A New Year….a pair of new boots…!

With the start of a New Year, what is the one most important items for an outdoors man or woman?

Boots, of course!

Without a sturdy, waterproof pair of boots, any hike or outdoor pursuit can rapidly become a soggy nightmare…trust me, I’ve been there!

Before investing my hard-earned cash in a decent pair, I spent and wasted so much time and money on inferior but cheap products…I’d buy a fabulous-looking pair of boots for a knockdown price, and during the first trip wearing them, I’d destroy my hike…the boots that looked so strong and invincible in the shop, now belaying their true nature!

It’s only after several such forays, that I learnt my lesson, and just in time too.

So, what do we need to look for in a pair of boots?

Here’s a short but comprehensive checklist for you:

 

  • Lightweight. Backpacking experts say every extra pound on the feet is like carrying 5 or 6 pounds on your back, so purchase the lightest boots that fit your needs.
  • Comfortable, yet supportive. There should be plenty of room for your foot to swell after a long day of hiking, but not so much room that it slides around inside the boot.
  • Non-slip in varied terrain. A good hiking boot or shoe should be able to maintain a firm grip in rugged terrain, on scree, in mud and, most important, on wet surfaces.
  • Designed to release mud. If mud builds up in the lugs of your boots, it can severely compromise your traction. Look for boots with widely spaced, aggressive lugs that shed mud with little to no effort on your part.
  • Waterproof. If you frequently hike in wet or damp conditions, a waterproof boot or shoe will help keep your feet dry and comfortable.
  • Breathable. Summer hiking requires your feet to breathe so they don’t get too sweaty. Some hiking boots and shoes have uppers made of mesh to allow airflow. Some heavy-duty boots have breathable liners to keep feet comfortable.

What’s your hiking style? Your preferred hiking destinations, style and season will determine your choice of footwear.

How sensitive are your feet? The more sensitive your feet are, the stiffer a sole you’ll need to protect them from rugged terrain. This goes double if you’re backpacking; you need the stiffness to protect your feet under the extra weight.

Do you need a waterproof membrane? If you often hike in wet or cold conditions, a breathable waterproof membrane will keep water out and release sweat as it accumulates. However, when water gets in it can’t get out and the boot can take a long time to dry when emptied. It also tends to be hot in warm weather, so look for this feature only if conditions warrant.

Shop later in the day. Your feet tend to swell throughout the day and on long hikes, so shop once you’ve already been on your feet for a while; otherwise, your “just right” boots may turn out to be too small.

Err in favor of a larger size if you plan to hike long distances. Your feet may swell a half-size to a full size larger than usual during these trips. This doesn’t mean you should size up from a perfect fit, but if you’re in between sizes, going up is usually the best choice.

Wear the socks you intend to wear while hiking. They can make an enormous difference in fit, especially since wool hiking socks tend to be thick. If you don’t already have socks to hike in, purchase them when you try on your boots.

Test hiking boots while wearing a loaded backpack. This is especially important if you carry a heavy pack. It’s the only way to be sure the boots will remain comfortable and supportive under your typical load.

And here is a pair of excellent boots, available from MEC stores in Canada:

Scarpa SL Active Backpacking Boots (Men's)

Check them out now..click here

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The world’s bees are on the decline…

As I mentioned some time ago, there has been more news recently regarding the decline of bees in the world.

Funny thing is, who would have thought that bees needed conserving….I mean, bees have been universally hated by most people afraid of being stung and therefore nobody paid much attention to them!

Now it seems, that with their decline, our own existence on this planet is at jeopardy. Why? For the simple reason that without bees, most of the foods we eat will not be produced, as those foods are all reliant on pollination by bees.

I have heard outlandish claims from some scientists who who put forward the idea that man can still pollinate crops himslef, for example by dropping dry pollen over the growing plants…somehow, I don’t think Nature would allow that!

How can we help? Well, it may seem a small gesture, a drop in the ocean perhaps, but if every other person made efforts to grow bee-attracting flowers, the bee population would automatically increase. I myself plant many different flowers in my garden that attract hundreds of bees, and I’ve never been stung by any of them!

I’ll give you a short list later today of which plants are easiest to grow…keep it here, pls!

Intrepid Englishwoman…but afraid of the water!

Recently I was talking to one of my friends who is also a keen hiker just like myself, and he told me a story that at first I thought was one of his usual leg-pulls!

He was telling me about a girl who apparently paddled the whole length of the United Kingdom, a total of 900 miles. She was accompanying another Englishman, Sean Conway, who was swimming the same distance!

Her name is Emily Bell, a 28 year old Englishwoman who decided to give up not only her day job as managing director at a magazine, but also her boyfriend to boot…..now that takes some spunk I’d say. But don’t think that this is her one and only achievement…no…for she has in the past, last year to be precise, paddled along a 1000 mile stretch of the Missouri river, too.

But the thing I couldn’t believe was what my friend told me next…that she is actually afraid of water!

Her 4 month journey was especially punishing due to that fear she has had since childhood, although she doesn’t fear drowning, as she’s an accomplished swimmer…it’s more a fear of large, unseen life forms. Many a time she spotted dolphins and seals, every sighting being horrendously frightening. “I suppose it’s watching all those reruns of Jaws on TV all the time” she says, jokingly.

During the kayak trip along the English coast, she battled really bad weather,, stinging jellyfish and lost equipment, as well as running very low on funds….sometimes she had to sleep in her kayak as there was no sight of habitation on some parts of the coast, although mostly she and her support team were able to land and rest in hotels.

Aside of the challenge itself, the hardest part, she says, was overcoming her fears of water….”To say it took a lot of willpower, is an understatement!”, she says, adding “..I absolutely believe I did the right thing and never regret it…I’m always up for doing something odd…”.

Hearing that story, we realised another point about adventurers, explorers and such-like…..why is it that a lot of them are always Englishmen and women? Has that famous saying “Mad dogs and Englishmen” anything to do with it…or are the English just a restless people?

Whatever the reason, well done guys…you deserve several gold medals!

 

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Emily Bell and Sean Conway

If you are into kayaking, there’s a fabulous range of items, all at fabulous prices, for you available at MEC…click here to see.

 

 

photo courtesy http://www.embell.co.uk

🙂

 

 

 

Hunting wild animals for pleasure…

Like me, you must have seen photos of that lady tv presenter in the USA who is shown smiling cheerfully by the head of a beautiful lion she just shot and killed in South Africa.

Now my personal stance on this is that, ok fine….she paid upwards of $40 000 or so allegedly for the chance to shoot that animal, so in her mind, she has the right to do so.

On the other hand, we cannot condemn people like her for doing so either, when there are others in our world who are quite happy to raise wild animals in semi-captivity, and then allow hunters to pay huge sums to kill those very same animals, for the sake of a living. It’s a tough world we live in…we all need to eat, right?

But hang on just a minute there, buddy….do we really, really need to kill such wonderful animals for the thrills it gives us….and do we really need to provide such facilities for those people…all in order to put bread on the table?

I say no, we don’t. Fine, if I were in a jungle and my life was in danger from just such an animal, then yes, I would be out of my mind not to shoot it and save myself.

But to actively raise that animal, then release it for the purposes of hunting it down….that is not right in my books…sorry.

I know, I know…people will say well if such facilities didn’t exist, hunters would go killing those animals anyway, albeit illegally….and some would say that of the alleged $40 000 or so that it costs to hunt one of those animals, most of the fees go towards conservation. That last point is a semi-fallacy….I know what I’d be doing with that amount of money if I was making it……

So what’s the answer? Well, there isn’t one….I’m not offering an answer here..just making a point against what I believe to be wrong. In closing, there is no sane reason why action like that needs to be taken in this day and age…..that belongs to the Stone Age…when we lived in caves….time moves on….thankfully, we humans have taken huge steps in improving our lives….those poor animals are stuck exactly where they were 1000s of years ago. Don’t they deserve a measure of respect for their lives, just as we do ours?

 

My favorite outdoors shop has a great idea for Xmas!

Over the past, we’ve talked about various pieces of equipment that can make our lives easier and safer when out and about.

And many of those items have been from my favorite outdoor activity shop MEC here in Vancouver.

Now, MEC have launched a wonderful idea just in time for Xmas.

It’s their very own gift card, which you can give to your nearest or dearest (or both!) as an Xmas present, saving you the time and hassle of searching for the right gift and wasting countless hours that you can spend at home relaxing!

The gift card can be purchased online entirely (although there is an option to have it mailed to you via normal post (snail-mail).

You can choose from a whole range of photos for the front of the card as well…amounts you can put on the gift card range from $25 to $250, more than enough to satisfy every taste…and pocket!

Click here to find out more….

🙂

 

The lost bee…

“There are bees in every hive with inherent imperfections: they cannot navigate from the directions given by others.

They fly off everywhere. They are always getting lost. They never gather much pollen.

Yet, by an incongruous twist of fate, these bees can still dance directions to others.

And so they occasionally return from their misguided wanderings with delirious gospel of what they have found.

Good god, what they have found! It is the lost bee who finds new flowers.”
Jack Haas