As a female hiker, I am constantly asked what gear I used when I travel outdoors and hit the trail. I also get a lot of questions about safety and going solo. It’s not ever been too much of a concern going solo. In 2017 I hiked 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail and was fine. Never did I feel threatened. There are just so many hikers on the AT at any given time, you are never too alone.
When I hit any trail whether it’s a day hike or multiple nights, I always go as lightweight as I can. Packing lightweight offers me the opportunity to explore more and not get bogged down with gear. If you listen to our Podcast Trust the Trail, that’s how I pack light. I do trust the trail and love connecting with it.
My pack of choice for overnight trips is the Hyperlite Southwest 3400. It’s a 55 liter pack and weighs less than 2lbs and carries awesome on my back. Made with ultra-durable, 100% waterproof Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber), I don’t need a rain cover if I get caught in a unexpected rain storm. Being that I have a smaller frame, the Hyperlite is a good choice for me since I don’t want a lot of heavy weight on my hips where most of the weight from your pack should be distributed. I also utilize compression sacks so I can pack as tight as I can keeping my pack close to my back.
Other gear that keeps my pack light is a goose down bag, a tarp tent, and some extra clothes. I really do not need much on the trail. Even in colder temps, my 15 degree bag with some extra dry clothes work fine. Along with my Sawyer water filter, my homemade alcohol stove, and my Toaks Cookware, and my Nemo Tensor sleeping pad, my base weight comes in around 18lbs with no food or water. No bad.
My complete gear list can be found HERE. When Scott and I go out on the trail, we really to trust the trail and that it will provide things we need.
Most people think when you hike a trail you are hiking in the woods. Whether it’s a State Park, National Park or a Recreation Area, you visualize a place where the sun is shining and nature is bursting with noise. You probably never think about pitch black silence where the abyss of darkness is your view, or non view.
That’s exactly what caving is like. Squeezing down a long dark hole exploring massive caves is something that I absolutely LOVE. The challenge of exploring in the dark with nothing other than a headlamp and mud is an adventure like no other.
I get a lot of questions about caving and how is it I’m not terrified about squeezing through tiny holes hundreds of feet below in the dark. My answer to that is simple. It’s just another trail. You would be surprised that down below in caves that there is sometimes a trail system with waterfalls, creeks, and big “rooms” that you can stand up in.
Each “room” sometimes has a name associated with it also. When we go to Raccoon Mountain in Chattanooga TN, they have a vast underground trail system that you can go down and actually visit the “Music Room”, where you can play different rocks and create different pitches.
Each cave you go into always has a map. So with an experienced Guide, you always follow a system that has specific routes and have already (most of the time) been explored. There are times however, when a new route is found. Those are the “routes” I love to explore.
Scott and I see caving much like we see a trail that is above ground. Every turn, every time you think there is nothing to see, a vast beautiful amazing view is there waiting for you to see. Caving is nothing more than just another trail, or camping trip. You bring your gear, find a good spot to spend the night, and hike. It’s a little intimating when you spend the night in complete blackness, but the gear is almost the same. Except for a tent, you still pack a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, water, snacks, and extra dry clothes. You don’t necessarily carry a backpack, but you do carry a large duffel bag. Of course you have a headlamp. If your smart, you have extra batteries with you.
Most caves operate at the same temperature all year round. So you can carry the same gear if you are caving in the summer as well as in the winter.
On our weekly podcast, we discussed how Scott and I went caving and how I tricked Scott into spending 7 hours exploring and spending the night. If you want to know more about Guiding services or how to get started, please feel free to contact me or post below. I love taking people down under for their first time.
Lucy has secrets! When we purchased her we knew there had been another inhabits. She’s 40 years of for gods sake. How naive would it be for us to think, she’s been waiting for us? But Whoaaaa! She had some major secrets.
Secret #1 You have had other animals living with you
Secret #2 Others have taken out your rivets
Secret #3 Who stripped all your Phillips screw heads?
Secret #4 You leak
Secret #5 You are a dirty girl…seriously, how did all that dirt get in the bell pan?
After the sub-floor camp up we really started seeing some major issues with the frame. In some areas, no rust, in other parts, lots’ of rust. The back end of Lucy was completely rotted, along with the front end. Her 30 gallon fresh water tank was cracked. The wiring had been jumpered for some reason to another system. (still trying to figure that out). A previous owner desperately tried to rehab Lucy but probably found out very early, they were way over their heads so they stopped.
HINT: When you have a water leak, and your sub-floor is getting wet. Putting another sub-floor on top does NOT FIX the problem. We took up 2 sub-floors and 3 sets of sticky tile.
At this point we have started to remove inner panels and insulation. The panels are inter-connected. Our Aistream seemed to have been built by putting on the center ceiling first. Everything then was underneath and connected. Not just a simple take the panel off you choose. Probably more like, take the side panel off, but first you have take the top panel off. The panels are at least 22 feet long. Better that 2 people do the job.
The middle ceiling panel is the hardest to take off. You had better choose to keep it, or discard it. If you choose to keep it, it’s gonna be hard to take off without bending it or ripping it.
We learned that rivets are behind other panels that we needed to take off. We also learned…this is going to take a while.
Being newbies in the whole “pulling the camper trailer gig”, we never even heard of the word “sway”. All we could think of was “is the 40 year old Argosy even pull-able”? I mean, tire rot, rust, not to mention brake lights didn’t work. All those things that make you walk away from the deal. But after 7 long hours of negotiating back and forth, fixing stuff, and having Walmart (of all places) come to the rescue on the tire replacement, we thought “all is good in the Airstream Argosy world”.
The Airstream gods are funny. They mock at the notion when people think, Oh, it’s just gonna be a few quick and easy repairs. We’ll just puller down the street and fix her. We knew it wasn’t going to be that easy, and we really did try our best at due diligence before we made that 12 hour drive decision. Once we got everything in check. I mean brake lights, new tires, hitched the 4 pin, it seemed as if we could easily pull her the 400 miles home.
Definition of SWAY: Move or cause to move slowly or rhythmically backwards or forwards or from side to side.
We finally got her on the highway. Excited, nervous, blood pumping with adrenaline. 40 mph, then up to 50 mph. Wow, she was goin’ home. Whoo Hoo! WAIT!….We hit 58 mph when she decided to sway. Although, it didn’t feel very “slow or rhythmically” to me. Felt like we were gonna crash in a fiery ball of hell. I could feel the back end just push my SUV really hard and it was difficult to stay in control. I could look out my review mirror and see how bad she was going left to right. So after a mild stroke, I obviously slowed down to 50 mph. Little did I know that was going to be top speed for the next 12 hours. Not to mention that every time a Semi would pass us, the vortex sucked us into another kind of sway, and I don’t mean a slow dance. Ever grip on to something so tight your hands hurt? Then you know my pain.
After 12 hours and a lot of rest stops we arrived safely. What did we learn in that 12 hours of driving hell? We learned new words like: stabilizer bar. We learned that Cracker Barrel can fit a 28 foot trailer in the parking lot. We learned that Semi Trucks don’t care what your pulling. We learned that Lucille was gonna be a stubborn lady.
On this episode Ariane shares her experience as she is trekking through the Appalachian Trail. Is establishing a routine everyday helpful or harmful to your hiking experience? After all, we are out on the trail to get away from it all right? But is sure does seem like I am going to work everyday.
Everyday is the same. Wake up, drink coffee, eat, pack up, hike. Funny how quickly though, THAT routine becomes a habit. A very secure habit I might add. When a circumstance becomes “different”, it’s kind of weird that my routine becomes interrupted. I found that my 0 days often did that.
Of course, my routine of hiking became so normal. Talking with other hikers, listening to the sounds of nature, became very routine to me. So in that aspect, it was very beneficial. Some advise I received before hitting the trail was:
Establish a routine as soon as you can
Establishing a routine at camp was very helpful. How you get ready for night. Making sure everything is secure, hanging your food bag, getting your sleeping bag fluffed up.
I think the best routine I got into was having a flexible plan. There are many time that I didn’t get to go or camp where I wanted. But that turned out to be ok. The Trail will put you exactly where you need to be. That is why Trusting the Trail is so beneficial to my hiking experience.
Check out Ariane’s Gear List. She is averaging 27 lbs pack weight with food and water.
Want talk LIVE with her and ask a question? Find out how.
From the moment I weighed my pack at Amicalola State Park (25.7 lbs) and registered for my trek on the Appalachian Trail, I knew it was going to magical. What I didn’t know was that from all the hundreds of people that hike the trail, the hundreds that visit the trail, and the hundreds that hike up to Springer Mountain to start their Thru-Hike, I would be completely alone to watch the sunset. In my first few hours of my Long Distance Hike, it was already so magical.
As day 1 ended. I was officially on the AT and moving North. My body was going to have to get use long days and long mileage on the trail. Yea, I was sore the first few days for sure. But after camping all by myself on Day 2, I was refreshed. My goal was to try and stay away from as many people as I could and soak up the trail in a private way.
Have to admit I was a little nervous about the Norovirus spreading rapid on the AT. A lot of hikers were going down and it a bit discerning.
Day 3 was another awesome day. Great weather, and clear nights. One more long day and then hike into Neel Gap and Mountain Crossings where I’ll take my first shower and sleep with a roof over my head.
My total pack weight feels really good. So happy about my Hyperlite Mountain Southwest 3400 Pack. So far so good as food and water goes. We will see when I get my legs and body really working how much more food I’ll start eating. I have been sleeping in my tent and staying away from the shelters. But then again, no storms to speak of…so far.
Finally on Day 4 I hiked up and over Blood Mountain and was greeted by friendly faces and a hot meal. Blood Mountain has a lot of folklore to how hard the hike up is, but it’s not really that bad. The views were awesome however. I’m really happy it was good weather. After a quick little tour, a snack and some photo opps, I was on my way down.
ALL my Trail Updates can be found on our Facebook Page. Here is LIVE Stream from the one I did at Mountain Crossings on Easter Sunday. I would love to hear from our outdoor community. It does really inspire me when I hear from everyone.
Hope you like the video. If you have any questions about my Trek on the Appalachian Trail, please ask, I always respond to comments.
The thought never occurred to me when I was young that someday I would be hiking in a thunderstorm, relentless downpours and outright suck ass weather. I mean, who really dreams about THAT? Hiking uphills until you think the Universe has played a mean trick on you. Hiking downhills that seem to never end. Yea, it didn’t start out this way. But now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Hiking the AT wasn’t always on my bucket list. For sure spending 5 months smelling my own body odor just wasn’t ranking high on my accomplishment list either. But I guess when you love the outdoors as much as I do, it’s only a matter of time before doing something that is bigger than yourself calls to your soul.
When we started doing our LIVE shows on our FB page and I heard from other backpackers who shared there story on trails from all over the country. I knew it was time for me to share my trail story with you. I also needed to re-test myself, and feel accomplishments and the hardships of a long distance hike once again.
I hope you can come and share my journey with me. Hearing from our outdoor community keeps us going.
If you have questions about my gear, or any general questions that you have? You can always connect with me.
Episode 28 takes Ariane all the way to day 8 on the Appalachian Trail. As she’s treking on the trail, she is sharing her thoughts and wonderment. She say’s “My lungs have finally caught up with me”. She also shares what it’s like to make decisions while backpacking on the AT and how important they are. What do your instincts tell you? If you see a sketchy campsite should you stay there? What’s it like backpacking in a thunderstorm and being soaked to the bone.
As this podcast get’s uploaded, Ariane has completed the first 100 miles. It’s been rainy, and yet beautiful at the same time.
Check out Ariane’s Gear List. She is averaging 27 lbs pack weight with food and water.
Want talk LIVE with her and ask a question? Find out how.
Well yeah, of course I used to want the security of mesh walls zipped snug around me when sleeping outdoors. What would harm me in there if nothing could get in? I was safe from it all – safe from the outside.
And then it hit me, I was out here for the outdoors! I was no better inside those ‘safety walls’ then outside of it. Mesh was mesh after all and what was it really protecting me from aside a few mosquito bites anyhow. With the rain fly on I couldn’t see a damn thing out there anyways. I was stuck, inside, with absolutely no connection to the reason I was out there in the first place. I was there to experience the outdoors and I was secluding myself at an arms distance from all it had to offer. So I took it upon myself and embarked upon a journey to feel comfortable among the crawlers of night. No mesh, no barrier. I learned how to tarp tent.
I was first introduced to the idea two years ago when backpacking Virginia’s Mount Rogers with a new friend of mine. For a six day loop, I packed a single layered lightweight tarp tent. Our first night out there wild ponies came galloping into camp, babies in tow, lingering for a few minutes. Only I didn’t see them as my tent’s opening was facing in the other direction. The second and third night, there was the brightest moon shinning over head illuminating the pine forest in magical ways. Yet my enjoyment in seeing it was limited due to tiredness. By the fifth night, the storms had rolled in and it was a fight to even stay upright with the winds whipping so harshly on the ridge. Heavy rain eventually had overtaken our camp and I was summoned to my quarters, quarantined until the downpour lifted. Eventually, I had to make my way into the harsh reality of Mother Nature as my bladder needed to do it’s ‘thang. I unzipped my barrier only to see my friend was cowboy camping deluxe-style across from me. He had already eaten his dinner, was sitting upright snug in his sleeping bag and basking in the beauty surrounding us. I looked around us, it was indeed beautiful – a 360 degree view of the storm flogging us. He clearly had the better deal. I joined in and we sat there for hours enjoying the closeness of the storm’s grandeur while staying completely dry. The winds whipped loudly about us though we weren’t at all effected, a wall of water fell in front of us though didn’t soak us, the clouds whirled about and witnessed the ever-changing anger in the sky. That night was one of those beautiful experiences that remind me of exactly why I love The Great Outdoors. The next morning was no different – though the wind had died down and the fog had rolled in, the rain was still steady. Being our last day on the trail, we were in no rush to leave. After enjoying two cups of coffee comfortably under his shelter that morning, I knew that tarp was gonna be a game changer for me.
Though despite all I enjoyed about it, I still remained cautious to sleep in the open. I wouldn’t actually attempt to remain under it overnight for another few months. I had learned over the years to fear the idea of bugs at night. Though only at night. I’m unsure exactly why, perhaps it is the idea that one fears what cannot be seen. Or simply, my history of bug bites and laundry list of allergies attached to them. The idea of them crawling on me and not knowing freaked me out. Regardless of why, it took me time to build the confidence for action. I knew if I wanted the experience the tarp provided, I’d have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
And therefore, one night, after everyone had already tucked themselves in for the night, I found that confidence to just go for it – I was gonna sleep out in the open! I approached my friends tarp, nudging him on the shoulder unknowingly waking him up seeking a spot beside him. He agreed. Once settled, I leaned in close whispering the words ” just so that you know, I might freak out”. Well. Likely not the best thing to say to someone half asleep. He shot up, inquisitively demanding I explain just what that means. Although I wasn’t sure I could, I wasn’t even sure I knew. I think it was because of bugs – the multitude of bugs I had been watching crawling about earlier. Despite his sleepy state, he was overly kind to have eased my mind by spraying bug spray about the circumference of my sleeping pad. And after one extremely restless night later, I had survived! Not a single bite.
It took many uncomfortable nights of sleeping underneath that tarp before I now can honestly admit I absolutely love everything about tarp tenting. Since then the tarp has provided countless memorable experiences, both solo and with friends. Protection from above, adventure below. The tarp is my preferred sleep system. It is everything I want and need. And after countless bag nights over the years, only twice have I ever woken up with a story to tell otherwise. Here is how I see it, a few spider bites to the hand cannot compare to a payoff of sleeping more exposed to nature. The views, the airflow, the exposure to what I love about nature.
To Filter or Purify? That is indeed the question! A conundrum many that are new to backpacking face. So how exactly do you decided which safety measure to take when there are countless options available to you? It is actually very simple if you break it down in answering these three questions: Where are you going? What sources of water will be available to you along your route, at camp? What do you see yourself realistically using?
First it’s important to know where you are going, as that automatically reduces half of your options upfront! In most cases, hiking within the Unites States it is generally safe to use Filtration only. If your adventure finds you oversees, that’s when you typically want to Purify your water. Each have pros and cons just as everything does in choosing gear so let’s break it down even further, so you understand the differences and the why’s behind the answers!
Filtration: A filter either gravity fed or mechanically pushes water through an internal filter, straining out bacteria, protozoa and debris. Typically filtration alone will NOT filter viruses, as the pores sizing within the filter are not small enough to deter it slipping through. Filtration options range from lightweight to moderate weight though they are easy to use with guarantee of a quick return on clean water.
Purification: A purifier is generally an approved method that treats both bacteria and protozoa as well as eliminating viruses. It typically includes chemicals in the form of tablets or through the use of a UV light source. Most purification methods also treat Cryptosporidium, though this is only effective after an extended waiting period. Chemical treatments however do not strain out any preexisting particulate, and typically can negatively affect the taste of the water. Tablets are your lightest weight option while UV light sources require batteries (extra weight and costs) adding more functioning pieces equaling possible failure on guarantee to work properly.
Here’s a different look at the breakdown of each system since the types of harmful pathogens you’re likely to encounter wherever you go should be your biggest concerns in choosing your method.
Bacteria – eliminated by all the above systems – filters, chemical treatments, and UV purifiers.
Viruses – eliminated through iodine, chlorine dioxide and UV purifiers. Very few filters on the market eliminate viruses and are typically much heavier and more expensive.
Cryptosporidium – eliminated by filters, chlorine dioxide tablets (4hrs wait time), drops (1hr wait time) and UV purifiers (technically speaking they only paralyze or break down the toxic DNA of organisms, halting its reproduction only short term if exposed in great length to sunlight). Iodine tablets are useless in this case.
Particulate aka floating particles of the great outdoors – technically not necessarily harmful to you, but not necessarily something most people find to be appetizing. Eliminated by filers only. Back flushing your filtration system regularly is important to keep filtration effective.
You may ask the question, well why not just BOIL it?! You can, absolutely…and we DO! Often, we both filter and BOIL. Boiling water is certainly the safest method of purification. Whether you’re out camping, or in a country with inadequate or un-sanitized drinking water, boiling water will kill all germs bacteria and parasites. Giving a general rule of thumb by rapidly boiling your water for one to three minutes you’ll have water safe enough for drinking. Though in actuality the correlation of time to temperature truly does matter if you want to get technical (30mins at 160°F/ 3mins at 185°F/ instantaneously at 212°F)…but in actuality who’s bringing a thermometer with!?! Boiling water uses a significant amount more in fuel and therefore if the amount of fuel you bring is a concern to you or you don’t have a reliable source of heat, this may not be your safest method to rely on. It is generally a good idea to use boiling as a back up method, not your main source of purification. One last mention is boiling water will NOT remove chemical toxins nor will it remove any seen sediments or particulates.
Basically, we have a Four Levels of Water Identification in accessing a need for BOIL:
Level 1. WALK AWAY! This is never safe to drink! An exception might possibly be in a dire emergency situation having knowledge there is still risk in getting sick, boiled three times a charm or not! You’ll know it when you see it – these are typically stagnant agricultural ponds with animal excretion nearby or in and sediment film on top.
Level 2. SAFE TO FILTER! And maybe also BOIL! This is not a creek or river, instead is a stagnant pool but you know it’s filled fully or partial with fresh rain water. You have no way to know what or who has contaminated the water, other than the debris and particulate on top but it’s a fresh pool. This is when we opt to boil in addition to filter if this is our only water source.
Level 3. GREAT FOR COOKING! Typically a questionable creek. This is a viable water source, due to its movement of flow, but not entirely trustworthy for reasons identified nearby. If you’re already planning on cooking a hot meal for dinner, save time filtering your water and just boil instead! You’ll be just fine, unless you really just feel more comfortable doing both.
Level 4. GO FOR IT! This is your best possible scenario! Typically a fresh water lake, rivers or creeks actively flowing at a good rate per second. Mountain springs are not exactly abundant all over, but when you do find one (bubbling upward from the ground) that is already filtered fresh spring water. In many cases this is okay to drink from without filtration…if you dare! However, if downstream from the initiating source of the spring, use caution and filter – you just never know what is cascading down from above…
Now, with the decision made – filtration vs purification – you can now focus on what type of system you prefer using within the retrospective grouping. It helps to pay attention to your habits at home, simply because you want to stay as true to what you will be most comfortable with when you’re out there. Close your eyes…visualize yourself using each system from beginning to end – is this system realistic for you, will it be a good option for YOU? In regards to Filtration, you’ve got the Life Straw – Sawyer Mini/ Squeeze – Katadyn Hiker/Hiker Pro/Gravity Camp – Platypus Gravity Works – MSR MiniWorks EX – just to name a few…
So how exactly do you choose from all these options!!? That’s where knowing what sources of water will be available to you along your route is key! Will you be crossing along several small creeks or rivers along the way or are you in higher elevations where your source of water is further below you? Knowing this can answer definitively what system will be best for you!
Reviewing now only our own personal favorite Filtration Systems, rather than continuing on with talk of Purification. First and foremost, the Sawyer Mini – our personal favorite when hiking in the Southeast or even lower elevations because we are sure to cross several accessible streams along our path! It’s a quick and easy way to grab a safe and refreshing water refill. With the Sawyer Mini weighing only 1.4oz it’s an extremely lightweight and convenient option to carry. Often we combine that in a gravity fed filtration system inserted in between a dirty and clean platy bag. This saves us significant cost in comparison to buying pre-packaged gravity systems and allows for multi-use of our gear = the accessibility of the Sawyer Mini on the trail, turning no-hands required gravity fed system in camp!
The Katadyn Base Camp gravity fed filtration system is our choice system when we have large groups with us, as it is large enough to supply a large amount of filtered water without resupply. It’s best feature is its wide mouth entry to easily and quickly access enough water to fill the 10Litter capacity it holds. This system uses a carbon filter, the same as in the Katadyn Hiker/Hiker Pro pump filter. The only downside to this is weight, especially when packed out after use.
Slightly heavier in weight but a necessity when in higher elevations when our water source is slightly more inaccessible below us, the Katadyn Hiker pump is a fool proof way to ensure safe drinking water. Being a bit bulkier as it has slightly more components involved, this carbon based filter total weight is only up to 11ounces. This requires you to do all the work in filtering your water – but perhaps that means you’ll appreciate it more!
Episode 13 is part of our BackpackerTV Facebook Live show. In this episode I share how backpacking altered my life. Backpacking found me, over and over again – though I didn’t embrace it as a lifestyle at first it finally stuck! Now addicted to the sport of backpacking, I share how the culture of that lifestyle simplifies life and encourage you to explore the benefits for yourself.
Enjoy this episode, a rare solo show without my better half! May it find you inspired and encourage you to seek your balance in life…
See you on the Trail!
With a desire to hike every possible mile, I’ve got a lot left to check off on my bucket list. I’m fueled by the outdoors and the grandeur backpacking offers. The outdoors is my playground. I’ve gone from being a climber to a backpacker and I absolutely love it all! So far I’ve traversed Georgia, Arizona, South Dakota, Arkansas, Michigan and the Kalalau Trail in Kauai to name a few.
I am currently a Outdoor Guide for Full Moon Adventures traveling across the country in a renovated 1976 Airstream Argosy teaching backpacking and outdoors to new adventurers.
When I’m not teaching the outdoors, I’m writing for the outdoors.