Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview: Camping a la Sara

all photos in today's post courtesy of Sara

As you can tell from my experience my advice would be to just skip camping and sleep in your car (or plan better and stay in a hotel). But by leaving camping out of your travel options you will miss out on some of the most breathtaking sights that our world has to offer. Luckily one of my girlfriends, Sara, is a very experienced camper and agreed to offer her advice! With her penchant for shopping, coffee, and sarcastic quips you bet we became friends fast. You can follow her on twitter too: @StormHutch.

So as a High Heeled Traveler first here is my interview with Sara:

How often have you been camping and where? 
I started camping when I was 12 or 13, and my first experience was I went away to a two-week camp in the Adirondacks where we went on hiking and canoeing overnight trips. Since then I have done a lot of backpacking in the Adirondacks (way upstate NY, the largest state park in the lower 48!), then in Maine when I was in college and in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico at other various times. During high school and college I spent my summers working outdoors, either leading kids on day and overnight trips or building new trails in the woods of Northern Maine.

What is your favorite camping memory?My favorite camping memory is probably impossible to narrow down from the genuinely good times, and the bad times that are funny and memorable now in retrospect! So here are a top few: 1) climbing the highest mountain in Colorado and the 2nd highest in the lower 48, Mt. Elbert at 14,440 ft with a group of students at the school I taught at the High Mountain Institute. 2) Camping in the canyon lands of Southeast Utah and getting to rappel down into some very narrow slot canyons, also with students from HMI. 3) Winter camping (sort of!) in a beautiful cabin outside of Leadville, CO and waking up to a bluebird sky and fresh snow to ski!

Where is your favorite place to go camping?I love camping in the Rocky Mountains and anywhere out west. The mountains are much bigger, the weather is better (minus those summer thunderstorms) and there are MANY fewer bugs! I love the East Coast but unfortunately Colorado has them beat on the camping front. 

What are you top 10 tips for new campers and non-outdoorsy people?Most, if not all, of the camping I have done has been away from the "campground" area of cars, picnic tables and the ever-handy port-a-potty, so I will give tips for those who venture a bit further into the woods:

         1) Accept that fact that you will have to poop in the woods. Holding it for anything more than a day is not fun.

        2) Follow Leave No Trace rules. This is the number one thing we taught our students, and they are really so important for everyone to enjoy the outdoors equally. Your goal when camping should be to minimize your impact as much as possible; this includes the obvious such as taking out your garbage with you and respecting the wildlife to less obvious things as keeping your voice down and only camping on durable surfaces (dirt, rock etc.). If you venture into the woods it is imperative you read and follow the LNT principles!
        3) Make sure you have planned ahead, know where you are going, and have the appropriate means to get there, i.e., maps! and a compass! Hiking boots! or skis!
        4) Obviously showering is not an option in most places, so I like to bring face wipes with me to clean off the dirt and sweat before I cozy up in my sleeping bag. Baby wipes are also nice for you know where, although remember, you have to pack them out :)
        5) Portable games are always fun. Popular options are a deck of cards, but my favorite camping game is Yahtzee. All you need are dice and a score sheet!
       6) Always bring a rain jacket. Even if the weather report says no rain for a month, if you don't bring a jacket, it WILL rain. Murphy's Law or something along those lines.
       7) Along that idea, lots of clothing layers. Remember: you are sleeping outside, it could get pretty cold, and then dewy in the morning, and then sunny during the day. We often don't appreciate the swing in temperature while living indoors.

       8) Leave your iPod at home! This is one of my personal pet peeves and yes, I have seen people hiking with they’re ipods and headphones! Don't get me wrong, I love me my ipod and some bad (good) top 40. But I believe the reason that most of us want to go camping is to get away from whatever it is we do on a daily basis and get away from the increasingly technological world we all live in. Listening to music I think prohibits you from fully living in the moment when in the wilderness and would distract you from taking in your surroundings with all five senses.
       9) Comfy shoes to change into if you've been walking all day, or dry shoes to change into when it's been raining. Keeping your feet happy outside is the key to keeping YOU happy.

     10) Stop and take pictures!

and #11) Eat well! Just because you are outside doesn't mean you have to eat Velveeta and pepperoni sticks exclusively. I make a mean back country calzone and cinnamon rolls!

As for food, it really depends how involved you are getting! When I was younger, I was totally fine with Rice a Roni, Velveeta Mac and Cheese along with the token salami stick and cheese block. All standard, easy to cook items from your supermarket. But as I get older, (especially when 14 day long expeditions are part of your job) you need to spice things up. Very many things can be done with a few basic elements (dry pasta, flour, beans etc) and a very complete spice kit! Some things I've cooked up while camping are: calzones, pizza, baked ziti, scones, cinnamon rolls, a kind of beany-cheesy pie type thing that was amazing, but made my co-works a bit gassy the next day. The best resource for making a lot out of a little is this cookbook: .

as a off-shoot: The NOLS organization is really amazing, they focus on leadership skills in the wilderness and lead so many different types of trips all over the world. They take all kinds of people as well, corporate executives, high schoolers, adults and a good friend of mine even lead a Special Forces group. She said they were very fast hikers!

Do you have recommended products (like food, equipment, clothing or beauty products)?This is what I have to say for equipment, because this could be an entire BOOK (you know I love shopping, right? Yeah, it gets worse with outdoor gear) . When cotton gets wet, it never dries. Stick to polyesters and other fabrics that will dry quickly. Make sure any boots or shoes you bring out with you are broken in sufficiently. Alternately, bring a good first aid kit with blister supplies!

Some of my favorite companies: Patagonia, Marmot, GoLite (very lightweight gear!) and the best hiking boots ever made by a company called Asolo. Mine have lasted for 5 years+! Lastly, I bring a superlite, special camping umbrella with me everywhere. I've decided it's the best way to stay dry.

Thank you so much Sara. I feel enlightened and motivated to get out there and experience a whole new world. :)

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