Look closely and you can see the pee rag (tie-dye peace sign bandana) hanging from the back of my pack.
Gear

GUEST POST: The Pee Rag by Stacia Bennett

What is a pee rag? Let’s just say, it’s a tool that enables a female hiker to get the job done without fuss or muss, and focus on being her badass self on the trail.

Blissful Hiker, “The Pee Rag” Episode 1
Look closely and you can see the pee rag (tie-dye peace sign bandana) hanging from the back of my pack.
Look closely and you can see the pee rag (tie-dye peace sign bandana) hanging from the back of my pack.

It is not an overstatement to say reading Stacia Bennett‘s article on for The Trek “Gear Essentials for Women” changed my hiking life. My discovery began with a question posed in the private all-women Te Araroa Facebook , “Are any of you ladies taking a ‘pee rag’ on the TA?” I had no clue what this gal was referring to and obviously needed to get myself enlightened – or look the fool. Dr. Google led me straight to Stacia, a.k.a Tink, and once educated, I never looked back! I hope you enjoy this Asheville-based, former teacher turned nomad, Appalachian Trail thru-hike-attempt-turned-long-ass-section hiker’s explanation on a requisite piece of kit for every women’s backpack.


It’s super simple to start using a pee rag. The biggest decision you have to make is what material to use. For my long hikes, I chose to stick with a plain old cotton bandanna.

A bandanna is lightweight and since the cotton is thin, it’s pretty quick drying. Cotton is gentle on the skin and absorbent. So, pick your favorite pattern for $1 at the Wally World. Tie it to the back of your pack, and BAM! You’ve got yourself a pee rag.

Ok, I know what you are wondering. What the heck is a pee rag??

Actually, if you’ve spent any time at all on a long trail you’ve probably heard of them, and you’ve likely seen them hanging off the pack of the badass lady hiker in front of you.

A “peedanna”, or pee rag, is a bandanna or similar cloth that is designated for wiping after urinating in the woods. A lot of women opt to use a pee rag instead of toilet paper. There are a multitude of reasons why you’d want to make the switch to a pee rag. For me, the ease and convenience were the biggest factor.

Gear

Post PCT Gear Review, or: how I learned what stays and what gets chucked

There is an expression among even the most advanced runners that getting your shoes on is the hardest part of the workout. – Kathrine Switzer

Merino tees are a backpackers' dream, but they're spendy and wear out quickly.
Merino tees are a backpackers’ dream, but they’re spendy and wear out quickly.

Updated gear list now available. You can access it on google docs and take it with you!

Walking the Pacific Crest Trail was one of the best things I have done in my life – second only to walking the Te Araroa, and both of those hikes were accomplished in one calendar year!

btw, I just turned 55, and that’s a pretty cool feat…feet?…for a middle aged gal, wouldn’t you say? I’m feeling mildly bad ass.

Oddly enough, Richard pointed out that it took me two years to plan for my walk in New Zealand, while under the meltdown circumstances upon my return to Minnesota last spring, it took me less than two weeks to plan the PCT! I guess a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Gear

Blistex ‘Lip Vibrance’ review

Blistex Lip Vibrance has been my go to lip protection since I discovered it seven years ago walking the John Muir Trail

Why do I LOVE Lip Vibrance so much? First it’s the restorative emollients – shea butter, grapeseed oil and vitamin E. It feels smooth, and rich.

Then there’s the sun protection at SPF 15. This isn’t your zinc oxide for alpine climbing, but Lip Vibrance protects pretty darn well on most exposed sun-shiny days.

Where can I get it?
Walgreens, Walmart, Amazon and CVS

Next, it’s absolutely lovely color. Every blissful hiker gal needs just a touch of color. This is pink and a glossy.

There’s a little mirror on the back. I wouldn’t use as a signaling device but works great in case you need to get food out of your teeth or when you want to make sure you’re coloring within the lines.

A couple of years back, I was unable to find Lip Vibrance at my local drugstore, so I purchased a competitor’s lip protection. It melted in my pocket and when I went to put it on my lips, a huge glob came right off in a huge smear. Blistex Lip Vibrance never, EVER melts in the field.

I gotta have Blistex Lip Vibrance and so I give it FIVE ANITAS!!


Gear

Post thru-hike gear wrapup: Hammock Gear quilt

My Blue Moroccan Hammock Gear was just right for the TA.

Here’s something I get asked a lot – How the heck do you wash your down quilt or sleeping bag?

For starters, you should probably not wash down until things get really out of hand. So let’s use our imaginations to take us to that moment of out-of-handedness when a good washing is all one can do.

Imagine putting your face right up against your furry dog. If she’s freshly cleaned, this might be a delight of fuzzy, nuzzly therapy. But had you two just returned from a long doggie run, your nose would likely receive a less-than-pleasant whiff of mousy, musty animal-odor.

That would basically describe my Hammock Gear Burrow quilt after I finished walking the Te Araroa. It’s not a totally horrible smell, but it’s mighty strong and it left me no other choice than to go through the arduous, time-consuming, gently-caring, get-completely-wet-and-covered-in-soap, hand-washing process to bring my HG “Blue Moroccan” (full review and specs) back to her fresh, fluffy self.

It was so worth it not just because I’ll have her ready for the next thru-hike, but also because this quilt is now on the list as a go-to piece of equipment and I want to take very good care of it.

Gear

post thru-hike gear wrapup: Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite

Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir is a “crinkly cloud of warmth” and ultralite.

Quick, what is the most important activity on a thru-hike?

If you answered, “Hike,” give that reader a Kewpie doll. But, indulge me just for a sec, and let’s rephrase the question just a little. To hike, you need to be strong and focused, and to get there, you need to be well fed and well rested. Each morning you have got to wake up replenished and refreshed, ready for the next day’s rigors or each step is potentially a misery. So I’d say, the most important activity on a thru-hike is a good night’s sleep.

That’s why choosing the best sleep “system” is critical. I conducted a test last year with the two ultralite Therm-a-Rest mattresses I own and decided the time had come and gone for me to manage a good night’s sleep on a closed cell foam pad. They’re just too uncomfortable on my bony hips. So, my choice these days is the blow-up style of mattress and I did not regret choosing Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir Xlite for 101+ nights on the Te Araroa.

gear blog

post thru-hike gear wrapup: Icebreaker T

I wore my merino top every day for nearly four months.

Except for extra pairs of socks, undies and camp clothes that double as layers on cold days, there’s really no such thing as a “change of clothes” when thru-hiking. So when it comes to deciding what to wear, you better choose wisely.

I purchased a Smartwool long sleeved shirt to take on the Te Araroa. Sizes run small and it fit snugly and felt too hot most days. By the time I arrived in Hamilton on day 31, I knew I needed to make a swap for something looser and lighter. I was thrilled when my Kiwi tramping pal Irene mentioned the local outdoor store was having a sale. I headed right on over and nabbed a T-shirt made by New Zealand’s Icebreaker.

Gear

post thru-hike gear wrapup: Columbia OutDry ex-reign rain jacket and pants

In New Zealand, when it rains, it pours.

If you’re going to be outdoors for any significant amount of time, you are going to eventually get wet and if you plan to walk the Te Araroa, you will get very wet. I always carry sturdy rain gear on my thru-hikes. I know it’s a cardinal sin in the ultralite community, but on the TA, I saw a few trampers with minimalist gear shivering on the verge of hypothermia and I was glad I packed the full kit.

Obviously, top-notch waterproof gear that is also breathable is indispensable for hikers. It’s also hard to make. That’s because unless you’re a fisherman and want a heavy, 100% impermeable rubber coat that won’t allow water in – or out – you have to make some compromises.

Gear

post thru-hike gear wrapup: La Sportiva Akyra mountain running shoe


Shoe swap in Wellington, New Zealand.

You might recall that it was one year ago, while hiking the Coast-to-Coast and aliloop-of-the-lakes in England, that I became a true believer in using trail runners for backpacking. It turns out this is not just a fling. We’re talking full-on love affair made to last for the long haul and that’s because for the Te Araroa, I had fantastic results wearing La Sportiva Akyras. (full review and specs)

In the words of Saturday Night Live’s Stefon – New Zealand has everything: the steepest climbs and the nastiest descents on ankle-twisting rock and mud, narrow catwalks of tussock-covered strips-of-slip requiring the twinkle-toes accuracy of an Alex Honnold, miles and miles of sand and sea, plus water, water and more water in the form of streams, rivers, and wetlands. By day five, my Akyras were sandblasted and mud-caked beyond recognition. But that’s just cosmetics. These babies kept me nimble and secure, one pair per island of over 2,000 miles walking.

Gear

post thru-hike gear wrapup: Kavu Fishermans Chillba


Kavu is all about living a big and awesome life.

It’s not that I have anything against baseball caps. I often wear them hiking, biking, kayaking, running, skiing, climbing – you get the idea. But for a long-distance thru-hike, I really need to cover more territory. I am a pony-tailed hiker most of the time, and there’s a lot of exposed skin. A wide-brimmed sun hat is de rigueur so I don’t need to go through the daily ritual of slathering sloppy sunscreen on my ears and the back of my neck.

Before I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2012, I wandered into Midwest Mountaineering here in Minneapolis and stumbled into a relationship with Kavu that changed my life. Kavu is an acronym for an aviation term describing the perfect day: “Klear Above Visibility Unlimited.” I mean how can you not want a bit of this sensibility on your body while hiking – especially on a thru-hike when some days might possibly be a bit less-than-perfect and you gotta push through anyway with a big smile on your face?

Gear

post thru-hike gear wrapup: Granite Gear Crown2 60

Olive Oyl was a bit wide with all her pockets full, but she felt great on my back.

When I purchased the iPhone that would become my camera, typewriter, microphone, editing studio and means of communication with the outside world, I needed to ensure it was big enough to handle all those tasks, but small enough to fit easily in the hip-belt pocket of my backpack.

“Olive Oyl” – my Granite Gear Crown2 60 pack (full review and specs) – easily held my mini computer. In fact, it fit like a glove, and the rest of the pack was plenty roomy enough to nestle in all the gear I needed for a four-month tramp with room to spare for around ten days of food.