We seriously LOVE Cairn’s monthly subscription boxes! I surprised Tony with a subscription for Valentine’s Day over four years ago and we look forward to them every month. We actually have an agreement that we have to wait to open it when we’re together because we have so much fun seeing what comes wrapped up in that little brown box. A huge amount of the gear we’ve received has been highly useful, and we use many pieces of it on every day hike, backpacking trip, or both.
So, what is a Cairn subscription box? Basically, it’s a monthly subscription that we pay $29.99 a month for and receive a box with hiking related gear worth up to $50 in each box. Every month it is a surprise as to what the gear will be. The products in each box are always full-size (no samples), expertly curated and tested, and never an overstock or last season item. It’s always full of super legit stuff! We’ve found so many new products and companies that we may have never found without the subscription.
While we subscribe to the monthly collection, Cairn does offer a “premium” box, their Obsidian Collection. The Obsidian Collection is $249.95 every quarter and has up to 10 curated items in each box valuing up to $300. We cannot vouch for what comes in this box, but maybe someday we will upgrade to it and see.
Another thing we love about Cairn is that they donate to the Conservation Alliance with their Gear Up and Give Back ™program. They will mail you a bag free of charge to send any of your unwanted used gear and/or clothing from high quality outdoor brands to The Gear Fix who will repair your equipment, sell it in their shop, and the net proceeds will be matched by Cairn and Gear Fix, and donated to The Conservation Alliance.
We love that this little gift we give ourselves every month inspires us to get outside and try out the new stuff we received. The Cairn box subscription also makes an amazing gift for the hiker in your life and can be easily gifted for 1-12 months. So to show you what an average box looks like, we went live and opened our July shipment while hiking. We were actually able to use the items that came in the box on our hike!
To sign up for the monthly subscription box or the Obsidian Collection click here:
July Shipment- Eco Conscious Theme
Nomandix Eco Friendly Pack Towel
I actually was planning on buying a larger pack towel for my upcoming Sierra backpacking trip and then this amazing towel came in the box! It’s a bit heavy for backpacking, but our route is moderate so I am going to consider it a “luxury item” so it’s coming with me. This towel is made using certified post-consumer plastic bottles. Nomandix National Park Smokey Mountain pack towel is a top of the line yoga towel, beach towel, pool towel, and pack towel when you go camping or travel. They designed it to be versatile without sacrificing performance, so you can own less and do more.
Product specs are:
You can purchase the towel on its own for $39.95 here:
Ecovessel Stainless Steel Set of 4 Reusable Straws with Silicone Tips and Cleaning Brush
According to Ecovessel, did you know that Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day? To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. We know the small size of the straws makes them harmful to the environment – they’re too small to go through most recycling equipment, so most end up in the oceans which can poison or injure fish and marine animals. Tiny pieces, called microplastics, become food for fish which end up on our dinner plates. The EcoVessel stainless steel 4 pack reusable straw set with soft silicone tips are a great alternative to wasteful single-use plastic straws. The straws are wide enough for smoothies and thicker beverages while being narrow enough to fit all of their tumbler lids. The included straw cleaner will ensure your straws stay clean and the silicone tips are soft and colorful. Product Specs are:
You can purchase the straw set on its own for $9.95 here:
All Good SPF 50+ Tinted Zinc Sunscreen Butter
I was so excited when I pulled this tin out of the box! All Good is one of my all-time favorite brands ever! They’re products are organic, high quality, smell delicious, and this sunscreen is reef friendly (oxybenzone free) so it won’t damage reefs when you wear it in the water like most sunscreens. I also adore that this company is woman founded (Caroline started it in her kitchen) and mostly women run. They care deeply about the environment, and run their production facility on solar power, use organic, high quality, cruelty free and reef friendly ingredients, oppose the use of GMO’s, use recycled and recyclable packaging, shipping and printed material, and give back 1% of sales to the planet. Plus they are super high vibe and you can tell they love what they do.
The Tinted Sunscreen Butter SPF 50 formula is a compact, reef friendly sunscreen tin that provides maximum UVA/UVB protection and it’s smooth, creamy texture applies effortlessly on the skin with a neutral tint coverage for most skin tones. Product specs are:
You can purchase your tin on its own for $10.99 here:
As you can see this shipment had some amazing products worth $60.89 and we will use very single one of them!
To sign up for the monthly subscription box or the Obsidian Collection click here: https://www.getcairn.com/collections/subscribe
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When it heats up here in Southern California, we head to the beach! One of our favorite summer hikes is on the trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Known as one of only two places our nation's rarest pine, the Torrey Pine or Pinus Torreyana grows, the park boasts 2,000 acres of a fragile and unique coastal environment. In addition to the park preserving the Torrey Pine, it also preserves one of the last salt marshes and waterfowl refuges in Southern California. The reserve has multiple trail options ranging from easy to moderate, but all the trails have amazing views of the Pacific ocean. Trail features include steep and dramatic cliffs, stunning views of the ocean, twisted pine trees, and an Adobe visitor center that was built in 1923. Flowers are abundant in the Spring, and you might sight an Osprey if you're lucky.
Torrey Pines State Beach lies below the Reserve and is accessible by trail. Our favorite route is to head up to the Reserve first and explore all the trails before descending down to the beach for some relaxing in the soft sand. These trails are very popular and are packed in the summertime, especially on weekends. If you're looking for a more solitary experience, go in the off season and during the week. It is a different kind of beauty in the wintertime (although trails may close if it is raining to preserve them).
Make sure to pack water and sunscreen. No food is allowed in the reserve so plan to have your snacks before or after your hike. Enjoy your hike and don't forget to practice Leave No Trace on all trails.
12600 N. Torrey Pines Road
San Diego, CA 92037
Operating Hours: Gates open at 07:15 am and close at Sunset.
The Visitor Center opens daily at 9:00AM.
The reserve is a day-use park only. There is no overnight camping at this facility.
General Admission Day Use fee is $10-$25 per vehicle (demand based pricing) or a valid annual California State Parks Vehicle Day Use Pass. Camping is not permitted at Torrey Pines. Pay at the Automated Pay Machine located near the entrance or west end of the parking lot if no staff person is in the kiosk.
Winter Weekdays: Hourly rates are available at North Beach lot.
Note: Recreational vehicles longer than a standard parking spot are allowed only in the North Beach lot.
A seed was planted in 1986 while paddling the Boundary Waters between Minnesota and Ontario in founders Jeff Knight and Dan Cruikshank minds. They realized there was a need for better outdoor gear. After that trip, Jeff and Dan set out to make the best gear possible. For the past 30 years, Granite Gear’s team of product designers and engineers have done just that, built gear that has gained a following of dedicated fans and proven their product’s durability in some of the toughest environments, including Mount Everest, the North and South Poles, and thousands of miles of everyday wear and tear. Today, Granite Gear is going strong and expanding their products from stuff sacks, to ultralight packs, to ultra-durable packs that meet the demands of soldiers. Just like their name, Granite Gear is truly tougher than granite.
Granite Gear’s Unisex Crown2 38 Liter pack is the skinnier version of their thru hiker favorite, the Crown2 60. The pack is ultra light, and as we found out after many trail miles, ultra comfortable.
V.C. (Vapor Current) Mark 2 Frame with 35 lb (15 kg) load rating
Dual density shoulder harness with load-lifter straps and removable sternum strap
Re-Fit fully adjustable dual density hip belt (from 26" - 42")
Dual large hip belt pockets with DWR treated zippers
Roll-top main compartment opening with centered dual strap and singular buckle for quick access and easy compression.
Removable lid has a compartment with DWR treated zipper
Hydration port & internal hydration sleeve
Large size stretch woven pockets
Stretch mesh front pocket
Side and front compression straps
Robic High-tenacity nylon (100D and 210D)
Torso Size = Regular 18" - 21" / 46 cm - 54 cm
Volume = 38 liters / 2320 cu in
The pack weighs in at just around 3lbs with the removable pack lid and removable frame sheet. It weighs 2.1 lbs without the lid, and 1.6 without the lid and frame sheet. The pack has a maximum comfort load of 35lbs, making it a great option for long day hikes, winter hikes when you need to carry extra gear, and multi day hikes.
The comfort comes from the patent-pending fully adjustable Re-Fit hip belt, Vapor Current Mark 2 compression molded PP frame sheet with molded foam back panel, and dual density shoulder harness with load-lifter straps and removable sternum strap. The pack is designed to be unisex, and fit both both of us just as well as any of our other packs specifically designed just for men or women.
Granite Gear is known for the durability of their packs and the Crown2 38 lives up to that reputation. Although it is rated as an UL pack, the sturdy construction and design of the pack will ensure a long lifetime of use. Granite Gear’s packs include a limited lifetime warranty where packs are warranted to the original owner for the lifetime of the product against defects in materials or workmanship under normal recreational use. If your granite gear product fails due to material or manufacturing defect, they will repair or replace it at their option.
Get your Crown2 38 here:
A company that cares.
After being inspired by the Packing it out Team, they met at the Appalachian Trail Days in 2015, Granite Gear founded the Grounds Keepers Program. Through the program, Granite Gear and other sponsors are able to support hikers who want to “Leave it Better” and pack out trash as they hike long trails and parks and paddle waterways and lakes around the country.
The Grounds Keepers are individuals who previously completed or are currently completing a thru-hike or various section hikes, (such as the PCT, AT, AZT, PNT, SHT) and have a passion for Leave No Trace ethics, are strong in mind and body, and are committed to doing their very best to pick up as much trash as possible while outdoors. Since the first team in 2017, Grounds Keepers have picked up more than 6,630lbs of trash, mostly micro trash, like bar wrappers, bottle lids and toilet paper.
Grounds Keepers are fitted with the following gear for their hike:
1 multi-day backpack or 1 portage pack, 1 Dump Trunk (Tactical Line), 1 Stuffsack of their choice, 1 Toughsack, 1 pair of gloves and 1 scale
Each Grounds Keeper is given two pairs of Altra Running shoes of their choice, plus gaiters if needed
Five meal packets from Backpacker's Bistro
1 reusable water bottle from Klean Kanteen
T-shirts from Recover Brands
1 Kula Cloth
The goal of Grounds Keepers is to inspire as many hikers to value our outdoors areas and pack out trash. They believe, and we support them, that trash in our outdoor spaces is everyone’s responsibility. You can follow along to also be inspired by the pounds of trash picked up on Instagram.
Join in and use #TheGroundsKeepers for a chance to be featured for doing your part of keeping our outdoor spaces litter free.
Meet the 2019 team here:
Overall, we loved this pack and would recommend it for many uses. A huge thank you to Granite Gear for making a wonderful pack and caring about our outdoor spaces.
Cheers to the Gear!
We adore finding inspiration for getting outside in many ways and beautiful quotes about nature are one of them. From Ansel Adams to Walt Whitman, we've shared our favorites below.
Feel free to download and share them as well! Just right click and save the image.
Happy Summer Solstice! Although we’ve been having a cool summer so far here in Southern California, I know this perfect hiking weather won’t last much longer and hot days are on their way. I have to be honest; I am not a fan of hiking in warm weather. I would rather hike in a snow storm over a heat wave any day. But since I am not willing to give up hiking when the days warm up, I learned how to make it more comfortable and safer. Here are my top 5 tips for hiking in warm weather.
When the weather warms up, I start watching temperatures in the early morning. Starting earlier allows me to hike while there is still coolness from the night and before the sun has had a chance to warm everything up. I aim to be finished with my hike before the temperature reaches 80 degrees, so that means sometimes starting as early as sunrise and/or hiking a shorter route to be finished before it gets too hot. I calculate the mileage I am hiking, and how long it should take me to complete it, and then start as early as needed to be finished before it warms up.
Temperature drops the higher in elevation you go. You will lose an average of 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet of elevation you gain, so the higher you go, the cooler it gets. Summer is the time I head to the mountains and bag a few peaks. Usually temps on the mountain are pretty moderate when it heats up off the mountain. Plus, usually mountain trails have more trees than non-mountain trails so there is typically more shade.
Wear Proper Clothing
Wearing the proper clothing for hiking in warm weather can really improve how comfortable you are. Wear loose fitting, light colored, and breathable synthetic materials that cover your skin. Make sure the clothing you choose has a UPF factor of 30+ and if it has venting, you’ll be even cooler. Brands like Columbia, REI’s Sahara, ExOfficio, Arc’teryx, and Outdoor Research all have great hot weather hiking shirt options.
My favorites are the Omni Freeze shirts from Columbia and the Sahara shirts from REI.
Also, wear a hat and add a neck gaiter with cooling properties dunked in water as well. I usually jut wear an old-fashioned bandana but sometimes will opt for a technical neck gaiter instead if it will be extra warm.
Here is the neck gaiter I use:
Carry Extra Water
Dehydration can be a real threat when hiking in dry and warm weather. I always bring way more than enough water when I hike, and even more if it’s warm out. I also drink from a bladder instead of a bottle so water is easily available to me throughout the hike. If you are new to hiking, especially in warm temperatures, I would recommend a minimum of one liter per hour of hiking. I also carry a life straw in my first aide kit so I am able to drink filtered water from the source should I run out of water. Of course, there would need to be water available on the trail for me to use the straw which is fairly uncommon in Southern California. Make sure to include electrolytes such as Nuun tablets in your first aide kit for added electrolytes and minerals that are lost when you sweat.
Leave Your Pup at Home
I love hiking with my pup more than anything but when the temperature rises, I leave him at home. As a general rule, I will not take him with me if the temperature at the hottest part of my hike will be higher than 75 degrees. My dog is black so he gets hotter faster than a lighter colored dog. Also, take into consideration the ground temperature. If hiking on surfaces that absorb heat (pavement, sand, etc. make sure your pup’s paws will not get burned. If you are unable to hold the back of your hand on the ground for longer than 10 seconds, your dog’s paws will get burned. You can also outfit your pup with booties such as these to protect their feet from the hot ground.
Make sure you have plenty of water for your dog, along with a pack-able bowl for them to drink out of. Dogs tend to hide their symptoms if they are in distress, so they may not show any heat related symptoms until it is too late. If you have any doubt about bringing them with you, leave them home. Check out this infographic from Pet Plan Insurance that outlines temperatures and hiking with your dog.
We hope you have a happy summer full of amazing hikes!
We all know hiking is great for your physical body and can build strength, help to maintain a healthy weight, improve balance and coordination, strengthen cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and help control diabetes but what can it do for our minds? Check out these 5 benefits hiking has on your mind.
1. Hiking helps relieve anxiety.
“Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety," says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society. "Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that."
Taking a hike in nature means getting away from your everyday stress, slowing down, re-connecting with yourself, and becoming present in your surroundings. The sounds of nature, birds, flowing water, wind in the trees have a calming effect on your brain and help to stop any anxiety you may have.
2. Hiking lowers levels of rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self).
A Stanford led study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found “through a controlled experiment, we investigated whether nature experience would influence rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self), a known risk factor for mental illness. Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment. These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world”.
Negative thoughts can cause self esteem issues, low confidence, fatigue, less clarity of mind, and now are being associated with illness and disease. These thoughts can be improved with just a 90 minute hike in nature!
3. Hiking makes you feel happy.
Dopamine and Serotonin are two neurochemicals that make you feel happy. Dopamine is responsible for improving mood and stimulating pleasurable feelings. Serotonin helps to decrease depression and anger and is known as the happy chemical. According to research conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, they found that just a single 40-minute period of exercise can have an immediate effect on mood. It is believed that this effect on mood is due to what is known sometimes as a “runners high” which comes from an increase in dopamine after a run (or a hike).
4. Hiking keeps you in the present moment.
"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present"- Eckhart Tolle
Although you might day dream a bit while hiking, for the most part you are in the present moment for most of your hike. It’s hard to hike on a trail without being conscious of where your feet are, if you’re thirsty, paying attention to not getting lost, etc. You are forced to stay in the present moment to be able to hike without getting hurt or lost.
So what is so good about being in the present moment? The ability to be mindful can create improved focus & concentration, help to make clearer decisions, improve memory, improve mood, and promote peaceful thoughts. It also allows your mind to re-connect to your body and become aware of emotions, feelings, and anything you may not have been aware of while distracted.
5. Hiking boosts creativity and problem solving.
Research showed that a four day immersion in nature while disconnected from technology and/or multi media increased performance on creativity and problem-solving tasks a full 50% for the hikers involved in the experiment. The study found that technology and urban environments are greatly distracting, thus taking away from the ability to focus and have a negative impact on cognitive skills. Unplugging and stepping into nature for a hike will boost creativity and cognitive skills.
Whether you're a Zen Master or not, the benefits of hiking go on and on including these five benefits to your mind while hiking.
Five years ago today, I was laying in the dirt on a trail with a shattered and dislocated ankle with pieces of bone pressing against my skin so hard I developed fracture blisters that left scars that still remind me everyday of my accident. I literally felt like I could die from the pain before the fire department (aka amazing hero angels) would have time to get to me. I was supposed to be celebrating my birthday, not waiting to be rescued from one of my favorite trails. As I laid there, mostly in shock, and in indescribable pain, I couldn’t have imagined one day I would be grateful for my injury. I could have never guessed how much my life would change for the better, and how that traumatic injury would open a new path to becoming a happier and healthier me.
You see, before my accident, I was kind of a mess. I didn’t know how to say no to anyone, I was a hopeless perfectionist, an obsessive over achiever, a workaholic, and a chronic people pleaser. I never put myself first, and took care of everyone else before my needs were met. I lived mostly in the past, chained to past failures and hurts I didn’t know how to let go of, and my stress and anxiety were so out of control I began to manifest OCD symptoms, and panic attacks were fairly common. I was unhappy and really good at avoiding my emotions by staying busy and never stopping (physically, mentally, or spiritually) to feel them, let alone deal with them. It wasn’t the true me and it wasn’t healthy.
It’s amazing now looking back at my injury, and the difficult recovery, and being able to see what a special time that was for me. I’ve found my recovery, as hard as it was physically and even more so emotionally, was where the true healing was. I literally was forced to be quiet with myself for months. After two surgeries and two months in a wheelchair I couldn’t run out and help someone else when my emotions came up. I sat on my couch in pain, physically and emotionally, and was forced to feel what I had pushed down for so long. I cried- I cried so much, years worth of tears I never allowed to flow. I wrote in my blog and I started to feel myself healing. I started to feel like me again. I also understood how healing and important hiking was for me and knew it was something I really wanted to be able to do again and would not take for granted. I had a deep awakening and my perception really changed. I realized I had been living a life I didn’t want anymore and that I could change it as I create my own reality. The magic was already inside of me to do so, and all I had to do was turn it on.
I truly believe that everything in life (whether you perceive it as “good” or “bad”) happens for you and not to you. It took a severe injury and months of recovery and then five years of walking a new path to really understand the beauty in that. I’m still healing in so many ways, as we all are, and am grateful I am able to get in nature and hike as much as I can. Hiking is the one thing that puts my perspective back in a healthy place when I start to feel the old people pleasing, perfectionist, anxious, stressed out me show up. It truly is magical and now I get to share that magic with so many people through Hike It Off and even more with the launch of the magazine. This is my purpose. This is who I really am and I am so thankful for this journey, even the really tough and painful parts. So happy birthday to me and thank you for following me on this incredible journey we call life.
For the first time in many years Dry Lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness is full! It’s absolutely stunning so take a hike up soon and enjoy the beauty! Here’s a great trail write up to plan your hike with:
I love hikes that are full of history and if they have an old mine I literally freak out. So of course this hike has been on my radar for awhile to check out.
The Big Horn Mine was staked in 1891 by a man named Charles Tom Vincent, aka Charles Vincent Dougherty after finding gold while hunting the area's Big Horn Sheep. Many others owned and operated the mine off and on up until 1985 when it was deemed not feasible to continue operation of the mine. For the full history click here:
For details on the mine stats here:
The trail starts at the Vincent Gap Trailhead. Instead of heading up to Baden Powell, take a left and head down the trail towards Mine Gulch. It is pretty straight forward after this. Follow the old wagon road that winds along the creek and enjoy the beautiful views of Mt. Baldy. The trail will start to go back up and you will see a sign that points you towards Mine Gulch- stay right and continue along the wagon road that hugs the back side of Baden Powell. At just over 2 miles the mine will come into sight. Great area to explore and take pictures. Return the same way you came.
Elevation Gain: +/- 550 ft
Elevation at Mine: +/- 7,000 ft
Details: Dog Friendly (Leash Required), Adventure Pass Required for Parking, Year Round Hiking, Fairly Maintained Trail (there was a washed out section but it was passable), Primitive Restrooms at Trailhead
Trailhead: Vincent Gap- https://goo.gl/maps/vCYWMaQxAA4tbphN8
Park Information: www.fs.usda.gov/angeles/
As a 5'9" tall woman with a super long torso and "junk in the trunk" finding hiking clothing that fits well has always been a challenge. Pants are usually too short and bottoms are too tight in the rear and saggy at the waist. So I can empathize with all the women who just can't seem to find anything that fits, especially if the brand doesn't even carry your size.
One of our criteria for our gear reviews includes whether or not that brand carries plus sized gear and clothing. It is so important for women of all shapes to be included in the outdoors and good gear and clothing for us is a must. So I put a list of my top 5 favorite brands that also carry plus sized clothing and/or gear that is legit.
PrAna makes my favorite hiking pants ever, the Halle Pant. They are durable, super comfortable, water resistant, breathable, have a 50 UPF sun protection and plenty of give. They just fit super well and look cute too. They offer them in sizes 00-22W and have short, regular, and tall inseams. The Halle Pant comes in multiple colors and has pockets! They are cross functional and can be used as climbing, hiking, office, travel, and hang out pants. Here's a video of me wearing them in action on a 4-day backpacking trip through Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite NP.
P.S. Ignore the terrified look on my face ( I hate log crossings).
2. Purple Rain Adventure Skirts
We love Purple Rain skirts and their Founder Mandy Bland. She is such an inspiration as an entrepreneur and Mom. Her innovative design for the skirts make them practical for the trail and so comfortable. They are lightweight, durable and dry in a flash with 88% Polyester/12% Spandex blend and DWR finish. They are super cute with leggings for added warmth and modesty. Waistbands are woven with moisture wicking yarn to keep you dry and cool and they have UV Protection 40+. They are sized XS-XXL and she also can custom make any size needed with a special order.
3. REI Co-Op
REI is doing an awesome job of adding more and more plus sized clothing and gear in their own brand and carrying more from other brands as well. I adore the Sahara shirt and literally live in them (hiking or not). It fits me way better than Columbia's version of a hiking shirt in the chest and is longer in the torso. They also have a more modern cut to them and work off trail too. The Sahara shirt has:
I love hiking in yoga/tights especially ones with side pockets for my phone. Athleta makes an awesome pair of 7/8 tights that have a side pocket hat my phone fits perfectly in. They are high quality and mid-waisted and come in sizes XS-2X with regular, tall, and petite inseams.
Pant details are:
Although I am not a fan of their sun shirts, Columbia makes some great jackets for the cost that come in sizes 00-3X. I have used my Columbia rain jacket for three seasons and it is still holding up and waterproof and I got it for less than $60 on sale!