Posted on Leave a comment

Hiking in California’s volatile weather

Muir Beach

Let’s be clear about this: the hiking weather in California is not only volatile right now, it’s absolutely bonkers. For those of you who may be missing it, California is currently going through a series of “atmospheric rivers” that are dumping feet of rain and snow all over the state. There have been mixed responses to these weather events. On the one hand, people are glad that their historic drought might be ending. On the other hand, there is so much moisture across the state that roads are being washed out and travel is becoming difficult.

So, the question on everyone’s minds is how is this going to impact spring and summer outdoor activities, including hiking? I see three issues: one, the weather seems to be harder to predict; two, a lot of trails need extra maintenance; and three, this much moisture leads to taller vegetation and more critters. Three solutions to these issues are: one, expect the unexpected; two, pitch in where you can; and three, know your flora and fauna.

Expect the unexpected

Muir Beach Road

Traveling through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area last week, there were areas that had been closed by the Park Service and roads that were impassable. The road to Muir Beach (above) was covered in a foot of water more than a day after one of the storms had passed. I can’t even imagine how much snow is covering California’s high points. The morning of my hike, the weather forecast called for clear skies. 4 hours later, I was hiking through pouring rain.

Sure, you could say that these things are to be expected during large, ongoing weather patterns. And you’re probably right. But for every single thing you are able to anticipate, there may be two more things that you have not anticipated. In this case, don’t be surprised by lack of access to services, or by the need to turn around. You would do well to bring a water purifier with you as well as cold weather or rainy weather gear on any outing lasting longer than a couple of hours. And check park websites for closures.

Pitch in where you can

Many of the state and national parks welcome volunteers and have forms online for you to fill out for a day or more of service. But, that doesn’t stop you from clearing small items from the trail as you go and being prepared with a small shovel or saw in the event that a mudslide or fallen tree has blocked your path. Additionally, you can report fallen trees and other obstacles to the local ranger station.

Hiking and camping “without a trace” has long been the standard of good outdoorsmanship. However, in times like these, we should each set out to make the trail and the campground better than it was when we arrived.

Know your flora and fauna

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is covered in poison oak, and all of this rain is just going to help it grow and creep into the trail. Luckily, the Park Conservancy has a guide for helping you avoid this itchy plant. Whether you’re hiking in the San Francisco area or elsewhere, please be aware of the plant and animal life of the area and how they may affect you.

Taller and bigger plants inevitably leads to healthier and more abundant animal life. And the more animals there are, the better the odds that you will ending up crossing paths with one of them. Whether they are bobcats, badgers, or mountain lions, you should be aware of the possibility that with increased numbers they are expanding their territory.

Volatile weather or not, this year can be a great year for hiking and camping if you are prepared. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite tips are for expecting the unexpected!

Posted on 4 Comments

Product review: amazing sleeping bag combo!

River Country Products’ best-selling sleeping bag is a three-season bag designed for use in spring, summer, and fall. It is usually sold with a pad and pillow as part of a combo set. Although it will protect you in temperatures between 20-30°F (-6 to -1°C), it’s more suited to temperatures between 40-50°F (4 to 10°C).

Because it’s a three-season bag, it’s lighter and more compact and versatile than a winter bag. This makes it easier to carry on backpacking trips or other outdoor adventures. It also has an adjustable hoods and a draft collars to help you stay warm in cooler temperatures. Weighing either 2 lbs 4 oz or 2 lbs 14 oz, depending on size, it is fairly light.

It’s important to emphasize that temperature ratings are just a guide, so actual comfort levels can vary depending several factors. These include your general core body temperature, sleepwear, and insulation provided by the sleeping pad underneath the bag. In other words, you may want to overprepare for cold weather the first few times you use it until you know your comfort level.

Our sleeping bag combo is unique, because it comes with an inflatable pad designed specifically for the bag. The pad has the same shape as the bag, but it is smaller, so it can either fit inside the bag or be strapped to the outside. This means that you won’t have to worry about sliding off the pad during the night like you may with traditional pads.

Another unique feature of this combo is that it comes with a pillow that also acts as a pump for the pad. The pillow allows you to pump up the pad with cooler, typically less humid air. One benefit of the pillow is that it keeps the pad free from internal condensation. Another benefit is that the cooler air temperature will make it less likely to deflate.

What do you think? Do you prefer a three-season bag? Or a winter bag?

Posted on Leave a comment

Hammock + Tree Straps = The Perfect Pair

hammock tree straps backpacking

Although a seemingly small change, the addition of two 10 foot tree straps to our backpacking hammock makes a huge difference in set up time and convenience. These hammock tree straps are simple to use and are now included with every hammock.

The tree straps are rated at 400lbs (though the hammock holds just 320lbs), and are made from a durable stretch resistant polyester. The stitching is also reinforced making the straps stronger. Another great feature are the 15 connection points for your hammock. These small loops make it easy to adjust the tightness of your hammock setup without retying a knot or removing the straps.

Finally they weigh just 5.2oz each and pack down to a small size, perfect for taking backpacking, camping, or in your backyard. The orange stitching also makes them more visible in the evening and at night.