A common mistake I see (and which I’ve made) when implementing healthier eating habits is too much restriction, whether that looks like under-eating calories or removing entire food groups.
In most cases, that only lasts so long before it results in a binge, which results in feeling awful and is counterproductive to your goal.
Here’s what I’ve seen as an effective way to escape the restrict/binge cycle:
1. Focus on real, whole foods which are naturally satiating (vs hyper palatable foods that invite you to overeat). But avoid being dogmatic. 80/20
2. Stop extreme restriction. This step takes time and involves learning to trust yourself. You’re training your brain that nothing is off limits so you don’t need to binge on it when you have the chance. It’ll be there again later when you want more.
3. Practice self compassion and self forgiveness if you “mess up” and don’t make it mean anything about you. Move on. Eat a normally at the next meal. This step is at the heart of it all. It’s how you learn self trust.
4. Send signals of physiological safety to the body that reduce the likelihood of overeating. This includes eating enough protein, carbs, and calories to be satiated, staying hydrated, managing stress, and getting enough sleep.
This issue has been coming up a lot recently in client sessions. Many people are seeking healthier eating habits this time of year, so if that’s you, hopefully this is helpful!
If this resonates, reach out to see if private coaching would be a good fit for you!
I’ve been thinking about the upcoming backpacking season, my clients who are preparing for big hikes, and how I can best support them with their goals.
That got me thinking about some of the things I wish I’d known when I got started.
This primarily included investing too much time on things that weren’t actually that important and not enough time into other things which really do make a difference.
Here are those mistakes:
Focusing too much on getting the “perfect” gear
Having good, functional, relatively lightweight gear is important, but this topic can be SUCH a rabbit hole. You can easily spend hours (days! months!) researching, comparing, and getting yourself all twisted into a knot over finding the “perfect” item when, in reality, getting something good enough will do.
I don’t advocate purchasing without doing some research, but go into it knowing your priorities (weight, cost, durability), compare a few items, purchase, and move on with your life.
The best way to know if something works for YOU is to try it out. You can always replace and upgrade as you continue on your backpacking journey.
Neglecting strength and mobility
On my first few thru hikes, I mostly focused on running and hiking to prepare myself physically. And those things are obviously helpful for cardio endurance.
Then before my CDT hike, I spent a winter doing body weight training and power yoga 2-4 mornings a week.
The result: I was honestly shocked at how much stronger and slower to fatigue I was on trail. In part, I think it’s what allowed me to hit the trail doing 20+ mile days without injury.
Waiting too long to start planning and preparing
The body, mind, gear, food, maps all take time to prepare. If you have plans to get out on a trip this year, don’t miss out because you procrastinate planning and preparing. Plus, there’s no better way to pass the winter than to start your planning and training now.
Not knowing my “why”
To stay motivated over the long haul, I find it’s valuable to have a clear sense of why I’m out there. If you know your why, when the going gets tough (and it will), you’ll find reserves of energy and perseverance you didn’t even know you had.
Failing to anticipate challenges
It’s easy to get caught up in how dreamy it’ll be when you’re out in the backcountry, free from obligations, drinking from streams, and taking cat naps in warm, sunny meadows.
But it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll likely encounter challenges as well. (That’s part of the appeal, right?!). Visualizing the physical and mental challenges you’ll encounter and how you’ll navigate them makes you more prepared to get through them if/when they occur.
If you feel like this is your year to go all in on your health and adventure goals, and you want a step by step plan to mentally and physically prepare for a big backpacking trip, check out our Adventure Ready course.
In the autumn of 2022, Ryan Sylva and I hiked the length of the Grand Canyon.
This is post 2 of 2, which details trip highlights and lessons. Part 1 is an overview of the trip in terms of length, duration, location, terrain, natural history, climate, water, and resupply.
It’s hard to whittle this experience down to a handful of highlights because the entire experience was a highlight. However, I enjoyed reflecting upon and distilling the aspects of this adventure that I treasured the most.
Developing a relationship with the Canyon. Deepening my knowledge of the Grand Canyon and gaining a more intimate understanding of the history, the geology and characteristics of different rock types, the rules of travel, and the nonhuman inhabitants felt like being let in on an incredible secret. Each day was filled with seeing diverse types of rocks and getting the chance to crawl over and around them and learn their properties. Each time we caught sight of a bird or animal felt special and I was constantly seeing new plants, observing where they liked to grow, in what conditions, and around whom.
It was similar to the excitement of falling in love and wanting to learn everything you can about your new partner. Day after day, it felt like I sunk more deeply into the timelessness of the place, becoming more connected to its rhythms and inhabitants. We drank from the same pools as the coyotes and followed the sheep tracks, trusting their ancient knowledge of the land. The plants and animals of the Canyon became our teachers; demonstrating how to move through and inhabit the harsh environment.
The navigation, route-finding, and problem-solving. This was the most mentally engaging hike I’ve ever done. Nearly every moment of every day required my full presence as I was not only paying attention to macro navigation but to the route finding required with each step, which included avoiding any number of obstacles at once. For instance, it was not uncommon to be gingerly stepping along the edge of a very steep, loose, slope of hermit shale with a 500’ sheer drop off less than 12 inches to your left while also stepping over a beavertail cactus, swerving around a teddy bear cholla, and ducking under a catclaw branch. And doing that for 10 hours of the day.
From one end of the Canyon to the other, we passed through different ecosystems which felt like different worlds in a video game, each with it’s own unique challenge. Here’s the section of endless prickly pear, then the section of steep talus cliff walking, then the teddy bear cholla minefield, then the dead-tamarisk-hopping through the silt flat, and on and on. I was constantly learning about how to travel more efficiently off-trail through the different types of terrain and just as I’d gain proficiency, a new challenge would be presented. This made the experience ever-engaging.
The remoteness. Similar to my hike in the Great Basin in 2021, I was attracted to the harshness and remoteness of this route. Once beneath the rim and off the main corridor trails, we didn’t see another backpacker the entire time. The western Grand Canyon felt particularly remote as we didn’t even see any rafters west of Diamond Creek. It’s rare that one can travel for so long in the backcountry without encountering other people and very little human infrastructure. It felt like a true wilderness experience.
The 12-hour nights and dark sky. The Grand Canyon has some of the darkest skies to be seen anywhere in the continental US and each night countless stars blanketed the sky in our narrow ribbon of view between the Canyon’s walls. Hiking in autumn meant we had no less than 11 hours of darkness each night, and closer to 13 hours by the time we finished. Each day I looked forward to arriving in camp, not just to rest my weary muscles, but to lay there for hours and watch the constellations shift.
The extra rest was a treat as well. I’m accustomed to hiking from dawn to dusk during long summer days, only being in camp long enough to lay out my bedroll, sleep, and pack up again. These long nights allowed time for my body to recover from the demands of the day. There was also ample time to savor a slow-cooked dinner, breakfast, and hot coffee in the crepuscular hours while winding down after a long day or mentally preparing for another.
Hiking with Ryan. Like many things in life, much of what I saw and experienced on this hike was richer because it was shared. Moments of oohing and awing over a multi-colored, 360-degree sunrise, hearing the roar of the rushing river greet us at the mouth of a canyon, witnessing a group of rams scampering up a ravine, and successfully solving complex route-finding puzzles were all better because we could enjoy them together.
After years of friendship and partnering up to hike the Great Basin Trail last year, Ryan and I knew that we shared the same hiking style and preferences, which is essential on a trip like this. We like to hike from sun up to sun down while taking minimal breaks and pushing hard. Our risk tolerance is similar, we work well as a team, and we trust each other. We often went hours without speaking, communicating instead with glances, gestures, and only an occasional sentence or two that would probably sound cryptic to an outsider.
The mountain lion encounter. Having a mountain lion walk within 10 feet of me and then engage in an hour-long standoff with us in camp was the most frightening and exhilarating animal encounter I’ve had in the backcountry. To be so close to an animal that is known to be elusive and secretive, and to have left the encounter unscathed feels extremely lucky, and even sacred.
Spaciousness for my mind to wander and emotions to be processed. Even though this hike was full on both physically and mentally, it was nice, as it always is, to take a break from the firehose of information, emails, and tasks that fill my off-trail life. I had a lot that I needed to sit with, from my father’s death 18 months ago to the loss of my beloved feline companion of 17 years and the end of a 3-year romantic relationship this summer. I needed space to be and feel and grieve. And I got it.
Take-aways & Lessons
The following are lessons I took away from this experience and which I hope, in some way, will serve you as well. They range from the pragmatic to the abstract, some applicable only to Canyon travel while others apply well beyond the outdoors.
Hold expectations loosely. Early on in our hike, it became apparent to me that if I was going to enjoy the experience, I’d need to learn how to hold my goals for each day loosely. Travel was difficult and slow. For any sketched route mile on our GPS, we would need to add at least 20% for a realistic expectation of mileage required to cover that distance in the field, due to route-finding obstacles. With no trail, it’s rarely possible to travel in a straight line. Rather than our normal trail pace of 3+ mph, 1 mph became the standard. If we averaged 2 mph, we were really cruising.
Though we would study our maps, nothing could tell us the exact nature of the obstacles we’d encounter and how long it’d take us to problem solve our way through. I learned to hold expectations for the day loosely, not to get too far ahead of the present. It would only result in frustration and feeling deflated if we fell short of a goal, rather than staying present and feeling proud of what we did accomplish. Instead, I learned to keep a general idea of where I’m headed, and then take it step by step and hour by hour, leaving space in the day for adventure to unfold.
Most mistakes happen when I rush. From sliding down a loose ravine to brushing up against a cactus to fighting through mesquite when an easier way could be found above, many mishaps and minor injuries could be attributed to moving too fast and forcing a way through. I learned not to hurry.Walk with intention and slow down to find the best way through. And if it’s feeling too hard or dangerous, there’s probably a better way around. Go slow to go fast.
There’s no such thing as enough planning. We researched, planned, and prepared for this trip for months and it still wasn’t enough. Even though we’re seasoned backpackers, on this route, nothing can substitute for experience in the Grand Canyon. The more, the better to allow for learning different parts of the canyon and getting to know the area through various modalities (e.g. on foot and on raft). I have an incredible amount of respect for the folks who have spent a lifetime exploring and developing an intimate knowledge of the Canyon.
I am resilient. And, all that said, you can plan and prepare all you want –and you should– and still there will be things that catch you off guard, take you down, and humble you deeply. This was a tough route, so much so that I had days that I questioned what I was doing out there. It’s getting through those moments that remind me that I am capable and resilient. I can trust myself in the face of uncertainty, tolerate discomfort, and learn and grow from the experience.
Everything is only ever happening right here, right now. Being immersed in a society of busy-ness where our worth is linked to what we produce has conditioned my mind into unconsciously viewing things as a checklist. While I love to get stuff done, there’s a time and a place for that. That lens is beneficial for accomplishing goals, but it’s not conducive to staying present and soaking in the surroundings.
There were moments each day when I would become aware of the background instructions running in my mind: get through the ravine, around the side canyon, to the next water source, to camp, to the end. And then I’d arrive and realize I hadn’t truly taken in my surroundings along the way because my attention was focused on getting there rather than just being here.
As cliché as it is, it’s the journey, not the destination that’s the whole point. I can slip into this checklist mindset not just on trail, but in daily life as well. When I caught my thoughts wandering to the past or to the future, I’d remind myself “Here. Now. This is it.” It’s a gift and a privilege to be in this landscape and I can reciprocate that gift with my attention.
Finally, if you’ve read this far and you’re thinking about hiking this route, let me reiterate how challenging it is and how much preparation, research, and experience is necessary. Especially experience in the Grand Canyon. Ryan and I have a lot of off-trail backpacking experience and tens of thousands of miles on our feet, many of them in desert environments. We did months of planning, research, and preparation for this hike and still, we got walloped. Ryan’s words sum this up well:
“After hiking the route and getting to know the intricacies, I realized I didn’t know shit about the canyon no matter how much research I had done. I have so much respect and admiration for the folks who have spent a lifetime out there in the Grand Canyon. This route is simply not one to ‘plug and place.’ I will reiterate that the route is very, very dangerous. I will reiterate you will need to do more research for this than anything you have undertaken before. And, when you feel ready, you still need to do double the research.”
For step by step guidance on preparing for your next backcountry trip, our online courses are the best place to start:
In the autumn of 2022, Ryan Sylva and I hiked the length of the Grand Canyon.
This is post 1 of 2, which provides an overview of the trip in terms of length, duration, location, terrain, natural history, climate, water, and resupply. Part 2 details trip highlights and lessons.
My intention in sharing this overview, the instagram stories, and my gear list is because I believe that when we get glimpses of these wild, remote places, they go from the abstract to the relatable and we become more inclined to care about and protect them. My hope is not for you to emulate this trip, but to be inspired to get outside and experience the outdoors in whatever way feels compelling to you.
To see the journey in photos, check out my instagram highlights Grand Canyon and Grand Canyon II. You can also read a detailed account of the trip on Ryan’s website.
To sum it up, this experience was an adventure in the truest sense of the word: unusual, exciting, and often hazardous. Much gratitude is owed to Grand Canyon explorers before us, including Harvey Butchart, George Steck, Tom Martin and Rich Rudow among others, from whom we obtained inspiration and route beta.
We estimate that we hiked ~575-600 miles based on our mapped route, though neither my partner nor I recorded a GPX track. We hiked entirely on the north side of the Colorado River, connecting our footsteps from Lee’s Ferry to the historic Tassi Ranch, an arbitrary pick up point west of Pearce Ferry on the north side of the river.
We completed the hike in a total of 35 days between late September and mid-November. Hiking dates were 9/27-28 (Lee’s Ferry to Rider Canyon), 10/1-5 (Nankoweap Canyon to Phantom Ranch), 10/19-11/10 (Phantom Ranch to Tassi Ranch), and 11/12-17 (Rider Canyon to Nankoweap Canyon).
There are many ways to complete a traverse of the Grand Canyon. We wanted our route to utilize different layers of the canyon, stay beneath the rim, and not require any technical climbing. Class 3, 4, and low 5th class climbing was fine, but anything more was beyond our skillset. We didn’t carry a harness or rope, but we did use a 30’ piece of tubular webbing to haul packs when wearing them while climbing compromised our balance.
The entire route was off-trail with the exception of roughly 9 miles of maintained trail near Clear Creek. There were also portions of the Tuckup Trail that are well defined and a handful of miles on old ranching roads that were in good condition. Otherwise, we kept our eyes out for sheep trail and read the terrain to find the best path through. Travel included beach walking, boulder hopping, creek wading, scrambling up and down layers and along ledges, traversing steep talus slopes and loose ravines, and stepping over, through, and under cacti, mesquite, sagebrush, catclaw acacia, saltcedar and all sorts of other pokey vegetation.
Our route traversed through three ecoregions, including the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. These different habitats are the result of geologic variations and elevations that range from 2000’ to 8000’. We walked through desert washes at the lowest elevations to Mojave desert scrub, sagebrush steppe, pinyon-juniper woodland, and ponderosa pine forest as one ascends in elevation.
Natural & Human History
Humans have inhabited the Grand Canyon for thousands of years. The Havasupai, Navajo, Southern Paiute, and Hualapai communities live inside the Canyon or along the rim. Hopi, Zuni, and Apache live nearby. Later, Mormon ranchers, miners, and early explorers lived in and around the Canyon. We relished seeing remnants of early inhabitants, particularly the indigenous communities. This included granaries, pictographs, and agave roasting pits.
A wide variety of animals, insects, birds, and plants also inhabit the Grand Canyon. I won’t name them all, but our wildlife sightings included bighorn sheep, squirrels, chipmunks, rattlesnakes, mice, mule deer, bats, tarantulas, black widows, lizards, scorpions, coyotes, burros, toads, and a mountain lion, to name a few.
Plant observations were extensive as well. There are nearly 2,000 species of plants, mosses, and lichen in the Grand Canyon. Different vegetation communities are seen at different elevations and in different parts of the Canyon. Some of the species we saw the most include sagebrush, Juniper, Pinyon pine, aspen, ash, lupine, catclaw acacia, Mormon tea, western honey mesquite, willow, broadleaf milkweed, indian paintbrush, snakeweed, Utah agave, banana and narrowleaf yucca, snakeweed, creosote, white bursage, brittlebush, ocotillo, four-wing saltbush, big sagebrush, blackbrush, rabbitbrush, and various cacti, such as California barrel, fishhook, beavertail, desert prickly pear, hedgehog, and cholla.
Heat, water, and remoteness are the biggest challenges of backpacking in the Grand Canyon. Temperatures ranged from over 100-degree highs during our first week of hiking in late September to lows around 20-degrees on a few chilly mornings in early November. Obviously temperature ranges are vast when you’re traveling at elevations ranging from 1,500’ to nearly 8,000’. We would have benefited by delaying our start date until mid-October, when summer’s sweltering heat had begun to wane. Generally speaking however, the temperature range was quite comfortable. Daytime temperatures were in the mid-50s to mid-70s, and nighttime temperatures were in the high 40s to low 30s. Other than adding a down jacket for the last half of the trip, which I probably could’ve gone without, I carried the same kit for the entire trip.
Water is constantly on one’s mind while traveling in the Grand Canyon. Our schedule coinciding with the occurance of several decent storms was quite fortuitous. Not only did we begin our hike at the tail end of a strong monsoon season, we also received a few well-timed storms that filled the potholes. As a daily practice, we were always looking ahead and making educated predictions about where we might find water again, how likely it was to be there, and how long it’d take us to get there. This wasn’t always easy, as we were traveling off trail through difficult terrain that we hadn’t seen yet. Additionally, we found that it was not uncommon to encounter an obstacle that ate up precious daylight, such as getting pinched off at a cliff and needing to backtrack to find a different way or encountering an area covered in prickly pear cactus that required us to tiptoe through for miles.
As part of the research and planning phase, I created a spreadsheet of all of our potential water sources and their reliability. This was used in conjunction with maps and beta from other Canyon travelers, alongside our observations of the weather and the terrain we were traveling through to ensure we had enough water. For example, in addition to knowing where our next reliable water source was, we knew that we commonly found water in side canyons with steep walls that shaded the pools below pour offs. After a heavy storm, it was likely those pools and others would have good water. It was not uncommon for us to carry 6-8 liters, drink green water from potholes, and ration when we didn’t make it to our anticipated source in time.
Options to resupply food and replace or repair gear were limited. There are no town stops inside the Canyon and getting into and out of it is time-consuming and strenuous. More thought went into self-sufficiency on this trip than on any of my previous outings, particularly hikes on well-traveled trails like the PCT. I was conservative with gear decisions and beefed up my first aid and repair kits. We planned for contingencies upon contingencies.
Caching food, water, and gear replacements was critical to our success. The distance between caches and our speed of travel determined how much food we carried at any given time, with food carries raging from 5-11 days. Caching required a lot of driving and time. We opted to set 3 caches: South Canyon (which we didn’t utilize due to Ryan’s heat illness on day 2), Thunder River Trailhead, and Tuweep Campground.
In the fall of 2022, I hiked the length of the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to Tassi Ranch. This post shares my Grand Canyon Traverse gear list. It’s all the items I carried for the route and the rationale behind my choices. This is provided as a guide for how I think about creating gear lists and for those who are just curious about what I carried. The gear taken on any trip should be unique to the location, goals, conditions, season, and experience of the hiker.
Conditions & Intentions
This hike was completed in late September through early November. Temperatures ranged from 20-100 degrees Fahrenheit. We experienced a few thunderstorms as we were at the end of monsoon season, but overall conditions were very dry. Finding water was always a challenge and when we found it, we needed the ability to transport large quantities. Sun was intense and shade was minimal. There are no resupply points inside the canyon to purchase food, gear, or other supplies. Our goal was to hike in a lightweight style, hiking from sunrise to sunset to maximize mileage.
Location-specific selections and rationale
These are the items that were selected specifically for the conditions expected on this trip:
Sun hoodie & sun glasses: protection from the incessant and intense sun
Lightweight rain jacket: minimal rain expected
App Co Gear alpaca hoodie: my sole insulating layer for the first half of the hike while summer’s heat still lingered
55L pack: larger capacity pack for the extra gear, food storage, and water capacity needed to be more self sufficient on this trip
Bulked up first aid and gear repair kit: the canyon is remote, help is far away, and there are no towns to replace broken gear
Increased water capacity: long water carries
Webbing: ability to create handlines or pass packs through breaks in the layers
20K external battery: no towns to charge electronics
Special thanks to gear companies who have supported me:
Astral Footwear for providing shoes for me for this trip. I’ve been wearing and testing Astral shoes since 2018 and they’re my top choice due to their breathability, grip, and durability.
TOAKS for providing my awesome alcohol siphon stove, 750-ml titanium cookpot, and my long-handled spoon. If I’m carrying a stove, this is always the one I take.
If you’d like a downloadable copy of this template, it’s available for free from Andrew Skurka. It’s the template I use for all my hikes, updating it for each new location/season. It also serves as my pre-trip packing check list.
Why spend $500 on a 14oz tent and then carry 2 pounds too much food?
This year, I’ve helped over 400 clients prepare for and execute backcountry trips. As a guide, online instructor, and operations coordinator for Andrew Skurka’s education-focused backcountry trips and online planning course, I’ve had the privilege to support clients through the most common stumbling blocks. One that comes up repeatedly both in the planning stage and in the field is uncertainty about how much backpacking food to pack. In most cases, people end up packing way too much food and therefore carrying unnecessary weight.
For how much time, money, and effort goes into lightening one’s pack, it’s unfortunate to see people negating the payoff by carrying excess food weight. To be clear, a little bit of buffer, such as an extra meal or bar, is a great idea. Carrying a few pounds excess is not.
Case Study: 5-weeks of Backpacking Food for the Grand Canyon
As I prepare food for an upcoming 5-week hike in the Grand Canyon, I wanted to share my process and techniques for keeping food weight appropriate for the length of trip I’m on. With longer distances between food caches (e.g. 5-11 day carries) and extra safety gear for this trip, packing efficiently in terms of food weight is critical.
To keep food weight low, there are two key factors I focus on: packing the right amount of calories and packing the most calorie dense foods.
Determining Backpacking Food Calorie Needs
To determine how much food to take, I take past experience into consideration and calculate calories. You can use a free BMR calculator online, and adjust for activity (see this video). Then test it out and take note of how much food you returned with or whether you ran out. Like most hikers, I get hungrier the longer a trip lasts. For that reason, I generally plan for a higher calorie intake later in the trip.
For this trip, for example, I’m planning about 2300-2500 calories for the first two weeks, then 2700 for the last 2.5 weeks. Cold temperatures, a high amount of elevation gain, and cross country hiking over uneven surfaces make me hungrier, so I also try to plan for that. As far as macronutrient ratios, I feel best eating about 50-60% fat, 20% protein, and 20-30% carbohydrates. See this video on macronutrients for backpacking.
Choosing Calorie Dense Backpacking Food
As I discussed in my food planning for the Great Basin Trail, I prioritize trail food that is energy-dense, meaning high calorie per ounce. I aim for >125 calories per ounce, but some foods fall short of that which I’m okay with if it’s a high protein food. At nine calories per gram for fat compared to four calories per gram for protein or carbohydrate, this makes fat a good option for weight efficiency for long distance hiking. For a complete breakdown of the benefits of a higher fat diet for backpacking, see this post.
By focusing on packing the right amount of food and packing about 50% of my calories as fat, my food weight per day ranges from 0.93 pounds at the beginning of the trip to 1.29 pounds toward the end of the trip when I plan to eat more calories. For those interested, my food for this trip is all gluten free, with a high priority on nutrient density and antioxidants, and simplicity.
Hopefully this helps you with your own meal planning for your next backpacking trip.
If you’re interested in the blueprint I use to plan my recipes and meals for every single backpacking trip I take whether it’s a few days or a few months, I invite you to check out the backcountry meal planning course.
I dumped all my knowledge from training as a nutrition coach and my experience from 10,000+ miles of backpacking into this course to help streamline the process for others. We cover how to determine your calorie and macronutrient needs, how to create a meal plan (including templates), creating a resupply plan, creating your own balanced recipes, and much more.
Use this free planning template to get yourself organized so you get out on your weekend backpacking trip faster and without forgetting anything.
Is this you?
It’s Monday morning and you get a great idea for a backpacking trip to take the coming weekend. You get energized all week just thinking about being out there. In moments between work tasks or before bed, you look up a few route details, maybe pull a forecast. Then suddenly, it’s Friday, but you haven’t packed or downloaded the route or purchased any hiking food. You scramble to get things organized and get out the door. At best, you don’t depart for your trip until 6pm – just in time to sit in rush hour traffic; at worst, you decide to delay your trip for another weekend (hopefully).
If so, this post is for you.
I’ve been back at home since finishing up guiding in the Sierra in early August, so I’ve had time to fit in a lot of 1-3 day adventures in the Colorado high country. This has mostly included 14ers, 13ers, and long mountain days traversing passes, ridgelines, and valleys to create fun loops and link ups. To stay organized and make my planning quick and easy for each of these adventures so that I’m more likely to get out the door, I refined a weekend trip planning template that I started using a few years ago.
This planning template helps me cover all my bases so that as soon as I get inspired for a trip, I can open up the planning template and get the ball rolling. It makes it easy for me to share this information with a trip partner or loved ones at home. It makes it far less likely that I’ll forget an important detail, which means I ultimately feel calmer and more confident heading into the mountains. This planner is intended for short trips, not a thru-hike.
You can download a copy of my weekend backpacking trip planning template here and try it out for your own trips.
Watch this video for a walk-through of how I use the weekend backpacking trip planner:
Grain free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan backpacker’s granola is quick and easy to make before a big trip.
I’m in the midst of preparing my food boxes for a 5-week backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon this fall. I bought a bunch of nuts and seeds, which I was planning to just make into a trail mix, but I decided it’d be a fun treat to turn them into granola instead. So I spent an hour this afternoon baking this tasty, healthy backpacker’s granola that I’ll take on the trail as a snack.
This recipe is quick and easy to make with a handful of simple ingredients, many of which you may already have on hand. At nearly 180 calories per ounce, it’s calorie density meets my needs for backpacking. It’s easy to pack into resupply boxes. And best of all, it makes the entire house smell amazing while it bakes.
What makes this a “healthy” granola?
It’s loaded with healthy fat from the nuts and coconut oil along with some easy to use energy from the carbs in the honey, and a bit of protein. It also delivers important vitamins and minerals, including potassium, iron, and zinc.
This granola is made with coconut oil, rather than the highly refined and inflammatory vegetable oils often used in commercial granola and the sweetener is honey, which is loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients. It also contains the anti-inflammatory spices cinnamon and ginger.
This granola not only makes a great no cook breakfast, it’s a great snack any time of day. You can eat it straight out of the bag with a spoon, add coco milk or whole milk, or my personal favorite: sprinkle some in almond butter and scoop it out with a spoon – sounds weird but it’s so good.
You can modify this recipe to fit your tastes and/or add variety to your resupply boxes by changing the types of nuts and seeds you use. For example, substituting in pecans, hemp hearts, etc. Just keep the overall quantities the same. You can substitute butter or ghee for the coconut oil, and syrup for the honey. You could also add in fruit, such as goji berries or dried blueberries after baking. Note that any modifications will change the nutrition facts slightly.
It’s not uncommon to hear discussions about how technology has caused humans to become an increasingly indoors species, disconnected from nature. While there may be some truth in that, technology is part of modern life and it’s not going away. So how can we use our phones to enhance our experience in the outdoors and connect us more deeply to the natural world around us?
This season, in addition to swimming in as many alpine lakes as I can find, one of the things that’s been bringing me a lot of joy is getting to know the plant life around me more deeply. My educational background is in plant cellular and molecular biology and I’ve always had a keen interest in plants.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many of the plants where I live but I wanted to accelerate my learning. I also wanted to learn more of the plants I discovered while guiding in new locations, so I started using the Seek app. I was surprised by how much I loved observing which species came out at different times; who they like to grow around and in what conditions. Observing these details can tell you so much about the surrounding land, such as how much (or little) water is available, whether it was a heavy or light snow year, and even the pH of the soil.
Spending the last several months really dedicated to observing new species, especially around my home, has helped me be more present while I hike, rather than getting lost in thought. It’s also grounding to know with whom I share the land. I also love seeing similar species or members of the same family growing in different places, such as the California Poppy in the Sierra and the Arctic Poppy in Alaska.
In the words of Mary Oliver, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” I observed over 100 new species this summer. In truth, many I already knew, but now I’ve officially logged them in my app 🙂 While I’m far from an expert, I’m enjoying the process of more deeply getting to know the land around me, aided by technology.
My clients observed the joy and fervor with which I sought out new observations this year and many asked for a list of apps I use most in the outdoors. Below is that list. Many of these I use regularly; some I’ve only used a couple of times, but I wanted to include them to provide a well-rounded list.
If you have feedback or suggestions, comment below.
Digital maps and GPS are an important and powerful part of my navigational toolkit. A GPS device allows me to pinpoint exactly where I am and to do so quickly. I can also see my elevation, my bearing, create routes, record tracks, save waypoints at key locations and much more. Layers can be toggled on and the opacity adjusted so that I can see an incredible amount of information about an area at once, such as trail locations, fire history, topography, satellite imagery, slope angle, and much more. As many maps as you’d like (or that your phone storage will hold) can be downloaded for offline use and organized into folders. Gaia and CalTopo are my two favorite navigational apps and I usually save the same mapset to both apps as some features are better on one and some on the other. I also use the desktop version to plan routes at home and sync them to my phone.
I usually check multiple forecasts for a single location when heading into the mountains (and then I refresh those forecasts compulsively until I go) so that I can make informed gear choices and even go/no-go decisions. In addition to the weather.gov point forecast, these are the apps I’ve found give me the most accurate hourly forecasts for precip, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, and more.
This is the plant ID app I use. It also identifies animals, birds, amphibians, plants, and fungi. You simply point your phone camera at the object you wish to identify and the app uses image recognition technology to give you an answer. Sometimes it can get you to species, other times only to genus or even just family. Personally, I use the app to help me get close, then use a field guide specific to the area to help me hone things in.
What’s that big peak way over in the distance? Can we see Mt. Whitney from here? If you love identifying the mountains near and far when you get to a summit or an open view, Peak Finder can help. You simply line your phone up to the horizon and the app provides a sketch of the surrounding terrain with visible summits labeled.
It’s fun to know what’s in the night sky above us. With the Sky Guide app, you can point your phone at the sky and it identifies stars, constellations, and planets. I sometimes find constellations difficult to visualize and this app makes that a breeze.
Use the app to follow images that walk you through how to tie over 300 knots. Learn that trucker’s hitch once and for all, and enjoy the world of possibilities that open up to you with a more versatile guyline system.
The summer solstice is just a few weeks away! There’s so much I love about this time of year: the warmth, hiking in a skirt again, and feeling the sun on my skin. The days feel endless, the plants and trees are greening up and budding out, and most of the snow has finally melted from the high country, opening it up for alpine foot travel. I can’t help but get excited by the possibilities, and I know, like every year, that there won’t be enough time for all the places I wish to explore.
I manage this conundrum by creating a list of everything that strikes my fancy. Then I estimate how long the hike will take (if it’s a multi-day, -week, or -month event) and when the ideal time to hike it would be. I see what fits into my calendar and go from there.
This is all part of my trip planning process, which involves:
Defining the trip parameters – Where? When? With whom?
Researching the likely conditions -Temps, precip, weather patterns.
Creating an itinerary – Dates, expected daily mileage, potential campsites.
Selecting gear – What do I need for the expected conditions?
Planning food and resupply strategy – Plan, purchase, and packaging food.
Creating a safety plan – What risks will I encounter and how will I mitigate them?
Preparing physically and mentally – Training for the rigors of the trail.