Every now and then, we get lucky. I don’t mean moderately lucky, like when the red light changes and you don’t have to stop. I mean totally lucky, as in the red light being the one thing that keeps you from being in the path of a speeding auto that would definitely put a dent in your head. Maybe lucky isn’t the word… maybe it’s blessed.
I’ve been blessed many times times in my life: Jesus, meeting & marrying Mr. Dirty, the Dirty Offspring, Dirty Nana & Papa, the Dirty Siblings, and the Filthy Friends. I don’t generally speak of material items as blessings, but they totally are. I’ve been blessed with George – my favorite Subaru – and Sweet Melissa, my Scott mountain bike.
Lately, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research (read: compulsively reading) in preparation for my upcoming hike. I’ve been lucky, or blessed, to have found some awesome products for backpacking. These are things that I know will ease the “trail torture.” Yes, backpacking is hard work…. but it’s supposed to be fun! Right?? You’ve GOT to check these out. (FYI: not compensated or bribed in any way…just enjoying some cool stuff)
1. Merrell Proterra Vim Sport
I have went back and forth on what shoes I want to wear on my section hike this summer. I thought that I had settled on my Merrell barefoot runners. I was so certain these were the shoes that I would wear that I wrote an entire blog post about them!!. Are they? Nope. This spring, Merrell introduced the Proterra minimalist hiking shoes for men and the Proterra Vim for women. I finally broke down and bought a pair…
Merrell Proterra Vim Sports
The Proterras aren’t true barefoot shoes, but they are minimalist hikers. Difference? A barefoot shoe has a zero drop (meaning zero difference between the toe and the heel) whereas the Proterras have a 4mm drop (4mm of padding in the heel… not technical definition, but maybe easier to understand).
I’ve been wearing these pretty regularly – shopping, work, Dirty Boy’s soccer games – and they are pretty comfy for regular wear. The weather had been pretty crappy & kept us off the trails for the last few weeks. Finally, spring is here!! We took Dirty Boy and Hiking Ninja to the state park to get some hiking in… not much was accomplished after Mr. Dirty gracefully twisted his ankle and landed on his back. Ouch!
For the three and a half miles that we did get to hike, I was so pleased with the shoes. They provided more lateral stability than my pace gloves and weighed less than my Keen Targhees. I was reminded during a chilly stream crossing – when I missed the rock where my foot was supposed to go – that these are not waterproof hikers. Was it a problem? Nope. They dried out rather fast, and my feet were comfortable for all of the hike.
I went back to the state park on my own – Mr. Dirty was at work, the Dirty Boy was at the beach with Hiking Ninja, and the Dirty Girl was sleeping in – for an 8 mile hike. The Proterra’s were fabulous! No hot spots, lots of lateral support when going through the rocky part of the trail, dried quickly after stream crossings, close to the ground so that I could still feel the connectedness that I love.
Best part?? Mr. Dirty says this makes me prissy (me? Really??), but I love that they match my backpack 🙂
2. Osprey Aura (65 liter)
When you are carrying your house on your back, you want to be as comfortable as possible. An ill-fitting pack can make or break an entire trip. Any good turtle worth his weight in sea salt would tell you that it is important that your “home” move with you without being an encumbering nuisance. It needs to be a part of you…. enter: Osprey Aura.
Backpacking with the Aura at Enchanted Rock in 2008
This isn’t a new pack for me. Rather, it’s like a really good friend whose been hanging around awhile. I bought my Aura in 2008 and love her. I’ve loaded her up with about 35 pounds for backpacking trips (I no longer carry that weight) and hiked without complaints. Most of the time I feel unencumbered by the weight of the pack and can move, bend, jump, and dance (yes, dance) as naturally as without the pack. I’ve used many different packs, but this is the only one that actually feels like it is an extension of myself.
Right now, she is loaded with 26 pounds for the AT section hike. I’m comfortable with the weight – after 35 pounds, 26 feels like nothing! The weight rides on the hips, the straps are adjusted, and the hiker is ready to hike!
I grew up in North Florida; it was rare that we had a need for wool. While Mr. Dirty can cite the strengths and weaknesses of wool, I could speak to the benefits of cotton, lycra, and spandex. Don’t look at me like like that! Of course there are benefits of lycra and spandex!! It’s even better when it’s neon flavored, of course.
Neon Spandex makes you smile!
Anyhow!! Wool. We were talking about wool. Being a Southern girl, I never had much need for wool. It was hot& itchy. No, thank you. Recently, Mr. Dirty turned me on to Smartwool. I don’t know how they did it (and the how really isn’t all that important, is it??), but this wool isn’t itchy. I know it has something to do with the sheep… maybe they gave them allergy pills? Kept them well hydrated? De-bugged them?? I don’t know, but I like it!
Smart sheep make Smartwool!
In the interest of making this a somewhat thorough post – instead of the side tracked mess it can so quickly become – I googled it (not really. I went to the Smartwool website. I just like the word googled). Smartwool comes from merino sheep who live & work in the southern hemisphere. In the winter, these sheep need wool to keep them warm; however, they need something to keep them from scorching in the summer. Since neon lycra and spandex have yet to make it to the sheep world, their little bodies have adapted the wool to create one that keeps them warm in the winter & cool in the summer. The geniuses – they call themselves geeks – at Smartwool have created some kind of fancy blend that combines the wool with a synthetic; therefore, it doesn’t itch. Who knew we would get a science lesson today? Not me. I teach English.
After having Smartwool thrust upon me by my loving spouse, I started digging into it’s benefits, other than the itch factor: warms in winter, cools in summer, doesn’t retain odors. The odor thing did it for me. You know how after a big hiking trip you have to wash certain clothing items multiple times just to remove the stench? You don’t have that problem with Smartwool!
I’ve tested it by wearing the same pair of socks for three days. I know, I know. “That’s gross & unsanitary!” At least I didn’t test the Smartwool thong yet!! Yes, they have a thong. No, I haven’t gotten over the mental image of wool in the final frontier in order to try it. I shudder at the thought!! Anyhow. After three days, my feet still smelled like laundry soap! My poor Comrade-in-Arms (hereafter known as CIA) was subjected to me constantly sniffing my feet to see if they smelled. She, of course, thought it was hilarious when the kids asked to smell. Middle school kids…. you gotta love them. Maybe there is a reason I teach sixth grade instead of college. How many college professors sniff their socks??
Merrell Proterra Vim Sports with Smartwool socks
If all Smartwool made was socks, I would be okay with it, because their socks are amazing…especially the super smart PhD minis. But the Lord sent his many blessings down to all of us in the form of a full Smartwool clothing line (remember the thong… it really exists… just not in my wardrobe). What IS in my wardrobe? I have the midweight long underwear tops & bottoms, in teal of course (these are not your daddy’s long John’s!), two short sleeve crews (of course one is pink), and more socks than I can count (remember, I teach English – not Math).
What would I add to my wardrobe if Smartwool weren’t so darn expensive? The PhD HyFi vest and the Cortina skirt. One day, I will make them mine! In all honesty, Smartwool is not cheap; however, there are some places where you can can find products at a reasonable rate: REI-Outlet, 6PM.com, Sierra Trading Post.
4. My Monkey Ball
Dirty Papa at Old People Camp
According to most of the old folks at Old People Camp (love you guys!), this is technically called a monkey’s fist. Hiking Ninja doesn’t like calling it a monkey’s fist, because it reminds her of animal cruelty… like a rabbit’s foot for luck. I guess a monkey’s ball is less cruel? I love that girl. She’s awesome.
So, anyhow!! As you all know, I was having a few problems (understatement of the year!) with the hanging of the bear bag. Robsdak from BCUSA took pity on me and made me a monkey ball… in hot pink! It is much easier to toss the monkey ball over a branch than my toiletry kit. Duh, right? The heft of the monkey ball makes it easier to toss – like throwing a tiny baseball with a tail. The beauty – other than being hot pink – is that I can use it to keep Mr. Dirty in line (just kidding, Honey Bear…. LOL! I don’t really call him Honey Bear… Who does that?).
Monkey Ball courtesy of Robsdak via “BCUSA”
I was showing off my new monkey ball to my Sunday School teacher (doesn’t everyone do that at church?), and he was impressed with the quality of workmanship. I knew it was a beauty and well made, but having never made one before, I was unaware of how to tell a good monkey ball from a bad monkey ball. Mine? It’s one of the good ones… and it’s pink, hot pink! Now I really sound girly!
This past weekend, we met our hiking partners – Hinky DiDi & Ninja Lumberjack – at Old People Camp. While we were there, we practiced using the monkey ball to hoist the bear bag. We practiced and practiced and practiced. I know some of our crazy relatives thought we had lost our minds, but we eventually mastered it.
Mr. Dirty, aka Honey Bear – NOT! – trying to reach our bear bag
Monkey Ball & Bear Bag
There was only one close call, but we learned our lesson. From now on, we will stand further away when pulling the string that is attached to a monkey ball which is dangling precariously over our heads! I felt sure that I was going to clock Hinky DiDi, and she thought I was trying to bean my own brains out. Luckily, no one was hurt, and we live to laugh another day.
Hiking Ninja & Dirty Boy being photo bombed by Mr. Dirty
Ninja Lumberjack & Hinky DiDi
5. Skirt Sports
I’ve never really been a girlie girl. I never liked wearing skirts and dresses. I refuse to wear heels unless it’s a formal occasion (more out of self preservation). No pink. No frills. No fake nails.
I don’t know what happened to me. All of a sudden, I have a pink striped mountain bike, pink helmet, pink pistol, pink rifle, pink range bag – complete with pink hearing protection & pink targets, pink monkey ball, pink iPod, and pink camouflage pants for the gun range! Who is this person, and why does it look like a Pepto commercial?!
Where did all the pink come from??
Looking back, I remember distinctly reading an article during Breast Cancer Awareness month about the power of pink. (Mr. Dirty lost a beloved aunt to breast cancer. It’s a terrible disease.) The article talked about the hidden strength of women and about how they never give up. I think that article has something to do with all my new pink pretties. That combined with an arrogant young soldier at the gun range who said he was shocked that a “little lady” like me didn’t have a pink pistol, then proceeded to attempt to teach me to shoot. I don’t think he liked it much when I shot better than him nor when I offered advice on how to correct his stance.
But I digress… this is supposed to be about Skirt Sports!
I’ve recently started hiking in skirts, because the breeze is amazing! The added benefit of peeling in the woods is pretty awesome, too. If you knew me – and I mean really knew me – you would know how odd this is. My sweet friend, Susie, was shocked to read that I hike in skirts. In all the years that we’ve known each other, I’ve never worn them. Susie is a girlie girl… skirts, heels, pearls. The whole nine yards. Of course, this skirt thing would happen AFTER she moved away. Guess she’s going to have to come back to believe it….
While looking for the perfect hiking skirt, I stumbled upon Skirt Sports. The company was started by a runner, Nicole DeBoom, because she wanted to look more feminine while competing in triathlons. Just because you are enjoying a male dominated past time doesn’t mean you have to look like a boy! When Muddy Buddy & I participate in mud runs, we always wear our sequined skirts. Even dirty girls like to sparkle!!
Eeesh! I’m chasing rabbit’s again. Skirt Sport makes a hiking skirt, appropriately named Adventure Girl skirt. This skirt is what Title Nine (the company, not the law… look them both up, you’ll be glad you did) calls a Skirt With Benefits. Some people call them skorts. When I think of a skort, I see the back split like shorts with a Skirt front. Right? I like the “skirt with benefits” idea, though. After all, it’s the benefits that I’m interested in.
The Adventure Girl is made of this new fabric called S’cafe. It’s an odor resistant (you know how I love odor resistant!) fabric made from recycled coffee beans that also offers UV protection. If you get hot & sweaty, you can squeeze the sweat from the skirt like a French press & have a latte! Kidding, don’t try that unless your name is Bear Grylls.
The skirt has five pockets – three on the skirt and two on the compression shorties underneath. I’ve hiked 8 miles with my phone in the shorties pocket without really worrying about it falling out. Of course, the terrain was pretty flat. I also carry my pink Benchmade folding pocketknife in a shorties pocket. One of the pockets is made for your iPod and has a headphone port for the cord (pretty standard feature for Skirt Sports). Check this out!
Skirt Sports has a full line of athletic clothing. I also have the Happy Girl, which I love for its longer length and pink shorties! These skirts give you the freedom to DO without feeling exposed or like a boy. I like that the compression shorts which are built into the skirt have these tiny air holes in the fabric (think lycra cheese cloth) which increases the air flow. It’s like tiny air conditioners for your booty!
By the way, like Smartwool, Skirt Sports can be pricey. You can find them at a decent price through 6pm.com, Sierra Trading Post, and Amazon.com
So there you have it. Five fabulously filthy finds. It would be nice to say, “tell them Mrs. Dirty sent you.” But who am I kidding, they wouldn’t have a clue who you were talking about!!!