Monthly Archives: July 2016

Gear.

Every time I walk into an REI, I feel like the most outdoorsy, adventurous bada$$ in the world. And when I walk out, $1000 poorer, the reality sets in and I realize that 1) I barely know what to do with all of this crap I just bought and 2) I would die in the wilderness as I likely lack all necessary survival skills. It’s amazing that so many people want to go out and experience the wilderness – yet we pay ridiculous amounts of money to have as many of the comforts of home as we can. Now, to be fair, we are idiots. So many of these over priced “comforts” keep dummies like me who lack basic survival skills – alive.

The company that is taking us safely to summit has provided a thorough packing list. For the past few months, I’ve been scouring the internet, reading reviews and trying to find the most reasonably priced, yet highest quality and best user reviewed this or that. The accumulation of gear is proving to cost about as much as the trek itself and I’m surprised that I haven’t come across a “Mount Kilimanjaro Bucket Listers Used (Once) Gear Trading Post.” I’m learning that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on A LOT of people’s bucket lists and each year about 25,000 attempt it. I can’t believe that all of these people go on to continue to climb mountains – so what are these folks doing with the $5,000 worth of gear that they purchased for Kili? The companies that guide people like me rent things like sleeping bags and trekking poles… why not everything else? They should open a massive warehouse in Moshi where you can rent (for a set fee) everything you need. From headlamps, to duffel bags, to balaclavas, to merino wool socks and underwear! And I know you’re probably thinking – “WOAH, used socks and underwear? Gross!” But you know what? I won’t be showering for EIGHT DAYS so at this point I’m quite content with the idea of being gross anyways. Luckily for me, I live in Chicago. So I can actually use merino socks and underwear and balaclavas again.

I came across a few packing videos on YouTube and they’ve been incredibly helpful. Who ARE these kind people that take the time to record and share something like that? It seems so silly – but I’m so incredibly grateful. It’s been very helpful to see how all of this stuff packs into a single duffel and somehow stays under 33 lbs. Additionally, it’s been incredible to watch videos of people trekking on the mountain, using their gear, and I’m always checking to see what styles/brands people are wearing.

But a crazy thing I noticed while watching these videos – is that the porters (the real bada$$es) are climbing the mountain, carrying MY stuff, and wearing flip flops?! I started reading more about the porters that risk their lives for your comfort. Many of them are impoverished Tanzanians that are unfairly paid for the dangerous and  strenuous work that they do. I will likely do a more in depth post about this later – but I did hear from someone that a good tip (along with $ of course) is to leave some of your gear with them. So it is my hope that THAT is why there isn’t a convenient online store where I can purchase one-time used gear from a fellow bucket lister. I hope that whatever gear those non-serious climbers do not plan to use again, that they are leaving it with the brave men that are what I’ve heard are the heart and soul of anyone’s Kili experience. It is crazy to me that I can spend $300 on a pair of hiking boots for a single, eight-day trip and yet someone that makes this climb several times a month is running in flip flops. Now, in fairness to myself, I am a hiker that will get great use out of said boots and I don’t know that any of my porters will fit comfortably in a women’s size 8. But I’m certainly making mental notes about the items that I plan to part with and pass along to someone that truly needs it.

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts or recommendations on this topic! And if you’re interested in learning more about the efforts to provide a safer work experience for the porters of Kilimanjaro, you can check out this website: Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project – http://www.kiliporters.org/

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A new type of training!

Wow. Time flies. I feel like it was just yesterday that I announced my decision to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (September 2015). For the past several months, I’ve been doing various activities to improve my cardio: kickboxing, Zumba, a little P90 and of course hiking/walking. I recently met someone who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and he had some great recommendations for me! One of the most important pieces of advise he gave was to stop doing high-risk activities that make me more susceptible to injury. He actually said that the best thing I could do was to continue to get on the treadmill, wearing my day pack, and just walk at a 15% grade for hours at about 1.5 mph. So I’m doing that… BUT… it’s sooo nice outside! Living in Chicago means I only get a couple of months of sunshine and warm weather. I began looking for additional activities that are low-risk, fun and outdoors…..

Kayaking… WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE?! 

I recently discovered kayaking and can’t believe that I haven’t tried this sooner. I suppose it has to do with a couple of traumatic incidents with canoeing that has kept me away from the idea. It’s incredible for several reasons:

  1. Easy on the knees! While my legs are engaged, I’m not putting any additional strain on my knees – like all other activities typically do.
  2. Killer arm and core workout! A healthy back requires a strong core. And in order to carry a backpack uphill for 8 days I will certainly need both. I absolutely hate doing things like plank and crunches – but THIS I love! I don’t even realize that I’m working out my core until the next day when it’s a little sore.
  3. Incredible way to experience nature! So far, in just a couple of kayak trips in the same spot, I’ve seen countless types of gorgeous birds, muskrats, raccoons (I didn’t know they swam), deer, dragonflies and other Midwest critters! It makes me so excited for all of the plant and animal life that I will see in Tanzania.
  4. Wonderful for meditation! There’s nothing more peaceful than floating by yourself in the middle of a lagoon. No boat engine, no kids splashing around, no city noise. I know that walking for 8 days will require a level of inner peace – something I struggle with. I’m hoping that practicing my meditation skills in nature while kayaking will help me with this.
  5. It’s just so much FUN! There’s not much more to say about that.

I’m so thrilled that I’ve discovered a new way to train physically and mentally for this climb – which is now 2 months and 23 days away. If anyone else has any other suggestions for fun, low-risk training activities – please let me know!

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