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The Thru-Hiking 101 Online Course I’m Developing with Backpacker Magazine

 

 

 

If you or a friend has ever wanted to go on a long backpacking trip, but weren’t sure where to start, Thru-Hiking 101 with Backpacker Magazine is easily accessible, approachable, and unintimidating the holiday present you need to set yourself up for success.

 

This Fall, I was approached by Backpacker Magazine to develop their first ever online course, a 6-week course called Thru-Hiking 101 starting January 12th. I’ve been teaching one-on-one and small group clinics on long distance backpacking for years, but have always felt like unless a prospective hiker can make it out to an in-person session, that the resources to get started have been limited, inaccessible, not approachable, or boring. While the best way to learn thru-hiking is just to get out and hike, many people (myself included) learn best from a class—especially if there is an instructor who can help answer my questions along the way.

So why should you take this course or recommend it to a friend?

Everything You’d Find in An In-Person Session, Except Online: The Rucks (Beginner Thru-Hiker Courses) that I put on with the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West have been a great intro course for beginner backpackers—but if you live thousands of miles away from Portland, OR, Coeur d’Alene, ID or Golden, CO, your best resource is the Internet. With this Thru-Hiking 101 Online class, you can get in-person attention (in fact, it goes into more detail than the Rucks), from the comforts of your home. Much cheaper than a plane ticket across the country.

Well Portioned Classes: I’m exhausted after teaching a one-day beginner backpacking course, and I know that for beginner backpackers, learning everything you need to know about a thru-hike in 8 hours is like drinking from a fire hose. Thru-hiking 101 is a 6 week course with activities, webinars, and question sessions built into it, so that you have enough time to process the material.

Perfect Timing for Training and Prep: The class launches January 12th, which means even if you are leaving to start the Appalachian Trail on March 1st, (assuming you follow our timeline) you’ll be able to put together an itinerary, resupply plan, fitness training, gear plan, etc. all before you leave for your trip. It’s designed as a crash course for those leaving for their trip soon, or for long term planning for those with several years before their hike.

Wealth of Experience and Perspectives: The course is designed around what I’ve learned from 16 thru-hikes, and also includes the voices and perspectives of about a dozen other accomplished thru-hikers from different backgrounds, ages, and fitness levels.

I have total control over the content: within the hiking community, there has been a full range of passionate emotions about BP. One condition I had for putting together this course is veto power on everything.

Well Designed and Presented: The process of putting together the class has been me spitting out info and editors at Backpacker making it sound prettier, snappier, and hipper and adding photos that weren’t taken with my phone.

No gear ads/weird product placement: All the products in the video are things I actually use. The business model is 100% tuition based—so you’re not going to see an oddly out of place 7 pound pack and 10 pound tent anywhere in this class.

Approachable: Let’s just say they chose the promo photo of me with a double chin for a reason 😉 There are a lot of accomplished people in the hiking world, but I’d like to believe that there is a reason why they chose me. I didn’t start doing outdoorsy stuff until I was an adult, so I can articulate the process of starting from scratch well because it wasn’t that long ago that I started from zero. The class also includes the perspectives of hikers of all ages, backgrounds, speeds, goals, and physical abilities. So even if I seem intimidating (which is hard for me to imagine ;)), the course includes the entire spectrum of thru-hikers, from people who have done one short thru-hike to Triple Crowners.

Personal Attention: Over the 6 weeks of the course, you’ll be able to ask me questions on the material, as well as get personal fitness attention from our personal trainer, and get live-time questions answered in Webinars. Essentially, you’re going to get a personal coach for 6 weeks to guide you through, step-by-step, the process of planning and prepping for a hike.

 

Check out the Course Syllabus to see the topics we cover including How to Find the Time and Money, How to Resupply, What Gear Should I Use? and Overcoming Common Thru-Hiker Pitfalls. I hope that you and your friends will be able to join me and others in the hiking community as we present what we’ve learned about thru-hiking!

Food Review: Sporkables

Allgood cooks up a midday meal of Sporkables
Allgood cooks up a midday meal of Sporkables

Sporkables is a new dehydrated food company founded by a professional chef/ mom of an AT hiker. She created Sporkables to be “Home Cooking for Hungry Hikers”—nutritious, lightweight foods, that don’t take a lot of water to dehydrate. One huge advantage of Sporkables is that because it was founded by a mom of a hiker, she actually knows how to ship maildrops to your resupply points. She ships directly to your location on trail by going off of where you will be in 7-10 days.

Sporkables offers creative flavors and dishes that you don’t see in the mainstream backpacking food companies. I was particularly curious about the Ratatouille and Riboletta (I don’t even know what that is!). Their dishes are pretty reasonably priced and come in foil packets of single serving meals.

Three experienced thru-hiker friends and I took Sporkables on a very late season thru-hike of the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood.

I tried the All Sauced Up during a lunch break on the first day. Although the packet felt pretty small (single serving), I was pretty shocked to find out afterwards that it is 682 calories for the 3 oz packet! It definitely tasted like homemade sauce, with a lot of love and care put into it. Unlike a lot of backpacking foods, it only called for 1 cup of water—which was great, because we were running low. The weight to calorie ratio and the low water requirement were really what made it a perfect meal for that trip.

Although the instructions suggest dumping the food in your pot, bringing it to a boil, and cooking for 1 minute, I always use the freezer bag/soaking method to prepare my meals. I just dumped the hot water in foil bag it came in and let it set for 15 minutes (the instructions say 20 minutes—I was too hungry to wait). The noodles were a little firm—but it was cold outside and we were at 6,000 feet in October, so maybe I should have waited longer 😛

The next day, I tried the Ratatouille during a wet lunch break under the trees after a really exposed snow storm. Maybe I was just really hungry and in need of a cold meal then, but it was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever had on trail. Sporkables uses a lot of vegetables in their food and as a veggie junkie, I really appreciated this big bag of essentially vegetables. At 3 oz and 380 calories, it’s not quite as weight efficient as the other dish, but I didn’t care. I wished my Ratatouille at home could turn out like that.

Sporkables is still a small company getting it’s feet off the ground but it will be interesting seeing where they go with the product. I’m always excited by the increasing number of food options on the trail for those who are willing to look beyond ramen.

 

Stocking Stuffers for Hikers: Food Edition

 

The term might be used best to describe how to train a dog, but I would identify myself as Highly Motivated By Food. So, when it comes to hiking up the next big climb or making big miles to the next water, there’s no incentive to keep moving quite like a Food Treat.

This holiday season, consider giving your hiker friends some inspiring non-perishable food that carries easily in a pack and can help turn a pretty awesome day of hiking into an extraordinary day of hiking. Treat Food is the kind of stuff that can be a little heavy and pricey to base one’s complete thru-hiking diet off of, but can make a dayhike or a hard backpacking trip all the more delightful.  Disclaimer: I’ve bought all of these, and they’re delicious.

These are a few of my favorites:

The Epic bar is a meat-bar that has fantastic art
The Epic bar is a meat-bar that has fantastic art

1)      Epic Savory Bar: I just discovered these bars, and they blow your usual trail jerky off the mountain. They come in great flavors like Bison-Bacon-Cranberry and Beef-Cherry-Habanero. One of these bad boys will motivate any meat-eater to pick up the pace.

2) Kale Chips: Let’s face it: It’s surprising that hikers don’t get scurvy that awesome. Throw your friends and loved ones a light-weight veggie alternative in multiple flavors including Radical Ranch (really!) and Alive and Radiant Quite Cheezy. They aren’t calorie dense, but sometimes, a hiker’s body doesn’t just need calories. I’ve currently addicted to the Rhythm Honey Mustard flavor and to the , but you can make your own (just be sure to get a good vacuum pack system on DIY kale chips as they get stale quickly). Also worth checking out is this variety pack of 4 flavors.

3)      Probar: One of my favorites and a true trail staple, these meal replacement bars pack in almost 400 real food calories. Probars are great for getting a bunch of energy before a big climb or mornings when it’s so cold that the best way to get calories is to walk-and-eat. It’s not surprising to find whole dried strawberries and real nuts in these bars. They tend to be a bit on the pricier side, so a few of these make a great treat to throw in a stocking stuffer.

(Hint: the Chocolate Coconut is AMAZING).

4)      Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans/Edamame/Marshmallows/etc. On my first thru-hike of the AT, one of my old hiking buddies, Rick, sent me a care package with a crisp $20 bill and a pound of chocolate covered espresso beans. It was one of the most tailored hiking presents I’ve ever gotten. Trader Joe’s is a great place to get anything chocolate covered. I would highly recommend the super-calorie dense Chocolate Covered Sunflower seeds, better than candy bar chocolate covered marshmallows, or chocolate covered dried berries.

5)      Starbucks Via: Along the lines of the coffee beans, why not give your hiker friends the good stuff? The Vias make the lightest (weight-wise) and most flavorful cup of coffee you can get. Plus, Starbucks is pretty infamous for having almost twice as much caffeine as their competitors, so a Via can really be a treat in the middle of a day. You can usually find these at Costco for a great price.

6) Honey Stinger Waffle: Anytime a “waffle” can be sold as food athletes can eat, I’m in. A more calorific and less expensive option is Trader Joe’s Belgian Butter Waffle cookies.

7) Single Serving drink mixes: These can be a bit pricey to live off of during a thru-hike, but sometimes can make quite a difference. I’ve hiked with

8)      FishPeople Meals: These delicious meal-in-a-packet foods are legitimately good—like they’re still really good even when you’re not on trail. Although these food packets are a little heavy to eat for every meal in the backcountry, it’s nice to have one on hand for hard stretches between resupplies. They come in mile-motivating flavors like Thai Coconut Lemongrass and Wild Salmon Chardonnay and feature a variety of sustainable fish-based protein sources. I remember pushing hard at the end of a day on the John Muir Trail so that I could down one of these dinners. Let’s just say they really spice up instant mashed potatoes.

9)      Probolts (or similar GU gel/Clif Bloks/Gummi Bear like items): Sometimes, a hiker can get so into hiking that he forgets to eat. When blood sugar levels plummet, hikers get “hangry” (hungry+angry) and all sorts of other bad side effects. Probolts, GUs, ClifShots, and other gummy or gel-y delicious things help counteract low blood sugar levels rather quickly.

10) Specialty Store Novelties: My friend Dave “Lucky” Brunstein introduced me to Cost Plus World Market as the place to go for Food Treats for hiking. I’m also a big fan of Trader Joe’s for finding reasonably priced Treat Foods, especially the chocolate-covered variety.

 

 

I hope this inspires you to spice up you, your family, or your friend’s hiker diets!

Do you have any favorite trail treat foods that would make a great gift?

Upcoming opportunity

As many of you know, I’m 1 or 4 ambassadors for the American Hiking Society, the only nation-wide organization working on behalf of hikers in Washington.

Earlier this year, AHS partnered with Michelob Ultra to create the Michelob Ultra Superior Trails program. We all voted for our favorite trails for a month and then two trails were awarded with $25,000 a piece—the Continental Divide Trail and the Ice Age Trail.

Now, it’s time to make the commercial about the Michelob Ultra Superior Trails program. Check out the ad below to learn more:

“Michelob Ultra’s agency is hosting an open call to look for interested men and women 25 or older who are active hikers and climbers to be considered for an upcoming commercial shoot.  

When: Jan 15th-16th, 2016 (please plan for full days as shoot times may vary and can be lengthy)

Where: TBD hiking trail in Southern California (travel costs not covered)

What’s in it for you? Besides a chance to audition as a candidate for possible selection to participate in an upcoming Michelob Ultra commercial, those who are chosen will be paid $627 for their time spent during the commercial shoot as well as residuals if applicable. Please note, that this shoot could be used in TV, print, digital and other forms of media for Michelob Ultra.

Interested? If yes, please send the following information to  HikersFCB AT gmail.com no later than January 4th, 2016 to be considered:

Name

Phone Number

Email

What city do you live in?

How long have you been hiking?

On a scale of 1-10, (10 being the most skilled) how would you rate your hiking skill level?

Please also include a photo of yourself

 

Michelob’s Ultra’s agency will be reviewing all applicants and will contact you regarding next steps if you have been selected.

 

 

Minimalist Non-Gear Gifts for the Weary Hiker:

Resupply boxes in Etna, CA
Resupply boxes in Etna, CA

Backpacking with all your worldly belongings turns many into minimalists. So what do you get a hiker—be it a friend or family member—that fits into his or her minimalist style while also acknowledging that person’s love for hiking? What do you get a hiker who is still feeling the effects of the trail several months after finishing?

Knowing exactly what to get your hiker friends and family can be tough, but here a few ideas that show you really get what is happening to their body and mind after a hike.

  • Massage with a licensed massage therapist, preferably someone with sports therapy experience. A long hike can mess up your body. Afterall, it’s a lot of repetition. A licensed massage therapist with specialties in athletes and who is knowledgabe about anatomy should be able to help you work out some post-hike tightness or reduced mobility that never seemed to get better after a few months away from the trail. S/he can also help identify overuse injuries or other wear and tear on your body.

 

  • Yoga classes: can be a great way to help work out post-trail reduced mobility or injury, too. When I finished the CDT, I was skeptical about yoga, but also couldn’t lift my right arm above my head without pain. Yoga helped me heal through the injury and increased my mobility so that I was ready to strap a pack on again several months later.
  • Sun damage repairing lotion: I’ve always thought of anti-aging creams as being pretty fru-fru for a hiker, but admittedly, no matter how much sunscreen I use, after a thru-hike, my nose becomes a uni-freckle. On a whim, a fan suggested I try Colorado Aromatics Springtime Gold. I was a little skeptical about any skin cream actually being able to repair my uni-freckle, but tried it and noticed that my skin is looking a lot better than it did at the beginning of the hiking season. There’s a lot of sun damage repairing lotions out there, some more or less expensive, but if you’ve noticed that a hiker friend’s face doesn’t quite look back to normal even after a few months after a thru-hike, this may be an appreciated present (especially for the ladies).
  • Wall map of the trail or calendar: Calendars are utility items that you get rid of after a year. Wall maps hang vertically against your wall so don’t take up space in a house. This laminated wall map of the PCT can be written on with a dry erase marker as you walk your way up the trail (or want to add notes). This wall map of the Appalachian Trail hangs on the door to my bedroom and this Continental Divide Map is on the wall in my room. Even as I work on a TPS report, I can always look up and see the trail…

  • Photo book including photos the person sent from the trail and journals (requires some assembly): If your hiker friend sent you photo and email or journal updates, they’ll enjoy having a book (yes, a real paper book) put together of their journey. Speaking personally, I’ve never created a book after my hikes, but as my harddrives die and I forget Shutterfly passwords, one of the few material belongings I wish I did have was a book documenting my trip. This website and this website review the top web-based book making platforms, but in general, Blurb/Amazon offers an easy to use photo book making service
ALDHA-W 2014 Gathering at Meany Lodge. Photo by Jeff Kish.
ALDHA-W 2014 Gathering at Meany Lodge. Photo by Jeff Kish.
  • Map app or Software: Hikers love maps and the minimalist web or phone based maps can be perused without taking up physical space in a hiker’s tiny house, van, or yurt. Many thru-hikers love using  Gaia, but Alltrails, Caltopo Pro, and Backcountry Navigator are also popular. Of course, GutHook Apps also offers trail specific navigational tools for your phone or tablet and has become the tech-based tool that thru-hikers use these days to get on the trail.
Allgood reveling in an obscene amount of chocolate on the SHR.
Allgood reveling in an obscene amount of chocolate on the SHR.

Have a wonderful holiday and don’t get caught up in the presents. The best present for a hiker–for anyone– is an experience, time spent together on an adventure (even if that adventure is just a conversation).