Review: The North Face Banchee 50

10599202_10203799796067156_6684174597981859820_n  To make a long story short, I had one hell of a time finding a backpack. I am a thin, petite girl with little to no extra padding to protect me from the pressure of thick straps – supporting dozens of pounds of gear – digging into my shoulders and hips. I went through backpack after backpack, and each one left my collar and hip bones bruised, cut, and rubbed raw, and my back 10577199_10203799799987254_2709869136047403269_naching. Each time I would wear one of the other backpacks, I would be in pain  and close to tears after just a few minutes on the trail. It got so bad, and I had been through so many backpacks with no improvement, that I was about ready to give up backpacking all together. Which was a heartbreaking thought.

Then, my husband saved the day and found me the Banchee 50 from The North Face, and my backpacking days were saved! The Banchee 50 is comfortable and durable. My collar and hip bones remained bruise free. I was able to actually enjoy myself while trekking into the mountains with 20-30 pounds of gear on my back. I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off of my face during my first trip with the Ban10609624_10203799795827150_3038033195460950873_nchee 50. We were a match made in heaven.

My Recommendation: Ladies, TRY THIS PACK. I can’t rave about it enough. Comfortable, efficient, durable…what more could you ask for?The Banchee 50 ($199 at www.thenorthface.com)

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Leading a Life of Adventure

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I am lucky to be able to live an adventurous life and to be able to write about it. I live for long weekends of backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, or heading East to go fly-fishing on the major rivers of South West Montana. And I am fortunate enough that whether I am swimming with sharks off the North Shore, or spending a lazy day at home, my husband is right there by my side. We are the perfect adventure buddies.

I am blessed to be able to go on so many adventures and to have so many amazing experiences with the man I love. I am also blessed to be able to inspire others. Especially when it comes to other women. In my opinion, fly fishing and backpacking and pushing one’s self beyond what is comfortable or normal is important for everyone, but in particular for women. Whenever I hear a friend of mine talk about needing to go hiking more, “like Anna”, or try fly fishing out after seeing photos of me gripping a big Brown, it gives me a rush. Because these activities have changed my life. They have opened new worlds up to me, and to see others show interest in trying them is thrilling and satisfying.

[Adapted from the article ‘An Adventurous Life’ By Anna M. Cohen. Check back soon for more details on where you can read the full article.]

Ode to Freeze-dried Suppers

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If you’ve been in the backcountry over night, you know what I’m talking about when I say that there are few things that taste as good as a re-hydrated meal eaten right out of the bag in the middle of nowhere after a long day of hiking. Dehydrated meals are a must for any true backpacker. And boy, do we love them. Here are the top reasons why freeze-dried meals are the shizz:

1. There is no better way to pack in the calories needed for long days of trekking it through the wild.

2. They provide you with a hot meal at the end of a long day. Think how nice a warm pouch of Chili Mac would be after a 12 mile hike, eaten as the sun starts setting over the mountains and that cool night air starts to creep in. You can’t beat it. Hot meal. A must.

3. Some of them actually taste really good. Try these meals from Mountain House: Chicken a la King, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Beef Stroganoff, Chili Mac with Beef, or Mac and Cheese. Steer clear of the ‘Breakfast’ options…just my advice.

4. Easy clean up when you eat right out of the bag! No bowls required. Just rinse the bag out when you’re done, roll it up small, and stuff it in your pack. No muss no fuss.

5. They fill you up. No really. You wont be hungry after downing a Mountain House Entree pouch.

Freeze-dried suppers are a life saver on a cool, wilderness night. That’s why we, the adventurers, the explorers, the backcountry men [and women], love them so.

Why It’s Good to Get Off the Trail!

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Get off the beaten path and see what’s really out there!

Trekking it up a well-beaten path, brushing shoulders with an endless stream of hiking-stick-wielders and finally making it to the top of the trail, only to be lost in a crowd doesn’t do much for me as far as getting my zen on. It’s hard to be one with the wild and revel in the sweet rawness of nature when there are multiple groups of hikers munching on picnic lunches at the top of the mountain.

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Pick a wide open space on the map and go!

Popular trails can be beautiful. They can offer a very fulfilling and rewarding experience, and often time the destination is spectacular – that is why they are so popular, after all! But I’ve developed a deep curiosity for what lies beyond the beaten path. I think about how many hundreds, even thousands of hikers have walked the busy trails and paths.  I wonder then in comparison how many people have seen what lies over the ridge off to the left, or if anyone has made it to the top of the far, snow-capped mountain off in the distance. Those are the places that draw me in. That is what I crave; that solitude in nature and to see places that not everyone has been to and not everyone could make it to.

To get off the trail is a whole new type of adventure…one that you are in control of! You don’t know where the path will take you because there is no path. You determine where you end up and how you get there. It’s a thrill and it is a great way to really separate yourself from the craziness of the crowds.

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Beauty awaits you!

It can be harder to find the path less traveled sometimes, or to know where to even begin blazing your own trail. Take time to do some research. My husband, Ben, and I use Google Maps to find large areas of wilderness without a trail  or road running through it. We’ll drive back into the area as far as we can and then ditch the car and take off on foot for miles and miles, creating our own experience in the back country, away from the crowds and headed for new, untainted destinations.

When ditching the trail, make sure you are prepared. Always bring enough food, water, and shelter, and make sure you’ve got yourself a good dose of flexibility, because when you get off the beaten path, you never know what might happen or what you might find…and that’s the fun in it!

Backcountry Beauty

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I  do a lot of backpacking, hiking, and camping. My husband and I trek it out into the wild for days at a time and let me tell you, it took me awhile to get the hang of roughing it. I love my creature comforts and eating healthy, and I definitely still want to look somewhat cute around my husband. Anyone who has gone backpacking knows that eating healthy and staying pretty in the backcountry isn’t very easy to do.  It was just a matter of time before I had to figure out some ways to incorporate my beauty and health essentials into my packing list without adding a ton of extra weight to my pack.

Here are nine keys to backcountry beauty:

  1. Bring some great cleansing wipes (baby wipes will do!). I like the Yes to Cucumbers facial clothes [yestocarrots.com]. Nothing feels better at the end of a long day of hiking than giving your face (and body!) a good wipe down. I like feeling and smelling fresh and my skin definitely appreciates the cleaning. Throw a small pack of cleansing wipes in your pack and it wont add much weight or bulk to your load. Your face will thank you for it and your tent-mate will appreciate the clean smell!
  2. Throw a little tube of moisturizer and some chapstick in your bag. My skin dries out SO easily so bringing a moisturizing lotion along is a must. Plus, nothing looks prettier than dewy, moisturized skin and lips. I usually just keep a travel-sized tube of Aveeno or St. Ives in all of my packs and bags so that I always have one handy.  I like a nice tinted chapstick like the cherry or strawberry flavored ones. They add a bit of color. You will feel better too if you keep your skin healthy and lubed up.
  3. DRINK A LOT OF WATER!!! Hydration = beauty AND health. Get used to peeing in the bushes…it’s gonna happen.
  4. Bring healthy snacks. Mountain House Meals and Clif Bars are backpacking essentials and they can be oh-so-tasty and necessary after a long day of trekking it in the backcountry. Carbs and calories are important!! But eating all that can really do a number on your skin AND your stomach.  Prepare some baggies of dried fruit and nuts to bring along. If you have extra room at ALL, bring some carrot sticks or apples. Any healthy, whole foods that you can fit and carry, BRING THEM. Trust me, your skin and stomach will thank you after five days in the wilderness. You will look and feel A LOT better if you can manage to eat some whole foods along the way.
  5. Get more sleep than you think you need.  We all know that it’s hard to get a really great night’s sleep while camping. Take a nap during the day if you can. Try to fit in some shut-eye whenever the opportunity arises. You will feel better and you will give your body a chance to rejuvenate itself. AND you will help stave off those dark bags under your eyes.
  6. Wear sunscreen!! Protect that skin! I burn so easily and let me tell you – NOTHING can ruin a backpacking trip faster than a bad sunburn. Plus, the lobster look isn’t very cute.
  7. Bring a travel-sized toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss…and use them!
  8. French braid your hair. No muss, no fuss. It will keep your hair from getting tangled AND you’ll have pretty waves when you take it out.
  9. SMILE! Nothing is more beautiful than someone having the time of her life!

Have fun, backcountry beauties!

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100 lbs of Girl

My backpack weighs nearly half as much as I do. It’s nearly as big as I am. It is stuffed to full capacity, strapped on tight. Inside are all the essentials: 0 degree Marmot [Marmot.com] sleeping bag, sleeping pad, first aid kit, tooth brush, headlamp, extra layers of clothing, and enough Mountain House meals and Clif Bars to keep me fueled for days. Everything else needed is strapped onto my husband, Ben’s, back.  We’re a team. We’ve got a system.

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100 lbs of girl

Ben laughed the first time we loaded up my Gregory backpack and cinched me into it. It’s huge. I’m tiny. It’s funny, really. I weigh a whopping 100 lbs. I’m little and blonde and most people wouldn’t expect me to be able to rough it in the backcountry with a huge pack full of gear on my back. Ben ends up carrying more than I do, but that’s alright – he’s bigger and stronger than I am. I still pull my weight and I love breaking stereotypes. And the end result is always worth the struggle and sweat.

Backcountry Bliss!

Backcountry Bliss!