Loving Local-ish – 4 Weeks to Go

Just wrapped up end of my 4 week countdown of the 2023 Scotland Trifecta and things are getting really, real!

First, let’s get the skinny of what was on the training list since my last post Living La Vida Local – 6 Weeks To Go. As we get closer to departure the training ramps up but in a couple weeks it will also ramp down to ensure I am for ready for and also rested for this 400km challenge.

Here is 5 Weeks To Go training looks like on my tried and tested 20 Week Training Plan:

  • 1x 6km Hills (with 15lb pack)
  • 3x 7km (with 15lb pack and poles)
  • 2x this week let’s get some muscle on:
    • 50 squats
    • 25 lunges
    • 40 calf raises
    • 20 fire hydrants
    • 10 donkey kicks
    • 15 cat/cow
    • 35 double Ds
    • 60 second plank
  • 1x slow flow yoga for flexibility

Last week, at 4 Weeks To Go, there are a couple of subtle differences as this is a ramp it up week:

  • 1x 15km (with 15lb pack and poles)
  • 4x 7km (with 15lb pack, poles optional)
  • 3x this week let’s top up the muscle:
    • 50 squats
    • 25 lunges
    • 40 call raises
    • 30 fire hydrants
    • 10 donkey kicks
    • 15 cat / cow
    • 40 double Ds
    • 60 sec plank
  • 1x flexibility session (stretching, yoga)

Of course, for each hike there should be some gentle stretching as your warm up, and some post hiking stretching too. And to be clear that means more stretching than just the reaching my arm across the bar for a cold pint – add in a calf stretch with your toes on the leg of the bar stool while you do it for extra pints .. I mean points!

My bestie was visiting a couple weekends ago and we had to chance to get in a few of my training sessions with local walks or hikes on a little weekend adventure to Vancouver Island .. hence the local-ISH.

Westsong Walkway

The Westsong Walkway is fantastic, flat and easy walk along the Victoria inner harbor!

A mix of paved path, some boardwalk and a few rock trails that gives you fantastic views of the water, float planes landing and taking off and, if you plan it right even offers a chance to quench your thirst at a fantastic local watering hole, Spinnakers.

We walked about 5km. You can add some additional kilometers if you walk from Johnson Street to Esquimalt and back around the harbour over to Fisherman’s Wharf. Basically, it’s beautiful Victoria and walking all the places is just a total joy!

Thetis Lake

We also had the chance to hit one of my favourite hikes from when I lived in Victoria – Thetis Lake! Instead of the regular (busy but beautiful) lower and upper Thetis lake trails we did some meandering on Phelps Trail, Trillium Trail and more on the outskirts of the park. We were able to cobble together about 12km. It’s been a while since I have been to Thetis and I am still amazed at just how beautiful a hike surrounded by city can be!

Pre-hike energy loading may have been a most fabulous, delicious, amazing Pork Belly Eggs Benedict from Six Mile Pub and post-hike celebration may have been a refreshing flight .. or two … from Herald Street Brewing in Victoria. All the yumminess! This day was pretty close to the daily activities I will be experiencing over in Scotland. In Alba, the day will start with a Full Scottish Breakfast transition into a hike then transition into pints. They do say your training at home should be as close to the real deal abroad! I am just following great advice 😉

Juan de Fuca Trail, Mystic Beach

Completing the entire Juan de Fuca Trail is on my to-do list but not on this trip. This trip was more around getting some kilometers on the training dashboard and ensuring my bestie from land locked Alberta got some max ocean views in! Hello Mystic Beach.

After a great drive from Victoria to Shirley, BC and a stop for breaky at Shirley Delicious (which was most surely delicious) …

… and a quick waltz down to the Sheringham Point Lighthouse, which was so picturesque and barely a soul around …

… headed to the China Beach trailhead / parking lot and walked the well marked 2km trail down to Mystic Beach. This short trail had all the things we love – suspension bridge (Lana loves those not me), boardwalks, bridges, some up and some down, and enough people to keep the bears away! We saw a bear on the road just before starting our hike so we may or may not have been on high alert!

We spent a good amount of time down at the beach just taking it all in. The sound of the waves, hot sun and views you cannot even believe are in front of you makes it easy to stay a while.

Once we tore ourselves away from the view, and humped the 2km back to the car – where we may or may not have discovered just how bad my misbehaving knee / leg / foot / is feeling (more on that later) – we made our way back to Victoria. Well, not before a quick post hike refresh at Sooke Brewing Company! Yum!

Back in Victoria, we parked the car and accidentally headed to a couple more local breweries. You sensing a theme here? Including Whistle Buoy Brewing in Market Square – so delicious! That pretty blue one on the end was a perfectly sour Gose to cleans the flight-pallet!

That’s a wrap on our weekend all about training and filled to the brim with pints and laughs and more laughs!

Stay tuned for Week 3 and 2 To Go training updates – we are in the the final stretch to departure now folks!


Living La Vida Local – 6 Weeks To Go

Officially in the 6 week countdown window to my next adventure in Scotland! On this visit to majestic Alba, I will be meandering Speyside Way, West Highland Way (for a second time) and East Highland Way. A little 395km walk from a full Scottish Breakfast in the morning to my next Haggis Neeps and Tatties dinner with a pint in the evening. Nae bother!

6 weeks out means the training is getting good and fun and tough! We are experiencing crazy warm temps right now (30C) so a bit challenging too! As far as I am concerned, some training that hurts the body at home = happy body and mind in the Highlands! Here is what Week 6 training looks like on my go-to 20 Week Training Plan:

  • 2x 6km hike w hills
  • 2x 7km hike
  • All hikes with 10lb pack, poles optional
  • Also some strength training, 2x each of the following at some point this week:
    • 50 squats
    • 40 lunges / leg
    • 40 calf raises
    • 20 fire hydrants
    • 15 cat/cow
    • 30 Double’s
    • 60 second elbow plank

Getting these training hikes in is such a great way to discover new places in the Greater Vancouver area to hike! A few new ones that have been added to my ‘done like dinner’ list (yes it is literally called that on my All Trails account):

Shoreline Trail at Rocky Point, Port Moody

A scenic, easy walking trail. Mix of gravel and paved path, loads of people, a touch of incline/decline with loads of amazing scenery! The path wraps around Burrard Inlet and a workout can be rewarded with 1 of many breweries right there at the start/finish at The Port Moody Ale Trail.

While I didn’t get a chance to hit the brewery (we walked early to beat the heat) I was rewarded with a 7km fantastic conversation with my local hiking / training bestie Amber! Next time a post walk pint is definitely in order for these gals!

Eagle Bluffs via Coquitlam Crunch, Coquitlam

A moderate hike that will have the thighs and buns burning! The Crunch is a lovely 500 stair torture device made worse by the ‘You Can Do This!’, ‘Almost There’, and ‘Pace Yourself’ signs that pepper the ascent. Can I do this? Am I almost there? By ‘pace yourself’ do you mean stop now and go grab a coffee and read a book? Likely not, so up and up and up I went.

After defeating the evil stair master, I meandered up and up and around the local neighborhood for a bit to eventually hit the, mostly uphill, trail to the Eagle Bluffs.

The trail is an old gravel access road and if you can ignore the power lines that run above much of this trail, it is still quite a nice hike – and sure a great workout with enough forest time to make me smile!

All in all it’s about 13km from the bottom of the Crunch up to the Eagle Bluffs first look out and back, and about 550m elevation! At my acceptable pace of just slightly speedier than turtle, I clocked it in at 3hours. That includes a sunny snack break on a rock at the top, of course.

This is a hike I will be using to gauge my training progress, not so much about getting faster more around if it gets easier. I did it a couple weeks ago with my bestie Bean and felt the burn, did it again this weekend and felt more like a smolder. Progress!

Sidewinder and Pipeline Loop, Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby

Loving all the things Burnaby Mountain lol right now – lots of trail to choose from, 20mins from work, 40mins from home, well trafficked, so green and great views!

The Sidewinder and Pipeline Loop are connected by Function Junction and Meil’s Trail making for a great work out. Lots of switch backs, good and long incline sections, and even a few sketchy sections that are good for my managing my ‘fear of heights’. I didn’t really need my fear of bears to be exercised though but it is a mountain in all.

This is another trail that I will be using to gauge my training progress. Less breaks on the incline switch backs, higher pace, and faster recovery – all signs the training is working. Especially if this happens as I increase the weight in my pack and how many times I do the loop.

I had the chance to hit up this trail a couple times last week. Once after work on Wednesday (amazing!) and again on Sunday morning (saw a bear, less amazing). The 1.5hr time on this 6.5km trail with 250 elevation gain is a perfect quick one or even to do a couple times in a row.

Ok off the plan the rest of my training hikes for the week. It’s a a long weekend this week – so maybe I can even get in a long one!


Embrace the Over Think

To all you over thinkers out there, can I get a hey-0! I see you! I feel you! I am you! I have taken over thinking to the next level when it comes to trip prep, planning and packing. And I am here to tell you sometimes, believe it or not, over thinking can actually be an adventurer’s super power!

Give me a beat to explain …

Overthink Your Toiletries

We all wonder if we will have enough shampoo, soap, deodorant, bug spray, all the things when we head out on an trip. You don’t want to bring too much and add extra weight (these are some of our heaviest items) or take up more room than necessary BUT you also don’t want to take too little and be in a lurch having to scramble to find what you need in another country. Where you might be lucky if you can find the brand you prefer or even what you need. If helpful, insert a mental image of me spending way too long looking for Tylenol in a Pharmacy in Wales passing shelves of Paracetamol over and over and over as I searched. BTW Paracetamol in the UK is what we call Tylenol in Canada. Thank you Google!

To avoid spending more mental energy than necessary worrying if I am packing too much or too little for toiletries, I do a little scientific overthinking! Ok more of a simple experiment or trial but saying it’s science sounds so much cooler. Basically, I pack to stay home!

Ahead of your trip (aka WEEKS before you leave) fill those Goo bottles or travel containers or whatever you bought for travelling as if you are packing to leave right away. But, instead of just putting them in your backpack or suitcase, use them as if you are on your trip. As you use them, count how many days each thing lasts and compare it to the number of days you will be away on your trip. Then asses how that went! Did you have enough? Too much? Was the travel container you used totally annoying or did the lid break on first use? Then adjust accordingly for you actual trip!

I take this too far of course and literally have a little page in my journal to jot down for how long a razor lasts, how many shampoo washes, how many lathers my soap got me, how many brushes my toothpaste made happen, etc. So I can go total ‘science’ on my assessment and even have a little legend of my learning over a lot of past trips so I pack smarter each time.

If a trip is only a few weeks, I will pack all I need usually. Longer than that and I worry less about packing exactly the right amount of things I think I can find abroad and am not too picky about – this will save some room and weight. I.e if you are picky about your shampoo, but less so about your body soap – bring enough shampoo but a half bar of soap. I am very picky about my mascara less so about my chapstick – so bring the right size of mascara and only a few chapsticks.

A couple of tricks if you are running low on the basic toiletries while abroad:

  • Outside of the US and Canada, pharmacies tend to have the best selection of basic toiletries like Tylenol, face cream, body cream while grocery stores have shampoo, etc.
  • Keep your smaller travel containers after they are empty until you replace that item. It’s not easy to find travel size toiletries in some places, you may need to decant that shampoo you found at your destination into your travel container so it fits in your pack.
  • Check your accommodation for an honesty box or trail magic box for items people may have left behind. Often a hotel bathroom or pool area for shampoo, conditioner, body cream .. fill up your travel container!
  • If you are travelling with someone who has a preference for the same product as you – go in together on a full bottle. One carrying the shampoo and the other the conditioner to spread the love.
  • Figure out what 2-in-1 products work for you and only worry about one product and container instead of 2! I have a sunscreen moisturizer for my face that saves me carrying both. 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner is another good one.

Overthink Your Wardrobe

You might be surprised to hear me say I recommend you take the same approach to the clothes you intend to pack. Yup, more science!

Once again, literally pack your clothes for your trip – from undies to shirts, pants to socks – pack like you are leaving tomorrow. Then over the course of the next few weeks and months at home wear what you packed and evaluate. If you are going on a tourist holiday, wear your outfits around town, running errands, meeting friends, long car rides, etc. If you are going on a hiking adventure, wear your outfits on your training hikes.

Evaluate each individual piece of clothing AND each complete outfit against the below trust-me-you-will-not-regret-this criteria. Oh and please kick this experiment up a notch by making sure you get some photos of you in each outfit – cause on your travels guess what you will be taking a lot of?! Photos!

  • Did it feel uncomfortable, ride up, fall down, bunch up, slide down, itch or scratch? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did you adjust the clothing item often? Pull on it when you stood up every time? Stretched it out before you put it on? Kept pulling up the straps, folding the sleeve, twisting the ties? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did it make me feel ugly, feel bla, all ick, too big, too small, too one colour, too many colours, too bright, too dull? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did you choose not to trial that one article of clothing or that outfit because it’s just so special and you only want to wear it on the actual trip? If yes, ditch it! For real! Ditch it! Ditch it! Unless it’s a bloody wedding dress, if you will not wear it at home trust me you will not wear it abroad. Ditch it!
  • Did you look at the selfies and photos of you in that shirt, pants, shorts, hat, jacket and delete or sneer or gasp or some other form of not-so-kind-to-myself response? If yes, ditch it! (you have my encouragement to ditch the article item forever to second hand AND delete the photos too)

Ok so you have thought about each article of clothing individually, now I need you to think about outfits. I am about to suggest something that may be cringe worthy to the fashionistas out where, but trust me … trust me!

If you cannot wear every top with every bottom you bring .. wait for it … IT DOES NOT GET TO COME ON THE TRIP! If that shirt you love only matches one pair of the 3 bottoms you are bringing, bye bye shirt! That skirt and tank only look good together and with nothing else you are packing, bye bye skirt and tank!

This is when you need to channel your brutal side folks. Over thinking to the extreme! Embrace it! You literally wear every, single combo of every single top and bottom you are packing and if even one shirt does not behave with all bottoms OR or you answer yes to any of the criteria above – that is a HARD NO! Ditch that article of clothing, no trip for it!

The process of elimination can take a few weeks but trust me – you and your pack will feel lighter for it! You will thank yourself!

This idea of overthinking is also totally applicable to trip planning check out My Planning Process. All you do before you leave on your trip will make the trip all the better and all the more real!


Beyond the Bonk

Excited to share a guest post by one of my hiking besties, Cheryl aka Impossible Turtle …

We’ve all been there: You’re partway through your day on the trail and you find yourself checking your watch (or phone or AllTrails or Ken – aka Cairn) to see how many kilometres you have left. And it never seems like the “right” number. Then it slowly hits you, that realization that no one wants on a hike: You fell out of love with this sh*t five or six km back.

Dammit. This, my friends, is the wall. The bonk. The “why am I even out here” moment. And it sucks.

But let’s not mistake it for more than it is. It happens to everyone at some point. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love hiking or long distance walking, it just means you need a different game plan for this hike and this day of walking. That’s it. And believe me when I say you can spend five or six or ten kms trying to talk yourself out of it and find your trail joy again or you can embrace the suck, acknowledge where you are (in all the ways – literally, metaphorically, emotionally, physically), see it as temporary and get sh*t done.

Before I delve into the ways I battle the bonk, I should mention there are plenty of perfectly logical, sensible ways to prevent bonking.

Here are a few:

  • Get adequate sleep the night before your hike
  • Drink (and bring) plenty of water, some with added electrolytes if it’s hot or you’re a sweaty mess like me
  • Eat a good, but familiar breakfast. Think something filling that will hold you til elevenses but not something heavy or bothersome for your guts.
  • Bring plenty of snacks. (Protein like beef jerky or pepperoni is a go to for me. Salty is good. Candy is also good, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  • Relax. This is the hardest one, I know. But if you can stay in the moment and keep your head on the trail (not at home with your daily stresses), you’ve got a better chance of feeling the pre-bonk feelings and saving yourself some grief.

Now, let’s say you (*cough*me*cough*) did all of these things to the best of your ability, given the circumstances and still, you’re feeling. It. All.

Muscle pain. Fatigue. Joint pain. Heat. Anxiety. Guilt.

It’s all beating down on you like the 28 degree sun but there’s no cream that blocks that junk out. You feel like you hit your limit.

(Side note: I’m willing to bet you’ve never actually hit this limit. I’ve let the negative part of my brain convince me I’ve been at that edge many times, on many trails. But it’s lied to me every time. There’s a way to finish. I promise.)

So what do you do? What did I do? I got angry with myself. That sounded a little like this: “You’re in the Cotswolds, for god’s sake! C’mon, Ashworth, you’re in England, in area of outstanding natural beauty, how dare you not love this? Do you know what your family had to do to make this work?” Uhm, that’s not exactly a motivational speech, friends. That kind of self talk doesn’t make the 10 or 15 kms left feel breezy. 😉 But I had to have that moment to hear the ridiculousness of it and then I had to say it out loud to mg trail buddies to hear it sound even more ludicrous. And then it was out of my system. I’ve admitted it. This afternoon, this moment in time on this small section of the Cotswold Way is not my friend. I admitted that, I owned it and I tried to let it be. I couldn’t change it. I loved the day before and would probably love the day to followed. Not loving this bit right here and right now doesn’t define my walk.

So now what?

Candy. I wish I was kidding. Moments like this are what Skittles were made for, my friends. A little glycogen for the muscles, a little sugar straight to the brain brings back some semblance of motivation. I discovered Skittles without the shell in the UK and they saved me several times. Despite condensing themselves into one giant candy clump in the heat, I could always rely on these for a sweet little kick in the butt.

My second saviour will seem like a real trail rule breaker to some and that’s fine! I get it. But music motivates me like nothing else. When you really, truly need something to push you forwards, I know you have a go to song. For Wales & Cots, mine was Free by Florence and the Machine. I don’t often have headphones in my pack, but I did throw them in for the last few days on the trail. (Persistent muscle troubles and some joint pain will have you reevaluating and carrying bits & bobs you otherwise might skip.) I always have my phone, for maps and for emergencies, so at least once, on my really down day, I pulled out my headphones and set Florence to repeat. I think Shar relied on some Motley Crüe one day – whatever floats your boat or moves your feet!

Above all, the biggest thing to remember is the cheesiest platitude I have for you: This too shall pass. It will. It does. And when it happens next time, you’ll know it won’t beat you. It never has. The bonk never wins.

As long as your feet are still in your boots, you can bust through any bonk.


10 Sleeps and 10 Things

The final count down to departure is here!

My hubby reminded me I am one more sleep until I am officially in single digit ‘sleeps’ till departure! Which means packing needs to happen … which means checking in for my flight is almost here … which means actually leaving on a jet plane is gonna happen (did you all hear the song in your head, oh yah!) and …holy heck … which means actually kicking off this adventure for reals! Eeeek!

As I approach the runway, I like to compartmentalize the things that need to get done before I go. This helps me control the wee bit of overwhelm that tends to happen just before I leave. Prepping home and life and work to leave for a whole month does take a little work!

Here is how I go about prepping of things …

1) Trial Your Time Away

I figure out the exact number of days I will be away. Then a couple of months before actually departing, I pay close attention to and write down what happens in my world for that same span of time. For example, leaving for a month? Bills will be due, monthly subscriptions will arrive, dog food needs to be bought, plants will be thirsty, etc.

2) Make Three Lists

Write down ALL the things that needed to happen during that trial. Now organize that list into 3 buckets:

  • what you must do list before you go
  • the things you need someone or something to do for you while you are away
  • best yet, the things that just won’t get done and that’s ok. (Try to put most in this last bucket to save yourself some stress and work before you head out)

3) House and Home

From that list, look at what needs to happen around the house and just start making it happen as soon as you think of it. Don’t wait till the weekend before you go – you just never know what might trip you up.

Out for groceries and needs some deodorant for the trip – buy it! Take the dog for a check up and you need dog food to tide your pooch over while you are off galavanting – buy it right there! Summer is here and you usually plant amazing flowers but they need daily work – don’t, plant a fern or try a rock garden, my speciality. Water the indoor plants every week? Trail one of those plant test tube watering things you out in the soil.

Pro tip: be kind to your ‘just back from a trip’ self and think about what you might also need at home the couple days after you get back. No one wants to run out to the vet for dog food the day after a long flight, so buy enough to cover some time after you are home too.

Pro-pro tip: leave your house clean. Wash the sheets, empty the dishwasher, clean the toilet – coming home after a trip is so much more glorious when your house is clean and you can just relax!

4) Work out Work

Start months ahead of time! All those things you have been meaning to delegate – make a list and make it happen! All that cross training or mentoring or process documentation you have been meaning to get done – do it right now! Meow, meow!

No matter how prepared you think you are and how much you do in advance … be aware that your ‘do before I leave’ list at work will get LONGER not shorter before you go. Remember ‘indispensable is un-promotable’! So embrace it, do what you can and lean on your team to make magic happen without you. They will!

Pro tip: when you return, before jumping in to take things back or return to that committee or portfolio, pause a beat. Are there things that actually make more sense with your humans than with you? Are they rocking it and should keep on rocking it? Let them!

5) Prepping to Pack

It has been a while since I have had the pleasure of a big long distance hiking trip …so I thought I would look back and take my own advice about packing. I reviewed these past blog posts and, not to toot my own horn, they are quite helpful!

Some reading and thinking about how you want to approach packing will help you identify things to take with you as you go about your every day life – packing as you go!

6) Collect the Things

Set a space aside in your house to start collecting the things you want to pack.

I put up one of those huge post it note posters up on a wall with my packing list and start adding the items to a bin or laundry basket beside it as I find them or wash them or buy them.

Pro-tip: pay attention to how much is in that pile. Seeing the things collect makes the trip real for me AND gives you a good idea of just how much stuff you will soon be jamming into a pack! This should keep you mindful and not overpacking!

7) Organize your Travel Documents

A few things I always make sure I have with me – not just on my phone or in my email – but actually in hard copy are:

  • Photocopy of my passport (tucked into a very secret place in my pack just in case my real one is lost or stolen)
  • Photocopy of my immunizations (and not just the COVID-19 vaccines, all of them – your immunization passport)
  • Print out of key contacts – your emergency contact phone numbers, travel insurance and credit card company, etc. The just in case you need a life line list!
  • A copy of your itinerary with accommodation addresses and contact info and confirmation numbers, and your flight itinerary, etc.

Pro-tip: some countries have special requirements to visit at all or for trips of a longer duration. When I went to Scotland for 6 months in 2008, I needed a letter from my employer that I had a job to go back to, from my bank that I had a mortgage, proof I had enough money to support my trip, a return ticket, etc. I guess they thought I might have been there to find my Outlander and never leave. Ha ha

8) Documenting Memories

Think about how you want to document your memories from the trip. Photos? Special camera? A journal? Snapchat? Then prep what you need to make that plan happen.

I am a scrapbooker so my approach is a little much for some people but this is what I am thinking for this upcoming trip:

  • Ephemera – I bring a freezer size Ziplock with me for all my receipts, brochures, train tickets, etc. Toss a black Sharpie in the bag to write just a sentence or two on the back of each of things you want to remember about that memory.
  • Photos – I set up an album for each day of my trip. I use the date and a highlight for that day as the album name in my iPhone. Example: June 24 YVR to LHR. Each night, I review my photos of the day (delete the ones that are not amazing) and drop the keepers in the day’s album.
  • Social media – I will start with a short proof of life video each morning on my Running for the Gate Instagram and finish with a blog post with photos and some details about the day.
  • Journal – I love sitting in a pub or coffee shop pouring this traveller’s soul onto an actual paper page with a great pen. All the soulful stuff that is a little too deep for my blog. I also add some notes in the margin of my guide books about the trail and weather and my walking times for the day.
  • 9) Book Tours and Make Plans
  • When you are in the final stretch to departure, makes some detailed plans. Get the train tickets, book that epic restaurant you saw on a show on Netflix, buy the Castle Tour pass, etc.
  • Found a cool hidden pub tour in London that strikes your fancy? Book it! More on that tour later my friends 😉
  • 10) Be Social

    The next best thing to talking about how amazing your trip was is to talk about how amazing it WILL be!

    Do not leave too much to do at the last minute. Instead use the couple weeks before you go to be social. Go to the pub, host the BBQ, do the social things and let your friends and family build up that excitement even more!

    Wow, this trip is real now peeps!


    20 Sleeps and 20 Kilometers

    The countdown is on for real now folks! I am under 20 days to departure which means I am in the final push of my training.

    Getting miles and trails under these feet that will best emulate what I will experience abroad is important! Just as important as testing every single piece of gear, yes even your undies, and the food you intend to eat while hiking before you even leave on your adventure!

    Yesterday’s training was about all of that – the gear, the food (and water) and the hike.

    I picked a fantastic recorded trail on All Trails called Burnaby Mountain Tour – it promised the length I wanted (around 20km), a lot of elevation gain and loss, mucky messy trails, and rain! Yes, I purposely picked a day with a forecast of 100% rain so I could give the Gortex of my boots a go.

    Trail and distance training …

    The trail and length were fantastic – ok full disclosure there were a few uphill slogs where I would have rather been in a pub – but still fun. Pretty impressed that I got it done under 6 hours considering the rain and elevation gain/loss – but that’s a good sign for my UK hiking days ahead.

    I don’t usually worry about the time I finish. I am just out there to take it all in for as long as it takes – but loads of pubs and restaurants stop serving food over in the UK before we ever would here in Canada. So while you don’t need to rush on the trail per se, you do need to be mindful of the time or potentially go hungry.

    I remember a time on Hadrian’s Wall Path after a very tough and wet long hiking day got away on me, I walked into the ONLY pub right as the kitchen shut down. The barkeep said there is was no more food. This hiker (me) erupted into a look of horror with tears in her eyes. The barkeep offered fish & chips. I think he saw I was on the edge and wanted to avoid tears. It was the day I was chased by a bull so I was a little emotional. More on that another time.

    Food and water …

    For this upcoming adventure, I have quite a few days in and around the 20km mark in Wales and England so today was a good lesson at this length. And a length that reminds me why you carry our max water and take just a bit more food than you need….

    More water! I ran out of water at about 12km of a 21km hike. On a cool, rainy day it was not too horrible a thing. Had it been hot, I would have 1) carried more, like my usual 2.5 liter bladder not a bottle in the first place and 2) planned where the water refill opportunities were on my route. The H2O spirits were on my side yesterday – at about 13km there was a random skate park with an epic water fountain. Filled me up and then my bottle. I did also have my Life Straw with me if things got bad and I had to take a guzz from a creek.

    More fuel! A good reminder that what you pack for a 5km walk-about is not what you pack for 20km+ hike. It is both more and different food you need – not just 4 times more. You need to think of cumulative calories burned and the total time hiking, what your usual meal cadence is over the time you are on the path (i.e do you always eat lunch and are you hiking over lunch) and how much effort the trial will be. A little trial and error before you go is key here!

    A few things I have learned:

    • If you took it the last couple hikes but didn’t eat it, don’t pack that thing again. That’s carrots for me, not a carrot + hiking fan.
    • Chocolate covered anything is not the way to go for summer hikes – if it’s your lifeline, keep your chocolate contained, like M&Ms.
    • If you need utensils to eat it, reconsider. Leave the pudding and salad at home.
    • If you are walking over 15km, make sure you have something salty – nuts or trail mix are my go to.
    • After 20km, carbs do not count – eat the carb things guilt free!
    • Pack things that can take a beating – go for the Granny Smith apple over the banana.
    • Take things that won’t create a huge burden to pack out. Orange peels VS a snack pack container.
    • Pack it out. Even if it’s biodegradable – that apple didn’t grow there so don’t leave it there!
    • Check the best before date and maybe keep it in mind. The Sport Beans I scavenged out of my first aid kit when I hit the wall yesterday may have expired June … 2019. Still good?!

    Gear training …

    The feet were feeling good yesterday. You know you have exceeded your days distance when it feels like your feet have their own pulse (aka dogs barking) – didn’t happen for me yesterday so yahoo feet!

    A couple of hot spots in my usual suspect places so I blame my feet not the footwear and these I can proactively compeed. Compeeds seem to be the best blister solution for me of all I have trialed – and I have trialed many! I did give Leukotape a go on this hike without success but I have another technique I can try with it before I give it a fail. Compeeds are expensive so even if I can get to a Compeed and Leukotape combo that would be cheaper and save me from reaching for the duct tape as an extreme measure. For someone who loves hiking, my feet did not get the memo.

    Confirmed I most definitely am happiest when I have a gaiter like solution in place. What? Let me explain. I get a lot of snakes in my boots. Aka rocks and grit bits that find there way into my boots and that is a recipe for blisters. Every time a bit gets in my boot, I say ‘I have a snake in my boot’ in my best Toy Story, Woody voice. Yes, every time it happens – not annoying at all. So I need a way to keep them out so I am less annoying and, most importantly, I don’t have to stop and fix my feet every 20 feet. Introducing gaiters!

    Yesterday I was able to use my Bewilder tights over my boot top like a gaiter and it worked amazing! I like that it was breathable and stretchy. But I won’t be wearing long tights every day so need a stand alone gaiter solution and don’t prefer my waterproof Outdoor Research ones in summer weather. Based on how good a fabric solution felt during my tights trial, I have ordered the Montane sock-it gaiters that I can wear everyday boot or shoe and they are largely stretchy fabric! See ya snakes, find someone else to hitch a ride with.

    Of course my hike yesterday was also just about hiking. Feeling the miles stroll past you and taking in all the sights and smells and green and nature and wow. Here are some pics of all that too to wrap this up!


    PS 17 Sleeps

    My Planning Process

    I love a good adventure. All the sights and sounds and feels and food, and and, and. Funny enough though, I love the planning for a new adventure almost as much the adventure itself. No joke. I immerse myself in the place I am going before I even leave my front door.

    Here is a sneak peak into my process…

    Absorb Your Destination with Social Media

    Search up and follow some tags related to where you are going – then through those tags you will find some locals who love and live where you are heading and share all kinds of amazing tips and tricks you might not find in travel books. Follow those peeps and see what hashtags they follow, and yes, follow those too.

    You don’t have to go cray-cray with too many accounts or tags, just enough to keep the excitement going.

    I find the random reminder in my social media feed of where I am going a great way to stay on track to any pre-trip commitments I have made for the adventure. Saving money, training for a long walk, or booking the flight, finding a dog sitter, or not taking work too seriously before you go kinda thing. 😉

    Start a little travel journal a few months before you go and jot down some of the best stuff you see on social media and want to check out on your adventure. Or save a new collection or board on your socials to squirrel away what you found and refer back to on your trip.

    Research Your Destination with Books

    If it’s a place on this globe (city or trail or mountain or ocean) someone wrote a book about it. Read it! I like to choose a few that are history, a few that are someone telling their story about visiting that place, a travel guide or two, and even a few non-fiction books that are set in my destination.

    So amazing reading so many different views on a place and then comparing them with my own experience as I discover it all it for myself! And, like the social media approach, your can find some great tips on what to see.

    I prefer hard copy books – cause well my stepmom is and my grandmother was a librarian and the love of that book smell and feel is in now deep in my soul. Also, I have a bookshelf for all my travel research and love seeing the groups of books for each place I have ventured.

    Make notes as you read in that travel journal you started or search up what you find and save photos and tips electronically.

    Pro Tip: I listen to audio books about the trail I am hiking …while I am out hiking to train for it!

    Plan Your Route

    My big adventures are generally long distance walks – think 100 to 700km – and that takes a lot of route planning. And I love, love, love route planning. Like, LOVE!

    If you are into long distance walking (even a few days walking, you don’t have to do a whole month like this gal) there are few things to think about when route planning .

    The below are the steps I use to plan my exact route after I have chosen a trail to walk – and specifically on this where I walk to a place, stay the night, walk to the next place, stay the night, and repeat till complete. How I actually pick the trail to walk …in another post!

    Ok so your trail is chosen, now here we go:

    1. Determine roughly your ‘happy kilometers’ in a day – where you arrive at your day’s destination happy and a little tired but NOT sore and exhausted. Smiles not grimaces.
    2. Once you know your ‘happy kilometers’, starting from the start of the trail roughly map out the city, town, village on the path within 10% of your happy distance. Pro Tip: If you are going to walk a long way, about every 4-6 days pick a shorter kilometer day that ends in a bigger town so you can do laundry! Clean undies are a hikers paradise.
    3. Now that you have your daily destination – you now know how many days you will be walking and can get vacation time booked off work and book a flight! Go ahead and do that now – I will wait right here.
    4. Ok now book your accommodations. Start with an overnight at the place you will start out for the night BEFORE you start walking. Then, in the order you will walk to them, book the next day and the next day and the day after that, etc.. Do not jump about on days just in case you cannot find a place in one of the towns and you have to adjust distances! .l
    5. Once you have your accommodations booked, now you can book a luggage transport service – if you want. A luggage transport company will take your suitcase or large pack to your next accommodation so all you have to carry while you walk is water, snacks, rain gear, etc – what you need for the actual walking. If you walk in rainy areas, luggage transport is a good way to ensure your pajamas and next day’s gear are dry! I walked the 16day Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Ways in 2008 and 14/16 days were torrential and I carried everything… wet Jammies are no way to end a day!
    6. Now that you know where you are walking to each day and where you will sleep – it’s time to sort out water. My happy kilometers are 20-26 per day and I carry 3 liters in a bladder so I don’t have to worry about running out. Pro tip: when training for your hike, monitor and document the amount of water you drink and aim to carry that much plus 25% AND a water treatment straw / filter in case you run out. If you prefer to carry less, calculate your water intake per kilometer and research if water is available on the path at those intervals. If you go with this approach, anytime you find water – filter and fill your container! Water sources dry up, better safe than thirsty.
    7. Work our food! You also need to eat and may have to carry snacks or meals with you depending on what amenities are available. Research the route and see if there is a place for breakfast before or shortly after you start out and lunch at mid-point-ish each day and dinner. If yes, carry snacks only on those days. If no, carry meals for the day too. Research each day for amenities on route or near where you are staying. Also determine if supper is available where you are staying. or close, and Pro tip: book an accommodation that includes breakfast and it is one less worry in a day plus good coffee!
    8. If long distance walking, it’s also good to have an idea of where the pharmacies are along the way – blister bandaids, Tylenol, antihistamines and more can crop up as a need along the way.

    Document all these details! Consider a journal or spreadsheet (excel or hand written) that shows the path broken down by happy kilometers and the play you will walk to and from each day, the accommodation and contact info, notes re water and food requirements, significant trail notes, etc!

    This is a great way to prep for the next day, each day and a godsend to leave with loved ones who may be worried about you when you are off and about. Also a great keepsake!

    45 days to my next walk .. 285 kilometers aka the Offa’s Dyke Path in Wales in June, off to do the above for this adventure!


    Let’s Pack – Packing Tips

    12 sleeps to Scotland …

    Our Scotland adventure to walk the Arran Coastal Way and climb Goat Fell Mountain is just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about the actual packing – putting stuff in stuff. We have our Let’s Pack – Toiletries and Let’s Pack – Clothing lists and now we can go from lists and piles to actually packing it into a pack!

    I have learned a few tricks over the years about the actual packing part and thought I would share them with you for your next adventure.

    Roll It

    Yup roll everything.

    There are some folks who try and say folding everything nicely and all flat like is the best way. Nope! Actual science has confirmed rolling is the way to go – and my science I mean myth busters. Each little clothing roll takes up less space than a flat fold and you can tuck and squish and jam the rolls into little nooks and crannies in your pack (or luggage).

    Don’t believe me? Try it! Pack flat and then unpack and do it all again rolled – yup told yah! Oh and if you are worried about wrinkles from the rolling, I get that but don’t think you need to worry too much. In my experience the wrinkle count is about the same with a roll or a flat fold and there is no getting away from the things. That’s all part of travelling I guess – being wrinkly and not giving one hoot cause you are on vacation!

    Tip: half fold and then tight roll. What? For a shirt, for example, fold it in half with the arms laid flat over it – then roll it from the collar to the bottom. This will keep the arms all nicely tucked and the roll tight. For pants you flatten/fold the legs one over the other and then roll from leg bottom to waist band.

    Stuff it

    Quite literally stuff all the stuff! Have you heard of compression sacks, or light weight dry sacks or stuff sacks? These are magic bags! You jam them full of all your stuff (in rolls of course, see tip above) and then you roll or tighten the closure to suck out all the extra air and compress your stuff.

    Here is a photo of the clothes I am bringing to Scotland:

    Now here are all of those clothes, less my fleece, that have been rolled and compressed into my 8L lightweight stuff sack:

    My fleece doesn’t go into the stuff sack because it will be coming on the plane with me as a pillow or shawl or blanket or maybe just a fleece as it was design to be. However I put it in this photo so you can use it to see just how small that stuff sack is – and it has all my clothes in it that were in the previous picture. I probably could have compressed it even more too!

    You don’t need a heavy weight stuff or compression or dry sack for packing – something lightweight does the trick! So do not go out and buy those heavy duty water proof boat bags or anything – that will just add weight. We are focused on lightweight for backpack packing. Not only will these sacks help reduce the amount of room your clothes take but it also creates compartments of sorts in your pack or luggage to keep you organized.

    Caution: using stuff sacks does not give you permission to pack more than you need! Just because there is a bit more space does not mean you need to fill it with that ‘just in case’ extra dress or that shirt ‘I hoped I would actually like on vacation’. Leave the untested and maybe items at home. Enjoy the space, not the extra stuff!

    Ziplock It

    As you have read in my past few blog posts – I love me some Ziplock magic!

    I encourage you to put all your potentially messy and goopy stuff like shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen in Ziplocks when you pack it – both for the plane and on the the trip. I have been the gal who has a shampoo explode in her suitcase and can still get grumpy thinking about the mess lol

    Ziplocks are also good for compression and compartmentalizing your stuff. The Sea to Summit or similar stuff / dry sack pictured above can be a bit tough on the budget – you will only ever have to buy em once and use them for every trip you will ever take in your life but they are not cheap. So if money is a consideration as I imagine it is for all of us – there is a back up Ziplock solution.

    Grab some big Ziplocks to pack you clothes in. Maybe a Ziplock XL Freezer size for your shorts and pants, a XL for your shirts and Buffs, another L for undies and swimming costume. (I love that word)

    Once you clothes are all nicely rolled and tucked into the Ziplock, you will want to push out as much air as possible and close the zip almost all the way. Leave about a 1inch section of the zip not closed. At this gap you are going to literally suck the air out of the bag and then close when it’s all gone. No joke. This really works!

    Group It

    Did you notice a theme among all these tips? I am big on grouping like items with like items and suggest this for anyone packing a bag, a pack, a suitcase.

    Grouping your travel stuff basically mimics the organization you have at home. This will make finding things and re-packing things while abroad so much easier for you. Don’t be the person who has to un-roll and un-stuff everything to find that one thing – pack in such a way that you know where all the things are! This will save you time, reduce stress, keep your travel companions happy, and get you to the tourist stuff faster – the reason you packed all this in the first place!

    There are a few different trains of thought for how to group items for your different stuff sacks, compartments or Ziplocks. Some people stuff by outfit – so they will have a roll for each day (bottoms, top and undies all rolled together) and out all those daily rolls in one stuff sack. I don’t bring enough tops and bottoms for each day so this never works for me but I do like the idea in theory. Some people may put all the tops on one sack and all the bottoms in another. This doesn’t work for me either because then I have to open both sacks each time instead of just one for the whole ensemble.

    Finding the way that works for you may take a few trips or re-packs but once you do  – wow, the heavens will sing for ya!  Here is how I will be organizing for this hiking trip:

    • Big Stuff Sack: all my hiking clothes (not undies, socks, or outdoor layers like jackets)
    • Med Stuff Sack: all of my extra bits like pajama, city tourist clothes, train/plane clothes
    • Med / Small Stuff Sack: undies, sports bras, socks and liners, Buffs, toque
    • Med /Small Stuff Sack: all the dirty clothes

    When I am on a non-hiking holiday, like a trip to a hot destination, I will have a large stuff sack for evening destination wear, a sack for daytime beach wear (bathing costume and cover-ups), a sack for my running gear, and one for all my undies, pajama, etc. So a bit different than my backpacking or hiking pack grouping but same idea.

    Organize It

    Roll it, stuff it, group it  – got it! You got the basics if you have all that well in hand, but  I figured I would dazzle you (ha ha I am probably the only one who is dazzled by packing ideas) with some additional packing / organizational tips to consider…

    • Shower Caps: use these to cover the bottom of the shoes you pack. You can use a shoe bag or Ziplock of course but when those aren’t available a shower cap works to cover the dirty sole of any shoe – the little elastic around the edge keeps it nicely secured. I steal every hotel shower cap I can get my hands on! Flip flops can go in one cap sole to sole and boots one cap per sole.
    • Make-up bags or pencil cases: back to grouping again here! Never leave an item loose! If you have some pens, highlighter, and a journal – put them all in a zippered case! Make it big enough for your wallet and passport too. If you have some toiletries you need on the plane (lip chap, hand cream, floss, etc) – put them all in a wee make-up bag or better yet the 1L clear plastic security bag at the airport. Little, light zippered cases will save you digging around trying to find stuff – from believing you have lost the 4th lip chap of the trip – and can add some personality to your pack. I have a pencil case for my toiletries that has a world map on it, I feel like such a globe trotter when I pull it out.
    • Extra Ziplocks and some elastics: toss a few of each in a case or extra Ziplock and bring them along. These are great for storing left over snacks, leaky tubes of face cream or whatever might bring en route, or soggy socks. Elastics are great for closing chip or crisp bags, keeping your journal closed when it’s full of train tickets and receipts or other ephemera, etc.
    • Carabiners: grab a few of these and attach them to your pack or your cases inside of your pack for the trip. A small one and a couple mediums should do the trick. These are great for clipping items into place in your pack or on your pack (like when you need to dry your socks you hand-washed that morning). I also use them to close the zippers on my city-tourist day pack so the sneaky pick pockets have to work a little harder. I use them to hand my towel or toiletries in the shower so my stuff does not sit on the floor wet. So many amazing uses for these things. Oh and you do not need to buy the rock climbing grade Carabiner – they should only cost you a couple bucks each for the ones you need.

    Well that is my approach to packing the things in the things – now I am off to get some training in! With just 12 sleeps left I want to get as many miles as I can in every day – today I am touring downtown Victoria with 30lbs in my pack (aka my entire John Grisham novel collection) and my sneakers.

    Next week we will talk about packing documents for your trip. Yup, even this subject is worth a whole blog post my Running for the Gate friends!


    Let’s Pack – Clothing


    21 sleeps to Scotland …


    We talked about toiletries in my last post, Let’s Pack – Toiletries, so now lets talk about the biggest bulk of any suitcase, backpack or duffel bag… the clothes!

    From conversations with many a travelling soul in hostels or hotels, on planes or trains, and chats among my friends and family – it seems to me that deciding on the clothes to bring on a trip is the toughest part of packing. I get that. This used to be something I really struggled with.

    I used to hunt through websites and books for that perfect packing list – which of course alluded me as much as the perfect,  diet alludes us all. I would stand in front of my closet or dresser pulling out anything I might just maybe want wear while away on a trip. I would think of every possible scenario that could ever possibly happen and make sure I had an outfit for it. The result was always way too much stuff. My suitcase or pack would be burden not a comfort. Why was I creating burdens to take with me, when the whole idea of trip is to ditch those burdens at home and travel light and free?

    Well after a few trips of carrying way too much, I started to think about what principles I could apply to how I pack that would reduce the amount I take on a trip without leaving me unprepared. Not only was I keen to stop over packing, I was also keen to make the act of packing a little less stressful. Also, if it made picking what to wear while abroad a little less stressful too that would be fabulous. So over a few more trips I developed some principles that really, really work for me – happy to share them with you here!

    Packing (Clothes) Principles:

    • Leave items that still have price tags at home (or at the store)

    If you have not worn it and loved it, it does not come on the trip. There is nothing worse than discovering a shirt is uncomfortable, those pants ride up, or even that something is broken or you don’t know how to use it when you are abroad. That was precious pack space and weight that has been spent on an unworthy item. Test every item you are taking with you before you take it with you.

    • Leave anything that is too special to wear at home, at home 

    Clothes that you are not wearing at home are not going to get worn on a trip. We are creatures of habit and will reach for those comfort items more than the new or special almost every time. That summer dress you have been saving to wear again when you next go to Mexico – don’t bother packing it. If you don’t love it enough to wear at home it does not deserve a place in your pack. Only items that bring you joy, no matter latitude and longitude, should be coming with you on your travels.

    • All tops and all bottoms need to get along 

    This is a tough one folks but has the most impact. This one principle will make decision making so much easier when you pack and when you decide what to wear while away. Here it is … every top you take should match any bottom you take. So that tank top needs to match the shorts, skirt and the pants you are packing. Those tights need to match every shirt you are taking.  An easy way to achieve this is to stick to black, grey and khaki on the bottom; with solids or muted, simple patterns on top. Refer to the next principle if you need more spice than this principles suggests.

    • Always pack a scarf or pashmina shawl 

    Some of y’all will think this only applies to the ladies, but for those fashion forward and comfy-in-their-own-skin men I would also recommend this one for you too!

    While I have been using the same grey scarf when I travel for 15 years, this is where I encourage you all to add a little more ju-ju (some spice for those of you who do not watch Queer Eye) to your trip wardrobe. Don’t let my easy choice colour deter you from some pizzazz here. Caveat is you need to be willing to wear it with every top/bottom combo you have. For people like me who are fashion-challenged this means a neutral solid colour like grey but for those of you who actually have a sense of style you can kick it up a notch here and get your own look on.

    A scarf is great for so many things: when you are chilled and need a little something more than you have on but less than a jacket, a pillow on a plane or train, a fashion accessory, to cover knees or shoulders when visiting churches or sacred locations where you have to cover up, a make shift dress while all your clothes are in the dryer due to bed bugs, as a towel in a pinch, a tourniquet and more. I also use mine to create some privacy when staying in hostels – pick the bottom bunk for your bed, and then tuck you scarf under the mattress above you and let it hand down like a curtain.

    With just these principles in play I guarantee you your packing stress will be reduced big time. Don’t trust me – try it! Oh and if you are heading out on a overseas long distance hike trip, I am also happy to share my full packing list with you too. Here we go!

    Packing List – Arran Coastal Way, Scotland:

    This list takes into account that our trip to Scotland is 2 weeks long , is largely based on hiking 20+km each, includes only a few urban tourist days, includes flights of over 10hrs, and temperature will be summer moderate 20C with rain on a pretty regular basis. This is a long distance hike to different accommodations each night, not a thru hike.


    Hiking – Bottoms

    • Hiking Capri
    • Hiking Pant
    • Hiking Shorts
    • Undies (cotton recommended) 1 pair/day

    If you have zip off hiking pants that’s even better – as you can drop one of the other items from the list. For example if I pack my hiking pants that zip off into carpi length then I don’t also pack my Capri pants. Oh and make sure you trial your pants on an actual hike before you go. Shorts that ride up. undies that crawl or pant waistbands that bunch under your pack straps can cause rubs and even blisters that will ruin days of hiking for you.

    Hiking – Top

    • Technical Long Sleeve
    • Technical Short Sleeve x2
    • Technical No Sleeve
    • Sports bra x2

    I prefer short sleeves over no sleeves as I don’t like the pack straps being directly on my skin and it reduces the need for sunscreen on some hard to reach parts like the back of my shoulders. But if you prefer no sleeves then just flip the numbers here.

    I always take 2 sports bras as I find they dry too slow to wash one evening and wear the next day. Also I want to wear the non-sweaty one in the evening after a hike post shower. In a bind, pun intended, you can also use your buff as a boob-tube of sorts if both the bras need a clean and dry. Again, make sure you do a few hikes in all your gear and especially your bras. Falling straps or pressure spots where a clasp is will make you crazy on the trail. If its uncomfortable at home it will be annoying as heck abroad.

    Hiking – Outer

    • Gortex Jacket (shell)
    • Fleece jacket / layer
    • Toque (Buff can work)
    • Sun / rain hat
    • Departure Day Decision: Gortex rain pants

    If you do not have Gortex outer layers bring the very best rain gear you can afford, borrow or already have. Arriving at to your accommodation soggy at the end of the day is all good when you have a bath and heat available – but what if you don’t make it, get lost or are tenting? Sogginess can make for some morbid outcomes if you cannot warm up and dry off at the end of a hike day.

    Also, make sure you can put all the things on – trial having your no sleeve, short sleeve, long sleeve, fleece and shell on to make sure they all fit and are comfortable. If you cannot put your rain shell on over your fleece and base layers, you need a bigger one. You want to have things fit nicely over each other. Not too tight or you will be uncomfortable but also not too loose as you will lose heat in those spaces.

    Hiking – Feet

    • Hiking boots
    • Hiking runners or sneakers
    • Flip Flops
    • Smart Wool medium hiking sock x3
    • Hiking liner sock x3
    • Running sock (ankle) x2
    • Compression sock (knee length) x2
    • Departure Day Decision: Gaiters 

    This is largely where personal choice comes into play – there is nothing more important that finding the shoe or shoe combo that works for you. If you need some help deciding and want to know why I prefer a hiking boot and running shoe combo, check out my blog post 8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet. No matter what your footwear preference is you need to test it over and over again. Make your decision early and train in them.

    I take a number of socks because I have specific combos for my boots and my runners which I toggle between everyday depending on the trail terrain. I also take more than a couple Smart Wool Medium Hiking Socks as I find they tend to stretch when moist or after a day of travel and that is blister city for me if I don’t switch them out for a new pair. When you are training, find your combo and adjust this list accordingly.

    Hiking – Head

    • Toque or Buff
    • Sun / Rain hat

    I go nowhere without my Patagonia Beanie so this may something that you don’t need to bring with you if the weather where you are heading is always moderate. I love mine for cool morning starts, pints on the patio with the sun setting, and to block the light when sleeping on planes or train stations.

    The sun/rain hat should have a decent rim on it to keep the elements from your face and neck – a good brim is also good for keeping the bug netting off your face if we have to resort to this measure when the Scottish midges get too bad.

    Hiking – The Other Bits

    • Day Pack (rain cover)
    • Bladder
    • First Aid Kit
    • Hiking Poles*
    • Buff x2
    • Sunscreen (face/body and lip)
    • Bug Spray
    • Trail Guide, Map, Compass (waterproof map case)
    • Phone, Camera (Ziploc bag)
    • Some extra Ziploc baggies (to transfer your snacks into)
    • Carabiner x2 (to dry clothes while walking)
    • Departure Day Decision: Hiking Poles

    Many of these items will also be part of your sight seeing tourist days as well – your phone, camera, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, Ziploc baggies are all daily items no matter the activity. Even a Carabiner or 2 should be clipped onto your lightweight day bag or purse so you can clip on anything you buy, secure your water bottle, secure the purse to your clothing (if you are in a high rate pick pocket city), etc.


    All The Other Things

    • Top and bottom pajamas (cotton)
    • Sleep mask
    • Earplugs or headphones
    • Cotton tights or light pants
    • Cotton No Sleeve, T-Shirt or Long Sleeve
    • Cotton button up (or Technical UV Button Up)
    • Journal and pens
    • Scarf or Pashmina
    • Light weight bag or purse
    • Light weight water bottle
    • Cotton undies 1 pair/day when not hiking
    • Small Ziploc of dry laundry soap

    I am a big advocate of natural fibers when technical gear is not required. They just feel comfortable and cozy and I like to have what is immediately next to my body be as natural as possible. So I am all about the cotton undies everyday on a trip even if you have to bring a few extra pairs as they don’t wick as well as synthetic fibers. Also, I always wear cotton tights, cotton tank or tee, a cotton button up shirt, my scarf and compression socks on a long haul plane trip. This keeps me in cotton, gives me layers for when the temp changes on the plane, keeps the feet swelling down and is almost like being in pajamas without the world knowing it.

    Do you have to do laundry on your trip? To have your hiking clothes available for sight seeing or vice versa you may need to do a little laundry. If you can find a laundromat great but I tend to not worry about that and just hand wash a couple of items each night or every other night. I do not put any of my technical gear in the dryer so a sink wash and a hang dry works for me – especially in the United Kingdom where most rooms have a radiator heater for quick drying.

    Departure Day Decisions … prior to departing I will check the long term forecast and make a decision on if Gortex rain paints are needed. I will bring them if we they are forecasting a 50% chance of rain for 50% of the hiking days. I have read the guide book and continue to read blogs about the trail and will use this info to decide if Gaiters or hiking poles are needed. I will bring Gaiters if 50% of the trail is either high grasses, through overgrown bush or over gravel, pebble, shale based trail. This will keep the ticks at bay and the rocks out of my shoes which are blister makers. I will bring the poles if there is a 50% elevation gain or drop on 50% of the hiking days. This will keep my balance up and reduce the pressure on these four decade old knees.

    There you go – now off I go to put all these items together!

    Next week I will post some packing tips – some things I have learned that help make the actual act of putting stuff in that duffel, suitcase or pack easier before you go and when you are off gallivanting.



    Let’s Pack – Toiletries

    With just 5 weeks (eeeek) to our departure for Scotland and the 100km Arran Coastal Way and some Edinburgh and Glasgow sight seeing, these next posts few posts will focus on what is currently top of mind for our merry travelling band – what to pack!

    While I would never claim to be a packing expert, I do have some handy tips and tricks that work well for me and just might be something that could work for you. How do I know some bits about this? Well, I have read dozens and dozens of books, follow way too many travel blogs, comb through loads of trail guides, and have had to pack for quite a few long, walking holidays myself. Also, I have some packing lessons I learnt the hard way that I would gladly share with you all to save you stress they caused me – like realizing I packed everything but a comb or brush and had no place to buy one for 4 days. Scarecrow!

    This week lets focus on packing toiletries – yes, toiletries. You are probably wondering how could there possibly be enough info in my brain to dump on you about toiletries to fill a blog post and keep you entertained. Ha! There is more in my brain on this topic (and all things packing and prep) than you can imagine or that I ever thought was up in there. You will see. Here we go …

    Toiletries – My Tips and Tricks: 

    • You will use less than you think of most stuff and more of some stuff than you ever thought. How confusing is that! Basically, don’t stress about amounts – figure it out by doing a trial! Schedule a two week duration (or the length of the trip you are going on) before you go and use the products you intend to take for that same time frame. Pay special attention to what you use everyday, how much you use, and also what you don’t use. Pack the items and the amount accordingly.
    • Don’t pack the ‘that would be cool’ stuff. Like you have his awesome charcoal mask you use once in a very blue moon but think hmm maybe I would have time to do it while relaxing or journaling on the trip. Nope! You won’t. Don’t pack it. If you didn’t use it during your home trial (see above) – it doesn’t get a place in your pack!
    • If you have a roomie or travel buddy, think about sharing. For example, one of you bring the conditioner and another the shampoo.
    • If you are bringing a blow-dryer, straightener, or other electronic hair appliance they will need a converter which can be purchased before you go – you will need one that not only converts the style of plug but also the voltage or watts. Cautionary tale, I have NEVER had success with a converter and I think my current international ‘blow up a blow-dryer’ count is at about 5 and the last even burnt my hand. Boo! Instead of buying a converter, I suggest you buy a small blow-dyer or whatever once you arrive at your destination (researching where there is a store that sells them and how to get there from your arrival spot before you depart of course – so it’s a quick stop and not a waste of a tourist day).
    • Prescription medications must be in their original prescribed container and should be in your carry-on that you take on the plane. This is important for customs but also for your health! Should your checked luggage be lost or delayed, you can buy new underpants and deodorant but replacing that prescription blood pressure medication is a bit tougher, expensive and can mess with your trip plans.
    • Over the counter medications that you might want to bring should be in their original blister packs but to save space I tend to take the blister packs out of the box and rip off just the name and dosage instructions from the original pack. I then toss an elastic around the blister packs and the package bits I ripped off so they are together and you know how much to take should you need to. If space is really tight, remember you can buy this kind of stuff in most countries so you don’t need to pack too much. Just pack enough to to cover you for a few days for immediate relief until you can buy more locally. I suggest a few of the following: Gravol, Immodium, Pepto Bismal, Daytime Cold & Sinus, Nighttime Cold & Sinus, Tylenol and/or Advil plus any other specifics you tend to suffer from, i.e. maybe cold sore medication or something like that.
    • Always pack an extra lip chap or 5! I swear there is a lip chap conspiracy in this world where they magically walk away, lose themselves, disappear, invisibility cloak themselves, something. I don’t lose things but I cannot keep a handle on a lip chap so something is going on with those wee tubes! I will be bringing 4 on this trip (one in my day pack, one in my carry on, and 2 spare in my toiletries kit).
    • Everyone is pretty and somehow most especially when they are happy, and I find I am pretty darn cute (tee hee) when travelling cause I am so much in my happy place! So don’t worry about bringing stuff to glam yourself up with – happiness will do that for you! Think simple day to day toiletries stuff not night out on the town, look at me like I am in Las Vegas stuff.
    • If you use bar soap, think about cutting it in half for the trip. I have a rule – 1/2 bar of Ivory lasts me 30 days so long as I dry it after each shower. I take with me a 1/2 bar Ivory and a 1/2 bar Rocky Mountain Soap Company Shave Bar on each trip of 30 days or less. I dry them off after the shower so they do not dissolve more than necessary and they are stored in a wee baby zip lock together – they get along and appreciate the company I think.

    Toiletries – My Packing List: 

    Here is what I will be taking and/or recommend folks consider taking, in travel size containers that will be the perfect amount plus a wee squeeze extra for your trip.

    • Face Cream and Face Sunscreen (daily, combo if you have it)*
    • Face wash, wipes or soap (some use their body for face, or have a combo)
    • Shampoo and conditioner (or combo if that works for you lid)
    • Daily hair products (I use an oil in my hair every few days to keep it silky and have a wee baby travel bottle I use to take just enough for the trip)
    • Make-up (powder, mascara, eye liner, lip gloss, lash curler, and a bit of cheek colour which can also be used eye shadow if you  wanna kick it up a notch)*
    • Make-up remover (if needed, aka for my waterproof mascara)
    • Deodorant or antiperspirant*
    • Body cream
    • Body soap (1/2 bar)
    • Shave soap (1/2 bar)
    • Razor
    • Tweezer
    • Comb and/or brush (aka anti-scarecrow device)
    • Daily medications and vitamins*
    • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss*
    • Q-tips
    • Some hair taming things (bobby pins, elastics, scrunchy)
    • Hairspray
    • Dry Shampoo
    • Tiny bathroom spray so your roomie doesn’t have to smell you post bathroom ick
    • Perfume**

    *I take these items on the plane with me so after 15 hours of travel with 10+ of those on a plane, I can do a little pre-landing freshen up and hit a new country with confidence!

    ** A trick I use for perfume to avoid bringing a glass perfume bottle with me … dampen a few paper towels, spray liberally with your perfume and store these damp, smelly towels in a air tight Ziplock bag. When you need to smell nice (before landing on your transatlantic flight, out to the pub for eats after a day of hiking), simply dab the perfume soaked damp paper towel where you would usually spritz and return to / resell the Ziplock. Magnifique!

    Toiletries – How to Pack Them Advice:  

    • Perfume – see above **
    • Every day and just in case – have two lightweight, mesh cases for your toiletries. One that stores all your everyday stuff from face cream to mascara to shampoo. The other for the just in case like those sinus or allergy meds that you hope you never need. You keep this second one buried in your bag and the other on top for easy access! This way you are not shuffling past some of these just in case items to get to your daily sunscreen – saving loads of time and frustration in your daily routine.
    • Hands and surface free – keeping on that same theme of having one bag for all that you use everyday, also think about putting an S hook or carabiner on the bag for off the counter storage. This is especially important when staying in hostels or B&Bs with share bathrooms where counter space is at minimum or at best soggy from the last patron and no one wants to put a soggy toiletries bag back in their pack.
    • Ziplock it – store your shampoo, conditioner and other gooey toiletries in a big ziplock bag when you check it in. A poor firing lid, the pressure on the plane and baggage handling can cause gooey implosions from those items. While easy enough to clean up, you do need to be careful about wasting the volume of product that was meant to last the duration of your trip. If the mess happens in a ziplock you can still use what made the mess!

    Well that’s the toiletries run down – told you I had a lot to say about dental floss and shampoo!