10 Unexpected Life Lessons From My 11 Year Old on the John Muir Trail

Last summer, I hiked 180 miles of the 211+ mile John Muir Trail (JMT) with my 11 year old son. The JMT runs through the Eastern Sierra mountains in California, starting from Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous US. For many this isn’t a huge outdoor accomplishment, … Read more

The Most Useful 3-5 Day Backpacking Packing List

Are you planning your first backpacking trip (or your 100th) and looking to get your backpacking packing list sorted? You have come to the right place. I am a super list maker and love sharing my lists with others! After tons of research and many hundreds of miles of backpacking under our belt, we wanted to share with you exactly what we take on our backpacking trips and what we leave behind. (See below to download a FREE printable backpacking checklist)

In this backpacking checklist, I share every item I bring on a 3-day backpacking trip in the late spring, summer, and fall seasons. I hope that this backpacking gear list will help simplify your planning, help you figure out what you need, and if you are just starting backpacking, give you some good recommendations for backpacking gear to invest in that will last you many years.

Don’t forget to check out our post on backpacking hacks and tips to help your packing go smoothly even on a first trip!

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Hiking the John Muir Trail: Everything You Need to Know for 2023

More than 1,500 people attempt to walk the entire John Muir Trail every year. A bit more than half of them succeed in a good year, with less than a third making it through in a year with natural challenges – high snow, monsoonal rains or wildfires. This guide from a JMT thru-hiker provides key … Read more

Backpacking the Beautiful Little Lakes Valley Trail (Near Rock Creek)

Little Lakes Valley in the Eastern Sierras is one of the most beautiful hikes in the high sierra and one our favorite backpacking hikes in California with kids and for beginners. This beautiful hike follows along a creek, passes several pristine alpine lakes and offers gorgeous scenery without too much hard work. This is almost … Read more

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking the Trans Catalina Trail

Backpacking the Trans Catalina Trail is a bucket list trail for many in Southern California. Located 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island offers diverse rugged scenery with opportunities for outdoor activities like diving, snorkeling, hiking and spotting wildlife. It is here that the Trans Catalina Trail resides – from sea to land and back to the sea, this 38.5 (or 40+) mile trail traverses the entire island with beachfront camping, beautiful views with a few creature comforts not often found in typical backcountry trails. Think restaurants, picnic benches and firewood deliveries!

One might think this trail would be easy since the highest elevation on the island is only around 2000 feet, but the constant ups and downs, lack of switchbacks with little shade make backpacking on Catalina Island challenging. The Trans Catalina Trail has been on my wishlist for years, but the expense and difficult rating continued to scare me away. However, as we learned during our trip, the beauty of this trail is that it is difficult, but doable and can be modified to fit all skill levels!

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Backpacking In California: 20 Amazing Spots You Must Visit

Our two favorite things to do in the outdoors in California is hike and camp. Why not combine the two with a backpack camping trip? We know camping in Southern California is very popular with families to couples and folks with their dogs, but for the more adventurous, finding cool spots for backpacking in California is even more exciting.

There are some amazing spots for backpacking in California, from the Bay Area of San Francisco to Southern California and everywhere in between. Some favorite places for backpack camping include Joshua Tree, the Lake Tahoe area, Yosemite National Park and the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park areas. Much of these wilderness areas are more ‘hard core backpacking’ for those with experience and the legs to carry themselves further than a couple of mile hike.

For those of you who are new to this outdoor adventure, we share relatively easy, doable backpacking trails here in California to consider for your first (or second or third!) backpacking camping trip with or without kids. As we explore more of the backcountry camping options throughout California, we will update this list.

Don’t miss our top tips and backpacking hacks for beginners!

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21 Insanely Practical Backpacking Hacks & Tips for Beginners

Getting ready to go backpacking? Our backpacking hacks and tips for beginners will get you on your way feeling more confident with less weight in your bag.  

One of the best ways to get off the beaten path and head outdoors is to go backpacking. For beginners however, it can feel quite daunting to start a new hobby such as this. There is a ton of gear to check out, it’s not always easy to figure out what the best backpacking routes are or how to get permits and of course you need to figure out how to get the most out of your trip with the least amount of weight. 

I am not an avid mountain explorer or athlete, so when we began backpacking, I researched a ton to figure out the best ways to do things for not only myself but for my 10 year old son. Below I share some of the backpacking hacks and tips that I learned along the way by researching and asking every backpacking I could find and then by making the mistakes myself! If you are already to hit to road, don’t forget to check out our detailed Backpacking packing list with everything we take with us, as well as a FREE downloadable packing checklist for yourself.

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Gap Year Recap (Month 2): Guatemala, Costa Rica & Panama

It has been a month since we set off on our second adventure of our gap year and our first month of full backpacking type travels. (You can read last month’s recap here if you missed it.)

In the past 30 days we have been to Guatemala for almost 3 weeks, a short 4 days in Costa Rica to meet up with Paul and 1 week in Panama.

Overall I have to say it’s been amazing and all I had dreamed it could be. We have had so much fun, seen so much, learned so much and just enjoyed being together.

Cian really is an amazing travel partner. He keeps me grounded when I’m losing it, is always happy go lucky and ready for an adventure which helps me muddle through when I’m feeling negative about something and he just LOVES it all. It has been an absolute pleasure to show him some of my old backpacking towns.

We have made mistakes and are slowly figuring things out, but overall, I can’t imagine ever going back to our regular day to day life! Of course we will have to I guess.. 🙂

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