Thursday, November 12, 2020

Gearing Up

There's no denying that packing and preparation for an outing is work, no matter how many times you've done it. And, quite frankly, no matter how long or far you're going. I suspect that just the the thought of figuring out what to take and making sure everything is covered has ended some folks' adventures before they even begin.

If the packing part of heading out has been a barrier to entry for you, maybe this day-trip starter list will help. Here's what we generally pack for most of our local outings.

Day pack
: A good backpack can make your life a lot easier. We have a number of bags that we choose from, depending on what the adventure calls for. For longer hikes, we love our LL Bean backpack. But for shorter day-outings (whether we're hitting the trails, taking a bike ride, or walking to a nearby store), my go-to is a simple Ozark Trail bag I found at WalMart. This no-fuss nylon pack is light and just roomy enough for a few hours' worth of "gear." The model we have has just one side pocket, perfect for a phone, keys and dog bags.

Water bottles
: Always pack water. Even on cool days. I find that hydration can be key not just to health and wellbeing, but staving off grumpiness. Don't let yourself get thirsty. And, please, for the love of the planet, use reusable containers. 

Our favorite water bottles are simple, screw-top Nalgene bottles. The kids each have their own color 12-ounce mini loop-top and the grown-ups use either the 32-ounce wide mouth or 30-ounce screw top. I cannot be bothered with maintenance and cleaning of straws, valves or complicated tops. Simple suits us best.

Snacks: Your type of snack is a personal preference, of course, but consider things that are light, easy to eat, and produce minimal waste. I will admit we usually throw a treat of some sort in our bag (fruit snacks are our go-to) for those times that call for a little extra motivation or celebration along the journey.

Necessary accessories
: In our pack, we always carry a few staples. Consider assembling a small bag with the following:
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • First aid materials (bandaids, at the least)
  • Wet wipes
  • Bug bite relief (After Bite is a magical product)
  • A small pocket knife
  • Masks (even out on the trails, it's good to be prepared for large-group encounters)
Hiking sticks: Completely optional, of course. And we often find our own along the trail. But there are lots of inexpensive options on the market if you're inclined to get your own. The trail poles we have are light and extendable -- good for all ages and heights. We bought a couple pairs for about $20 each on Amazon and often just use one each. Consider something that can be stashed in your pack if someone tires of using their pole.

Other things we consider when we prepare for an outing are outfits, shoes and hats. Each adventure calls for its own wardrobe. Dress in layers. Wear supportive footwear and think about whether your trek requires water shoes, hiking boots, or something in between. And protect your head. We love our wide-brimmed sunhats that shade both our faces and necks.

Of course, if you're bringing your dog, don't forget plenty of water (we recently discovered this amazing invention), leash and some doggy bags.

If you're in the market for any outdoor gear, I highly recommend Gear Goat Exchange, an outdoor gear consignment shop located on Central Ave. close to uptown. They've got good deals on great equipment and some really friendly folks to help you find what you're looking for. (Helpful tip: If they don't have what you need, they'll take your number and give you a call when it comes in.)

If packing and prep still feels like a lot of work, I understand. But I can also tell you that we've found that the more we do it, the easier it gets. Of course I still keep lots of lists handy, but it no longer feels overwhelming to throw together what we'll need for a trip. I think you'll find that to be the case, too.

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