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Tips for Becoming a More Eco-Friendly Traveler

Traveling is something that many of us took for granted prior to the pandemic. But with hope on the horizon as new developments are clearing the path for a greater sense of normalcy, many are eager to get back to the world around them. In the meantime, this break can serve as the perfect opportunity to learn how you can become a better traveler in the future. One of the major focuses for travelers now is becoming more eco-friendly and responsible during their excursions. 

If this is a goal of yours, here are a few helpful tips for becoming a more eco-friendly traveler once you’re ready to set off again!

1. Seek Out Responsible Options for Luggage 

What you carry with you as you travel may not seem like it plays a major role in the environment. However, if you choose to invest in products that leave a hefty carbon footprint, you’re already starting to contribute to a larger issue long before you set foot out the door. 

The good news? Whether you’re in the market for a new set of rolling suitcases or need new carry-on items like secure laptop bags, there are plenty of options. There are many companies producing high-quality products that save energy, reduce carbon emissions, and use recycled materials.

2. Don’t Forget That a Local Trip Can Be Just As Exciting

The most exciting travel destinations are often advertised as being far away from home. While you can still be eco-friendly in another country, traveling shorter distances can reduct your carbon footprint. That being said, there are ways to offset your carbon footprint and still enjoy yourself. 

Rather than planning every trip to a faraway destination, consider alternating trips between places closer to home. Chances are you don’t need to board a plane to find somewhere to go hiking. If you look hard enough, you’ll discover plenty of opportunities and rare finds while staying close to home. Who knows? You may even fall more in love with where you currently reside.

3. Pack Your Bags Mindfully

It can be tempting to pack a bunch of items that you simply won’t need during your travels. In order to avoid this, it’s best to pack your gear mindfully and with intention. This means:

  • Bring reusable items that minimize the amount of waste you’re producing during travel (such as a reusable water bottle)
  • Use sustainable packing tools that help create more space, rather than putting items in plastic bags
  • Pack as light as possible (surprisingly, weight does make a difference on how hard your plane will have to work to get you to your destination)
  • Buy eco-friendly travel goods (clothing, toiletries, batteries, etc.)

Learn how to pack by prioritizing the environment. Once you make the adjustment, it’s just a matter of sticking to those habits and making them work. 

4. Use Eco-Friendly Booking Resources to Find Sustainable Shelter

Unfortunately, eco-friendly travel isn’t the norm quite yet, which means sustainable shelter can be hard to find. Booking sites like bookdifferent.com or lokal can help you find eco-friendly hotels or organize trips that center on sustainability. Companies like FlyGRN help offset carbon emissions by using commissions from ticket sales to plant trees or set up solar panels.

If you’re really looking to get the most out of your travels, there are plenty of resources designed to make you and the environment happy. Set aside some time to do research and seek out the tools that will make sustainable travel more achievable for you. 

Becoming an eco-friendly traveler may sound difficult, but there are actually many resources out there to help you make smarter decisions. When you get ready to venture out into the world, seek advice from established travelers that can help you work around common issues. If you’re ready to do better for the environment, use the tips listed in the guide above!

Flying During COVID-19

Packing your bags and hopping on an airplane are less than ideal during today’s times. In a pre-Covid era, travelers never thought twice about air travel. With vaccinations ramping up and glimpses of a normal, post-Covid reality in sight, the thought of flying is becoming more and more talked about. So what’s the flying experience really like? I recently returned to NYC from SoCal after a 3-week stay, and I’m here to share my personal experience. 

Getting Prepared

When planning a trip by plane, it’s important to understand the journey is from door-to-door, not airport-to-airport. How are you getting to the airport? Do you need a Lyft or Uber? If that’s the case, make sure you and the driver keep a mask on and roll windows down if possible. Upon arriving to the airport, make sure to have the key disinfecting essentials:

  1. Hand Sanitizer: For travelling, you will need a 3-ounce bottle with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol. 
  2. Disinfecting Wipes: Although most airlines have a sanitization crew after each flight deboards, you’ll still want to wipe down your seat, tray table, window area, seat belt, and any other frequently touched surface.
  3. Face Mask: Make sure your mask has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. You also must keep your mask on throughout the duration of the flight. Here is the ultimate face mask guide. 
  4. Face Shield (Optional): If you are high risk, you should consider a face shield to protect against large droplets directly getting into your eyes. If you opt for a face shield, you’ll still need to wear a mask. Be cautious though – face shields are more prone to a face full of fog!

Airport Arrival

Once you’ve got the sanitation essentials and arrive at the airport, it’ll be time to go through TSA security and head to your gate. This process stays relatively the same – remove your shoes and jackets, place your belongings on the belt, and head through the scanner. If possible, utilize PreCheck or Clear to avoid the longer security lines. 

The airports themselves are the most intimidating factor of the flying experience. Yes, everyone is supposed to keep their mask on inside, however, some people have to get a snack in before flights. I recommend eating prior to your flight and bringing your own snacks if necessary. It’s also best to find an empty spot in the airport, away from travelers, while you wait to board the plane. 

The Boarding Process

The process of boarding the plane might be a bit different than you’re used to. Instead of boarding by groups, most airlines will now board from the back of the plane to the front. This minimizes the amount of times people walk by you, ultimately creating less exposure. I flew JetBlue, and they fortunately block out middle seats. This is nice, because not only do you have more space in your row, but you also don’t have to worry about sitting inches away from a stranger. Let’s be real – airplane seats are already too close to begin with. 

Ready For Take-off!

Now that you’re settled in your seat, it’s time to enjoy the flight like usual. Not much is different about the flight itself. Watch a movie, read a book, or play that annoyingly addictive game on your phone. Pull out your earbuds and check out that new podcast episode you’ve struggled to find time for, or that new rock album you’ve been wanting to hear. Try to fill your flight time with mindless activities rather than focus too much on the pandemic. It’s comforting to know that airplanes have HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters that provide efficient circulation on aircrafts. This means “the air you breathe in flight is much cleaner than the air in restaurants, bars, stores, or your best friend’s living room” (National Geographic). 

The Deboarding Process

Once you land and the flight is officially over, you will go through the basic deboarding process from front-to-back. Be patient, wait in your seat until it’s your turn to leave – it’s hard not to stand immediately, I know – and make your way down the aisle to exit the cabin. Plan to have your ride from the airport to your destination scheduled in advance, whether it’s through a car service or a family member/friend. 

And that’s it! You’ve successfully made it through the flying experience. Remember though, it is best to stay home or travel by car as much as possible. If you must fly, then follow the tips above and make sure to check-in with CDC guidelines for the state you are visiting. Each city/state has varying guidelines, so you must be informed on quarantine rules prior to your trip.

Safe travels!

5 National Parks to Visit this Winter

National Parks are a wonder any time of the year, but some are even better suited during the winter months. We picked out 5 of our favorite National Parks to visit in the wintertime. Whether you’re an avid cross country skier or you want to find a place warm enough to hike and swim, there will be a National Park that fit your winter adventure needs. 

Are you looking for a few other parks to visit? Check out these five must-see State Parks.

5 National Parks to Visit This Winter

All parks are subject to closures and limited access due to winter weather conditions and COVID-19 precautions. Please check for updates on National Park websites before planning your visit. 

1.   Big Bend National Park 

Instagram: @bigbendnps

Location: Texas

Best Time to Visit: October – April

Winter Temperatures: 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit

Recommended Activity: Hiking or Camping

The winter is the best time of year to visit Big Bend National Park in Texas, making it the busiest time of year as well. Spring and Fall can also be great times to head into the park, but high Summer temperatures make it dangerous to hike and camp.

Big Bend is widely known for its camping, hiking, and backcountry backpacking. No matter your skill level or desire for adventure, there will be a trail that you and your family can enjoy. Most winter nights, even during the coldest months, will reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it perfect for gathering around a cozy campfire and using a bluetooth speaker to sing along to campfire tunes.

If hiking isn’t your favorite activity, Big Bend also offers a wide variety of educational Ranger programs, a few scenic drives, and a must-see Fossil Discovery Exhibit

Learn more on the Big Bend National Park website.

2. Dry Tortugas National Park 

Location: Florida

Best Time to Visit: November – April 

Winter Temperatures: 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit

Recommended Activity: Bird Watching or Scuba Diving

The Dry Tortugas are just off the coast of Key West Florida, and it is a stunning location for any water lover to visit. From snorkeling, diving, fishing, boating, kayaking, and swimming, there is much to be explored in Dry Tortugas National Park. 

While the park can be visited at any time of year, it is essential to note the activities you would most like to participate in will vary from winter to summer. The Dry Tortugas essentially has two seasons: winter and summer. The winter is known for sporadic cold fronts, high winds, and choppy waters. This makes it more challenging to view ocean wildlife when snorkeling and can be unsafe for inexperienced boaters. 

However, the wintertime is the best time of year for bird watchers and tourists looking for fewer crowds. High winds tend to be more consistent from October to January, so if you’re looking for fewer people and still want to enjoy some snorkeling, February may be the best option. 

Be sure to plan your trip to the Dry Tortugas well in advance, as it is only accessible by boat or seaplane. 

Learn more on the Dry Tortugas National Park website.

3. Saguaro National Park 

Location: Arizona

Best Time to Visit: October – April

Winter Temperatures: 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit

Recommended Activity: Hiking 

Located in southern Arizona near Tuscon, Saguaro National Park is a wonderland for nature and hiking enthusiasts to enjoy. Like much of southern Arizona, the winter is the best and busiest time to enjoy outdoor activities. Saguaro National Park is well known for its hiking, and of course, the density of Saguaro cacti spread around the park and surrounding areas. 

Beyond incredible desert vistas while hiking or backpacking and the diverse flora and fauna, visitors can also enjoy the natural history by visiting area petroglyphs. 

If you’d like to camp in the park, make reservations early as camping spots fill up fast. You can make reservations as early as two months in advance. Be advised that hours and accessibility may differ due to COVID-19. 

Finally, a must mention for any trip in the Arizona desert is to take some time to view the sunset. Although sunsets are spectacular in most outdoor spaces, the sunsets seem richer due to the landscape’s natural warm coloring.

Learn more on the Saguaro National Park website.

4. Bryce Canyon National Park 

Instagram: @brycecanyonnps_gov

Location: Utah

Best Time to Visit: May – September

Winter Temperatures: 10-40 degrees Fahrenheit

Recommended Activity: Snowshoeing or Cross-country Skiing 

Although the winter is not deemed the “best” time of year to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, there is plenty to do for winter adventurers. If you are a lover of all things snowshoeing and cross country skiing, Bryce Canyon is a must-see park to put on your list. 

The winter is the least traveled by humans in the park, making it optimal for wildlife viewing and stunning nature photography. If you plan a visit to the park, don’t fret that daylight hours are shorter either, because the night skies in Bryce are an unforgettable sight. Study up on your winter constellations before you come, and enjoy a snowy night hike amongst the stars. 

Learn more on the Bryce Canyon National Park website.

5. Acadia National Park 

Location: Maine

Best Time to Visit: August – October

Winter Temperatures: 10-35 degrees Fahrenheit

Recommended Activity: Cross-Country Skiing 

The last park on our list is a bit further north in Maine. Acadia National Park is well known for its Fall colors, making Autumn the most popular season to visit. Still, if cross country skiing is a favorite activity of yours, then this is one of the best places to go this winter. 

Acadia’s backcountry ski trails are hard to beat since there are around 45 miles of groomed trails. Beyond that, you are also allowed to ski on unplowed park roads. Be warned that snowmobiles can also use the roads for travel though. 

Acadia National Park is also a stunning place to go for a winter hike or an afternoon snowshoe. 

Learn more on the Acadia National Park website.

5 Must-Visit State Parks to Add to Your Bucket List

Many of us have been postponing or rescheduling travels in 2020. If we didn’t outright cancel plans, we might have restructured our vacations to focus on closer to home or outdoor locations. 

I’m sure you’ve heard of some of the most popular National Parks like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but did you know that there are over 6,600 state park sites in the United States? The vast array of outdoor spaces we have access to in the US is astounding and fortunate during a pandemic. That way, we can still get outside and avoid the crowds, but we have to be willing to look beyond the most well-known parks and places. 

To help you narrow it down, we put together some lesser-visited yet epically spectacular parks to add to your bucket list. 

5 Bucket List State Parks

1.   Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Instagram: @valley.of.fire

Location: Overton, Nevada

Best Time to Visit: October – April

Must-Do: Prospect Trail 

Camping: 72 sites (RV hookups available)

Drive through the Valley of Fire State Park, and it will make you think that perhaps you are on Mars. The unique red rock formations and indigenous history within the park have been a focal point for numerous Hollywood productions, festivals, and countless weddings. 

The stunning colors of the landscape come from the Aztec sandstone against the backdrop of limestone mountains. Beyond the geological history, this land is rich with other natural histories, including petroglyphs carved into the rocks by the Basketmaker culture, Early Pueblo, and the Paiutes. 

You can drive through the park and stop at overlooks and enjoy short walks from your car, or you can stay and camp in the first-come, first-serve campground. The campsites are spread out in rocky outcroppings giving you a sense of solitude. 

Learn more on the Valley of Fire State Park website.

2.   City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico 

Instagram: @wandering.america

Location: Deming, New Mexico

Best Time to Visit: Spring / Fall

Must-Do: Camping among the rocks

Camping: 41 sites (with showers / RV hookups)

City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico is located in the Southwest corner of the state. What makes this park unique is the volcanic rock formations. This is a great place to stop over for a relaxing overnight or weekend camping trip. 

All of the campsites are spread out among the volcanic rock formations. The park itself is relatively small, only about one square mile. So, there is some hiking available, but it is limited. If you do plan to hike, make sure to pack a bluetooth portable speaker that will fit right in the slot of your backpack.

The park’s name, City of Rocks, comes from the geological formations that make up a “city” of rock pinnacles that rise to 40 feet in height and are separated by paths. From a distance, the spread of pinnacles resembles a city in the barren Chihuahuan desert. 

Beyond camping and hiking, City of Rocks is a spectacular place for stargazing, birding, and mountain biking. Faywood Hot Springs are also within 5 miles of the park to add some relaxation and adventure to your visit. 

Learn more on the City of Rocks State Park website.

3.   Custer State Park, South Dakota

Instagram: @custerstateparksd

Location: Custer, South Dakota

Best Time to Visit: May-October

Must-Do: Kayaking on Sylvan Lake

Camping: 9 scenic campgrounds spread throughout the park

Located in the Black Hills area of South Dakota, Custer State Park offers various year-round adventures that anyone can enjoy. While they are open in the winter months, the warmer months tend to be a more popular time to visit the area. 

Depending on the activity, you will have access to several different camping experiences. All camping areas, even dry camping, will have access to a bathroom of some kind, even if they are just pit toilets. There are also cabins available for rent and a resort within the park if you are looking for a more luxurious getaway. 

Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, paddleboarding, and horseback riding are just a few of the most popular things to do within the park. During the winter months, many visitors enjoy snowshoeing and cross country skiing. 

Learn more on the Custer State Park website.

4.   Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan 

Instagram: @porcupinemountainscvb

Location: Ontonagon, Michigan

Best Time to Visit: September – November

Must-Do: Backpacking

Camping: Backcountry sites, campgrounds, Yurt rentals, and cabins 

Michigan’s largest state park is located on the scenic Upper Peninsula and includes the Porcupine Mountains. This park is home to over 90 miles of hiking trails and 60,000 acres of land, some of which stretch along the shoreline of Lake Superior. That isn’t the only lake on the horizon, though. 

One of the most famous portions of the park is Lake of the Clouds. This lake is tucked in a valley accessible when backpacking but is visible from a few different overlooks. One of the overlooks is ADA accessible as well. Be warned that the hiking trails are notorious for being muddy, flooded, and buggy so bring proper gear. 

Other popular activities beyond backpacking and camping include fishing, boating, and biking. During the winter months, both cross country and downhill skiing are available in the area. 

Learn more on the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park website.

5.   Merchants Millpond State Park, North Carolina

Instagram: @curtsuneson

Location: Gatesville, North Carolina 

Best Time to Visit: Year-Round

Must-Do: Paddling

Camping: Hike-in, paddle-in, and 20 drive-up sites

Located in the Northeast corner of North Carolina is a hidden gem of a swamp. Now, a swamp park doesn’t sound all that fun, but if you are a fan of paddling, this Southern swamp and hardwood forest is a wonderland. 

There are no entrance fees to enter the park, but you have to set up reservations for overnight stays. While you can reserve drive-up campsites, some of the most coveted spots are the ones you have to backpack or paddle to. Although there are alligators and other swamp critters around, they generally avoid visitors paddling through the waters. Be sure to respect their boundaries as well. 

Besides paddling, you can also enjoy some biking/hiking trails, fishing, and picnic areas.

Learn more on the Merchants Millpond State Park website.

Analysis of a Successful Traveler’s Gear

There’s a lot to think about when you’re a frequent traveler. From the types of clothing you pack and the shoes you wear to the airport to how many bags you bring and where you keep all your essentials, a successful traveler has a plan for everything. If you’re wondering what you need to have in order to ensure your travels are comfortable and convenient, explore these top tips for the most essential traveler’s gear everyone should have.

  1. Inflatable Pillows

Getting rest while in the air or on the road is critical. You don’t want to arrive exhausted and take days to recover from your flight and adjust to a new time zone. Whether you’re traveling for work or adventure, you want to get out and get at it right away! An inflatable pillow allows you to bring an ultra-compact accessory that provides so much comfort during your trip. Since it’s inflatable, your pillow can fit into any zippered compartment, side pouch, and even in your pants pocket. 

Once you’re settled in your seat, you can inflate your pillow to your desired comfort level. Instead of using those weird, flat airline pillows, you now have more neck support than ever. Since inflatable pillows are so versatile, you can find them in a number of sizes, shapes, and fabrics to customize your experience.

  1. Compact Electronics

Your phone may nearly be the size of a laptop these days, but that doesn’t mean that all your other electronic accessories and essentials need to take up a lot of space. From docking stations to portable chargers, you should be looking for all-in-one travel electronic tools that make it a whole lot easier to just pack up and go. Look for battery packs that fit right onto your phone or charging cords that split into several strands and can charge multiple phones, tablets, and cameras. The more you can compact your electronics, the easier it is to bring more of the travel accessories you really need.

  1. TSA Friendly Bags & Cases

TSA pre-check and carry-on only travelers may have a great deal, but that’s not always an option for everyone. To ensure you have the easiest time getting through airport security, a TSA-friendly bag is one of the most important pieces in your traveler’s arsenal. Look for laptop backpacks that have separate and distinct compartments, so that you can easily access your laptop and whip it out for security. Restraining straps are also a top choice for TSA-friendly bags to allow you to access any section of your carry-on without opening and sorting through the entire thing.

Travel bags are about more than just being efficient for security checkpoints though. They’re also more durable and protective than other backpacks and bags. You’ll find travel bags that are weather resistant and waterproof, ones that can convert from backpacks to messenger bags, and bags with specialty contoured designs that make them easier to carry over long distances — no matter how heavy they are!

  1. Packing Cubes

Organization in packing is the key to making sure you can fit everything you need into the smallest space available. With travel restrictions in place dictating how many bags you can bring and how much they’re allowed to weigh, strategizing where everything fits in your bag is one of the most important parts of packing. Invest in some travel cubes to make packing more like Tetris and less like Jumble.

  1. Comfortable Clothing

Getting to and from the airport means you don’t want to be messing with your clothing or tripping over heels as you rush through security, terminals, and gates. Comfortable travel clothing ensures you feel good in any situation — whether you’re running to catch your connecting flight or freezing in an over-air-conditioned cabin. Athleisure and loungewear are the most recommended options for flying. Opt for leggings, sweats, layered tops, and slip-on sneakers to create a flexible wardrobe that you can adjust to your surroundings.

  1. Supportive Travel Shoes

Traveling to your destination can require a surprising amount of walking even if you’re mostly navigating airports and train stations. When you’re walking around through airports and foreign cities, thinking about your shoes is probably the last thing on your mind. But, if you want to get through your trip without aching feet and legs or a sore back, you should move your shoes to the top of your list. Get travel shoes with thicker soles and more shock absorption, as well as light, breathable fabric that won’t weigh down your bag. Bonus for finding a shoe with removable arch support that allows you to insert your own orthopedic footwear!

Become a Travel Expert

man holding luggage photo

Travel looks very different now than it did five years ago, or even just one year ago. While there are still a depressing amount of travel restrictions in place, don’t lose hope! Embrace the change in travel and evolve with the times to ensure that when everything opens up again, you’ll be ready with quality traveling gear.

Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Hiking

Going out for a hike can span the time of a few hours, an entire day, or even days, weeks, and months. While hiking and backpacking are two different disciplines to prepare for, they do have many similarities. Getting off crowded metropolitan hikes and popular AllTrails picks can be both scary and extremely rewarding. Venturing into the backcountry should be built up to and takes a bit more planning than hikes you may be used to. 

As a beginner’s guide to backcountry hiking, we will be focusing specifically on hikes that can be completed in one day and require no overnights on the trail. Our goal is to give you the knowledge and reference points you need to feel confident, safe, and prepared on your upcoming backcountry hike. 

Take a Hike

Have Proper Hiking Equipment

Since you are only planning for a day hike, you will not need too much in the way of gear. While it may not seem like you need all of these things, keep in mind that you will be miles away from any roads and even further from any cities. You may not even have cell phone service for the majority of the day. So, you will need to be prepared and bring the necessary supplies. 

The most important things to bring with you when you are hiking in the backcountry include: 

  • Lightweight Daypack → If you don’t already have one, you will want to invest in a daypack that is intended for hiking. These packs are designed to be comfortable and have easy access compartments for organization of supplies. Many daypacks also come equipped with a hydration system. 
  • Hydration System and Snacks → Water is of the most essential things you will need in the backcountry. Water will also be the heaviest thing you carry, but that doesn’t mean to skimp out. Bring more than you think you need the first time you head into the backcountry. Don’t forget to pack a few trail snacks and maybe lunch if it is a long hike. 
  • Reliable Hiking Boots → The style of hiking shoes you wear will be up to you. Some hikers prefer to wear trail running shoes, while others like to have the classic ankle support high tops. Just be sure that your hiking shoes are broken in properly and have little chance of giving you blisters. Comfortable footwear is the key to an enjoyable hike! 
  • Map of Area, Guidebook, or GPS → Most hiking areas will have hard copies of maps and guidebooks, but you can also opt to download maps onto your phone. Better yet, you can take a backcountry GPS with you. If you go the digital route, keep in mind that your battery will not last forever. So, if you download maps on your phone, consider bringing a portable power bank as well. 
  • First Aid Kit → You may think that this is an unnecessary weight to carry, but better safe than sorry in the backcountry. This kit doesn’t need to be extreme, but it is good to have a few standard first aid supplies in case of an emergency on the trail. 

It can be tempting to kind of skimp on your first round of hiking gear and buy the cheapest options. While a limited budget may be a factor here, consider purchasing higher quality gear second hand or scoping out some discounts at retailers like REI to get higher quality, longer-lasting gear at a lower cost. 

Do Area Trail Research

Make sure you take time to get to know the area before you wander into the woods to get lost! This can be done in a variety of ways. You can go to old school techniques and talk to people from the area that may know the trail systems well. This can also include consulting park rangers and BLM land managers. Oftentimes, this is the most reliable way to go about things, because they will have access to the most recent trail conditions. 

Another common way of researching backcountry trails is to check out websites like All Trails, Hiking Project, and Summit Post. AllTrails can be especially helpful as you can download the app on your phone to have access to downloaded area maps when you’re hiking. 

If those maps aren’t detailed enough, you should invest in a digital or hard copy topographic map of the area. You can find these online and at many outdoor retail stores. 

Beyond knowing where you are going, you should be researching the area’s climate, wildlife, and plants. Look into the weather ahead of time to be sure that you pack accordingly. If you are hiking in a mountainous area, check for afternoon storms. Being aware of area wildlife and plant life will let you know if there are any dangerous animals or poisonous plants to avoid.

Prepare Physically for the Hike

If you are an avid hiker on familiar city trails or low key hiking trails close to town, then you are likely already in relatively good physical condition. Part of researching the area you will be hiking will include knowing the terrain to expect. 

If you are going to be hiking in a notoriously hilly area or a drastically different altitude than you are accustomed to, then you should prepare before attempting the hike. While you may be mentally ready, not being physically fit in the backcountry can be a serious danger. 

As you ramp up to your first backcountry hike, try to fit extra cardio and hiking time into your schedule. Get your legs ready at the gym by utilizing the stair stepper and doing squats. Building up your stamina and strength, will make a difference in safety, as well as how much you enjoy the hike overall. 

Leave No Trace

As you go out into the wilderness to enjoy the solitude and beauty, remember that we are sharing this Earth with other living plants and animals as well. One of the most important things you can take away from this article is to learn the Leave No Trace principles. Keep our wild places wild as we protect our outdoor spaces together! 

Life on the East Coast vs. West Coast

Living in California, I’m sure you’ve seen everyone with their Bluetooth headphones and heard the subtle brag “west coast is the best coast!”. People who stand behind this common phrase often haven’t even been to the east coast. Well, I live on both coasts, so I’ll get to the bottom of this debate. I’ve lived in Orange County all 19 years of my life, but I attend Fordham University in New York City. I still have a lot to learn about the Big Apple, but going to college in this fast-pace environment made me learn a lot in a short amount of time. If there’s one thing I’d like to emphasize, it’s that OC and NYC are COMPLETELY different. Take a look at these nine categories I’ve decided to rate from each coast, and we’ll find out if East or West comes out on top.

  1. Weather – East Coast: 4 / West Coast: 10

The two coasts obviously have VERY different weather patterns. When I first told people I was going to New York for school, their initial reaction was “Wow! Good luck with that winter.” They weren’t wrong either. Cold rain, inches of snow, and average temperatures of 30°F don’t compare to a SoCal winter! Not to mention, New York summers are filled with hot heat and high humidity.

Winter in Central Park. It may be cold, but it sure is pretty!

  1. Food – East Coast: 9 / West Coast: 8

The most important category: FOOD! California wins for best Mexican food hands down. But you already knew that. New York has some of the best Italian food I’ve ever tasted, thanks to Little Italy. Other than that, the coasts are pretty equal when it comes to creative, tasty food spots. However, NYC’s East Village is home to uniquely individual food spots that satisfy every and any craving. West Coast is more reliable if you’re searching for a typical chain restaurant.

  1. Views – East Coast: 8 / West Coast: 8

This category is a tough one. If you head to the top of the Empire State Building, you’ll catch the most spectacular view of the NYC Skyline. It’s truly a view that you can’t get anywhere else. What the East Coast doesn’t have, however, is a West Coast sunset. Watching the sunset on the beach is a casual activity here in Southern California that you definitely can’t do in New York. But which is better…NYC Skyline or California Sunset?

View from the top of the Empire State Building.

Laguna Beach, California – December 2016.

  1. People – East Coast: 6 / West Coast: 8

One time I went with my roommate to get her nose pierced at a famous tattoo shop. After talking with the tattoo artist for a few minutes, he asked, “Where you from? You’re way too nice to be from New York.” So yes, the typical stereotype of a New Yorker is (mostly) true. New Yorkers are always in a rush (thanks to Subway System delays), so don’t take anything personal. City streets are filled with people that are trying to sell you tickets or grab your attention, so we unintentionally begin to brush people off. After living in New York for only a year, I’ve noticed personal changes. I walk way faster, I’ve become more opinionated, and yes, I sometimes forget to say thanks when a stranger holds the door open for me…forgive me! California’s laidback lifestyle offers more time for people to say thanks, have a casual conversation with a neighbor, and smile at every stranger who walks by.

  1. Fashion – East Coast: 9 / West Coast: 7

Fashion plays a HUGE role in a NYC lifestyle. After all, it is home to New York Fashion Week. City life promotes stylish outfits, no matter where you’re headed. Even if you’re simply taking a stroll through Central Park, you’ll notice mostly everyone has their outfits together. In SoCal, people tend to run errands in workout clothes, go to work in workout clothes, and sit around at home in workout clothes. I’m not complaining though, comfort is key!

  1. Entertainment – East Coast: 10 / West Coast: 6

Not going to lie, Southern California can get boring. Yeah, we have the beach and all, but the beach gets repetitive. SoCal doesn’t compare to the “City that Never Sleeps.” When I’m in New York, I see something new every day. Even the subway rides are filled with entertainment (shout out to the street performers). NYC has free comedy shows, free concerts, museums, pop-up shops, and much MUCH more on any day of the week.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). One of many famous museums in NYC.

  1. Transportation – East Coast: 8 / West Coast: 5

Southern California and New York City are both known for having the WORST traffic. Unless you’re an Uber, Lyft, or Taxi driver in NYC, you’re better off walking or using the subway system. The MTA New York Subway is seriously the best transportation system. Yes, it gets crowded and the subway carts aren’t the cleanest, but you get places fast. For $2.75, you can go anywhere in the five boroughs, which is cheap considering you’d be paying for gas money anyways if you were driving a car.

D-Train Subway Line. Uptown & The Bronx

  1. Expenses – East Coast: 4 / West Coast: 6

There’s nothing cheap about living in New York or California. Good luck getting the penthouse suit with floor to ceiling windows that overlooks NYC. The expense of winter coats and sweaters adds up too…I spent over $1,000 on coats for last winter alone. Restaurants, grocery shopping, gas, movies, concerts, and pretty much any other activity are pricy on both coasts. When a free show or event comes around, don’t pass it up!

  1. Lifestyle – East Coast: 7 / West Coast: 8

The lifestyles on the two coasts are completely different. NYC is a fast-pace environment that motivates you to keep moving. If I sit around and watch Netflix for a day in New York, I honestly feel bad about it because I feel like it’s a day wasted. At home in California, I feel no shame lying in bed to binge watch my favorite TV show. This category is totally based on opinion, and I like the easy-going vibes that surround the West Coast.

Alright so which coast comes out on top? East Coast (NYC) or West Coast (SoCal)?

Totals – East Coast: 65 / West Coast: 66

Looks like the West Coast wins by one point!! I expected this to turn out pretty even, since I honestly don’t know which coast I like better. The lifestyles are too different to compare, and it really just depends on your personality. I love living in NYC, and I think it’s a great place to explore during my 20s. When it’s time to settle down, California will be a better fit. Even though the city life is great, Orange County will always be my home!