My favorite things to travel and explore the outdoors with! Categories include photography, luggage, outerwear, shoes, hiking, snowshoeing, camping, apps, and hotel room fitness.
My only camera (DSLR cameras are out of my price range at the moment) is the Sony DSCW830. It’s 20.1 megapixel and takes great photos for the price. The small size allows me to bring it anywhere. It even fits in the hip pocket on my hiking backpack.
I always bring along a JOBY GorillaPod. This thing might look silly, but I’ve found it to be really useful. It’s tiny. So, I can easily throw it in my luggage or hiking backpack. Also, the bendable legs can be wrapped around a tree branch, balanced on a boulder, etc. Remember that it can only handle the weight of a small camera.
I use a Patagonia Mini Messenger Bag (12 liters) as my personal item for flights. I used to travel with a backpack as my personal item, but it stressed me out to have all of my important items on my back where I couldn’t keep an eye on them. It was also kind of a pain to take my backpack off every time I needed my tickets, documents, wallet, phone, etc. There are so many organizational features, including special compartments for electronics. I also like that there is a water bottle pocket on the outside of the bag. If you want a completely weatherproof bag, I recommend the Patagonia Black Hole Mini Messenger Bag (12 liters), or, the larger version, the Patagonia Black Hole Messenger Bag (24 liters).
I was very lucky that I got to pick out a set of luggage as my graduation present after college. I went with Briggs & Riley, because their luggage is known for being high-quality, functional, and understated. On top of that, Briggs & Riley has a lifetime repair guarantee, including damage caused by airlines. My luggage has held up perfectly throughout the years. I love my Briggs & Riley Transcend Carry On. It rolls, has several organizational features, and expands to a larger size if not being used as a carry on.
To go with my carry on, I have the Briggs & Riley Transcend Large Suitcase. It’s lightweight and durable with several organizational features.
Down jackest are great. They are extremely lightweight and compact compared to the amount of warmth they provide. I have the Marmot Jena Jacket (check out the Marmot Zeus Jacket for the men’s version). It has become an essential item that I bring with for cool to cold temperatures.
The jacket I use the most is my Patagonia R2 Fleece Jacket (women’s, men’s). It’s cozy, versatile, and fits nicely. I bring it everywhere, including on hikes, snowshoeing expeditions, camping trips, and flights.
The Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket (women’s, men’s) has a special place in my heart, because I won it at an outdoor expo, and it turned out to be an awesome rain jacket. It’s lightweight and breathable, with a large hood and adjustable cuffs/hem.
Unless I’m flying from one wintry location to another (then I want to wear my boots instead of trying to fit them in my suitcase), I fly wearing my Sperry Koifish Boat Shoes. They look nice with most outfits, are comfortable, and easily slip on and off when going through security. I can walk several miles in them. Plus, you can get Sperry Socks that don’t show.
My favorite shoes for late-autumn through early-spring are my L.L.Bean Bean Boots with Thinsulate (women’s, men’s). For even cozier boots, you can get the shearling-lined version (women’s, men’s). These iconic boots, designed in 1912, are still made one at a time in Maine. It’s best to order them before the winter holiday season, because the wait can be several months around that time of year. I love that they keep my feet warm and dry in all types of conditions. Plus, they look nice and aren’t too clunky.
If you plan on canoeing, kayaking, rafting, or hiking through streams, I recommend bringing along KEEN Newport H2 Sandals (women’s, men’s). On all my canoe trips as a kid, we wore old sneakers to keep from cutting or smashing our toes on the rocks. So, I love that these sandals have a rubber toe and ample coverage to protect your feet.
I love Osprey backpacks because of their comfort and innovative designs. I have the Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, and it’s big enough for most day hikes. However, if you have some bulkier items you want to bring along, then the Osprey Stratos 34 Backpack would be a better option. Both are designed to keep your back cool and include a rain cover.
Although I prefer to use a glass water bottle when I can, my favorite water bottle for outdoor adventures is the Nalgene Glow in the Dark Water Bottle. Besides the fun novelty of it being glow in the dark, it’s actually a useful feature. I can easily find my water bottle after putting out a campfire or in the middle of the night in my tent. If you’re going to get a Nalgene anyway, why not a glow in the dark one?
The Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Chair is a lightweight, compact camp chair that you can bring along while hiking, snowshoeing, or backpacking. It’s a bit of a luxury item while hiking/backpacking (it’s really nice to be able to sit back and relax though), but I have found it’s important to bring along while snowshoeing. It gives a layer of insulation between you and the snow when you want to sit down and take a break. I usually lay it out flat for my fellow snowshoers to sit on.
It’s really handy to have a compact, lightweight pair of binoculars for wildlife viewing. I recommend Nikon Travelite VI Binoculars. Another great use for binoculars is stargazing. Beginner stargazers are encouraged to start out with binoculars to learn the basics before purchasing a telescope.
JUST IN CASE
I like to keep some lightweight medical/survival supplies in my hiking backpack just in case something goes wrong (someone gets hurt, weather conditions change, you get lost, etc.). These include a first aid kit, a multitool, lighters, a magnesium fire starter, a crank flashlight, emergency blankets, a compass, a whistle, paracord, water purification tablets, and energy bars.
I have Atlas Elektra Montane 23 Snowshoes and love them. They are designed for mountainous terrain with crampons that provide traction in all directions. Weight and shoe size are also important factors when choosing snowshoes (Atlas snowshoes come in sizes 23, 25 27, 30, and 35). So, there are smaller Atlas Elektra Montane Snowshoes for women and larger Atlas Montane Snowshoes for men. If you are unsure of what to get, REI put together a guide that explains how to choose the right snowshoes. It can also be nice to have poles while snowshoeing. The Atlas Poles are a good option.
I always bring along a thermos filled with tea for when I want to take a break. It’s such a treat to have a nice warm beverage while taking in the scenery. I recommend getting a Thermos Stainless Steel Bottle. It keeps drinks warm for hours, and the cap also doubles as a cup. The 16 ounce size works well for one person, while a larger size would be better for sharing with a group.
I have the REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent with the REI Half Dome 2 Plus Footprint. It’s spacious enough for car camping and lightweight enough for backpacking. The setup/take down is easy and quick. There are plenty of pockets and loops to keep things organized. I love having two doors and two vestibules. Also, the design is intended to maximize airflow and views.
I have the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Backpacker Outdoor Cook Set. It’s a compact and lightweight cook set made for two people. It includes a stuff sack/wash basin, color-coded bowls and insulated cups, a frying pan, and a pot with a strainer/lid. If you’re camping with more people, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Outdoor Cook Set is a larger cook set made for four people. On top of the items included in the backpacker cook set, it also includes a second pot with a strainer/lid along with color-coded plates. Unfortunately, these cook sets don’t come with utensils. However, the GSI Outdoors Telescoping Foons will fit easily within the cook sets. You can also opt for the GSI Outdoors Destination Kitchen Set, which includes utensils, a large spoon, a spatula, a sharp knife, and dishwashing equipment.
YETI is known for it’s high-performance coolers. So, when I saw that YETI makes insulated mugs, I had to get one. I recommend the YETI Rambler Tumbler for tea, coffee, hot cocoa, beer, etc. It’s durable and great for anything you want to keep warm or cold.
Camping is so much nicer when you have a headlamp. It leaves your hands free to get firewood, cook food, bring things to the tent, etc. I have the Princeton Tec Quad Headlamp.
My favorite app for travel reviews is TripAdvisor.
Duolingo is free and a great way to learn or practice a language on the go. There are 23 languages to choose from.
My favorite sleep sounds app (you can either use headphones or a portable speaker) is Relax Melodies. It has over 100 sounds that you can combine with varying volumes to create a relaxing environment and drown out other noises. My favorite creations are ocean waves crashing and camping during a thunderstorm. It also has meditations to help you fall asleep. My favorite sleep tracking app is Sleep Cycle. It tracks how much and how well you sleep and can be set to wake you up at the lightest part of your sleep cycle. With the premium package, it analyzes how location, weather, and other factors you note affect your sleep.
My favorite app for stargazing is Star Walk 2. Besides that the app is absolutely gorgeous, it’s a great tool for locating and learning about stars, planets, constellations, comets, satellites, nebulae, and meteor showers. When you point your phone/tablet at the sky, the app will show you what you’re looking at.
HOTEL ROOM FITNESS
I love yoga and practice it regularly both in my apartment and while traveling. So, it’s difficult to narrow down my favorite videos. My top six are Elements of Yoga with Tara Lee, Lunar Yoga with Tara Lee, Power Yoga with Rodney Yee, AM Yoga with Rodney Yee, Yoga for Stress Reduction with Hala Khouri, and Yogalosophy with Mandy Ingber. If you don’t have room in your luggage to bring a yoga mat, I recommend bringing a yoga towel instead. Yoga towels are lightweight and compact but have the dimensions of a yoga mat. They’re usually placed on top of a yoga mat to reduce slipping. Also, they’re easier to clean than a yoga mat. Because most hotel rooms are carpeted, you’ll have enough cushion with just a yoga towel.
Cardio is my least favorite part of working out. It’s nice to be distracted by other goals like when I played sports. I’m terrible at dancing. So, the Zumba Exhilarate Set is actually perfect for me, because I’m completely focused on trying to do the dance moves. If you are good at dancing, it will probably be really fun, because you can easily dance along with the music. The Activate workout is my favorite.
STRENGTH & CARDIO
The best workout I’ve found for a combination of cardio and strength training (that you can do in a small space) is BarreAmped Bootcamp. It’s deceptively difficult and works your entire body. You will need weights (although you can just use water bottles or whatever else you have on hand) along with a sturdy piece of furniture (desk, chair, bed, etc.) to hold on to for balance. It would also be good to have a yoga towel for the last part of the workout.
Qi gong is my favorite way to wind down just before going to bed. I love the Water sequence in Qi Gong Fire & Water. The movements are slow, fluid, and calming, and the natural setting of the video is beautiful. The main reason I choose to do qi gong over a relaxing yoga routine before bed is because qi gong is done while standing. So, I don’t need to shower after like I do after practicing yoga on the floor (especially a hotel room floor). I can go straight to sleep in my relaxed, meditative state.
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