On Wednesday, our youngest son takes some big steps into the world of adulthood and becomes a freshman at the University of Colorado. These first steps won’t be into a dorm room or an academic classroom.
Instead, he’s spending his first week of college backpacking on a program called CU in the Rockies.
Jealous much? I am.
Review of Backpacking 101 by Heather Balogh Rochfort
We’ve been a camping family forever and a backpacking family sporadically (although on a few choice long rainy nights, it certainly seemed like we’d been backpacking forever).
So when presented with a packing list from CU Boulder, our son was comfortable that he had most of what he needed and had a good understanding of what he was getting into.
Still, it’s nice to turn to an expert and when I was offered a review copy of Backpacking 101 by Heather Balogh Rochfort, it seemed a good idea to read it.
Rochfort has extensive backcountry experience. The gear editor for Backpacker magazine, she also has a website, Just a Colorado Gal, where she writes about outdoor adventure. Take just a bit of time on her website and you’re pretty sure you’ve found someone who will tell it like it is.
Her book, Backpacking 101 is no different. Written for novice backpackers it clearly covers everything you’ll need to know, answering all of your questions, along with some questions you never knew you had, such as “what is a pee rag”. You’ll find the answer on page 205.
At 247 pages, Backpacking 101 is a relatively long read, but Rochfort includes summaries at the end of each chapter, along with illustrations, sidebar information, many subheadings and an extensive index. Still, while you might be tempted to just look up specific questions (for example, what kind of socks should I wear?), reading every chapter will make you a more responsible and confident backpacker.
Many readers will find Rochfort’s gear guidance super helpful. She includes a list of the “Ten Essentials” and how to use them in chapter one, along with specific chapters on footwear, clothing, backpacks, tents and bedding.
But beyond offering gear tips, the information she provides on backcountry skills like navigation, dealing with emergencies and backcountry ethics (both environmental and hygienic) are especially valuable, providing tips you may not find together in any other place.
There’s even an appendix on backpacking with dogs.
Having read Backpacking 101, I’m still not sure I’ll ever be more than a sporadic backpacker.
But I picked up a lot of tips I can use for day hikes and car camping.
In fact, just this weekend, we went camping and used one of Heather’s tips: we staked the tent before raising the tent poles. And, sure enough, this tip simplified the task and our tent did not try to fly away.
Backpacking Gear Finds
While my son had most of what he needs for his university trip, we invested in new headlamps (for all!) and wool t-shirts for him.
Headlamp technology just gets better and better with expanded lumens when you need maximum brightness, and eye-saving red light. We’re all in on the Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp, although the Black Diamond Spot headlamp has even more brightness (300 lumens!?!) and a one-touch feature that lets you tap the housing to move between full and dimmed power.
(Looking for a little more light, that’s solar-powered and weighs next to nothing? The Luci Lux Inflatable. You can safely take it in your tent!)
As for wool t-shirts, you may be wondering about wool in summer, but we love them for their wicking and anti-stink properties (they don’t retain odor like some synthetic fabrics). It doesn’t really matter which brand you find, just as long as they are mostly wool, comfortable to touch and lightweight. We ended up getting our son t-shirts from Smartwool, but t-shirts from Icebreaker and other brands would have done just as well. Here’s a link to a women’s version.
I’ve long been a huge fan of wool baselayers for skiing and snowboarding. Short sleeve t-shirts whether worn hiking, backpacking, running or to the gym are equally fab.
Best of all, they wash and dry more quickly than cotton, so for a 7 day trip, our son is comfortable just packing two.
Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves
These were a Mother’s Day gift from my older son. I love him and I really appreciate these.
Like the arm warmers cyclists use in winter, Sun Sleeves fit snugly from the wrist to upper arm. The difference is that they’re made of a lightweight UPF 50+ fabric to protect arms from sunburn on long rides.
I’ve had a couple of episodes of skin cancer, so I’m very skin conscious and (almost!) always wear sunscreen. But, like everyone else in the world, I get sick of sunscreen.
Using sun sleeves, for cycling, hiking and walking protects my skin with no effort. Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves are super lightweight, comfortable and cool.
Yoga and Exercise Clothing from Fabletics
This has been my summer of body work — yoga, pilates, bodyflow and, of course, walking and running.
‘Round about July, I got tired of my exercise clothes and decided I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on new leggings and tops. So I visited Fabletics and signed up as a VIP. This gave me access to one of two “first-timer” deals: a top and leggings for $19.95 or two pair of leggings for $24.
Fabletics has two prices tiers: regular pricing and VIP pricing. The VIP price is so much lower, you have to sign up. It doesn’t cost anything to be a VIP, but it does lock you into a cheesy commitment. As a VIP, you have to visit Fabletics between the 1st and 5th day of every month and either make a purchase or decline to make a purchase.
If you do nothing, the company will charge you $49.95 and credit your account. This means you’ll have $49.95 to spend at a later date. Like I said, cheesy, but you can call and cancel your membership at any time.
Still the leggings are such a good value that I think it’s worth it. The fabric is soft and thick, with great support and coverage.
Fabletics also has a wide selection of tops, bras and dresses. I’ve got one top made of Tencel that I like, but I was very with a cotton top I bought. It was very thin.
Beyond that, I bought a skirt and matching top that have become a “go-to” this summer, dressing up and down.
All of the prices were low compared to other brands and the style factor is high.
As you might expect, Fabletics markets via word-of-mouth. So if you’re interested, follow this “friends” link and become a Fabletics VIP. You’ll get 2 pair of leggings for $24 and I’ll get a small “reward.”
To facilitate a review, I received a copy of Backpacking 101. All other items mentioned and reviewed were purchased by me or my family. As always, opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends. This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links pay a small commission on sales resulting from my website. I appreciate your support.
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