Posts Tagged With: adventure

Fall Is Here! Don’t Pack that Gear Just Yet!

If you’ve been following this blog, you probably get the impression that camping and outdoors activities are summertime events. And yes, they are certainly a lot easier to pull off when you don’t have to work around school schedules, football practice, dance class, etc. But I urge you not to overlook the super cool fun there is to be had at this time of year, especially now that the weather is cooling off a little and the bugs are starting to get lethargic.

Fun fact: Did you know mosquitoes supposedly can’t flap their wings if the temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit? Wrap up in your sleeping bag and enjoy a bug-free evening!

But one of the things that kills camping and other activities for parents right now is the packing and the driving and the setting up…only to tear it all down just two days later and race home to get ready for school. And that’s assuming you even had a completely free weekend to do something.

So one of the best things to do at this time of year is the day excursion. Whether it’s hiking, going mountain biking, star gazing, geocaching, canoeing or kayaking if you live somewhere still warm to enough to risk a dunk in the river…whatever you do, a day trip is perfect.

But don’t give up on the opportunities for a day trip that happens to take place at night! Here’s a really fun option that will take your outdoors fun to a limited level, but after sunset.

  1. Pick up the kids from school and hit the road (nothing wrong with dropping the backpacks and lunchboxes at the house first, or even waiting for other family members to get off work).
  2. Pack a portable grill and a cooler filled with dinner ingredients. Check out this easy to make fire pot for hot dogs and marshmallows if you don’t have a grill, or invest in a small charcoal or propane grill, which should run a price spectrum of between $15 and $100.
  3. Find a safe and legal spot to set up lawn chairs, spread out the blanket, cook some dinner, and even roast some marshmallows.
  4. Enjoy the evening! Use an app like Google Starwalk to help you guys pick out different stars and planets, bring along some games or a frisbee, whatever. Just get your kids out there and enjoy!

And if it’s not all that chilly where you live, don’t forget your Bug Off Jar and some peppermint oil to keep those noseeums at bay.

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Zip Line Adventure!

One of the increasingly popular family activities is zip lining, or the practiced art of falling off a high place while wearing a harness. And while I can promise you that it is both really thrilling and very safe, it is one of those activities where you really must do your homework before you set out.

What kind of homework? READ THOSE REVIEWS!

There is an unfortunately huge discrepancy in what constitutes zip lining. You can pay $30 a person to stand in a long line at a beachfront adventure park and ride down one cable, or you can make a day of it and zip through acre after acre of gorgeous forest land. You can pay a little bit of money to have a surly teenager whose summer job involves reminding you to tuck your feet before he shoves you off that one cable, or you can pay more to have a guided tour with two professionals who take you through a two-hour zip adventure.

See the difference? Both of those things are zip lining, but they present very different experiences.

While I’m all about being budget conscious–after all, that’s why we got into camping in the first place–this is one of those rare times you’ll really want to splurge and pay a more top-dollar price. It’s also not something you should do at an amusement park, at least not if you want a real family adventure.

So what do you look for when you’re searching for nearby zip lining options?

1. Knowledgeable staff who are trained in rescue techniques.

2. A worthwhile trip, as in getting to experience this for more than just one shove from a platform to ground.

3. Scenic beauty, since the fun of this is in being outdoors.

4. A location that requires a brief training session before you’re allowed to begin.

Simply having a sign out front that says, “All riders must wear closed-toe shoes,” isn’t safety precautions. When my husband and I decided to give it a try, we were required to take a twenty-minute training class and demonstrate that we could hold the required positions, stop ourselves, and even hand-over-hand self-rescue in case we got stuck.

Now for a review of a specific company, North Georgia Canopy Tours. After a lot of internet searching, this is the company we went with. How specific were we? Let’s just say it was an all-day trip in honor of our anniversary. We drove three hours each way to use this exact company, largely for the criteria I listed above.

We were not disappointed. While our overall assessment was that the cost and the effort involved in getting there means this is a one-time thing (meaning we probably wouldn’t make the drive to do it again, at least not soon), we did come away feeling that the money and effort were certainly worth it in terms of the fun we had and the complete safety we felt the entire time.

We signed up for the Adventure Tour, which costs a pretty penny but gives you THREE HOURS of guided zip lining and a repel out of the final platform: “The Adventure Tour includes two sky bridges, three nature walks, the fastest zips on the course, zips over three ponds, two zips over the North Oconee River, and a rappel. Race a partner on the thrilling finale – a 695-foot dual zip over the Hilltop Pond in front of the Observation Deck.”

Again, NOT a quick shove from a metal platform at a beach attraction! This is definitely the kind of activity where you’ll want your camera, so make sure (especially if you’re taking videos with your smartphone) that you have a way to secure it while you move.

However you decide to give it a try, remember to check out all of the safety requirements and reviews online first. Be sure to bring the right clothes and shoes, and give the company a call first if there are any specific issues with anyone in your family. Then, be sure to have fun and thank them with a review!

Check out this video compilation I made during our trip!

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Essential Gear

No matter what kind of adventure you and your family plan on having, there are always a few pieces of essential gear. If you’re camping, you must have some kind of cover over your head. If you’re kayaking, you must have some kind of float under your butt. Hiking? You’ll need shoes. Spelunking? You’ll need a light source. Snorkeling? An air tube of some kind. Geocaching? Some kind of GPS.

One thing you’ll discover after doing enough fun activities is that there’s also gear you’ll need any time you’re headed outdoors. These few items will become the basis of your gear kit no matter what you’ll be doing. Take a look at the photos below and see if you can spot the essential item that comes with us, no matter what we’re doing.

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Okay, that last one was a gimme. Yes, no matter where we’re going or what we’ll be doing, we have a cooler with us. This one, made by Stanley, carries drinks, of course, but also carries ice packs for injuries, stores meat if we’re going to be camping, and more. This particular cooler has been thrown overboard to someone who’d fallen off a boat (seriously!) and has bailed out more than one leaky kayak. It’s bounced off the back of a truck and kept all our food safe inside, it’s been used as a chair by more than one person, and it even pulled double-duty as a step stool to hang our food bag from a tree branch overnight.

It does it all.

When it comes to selecting gear, though, you have to make a crucial decision. Do I buy one expensive item that might last for a long time and do a great job, or do I buy a cheapo version and not be upset when something happens to it? That is a tough call. You have to decide on the likelihood of the item getting lost, broken, or otherwise made unusable (and there I’m referring to the flashlight that one of my kids dropped while peeing, and yes, peed on it…it was cheap, and it went in the trash because it’s not possible to wash that kind of flashlight well enough to make it hygienic again!).

Flashlights are a prime example. I have a handful of really expensive but really awesome rechargeable LED lanterns, and now that my kids are older, they’re actually allowed to touch them. The funny thing is they usually won’t touch them until Mom says to, all because of the years of training that was threatened into them regarding children and expensive lighting. They knew the Walmart flashlights with their names on them were theirs, and the fancy (re: heavy) lights belonged to Mom. But until my kids got to be a certain age, even I didn’t have expensive lights because there was no point. They were going to get lost, dropped, used to retrieve a Lego from behind the bookshelf and never put back, and more.

This rule could apply to just about any gear you’ve got, depending on the type of adventure you’re going on. If you’re car camping, do you really need a $500 sleeping bag? Hint: no, you don’t. If you get that cold, get in the car and drive away with the heat on. Now, if you’re backpacking through Nepal for three months, yeah…there’s an excellent chance that sleeping bag will save your life and that a cheap discount store sleeping bag will kill you.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is planning their first camping trip and running to Walmart to outfit themselves. The second biggest mistake is planning your first camping trip and running to an expensive outfitter to buy everything. Both of those are a great way to end up with a closet full of stuff you’re not going to use. If you’re new to any kind of great outdoors lifestyle, don’t decide on anything just yet. Get the cheapest stuff you can get away with (borrowed is even better) and then decide what you really need to make it work after you know what gear you’ll really use. I happily loan out my stuff, and you probably have other friends with top-notch gear stowed in a closet somewhere. Just don’t ask to borrow my lanterns.

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Don’t Be Afraid of Outside

There’s no shortage of outdoorsy blogs on the internet, and they’re probably much more exciting than this one. I’ve never climbed Mount Everest, I’ve never gone scuba diving in the big blue hole off Belize. There are a lot of really great adventure blogs and online magazines that can give you all the details of those places. That’s not what this one is about.

The whole idea for this blog happened because every single time I mention a camping trip or a day of kayaking or going snorkeling off the coast, the reaction is the same: “Aren’t you afraid to take those little girls camping/kayaking/hiking/cycling/snorkeling/rock climbing/etc.?”

Now, first of all, those “little girls” are now fifteen and twelve years old. True, they’ve been doing these things since before they could walk–my oldest used to stand on my water skis in front of me and ride up and down the river before she was big enough to get up on her own–but to somehow imply that I or them or both shouldn’t be doing these outdoorsy things because of fear is ridiculous.

Like I said, it’s not Mt. Everest.

The very thought of not taking kids on neutral-level adventures–camping in a state park, hiking on a well-groomed and maintained hiking trail, snorkeling in a part of the ocean with hundreds of other tourists within earshot–all because there is some flawed perception of danger was unacceptable.

What happened to all those people posting things on Facebook about how there were no video games or 500-channels on television when they were kids, posting about how they would leave the house after breakfast and they wouldn’t come back home until they were called for dinner? If that was such a great time in our history, what happened? Those people should be parents and grandparents right now, but they’re the very same people who can’t believe my girls and I take off on our very safe adventures.

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The sad truth is, all those people who ask me that same question aren’t actually afraid of the outdoors. They’re afraid of embarking on a trip and not having it be the most magical vacation ever. What’s really happened is we’re losing our ability to see how we can make these experiences feasible when we live in a world with jacuzzi tubs and microwave popcorn and Netflix streaming. We’re not truly afraid of bears or sharks or serial killers in the woods, we’re afraid that we don’t know how to get there, have a good time, and get back, all in one piece. And I’m here to remind you that it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be the best vacation ever. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be tons of “fun”… for now. Because I can promise you this: when your kids are grown and they’ve finished school and they’re working and starting families of their own, they’re going to remember with new eyes how much fun it was, and they’re going to be grateful for every minute you spent with them outside.

There's always at least one frown in any given outdoors pic, but it's never the same person!

There’s always at least one frown in any given outdoors pic, but it’s never the same person!

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Leatherman Leap

When you get your stuff organized for any outdoors trip, are you the boss? I mean, are you the one in charge of planning and organizing and even packing the car? One way to make this trip more engaging for your kids is to get them in on it. Have a sit down strategy meeting at the kitchen table where you plan out what you’ll need to bring, what to eat on the trip, and more. One of the best ways to get the kids excited about an adventure of any kind is to make them know that they’re a part of the decision making process, even if it’s a small part.

What does any kid going on his first outdoors adventure want? His own gear! Why does Mom get to use the hatchet, and not him?! Unfortunately, so much of the gear aimed at younger adventurers is pre-printed with licensed cartoon characters or teddy bears, even the higher end stuff made by the top-notch gear companies. What’s a normal eight-year-old kid supposed to do with a Barbie or Spiderman sleeping bag and a mess kit with penguins on it? (I’m picking on Barbie and Spiderman because I went to a big box store yesterday to get a cheap, cheap fishing rod for my twelve-year-old since she’s never been fishing and we have a trip coming up…literally our only two choices for all-in-one kits were Barbie or Spiderman, and not only is that dumb, it was more expensive than some of the regular gear because it’s licensed!)

Instead, the folks at Leatherman (the really great multi-tool manufacturers) have created a line of tools called the Leap, and just as the name implies, it’s a great jumping off point for having a tool of your own, even if you’re not ready to lead the expedition (and you’re not even close to driving the vehicle).

This thing has tons of great tools, including a blade that YOU get to decide is onboard or off!

This thing has tons of great tools, including a blade that YOU get to decide is onboard or off!

The Leap is simply an awesome tool for kids. This is just the right tool to give to your kids before you take them on any adventure for the first time. I LOVED the fact that it comes with an actual blade, but that parents can decide when their kids are ready for the blade to be added to the tool. Otherwise, the same sturdy quality of other models of Leatherman tools shines through in this one.

I was really pleased with the fact that the tools weren’t annoying to deploy. I’ve used other models of competing products and opening up a tool can be so difficult that you either a) lose a thumbnail or b) need a tool to do it! These move quite easily without being so loose that they fly open when you don’t want them to.

If I had to find something to complain about, I’d venture this guess. The two sides of this tool are covered in plastic (you can select your color from their list) and it’s conceivable that the plastic could break if this tool is dropped, thrown, or otherwise used or abused. I have absolutely no proof of that possibility other than–like I said–having to find something to complain about.

Now, if you’ve never used a Leatherman tool yourself (or any other multi-tool), this might very well be the one you want to get for your gear, too. It’s easy to operate and comes with a ton of tools that could be helpful in any situation. It’s not so hefty or Special Ops-looking that you’re going to feel ridiculous carrying it around, and no, you don’t have to wear it on your belt like some of the die-hard multi-tool fans. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand when closed, and is actually a great thing to have in the dash of your car or in your purse when you’re not outdoors. Check it out at this link HERE to see what it can do!

Doesn't it look like an alligator?

Doesn’t it look like an alligator?

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Out on the Water

It doesn’t matter where we go, if there’s water involved then I’m happier than a pig in mud. Or a hippo in…water.

Whether it’s a camping trip to the beach or a kayak day trip, if there’s water involved, it’s heavenly. Ideally, the water involved won’t be rain, but then again, it happens. You can let it ruin your trip or you can go with it.

Locally, I live for going kayaking. This actually happened one recent Sunday. Yes, I texted my friend and suggested we play hookie from life and go paddling. She was totally game, and we ended up seeing a beaver.

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And that’s how awesome the water is. You never know what you’ll see or what the experience will be like. But it’s practically guaranteed to be amazing.

My daughter has learned how to truly get the most out of kayaking, and that's basically to let someone else do all the work.

My daughter has learned how to truly get the most out of kayaking, and that’s basically to let someone else do all the work.

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Welcome to Daring Feets!

Welcome to the Daring Feets blog, your personal invitation to get out there!

I’m a huge fan of the outdoors, whether it’s camping, hiking, kayaking, geocaching, snorkeling, caving, hunting, or just laying in my backyard make grass-angels when I think no one’s looking. I absolutely love reading about all the places in National Geographic and Outside Magazine and Conde’ Nast Traveler… but I’m never going to those places. Sure, it’s fun to read the articles about free diving in Belize or scaling Pike’s Peak, but the reality is I’m probably not doing any of those things.

And that’s okay.

I make my own adventure right here where I am.

So this blog is dedicated to all the people who would love to get out there more but who’ve only been told it’s Everest or nothing. That’s just not true! You (and your kids!) can have a great outdoors adventure without having to hire Sherpas. It’s just about finding the places you can get to, and bringing the right gear and attitude with you.

So go… get out there, and get those feet dirty!

Here's the Daring Feets crew on our recent trip to the Gulf. Yes, we're heading out to sea in our own boat. Bon voyage!

Here’s the Daring Feets crew on our recent trip to the Gulf. Yes, we’re heading out to sea in our own boat. Bon voyage!

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