Category Archives: Gear

Warm up to cold weather hiking with these strategies

If you’ve been hiking in the last couple days, you’ve likely walked out the front door on hike morning and had your first Aha! moment of the season. 

Aha! as in, “Aha, I need to grab another layer or two!”

As Aha! moments go, it’s one of our favorites. We love hiking late-fall-into-winter: the air is typically dry, the diminished foliage lets you see deeper into the woods, the increasingly angled winter sunlight seems to lite the forest from the ground up. read more

Weather the storm with your camping gear

Are you prepared for Florence?

If you’re a hiker, a backpacker, a camper, you’re more prepared than you might realize. You’ve got a wealth of equipment designed to help you weather what Flo may have to offer. Consider:

=&0=&. A Pocket Rocket, a JetBoil, a Windburner—any number of camp stoves can help you get through a few days without power in culinary style and on the cheap. About all you need them to do is boil water, which some stoves can do in a little more than two minutes. Instant mashed potatoes ($1 a pack) or Knorr’s rice or pasta dishes (also $1) make for a cheap and filling meal, comfort food at a time when you could really use it. 

=&1=&. You return from a trip with a near-empty fuel canister—too much left to throw out, not enough to take on another trip. So you toss it in your gear box. If you’re like us, you’ve likely got a half dozen or more taking up space. Now’s the time to use ’em up.

=&2=&. Even a casual hiker has at least one headlamp and a good-size LED lantern. These modern lamps can cast enough light for you to assess damage in the middle of the night (most are water tight as well). And you can dial back the lumens—and extend the battery life—to cast a calming, reassuring glow in your darkened surroundings.

=&3=&. Should have started here. That two-minute boil is vital when it comes to that first cup of coffee in the morning. You can just mix in a packet of instant, or if you have the MSR Windboiler with the French press attachment, you can make the real thing.

=&4=&. Rain jacket and rain pants: If it rains as much and as long as predicted, you’ll need to get out to maintain your sanity. They may not keep you totally dry, but they should keep you from getting drenched.

=&5=&. Camp towels made of chamois or another quick-drying material don’t dry out completely, but they will dry out a lot more than your cotton bath towels. Keep ’em handy when you come in from the rain.

=&6=&. Dry bags once were restricted to the domain of paddlers, but the advent of lighter waterproof fabrics has made them practical for day hikers, and odds are you have one. Even if you won’t be out long, protect your wallet, cellphone, and other valuables in a dry bag.

=&7=&. If worse comes to worst and you’re forced to leave your home, or at least abandon your second-floor bedroom—take your personal sleep system with you. Today’s sleeping bags—both down and synthetic—are plush as a comforter, and the newer, light-weight inflatable sleeping pads offer two to three inches of comfy cushion. 

=&8=&. If you subscribe to the “cotton kills” school of outdoor fashion—and you should—you already have a wardrobe made for wet weather. At a time when your dryer may be rendered useless for days, synthetic, quick-dry clothes are de rigueur. 

=&9=&. A sturdy pack with good suspension is nice on the trail, but is a downright necessity when you need to walk a half-mile to the store for a bag of ice and other necessities.

=&10=&. Be the fan of the neighborhood with your camp saw. You won’t replace the local tree service with its cranes and chain saws, but when it comes to clearing limbs off a car or clearing a path to the street, a well-maintained folding camp saw comes in handy in a pinch.

Preparing for a hurricane is like preparing for a backpack trip. In both cases, you need to meet your basic needs—food, shelter—for a period of time. And in both cases, how you emerge at the end of your adventure will be determined by how prepared you are going in.

Be safe,


This weekend: A festive farewell to summer


It’s the last weekend of summer (the season officially cedes to fall next Wednesday). Give it a fitting sendoff in Wilmington by tubing 900 (or maybe 1,000) feet through downtown; by  celebrating the Catawba River at Lake James State Park; or by checking out the last in cool outdoor gear in Asheville.


So here’s a thing that’s happening around the country and comes to Wilmington Sunday: Slide the City. Basically, it’s a 900-foot (or 1,000-foot, depending upon who’s doing the promoting) Slip ’N Slide-type thing that runs through the streets of town. Pay $10, get an inner tube, carom down a watery plastic run. Pay more, get more rides. Starts at the Red Cross Street and runs from North 3rd Street to North Water Street.

Logistics: Sunday, Sept. 20, noon-6 p.m., $10 for one ride, multiride and all-day passes available. More info here.

Sunday forecast: High of 87 and sunny.

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Looking ahead: Maze Craze 5K, a 5K run through a maze blazed in a field of sorghum, Saturday, Sept. 26. More info here.


One of the many great things about Lake James State Park is that it’s somewhat conveniently located to most of the state, situated as it is just off I-40 between Morganton and Marion.

That’s especially good this weekend as Lake James celebrates the 12th Annual Catawba RiverFest Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Enjoy live music, food, educational exhibits, a live raptor release at about 10:30 a.m., nature hikes and paddling.

Logistics: Saturday, Sept. 20, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Lake James State Park, Nebo. Free. More information here.

Saturday forecast: High of 90 and sunny.

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Looking ahead: Campout for Take A Child Outside Week, Chimney Rock State Park, Saturday, Sept. 26. More info here.


Demo Day!

We keep an eye out for these, for the opportunity to go out and try the latest equipment and see if it really is the equipment that’s holding us back. Alas … .

Sunday, Highland Brewing Co. is the site of Diamond Brand Outdoors demo day: come try out ENO Hammocks, tents, backpacks, outdoor footwear and more. Live bands, food trucks, outdoor gear from variety of vendors for purchase. And did we mention its at Highland Brewing?

Logistics: Sunday, Sept. 20, 2-6 p.m., Highland Brewing, 12 Old Charlotte Highway, Asheville. More info here.

Sunday forecast: Sunny, 90.

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Looking ahead: Family Hiking Day Celebration, Sept. 26, Fontana Village Resort in Graham County. Guided hikes, nature activities and crafts, educational presentations. Free. More info: 828.498.2211.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.

Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host read more

Gear regret: A leashed-pig missed

From my new rear pocket to you.

If I wasn’t cheap, you’d be looking at a picture of a pig on a leash.
A quick tale of gear regret in the hopes it may help you avoid the same.
For the past two years, I’ve been coveting a pair of trail running shorts. But as is my parsimonious practice when it comes to gear, I tend to wait until a thing has been marked down. Then marked down again. And usually a third time.
There was a pair of trail running shoes with neoprene uppers that Nike came out with about 15 years ago. Initial price: $120. After three years of diligent monitoring, I nabbed them when they dropped below $70 — and were being replaced by something more hi-tech. A North Face vest I’d coveted for four years I finally got for half it’s original price (though by then what I really wanted was a Mountain Hardwear puffy vest, which would come into my possession in another three years, once the new micro vests were popular). Every tent I’ve bought, pretty much every hiking boot and running shoe — if it’s been on the market for at least three years, it’s new to me.
And so silly, because once I do buy a piece of gear, I use the life out of it.
About two years ago, the Patagonia Baggies entered my consciousness. My running buddy Chuck wore a pair; on the surface, they looked like most other trail shorts — with one key exception: they have a rear pocket that comfortably holds an iPhone.
This is important not because I need to be in constant contact with my bffs on Facebook, or because my thumbs must constantly be texting. Rather, one of the ways I make a living is by making people want to get out and explore. And one way to do that is by visually capturing those moments on the trail that either make people, chuckle, gasp or say, “Dang, I wish I were there!”
Moments such as spotting the first copperhead of the season stretched across the trail. Or coming upon a thin layer of fog over Umstead’s Big Lake — with brilliant blue sky above. Or yesterday at Lake Johnson, when I encountered two girls who had strung a hammock across the trail (mid-teens, I assumed, their minds still wrestling with the concept of common sense). Or the two runners who stopped to do dips on a bench (nicely illustrating, for GetGoing purposes, cross-training).
Those misses I could live with. But not a pig-on-a-leash.
On the same run at Lake Johnson I glanced up the trail and thought I was seeing a yappy, micro lap dog, the type becoming increasingly common on the trail. Then I looked again. I reached for my camera phone.
That was it: I’m not missing another leashed pig. That afternoon I drove to Great Outdoor Provision Co. and, full retail be darned, made sure that the next leashed pig I see on the trail, you will see as well.
I took my first Baggie run at Umstead yesterday and happened upon this secluded lake deep in the park, off the Loblolly Trail. Thinking of you, I reached into my rear pocket. It may not be a leashed pig, but I think I know what you’re thinking.
Dang. I wish I were there.

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Gear I use: Headlamps

The Dorcy: Resting on my sleeping pad after some bedtime "Wild."

I love to do stuff in the dark. I also love to see what I’m doing when I do stuff in the dark.

Thus, over the years I’ve become a fan of powerful headlamps — powerful headlamps that don’t cost a powerful lot.

Actually, “powerful” isn’t always what I need. When I’m mountain biking, yes. I like a torch that maintains a solid, wide, bright beam: At 20 miles per hour, the last thing I need on a windy, twisty, rocky, rooty trail is a surprise hiding in the shadows. But for hiking and backpacking, our focus today, I want a lamp that lets me confidently navigate the trail, but also doesn’t obliterate the cozy experience of a night hike.

To quickly establish my night cred, I have a hiking group — GetHiking! Triangle — that does one night hike a month, and when I go backpacking, I like to squeeze in as much trail time as possible by leaving after work, arriving after dark and hiking a couple miles to a campsite. A good headlamp is especially important backpacking: for navigating to the site, for being able to see the site, and for pitching camp in the dark.

Since fall, I’ve grown particularly fond of two headlamps, both of which fall into the inexpensive $25 price range: the Dorcy 41-2096 and the Princeton Tec Fuel. (Both, for the record, were provided free for my use.)

The Dorcy I like for its simplicity. The rubberized on/off switch is easy to find, for alternating between high and low beam (there’s also a strobe function), even while wearing gloves. The low beam (which extends the average battery run time of 12 hours) works hiking with a group when you can sponge off the beam in front of you, the high beam is high enough for solo hiking, but again, not so brilliant that it appears you’ve personally vowed to light a Friday night football game. Its light weight and swivel beam make it a good forehead-based reading light as well.

I like the Princeton Tec Fuel for many of the same reasons: it’s light, easy to use, it’s beam doesn’t overwhelm. And on a backpack trip on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia two weeks ago I discovered an additional feature: the plastic clasp that attaches to the headband can be easily manipulated to accommodate the vent pulls in my tent ceiling to create a sort of chandelier. Very functional when performing after-dark housekeeping functions in the two-man.

There are lots of good headlamps on the market. These are two I can vouch for.