What to Pack: How to Prepare for a Great Outdoor Adventure

What to Pack: How to Prepare for a Great Outdoor Adventure

The key to making any outdoor excursion enjoyable is to be prepared before you head outside.

In our last article, we shared how to best dress for your next great outdoor adventure.  Today, we’re sharing how to pack for your next trip in the wide outdoors.

Here are the 10 Essentials You Should Have on Nearly Every Outdoor Excursion.

Preparedness can be the difference between a wonderful winter hike or a miserable experience and can mean the difference between life and death if your outdoor adventure goes awry.  

Ensure that you are prepared for whatever comes by packing these 10 essential items in your daypack: 

  1. Headlamp: One or two of these, plus spare batteries.
  2. Navigation: Physical map of the area you are exploring, and a compass. While using your phone for directions using AllTrails or other apps is very helpful, you shouldn’t rely solely on it.  Your battery may drain quickly in cold weather, leaving you with no map or idea of your location and how to return to your starting point. Carrying a rechargeable phone battery is always a recommended item to have in your bag.
  3. Fire Source: Waterproof matches, lighter, and outdoor portable fire igniter. It is always better to have two sources than one in the event that one may not work due to excess moisture.  
  4. Water: Carry 2-3 liters in a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle or insulated wide-mouth bottle depending on your outdoor activity’s length and activity level. 
    1. You can bring a mini lightweight outdoor water filtration system such as Sawyer’s, Grayl, or another brand to help you gather more potable water should you run out. Water can freeze quickly, however, in freezing temperatures, so a water filtration system may not be helpful if the water sources are frozen. 
    2. To prevent your water from freezing, you can create a wool or fleece insulator covering to place around your bottle. Ensure the lid is tight, then pack your water bottle upside down in your bag since water freezes from the top.
  5. Knife/Multi-Tool: The knife/multi-tool is vital as you never know when you may need to use it for first-aid, gear repair, or for cutting.  
  6. Food: Carry a variety of food options and more than you need, as you never know what circumstances may require you to need it. Some snack ideas to consider are protein bars, fruit, nuts, cheese, sardines, crackers, peanut butter-banana tortilla roll-ups, soppressata or pepperoni rolls, and pickles. 
  7. Extra Clothing: One or two pairs of merino wool socks, sock liners, an extra moisture-wicking base layer, bandana, neck gaiter, and gloves or mittens.  These are all essential if you are out longer than anticipated and are cold from sweat.
  8. First Aid Kit: Know how to use this before it is required, and ensure your first aid kit is fully stocked in the event of an emergency.  There are several types of first aid kits with variable pricing depending on the kind of adventure you are pursuing.  
  9. Shelter: An emergency blanket should be a part of your essential items as it helps with hypothermia should the weather become inclement. An emergency blanket can also provide protection from the elements if needed.
  10. Sun Protection: Sunscreen is a must even on a cloudy day, as the sun’s rays could come through the clouds causing your skin to burn. Sunscreen also helps to keep your skin moisturized during dry cold weather and helps with windburn. Sunglasses and lip balm are also requirements for your sun protection kit.
While the following list is not required, it is highly encouraged that you consider bringing the following, depending on the type of adventure you are embarking on:

  • A set of binoculars or a monocular, to help you view wildlife up close without disturbing them. 
  • Trekking poles, which help take weight off knees and assist with stability and balance over hills, rocks, and uneven terrain.
  • YakTrax or crampons, if you are hiking on uneven terrain with packed snow and icy conditions.  YakTrax and crampons are invaluable and help you grip as you are ascending/descending a hill or walking on level trails. 
  • A small bag for any trash and garbage collected on the trail.
  • Journal and pen, to keep notes.
  • A camera, to help you capture beautiful scenery and wildlife.
  • Portable battery pack and charging cord, or solar charger for charging electronic equipment.
  • Bandana
  • Whistle, used for distressed emergency situations.
There are many resources available to help make your winter outdoor activity a memorable and enjoyable experience. 

Be prepared by checking out regional recreational outfitters, outdoor retail shops, and YouTube, to name a few. Better yet, join an outdoor adventure group and get involved with an organization to help conserve, preserve, and protect our great natural resources. We promise you will receive so many joyful benefits in return!

Lastly, and most importantly, always leave a message or note with your loved one or neighbor to let them know where you are going, including the trailhead or route you plan to hike and your approximate return time. 

Have fun out there!

Written by Yvonne Dwyer

Written by Yvonne Dwyer

Master Naturalist and OPL Content Contributor

“It is truly an honor for me to be a contributor to One Planet Life. By sharing my experiences and lifetime of learning, I hope to inspire conservation, sustainability, stewardship, and awareness of enjoying the natural wonders of the world for the wellbeing of people and the planet.”

Birds are Calling it Spring! Time to Go Outside

Birds are Calling it Spring! Time to Go Outside

Here come the birds!

Spring is in the air, and we can feel and hear it as Northern Cardinals, American Robins, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatches, Song Sparrows, and WoodPeckers are plentiful at the bird feeder singing, chirping, and pecking away. The temperatures are rising, and the need for those puffy jackets, wool coats, and accessories can soon be safely packed away or donated to Goodwill, the Veterans Association, or a homeless shelter.

Trees and flowers are next!

Depending on where you live, you may start to see buds arrive on trees, shrubs, and spring flowers such as Snowdrops who are beginning to peek out from under the layers of leaves or remnants of snow. These delicate beautiful white flowers are so lovely to see. By snipping a few and bringing some springtime joy inside, they always brighten up a little vase as well as put a smile on our faces. On those dreary days of the late winter season moving into spring, another wonderfully easy way to bring nature inside is to force plants such as Forsythia and Pussy Willows into blooming. The process is quite simple; check out Fine Gardening for forcing branches to bloom indoors during the winter season.

Crocuses, daffodils, and grape hyacinths are the next bulbs that flower in the mid-Atlantic area.

They are a great signal to get out into the woods to see what spring ephemerals are blossoming under any snow that remains. We love using free apps such as iNaturalist, PictureThis, and Google Lens to help identify various plants, moss, ferns, mushrooms, and trees. One can also identify birds, insects, etc. with these same apps.

Bring on the BioBlitz!

Spring is a great time to catalog what one is seeing in nature. A fun activity would be to create a BioBlitz challenge event amongst family, friends, colleagues, etc. that would focus on finding and identifying as many springtime plants, trees, birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and fungi over a short period –  perhaps a day or weekend.  

If you have access to an Olloclip, Xenvo, or a Macro Fisheye for your mobile phone, you will find that these lens systems will open up a whole new world of discovery of the natural world up close. We promise it to be fun and cool to see nature from this perspective.

Here is to your Spring adventure! Be sure to post and share some of your Bio Blitz photos on our One Planet Life app.

Five Questions for Our Naturalist

Five Questions for Our Naturalist

We are so pleased to introduce the newest member of the One Planet Life family.  Yvonne Dwyer is our resident naturalist and we are honored to have her on our team. Yvonne brings a nature-centric perspective to OPL and will share her insights, experiences, and recommended back-to-nature excursions with the OPL community.

We recently sat down with Yvonne and asked her five questions which she gladly answered.

What exactly is a naturalist?

A naturalist is also commonly referred to at times as a nature lover, tree hugger, natural historian, senior or junior National Park Ranger, or outdoors woman.  It incorporates many facets of studying and understanding our impact on one another, human impact on other species of life, and our impact on the environment in which we live. 

As a naturalist, I  spend a lot of time in nature through activities such as hiking, biking, bird  watching, camping, canoeing, fishing, foraging, snowshoeing, skiing, and  forest bathing. I love to record what I see by taking tons of pictures and to write in a journal recording my personal experience and then share what I have observed and learned with family, friends, colleagues, and patrons throughout my many careers. 

I am considered a native naturalist. My experience has been a lifetime of observation, growth, knowledge,  conservation, and volunteer environmental stewardship. 

Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer Collage
What made you become a naturalist?

It has always been my passion to learn more about nature, discovering this naturally beautiful world year round in all elements. My love for nature began at the age of seven in a little community on Oneida Lake in Upstate New York. The front of my home faced the lake and acres of woods were my backyard. One day, I found some bi-fold doors in the trash and dragged them into the wilderness to create a fort. It was quite a creative fortress that I built and it enabled me to spend time outside. The incredible beauty of the ground cedar, mulberry trees, wildflowers, raspberries, and other foliage that surrounded my fort year round was captivating. As a young Girl Scout, being outside and participating in hiking, camping, scavenger hunts, and creating arts and crafts from an array of flowers was always exciting to me. Thus was the beginning for a lifelong love for the great outdoors and becoming a naturalist.

What have you gained by spending time in nature?

Experiencing our natural world has helped me to slow down, take in the  beauty that unfolded before my eyes, and reflect on simplicity, diversity,  sustainability, and conservation. Whether it be in our local, state, or National Parks, the Adirondacks, the North Country National Scenic trail, our Rails to Trails, the ocean, in a rainforest, or in other countries like Canada, the Bahamas, or, as far away as, New Zealand.  By using my senses to embrace the environment, my excitement of gratitude, respect, and awe continue to grow as I recognize how fortunate I am to experience this love of being outdoors. I love watching the many species of birds fly, how they nest, and how they take care of their young.

What are your thoughts about human impact on nature and the environment?

Sustainability is intricately connected to nature through the air that we breathe, the water we drink, and the food that we plant and eat. We are continually learning more regarding our daily impact on the environment by studying the interesting formation of rocks, glaciers, different sea shells and fossils along our ocean coasts, foliage in the rainforest, plants and healing, and of course, the importance of mammals, aquatic animals, reptiles, and coral. Environmental health goes hand in hand with our own individual health, wellness, and fitness, both mentally and physically.

What can individuals do to make a positive impact on the health of our planet?

There are so many things that individuals can do to sustain our planet. One way to get started is to experience nature and share our love of the planet with others. While working at REI, I lived the core purpose of the company which is to “inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” Anytime you get the opportunity to work with an amazing group of individuals who are passionate about conservation and outdoor sustainability it changes you.  Understanding the impact of my choices allowed me to make new choices.  For example, I am diligent about leaving no trace in all outdoor activities.  This single action protects the natural areas from trash, polluting the water, and harming wildlife.    This ripples into other areas of awareness and changes from the clothes that we wear, the tools that we use for outdoor recreating, the food we eat, and the impact on our carbon footprint.

At the end of the day, our goal should be to be great stewards of this earth — our home — to create a culture of love, understanding, community, diversity, sustainability, and conservation in a manner that our planet can say, “Thank you.”

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