Book Review and Giveaway: The Kindness Diaries, by Leon Logothetis

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The colorful cover speaks volumes about what's inside.
If you're human, you've probably had a dream. A crazy, ridiculous, hair-brained, why-on-earth-would-anyone-ever-think-this-would-happen kind of dream. A dream that you might doubt is reasonable or even possible as you begin to think it through, and even when you're in the middle of chasing it.

Leon Logothesis's story, chronicled in The Kindness Diaries, begins in a way that sounds familiar. Many people I've met or read about find themselves with wanderlust as their affliction because they're determined to break out of what most of us would deem a successful existence in search of something more meaningful. People who seem to have everything figured out, and who've followed traditional paths that brought them wealth, stability and/or fame. Existential crisis after existential crisis leaves Leon in a desperate search for human connection, and we meet him in The Kindness Diaries after he's explored a unique way to medicate his wanderlust - through kindness.

Overnight Winter Backpacking Trip Prep Tips and Gear List

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Making dinner and coffee in camp.
Also wearing everything I brought! (L. Bender)
Winter backpacking is awesome. Bugs are nowhere to be found, the woods are profoundly peaceful, and trails are abnormally deserted, likely because only a few of us are crazy enough to sleep outside in the cold.

Crazy or not, I enjoy putting myself in situations that can be uncomfortable; it's how we learn and grow. Being cold for a number of days is uncomfortable, but dealing with that adversity and learning from it is one of the most satisfying things in life.

As fun as being outside in the cold can be, winter backpacking comes with its own specific sets of risks. If you're prepared, you can mitigate those risks and still enjoy yourself. After a successful (read: really fun) backpacking trip in Vermont over the New Year holiday, I realized that the majority of our success was due to good planning. The process started long before we left and continued through the morning of our departure.

#ORInsightLab Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Trailbreaker Jacket

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A close-up look at the Trailbreaker in Vermont.
(Photo: L. Bender)
When it comes to dressing for adventures in the cold, layering is arguably the most important thing to consider. That is, next to leaving all things cotton at home, of course.

A layering system that will help you manage your body temperature to avoid sweating while helping you stay warm is essential.If I'm planning a cold weather adventure that'll get my heart rate up, I'll typically sport a thin long sleeved baselayer, a vest or a fleece as an insulating layer, and a softshell or hardshell jacket, depending on conditions.  

The Outdoor Research Women's Trailbreaker Jacket is designed to provide weather protection and warmth for the wearer, but the jacket's breathability and other features also make it ideal for managing body temperature. I took the Trailbreaker Jacket out to play on trails in Pennsylvania and Vermont to see how it held up as a layering piece for cold weather fun.

Trip Report: Winter Backpacking on the Bourn Pond-Stratton Pond Loop, Green Mountain National Forest

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Breaking trail in the Green Mountain National Forest.
The transition from one year to another is typically a time to reflect, to decide if we need to make changes for the future, and to consider taking on new challenges. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the last few days of 2014 than on a new trail with a group of friends. Our destination? The Bourn Pond - Stratton Pond Loop in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest.

The Plan. In total, the lollipop-shaped loop covers 16.5 miles, gains 1,165 vertical feet, and hosts two shelters as well as three established tent sites.

We chose this loop for a number of reasons. It's close to Stratton Mountain Resort - our skiing destination for the post-backpacking portion of the week. The loop also afforded us the option of devising a plan and then modifying that plan in at least four different ways depending on trail conditions. The terrain looked to be challenging enough, but we'd be able to enjoy ourselves without dealing with thousands of feet of elevation change. Finally, and most importantly, according to Backpacker, a weekend on the loop is the "Best Damn Weekend Ever."

Gear Review: NW Alpine Women's Black Spider Hoody

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How do you know when you've found the ideal layering piece for you? When you notice that it's in most of the recent photos taken of you, when you can't deal with it being in the laundry basket for more than a day, and when it's accompanied you on the majority of your adventures since its arrival at your doorstep.

The NW Alpine Women's Black Spider Hoody is that layering piece for me.

NW Alpine was founded in 2010, and the company's goal is to make "clothes for climbing that are simple, functional, light, and of the highest quality" all while "supporting domestic manufacturing." (Spoiler alert: mission accomplished.)

Founder Bill Amos believes apparel should fulfill the technical needs of adventurers without any extra frills or added features that don't belong. NW Alpine's apparel is designed for and by experienced climbers, field tested by experienced climbers, and manufactured in Oregon. Learn more here.