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Posted by: | Posted on: May 9, 2015

Rule #1 to Enjoying the Outdoors

Camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park near the California Coast

Camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park near the California Coast

As a child, I always loved the outdoors.  I enjoyed anything that involved fresh air, nature, beautiful landscapes, and wildlife.  My family didn’t really hike, camp, backpack or do any of those things.  The closest thing we did to camping involved sleeping in the back of my grandparent’s station wagon when they took me and my brother fishing overnight in Port Aransas or Goose Island State Park.  But I didn’t really need to have outdoorsy parents it turned out.  I was lucky enough to be the black sheep of the family.  I was the weirdo that had an unnatural love of nature.

As an adult I was even luckier to find someone to share my life with that loved nature as much as I do.  This was passed on to him by his parents who immersed him in the outdoors.  He grew up in the rural Texas hill country with parents who valued time spent outside…fishing, hiking, and camping.

When I first heard of the “Meetup” phenomenon and discovered I could connect with other nature lovers, I was ecstatic.  I quickly connected with groups that enjoyed hiking and camping as much as me!  I had not done any serious activities in a while since I had been buried in my career in retail management…not many outdoor opportunities there.  I started picking people’s brains on the gear they used, and what they recommended as “must haves.”  While everyone meant well, some people almost turned me off of the idea that I could push my outdoor experience to the next level.

I was nearly made to believe that it would be impossible to start camping and backpacking again without an investment of over $1000 in equipment and gear.  According to some, I needed a $200 sleeping bag, $300 tent, $200 sleeping mat, $100 stove, and much more before I could seriously consider taking on mother nature.

So, I had a choice.  I could believe the hype and stay home, or I could do some research of my own and get the facts through asking more questions and testing myself in the field.  I’m glad I went with door number 2!

The lesson?  Don’t let other well meaning but short-sited outdoor enthusiasts intimidate you out of following your passion to live a more outdoor oriented life.  Yes, maybe a $300 tent is necessary when in the Himalayas, but it certainly isn’t required to enjoy a weekend in the Piney Woods of Texas.  It’s all relative, and luckily most of us live in areas where we can get by with much more economical outdoor gear options.  In an upcoming article I will tell you how you can get everything you need to start camping for under $150!

In the meantime, follow Rule #1 to enjoying the outdoors.  Never let anyone else intimidate you out of enjoying nature or affect your passion for it.  Follow this rule, and the rest will fall into place.  Now, go outside and play!

-Jennifer Boley

Posted by: | Posted on: April 5, 2015

You Packed What??? (in defense of packrats)

Camping on the California Coast

One of the first camping trips I took as an adult involved an overnight stay on the beach with my husband. The idea seemed great at the time: being alone, playing ball with the dogs, getting tans and falling into a glorious slumber surrounded by soft waves cascading in the near distance. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of doing this before…until it came time to pack.

Where to begin packing for a camping trip? What to pack? What to leave behind? What if I make the wrong choice and am stranded in the middle of nowhere without that fourth kind of sunblock or with that magazine I chose over that book I should be reading? Should we bring more food lest we risk utter starvation?

I decided to play it safe and pack for any kind of foreseeable situation: various swimsuits, clothes, reading materials, several types of beverages, enough toiletries to make it through the Sahara for a month… the list goes on. Just pack it all, I thought. Just leave whatever you won’t need in the truck.

Off to the beach we went! And how well we did unloading and setting up the large tent, followed by the gazebo tent – both requiring intense assembling; then the barbeque pit, the large cooler, chairs, table, and so forth…and then, we went about our business.

It didn’t occur to me until the next day, as we grumbled our way through stuffing tent poles into a too-tiny bag under the unrelenting blare of the sun, how incredibly burdensome all this stuff became. Packing the still-folded tanks and shorts, followed by the hoisting of the cooler back into the cab with all those drinks swimming around in their little ice pool, made me wonder about my relationship with these objects.

Didn’t the point of getting away entail unshackling one’s self from the cumbersome, ho-humness of the everyday ordinary? If that was the case, why did I decide to bring it all with us on our mini-getaway? Did we really need seven types of flashlights in varying sizes and colors? I think not!

That whole exercise taught me a very important lesson:

Going away means letting go.

It’s about leaving your comfort zone and gaining confidence in yourself and what you’re doing, rather than focusing unnecessary thought and energy on those items which simply weigh a person down.

Everybody else will tell you to pack light and then describe how to stuff everything you’ll need into an overnight bag the size of your cell phone — with food included. Not me.

I implore you to take it all so you can gain an understanding on why you probably needed to get away in the first place. So pack those bags. Pack them to the gills. That way, you’ll know exactly what you should be leaving behind.

– Judith Lyle