Gear Shakedown #3…Tent and Food!

You would not believe it, but we have acquired another, lighter tent! Plus, I have prepared the food I will be taking on trail and explaining how it pertains to my anxiety. Finally, here is my Gear Shakedown #3…Tent and Food.

I know what you might be thinking, wasn’t there already a Gear Shakedown about what tent we are carrying? Why yes, Gear Shakedown…#1? However, while our Coleman 2 person sundome is a great tent, it is heavy and bulky. My sister, Rachel (you met here in her point of view backpacking Pictured Rocks for the first time), sent us her new backpacking tent and it is a darn game changer!

I have sought out advice when deciding to carry our 7lb Coleman tent and decided to go with the people telling me “hike your own hike” and “pack what you have.” And what we had was a heavy, bulky tent. However, in an amazing sale, Rachel got her hands on a Nemo Hornet Elite. Rachel and I are always hyping each other up when it comes to our outdoor adventures and are not shy about sharing our gear. Rachel was even the person that introduced me to the idea of hammock camping! When discussing my tent dilemma, Rachel offered too send me her brand-spanking-new tent!

Rachel’s backpacking tent
Our first practice setting up Rachel’s tent

The Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight Backpacking tent is 3lbs and packs smaller than our sleeping bags! On top of being so much liter, Charlie agreed that he will carry the tent body and rain fly, while I will carry the poles and stakes. SO CONVEINENT. We have practiced setting up the tent and it is a darn dream. If you can get your hands on this tent I really encourage it!

On top of acquiring an amazing backspacing tent, we are to the point where we have packed our food bags!…a few different times! This is a big deal from me because backpackers are known to “pack their fears” and my fear is being hungry. Originally this meant that I had 2-3 days of extra food including too many snacks.

Backpacking food
Before

This might look like not a lot of food to some people, but I was definitely overcompensating for a four day trip. While a day before our hike I removed food, I did buy one backpacking meal while in Marquette at Downwind Sports that made a huge difference in how I cooked all my dinners.

Revised food packed for backpacking
After

In my after picture you can see that I added the Good to Go – kale and white bean stew and removed the mushroom Marsala meals. This made a huge difference for weight and cooking/cleaning. The mushroom Marsala meals were the heaviest things in my food bag, removing these and one ramen meal made my bag lighter. The addition of the backpacking meal gave me a vessel to hot soak my ramen meals that was lite and compact – plus, no dishes since I was just boiling water in our one pot!

In the end this is what I packed in my food bag:

  • 4 ramen meals
  • 4 packets of dinosaur oatmeal
  • 4 packets of single-serve instant coffee
  • 1 resealable snack bag of powdered milk
  • 5 packs of gushers (never enough gushers)
  • 5 cliff bars
  • 5 little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (another item i wished I had more of)
  • Pack of 10 tortillas
  • 1 reusable squeeze pouch of peanut butter (should have also packed jelly!)
  • 8 single-serve bags of Jerquee
  • 1 Good to Go – Kale and White Bean Stew

Thank you for sharing my excitement as we plan our 2021 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore backpacking trip. We are getting down to the wire and next I will sharing our 2021 Pictured Rocks Backpacking trip!

Love,

Sara

4 Sustainable Alternatives for Backpacking Gear

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

When obtaining backpacking gear it is important to consider quality, weight, and cost. While I do my best to avoid creating additional waste in my everyday life, it is just as hard to do so on backpacking trips. I want my gear to be lite when possible, but if that means excessive trash or that items may break sooner than later, then I want to find a sustainable alternative. Here are my 4 Sustainable Alternatives for Backpacking Gear!

#1
Alternative: Reusable Food Pouches
Replacing: Single-use nut butter pouches

I love taking peanut or almond butter on the trail, but a full jar is too heavy and single-use pouches and containers create a lot of [unnecessary] waste. Instead I use these pouches and even add my own mix-ins to the nut butter!

#2
Alternative: Camping Spork
Replacing: Single-use plastic cutlery

The Humangear GoBites Duo is a deep-reach spoon/fork alternative to bringing single-use plastic or your [heavier] metal spoons and forks. Honestly, a lot of backpackers already use specific cutlery, so pat yourself on the back!

#3
Alternative: Pee Cloth
Replacing: Extra toilet paper

A reusable pee cloth is an alternative to toilet paper for urination ONLY. They dry quick and most have anti-bacterial properties.

#4
Alternative: Reusable water bottle/bladder
Replacing: Singleiuse plastic water bottle

Now some people (I will tease and call them “gram weenies”) may tell me that reusable water bottles are “too heavy” and there are benefits to using single-use plastic, but I say too bad! A single-use water bottle will always end in a landfill and we can do our best to keep reusable water bottles with us for years and years.

These are just 4 sustainable alternatives for backpacking gear, and I hope that these items inspire you to make more sustainable choices for your next backpacking trip and in your everyday life. Make sure ou comment your favorite sustainable alternatives below and thank you for checking out my list!

Love,

Sara

Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

I am going to be frank with you, while these are very popular things I will be listing, I am definitely listing my favorites at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. While these are things that are popular all around, these are my Top3 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore based on my hiking experiences.

  1. Au Sable Lighthouse
Took this picture on a girls trip in fall 2020

I LOVE lighthouses and this one is gorgeous! You can reach this beauty from the Hurricane River campground along a short 1.5 mile hike. Just make sure to park in a day-use spot and not in a campsite!

This is an amazing landmark, but what makes it so special for me is that I have not seen it on my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trips yet. I have hiked from Hurricane River campground to see it, but since last year we had to start our hike at Chapel Beach parking we missed this beauty (see my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking experience in Part 1 and Part 2). I am so excited that this year we will be starting our trip at Au Sable Visitor center and will be marveling at this light station on day 2!

  1. Chapel Beach
Lake Superior beach
How we were welcomed to Chapel beach

I had never seen true beauty until I had seen the beautiful Chapel beach waters and cliff views. The water is so blue and clear.

We celebrated our first break at Chapel beach and it quickly became our favorite spot after a sweaty hike. If you can only hike one area of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make sure it is the Chapel Loop!…just make sure to get to the parking area before 8am to get a good spot! This is a popular loop since the sights and beach are so worth it!

  1. Miner’s Castle

Miner’s Castle is just cool! The Miner’s Castle Rock is awesome and one of the only things on the lakeshore that are accessible from the parking lot. Not to mention there are bathrooms and educational materials for curious families and sea kayakers!

While you will appreciate the majesty of this rock formation, you know I have a selfish and personal reason for liking Miner’s Castle best. It’s the end for me. Minor’s Castle is where we park the car and celebrate completing the trail. While I look forward to being on trail, ending the trail is a great feeling of accomplishment and I love that feeling just as much as the journey to get there!

I hope you enjoyed my Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Let me know which one location you want to visit the most and please check out the links below as I prepare for my second Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trip!

Love,

Sara

How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

Hi all! Now that is it May, I need to start preparing for my second trip backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Last year we were able to reserve a few backcountry sites to backpack the lakeshore, but this time around we prepared ahead of time (see Top 5 Things to Know Before Hiking Pictured Rocks) to reserve backcountry permits to make sure we hike from Grand Sable Visitor Center to Minors Castle (almost the whole lakeshore)!  There are a few things I am doing to make sure I am ready for this trip and I had better start now rather than later. Here are my tips to prepare for your backpacking trip!

  1. Get in shape

I was in a lot better shape last year and I was still tired after each day of hiking. This year…I need to start taking on more mileage before I hike 7.3 miles a day for fun. On top of just in general needing to get in shape, taking on so many miles consecutively and so soon can lead to injury if not properly prepared. Everyone is different, do your research and prepare your own body accordingly. I know that for myself, I need to do something to get in shape and prepare my body for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip.

If you are planning a longer hiking trip make sure your body can handle the work-load involved in your scenic hike!

  1. Get your gear together
The fellas use our gear as a bed is we leave it out for them to play with.
The Fellas cuddling with our backpacking gear when it’s not in storage.

If you are just starting out on your first backpacking trip you have A LOT to prepare for. Even if you are a seasoned backpacker you know how much planning it takes to make sure you are ready for comfort in the backcountry. You should do plenty of research on what others take into the backcountry and even think about additional things that would make yourself comfortable and happy! Here are things I take backpacking with me:

If you have your gear organized year round then this is not too much of a problem. Personally I use totes to put all my things in except my sleeping bag which I don’t want to squish. I keep my sleeping bag outside of storage because my dogs love cuddling it. People may use more, less, or liter gear but the above is what I take with me into the backcountry.

  1. Upgrade gear as needed

While I am loving my gear, there are a few things that we are upgrading/ changing based on different desires or needs:

  • Charlie is looking at getting a tent instead of bringing out his hammock setup again. He just decided that the hammock surrounded by the bug net and tarp was too constricting and did not provide enough privacy.
  • I am looking at changing or nixing my pillow. With my hammock I just don’t need it and I just wake up cuddling it like a teddy bear anyway.

Changing up your gear list is up to you and your preferences, don’t let anyone tell you different!

  1. Shakedown Hike

Now you have your gear together. You’re packed up and eager. Now it is time for a practice run. 

Hike with your bag. Overnight with your supplies. Is your bag too heavy for you? Did you pack some unnecessary items? Forget something you really need? Figure this out now and get rid of anything you don’t need. This is also a great way to practice wearing your backpack and make sure it is the right one for you! See Rachel’s How Not to Pack for A Pictured Rock Hiking Trip to really understand the importance of packing.

  1. Prepare a main point of contact 

I have said this before and I will say it again; make sure someone knows where you are and your itinerary! When Charlie and I leave for any type of trip we need to get a dog sitter and that is normally a family member. When we leave for a trip we know we may have limited cell service we make sure that this family member is prepared with our itinerary with notes on when we will be able to contact them and what to do if we do not contact them. A satellite phone would also help in these situation and hopefully by the time we do this trip we will have a Garmin InReach or InReach Mini. STILL, these phones are not always 100 percent reliable and your point of contact should be told that!

These tips for preparing for your backpacking trip are only the things primarily on my mind right now. Make sure to always do your own research and to make sure you are comfortable with your plans and your gear before isolating yourself in the backcountry. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you have so much fun!

Once on trail I will make sure to share as many photos and tips as possible! I will let you know how the trip went right here on the blog and don’t forget to read my first experience hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; Part 1 and Part 2. And follow my adventures on Instagram!

Love,

Sara

My First Thru-Hike Part 1/Day 1

I have really appreciated seeing that people are interested in hearing about my experience at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore and after reading Rachel’s story, I have been inspired to share my own. This will be in two parts since I have plenty to talk about and it helps me since we are still moving from our old house. Just like Rachel’s story, I learned a lot through error, saw the most amazing cliffs and beaches, and bonded with my fiancé and sister. From learning about the opportunity to thru-hike Picture Rocks to ending with pizza and a long drive home, my first thru-hike awaked a new awakened exciting interest for me (hence this lifestyle blog!?).

It was summer 2020 (the same summer we first hiked Picture Rocks) that I found out you could backcountry camp at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore. With trails connecting each campsite you can complete the entire 42 mile trail in less than a week! After taking this idea to Charlie and then to Rachel, we agreed to enjoy our summer vacation with our first backpacking trip. We spent the next two months acquiring our gear from the big three (backpack, sleep system, and shelter) to planning little things like which vegetarian jerky tastes the best. After confirming our vacation dates with our jobs we finally went to recreation.gov to make our backcountry campsite reservations, which if you read “Top 5 Things to Know before Hiking Picture Rocks” you know we made a big mistake in waiting until late summer to make reservations. We were only able to reserve two consecutive nights for nearby campsites.

This caused the first issue in my planning. The campsites we were able to select were Mosquito River and Cliffs. Now these sites are 6.9 miles from each other, not so bad. For our first day we decided to start out at Chapel parking so that we could see Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, and Chapel Beach – all worth it.  However, this made our trip to Mosquito River campsite 8-9 miles on day one! This was a lot for us novice backpackers.

With the small itinerary set, we knew we needed to get to Chapel parking early because it is a highly trafficked trail with a big payoff at the end. We did NOT wake up as early as we had wanted to and even treated ourselves to Biggby coffee on the way to Munising. After getting a little lost to drop Rachel’s car off at Miner’s Castle parking (a blessing and the only sight accessible by car), she threw her backpack in Charlie’s car and we headed to Chapel parking where we gawked at Ride and Seek’s van as it parked and unloaded our packs. Once we trekked to the trailhead from a street parking spot I had realized I left our camping permits in the car and went back to get them while Rachel took pictures of the trail maps.

The first mile all I could think about was getting to the beach and eating lunch…my first clue at how much of a food-motivated hiker I am. Our first stop was Chapel Falls which was beautiful at every angle. Our first pictures were here and the only evidence that I hiked the first two miles in shorts. After passing the falls we got a little lost after passing a sign for “North Country Trail.” Fun fact, the Picture Rocks National Shoreline trails are part of the longest scenic trail; the North Country Trail. However, here we got the chance to chat with a family that really cheered us on and joked that carrying their baby was probably lighter than our packs!

Resting at Chapel Falls with Rachel

Once back on track I was grossly aware of hikers behind us, dreading the moment they caught up and we would preemptively mask-up and move to the side for the lighter day hikers. This was an unnecessary stressor that really should not have bothered me and I even started to remember the family that was cheering us on and enjoy the canopy and look for the horizon beyond the trees. Once I started to let go of the small anxieties, I immediately started to enjoy my hike better.

Then we reached Chapel Beach and Rock. Wow. Chapel Rock is awesome, you have to see its lone tree yourself. But the beach. Y’all, Chapel Beach is the most beautiful beach I have ever been to – my Laguna Thousand Step Beach friends’ group is shook reading this. The beach had socially-distanced groups scattered across its entirety (I mean who wants to be near each other on the beach anyway?) and a few rented pontoons anchored near the shore. The water was beautiful turquoise and a river that fed into Lake Superior created a safe space for small children to frolic in.

We ate lunch and I changed into my leggings behind a log to save my thighs from the undeniable chaffing I was experiencing. The climb back up to the trail was worse than getting onto the sandy beach, but of course gravity was never a friend to backpackers. From this point on it felt like we stopped every 10 minutes at a lookout to see every angle of the cliffs and the waves of Lake Superior’s blue-green water. Mine and Rachel’s packs became exhausting but seeing each mushroom and muddy step kept us occupied in between lookout points.  

Posing at a lookout!

After a little bit under dense tree cover I cannot explain to you the joy and relief I found in myself after seeing a sign for Mosquito River Campground. Then while we thought we had one mile to go, we realized the campsite was 20 feet behind the sign! We chose the nearest site to Lake Superior and immediately began to set up our hammocks sans rain tarps and trek to the shore to collect and filter water.

We made dinner at camp – wrong, you are supposed to keep food stuff at the center of the campground to avoid critters and bears at individual campsites. Ever since resting at Chapel Beach I had began cold-soaking some dried mushrooms for our dinner and began to boil water for risotto. Which I made too much of. I felt sick trying to eat it all to avoid waist/bear bait. After dinner we took all food items and trash to the campsite’s bear box and I took my sore body to bed. I recall Charlie waking up in the middle of the night to rain and alerting us, but I was under good tree cover and too sore and tired to be bothered with putting up my rain tarp. Fortunately Charlie but my pack under his tarp and I never got wet! I slept like a big baby that first night.

Wow, this is the longest post I have personally created for Sustaining Sara! Please make sure to see how my backpacking adventure concludes on Monday’s post; Part 2/Day 2! Thank you to everyone that has expressed interest in hearing about my hiking team’s experience (aka Rachel and Charlie) at Picture Rocks. Please make sure to join our community and discussion by following the Sustaining Sara Facebook group and Instagram linked below, thank you!

Love,

Sara

How not to Pack for a Picture Rocks Hiking Trip

Hello fellow patrons of Sustaining Sara! My Name is Rachel, a humble guest, here to indulge you in sustainable, earth friendly, and wanderous content! If you do not know, Sara is my twin sister. Now, of course that is how I got this gig, but trust me, I can bring the content too!

Before I begin my tragic tale, let me tell you a bit about who you are metaphorically speaking to. Like Sara, within the past few years I have begun to expand my views on living sustainably, have continued to curate my plant bb collection, and am constantly molding myself into “Rachel, Wanderer of the World, Extraordinaire”.

…Don’t worry, it will catch on eventually…

This is me… and my giant, unnecessary backpack at the beginning of our trip

Now for the real reason we are here, overpacking.

How does one overpack, you might ask yourself? And to you dear Reader, I would say one does it quickly and without notice. It is with great dismay that I report to you that my first backpacking trip, which was to be our grandest of adventures yet, was nearly a catastrophe. All because I could not keep track of my pack weight in the week leading up to our trip.

Lets recap:

Just like Sara, I have my own lovely line up of backpacking gear. This includes my big three combo that I am just in love with! My choices include my hammock setup (which is constantly evolving), my sleeping bag, the Nemo Forte 20 degree bag, and my backpack, the Kelty Zyro 64W… I love my pack, but this is certainly where all of my woes began. We will get to that in a minute.

For now, let me indulge you in the importance of the big three. These are most often your biggest and most expensive items among your gear. This account for the durability, weight (or lack there of), and the R value rating (warmth).

A great deal of time was dedicated in finding these items. Sara and I’s differences in our hiking and backpacking styles were highlighted in our REI and Amazon carts. A perfect example of these differences was Sara’s choice of a propane stove, while I opted for an alcohol stove. There was no real weight difference to our choices, just in the way they worked and how we would store our stove and fuel.

This is fine, it is more than acceptable to have your own unique set up.

What is not acceptable is when a certain someone (yup, me) notices that the backpack I have chosen is only $10 more for the 64L pack as apposed to the 45L version.

Oh boy… That minute has come, Reader. The instant my woes became reality. I did not know it then, but my nature to overpack would be over indulged solely due to the pack size I had chosen for myself.

The majority of our packs (that being Sara’s, Charlie’s, and my own) began with the same basic items. Including, but not limited to:

  • Hammock gear (See 2020 Faves…and 2019 for specific gear)
  • food and water
  • stove
  • bowls and eating utensils
  • spare cloths
  • sleeping bag and pads
  • etc.

We also divvied up the gear we would all be sharing evenly according to weight and pack space. This included things like our water filter, the Sawyer One Gallon Gravity System, among other things.

With the essentials lined up, it was time to bring some pizzazz to my time on the North Country Trail. This is just a fancy way of saying “I can not live without my stuff, I get bored easily, and I always bring a book that I never actually read.” This trip was no exception to this “Rachel Rule” and ohhhh lordy, did I suffer the consequences.

A few things past Rachel did not need to pack include:

  • a kalimba complete with a notebook full of tabs
  • a deck of cards that was never used
  • to many pairs of socks and extra leggings
  • another book that never saw the shore
  • and an entire bag of granola (I did not need the entire thing!)

I also ended up carrying my hiking boots inside my pack instead of my chacos… Considering the blisters I received the first day of hiking, this was best for my feet… but probably not the best for my back…

Me with my giant, unnecessary pack, now at max weight with my boots inside

For a wee visual, somewhere between Miner’s Beach and Miner’s Castle the straw broke the camel’s back. The camel was me and the camel’s back, was my own. I was in literal tears for the majority of that stretch (no shame here). It felt like the longest few miles of my life. I was quite literally torn between completing our hike and just laying down and perishing on the shoreline. Anything to get that pack off my back!

After a particularly slight incline, that totally killed me, I started recognizing the area where my car was waiting for us. “We’re almost there, Rachy!” I can remember Sara cheering me on. It might have worked if there was not an assortment of picnic tables between us and the car. I limped to the nearest one and *gracefully* clasped onto it. Relieving myself of my pack was both the most painful and joyful thing I had done that entire day.

I sat there as Sara riffled through my bag for my car keys. Her and Charlie milled about the area using the facilities, loading their gear into the car, and admiring the views of the shore while I sat there feeling shriveled up, laying my head on the picnic table, hydrating for dear life.

At some point Sara came over and offered to take my pack to the car.

“OHHHH MYYY GODDD!”

I lift my head in time to see her putting my pack back on the ground.

“No wonder you’re hurting! This is so HEAVY!”

Dear Reader, I cried. Again! I let it out. It sunk in slowly, I was not technically a wimp, I was an over packer!

You can almost see me behind my pack…

In the backpacking world any nonessential items are usually left off trail. As I ease into the ways of backpacking, the idea of an ultra light set up was never on my radar. Our trip and the lessons I painstakingly learned have given me a new perspective on how I will pack for future adventures. A good and hard look at what gear I am willing to take with me, and most importantly what gear I should probably leave behind will be needed every time I plan another trip!

The other major thing that I modified on my pack was the shoulder straps and the hip belt. Even though I took a considerable amount of time to do this pre-Picture Rocks, at the conclusion of our hike it was obvious that I had not done it properly! That entire time my pack was sitting on my back incorrectly, putting weight and pressure on all the wrong places!

I now know that with the correct adjustments, my time on trail would have been so much more pleasant. Obviously, not perfectly pleasant, but so much better than what it was.

Even though I have nightmares about the horrors of Past Rachel’s mistakes, I am still looking forward to our future Picture Rocks trips. This year I will have my modified pack, sans brain, and complete with proper adjustments, with updated gear and an extremely refined gear list! This trip will surely be one fore the books! Covering more trail and testing our limits!

Look at that adequate pack… and then the less than adequate one…

Whether or not you find my tale humorous or just feel pity for Past Rachel, I do hope you enjoyed your read and that any perspective backpackers have learned a valuable lesson. Perhaps, in the not so distant future I will be write to you about my amazing ultra light backpacking lifestyle… I do not foresee this being anytime soon, but here’s to hope!

Taking in the views. An important part of a Picture Rocks trip is the stopping at all the beautiful lookouts!

Top 5 things you need to know before hiking Picture Rocks

I am humbled to share with you that by clicking any links in this post I may receive a kickback. Thank you for your support!

I have had great opportunity to travel, especially in the US, but I can without a doubt say that the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore is the most beautiful place I have been. That being said, there are multiple ways to experience this beauty; boat tour, kayak tour, or by foot. While each of these ways are great in their own right, without a doubt the most immersive is by hiking the shores and cliffs. Here are 5 tips for planning your Picture Rocks hiking trip.

1. Reserve camping spaces far in advance.

The Picture Rocks National Lakeshore and surrounding Upper Peninsula nature areas are very popular vacation spots for the surrounding Great Lakes’ states. Last year we started planning our trip a month ahead and by the time we were ready to reserve backcountry campsites…most were not available. Even the drive-in, “front country” campsites were booked up. We severely had to cutback on the days we could backpack the lakeshore based on finding backcountry campsite reservation within reasonable distance for us novice backpackers. 

Now for 2021 we are determined to hike from Au Sable Visitor Center to Miner’s Castle and reserving our campsites mid-January shows this determination. Keep in mind that reserving campsites for state parks starts January 1st of the reservation year and you will see the taunting “Reservations Full Through October” in June. I recommend planning your summer trip in January (I am serious) and any fall or winter camping in the summer and making your recreation.gov ASAP. 

2. Do not plan on having cell service.

As soon as we left downtown Munising we did not have cell service. Ariana Grande herself was cutoff on Spotify. From what I understand Verizon users tend to have better luck finding spots of service, but otherwise cellphones are unreliable for outside communication. 

That being said, there are ways to try to prepare for this on trail. While satellite phones still do not work 100% of the time, I have been meaning to invest in a Garmin inReach or inReach Mini to send checkin texts to my family.

3. Do your research and have it physically on hand.

On our first trip I forgot to download or print maps, write down daily mileage, or even research landmarks or notable viewpoints in between. While the latter was more of a pleasant surprise, the two former aspects were just annoying. Fortunately my twin sister took some glare-y and fuzzy pictures of maps at the trailhead.

Whether you are doing a short day hike or backpacking multiple nights, make sure to research the trails you are taking and the sights in between. Download this Backcountry Camping Planner with specific Picture Rocks information.

4. Document your emergency contact and itinerary. 

Heaven forbid even the littlest thing goes wrong on your trip, but still plan ahead. The National Parks Service recommends that you store a copy of your itinerary under your driver’s seat including your contact information and your emergency contact. On top of this we also made itineraries for our parents so that they were in the loop and even knew when our phones would be out of service.

5. Have a treat for yourself at the end of the trail.

It was my twin sister, Rachel, that made sure this one went on the list. When I am hiking I am always thinking about the food I will eat after a long hike and this really keeps me going! If you are doing a day hike make sure to have something nice waiting for you back at your camp like s’mores or your favorite beer. Make sure it is something relaxing and not a lot of work to obtain after your long day. As for backpacking the shore, we suggest that after you get off your long hike you take yourself to Picture Rocks Pizza in Munising and have a whole pizza all to yourself! We were recommended this restaurant by another thru-hiker and now we gotta pass along this information to you! No matter what you do, just make sure to reward yourself for the hard work your put your body through! 

Overall planning ahead can make your trip easygoing and fun, and that is definitely what a Picture Rocks National Lakeshore trip should be about.

2020 Faves…and 2019!?

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I think we would all be surprised how much weight our recommendations have to those closest to us. Sometimes our interests overlap with the people we know more than we realize and that is what I found out in 2019 when I decided I needed to tell people about items that I truly loved and made my life easier. With those posts buried in the Facebook archives, here is a list of things that I loved in 2020 AND 2019!

2020

Marmot Trestles Elite 20 Sleeping Bag

With 2020 not meeting anyone’s expectations, I started to finally feed my desire to start backpacking. That being said, one of the first things I bought was my sleeping bag. For this I researched bags used for backpacking and a handful of qualities that were important to me; warmth and comfort, compact-ability, and affordability. The Women’s Marmot Trestles Elite 20 Sleeping bag caught my eye for its price compared to other backpacking sleeping bags and the partner compatibility – meaning I convinced my fiancé to also get this bag so we could zip the bags together!

This bag is so warm that it is chihuahua approved!

IPad Pro

I have not had a personal laptop since college and on top of that I tend to over-flood my IPhone 7, so I remedied this by buying and IPad Pro. I have been able to separate work and fun (a big struggle for me) by moving game and social apps to my IPad, leaving my phone to its bare necessities. With the addition of the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil my IPad has become my laptop and has even enabled me to start this blog! While it is definitely a luxury item, it has really made my life easier.

Hammock Accessories

Once you decide to start backpacking you realize there are many choices in gear, but I dare say picking a shelter provokes the most research. There are so many varieties of tents or even just a simple tarp for the brave, but I chose to evolve my hammock kit as my backpacking shelter. I have had an Eno Eagle DoubleNest Hammock for 2 years and coveted my sister’s Eno Hammock for years before that. Since I already had the hammock and the straps it was easy to start building this shelter. All I needed was the bug net and rain tarp. This is by far the most comfortable sleeping setup outdoors, has room for cutting costs to fit a tighter budget, and all the components can even be purchased at once with the Eno OneLink system.

Later on I even bought and under quilt for Midwest fall camping!

2019

Yeti Can Koozie

My fiancé had gotten me one of these can koozies and I can hardly drink a beer without using it. This koozie keeps your drink cold for hours (if it lasts that long). It is a little heavy, but you get used to it. They even have a slim can koozies that I think I may need to invest in!

Carhart Leggings

First clothing item! When I got these leggings I was working in warehouse management and my high-visibility vest would burst from holding so many pens, radios, and notebooks. But when I wore these leggings I felt like I had myself put together. There are no shortage of pockets, fit true-to-size, and are reinforced in the knees. A lot of my girlfriends that work outdoors, on farms, and other labor positions swear by these leggings!

National Geographic Road Atlas

In 2019 I had the pleasure of being on two road trips. One was from Michigan to California and the other was California to Michigan. On the first road trip my sister had me help navigate some of the no-service areas with the National Geographic Road Atlas. Then when my fiancé and I drove back to Michigan I just had to have my own Road Atlas! We even used this on a Northern Michigan trip. The maps are easy to follow and the states are even in alphabetical order. I just cannot recommend this enough for your car or recreation vehicle.

Bonus points that my uncle said he was so proud of me for acquiring map reading as a skill!

These were the things that were most useful for me, but what were your favorite items in 2020? Comment below or in the Sustaining Sara Facebook Group!

Love,

Sara