SROM Blog: Wilderness, Ministry, Leadership
January 17th, 2019
January 10th, 2019
Alone. In the Wilderness.
That phrase conjures up all sorts of images and stories from Jack London books of the frontier to the infamous story of Into the Wild. Getting lost, frozen, hurt, hunted by animals, or poisoned by eating food you shouldn’t, there are so many things to fear about going into the wilderness, let alone by yourself and hiking alone. So why do it?
Well, to that I’d say, because Jesus did for starters. But why have I gone on backpacking and canoeing solo trips? I mean as a woman alone in the wilderness the risk is still high and there are so many things to fear for sure. But the rewards truly do outweigh the risks.
The first time I ever solo backpacked was in early October of 2003. I planned to backpack a section of the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. I decided to go by myself because no one else in my friend group at the time were interested in camping when it wasn’t the 4th of July. So I made the choice to plan out the trip knowing I had some experience in leading others, so it should be much easier to plan for one person right? How hard could it be!
I told my roommates my itinerary, packed my gear and food, and took off after classes on Friday evening to head to the trailhead 3 hrs north. When I got there, it was dark, storming, and the trailhead was nearly invisible in the dark hardwood forest. I ended up parking in a place that looked like there was a trail, but was no sign near it as lightning flashed. Spooky doesn’t even describe the scene! But, I was determined and so wrote a note that I left on the inside dash of my car saying, “If this vehicle is still here after ______ date, call the authorities.” Grabbed my gear, rain gear on, and started hiking in the deluge.
I promise, it ended well! I end up finding the correct trail and having an amazing experience hiking and camping along the trail including an evening serenade by migrating loons calling to each other. But that first step out of the car left me trembling and fearful to be sure! But here are some things that I have learned in solo camping that can help you too enjoy being outside, alone, on your own adventures in the wilderness.
I mean, I know the line “Go big or go home!” is like a one hit wonder right now, but getting used to hiking alone, takes some doing. So start small. Spend a half of a day hiking, then a whole day hiking alone. Get to know your thoughts, rhythms, and hiking speed. It’s different when you hike alone rather than in a group. And most importantly, leave your phone at home, in your car, or on airplane mode. Because getting away from the “noise” of the world, is what solo experiences are all about. Yes, take it with you on a longer trip, but getting used to the quiet and the natural noises around you takes some time.
But, even if you’re gone for half a day or a week, make sure you tell someone where you are going, when you plan on returning, and call or text them when you do get back. This is a healthy habit to get into.
Once you’ve done a few day hikes alone, now try an overnight or a weekend. And, I know everyone says that planning is the essence of every trip, but when you are going solo it truly is the most important detail. When you are planning your solo trip, here are some of the main points you want to hit:
Have your route dialed. Meaning, have your Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C routes written down and have evacuation plans written down for each plan. This includes how many days you are out, what day you plan to camp at what locations, and what maps you are using. This itinerary is for you AND for other people who you are going to give it to.
Lastly, STAY ON ROUTE! Because if something does happen, people will know where to look for you, will be able to find you, and if necessary, get you to help quicker.
As stated above, give your itinerary to one or two people who will be around when you are out. Make sure one person at least has some idea or better yet, experience in the area you are traveling. And, have a plan to contact these people when you return to cell phone service.
This is a vital piece of the planning. Have a plan in place that if they do not hear from you within a certain time frame, to start the emergency plan to find you. No one plans to get hurt or stuck, but it’s nice to know that if something does happen, someone will come looking.
Know before you Go:
It sometimes isn’t practical to only go soloing to places you’ve been. Beside, where’s the fun in that?! It’s definitely part of the adventure to explore places you’ve not been to before. But, when you are going solo, it’s important to really study your maps and talk with some of the employees of that land agency about the area you are going to travel in.
Some things you might want to be aware of are:
- What’s the wildlife’s behavior towards humans in this area?
- What’s the weather usually like?
- What is the wildfire danger level?
- Do I need a permit to camp and where am I allowed to camp?
And other such questions that will help you be successful on your trip. These people are typically being paid to know such things, but other outdoor guiding places will also have good information too if the land agency does not.
Gear & Food
Packing and planning your food and gear is definitely different when you are hiking solo. For one thing, group gear and food that can usually be spread out over a few people, now is solely on your shoulders. You can go two ways: ultra light or heavy. Sadly there’s not much of a middle ground. But, getting down to the “needs” is essential when you are hiking solo.
When I’m hiking solo, I opt for a tarp instead of a full tent. Because I can use the tarp for shelter and use my trekking poles and other things in nature to put it up and have it stay up. Then, I use a homemade nylon bivvy that I put my sleep systems in. The nylon isn’t waterproof like some of them out on the market, but it keeps the damp off my down bag and keeps my thermarest and sleeping bag all together in a burrito-like space so I don’t roll off. It’s perfect in lieu of a ground tarp because it’s small, light, and cost me $6 to make.
I have a 75 L backpack. It is large enough to be able to go for several weeks in a group, or solo depending on what you pack. It is what I use to carry all of my gear, clothes, food, and a few non-essentials like a watercolor painting set and a book to read. It’s a bit much for a weekend though. So I use a 55 L pack for shorter trips in warmer temperatures because I can pack less bulky layers. As with smaller spaces, you do have to be more intentional about what you pack. So going lighter and smaller is ideal.
Getting a water borne illness is not something I’d recommend! There are lots of great filters out there that are small or you can use an iodine tablet to purify your water. If the water is silty, or not clear, let it sit or try to filter it out with a t-shirt or bandana. Not just for taste, but if you are using iodine, it will purify the silt and not kill any of the beasties in the water.
Layers are important. Having a set of clothing for hiking, one for in camp, and one for sleeping is key. It’s not too much and it’s enough to go for several weeks or a weekend. In addition to basic layers, having a warm fleece or down jacket and pants, and rain gear is essential to your personal clothing items to keep you warm, dry, and enjoying yourself in the wilderness.
For food on a solo trip, meal planning is the best way to go. Because this way, you won’t be over packing for your trip. If I’m going for a weekend, I literally only pack the amounts I need for each meal, and an extra breakfast and dinner. I may pack a few extra snacks just in case, but not more than that. Where most people would pack just the bare minimum, I pack an extra few meals in case I get stuck and have to wait out weather. For more information on how to pack and plan for meals, read https://srom.org/blog/backcountry-nutrition-an-introduction/ for more details.
I pack my bible, journal, and watercolor set with me when I go solo backpacking. I also take my phone for photos and in case of an emergency, a small first aid kit. These little personal additions are what make my solo hiking some of my favorite backpacking experiences!
Because in these solo times of hiking alone, cooking alone, and being in camp alone, I get to spend that time with Jesus! I get to enjoy the quiet beauty of the natural world that God created for me and all humanity to enjoy. But also, I get to worship Him in these quiet moments of painting, hiking, or watching the sun slip behind the peaks that day. Each has a quiet beauty, and yet an amazing heavenly song to sing that I would not have experienced the same way surrounded by other hikers in a group.
Hiking with a group in the wilderness has so much value too. But it’s in those silent moments that I really learn more about who God is, and who I am in Him. So I echo God’s command, “Fear not for the Lord your God is with you.” And go seek Him alone in the wilderness, and listen for what He wants to share with you.
January 3rd, 2019
December 20th, 2018
Maintaining good nutrition while in the backcountry is essential to good health, peak physical performance, and trip enjoyment. The SROM food system is designed to optimize nutrient quality. Taken into consideration are the unique physical demands of the outdoor experience, weight and bulk of food, ease of food preparation, stove fuel, instructor/participant feedback, and cost. The essential nutritional categories considered are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Additionally, water, vitamins, and minerals play key roles in physical performance, as well as awareness and adaptation to extreme outdoor conditions.
Proper nutrition in the outdoors requires different nutrient combinations than regular life because you will not only be more active, but while backpacking you also often carry an additional 40-60% of your body weight in equipment and supplies. This extra activity requires 500-1,000 calories per day more than the normal recommended daily allowance (RDA). While our bodies have stores to weather short-term decreases in nutrients, a wilderness course is not the time for dieting! Muscles need fuel to perform. Without appropriate fuel, muscles will break down their own tissue to function, leaving the body progressively weaker. Adipose fat and glycogen stores, which provide cushioning for organs, heat insulation and that last reserve of energy to prevent “bonking,” will also be compromised if the body does not get the fuel it needs.
According to Dr. Braaten, noted outdoor enthusiast and nutritionist, “muscles engaged in long duration moderate intensity exercise burn:
- 25% Fat within the muscle (triglycerides),
- 25% Fat from diet or adipose tissue storage (free fatty acids)
- 25% Carbohydrates within the muscle (glycogen), and
- 25% Glucose (carbohydrate) delivered from the liver (either recycled or from the diet).”
Increasing intensity results in the burning of more carbohydrates.
A balance of all nutrient categories is important. Experts agree that a nutrient ratio of 50% carbohydrates, 35% fat, and 15% protein (50:35:15) is optimal for endurance activities.
Food comes in three basic molecular types: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Each food type is broken down differently in the body (metabolism) and serves different purposes in keeping a body functioning in a healthy balance.
The maintenance of carbohydrate/glycogen stores in the muscles is what determines the body’s endurance. This can be accomplished most efficiently by frequent snacking (20-30 g/hour) on complex carbohydrates and fats. Unlike fat and protein, there are relatively small stores of carbohydrates in the body so it is important to frequently renew these stores through food intake.
Carbohydrates can be classified into simple carbohydrates (sugars) and complex carbohydrates (starches and fiber). Complex carbohydrates are better for maintaining steady energy levels. Never eat simple carbohydrates before exercise because they trigger the release of insulin which causes glucose/blood sugar levels to drop. This is particularly important to keep in mind for hypoglycemics and diabetics.
Carbohydrates within the body are represented by three types of fuel: glucose, lactic acid, and glycogen. Glucose, or blood sugar, is important for brain and muscle functioning during high intensity exercise. Lactic acid is half a glucose molecule due to lack of oxygen during combustion. Lactic acid is converted to glucose by the liver as oxygen levels increase. Glycogen is made up of many glucose molecules joined together and stored in the liver and muscles. Glycogen is the body’s energy reserve. To avoid glycogen depletion, snack often throughout the day and within 1 hour after reaching your destination.
In a SROM food ration, examples of foods that contain complex carbohydratess include oatmeal, grits, brown rice, hash browns, pea soup, and lentils. For gluten-free rations, complex carbohydrates can be found in the garbanzo bean flour, quinoa, and rice chips. Examples of foods that contain simple carbohydrates in a SROM food ration include animal crackers, cheese crackers, pretzels, “bear mush” hot breakfast, pasta, and rice.
Not only is fat the most energy dense nutrient, but it is also a preferred fuel for exercise. A diet high in fat will spare muscle glycogen, a critical component for endurance. For endurance athletes, half the fat burned is from storage while the other half is from diet. Also, a high fat ration weighs 20% less than a high carbohydrate or high protein ration.
There is little concern that higher fat consumption in the back country will lead to weight gain or clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) because activity levels are increased. In fact, a high fat diet slows digestion, which aids the absorption of nutrients and helps the stomach to feel full longer.
Examples of foods that contain fats in a SROM ration include nuts (e.g., in GORP, granola, lunch mixes), peanut butter or sunbutter, cheeses, butter, olive oil, Snickers® bars, hot cocoa, summer sausage, and other meats (i.e., canned tuna, canned chicken, fresh caught fish).
Protein consumption only comprises 10% of the body’s energy needs. Its primary use is the building of muscle tissue. Since most Americans consume two times the RDA of protein, you may find the SROM diet lower in protein than what you normally eat. However, the SROM ration will still be sufficient for your muscle building and energy needs. Athletes should consume 1 g protein/kg body weight (12-15% of the diet). To calculate protein needs for strenuous activity (in g/day) multiply the participant’s weight in pounds by 2.2. This amounts to 4 servings of protein per day. Protein can be found in nuts, beans, cheese, or meat.
Do not supplement with amino acids or eat excess protein. The body does not store excess protein as an energy source for later use. Your body can break down muscle for energy if it needs to, but your body only keeps enough protein to repair muscle damage and dumps the rest. Your body processes all excess proteins through the kidneys. This means the kidneys will only have to work harder eliminating the extra nitrogen and require more water. Excess protein consumption has been found to be harmful to your health.
Examples of foods that contain protein in a SROM food ration include beans, lentils, peanut butter or sunbutter, nuts, powdered milk, cheeses, hummus, summer sausage, and other meats (i.e., canned tuna, canned chicken, fresh caught fish).
So it doesn’t matter whether you are going for 40 days or 4 days. Your nutrition on your trip is one of the key factors in how successful you will be during your time in the wilderness. And, just because you are in the wilderness, doesn’t mean you still can’t eat well on your journey!
**Copywrited SROM Instructor Handbook**
Braaten, B.L. (2004). Thru-Hiker.com. Retrieved March 2009, from Pack Light, Eat Right: http://thru-hiker.com/articles/pack_light_eat_right.php
Kailey, P. (n.d.). On-Trail Nutrition 101. Retrieved March 20, 2009 from backcountry.com: http://www.backcountry.com/store/newsletter/a474/On-Trail-Nutrition-101.html
Mytys, A. (2001). Backcountry Kitchen. Retrieved March 2009, from Andy’s Lightweight Backpacking Site: http://www.geocities.com/amytys/food.htm
December 13th, 2018
What it is and why you need it
By: Emily Cable
You meet up with some friends for coffee who you consider to be pretty legit outdoors-people. Jack and Jill seemingly “do it all” year-round. Throughout your conversation, they keep referring to this Woofer thing they just did. At first you smile and nod but then are confused because they don’t own a dog, and that sounds like a dog thing?
Jack goes on to brag about the sweet splint he made using his Crazy Creek chair, silk tie, puffy jacket and the remnants of last summer’s Power Bar! Your puzzled expression does not go unnoticed by Jill. She kindly explains that she and Jack just completed their Wilderness First Responder course (WFR pronounced “Wuf-Fer” in outdoor-ese).
They have enjoyed outdoor activities for years and largely experienced pleasant and safe outings. But recently they had a few close-calls and began thinking about all the “What Ifs”. They concluded they needed some more training. So they decided to get their WFR to better prepare themselves to respond in the event of an accident and gain knowledge to, hopefully, mitigate injury from happening to themselves and those they are with on future trips.
The WFR is largely seen as the industry standard for an outdoor professional and a mark of a committed outdoorsmen. If you are planning to spend any amount of time in the backcountry, especially if you want to work in the outdoor industry, I strongly urge you to obtain your WFR Certification. Spending time in the backcountry comes with inherent risks. From the weekend warrior to the after work mountain biker to the multi-week expedition leader, for outdoor lovers there is ample opportunity for various injuries and sickness to present themselves during your adventures.
How will you respond when you are miles from cell reception and help is hours away? A Wilderness First Responder has the skills needed to assess the safety of a scene, stabilize the patient, and implement a care and evacuation plan.
What is the Wilderness First Responder?
This course is typically between 7-10 days consisting of 70+ hours of interactive instruction and hands-on scenarios. Although some content is strictly lecture, by in large WFR courses rely heavily on experiential education and repetition. By the time you conclude your course you should be proficient in a wide range of basic medical and environmental skills.
The greatest distinguishing factor separating the Wilderness First Responder from your traditional Basic First Aid course is that you are taught long term care outside the urban “golden hour”. Extended contact time with your patient is common in a backcountry setting as it could take multiple hours to days (depending on location and severity of condition) to transport an injured or sick person to more estqablished care. Improvizing equipment is the other main difference from an urban First Responder course. Instead of all the equipment being all ready for you to use or coming in an ambulance you have to learn how to get creative and utilize the limited number of items that you have been carrying with you. Yet another added value to going through this course is teaching a broader way of thinking about items that we frequently only have one use for.
Remember you are their first line of help. Having the skills to if needed, and the knowledge to monitor them checking for trends in vitals or overall condition could prove invaluable in any setting.
Wilderness Medical Associates International describes the WFR course as:
“The definitive wilderness course in medical training, leadership, and critical thinking for outdoor, low-resource, and remote professionals and leaders.”
The Wilderness First Responder program is the ideal medical training for leaders in remote areas including outdoor educators, guides, military, professional search and rescue teams, researchers, and those involved in disaster relief…. It includes the essential principles and skills required to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments for days and weeks if necessary. If you are already a medical professional you can also earn Continuing Education Hours for your WFR Course.
Why should I get certified as a WFR?
If you are planning to spend any amount of time in the backcountry I strongly urge you to obtain your WFR Certification. Moreover if you want to work in the outdoor industry being WFR certified is increasingly becoming a standard requirement to operate in a guiding position especially. If you are already a medical professional an added perk is that you can earn Continuing Education Hours for your WFR Course.
You may be asking yourself, “If this is the standard for professionals why would it benefit me? I just enjoy going outside with my dog for a hike and the occasional trail run with friends. WFR seems like overkill!”
This may be a fair assessment. The WFR is designed to give specific training for wilderness leaders who are on multi-day backcountry trips. If you aren’t planning to ever be more than a few miles from a road then the less intensive Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness Advanced First Aid may be more appropriate to give you sufficient training to care for more minor medical emergencies.
Wilderness First Responder is a certification with far reaching value. The skills learned through this course can be used on a daily basis and may one day save someone’s life. What’s keeping you from getting trained?
Check out our Wilderness First Responder course offering here.
Tilton, Buck. “Wilderness First Responder: How to recognize, treat, and prevent emergencies in the backcountry.” Morris Book Publishing, LLC. Guilford, CT. 2010
National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Wilderness Medicine
Wilderness Medical Society
Wilderness Medicine Training Center
Wilderness Medical Associates International
December 6th, 2018
Are you looking for an opportunity to grow as a leader, gain professional outdoor skills, and go deeper as a Disciple of Christ? Then you should take a look at SROM’s Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester for the fall 2019 semester.
This can be a life-changing experience for you – as well as give you up to 21 college credits!
Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester 2019
Experiential Education at Its Finest
The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester is SROM’s 96-day outdoor education and wilderness leadership course. This robust learning experience takes place in the context of God’s creation while you earn academic credit from accredited colleges, universities and seminaries.
Your “classroom” will include some of God’s most beautiful creation in Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
The course is designed to be a transformational college semester or Gap semester. It includes 5 programming sections that focus on integrating and developing the core course components of every SROM expedition:
- Spiritual transformation
- Authentic community
- Leadership development
- Character formation
- Skill acquisition
The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester will focus on developing your heart, mind and body using the wilderness and wilderness programming. Activities like backpacking and rock climbing provide hands-on opportunities for development in discipleship, leadership and academics…and work towards your professional degree.
SROM has partnered with Family of Faith Christian University (FFCU) and All Nations College to create the new BA of Church Ministry program with a Wilderness Emphasis. You can earn 21 credit hours for the entire Rocky Mountain semester with SROM and FFCU.
Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available through Family of Faith Christian University.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about academic credit and financial assistance.
But don’t wait! Registration for the fall 2019 semester closes May 15!
November 29th, 2018
November 22nd, 2018
November 15th, 2018
By: Jacob Chmielowiec
How hard can it be?
Can’t be that hard to find a sleeping bag right? You just choose a temperature rating that will get you through your backpacking season and pick something within your budget. Seems easy! Well, not quite. A sleeping bag is fairly simple technology but understanding how to get the right bag can be complicated. It can even be hard to know what you want until you know what is available.
The first problem is that some manufacturers rate their sleeping bags using different criteria. They are motivated to offer the warmest and lightest bag possible for the money. Some choose to rate their bag in a way that supports their marketing efforts. Due to these problems standards have been introduced but are not yet universally accepted.
What’s the Standard?
The first standard, EN 13537, was introduced in 2005 and specifies how to test and rate sleeping bags. In 2017, ISO 23537 replaced EN 13537 and further refined the requirements. Some large retailers like REI have chosen to enforce this by only selling bags tested according to these standards. This is good news! It is easier than ever to find an EN 13537 / ISO 23537 sleeping bag at your local outfitter. Selecting a bag with an EN 13537 / ISO 23537 rating ensures the bag meets industry standards for warmth.
In the EN 13537 / ISO 23537 rating there are 3 ranges:
Example if a sleeping bag rating is 0 Degrees F/-17 Degrees C, it’s lower limit is -5 Degrees F and it’s comfort rating is 9.5 Degrees F.
- Above the highest, or “comfort”, temperature is the range where most women will be comfortable. Like in our example, this would be 9.5 Degrees F.
- From the “comfort” to the middle number is the “transition”or “limit” range they expect most men to begin getting cold. In our example, this would be 0 Degrees F or the promoted temperature rating.
- The “extreme,” “risk,” or “survival” range extends down to the lowest number. In this range the occupant will likely be actively fighting the cold, shivering, and may be susceptible to hypothermia but will probably survive. Below this range you are in serious trouble.
When shopping for your sleeping bag it is helpful to know how warm or cold you sleep. As a starting point men tend to sleep warmer than women. A warm sleeper may be comfortable at the “transition” or “limit” temperature where a cold sleeper may feel chilled near the “comfort” temperature. Your shelter and sleeping pad will also influence how warm you sleep. If you get cold easily you are likely a cold sleeper.
Research the nighttime lows in the area you plan to explore. If you plan to be out on an extended trip prepare for weather that is colder than average. It is easy to cancel a weekend trip when the weather turns but if you are deep in the wilderness you will want the extra warmth to stay safe and comfortable when nearing record lows. You should be able to buy a bag with the “comfort” rating at or below these temperatures. If you are a warm sleeper you may be able to get a lighter, less warm, bag.
Great! So I’m ready to buy a sleeping bag right? Not quite yet. There are a few more considerations.
Now that you know the temperature range you need to be comfortable for your trip you need to decide what size, shape, fill, and features you need. The one most people talk about is fill. Fill is what provides the insulating properties of the bag. There are two main camps: down and synthetic.
Down vs Synthetic Fill
Synthetic fibers are heavier, less durable, and less compressible, a highly compressible sleeping bag packs smaller. Down on the other hand is lightweight, compressible, and durable. That seems obvious enough down is better right? Well, down also has some disadvantages. First, it tends to be more expensive, and second when down gets wet it no longer insulates at all. Conversely synthetic bags preserve much more of their insulating properties when wet. With this in mind the ideal sleeping bag is the one that matches the environment.
Backpacking in the coastal ranges of pacific northwest you may want a synthetic bag due to high humidity and frequent rain. Backpacking in high desert of Wyoming a down bag is more appropriate. Synthetic insulation is rapidly improving and some of the new bags are getting fairly close to the performance of down . A high end synthetic 20℉ sleeping bag will be around $200-$300. An equally warm high end down bag may be as much as $500 or more but will be lighter and smaller to carry.
There are cheaper options and prices of down sleeping bags generally correlates with the fill power of the down. Higher fill power down will be warmer per ounce of fill and more expensive. A high end 850 fill power sleeping bag will be lighter and smaller packing than a standard 650 fill power bag of equal warmth and size. I personally find the high fill power bags to also be more comfortable.
Sleeping bags come in sizes? Why yes they do! Length and girth vary within and between models.
Generally it makes sense to buy the smallest bag you fit in but some people prefer having extra room to move around in their bag. For winter camping it is nice to have extra room to keep clothing, water, boot liners, etc. warm for the morning. Smaller form fitting bags will be lighter but also may restrict your movement. Find what is comfortable for you. There is always a trade between pack weight and in camp comfort.
Some bags will also have features such as a phone or watch pocket to keep your alarm near you during the night and others allow two bags to be zipped together. Women’s bags tend to be a little warmer at the feet and are wider at the hips. Many cold weather bags have additional features to prevent cold air from leaking into your bag and most cold weather bags, as well as some summer bags, have waterproof, or highly water resistant, shells to protect the insulation from moisture.
Can I buy a sleeping bag now? Yes, go! Frolic to your favorite outfitter and examine some of the bags that may meet your needs!
- Is it warm enough?
- Is it EN / ISO rated? If not, am I still confidant it is warm enough?
- Does it have enough room?
- Will it take up too much room in my pack?
- Does down or synthetic make more sense in my area?
- Can I afford it?
- Does it have the features I need?
You may not find the perfect bag but it should be easy to find one that will work. Everybody would likely love the $500 sleeping bags but most of us can get a good bag for less than $200.
Is the lightweight and extra features worth the money? That is completely up to you, but as someone who spends a lot of time in a tent, my sleeping bag is one of my most important pieces of gear. My bag is extremely lightweight yet warm. This allows me to carry extra equipment, like a heavy camera while maintaining a reasonable pack weight.
Alternatives and oddities: There are now options on the market that differ from traditional sleeping bags. There are some with no hood to save weight. Some have no insulation on the back of the bag but allow a sleeping pad to be inserted. Some people prefer to use a lightweight quilt instead of a sleeping bag. For most people a standard bag is the best bet, but all of these are viable options in their own right.
November 1st, 2018
By: Audrey Stelzer
Will you try something with me for a moment? Will you, please? It won’t take long!
As you read this paragraph imagine what my words are describing.
You are laying down in a field of grass on the most perfect day. The sun is shining on your face as you breathe in the smell of flowers and hear the bees happily buzzing around. There is a stream bubbling in the distance and the leaves are dancing ever so slightly in the breeze. You let out a big stretch and settle back into the soft, pillow-like grass…
- What, if any, memories did that bring back for you?
- What is “perfect weather” for you?
- How did your senses react when imagining these things?
Now, try this:
It is fall, what are the correct answers:
|You are laying down on
|What animals are flying by
|The sky is
- Partly cloudy
- Partly sunny
Thanks for participating! There was a pretty big difference, huh? I dramatized it a bit, but these are contrasting examples of how people are being taught. The first is Experiential Education (EE), and the second is a traditional classroom style. There is much to say about both, but today I want to introduce you to what experiential education is, and its benefits.
The Association of Experiential Education describes both the process and definition of Experiential Education:
Challenge and Experience followed by Reflection leading to Learning and Growth
A philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.
The process and definition sound great, but how does it actually work? To understand this, we first need to understand how the brain learns. The brain is constantly acquiring information. In order for it to remain functioning it immediately wants to dismiss or store that information. Initially, the brain will put all information worth storing in its “short-term” memory. Neuroscientists have determined three main factors that aid in acquiring information from “short-term” to “long-term”. These factors include: urgency, repetition, and the most influential, association.
Let’s briefly visit each of these factors:
Urgency– This can be when you are fully immersed in a task that is time sensitive. Looking back on this task, you will remember the feelings, general information, and who was involved. Example: You are writing your final paper at 11:53pm… and it is due at 12:01am.
Repetition– Doing something over and over. Practicing a skill, doing a science experiment multiple times, reading a poem to memorize it.
Association– Moments that you can recall that have informed your decisions of today. Ex: Placing your hand on a hot burner for the first time.
So how does Experiential Education fit in with all of this? Good question! Experiential Education engages all of these factors to get someone to truly learn new information. For example, in my first paragraph I used association to call on experiences you are likely familiar with, and combined it with a new experience I was facilitating. Then, after, I asked questions so that you could provide words to this new experience. I could then use repetition by having someone else read the paragraph to you, and then you do it for someone else, and then you re-read it, so that repetition is happening through different experiences! Urgency? Say whoever recited the visualization first would get $100.
The traditional side of things requires very little engagement with all three factors, and very little depth within the factor it is touching on. Let’s take the third question from above:
It is fall, what are the correct answers:
You are laying down in
This calls upon your experience of fall, so association. Great! But… this question implies that everyone has the same experience of fall. Yet, someone in Florida will have a different fall experience than those in Michigan or inner city New York. One of these options has to be right though… right? The experiential visualization is not perfect, but it does allow for questions, it enables others to teach others about their fall experience, and to discuss a new experience.
Overall, Experiential Education is making a new wave. More and more studies are suggesting that the brain learns best through facilitated experience and reflection, and that a lecture with note taking is not benefiting the learner in a significant way. Experiential Education is opening up new doors for creativity, teamwork, long term recollection, communication within an era of technology, and increasing overall levels of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. So why is this important to an outdoor company like Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM)?
Here at SROM we take experiential education seriously. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” If we do not experience him through the senses He has given us, if we do not taste and see Him, if we do not educate ourselves in more than just reading and religious regulations, how will we know and experience the refuge of God? We must have a personal relationship with the Lord that welcomes the experiences He wants to give us to learn and grow. So, at SROM, we strive to do just that on our courses.Throughout course, we provide facilitated experiential education with pointed debriefs to keep our courses open to God and His movement. Experiences, with God at the center, change lives.
Folks, this is only the surface of experiential education. There are so many resources- articles, books, videos, even classes to dive further into! I encourage you to continue to learn about this amazing teaching method and apply it in a Christ-centered way to your friends, families, and communities. Who knows, maybe next time the sun is on your face, you hear happy bees, or are laying in a soft, pillow-like grass, you’ll think of the power of experience and remember to share it with others.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
By: Audrey Stelzer
It is time to bring up the very real and pressing issue of the lack of Crocs in the backcountry. I ask, as a concerned outdoor woman, where have they gone? I realize that some outdoor industries will not allow traditional crocs in the backcountry due to the shoe having holes, and a loose hold around the foot while doing river crossings. Yet, I can only assume they do not know about the large variety of Crocs available! Shoes like the Swiftwater Cross-Strap, Offroad Sport Clog, LiteRide Lace, or LiteRide Pacer are perfect camp shoes after a long day backpacking, crushing at the craig, coming off the whitewater, coming down from a backcountry ski (Blitzen clogs or the Shearling Boot are good for this), or crossing a river while hiking. There are good Croc options for students in professional industries, and for an everyday outdoorsmen!
Crocs dry quickly, protect your feet, are light, have comfort soles, can be adjusted, have a backstrap (I call it the adventure strap), float, are nearly indestructible (my dog chews on them daily), and, contrary to common belief, are very fashionable coming in a wide variety of designs and colors. These shoes are completely functional for the outdoors! Trust me, I can vouch for my Crocs…
In a last ditch effort to my fellow outdoor folk, I have made guidelines for “How to Croc in the Backcountry”.
- To reduce sweaty feet on hot hiking days, wear socks with the Crocs. As you put on the socks and slip back into the Crocs, the people left around you are your true friends. Yes, Crocs hold the power to help distinguish true friends.
- Use the adventure strap/ankle strap. The adventure strap is an important tool when facing tough sections of a hike. All you have to do is move the strap from above your foot, to behind your ankle. This allows for further stability in the Croc.
- Crossing a stream is now a dream! Tighten your Croc, or put the adventure strap on, and cross the stream using whatever safety method is appropriate. On the other side, set the crocs in the sun while changing back into socks and boots. The Crocs will be able to dry quickly and be near ready, or ready to pack once you are back in your boots.
- So easy. Since the Crocs are so light, you can easily store them in an accessible area when backpacking and keep them much cleaner than shoes with cloth fabric. The weight will be minimal, and when you get to camp the shoes will be breathable, comfortable, and easy to get on (no straps to worry about going between your toes or by blisters).
- Know your limits. Wearing Crocs may make you feel limitless, so remember, they are just a shoe. Still use good judgement calls to ensure safety and fun in your Crocs.