Gear Round Up! Are you thinking about new gear? Interested in investing in your own backpacking gear after years of borrowing others' gear? Below, I've listed my 10 Essentials for Backpacking in Florida. If you have any questions about the following gear, let me know. I personally own and love every product listed here.
Smartwool PhD Run Light Women's Socks
There isn't much to say about these socks. I love them, You don't need heavy wool socks in Florida, you just don't. These wick sweat well, I don't need sock liners (gosh, remember those?!), and they don't stretch out. I wear these with boots and running shoes because they are a great multitasker. They work really well with my Merrell boots.
Osprey Aura 65 Backpack
If I didn't seriously love this pack, it wouldn't be on this list. Really. Everyone has a pack or borrows one, they don't need to be told what pack to love in a typical gear round up. I made an exception for this pack because it is the best I've ever owned and I've heard a lot of women say this. Particularly women with a petite frame. It's really difficult to find a comfortable pack for a petite woman's frame that isn't a youth pack. Youth packs work ... enough. This is an awesome pack for a petite outdoor woman!
I love the flexible packing options, the super comfortable and adjustable hipbelt, the air-flow technology on my back, and the collapsible nature of this 65 Litre pack. Big enough for several days on the trail without food drops and yet, can collapse small enough to be useful on a one-night backpacking trip.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunscreen
Is it odd to have this on the list? Not in Florida! All the sunscreen!
This is my go-to sunscreen. This sunscreen is not greasy, has fantastic coverage, and can be worn alone or under makeup. Additionally, I have issues with sunscreen on my face because apparently I have sensitive skin. This sunscreen doesn't burn my face or leave it tender. As far as sunscreen goes, it is kind of pricey at $10-15 a bottle but coverage is great with a small amount of product. I go through approximately two bottles a year and I wear sunscreen at least four days a week. That said, my husband uses it a bit more aggressively and goes through them quicker.
Platypus Big Zip SL, 3-Litre
I love this hydration pack for a few very particular reasons. First of all, it works. Plain and simple! It works well with little fussing. The zip-top may scare some but I have no complaints. In fact, I love the zip top for it's wide opening and ease of use. My previous bladder (the other 'big' brand) had an awful 'ergonomic' opening that was near impossible to open by me, my husband, and several other adults who would inevitably need to help me fill the bladder before hiking out. No one wants to be that person.
Another reason I love this hydration bladder is the quick-release on the hose. The quick release is just one more small feature that makes using this bladder so easy. No more hose dragging in the dirt while I try to balance the filtered water and my bladder! Yay!
In case you need another reason to try this bladder, there is an extra piece of plastic in the middle of the bladder holding the front and back together at a certain distance. This prevents the bladder from spreading into a full cylinder when filling and instead, keeps it in a shape that built-in bladder pockets are designed to hold. Again, a very small feature that makes this bladder very easy to use.
Black Diamond: Apollo Lantern
I literally cannot count how many lanterns I have owned for car camping and backpacking. Everytime someone would ask if I would recommend one, I'd always get stuck on, "Well, I like this one but...". That is, until we discovered the Black Diamond Apollo Lantern. This little lantern has several features that put it at the top of my list.
Columbia Saturday Shorts
I reviewed these in my post, New Backpacking Gear, Purchased for Philmont, so I'll keep it short here. I love these shorts. They dry quick, stay 'in place' when hiking, resist dirt and smell, and simpley put: fit well. They fit true-to-size in my opinion and I have multiple pairs. Columbia has once again hit it out of the park.
Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L Filter System
Last fall I was in the market for a new water filter for some upcoming canoe and backpacking trips with groups of up to nine people. After talking with some friends who have bought filters in the past few years, the answer was clear. For a group of people, the gravity-fed Platypus filter would fit my needs best.
The system features very clearly marked 'clean' and 'dirty' water bladders. After filling the dirty bladder, one simply hangs it in a tree or something above the ground and walks away. After a few minutes (depends on turbidity of the water), you have fresh, clean, potable water. If you are hiking in an area known for chemicals, toxins, or viruses you'll need to look for something else but this filter is effective against "Bacteria and Protozoa, including Giardia, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Salmonella and Cholera" according to the instructions.
Petzl Tikkina 2 Headlamp
Update: Petzl Tikkina 2 no longer available, see newer model: $19.95
As far as headlamps go, this one is pretty basic but I find it very reliable. I was so sick of headlamps that had cheap battery cases, loose bands, loose tilt features, etc. I just wanted a good lamp with reliable features and I didn't want to spend $100 to get it. This Petzl, while basic, fits the bill and comes in at only $23. That's all there is to it. It's a well-made and reliable piece of necessary equipment.
This lamp has a highbeam, lowbeam, and flashing beam, all in white LED light. There is a more expensive model that features a red light; I occasionally wish I purchased that version.
Chaco ZX/2 Yampa Sandals
I love Chacos. I purchased my first pair in 2005 and having run those into the ground, I finally replaced them in 2014. They are pricey at $100 on average but they will literally last five years or longer; mine lasted about seven years before they really started to fall apart. I've owned the single strap and the double strap. Why did I include sandals on a list for backpacking? Because I am a firm believer that you should bring camp shoes which allow your feet breathe and provide arch support. These sandals are great for side hikes and as camp shoes. I never go camping without them and occasionally, they are the only pair of shoes I bring. I'm never afraid I'll loose my footing in these sandals.
Some people ask if the toe-strap is bothersome but I love it. I do not like feeling like my foot is going to slip forward when standing on a slippery rock or in moving-water. Pro-Tip: Search Amazon for chacos and buy last year's colors at a discount. I purchased my husband's pair for $65.
Cocoon Silk MummyLiner
You'll notice I didn't include a sleeping bag or pad on this list. These are optional 90% of the year in Florida! It's not cold enough to require them and you can often find sugar sand to camp on for comfort and keeping with Leave No Trace. Additionally, I'm in the market for a new sleeping bag and wouldn't feel comfortable recommending my old bag as it is no longer sold and it isn't my perfect bag. I'm still looking for that.
So, if I don't think you need a sleeping bag what do you need? A Silk mummybag liner. This is an ideal substitute for a sleeping bag when the weather is above 70F at night, which it is! Most of the year! In most of the state! I highly recommend this piece of gear, which is usually considered optional. Really. This is a must-have in the hot and humid Florida environment. It saves weight and space, is machine washable, and feels so soft against your skin. I have the white one but I would recommend another color that doesn't show dirt and wear so easily.
All of these items were purchased online at various retailers, with no compensation for my review.
However, in the interest of full disclosure, I may earn a small commission if you purchase items through the links provided here. There is no increase in cost, to you or anyone else, associated with these links.
National Invasive Species Awareness Week
Did you know it is National Invasive Species Awareness Week? Better yet, do you know what an Invasive Species is and why they are a problem? If not, don't worry. It's a fairly easy concept.
There are three major categories applied to plants:
You may be asking yourself, "A pest? How can a plant be such a bad thing? Aren't they just growing where our native haven't been successful?" The answer is, yea - sort of. Invasive exotics may not seem like a big deal; a plant is a plant after all. Who cares if it is this plant or that plant? You should!
Oh, and did I mention the title of Invasive Exotic isn't limited to plants? Wildlife can earn this prestigious honor as well (please note the sarcasm...). An influx of invasive exotic species can lead to huge economic implications when flood control is impaired, parks become overrun with a vine shading out and killing all of the trees, or when wildlife populations are damaged due to predation.
According to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection study in 2001, the value of nature-based tourism was $7.8 billion dollars and the largest threat to that industry is exotic invasive species. In addition to the state's economy, which I imagine we would all like to improve, invasive species can wreck havoc in your yard, too. Invasive species can throw entire ecosystems and regional plant communities out of whack.
National Invasive Species Awareness Week is meant to spread the word regarding this fascinating and complex issue regarding exotic plants and animals. There's a rulle of tens associated with exotic species. It says,
10% of all introduced species will be able to reproduce and survive, and of those, 10% will become invasive.
This is a huge problem for Florida! With four major airports and at least three major seaports; we see hundreds, if not thousands, of new species every month. Those species will have an easy time avoiding detection for many years if we use history as an example. We need to improve public awareness of the issue. For instance, I'd venture to say that most of the population in Florida is familiar with the exotic species Burmese python, and those in north Florida with Kudzu vine but how many are familiar with ...
Want to know how YOU can get involved? I've borrowed some of these ideas from the Official NISAW website to share with you, check the website for more! Below, see five easy ways to get involved with #NISAW!
Thanks for reading about National Invasive Species Awareness Week! Did you learn something? Let me know in the comments below. Have a great #NISAW!
Below is an excerpt from a Letter to the Editor I wrote, published in The Lakeland Ledger at the end of January. Because it is posted in its entirety on The Ledger's website, I won't report the entire letter here. If you're interested, please click on the title to be taken to the Ledger's publication of this Letter.
A Solution to Air Potatoes
Published: Friday, January 30, 2015 at 12:01 a.m.
For those of you not familiar, air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) is an exotic invasive vine with large, heart-shaped, shiny leaves. It quickly grows into and over trees, shrubs, fences and anything left in your backyard too long...To reduce the population of air potato in your yard or neighborhood park, collect the potatoes and throw them away. They should not be put in compost piles or vegetation piles to be mulched or left in the garage. They are aggressive growers and will sprout and grow even in a dark room without water or soil. Trust me on that one.
To read the rest of the article, which includes information on residential air potato control, please click here.
If you are an educator looking for a new way to enhance your outreach efforts, consider submitting a Letter to the Editor to your local paper. The opinion section, often filled with anger, could use some uplifting information to engage the community! Letters to the Editor may be a great avenue for Extension faculty to engage a new audience in their program areas.
If this post has inspired you to write a letter to the editor, about natural resources or otherwise, let me know in the comments. I would love to read your letter!
Carnevale, S. “A Solution to Air Potatoes” The Lakeland Ledger 30 Jan. 2015: A12. Print.