5 reasons to go hiking as a new parent

I've seen so many couples that love to hike, yet when the new baby arrives, they stop doing this activity they love. It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, there are tons of reasons for going hiking as a new mom or dad. 

1. Putting the baby to sleep

Nothing puts a baby to sleep like the gentle rocking of your body while you're hiking, listening to your heartbeat and watching the trees go by. My newborn would fall asleep on every hike and sleep exceptionally well.

2. Helping to lose the baby fat 

Moms, our body changes after giving birth. It's normal to have belly flab—in fact, people were asking me if I was pregnant a full 1 year after giving birth! But if it makes you feel better, you can go on a hike and try to burn off the "leftover packaging". Here's to getting that body back! 

3. Feeling like your old self

When you become a parent, you become so focused on your newborn, that you become 100% parent, and in a way, you lose your old identity. It can be stressful and frustrating to have a completely different lifestyle and not do any of the things you used to do before you had a baby. Go for a hike! You'll feel amazing and feel like your old self again.

4. Cultivating a love for nature in your child 

My daughter is now 2 and she thinks hiking and spending time in nature is a normal part of life, and she loves the outdoors. This might not have been the case if we hadn't been going hiking regularly since she was a baby.

5. Stay healthy 

Of course, all of the other reasons to go hiking, that don't have anything to do with being a new parent, still apply! You get to breathe fresh air, spend time outdoors, get exercise, and feed your soul by being in nature!

What to take with you

So, if you've been craving to get outdoors, just do it! And don't forget to take, on top of your normal hiking gear:
  • ring sling or soft shell baby carrier
  • sunhat for the baby
  • umbrella for shade (babies should not wear sunscreen)
  • breastfeeding cover + nursing top or bottled formula (whichever applies)
  • extra diapers and wipes
  • diaper changing mat or blanket

Happy hiking!

Baby's first hike

Awesome Places to Shop for Outdoor Gear

I've had several people ask me where I shop for camping and backpacking gear. These are my go-to stores, whether I'm just browsing or looking for something in particular.


They carry only quality gear from name brands; any gear you get at REI will last you years. Plus, they have an amazing return policy. Become a member and shop at the quarterly REI Garage Sale to get amazing deals.

Adventure 16

If you're lucky enough to have an A16 Outfitters store near you (they have locations in Southern California), they carry a very well-curated selection of high quality gear. Imagine REI, but it's smaller and feels like family! They often have free community events such as photography slide shows and talks about outdoor gear.

Gossamer Gear

These guys are known for their amazing ultralight backpacks, but they also carry all kinds of other ultralight gear.

Backcountry and Sierra Trading Post

If you have an item in mind that you'd like to buy, it's worth doing a price check on these sites. They often have sales for certain brands or categories of gear and offer free shipping over a certain amount. (And if you're in Canada, shop at MEC.)


Steep and Cheap

Everything you find here is on sale! You'll have to check back often, but if you see something on here that you like, just get it before the time runs out, because items are around 50% off retail.


And for everything else, there's Amazon!

Happy shopping!

Packing list for overnight backpacking trip

I'd like to share with you my suggested packing list for an overnight backpacking trip. I keep my pack lightweight by leaving out items such as trowels, electronic gadgets, and recreational items such as books and decks of cards. These are fine to take car camping, but when backpacking, the question I ask myself is this: can I survive and be comfortable without this?

My must-haves

Leaving these items out would cause a health concern and greatly reduce my comfort or chance of survival if I got injured or stuck in a wilderness survival scenario.

Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Map in ziplock bag
Lighter or matches in waterproof container
Water bottle
Water filtration system
Pocket knife
Clothing - 1 pair of underwear, 1 pair of socks, 1 top/T-shirt, leggings and fleece/wool sweater for the night, fleece hat
Toiletries bag - Toothbrush + toothpaste + floss, wet wipes
First aid kit - bandaids, Neosporin ointment, gauze, tweezers
Wallet bag - ID, cash and credit card in ziplock bag, permit if required

Extras that I take on most trips

These items are great to have, but it's not the end of the world if you leave home without them, or you can usually find someone to borrow from or substitute it with something else.

Plastic sheet to use as ground cloth under the tent
Inflatable pillow
Duct tape around water bottle
Extra "survival gear" - whistle, safety blanket, compass, signaling mirror
Metal mug, doubles as cooking pot
Cap and/or sunglasses
Ziplock bags
Garbage bag for trash
Potty bag - toilet paper for 1 day, extra ziplock bags, small bottle of hand sanitizer
Cell phone or a camera in a sock case
Pencil + paper

Summer extras 

Bathing suit
Small towel

Winter extras (possible rain / cold conditions)

"Trash bag type" disposable raincoat
Long-sleeved base layer
Crampons if ice is a possibility

Food items

Here is a list of no-hassle food items that I generally pick and choose from. The goal is to take relatively lightweight, calorie-dense foods that don't require refrigeration. Also, I like to spend more time exploring and less time cooking elaborate meals, so I prefer taking instant foods and not raw ingredients.

Breakfast: Cereal and milk powder, instant oatmeal, breakfast bars, dried fruits. Tea, instant coffee, sugar.
Snacks: Granola bars, nuts, raisins, coconut chips, crackers, peanut M&Ms, candy bars, chips. Chocolate every day!
Lunch and dinner: Knorr's pasta/rice meals, Ramen, pita bread, sundried tomatoes. Peanut butter, jelly. Tortillas. Instant soups and noodles where you just add boiling water. Bagels, huge hunks of cheese and sausage! Tuna, hummus, turkey jerky. Ready-to-eat packets of Indian food. Vitamins.

Did I forget anything? What other items do you consider a must-have? Share in the comments below!

Trail Running: A Quick How-To Guide

Yesterday, I went trail running after a long time of jogging only on paved streets. It made me realize how one can "forget" trail running, as it took some effort to keep up with my trail running partner! For those new to trail running, here are some tips to get you started:

Have shoes with good traction

This almost goes without saying, but shoes with good traction are a must. You might encounter gravel, mud, or even rock hopping over a creek, and the last thing you want is to end up twisting an ankle because of a slip or fall.

Don't stare at your shoes

You'll have to watch your step if you're jogging on uneven terrain, but don't stare at your shoes. Instead, look at the trail several yards in front of you. You'll learn to sub-consciously step over or around rocks as you get to them, and meanwhile your posture will be better, you'll see more of the scenery, and you won't be waiting till the last second before you realize there's a rattlesnake on the trail.

Don't be afraid to get dirty!

If you're jogging in the early morning, your shoes and socks will be drenched with water from soaking up the dew on the grass, and your calves will be covered in mud. But that's okay. Water will dry, and you were going to take a shower afterwards, anyway. Just make sure you wear breathable shoes and socks made of a synthetic material, and your feet will thank you.

Tips on going downhill

Take small steps, and lean back. You'll be painfully slow at first, and it's surprising how much mental energy it takes to concentrate on not tripping. But trust me, you'll get a lot faster with practice!

Keep your ankles strong

Land on your toes and keep your ankle strong, especially on rough terrain or on uphill climbs. (This is easier to do with thin-soled shoes.) You'll reduce your risk of injury.

Go ultralight

That means no cell phones. One of the greatest benefits of trail running is that it lets us escape from technology that so often distracts us from being in the moment, and allows us to retreat into nature. The only things my jogging partner and I carried were the car keys and a large knife in a holster that was attached to the waist (since we were in mountain lion country).

What do you carry with you when trail running? Please write in the comments if you have any other tips to share. See you on the trail!

How to score big on the REI Used Gear Sale

Today was my second time at the REI Used Gear Sale (which is now called REI Garage Sale). In total, from these two sales, I've scored some amazing finds:

Like-new REI Quarter Dome 3 tent for $139 ($200 new)
Like-new Merrell minimalist running shoes for $52 ($100 new)
Gently used Osprey Poco Plus child carrier for $125 ($260 new)
Patagonia down jacket for $70 ($160 new)
ENO double deluxe hammock for $26 ($85 new, missing carabiners and knots undone)
Used double layered socks for 83 cents ($8 new)
Used cap for $7 ($22 new)
Like-new base layer for babies for $12 ($25 new)

That's savings of $430, or 50%!!! Obviously some items, like tents, backpacking backpacks and GoPro cameras, have high demand and you have to have a strategy to snag the ones you like. Here are my tips for scoring the best deals:

1. Do some scouting beforehand

Visit the REI store on the previous night and see where they've kept everything. Different stores do it differently; some keep items on racks in their parking lot, some block off one part of the store, and others spread items out in marked boxes in their respective departments (tents in the tent section, shoes near the shoe section, etc.) Try to remember the general areas where your top coveted items are placed.

2. Have a "wishlist"

Do your research beforehand and check reviews for your top most-needed items. For example, I know I wanted a 3- or 4-person tent. So I wrote a list of all the tents at REI that I would take, if they had it on sale. I had my first choice, second choice, etc., so I didn't have to waste time thinking about which one is better, having to look up ratings on my phone, etc.

3. Bring a BIG shopping bag

I prefer IKEA shopping bags, they're huge and strong enough to fit tons of stuff. You definitely need it, too -- see #6.

4. Get there early

Some stores only let in small groups or people in at a time, thus preventing a huge crowd and chaos, and also rewarding the early birds. If necessary, camp out... but make sure that you know what system the store will be using. You don't want to camp out overnight or stand in line at 4am, only to find out that everyone gets let in at the same time. And when you do get in, make a beeline towards your first-choice items.

5. Work as a team

Have a partner or go with a small group, so that after everyone has picked out their top choice items, you can all sort through your pile and return to the bins at your leisure, while someone guards the pile at all times.

6. If you're considering getting it, hold on to it

Don't pass something by, thinking you can get back to it. Chances are, someone else will have taken it. Grab it first, and decide later if you really want it.

7. Beware the impulse buy

Items bought at the REI Garage Sale cannot be returned, so don't buy junk just because it's cheap. Make sure you're buying stuff that you will actually use.

8. Go back for seconds

Later on, people will be putting back items they decided not to buy. So you can often score some great finds after the initial mad rush has ended. That's how I got the ENO hammock! Go back, check the bins and racks again for items you're still missing from your wishlist, and walk around the store to check out the little piles that people have left scattered around.

Do you have other tips on what strategies to use? What were your experiences at the REI sale? Share in the comments! Good luck and happy shopping!

How to halve the weight of your backpacking food

Let me demonstrate some do's and don'ts of packing food for backpacking through the following example packing lists and show you how to cut the weight of your food in half. In both cases, we have enough food for two for an overnight backpacking trip. That includes (per person) two lunches, one dinner, one breakfast, and a variety of snacks.

Scenario #1: Way too heavy

  1. Don't bring too many cans.
  2. Don't bring too many fresh fruits or veggies. Apples are heavy, grapes make your hands sticky and are easy to squish in your pack.
  3. Bread spoils easily. For a single night, you'll be fine, but this would definitely get mouldy by day 3.
  4. Whatever you do, don't bring any glass jars!!!
Total weight: 10.4 lbs.

Scenario #2: Ultralight


  1. Do replace fresh fruits and vegetables with dried ones, e.g. dried apples, raisins, and sun-dried tomatoes.
  2. I've noticed pita spoils less easily than bread. Leave the bag open so that it dries and doesn't collect condensation on the inside of the bag.
  3. Cans can be replaced by instant meals where you just add water.
  4. Carry only as much Nutella spread as you'll eat, and that too in a lightweight plastic container. Better yet, bring individual-sized packets of honey or jam.
  5. Lots of calorie-dense trail mixes, granola bars, chocolate and crackers: good!
Total weight: 5.0 lbs.

That's a weight reduction of 52%!

Scenario #3: Happy medium

In reality, I usually strike a happy medium between the two scenarios and go mostly ultralight but bring a single apple and/or a carrot or two, as well. Or, if I go no-cook, I'll bring packets of Indian food, which do have some water weight, but at least I don't have to carry a stove and fuel.

Do you have any favourite lightweight backpacking staples you always pack, or any foods you can't live without and bring despite the weight? Share in the comments!

Beginner Backpackers: Dos and Don'ts

It great to see beginner backpackers first experience the joys of backcountry camping. Unfortunately, I've seen them do too many mistakes that would have been easy to avoid, had they gotten a proper intro lesson. Here is my main list of Dos and Don'ts for beginner backpackers.

DON'T invest a lot of money into gear

Especially if this might only be a once-in a while thing and you don't plan on going backpacking every season. You can rent everything you need, e.g. a backpack or stove, for a whole weekend from stores such as Sport Chalet at a tenth of the cost of buying gear. (If you go backpacking once a year for 10 years, renting is still the cheaper option!) Or ask around if anyone has extra gear that you could borrow.

DON'T wear heavy hiking boots

If the trail is well maintained, the distance of your first backpacking trip probably won't be long enough to really strain your ankle. You could wear the same shoes you would wear on a dayhike unless your ankles are prone to injury or your backpack is insanely heavy (but if this is the case, you're probably doing something else wrong..! See my next four points).

DON'T bring heavy jars or cans or too many fresh, juicy fruits and vegetables

One or two fruits are fine, but leave these behind in favour of things like dried fruits, trail mix, and calorie-dense foods such as cookies, crackers, bread and chocolate. I normally eat really healthy, but backpacking is where you really want to save on weight, plus you can survive for a day without fresh fruits and veggies anyway! I'd carry max a few carrots.

DO repack foods

Measure out single-serving portions of cereal, cheese, etc. into ziplock baggies. The biggest no-nos I'd seen were glass jars of peanut butter and nutella where you only use 1 spoonful.

DO bring easy-to-cook or no-cook meals

If you like a warm meal, "instant" foods are great, e.g. noodle soup where you just add boiling water, or the packets of Indian curries that you just heat up and eat with pita bread. Oh, and hummus and pita always tastes great! But really plan out what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner, otherwise you'll be carrying a lot of extra weight back.

DO pack light

This will largely depend on the weight of your "big 3", the backpack, tent and sleeping bag. But other than those, really you only need to bring food stuffs, toiletries (again, repack... think travel-size!), a warm sweater for the night and a single change of clothes. Skip the comforts you would normally carry while car camping, e.g. books, camping chair or games. I bring a warm sweater but leave my jacket because if I get cold, I can just bundle up in my sleeping bag. :) Other tips: bring a plastic teaspoon instead of a metal tablespoon; bring a metal mug that can be re-purposed as a cooking pot and a food bowl... you get the idea.

DO bring enough water and/or a water filtration method

Find out if there are any springs along the trail. If there are, bring less water and filter/sterilize along the way. Iodine is cheap but sometimes inconvenient. A water filtration system can be expensive, so try to find out if anyone in the group is bringing a water filter to share.

DO pack your backpack according to an ideal weight distribution

Light stuff goes on the bottom (sleeping bag), heavy stuff on top and as close to your back as possible. You can tie your foam sleeping pad on the outside. Last but not least, when you start the trip, ask someone to check whether your straps are properly tightened. Most of the weight should be on your hips, not on your shoulders.

Coming soon I'll post a basic packing list, and also give you a glimpse into what I pack in my own backpack. Do you have any other tips to share? Post in the comments!