Feathered Friends Blog

snow hiking north cascades

Winter is coming which means the door is open for many fantastic outdoor activities. If you’re just getting into winter sports it can be a bit intimidating to plan your adventure, so here is a basic list of items that will make you much more comfortable and safe along the way!

Words and Pictures by Meghan Young. Meghan is an avid outdoorswoman from Washington and a founder of the Pacific Northwest Outdoor Women’s Group. You can follow her adventures on instagram @missmeghanyoung. 

Ten Essentials

The ten essentials are a must-have for backcountry travel during any season. In the winter this list becomes even more important due to the more severe temperature ranges. Online you will find a few versions of the list, but I like the one created by our friends at The Mountaineers the best.

1. Navigation (map and compass)
2. Sun Protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and clothing)
3. Insulation (always bring a variety of layers)
4. Illumination (headlamp/ flashlight AND extra batteries)
5. First aid supplies
6. Fire (butane lighter and waterproof matches)
7. Repair kit and tools
8. Nutrition (extra food for one additional day)
9. Hydration (extra water and a purification method)
10. Emergency shelter

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A waterproof and windproof hardshell is the heart of my outdoor adventure kit. It is a piece of gear that goes on every single trip from a short day hike on my favorite local mountain to week-long backpacks in remote areas. Over the last year I searched for a new favorite hardshell, and I think I finally found it in the Arc’teryx Alpha SL.

Alpha SL Jacket on Wonderland Trail day hike. Picture by Grace Giordano.
Alpha SL Jacket on a Wonderland Trail day hike. Picture by Grace Giordano. Review by Claire Giordano.

At the end of September I took the jacket on a slew of day hikes and a multi-day backpacking trip. Fall hiking in Washington guarantees a mixed bag of weather, and we got a little bit of everything from rain to cold wind and sunshine. I was happy through it all in the Alpha SL.

The first thing I noticed about the jacket is how LIGHT it is. The women’s jacket (size M) clocked in at a pleasant 9.3 oz. This shaves significant ounces off the other jackets I usually carry, and I barely noticed the jacket while wearing it. The GORE-TEX® PacLite® fabric is not only light, but is less crinkly and compresses into a stuff sack that came with the jacket. Lightweight and packable, it was a no brainer to take it with me everyday.

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This summer we released a kid’s version of our popular Flicker sleeping bag. Ben Popper invested in one for his son, and recounts why he chose the bag and what it was like on their first trip. Words and images by Ben Popper. 

Ben's son in the Kid's Flicker Slpeeing bag. Photo courtesy of Ben Popper.
Ben’s son in the Kid’s Flicker Slpeeing bag. Photo courtesy of Ben Popper.

The Flicker changed my night’s sleep in the backcountry for the better. Feathered friends says it is filled with goose down. I’d argue it is full of magic unicorn hair and clouds. My Flicker started coming on our family backpacking trips this spring and almost immediately our five year old took a shining to it. I sleep with it as a blanket and a month ago in the Goat Rocks Wilderness after waking up, he crawled underneath it with me to reiterate how “soft and warm” it is. His words not mine, I swear. His bag is good enough, but even compressed it was larger than his torso and takes up nearly half of my 65l pack. He’d made it through the summer without any of the dreaded backcountry overnight “accidents” so I pitched the idea of the new kids Flicker to my partner and then him. Purple like mom’s or blue like dad’s? Purple. We looked at the options available and surprisingly there are not many kids down bags available. It was decided we get out enough with him that it would be worth it. Being local to Seattle, I gave the store a call.

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Two members of the Feathered Friends staff recently welcomed new additions to their families, so we are sharing a blog post written by the Washington Trails youth Programs Director Krista Dooley about hiking with a new baby (originally published on WTA’s awesome Signpost Blog). Kris shares what it was like to recuperate from birth, and how hiking has changed for her and her husband now that they’re sharing the trail with a third little hiker.

Krista Dooley with AJ on Mount Walker. Photo Courtesy of Krista
Krista Dooley with AJ on Mount Walker. Photo Courtesy of Krista Dooley.

While I was pregnant my husband and I dreamed of being an outdoorsy family. We talked about the outdoor adventures we wanted to share with our new baby, and how we would do monthly family outdoor adventures. We’d start with hikes, then go camping, fishing and more adventurous outings.

We each have our preferred activities. I like to hike, backpack, camp, run, and bike, while my husband enjoys rock climbing and mountaineering. We share a love of fly fishing. I’ve seen many families on trail and always imagined the day I would hike with my own child and how amazing those shared outdoor experiences would shape her view of the world.

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Earlier in the summer a Feathered Friends staff member embarked on a five day backpacking trip through one of the most spectacular regions of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Her goal was to document the trip through daily sketches of the scenery she encountered. Here is an account of what it takes to paint and draw while exploring the backcoutnry. Pictures, paintings, and words by Claire Giordano.

little annapurna sketch giordano

The light shifts continually, playing across the face of the massive andesite rock walls rising from the crystalline lake at my feet. I work quickly, my paintbrush dancing between my sketchbook and the watercolor palette. Between strokes, I swat at the mosquitoes that hound my ears and bite my hands. It is just after dawn, and the alpenglow of sunrise has already changed from the palest of pinks to brilliant yellow. Soon, the light show will be over, and I hurriedly try to capture it’s colors before they are gone.

In July I had the lucky fortune to be invited on a backpacking trip to one of the most beautiful and highly regulated areas of wilderness: the Enchantments. Thousands of permit applications are sent in each year to visit this zone of alpine lakes, towering peaks, and fragile meadows. With so few chances to visit this area, I wanted to make the most of my experience and immerse myself in the landscape. My strategy was to bring a sketchbook, pens, and watercolor paper to record the things I saw each day that inspired me.

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