Review: Planning Camping Trips with the Moonlight Mobile App

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Over the years, I've learned there are two general types of trip planners - those who think of, meticulously document, share, and cover every single detail before an adventure, and those who...don't. 

I'm in the former camp, and for us obsessive logisticians, getting everything written and shared can be a challenge. Nailing down details like campsite reservations, meals, snacks, who's bringing different items, and what activities you can participate in can be a logistical nightmare. But I love camping, and I love sharing experiences with friends, so trip planning challenges will never keep me from wanting to spend time with people I care about outdoors.

Over the years, I've tried and seen a number of different solutions with respect to trip planning, including online checklist options like Packwhiz, extremely long email chains, and everything in between. My most recent go-to option? Google Drive, and more specifically, Google Sheets. My tripmates and I build a Google Sheet with multiple tabs representing topic areas like group gear, individual gear, the itinerary, addresses and phone numbers, and meal planning. Google makes it easy to share and edit the document, which is key.

Gear Review: Thule Stir 35L Women's Hiking Pack

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Traversing the ridge on top of Mt. Mansfield.
In any industry, it can be challenging not to want to be everything to everyone. But for companies like Thule, the expertise their teams have makes it possible for them to expand into new product lines successfully.

My first exposure to Thule came during a search for car roof racks. So, imagine my surprise when an email landed in my inbox titled, "Technical Packs from Thule." Wait, Thule makes technical hiking packs? Yep.

Thule entered the backpacking market in 2014, leveraging teams with expertise in softgoods and hardgoods. From a softgoods (textile) perspective, Thule's team has 30 years of experience building cut and sew products. With respect to hardgoods, Thule's engineering team focuses on things like injection molded plastics and fabricated metals. Combining these two areas gives the Thule team a unique advantage.

This spring, Thule announced the launch of the Versant and Stir series. The former is a line designed for backpacking while the latter is meant to "appeal to those who embrace a 'less is more' philosophy." I had put the women's-specific 35L Stir through its paces on recent day hikes to see if it measured up, and I came away impressed.

Guest Post: Charlie Bilsland on Overcoming Tragedy, Cycling the Silk Road, and Founding Odysseon

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Charlie Bilsland, Odysseon founder.
What happens when tragedy strikes? And when you realize the path you're on isn't the right path? In January of 2013, Charlie Bilsland's brother was killed during the siege of the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria. The loss sunk him into a deep depression, and when he found his way out six months later, he needed a change. Being a management consultant in London was no longer enough.

After a two-week sailing trip in Arctic Norway, he left his job and spent the summer preparing to cycle the Silk Road, from Venice, Italy to Xi’an, China. He left on January 1, 2015, and (spoiler alert), when he reached Xi'an about six months later, he was inspired to start a company aimed at helping others have incredible, life-changing adventures. Follow him along the Silk Road in today's guest post, and learn more about his company, Odysseon.

Starting Off on the Silk Road

New Year’s Day came faster than I ever expected, and after a Hogmanay party in Venice that left us a little worse for wear, my friend Ryan and I finally set off on our expedition. Over the course of the next ten days through Italy, we were frozen by night, sweating through the day, and riding our hearts out when we weren’t being attacked by dogs or being run off the road by mad Italian drivers. It was a great indication of what was to come.

Hiking New Hampshire: Ripley Falls, Arethusa Falls, and Frankenstein Cliffs in the White Mountains

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Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park.
One of my goals on a recent trip to Vermont and New Hampshire was to practice going with the flow. Though I've mellowed in my old age, I'm still a creature of habit, and when things don't go as planned, I'm typically more thrown than I'd like to be.

But practice makes perfect, right? Going with the flow led my partner in crime and up to the top of beautiful Mt. Mansfield on our first full day in Vermont, and we set off for Lincoln, New Hampshire as soon as we finished. We stopped for an amazing dinner and Heady Topper at Positive Pie 2, and checked into Parker's Motel. After breakfast the following morning at Cascade Coffeehouse and Cafe, we took a look at maps and my hiking guide to plan the day's adventure.

Truth: the elevation gain on our Mt. Mansfield hike, battle with bugs, and 80-85ºF temperatures took more out of us than we expected. My calves and knees were stiff and sore, I was a little sunburned, and it was clear I needed to drink more water (as per usual). Our goal for our second day of hiking was to find something more mellow.

Hiking Vermont: Climbing Mt. Mansfield via Sunset Ridge

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Nearing the summit of Mt. Mansfield.
Regardless of how long I'm on a trip, I'm anxious when I don't have a plan. I'm working on learning to go with the flow, as contrary to my nature as that can be, because it's fun to let the places I visit and people I meet people play more of a role in what happens when I leave home.

This long weekend was a perfect reminder of how awesome going with the flow can be.

My partner in crime and I decided to spend five days exploring Vermont and New Hampshire, but to leave with accommodations booked for only two of the four nights and a single planned hike. Cue mild anxiety. Stopping at the Magic Hat brewery on our drive to Burlington on the drive in helped.

After a decent dinner at Leunig's Bistro, drinks at the Whiskey Room, and wandering around Burlington, we turned in at our reserved room in the Lang House on our first night with plenty of options for the first full day of vacation, but without a plan. The plan - climbing Mt. Mansfield - came together over breakfast the following morning, and it was a really good plan.