag is not warm enough, you can add liners to your sleeping bag. You could also use two sleeping bags, put your warm sleeping bag inside the other one.

Sleeping pads are great because they elevate you off of the snow. They also provide insulation and make the ground a little softer. Most campers use two sleeping pads. Use a solid foam sleeping pad on the ground. The next one is a self-inflating pad on top of the foam one.  If you do not have two sleeping pads, use only the foam pad.

 

Setting up Camp

Now that you have all the gear you need and have planned your route, the next thing you'll need to learn how to do is picking a great spot for camp. A great place to set up camp in areas that you could not access during the summer. It should be in an area to not disturb any of the natural environment. There are a few key things to remember when setting up camp.

  • Pack the snow: Packed snow offers the best insolation. Pack the snow down in the area the tent will be set up. The easiest way is to use your snowshoes to stomp the snow creating a tent pad.
  • Build protective barriers: Building a wall of snow around your shelter will block most of the wind. Do not completely cover your tent because you will want proper ventilation and air movement. If you cannot build a wall, you can dig down to create a protected area.
  • Use snow stakes: Standard tent stakes will not do much in the snow. They are too short to be effective. It is better to use snow stakes that are longer or use a snow sack, which can be filled with snow to add weight to keep the tent attached to the ground.

 

Winter Camping Safety Tips

Winter camping can be dangerous if not prepared for the elements. The two main things to look out for are frostbite and hypothermia. Take breaks to check yourself and your hiking partners for signs of either of these.

  • Dress right: With the right apparel and with layers, you will be able to stay warm but not too warm.
  • Take breaks: If you get cold, take a break and try to warm up. It is not worth waiting it out until you warm up. During breaks, try to eat and drink water, even if you do not need it.
  • Store your food: Bears should be hibernating, but other animals may not be, so it is essential to keep your food in an animal-proof bin or hang it from a tree.
  • Have fun: Winter camping is about experiencing the beauty of nature during the winter. Plan a safe trip, and you'll enjoy some beautiful sights while making great memories. 

Use #PersonBehindThePack on social media and let us know how you use your Duluth Pack during the winter. We might feature your story on our blog, The Pack Report.

Camp on, friends.  

 

Proper Fire Starting and Safety

Proper Fire Starting and Safety

Knowing how to start a campfire in the wilderness is an essential skill. There are also many fire safety items to mention. Many of us are familiar with what happens when fires get out of control, such as the Australian wildfires, the California wildfires, and the Amazon wildfires. With a little knowledge of fire safety, you can help prevent forest fires. 

Fire Ring Preparation

Before you start your fire, clear the area of anything that might catch a spark. Next, line the edges of your fire ring with rocks. This is for proper containment. The bottom of the fire ring should be on dirt. Make sure there is no vegetation leaning in from the sides.

Gather the Materials

Before you start to make your fire, you have to find the proper materials. There are three different types of materials - tinder, kindling, and wood. Tinder is a material that catches fire quickly and easily. It's small and flammable such as wood shavings, paper, cardboard, wax canvas strips, or fire starters. Next is kindling, which is small twigs or branches.  Finally, gather the wood, which is material greater than 1 inch in diameter, such as logs. It is not allowed to cut down trees, but if the tree is already on the ground you can cut it up with an axe or the Tuff Camp Saw.

Building the Fire

There are many ways of building a fire, but the most common way is the teepee method. This method creates a teepee of wood, slowing building up to larger sizes. For this type, place the tinder and kindling on the bottom of the fire ring. Place the kindling, around it creating a teepee, and finally, place the wood on top. A different way, called the log cabin method stacks the logs to look just like the name states - a log cabin. Place the tinder and kindling inside the fire log cabin.  The final concept is a lean-to fire, which is similar to a teepee, except only one side is slanted. To build this, place a log down first across the fire ring. Next, put the tinder and kindling down next to that log. Finally, place more logs on top of the kindling.

Lighting the Fire

After you have gathered the materials and built a fire, it's time to ignite. To have the best results, light the tinder in multiple areas to get the fire to grow faster. Never put gasoline in the fire, as that can result in a dangerous explosion and affecting the safety of yourself and the ones around you. If you use lighter fluid, put that in before lighting the fire because the flames could travel up the stream and ignite the entire bottle.

Now that you have the fire built, it's time to enjoy it. The best way is to roast s'mores, sharing stories or cooking food over the fire. Some great memories can be created by sitting around the crackling fire and sharing stories.

Putting out the Fire

After enjoying the warm fire, it is time to extinguish the flames. The best way to put out the fire is by pouring water on top of it until there are no more flames or embers. To make sure it is all the way put out, stir the coals around to ensure they are all extinguished. During winter, you can use snow to put the campfire out and be sure to bury the whole fire to ensure there aren't any hot coals or fire remaining.

Fire Safety

Check the rules. The first thing to do is to make sure fires are allowed in the area. Be sure to look for signs, and if you cannot find signs be sure to ask someone. A fire ring doesn't mean that fires are allowed.

Properly prepare the site. Make sure the site is clear of all vegetation that may catch fire. Be sure that there are also no overhanging branches or weeds that may easily catch fire. 

Check the weather conditions. A steady breeze can spread the fire into other nearby areas, potentially resulting in a wildfire. If it has been dry for an extended period, there is a higher chance the fire will spread.

Have the right equipment. It is a good idea to have a shovel nearby and some water. The shovel to create the barrier and water to extinguish the flames. 

Have fun. Having a fire in the wilderness is a great way to create many memories and create close bonds with your friends. Be safe and always use proper techniques to ensure the safety of yourself and the others around you.  

Fire safety can prevent uncontrollable wildfires from taking place. We have seen how devastating the effects can be with the Australian fires. If you would like to donate, click here.

Use #PersonBehindThePack on social media and let us know how you use your Duluth Pack during the seasons. We might feature your story on our blog, The Pack Report

Adventure on, friends

Winter Activity: Fat-Tire Biking

Winter Activity: Fat-Tire Biking

I'm sure some of you, if not most, have seen one of those bikes with those massive tires. If you live in a cold climate and receive a lot of snow then you know what kind of bikes we are talking about. There may be a lot of questions revolving around those styles of bicycles and some of you may not know what these bikes are used for.

Gone are the days when you could get a bike and it would be used for everything. Today there are many specialty bikes each designed for a specific purpose. There are three general different types of bikes; bikes designed for pavement, bikes designed for off-road travel, and electrically-assisted bikes. There are sub-categories in each of these classifications and they all have key differences. The general difference between on-road and off-road is the tire size. Road bikes are skinny tires, while off-road bikes have wider tires and the width can vary wildly. Electrically-assisted bikes have a “generator” on-board which helps “peddle” the bike.

Within the mountain bike category, there are a few different tire sizes which are commonly referred to as 29ers, mid-fat, and fat-tire. The larger the tire size is it helps with stability when off-trail and on uneven terrain and also gives the bike floatation on certain types of ground such as snow and sand. Fat-tire biking is commonly used during the winter because the large tire size will allow the bike to stay on top of the snow better than smaller width tires (basically the same concept as snowshoes). Some people will put studs in their tires or put on chains to increase traction on ice.

Fat-tire bikes are allowed on any mountain bike trail and anywhere bikes are allowed. You can still bike on the pavement with these bikes unless you have chains or studs on your tires. Last year when Lake Superior froze over people were taking their fat-tire bikes out on the lake for a ride along the frozen tundra. 

Many people will use fat-tire bikes during the summer too, for select activities because they offer a few unique advantages. They are a popular hunting option because they can go off-trail, over all-terrain, and the large tires are also quiet. People who are just getting into mountain biking sometimes prefer them because the large tire size allows them to feel more stable on uneven terrain. 

For people in the Duluth area who are curious about fat-tires bikes, you can rent them at Outdoor Pursuit at the College of St. Scholastica, Recreational Sports Outdoor Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Continental Ski & Bike. If you don't feel comfortable with renting your own bike, book a guided trek with Day Tripper of Duluth or The Duluth Experience.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) offers a list of Ride Centers, which means there are places featuring large scale riding and offer something for every experience level. Duluth, MN was recently added to the "Gold Level", one of only 6 places in the World to receive this level of certification. For Duluth area maps and trail conditions check out COGGS, they also feature ride etiquette rules.

Fat-tire biking is something that everyone can enjoy. If you are looking for something to do, consider renting a fat-tire bike and head out to the trails. Experiencing the remote trails during the winter can offer up a new experience, which soon might be your new favorite activity.

If you are in need of bags to attach while biking, you are in luck! Duluth Pack offers a variety of different bike bags sure to fit your needs and your bike. If you are more of a backpack person we recommend the Scout Pack due to its smaller size, sure to fit comfortably while biking. 

Peddle on, friends