Gifts for Girls Who are "One of the Guys"

Whenever I do anything outdoors, I’m almost always the only girl in the group. This means I’ve had plenty of time over the years to figure out the best gear to help me either keep up or kick butt. So, if you’re shopping for a girl who often finds herself in the same situation, here’s a list of things I use to make hanging out with a bunch of dudes easier and more fun.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Climbing: Petzl Elia Climbing Helmet

I was tired of a helmet that only sat on my head properly if my ponytail was in just the right spot. The boys were also tired of waiting for me to fix my hair before or after each climb. A few years ago, I received the Petzl Elia as a gift, and this problem hasn’t been an issue since! Other companies “girl-ify” helmets by simply making them in prettier colors, but taking it a step further, Petzl developed a headband that actually accommodates a ponytail in multiple positions. It also weighs just 10 ounces and adjusts to fit any head perfectly. So, your climber girl will probably forget she’s even wearing it and will have an extra-safe hike back to the car after a day of cragging.

Hiking and Camping: GoGirl Female Urination Device

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever wished I was, um, “built like a man.” But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of how much easier it is for my male hiking partners to heed nature’s call when we’re out on the trail. If the lady hiker on your list has ever complained about popping a squat in the woods, treat her to a GoGirl this holiday! Not only does it have a fun name (if you ignore the medieval-sounding “Female Urination Device” part of it), but it also helps level the pee-playing field and virtually eliminates the risk of getting poison ivy in unfortunate places.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Biking: CamelBak Women’s L.U.X.E. Hydration Pack

It might just be that my husband and his friends are crazy people, but they hate taking breaks during a bike ride. If I start to get hangry while we’re mountain biking, they’ll cave and let me take a quick food break. However, I wouldn’t stand a chance of staying properly hydrated without my Camelbak Women’s L.U.X.E Hydration Pack. If the biker chick on your list has to keep up with the boys, or if she’s the ambitious one who doesn’t like to stop, make sure she stays sufficiently watered out on the trail with this super-comfy pack that holds enough fluid to ride for hours on end.

Skiing: DryGuy Green HEAT 2-in-1 Heater

Just because the weather gets cold that doesn’t mean the outdoors-woman will stop adventuring. It does, however, mean she might need some extra help staying warm. Whenever I’m skiing, snowboarding, or winter hiking with the boys, it always seems like I’m the only one whose hands are freezing, no matter how nice my gloves or mittens are. Hand-warmer packs help a little, but the DryGuy GreenHEAT 2-in-1 Heater is the BEST. It’ll warm your snow sister’s hands instantly, recharge her phone (or headlamp), and help the planet by reducing hand-warmer waste—making it a win-win-win.

Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear
Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear

Paddling: MTI Moxie PFD

Don’t let your water woman settle for any ol’ life jacket. She may have to wait a few months to use it, but when she unwraps a made-for-her PFD like the MTI Moxie this holiday, she’ll be happier than a seagull with a french fry. What makes the Moxie so comfy is its Adjust-a-Bust fit System—certainly giggle-worthy every time she and her guy friends get on the water. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Courtesy: Mountainsmith
Courtesy: Mountainsmith

All of the Above: Mountainsmith Sixer

If all else fails, the Mountainsmith Sixer is always a safe bet. For a girl who’s one of the guys, you can be sure of one thing: Beers are a staple of every adventure. And, if the mountain maven you’re shopping for is the one who supplies the cold brews at the end of the day, she’ll always be the boys’ favorite bro.


MntnReview: 'Where You'll Find Me' by Ty Gagne

“Do you own a PLB?” my mom asked out of nowhere one afternoon this summer.

Embarrassingly, despite spending a decade of my life working in outdoor retail, I had to Google it to know what she was talking about. It’s a personal locator beacon, duh.

“Like, for skiing?” I asked, trying to put off telling her that I do not, in fact, have one.

“Like for any of the crazy stuff you and your husband do!”

[*eyeroll emoji*]

Eventually, I learned why she was suddenly so curious. She had attended a presentation given by Ty Gagne, author of Where You’ll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova, and had convinced herself that I would die on top of a mountain without one.

I remembered being equal parts sad and annoyed when the stories about Matrosova and her ill-fated hike of the Presidential Traverse first came to light in February 2015.

When Gagne’s book was finally released about two months later, I came home from work to find a copy sitting on my front porch—courtesy of my mom. I held off on reading it for a few weeks, however. I was in the middle of a different book at the time, and I remembered being equal parts sad and annoyed when the stories about Matrosova and her ill-fated hike of the Presidential Traverse first came to light in February 2015. And, I wasn’t in a hurry to revisit those feelings.

Kate Matrosova
Kate Matrosova

But, once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

Roughly the first half consists of Gagne meticulously piecing together what happened as Matrosova attempted to complete the northern section of the Presidential Traverse (from Madison to Washington) in one day, by herself. Throughout, Gagne tells Matrosova’s story in incredible detail—and without judgment. Data gleaned from her Suunto watch and Garmin GPS, in addition to Gagne’s own exhaustive research, puts her journey together. While he factors in the broader psychology of risk analysis and decision making, he further makes it clear how easy it would be for any confident, hyper-motivated hiker to make the same mistakes.

It further reminds you that, no matter how prepared you may be, how much experience you have, or how detailed a game plan you’ve created for yourself, when you head into the mountains, you are at their mercy.

The book’s second half reconstructs the search and rescue (SAR) effort. Specifically, this pertains to the timeline from the minute NH Fish and Game received the call about Matrosova activating her PLB to the moment the rescue teams returned to the trailhead with her body. Among my personal knowledge of the area, recognizing some of the rescue crew (shout out to Charlie Townsend, a former EMS Climbing School Guide), and Gagne’s ability to explain the entire SAR process in such great-yet-easy-to-comprehend detail, the story gets especially compelling.

As winter approaches and hikers begin to think about their seasonal objectives, reading Where You’ll Find Me should be at the top of your to-do list. Not only is the book a quick and easy read, but it further reminds you that, no matter how prepared you may be, how much experience you have, or how detailed a game plan you’ve created, when you head into the mountains, you are at their mercy. Oh, and if you happen to have a super-motivated but PLB-less hiker in your life, don’t be afraid to “mom” them and give them a copy of Where You’ll Find Me as a hint gift!


Best Water Bottles For Outdoor Activities

If I remember correctly, my first purchase as an EMS employee back in 2003 was a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle. It’s a blue one with a black cap, and it’s certainly showing its age these days, though I’ve covered most of the dings and scratches with stickers. When the fact that I’m still using a water bottle that is MORE THAN A DECADE OLD sinks in, I bet your first thought will be “ew,” followed closely by “why hasn’t this weirdo invested in a new bottle already?” But I promise I do have others—a pretty large collection of them, actually—and that blue one isn’t the only one I regularly use. (Also, if you ask me, it’s a great example of how well-made Nalgene products are!)

AshleyBottle

In fact, my water bottle collection sprawls from my refrigerator (where I always have a few cold ones on standby) to a water bottle drawer in my pantry to my desk at work. They are of various shapes and sizes, and made of a variety of materials. And almost every single one of them has a distinct purpose. So if you find yourself a little overwhelmed by the number of bottle options presented to you, either in our stores or on ems.com, here are some examples of which type of water bottle I like best for each activity.

For climbing, camping, and everyday thirst quenching…

…I prefer either a classic Nalgene or a Hydro Flask bottle. Nalgene bottles are great not only because they come in a bunch of different sizes, shapes, and colors, but also because they’re virtually indestructible, so I know that if I accidentally drop my bottle at the crag it’ll stay intact.

camp-climb-everyday

The one drawback to a Nalgene, however, is that it won’t exactly keep your water cold. So if I know the weather is going to be particularly hot, I’ll opt for a Hydro Flask bottle instead. Thanks to their double-wall construction, these bad boys keep water cold for 24 hours and they’re available in sizes from 18 oz all the way up to 64oz. If you’re in the anti-plastic bottle camp, Hydro Flasks are an especially great choice for you, since they’re made of stainless steel. This also makes them more durable.

For (road) biking…

…the choice is clear: bike bottles. The options here are significantly narrower, and it really just depends on what size bottle you want and if you want one that is insulated or not. (For mountain biking, you’ll be better off with a biking-specific hydration pack.)

bike

An added benefit of bike bottles is that they are convenient in many other areas, too—since they’re made to fit in narrow bottle cages, they tend to also fit really well in car cup holders and the molded-in drink holders in most kayaks. The “jet valve” in CamelBak bottles makes it easy for you to drink while you’re riding–just squeeze the bottle and keep on chugging.  PRO TIP: If you like your water as cold as possible, fill your CamelBak Podium Chill halfway with ice cubes and then put the bottle in your freezer the night before your ride. The next day, top the bottle off with water and and it will stay cold for hours.

For hiking…

…it’s usually between a Nalgene bottle and a hydration pack for me. But these collapsible bottles are also a great option, especially if you’re really into saving weight and space in your pack.

hike

For yoga (and more everyday use)…

…a bottle with a straw is the best. Yoga classes that make you thirsty also tend to be fairly fast-paced, so you don’t want to have to waste time unscrewing the cap on your bottle just to take a sip. With a bottle like the Camelbak Eddy, it’s so quick and easy to grab a quick gulp that you can do it without even coming out of down dog if you want.

Bottles with straws are also great for everyday use, especially if you’re the type of person who tends to end up wearing more water than you actually drink with a regular bottle.

So there you have it, my personal guide to staying hydrated during your favorite outdoor activity. No matter which bottle you choose, just be sure to fill it, drain it and repeat OFTEN–especially during the summer.

Do you have a water bottle that’s worked well for your over the years? Leave a comment or share a photo on the Eastern Mountain Sports Facebook page


What Not to Wear: Climbing in Hot Weather

Doing anything outside when it’s really hot can be uncomfortable, and climbing in hot weather is no exception. You may not get quite as sweaty as you do during other activities, but you’ll still get pretty ripe, and wearing the wrong clothes will only make matters worse.

In an effort to save you from some really uncomfortable experiences when when climbing in hot weather, here are a few What Not To Wear items along with some rock climbing apparel suggestions for more comfortable days at the crag.

WNTW #1: Cotton tees/tank tops

If you’ve been doing outdoorsy things for a while, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Cotton Kills” and just because climbing isn’t necessarily as high-intensity as hiking or trail running doesn’t mean you won’t work up a healthy sweat. The ensuing sweat stains on a cotton tee are not only super gross for your climbing partner(s) to have to look at all day, they also take forever to dry and will make you really uncomfortable. Unless it’s so hot out that you decide to climb in an air conditioned gym, leave the cotton tees at home.

Joe in Cotton
Eastern Mountain Sports Brand Ambassador and pro climber Joe Kinder LOVES climbing in cotton shirts in the spring and fall, but for everyone else, synthetic is a better choice.
Alternative: Synthetic tees/ tank tops

It’s pretty common knowledge that synthetic shirts are a much better choice for lots of hot-weather activities. Climbing is no different. Synthetic tees, like Techwick, pull moisture away from your skin and somehow magically reduce the size of your sweat stains. They also dry waaayyyy faster than their cotton counterparts, so you’ll be a lot more comfortable.

WNTW #2: Black, or other dark colors

On a related note, also leave anything black at home. Assuming you were raised by humans instead of wild animals (you can’t listen to wild animals)they know nothing about dealing with hot weather except that the’re physiologically superior at it), you already know that dark colors absorb heat, which in turn makes you feel even hotter. So save your goth/emo/ninja look for another (less hot) day.

This ensemble worked fine during this fall climbing lesson at EMS Schools, but in August, this kid would ROAST.
This ensemble worked fine during this fall climbing lesson at EMS Schools, but in August, this kid would ROAST.
Alternative: Light colors

The rules of logic indicate that if dark colors absorb sunlight/heat and make you feel hotter, then lighter colors will reflect sunlight/heat and help you not feel quite so hot. Keep this in mind when getting dressed for a hot day of climbing and you’ll be a lot happier.

WNTW #3: Short shorts/Basketball shorts

Ladies: Short shorts are one of those things that seem like a good idea at the time. You think, it’s really hot out, so I want to wear as little as possible. But then you start climbing and realize that not only are you probably giving your belayer an awkward free show every time you need to high step or heel hook, but your harness is super uncomfortable when it’s digging directly into your skin. There are plenty of other opportunities to rock your booty shorts during the summer: don’t torture yourself by wearing them at the crag.

Guys: You’re not playing basketball when you’re climbing, so don’t dress like you are. The bagginess of basketball shorts will most likely lead to really uncomfortable bunching once you put on your harness and you’ll spend more time trying to fix the issue than you spend actually climbing. Just don’t do it.

Chicago Athletic Club
Photo credit: Chicago Athletic Clubs.
This guy seems to be doing well in his basketball shorts but looks can be deceiving. I’m not a guy, but this can’t be comfortable.
Alternative: Normal shorts

Shorts and capris specifically designed for climbing are abundant. They’re made from lightweight materials, offer the perfect amount of stretch, and have a gusseted crotch (which both makes the shorts more comfortable and helps prevent any embarrassing mid-climb tears).

For the ladies, something like the Prana Audrey Knickers are perfect. Sure, they may be a little long, but trust me: Prana has been in this game for a long time, and they know a thing or two about how to keep you comfortable. If you want something shorter, though, anything that meets the aforementioned criteria (lightweight, stretchy, gusseted crotch if possible) will do the trick. And, for the guys, there’s a good reason the Prana Mojo shorts have been a favorite for pretty much forever. Once you climb in a pair of these bad boys, you’ll want a pair or two in every color.

WNTW #4: Birthday suits

Sure, Chris Sharma and his ladyfriend, Daila Ojeda, recently spent a day bouldering at the Buttermilks naked, but it was for an ESPN photo shoot. I’m 96.4% certain they don’t do that on a regular basis. Please, for the sake of everyone else around you, do not climb in your birthday suit. If it’s so hot out that you’re tempted to even consider it, you should probably wait for a nicer day (or simply take your climbing indoors).

Chris and Dalia
Photo credit: ESPN The Magazine
OK, maybe Chris Sharma and Dalia Ojeda CAN get away with climbing naked, but most of us don’t have the skills or the physiques.
Alternative: Go shirtless if you must

If it’s really, truly, unbearably hot out, then taking off your shirt is a good way to help keep cool. (Just remember to cover up with sunscreen!)

Got a favorite brand or gear choice for climbing in hot weather that you’d like to share? Post a comment and tell me about it!