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Getting Your Climbing Gear Through TSA: Planning for Adventure Travel

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Planning for adventure travel can be exciting and intimidating.  Sometimes planning takes months, even years; other times, it takes just a few hours. The process, however, remains essentially the same, whether you’re prepping for a weekend backpacking trip or a long expedition.

Paddling the Columbia River

I plan the majority of adventures in my backyard, as I’m lucky enough to call the White Mountains home.  Even though I may have done a hike in the Whites many times before, it still requires a cursory check of the weather and trail conditions in order to properly prepare.  The time taken to plan a trip helps me build excitement and ultimately have a better time.  While you can never account for every detail (and why would you want to?), striking the perfect balance between preparation, spontaneity, and flexibility can lead to a perfectly executed adventure.

Adventure Travel: The Planning Process

Where to Wander

This is the fun part of trip planning.  Where does your mind go when it wanders?  Do you need a warm weather adventure to break up a cold northeastern winter?  Do you dream of carving perfect lines in an Alaskan snowfield?  Do you want to show a friend your favorite nearby hike?  There is freedom in making this choice, as you can go WHEREVER you want.  You don’t have to go to the trendiest spot on Instagram or follow any “50 places you must see before you die” lists – go where will make you the most happy and feel the most accomplished.

What goals do you want to achieve?  This varies from person to person.  For me, my travel goals are place oriented – I want to explore Banff National Park, or go trekking in Peru.  On the other hand, my husband’s goals are much more specific – he wants to climb Beckey-Chouinard in the Bugaboos and summit Alpamayo.  Traveling in groups requires more compromise than traveling solo; however, having a travel partner (or partners) will also drive you to take trips you never considered or thought possible.  Last summer, along with a group of incredible friends, I took a trip to Alberta and British Columbia.  The centerpiece of this adventure was a week of climbing in Bugaboo Provincial Park.

The drive in to the Bugaboos

While I always wanted to visit Banff, I hadn’t heard of the Bugaboos until one of our friends brought it up.  Immediately, I was entranced by the towering spires and beautiful scenery.  All it takes is some planning to make your travel dreams a reality.

Do Your Research

Become an expert on wherever you’re going.  Not only will it help you have a more enjoyable, less stressful trip, but it will also save you some trouble down the line.  What is the best season to visit your desired location?  Will you need any permits?  The research you do at home can give you more confidence in making spontaneous decisions and help keep you out of dangerous or potentially disappointing scenarios.  In doing research for the Bugaboos, I came across an interesting piece of information.  At the trailhead, which is miles back on a winding mountain road, you must wrap your car in chicken wire to prevent the local porcupines from chewing through your brake lines.

Preparing to keep some porcupines at bay!

Imagine arriving at your car after an exhausting week climbing in the backcountry, ready for a shower and a burger – only to find your brake lines severed by a hungry porcupine.  A little research goes a long way to ensure that you run into minimal roadblocks and understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Cars wrapped in chicken wire at the base of the Bugaboos

Beyond ensuring you have less issues, research also helps build excitement for the trip.  Looking into trip reports and reading guidebooks allows you to foster excitement about the trip to come.  While I was intimidated by the classic routes in the Bugaboos, I was able to research a number of routes within (or just beyond) my current climbing level.  This gave me motivation to train harder in preparation for the trip and gave me a realistic idea of what routes would put me in a dangerous situation.  While it’s important to put yourself out of your comfort-zone, research will ensure that you do so without taking on undue risk.

Pack Your Bags

As anyone who has ever traveled with me can confirm, I love my packing lists.  I write them out by hand and edit them in the weeks leading up to the trip.  I love traveling light, but hate being unprepared.  Drafting a packing list ahead of time helps me whittle down the list so that by the time we leave, only the essentials remain.

Snowy rock spires at the Bugaboos

In the Bugaboos, I knew we would be experiencing snow and cold temperatures, but I was leaving from a warm August in New England.  I drafted my first packing list after a winter hike in March when cold, blustery summits were still fresh in my mind.  Who knows if I would have remembered all of my winter layers and my Escape Pro Bivvy if I had waited until a 900 summer day to pack my bag!

Hone Your Inner Fortune Teller

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could foresee and prevent all potential problems?  While this is unreasonable, there are a few things you can do to ensure preventable issues don’t arise.   I try to think through the entirety of my trip – is there anything I can do to prevent major issues?  The centerpiece of our Canada trip was Rock Climbing, and I knew we would be devastated if we weren’t able to do any climbing.

The beautiful, rocky Bugaboos

For this reason, we carried all of our essential rock climbing gear on the plane with us. (Note: after some research before doing this, we found out that TSA is only bothered by nut tools – keep that in your checked luggage).  While we got a thorough check when going through security (and our bags ended up safely meeting us in Calgary), it gave us piece of mind knowing that, if something were to go wrong and our bags didn’t end up joining us, we could still climb.  While you don’t always want to plan for “worst case scenario,” some preemptive problem solving can make your trip run smoothly.

Be Flexible

Hiking into the Bugaboos

A plan is only as good as its ability to change.  Just because something doesn’t end up working out the way you intended, doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful adventure.  During our Bugaboo trip, it seemed like our plans were foiled at every turn.  Due to a warm summer and forest fires, the glacier crossing necessary to access most of the classic routes was too dangerous to attempt.  On our approach to one of the accessible climbs, my partner sprained his ankle and needed to hike out.  (Though the hike out was made easier because of the C-Splint we included in our packing lists.)

Hiking out after a sprained ankle

As a result of the forest fires, the Provincial government began closing down all public lands, leaving us with limited options for adventures back in town.  Laid out like this, these factors seem like they could ruin a trip.  Due to our prior research, we had back up plans for our back up plans and ended up having a lovely time.  We didn’t let our disappointment at not reaching our intended climbs weigh on us (for too long), and enjoyed paddling the Columbia River, soaking in Radium Hot Springs, and hiking in Kootenay National Park.

When a plan goes awry, the only thing to do is maintain an optimistic attitude and remain flexible. You can plan all you want, but sometimes Mother Nature and unforeseen circumstances get the best of you.  All you can do is rely your knowledge, and adjust.

Although a lot goes into planning an adventure, the most important part is remembering why you’re taking the trip in the first place.  Whether you have a major goal in mind or want to soak in the beautiful scenery of a new place, make sure to enjoy the journey.  Time to start dreaming – safe travels!

About the Author

Chelsea Miller grew up hiking and skiing in the White Mountains, which have always held a special place in her heart. She started working at Tender Corporation in 2015 in order to make the Whites her home.  When she’s not hiking, rock climbing, or mountain biking throughout New England, you can find her day dreaming about her next big adventure.  Recently she’s traveled Thailand, Western Canada, and Germany and is looking forward to trips to SLC, Wyoming, and the UK.

Anatomy of an Adventure: Solo Crossing the African Great Lakes

Monday, January 8th, 2018

This January, adventurer, biologist, and photographer Ross Exler will embark on the first ever human-powered solo-crossing of the African Great Lakes system in support of The Nature Conservancy. His journey will include approximately 1,000 miles of paddling across the lakes with 600 miles of biking between the lakes and will take him through remote parts of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. We’re excited to support Ross as he seeks to raise awareness about the lakes and support conservation efforts. Below, Ross shared with us about his decision to make this journey and his plans for safety. – Adventure® Medical Kits

For many years now, I’ve been driven to go out and explore wild places around the world. In 2015, I paddled an inflatable kayak 1,000 kilometers through the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon, staying each night in small villages. When I hit the Amazon River, I had a small motorized canoe built, which I navigated a couple thousand more kilometers through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. To date, I’ve spent about 2 years of my life traveling in Africa, mostly solo expeditions, and have visited dozens of wilderness areas in East and Southern Africa.

My next expedition, which will commence in January 2018, will be the first entirely human-powered, solo-crossing of the African Great Lakes system. I will attempt to paddle a kayak across Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria, traveling between the lakes via bicycle and along with all of my equipment. The journey will be over 1,600 miles and will take me through remote parts of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. I’ll be doing the trip alone, and every mile will be earned through the fair means of paddling or bicycling.

When I tell people about this expedition, they usually ask me one of two questions:

  1. What are the African Great Lakes?
  2. How do you stay safe?

I find that first question to be rather tragic, serving as further motivation for my trip, while the second question certainly deserves considerable thought. I’ll try to briefly answer both.

What are the African Great Lakes?

I was first introduced to the African Great Lakes when I worked in a college lab studying several species of fish from Lake Tanganyika. I soon found out that these lakes have some amazing distinctions: Lake Tanganyika is the longest lake in the world, the second deepest (over 4,800 feet deep), and the second largest lake in the world by volume. Lake Victoria is the largest tropical lake in the world by surface area, and the second largest overall. Lake Malawi is the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. Altogether, the lakes comprise nearly 25% of the world’s unfrozen freshwater.

Further, the lakes are remarkably important for biodiversity. They contain thousands of species of fish, with as much as 10% of the world’s species of fish living in these three lakes alone. By some estimates, Lake Malawi holds the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. Additionally, the shores of Lake Tanganyika include the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream, both known for their populations of chimpanzees.

Unfortunately, the lakes are under threat due to overfishing, invasive species, climate change, and pollution inputs from deforestation and other human activities. These impacts are all contributing to ecological degradation of the lakes. One estimate suggests that over 200 species of cichlids found only in Lake Victoria have gone extinct in the past 30 years alone. These environmental issues also endanger the millions of people who live along the shores of these vast lakes.

After having visited the African Great Lakes region and completing my solo Amazon expedition, I came up with the idea of enchaining the three largest of the African Great Lakes by kayak and bicycle. As I planned the expedition, one of my goals was to team up with a conservation non-profit who works within the region, to help increase awareness.

That’s when I came across the work of The Nature Conservancy’s Tuungane Project, which operates along the Tanzanian section of Lake Tanganyika. The Tuungane Project brings a multidisciplinary approach to conservation and addressing the extreme poverty that is the underpinning of environmental degradation in the region. Their efforts include introducing fisheries education and management, terrestrial conservation, healthcare, and women’s health services and education, agricultural training, and other efforts to increase the quality of life and understanding on how human activities impact the very resources that the local people depend on for survival. Without the buy-in of local communities, efforts to conserve this incredible region will likely be unsuccessful.

How Do I Stay Safe?

The answer to this question is a fairly straight forward product of preparation and experience with regards to the different dangers and threats I am likely to face.

Animals & Weather

As someone with a background in biology and having spent a lot of time in the African bush, I’m well aware of the animals which may be present, their habitat preferences, and behaviors. Much like traveling in bear country, simple behaviors such as keeping a clean camp, traveling only during the day, avoiding likely habitats, knowing the behaviors of species (such as predatory or territorial), and maintaining constant vigilance can go a long way.

The lakes themselves are often referred to as inland seas, where storms and large waves can be a threat. So, I will rely on my years of experience on the water and travel prepared with the right equipment: an extremely seaworthy folding sea kayak and a securely fastened PFD.

Criminal

People can also be a threat to safety, but in my experience people are generally good and welcoming, and some common sense, vigilance, and interaction with local people should keep me safe. I’ve talked with local people and asked about crime and threats to safety, and their advice is generally good. On the whole, the areas that I am visiting are mostly populated with small rural villages, which are generally extremely safe. I will have to be more vigilant around larger towns or cities, or if someone points out a specific threat.

Diseases & Injuries

The final threat to my safety on this trip is wilderness health. This poses a unique challenge on my trip because I will be traveling alone in regions that suffer from endemic tropical disease and have little or no medical infrastructure. Similarly to other threats, a combination of education, preparation, and a having a plan in place can diminish or neutralize most of these health dangers.

First, it is important to understand the diseases that pose a health threat and understand transmission, recognizing symptoms, and treatment. Prevention of infection is the single most important thing that I can do. Before I leave home, I will identify all diseases for which there is an option for immunization or prophylaxis and make sure to diligently follow through. To prevent infection from ingested diseases, I will only drink verifiably treated water and only eat thoroughly cooked or reputably packaged food. I use UV and filter treatment for water, always have the ability to boil water as a backup, and generally cook my own food.

The main routes of transmission for parasites in the region where I will be traveling include exposure to contaminated water (Schistosoma) and being bitten by insects which carry diseases (Malaria and African Sleeping Sickness). To prevent this, I will take Malaria prophylaxis, insist on wearing clothes that are treated with insect repellent chemicals, such as permethrin, use insect repellents such as Ben’s 100 DEET and Natrapel Picaridin, and attempt to keep my skin covered as well as possible. To prevent exposure to Schistosoma, I shall avoid contact with the water, especially near shore and around villages and vegetation. It is advisable to know what types of areas have a higher density of the insects, and what part of the day they are active, and avoid both if possible.

If I do fall ill or am injured, it’s important to know how to deal with it and be prepared with the necessary medicine and medical supplies to do so. I recommend taking a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course, and doing as much research as possible into first aid and tropical disease (or whatever diseases exist in the area where you are traveling). Another excellent resource that I always bring is a small wilderness medicine book, such as A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine by Eric Weiss, MD. I always carry a full range of medications so that I have some ability to respond to illness in the field. I am also packing a well-equipped first aid kit, in this case an Adventure® Medical Kits Mountain Series Guide Kit, which has supplies to cover situations including wound care, musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bleeding, and over the counter medications.

Emergency Evacuation Plan

Finally, I utilize a satellite telephone and medical evacuation service in case of emergency. This service provides me with a final layer of protection, should the worst happen. I can call them and speak with a doctor who can talk me through diagnosis and treatment, and if necessary, they will extract me from the field and take me to a medical facility.

So, my advice to any adventurers or people of adventurous spirit is to seize the day and go out there, but make sure to be safe by going educated and going prepared

– Ross Exler

Picture Credits: Ross Exler Photography

Team Adventure Medical Kits – 2017 Season Recap

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Elite athletes joined forces with Team Adventure Medical Kits for the 2017 adventure racing season with huge success! This year, the team participated in some of the sport’s most challenging races and proved their skill against the world’s greatest adventure racing teams. Check out this season recap to learn about the team’s 2017 challenges and successes, newest member, and increased world ranking. – Adventure® Medical Kits

GODZone Adventure Race – Queenstown, NZ

Team Adventure Medical Kits kayaking in the GODZone Adventure Race

The first big event for team Adventure Medical Kits of the year. The GODZone race circumnavigated Lake Wakatipu and covered some amazing mountain terrain. Every leg of the race delivered amazing views and kept the teams excited for more. The race had a deep field of very strong teams, and the 8th place finish kept the team hungry and training hard for the Cowboy Tough Adventure Racing World Championships (ARWC) in August.

The team running through the river on a canyon trail

Summer 24hr Races

Building up to the ARWC, Team Adventure Medical Kits participated in two 24hr races: The Teton Ogre in Victor, ID (2nd place) and the Never Summer AR in Grand Lake, CO (1st place). These races were a perfect build up for the Cowboy Tough and allowed the team to hone their skills.

Team captain Kyle Peter carrying his bike up a hill

About 1.5 months out from the ARWC, the team was informed of a devastating injury to team captain Kyle Peter that would keep him from participating. After numerous discussions and time debating the path forward, the team contacted Olof Hedberg to race for the team during the ARWC and become an additional member of the team. The team was confident that Olof brought the right ingredients to the table for the team to still succeed in Wyoming at the Cowboy Tough race, even with the team captain temporarily out.

Olof Hedburg, the team’s newest member, preparing for a race

2017 AR World Championships – Cowboy Tough – Wyoming

The gun went off at the base of the Jackson Hole Ski Resort, and teams set out for Casper, WY. Traveling through three mountain ranges and the high deserts in-between, the race proved to be fast and furious with the top teams trading positions numerous times a day.

Team member Mari Chandler in the ARWC

Midway through day two, the team was in 7th place, but only a mere 2hrs from 2nd place. The team thrived on the intense competition; every pedal stroke, every navigation decision was that much more meaningful. Team Adventure Medical Kits played their cards right and stayed motivated even until the final climb up and over Casper Mountain, where they passed the Swedish Armed forces team and crossed the line in 3rd place!

The team pushing to place in the ARWC

Finishing Out the Year: USARA Nationals

With the ultimate goal of 2017 finished, the team had one more race to round out the calendar: The USARA Nationals. Team captain Kyle Peter was back to test the waters of his fitness, status of his injury, and see how things would go. Teams faced tricky navigation decisions and nasty east coast thicket.

A team member prepping the Ultralight/Watertight .7 medical kit for a race

Team Adventure Medical Kits rounded out the race with a 3rd place result. Strong showings from some of the other U.S. teams was great to see and were an encouraging sign for teams moving forward.

Adventure Racing World Series Ranking – 2nd Place!

The team celebrating their 3rd place finish at the ARWC

With the great performances Team Adventure Medical Kits had in the 2016 and 2017 AR World Championships and numerous other ARWS events over the last two years, the team is extremely excited to have moved up to a 2nd place ranking in the Adventure Racing World Series! This has been a hard-fought goal of the team, and to accomplish this ranking means that Team Adventure Medical Kits is the 2nd best Adventure Racing team in the World!

It is goes without saying that these achievements would not have been possible without our great sponsors. See the ARWS webpage for the overall ARWS rankings.

About Team Adventure Medical Kits

Team Adventure Medical Kits is made up of athletes that focus on multi-day and multi-sport expedition races that take place around the world. Safety is imperative to every adventure racing team’s success, which is why they take our medical kits, survival gear, and bug repellent to the most remote and rugged places on earth. Kyle Peter, captain of Team Adventure Medical Kits, has led teams to 1st place finishes in four US National Championships and to 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the World Championships. Kyle and his team’s consistent success over the years has earned them the respect of the global adventure racing community.