Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Gauge S/S Tee

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Pre-run in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. (PC: D. Herscovitch)
When it comes to adventuring around the Northeastern part of the United States in summer, no matter your sport, you're going to deal with humidity. In Southeastern Pennsylvania, it can feel like you're swimming through the air rather than running, for example.

I don't get out running too often these days, but when I do, I enjoy it as long as I'm prepared for the temperatures and humidity. At a certain point, there's nothing you can do, you're going to be a hot sweaty mess. But wearing the right clothing can make a huge difference.

As part of another season of the #ORInsightLab program for Outdoor Research, I received a complimentary Women's Gauge short sleeved (s/s) tee to test. And the hot, humid trails around Philadelphia were the perfect testing grounds.

Backpacking the Virginia Triple Crown: Tips, Tricks, and Route Planning Advice

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Why a picture of an outhouse? Because the RATC does
such an amazing job maintaining the trails and lean-tos!
Southwestern Virginia has some incredible hiking and backpacking available, and covering the Virginia Triple Crown makes it possible to visit three beautiful destinations in one trip. The Triple Crown can be completed via a number of different routes, and each of the three destinations can also be visited on day hikes. We chose a loop route that, if completed, covers about 36 miles and allowed us to use one car.

As a caveat, I don't recommend this trip if you're a beginner backpacker. Our route covers over 9,000 cumulative feet of elevation gain, involves rock scrambling, an entire day of hiking without reliable water sources, and a day over 15 miles. With that out of the way, I'm excited to share tips and tricks to help you plan your Virginia Triple Crown adventure! Read the full trip report here.

Review our two night, three day route plan, starting at Mcafee Knob.

I grabbed this map, then took out the pages we needed before we left. But as a note, the connector trail to North Mountain from the Andy Layne trail isn't on the map, and that resulted in my miscalculating our mileage on the second day.

Trip Report: Backpacking the Virginia Triple Crown

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Heading up to Mcafee Knob on the first day of the trip.
The Virginia Triple Crown includes three of the state's coolest hiking destinations - Mcafee Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon's Tooth.

All are popular day hikes, and conveniently, they're located in close proximity to each other on or near the Appalachian Trail (AT). If you're willing to spend a night or two on the trail, backpacking to all three of them is possible via a handful of route options.

As part of a trip sponsored by Virginia Tourism for Great Outdoors Month, a friend and I made the drive down to the Roanoke area from Philadelphia to see how spectacular Virginia can be.

We planned a three day, two night loop that got us to Mcafee Knob and Tinker Cliffs on the first day, covered a whopping 16 miles on the second day, and ended with a trip to Dragon's Tooth on the last day.

Day 1: Mcafee Knob to Lamberts Meadow Shelter via Tinker Cliffs (10.6 miles, ~2,500' elevation gain)

Hiking New York: Dix Mountain via Beckhorn in the Adirondacks

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Scooching my way along the trail - something
I did a lot of on the hike! (PC: D. Herscovitch)
Though there are so many big, impressive-looking, challenging mountains to hike up in the western part of North America, I'm consistently humbled by how tough getting up some of the mountains on the east coast can be.

Case and point, my recent 13.2 mile round-trip ascent of Dix Mountain in the Adirondacks.

My partner in crime and I planned a single overnight in the Dix Mountain Wilderness over Memorial Day Weekend, but that quickly turned into a day hike for a multitude of reasons. Regardless, the ascent was one of the most challenging I've done in a long time, but as is typical in the mountains, the challenge was absolutely worth it.

Getting to the Elk Lake Road Trailhead

As is the case with many of the ADK 46ers, there's more than one way to get up Dix Mountain. We chose to park in the parking lot on Elk Lake Road here due to the length of the round trip hike. You can also park in a very small parking lot along NYS Route 73 here.

5 Ways to Avoid Letting Rain Ruin Your Outdoor Adventure

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After the rain on Devil's Path, trying to remember
backpacking is fun! (PC: D. Herscovitch)
For a while, I thought Devil's Path in the Catskills and Mother Nature were truly out to get me. 

We faced torrential downpours on my first three pilgrimages to the area. On one backpacking trip, after gaining what felt like thousands of feet on our first day, we took a break and huddled underneath a rock outcropping looking for some sort of reprieve from the weather. It was supposed to storm for 48 hours. We snacked, relaxed for a bit, listened to the rain falling, and then continued on.

I have many fond memories like this from trips I went on despite wet weather. Even if being soaked to the bone felt terrible at the time, I still had fun. Case and point, you don't have to let wet weather ruin your trip. Here's how.

Understand Basic Thunderstorm Safety.

There's a big difference between getting caught in the rain and getting stuck in a dangerous thunderstorm. Before you leave home, make sure you understand how to deal with a thunderstorm if you're stuck in one, and if you're planning to be at higher elevations, consider coming up with a backup plan. 

Interview + Giveaway: Heather Balogh Rochfort and Her First Book, Backpacking 101

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Healther Balogh Rochfort. (PC: Will Rochfort)
You know how you can just tell when you've met someone incredibly special? I felt that way the
first time I met Heather Balogh Rochfort.

I was introduced to her on a trip to the Grand Canyon as part of a social media influencer experiment conducted by Columbia Sportswear, the #OmniTen. Her infectious energy, storytelling ability, and general zest for life made her an ideal hiking partner, and we've stayed close friends since that incredible adventure nearly five years ago.

We've traveled to places like Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, I've consulted her about all things Colorado for trip planning, and now, I'm stoked to share more about her latest big adventure - her first book! Read more about Heather, and scroll down to enter to win a copy of Backpacking 101.

AI: How did you get started backpacking?

Heather: In college, I hung out with a group of guys enamored with the mountains. Coming from 20 years of dancing, of course, I decided to tag along. On one of my first trips, we decided to pack the full distance (~18 miles) into Chicago Basin in the San Juans of Colorado.

The Pros and Cons of Trekking Poles for Hiking and Backpacking

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Picking my way down rocky terrain
in the Adirondacks. (PC: D. Herscovitch)
Devil's Path in the Catskill Mountains is considered one of the toughest trails on the east coast. Completing it requires climbing and descending over 14,000 vertical feet. You'll hike straight up, straight down, rinse, and repeat for 25 miles.

Partway through one Devil's Path adventure, my partner in crime rolled his ankle, aggravating a recent injury. The uneven terrain made it uncomfortable for him to hike, especially the series of rocky descents we had to contend with.

It was one of the first trips I brought trekking poles on, and boy did they come in handy. They helped him take weight off of the aggravated ankle, balance on the steep ascents and descents, and generally just made things easier.

Understanding the pros and cons of using trekking poles on your trips can help you decide if they're right for you.  I've found they're right for me on some trips, but on others, it's best to leave them at home. And after testing a complimentary pair of STABIL Stride poles, I'm refining my list of essential trekking pole attributes.

5 Ways to Get Involved on Earth Day

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I want to be able to see sights like this for years to come!
Though we can all make decisions that show appreciation for Mother Nature year round, Earth Day is the perfect day to focus more on what you can do to protect, preserve, and conserve our planet.

If you're not sure what to do, or need more ideas, try one or all of these, and I'd love to hear what you're doing to celebrate Earth Day in the comments!

Learn about climate issues and legislation, and make your voice heard.

After the most recent presidential election, I found myself more anxious about what would become of our environment and the public lands I hold dear than I'd ever been. I focused on figuring out what I could do and learn, and what actions I could take to support local, national, and international policies to combat climate change and protect public lands.

Start by learning more about climate change, and research legislation proposed that'll either make a positive impact on efforts to fight it along with legislation that won't. (It's actually really neat to read the text of legislation!)

Guest Post: 8 Activities for Your First Trip to Zion National Park

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Riverside Walk, image courtesy of Zion Ponderosa.
With 229 square miles of soaring cliffs, narrow canyons and striking scenery, it’s no wonder Zion National Park was one of our nation’s top ten most visited parks this year. My first and only visit there was an overnight almost ten years ago, and I’ve been itching to go back ever since. 

If it’s time to cross Zion National Park off your bucket list, or if you’re me and couldn’t accomplish much on your first and only visit there, this is the guest post for you! Take it from today’s guest blogger, Kirsten Metcalf, on behalf of this post's sponsor, Zion Ponderosa, and try one or all of these things on your trip there. 

Wander Riverside Walk. 

If you’re looking for a way to ease into hiking in Zion, or need a family-friendly trail to try, Riverside Walk is the perfect introduction to all the park has to offer. Once called Gateway to the Narrows, this easy trail is only 2.2 miles round trip, and it’s paved the entire way.

Spring Giveaway: JUMPER Threads and Working Joe

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Spring stoke was high this weekend on the trail!
This past weekend marked my first official hike this spring. I paid a visit to Mount Minsi with friends, and it was exciting to visit a place I hadn't been to in years before the summer crowds get too bad.

And what better way to continue the spring stoke than to offer up a giveaway? 

I've partnered up with ReadyYeti to host a sponsored giveaway for two awesome new brands - JUMPER and Working Joe. Scroll down to enter!

JUMPER was created under the premise that some of our everyday gear and apparel could simply be better. Though a plain white t-shirt from your favorite discount retailer might work just fine, the JUMPER team believes simple products like that plain white t-shirt can be improved through performance fabrics and intelligent designs and technology.

5 Things to Add to Your Spring Adventure Gear Checklist

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Hooray for warmer temperatures
and rainy, muddy weather! (PC: D. Herscovitch)
As we say goodbye to winter, it's time to look forward to spring hiking. It might seem like heading out onto the trail without giving your gear list much thought is fine, but leftover snow, overflowing streams and rivers, and a metric ton of mud along with unpredictable weather can be tough if you're not prepared.

Take a look at these five things you'll want to include on your gear checklist for spring hiking and backpacking. And throughout the season, refine your gear list and layering systems to best fit your needs. (Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post, and I'll receive a commission for purchases made.)

Waterproof Footwear

Though frozen feet aren't as prevalent in spring, wet feet can still make for an uncomfortable day. Wearing hiking boots with a waterproof, breathable membrane, or full grain leather hiking boots, can help keep your feet happier when you're dealing with wet terrain. They'll also help you feel better about trudging through deep puddles on the trail rather than walking around them, which helps keep trails in good shape.