When it comes to sunglasses, we all know that there are many benefits to wearing them, especially since they protect our eyes from damaging radiation and ultra violet rays. We may not notice, however, that there are many other benefits to wearing shades outside.

Think you know why sunglasses are great for your eyesight? Check out some of the added benefits that you may not know about!

Sunglasses Decrease Dry-Eye Problems – Many people suffer from dry-eye syndrome mostly because of environmental factors. Windy environments, especially those that occur in dry climates, can easily dry out both the skin and the eyes, causing dry-eye syndrome. Sunglasses help protect against dry-eye syndrome by blocking the wind and dust that could gain access to your eyes. This can help prevent you from experiencing the symptoms of dry-eye syndrome, especially if said sunglasses are of a wrap-around style.

Glare is Reduced with Sunglasses – Sunglasses are awesome when it comes to reducing the sun’s garish glare. Why is that important? It allows for proper vision when you’re taking part in a high-risk task such as driving. If you wear sunglasses when you drive instead of squinting through the sunlight, you will cut down a huge amount of risks to your life and the lives of others. Keep in mind that more than 100 people die each year due to drivers who couldn’t see because of glare.

You’ll Experience Less Squinting and Eye Strain – Do you find yourself constantly squinting and straining to see? Did you know that squinting is not only detrimental to your eyesight but that it can also lead to wrinkles around your eyes earlier in life? When you wear sunglasses, you will decrease the amount of squinting you will do, which will allow you to see more clearly and will help your eyes to feel less tired.

Your Eyes Will Be Safe From Debris – Protective glasses and goggles are worn in several professions. Why shouldn’t you wear sunglasses on your adventures outdoors? They will aid in protecting your eyes from any harmful debris that could be flying around. Remember, injuries to your body can heal over time, but sometimes, physical damage to the eyes may never heal!

Sunglasses Can Help You Look and Feel Good – Sunglasses tend to be associated with some degree of “coolness” or Hollywood celebrities. They tend to suggest that you’re confident about who you are. And of course, sunglasses can really help pull together any sort of outfit or style that you’re aiming for!

Need sunglasses? Ready to show your eyes some love? Shop D•CURVE Optics sunglasses now.   

Many of us think of sunglasses as a fashion accessory.  It’s hard to imagine Jackie O. or Jack Nicholson without their signature shades.  But, all sunglasses are not created equal, and when choosing your next pair it’s important to remember that their primary function is to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays.  Here’s the scoop on UV radiation and protection.

7 Things to Know About UV Protection

1. UV, or ultraviolet radiation, is part of the invisible light spectrum that falls between 100 and 400 nanometers (nm).  UV is divided into three ranges: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, the range below 280 nanometers, which is not considered a threat because most of it is filtered by the earth’s protective ozone layer (although air pollutants are degrading the ozone, thus increasing UV exposure).  Prolonged exposure to the higher-ranged UV-A and B rays, however, can cause significant eye damage, ranging from temporary discomfort to long-term vision problems such as cataracts.  All D•CURVE Optics sunglasses offer 100% protection against UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays.

2. UV radiation is most intense between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and is stronger at high altitudes and closer to the equator.

3. The reflective qualities of snow, sand and water amplify the effects of UV radiation, harming unprotected eyes in less time. Thus, it’s especially important to wear sunglasses while skiing, boating, or while hanging out on the beach or in the desert.

4. While clouds block solar brightness, they can still allow up to 80 percent of UV light to reach your eyes and skin.  So, don’t forget your shades on those cloudy days.  Protecting your eyes with D•CURVE Optics sunglasses will keep you smiling on a cloudy day.

5. Dark lenses that don’t block UV light can actually cause more damage than wearing none at all because they dilate your pupil, allowing more light in, without blocking the damaging rays.

6. In addition to UV-blocking shades, wear a brimmed hat.  Fifty percent of sunlight comes from directly overhead and can reach your eyes over the top of your sunglasses.

7. Babies and young children have more translucent corneas and lenses, and thus are particularly susceptible to UV damage.  Protect them with hats and sunglasses.

How much UV protection is enough?

Sunglasses and/or sunglasses packaging should carry an American National Standards Institute label telling how much UV light they block.  For optimum protection, look for lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays.  (Some labels say “UV absorption up to 400 nanometers”, which means the same thing.) If the sticker on the sunglasses doesn’t make either claim, or is worded vaguely (“Reduces UV exposure”), keep looking. 

All D•CURVE Optics sunglasses offer 100% protection against UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays.

DCURVE Lifestyle

Whether you love a relaxing hike on a Saturday afternoon or you participate in extreme sports on a regular basis, you need a pair of quality eyewear to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and to enhance your visual experience. Many players in this retail space offer products they market as innovative but are really just packaging together the same selections as everyone else out there.

At D•CURVE Optics we wanted to make something truly different – to embrace individuality and put an intense focus on a smaller line-up of products that ultimately yield a better experience for our customers. From sunglasses to snow helmets and goggles to bike helmets, we’ve created a brand that embraces the lifestyle we love to live.

We believe in freedom and adventure, and don’t think you should sacrifice quality just to find a reasonably priced option. Hailing from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, we put our products to the test to make sure they stand up to your most adrenaline-filled challenges.

What Makes DCURVE Unique?

Our philosophy behind our products is pretty unique amidst our industry – rather than trying to sell as many items as we can, we want to truly serve our customers with sunglasses and goggles that will last just as long as your passions do. Whether it’s cycling, snowboarding, playing disc golf, or just hanging out at the park, we want your eyes to be protected without having to spend a ton of cash.

The D•CURVE sunglass collection stands apart from other brands you might have worn before, as we use bio-titanium for styles that require function and durability. This material provides a flexible frame that will hold up to getting knocked off your face or thrown in the bottom of a bag while also being incredibly light to wear.

We also offer stainless steel and thicker plastic styles for the times when you want a more casual look and don’t need a strictly performance based product. Our sunglass collection is rounded out by sport technical styles that offer an enhanced peripheral view, making sure your activities aren’t impaired.

Lens Features And Replaceable Parts

D•CURVE places a huge emphasis on giving you the protection your eyes need while not draining your bank account. Our sunglasses and goggles offer proprietary lens technology using insights from NASA, giving you complete UV protection, 98.9% blue light blockage, and sharper visual clarity than you thought was even possible. Many don’t realize that just a little bit of sun exposure each day can add up to a plethora of eye conditions and diseases later on down the line.

We’ve named this superior technology NASTEK P3, and we combine it with our ZAIO coatings to give you a pair of eyewear that’s dust-proof, grease-proof, and waterproof, as well as being polarized and incorporating one of four beautiful colors.

Since we’re outdoor aficionados, we wanted to make a huge impact when it comes to how people use and reuse their gear. This lead us to develop the industry’s leading washable and replaceable foam for your snow and bike helmets. Instead of calling it quits after one season because of dirt or smell, you can order extra foam or simply wash what you’ve got to exponentially extend the lifespan of your product.

Join Us On Our Adventure

If you’re into extreme outdoor adventures, you know that we’re a one-of-a-kind breed and can instantly feel at home when we’re in our element. We love seeing D•CURVE out and about during all of your activities, so be sure to share with us on social media how you’re using your eyewear.

From sponsored athletes to casual nature lovers, we challenge everyone to push the boundaries of what’s normal in this industry – you too can have fashion, function, and quality at a reasonable price.

Many brands have entered the eyewear category. We are not just seeing sporting goods brands touch the periphery of this vertical, but anyone who wants brand equity. Big brands like Nike, Under Armor, and big cycling brands have found the barriers to entry pretty darn easy.  All it takes is some capital and you can try and compete with Oakley, or can you? Remember, many companies have a perceived value. The challenge is building brand equity and making consumers become repeat customers. In spite of high price points, Oakley has done a great job in this market space.

Let’s talk about a brand I discovered while attending Outdoor Retailer, which has taken a bold approach. The brand is called D•CURVE Optics. They have not only put out a full breadth of assortment, but it extends far beyond that. To understand this brand, let’s break down what they are doing right:

1. High quality materials

2. Mass appeal

3. Sizeable breadth of assortment that caters to everyone

4. Here is the kicker — the packaging!!!

Additional differentiators that make D•CURVE the Tesla of the crowded industry are the following:

They offer blue light protection. Oakley and Smith have done an excellent job of perceived quality. The industry is basically a “follow the leader” industry. There are few innovators. We have already seen the large companies take notice of D•CURVE Optics and copy some of their products. Today’s eyewear customer is looking to D•CURVE for new ideas and designs. In the end, D•CURVE is listening to the customer to build market share based on consumer application demand.

Sure, companies can come into this market setting and have good product.  However, D•CURVE has gone the extra mile with rich packaging and glass cases that look more expensive than the product. The result is that you are getting a VERY high-quality product that is substantial. Even better is favorable pricing, coupled with high quality engineering. These are not break the bank prices in this category at all. And I ask…..why choose the overpriced brands? Really…..why????

More second tier brands need to find a way to produce high quality products, so they can gain market share from the big boys. D•CURVE is a great example of a brand not on the radar, which needs to be spotted. They hit a few critical points:

1. High quality

2. Reasonable MSRP

Companies outside of big brands need to focus on REAL VALUE and not fancy colors and high price points. Pay attention to D•CURVE….these guys have the right recipe. They listen to the customer!

By Bradley D. Weisman

bweisman@inthesport.net

At D•CURVE Optics we love creating products that really do what they say they’ll do – we make a promise of durable, quality, comfortable, and good-looking eyewear that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Our sunglasses are tested in real-life situations, whether it’s by the professional athletes we sponsor or by our own team taking them out to hit the Rocky Mountains near our Colorado headquarters.

For those of you who might be new to D•CURVE Optics, we wanted to give you an idea of what some of our products are like. We know that sometimes seeing, is believing, but we hope that reading can be, believing too! Let’s check out the Cirrus, one of our Bio-Titanium styles.

The Cirrus

At first glance, the Cirrus might look like your average aviator-style pair of sunglasses, but as you take the time to explore its design features and realize that it’s made for everyday lifestyle adventures, you just might fall in love.

Crafted from Bio-Titanium, the Cirrus achieves what many other manufacturers attempt to create – it’s a feather-light frame with clean lines and a thin profile. Not only does this material create a frame that’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time, but it’s a style that can stand up to just about any abuse you put it through. These frames bend and flex to nearly any position you can imagine, meaning they’ll stay right there with you if you take a tumble.

All D•CURVE sunglasses are equipped with lenses that offer full UV protection as well as polarization to give you sharp vision in even the most glare-filled environments. Our lens design takes a page from NASA with our NASTEK P3 technology and tops it all off with our ZAIO coatings which work to keep your eyewear dust-proof, waterproof, and grease-proof.

The Cirrus is a great choice for anyone who wants a lot of coverage from the sun and comes with adjustable nose pads for your comfort.

We Stand By Our Quality

All D•CURVE sunglasses come with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects and many have replacement parts available should anything happen. The next time you’re out on the trail or mountain, think about how much protection your eyes are getting from the sun, and then give D•CURVE a try to see the difference.

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When I first suggested hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to my husband, Adam, it was, if not exactly a joke, at least an off-the-cuff idea. We were on a short section hike at the time, rambling along a 5-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail near New York City. In that environment, with the birds singing and leaves rustling in the wind, hiking for an additional 2,575 miles sounded romantic, a shared adventure that we would remember for the rest of our lives.

But it didn't take long for that off-the-cuff remark to turn into a shared reality. For nearly five months in 2014, we embarked on the intense emotional and physical journey of thru-hiking the PCT, travelling from the desert of southern California, through the high reaches of the Sierra Nevada, and along the volcano corridor of the Pacific Northwest before ending in the remote wilderness of the North Cascades at the Canadian border. Along the way, we shared more than we had planned: tears, sweat, base layers, and even toothbrushes. But we were in love, so no problem, right?

It’s easy to let the romantic and adventurous appeal of a thru-hike cloud out the reality of its emotional and mental challenges—and that goes double for couples hiking together. On a thru-hike, your partner will see everything: the good (you’re likely in the best shape of your life), the bad (bonking after your first 25-mile day), and the ugly (who knew you could get a blister inside of another blister?).

There was a lot from that first thru-hike that we learned about each other: our strengths and weaknesses, how to lean on one another when the going got tough, and what foods we didn’t want our partner to eat before climbing into the tent. Here’s what we learned along the way.

Sharing Gear

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That look you get when you ask to use your partner’s toothbrush.

Eric Schmuttenmaer

This one’s a no-brainer when you’re travelling as a team, right? Not exactly…

Laura: You’d think it would go without saying that couples would share everything they can on-trail to save weight. But we knew couples who carried their own stoves, separate food stores, and even separate tents. And some of them thought we were crazy for sharing as much as we did—we eventually got a two-person sleeping bag (turns out I don’t kick as much in my sleep as a certain someone was worried I would) and stopped carrying separate toothbrushes (hey, everything weighs something, right?. Although it wasn’t really a conscious decision—we just realized at one point that we had forgotten whose was whose.)

Adam: The biggest reason not to share your gear is if you think you won’t always be hiking together, which is something you’ll want to talk about in advance. Sometimes people want the opportunity to hike alone, or maybe one of you is a morning person who likes getting an early start and the other is a night owl who tends to sleep later. Another reason is that some people prefer to be responsible for their own stuff, like water and food. If you prefer to make decisions about what you’re going to be eating or how much water you’re going to be drinking without any spousal wrangling, it may make sense to keep track of your own nutrition essentials. But most couples prefer to make those kinds of decisions jointly.* *

Divvying Up Who Does What

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Couples that treat blisters together, stay together.

Dangerous…Dan

Splitting up chores might be as much of a pain in the backcountry as it is in the frontcountry, but, hey, at least there are fewer of them.

Laura: It can take longer to do chores at first because the routines you had in the frontcountry kind of go out the door on a thru-hike—there’s no trash to take out or bed to make, and the lawn doesn’t need mowing. But when you get to camp at the end of a 20-mile day, putting up the tent can seem surprisingly overwhelming for what a small task it is. Basically, the more you can communicate about what you’re doing, what still needs to be done, and what you need help with at the beginning of your hike, the faster you’ll fall into an automatic routine where you get to camp and start getting set up without needing to talk at all.

Adam : I agree that frontcountry routines don’t always apply in the backcountry, but it can help to try to split up chores by what you are both most apt do. For example, if you’re the one who makes coffee in the morning, make coffee on the trail. If you make the bed at home, be the one to set up the inside of the tent. That being said, it’s also important on a thru-hike to stretch yourself from time to time and switch it up. Don’t let your partner be the only one to handle a particular chore. At the very least, this will help you to appreciate the person who is making the coffee all the more.

It’s also helpful to remember that splitting chores is just as important in-town as it is on the trail. Maybe more so, as the faster you can get through town chores like laundry, the sooner you’ll be able to relax and enjoy a beer with your new trail friends.

Hiking Together

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If you look very, very closely, you can see an eye roll of epic proportions.

Dangerous…Dan

The couple that hikes together, stays together. (Or you can just enjoy your together time when you meet up later).

Adam: I’m not a fast hiker, so I’m rarely hiking far out in front of other people. I think it’s a good safety precaution to keep your hiking partner in your line of sight. If I’m the slow one in a group, I try to make sure I can still see the person if we’re not actively having a conversation. If I’m the fast one, I try to look over my shoulder every so often to make sure the other person is in sight.

Laura: We’re pretty lucky, in that Adam and I match pace pretty effortlessly and tend to want breaks around the same time. And that was something we knew beforehand, from years of hiking and running together. I think it does help to have a background of shared backcountry travel experience or even just training together.

Since we know that our tendency is to match one another’s pace, if we see that one of us dragging, we’ll have that person hike at the rear. We find that usually helps release that person from the not-insignificant mental load of trying to set their own pace. If one of us is really dragging, we’ll slow down and reevaluate our plan for that day or section.

I think it’s fine for a couple to hike separately during the day and meet up at camp. It just requires an extra layer of communication (such as picking out a campsite in advance for the next day), and knowing it will be tougher to stop early or hike longer. And you’ll have to double up on some gear like a water filter or maps, which can increase the weight you’re carrying. But, in the end, your pace is your pace and there is only so much you’re going to be able to do to adjust it to the other person.

Fighting

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One of the great truths of life on a long distance trail (and everywhere else): You will get in fights with your partner.

Dangerous…Dan

Every so often you meet a couple who swears they never fight on trail. Don’t believe them.

Adam: It will happen—you are going to fight at some point. Sure, thru-hiking is about digging deep into yourself (and maybe your relationship), but it’s also about addressing elemental bodily needs. If you aren’t fighting over something that’s actually wrong in your relationship, you’re going to fight for less significant but still pressing reasons: You’re hungry, or you’re tired, or because you need to use the bathroom. So before you start a fight, try to ask yourself: Am I angry because I’m hungry? Am I angry because I’m tired? And know that you need to ask your partner those questions too, and to not take offense when they ask you. The simple act of asking your partner if she needs a snack could mean the difference between a pleasant stroll and a rage hike.

Laura: Thru-hiking is sometimes really hard, and exhaustion can bring out the worst in people. You aren’t always going to be as supportive or understanding of what your partner is going through as you would want to be. Try to remember that if you feel like you’re on your last legs, your partner might be too, and cut them some slack if you can.

Something that also worked for us was to get really attuned to our partner’s cues and behavior, so that we could prevent bonking whenever possible. I now know all the different ways my husband can say "I’m OK" and which ones mean he is not OK, and it’s time to adjust accordingly.

Finding Your Trail Family

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Trail families are great, but don’t forget to carve out some one-on-one time with your partner.

Dangerous…Dan

This will be one of the best parts of your thru-hike. For your relationship? Not so much.

Her: We met some amazing people during our 2014 PCT thru-hike, and I wouldn’t take back a single mile we hiked with them. But we didn’t end up hiking with anyone but one another during our Colorado Trail, and we enjoyed that experience too, in different ways. One reality of thru-hiking is that, for the most part, the herd is following the same two-foot wide path, at the same time. It can be surprisingly difficult to find a few minutes alone together, and if you’re hiking with a trail family, it can be impossible. But it’s important to carve out that time together, even if it means missing a section of trail with your new friends.

Him: It’s pretty incredible how you can meet someone on trail and, within a week of knowing them, feel as if you’ve known them for years. That can also make it hard to have a private conversation with your partner, who you have actually known for years. Your trail family, just like a real family, won’t always know when you need space, so you need to do what you need to in order to keep your relationship a priority.

Trail Talk

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“So, how ‘bout this weather?”

Dangerous…Dan

Months on end of backpacking with your favorite human makes for the best conversations.

Laura: One of the best things about thru-hiking is that it eliminates so much of the background noise of the real world, and leaves you alone for days and weeks on end with nothing but your own thoughts. You’d think that would mean you end up having a lot of really deep insights about the direction of your life, for example or how to be a good person. Sometimes that does happen, but for us, we found ourselves paying attention to all the weird memories, ideas, and emotions rambling around in our minds and sharing them.

During our first thru-hike, we made up songs for the trail towns we hiked through, named our future children, tried to imagine what our cat was up to without us, and dissected fights that had happened years prior. And sometimes we didn’t talk at all—one of the key lessons we learned was how to be mere feet away from one another and still give that person space when they need it.

Adam: Maintaining an open mind about conversation is key. Start with the day-to-day, then do a deep dive, and end by talking about your innermost thoughts or dreams. In between you will probably talk about things that are objectively boring, or gross, and that’s fine as long as it’s interesting to you. You’ll develop theories about everyday events you know nothing about, like how water comes out of the ground, and talk for two hours about it.

Looking Good

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Nothing says sexy like smelly undies and a nice pair of Crocs.

Dangerous…Dan

You don’t need a shower or clean clothes every day, but making an effort is an important way to show your partner that you still care about your appearance (and, just as importantly, not repelling them).

Laura: Your idea of what clean means will change over the course of a thru-hike. Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it’s not. I try to do the best I can with what I’ve got and to encourage Adam to do the same, even if he doesn’t always listen. If there is a stream, use your bandana to wipe some of the dirt off your legs. If there is a lake, jump in it. But there are going to be times when you get pretty gross, and there isn’t going to be much you can do to clean up all that dirt and sweat and grime. You just have to go with the flow (and the B.O.) and embrace this part of the adventure. * *

Adam: It’s important in a relationship to be look good for the other person, and that doesn’t just go away on the trail. I really strive to be cleaner than I think I need to be on trail. I try to wash up a little bit more than I would ordinarily. For instance, I wouldn’t normally care about how clean my feet are at the end of the day, but I know it’s important to Laura, so I try to clean them up for her—even if she is less than thrilled at the job I do. I was also pleased to see that my insistence on carrying extra wet wipes "just in case" meant that we had another way to keep clean when water resources were scarce.

It’s Just You and Me, Baby

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If you’re able to get through this together, then you can get through anything.

Dangerous…Dan

One of our biggest lessons from our first thru-hike is that there is a big difference between hiking together for five miles and hiking together for 2,600 miles. The easy rapport we had during that initial conversation was helped by the familiarity of our surroundings: being close to civilization, with hot showers and comfortable beds waiting back at our apartment. Once we were out in it, there were some rough waters to navigate before we got into a groove with another.

Laura: It can be tempting to see how you fare on a thru-hike as a microcosm for your whole relationship—if you’re able to get through this together, then you can get through anything, and if you can’t, well, maybe it’s better to cut your losses now, right? While there may be some truth to this, thru-hiking is only loosely related to the "real" world. Some couples with strong relationships find that they are incompatible hiking partners, and some couples who meet on trail find that they are incompatible in the real world.

One of the best things you can do for your relationship before an adventure like a thru-hike is promising to take the good with the bad. And to be flexible. If hiking with your trail family isn’t working, set out from the next town without them. If splitting your pack weights evenly is slowing one of you down, let the other person take a larger share of the load. There isn’t a right way to thru-hike as a couple—there is just the way that works for you.

Adam: Yeah, and I was right that what works for us is to always carry extra wet wipes.

Laura: If nothing else, at least that way we’re always able to wash our feet at night.

Written by Laura Lancaster for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Dangerous…Dan

hiking

The 2,140-acre Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville has long enchanted hikers, campers, and cyclists with its vibrant fall foliage, scenic trails, and resplendent views.

Yet a relaxing day at the park can quickly turn sour.

A 24-year-old hiker experienced this firsthand in February 2017, when she went missing after hitting the trails at Monte Sano for an afternoon trek. As the sun set and temperatures neared freezing and she still hadn’t returned, her worried boyfriend called the police.

Fortunately, local agencies found the missing hiker the following morning; she had a few scrapes and cuts but was otherwise unharmed, according to local media reports.

The frightening story had a happy ending, but it underscored how quickly things can go wrong, even in popular parks and on well-trafficked trails.

For that reason, it’s important that hikers carry what are known as the Ten Essentials whenever they head outdoors. The Ten Essentials are 10 items that every hiker should bring on every outing, in the event of emergency.

The Ten Essentials first appeared in the 1974 book Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills and were updated in 2003 to account for technological advances and specific needs. Here, an overview on what the Ten Essentials are all about—and why you need them for every hike.

1. Navigation

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A compass is a crucial tool for helping hikers orient themselves when lost

Matt Biddulph

As convenient and commonplace as smartphones are these days, it’s risky to count on your digital device as your only navigational tool for a number of reasons. GPS and other location services will drain your battery, rainy conditions may render items useless, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get service in the sticks.

Instead, go old-school when it comes to navigational aids, which can be a lifesaver when you take a wrong turn or walk off-trail, even after a few steps. At minimum, carry a compass, and stash a paper map in your pack (whether a guidebook, website printout, or fold-up map). Topographic maps, in particular, provide elevation gains and usually account for landmarks—both pieces of information that can prove vital in case of emergency.

2. Sun Protection

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Sunglasses can protect against harmful UV rays; stash an extra pair in your pack.

Andy Rogers

There are few more painful feelings than hiking with a sunburned dome at the height of summer. Protect yourself from excessive sun exposure with a pair of sunglasses and a tube of sunscreen, both of which block the UV light that scorches your skin.

Check with your sunglasses manufacturer (or at the store) to learn more about the lenses’ UV-blocking capabilities. For sunscreen, aim for a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or 30, and keep in mind that you’ll need to reapply more often in hot temperatures (in other words, throughout an Alabama summer).

And don’t forget about sun protection when exploring on (or near) snow, ice, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Even on cloudy days, these can reflect light and make life miserable if you aren’t equipped with proper protection.

3. Insulation

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Layering up before going outside helps you adjust to weather changes.

Joseph

Conditions in the outdoors can change in an instant, so it’s important to bring layers of clothes to account for unpredictable weather. While you’re at it, throw a pair of gloves and a hat into your pack—they take up so little room and can make a huge difference if the temperature drops unexpectedly.

Ideally, the first layer should be a moisture-wicking shirt that helps your body remain warm in cool conditions (or cool in warm conditions). Whenever possible, avoid cotton, as it absorbs sweat and moisture and can cause chafing.

The next layer should be for insulation, which traps air near your body and keeps you warm. This where your wool and down sweaters, shirts, and vests usually come in handy. Finally, come prepared with an outer "shell" layer to protect against wind, rain, snow, and other nasty conditions. Some (but not all) “shell” jackets are breathable, and most (but not all) are waterproof; what you use should account for the climate you’ll be in.

4. Illumination

Bring a headlamp, lantern, or flashlight for low-light conditions and for alerting responders to your location. Headlamps have the benefit of hands-free use and usually have a long battery life; most headlamps also include some kind of strobe setting that helps search-and-rescue units find you in foggy conditions and dense forests.

Lanterns and flashlights, meanwhile, benefit from powerful beams and lightweight portability. Whatever you choose, be sure to check the batteries before setting off, and don’t forget to pack spares.

5. First-Aid Supplies

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A portable first-aid kit can help with cuts and other accidents along the trail.

DLG Images

Many outdoor and some department stores sell compact, portable first-aid kits with gauze, bandages, ointments, and other essentials for treating small cuts, scrapes, blisters, and bug bites. These are usually adequate for day trips and short outings, but for longer, overnight treks, your kit will need to be more robust.

That said, don’t be shy about stocking up if other needs persist. For example, mosquitoes can be especially annoying in Alabama, so it’s a good idea to toss a bottle of repellent into your pack before hitting the trail. Likewise, portable hand warmers will keep you warm in chilly conditions.

6. Fire

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Make sure your lighter has fluid in it before relying on it to start a fire while camping, especially in chilly conditions.

Joseph

In addition to being a comforting presence at a campsite, a fire can literally save the day in a precarious situation. But you have to be able to create it, and with that, you’ll need a fire-starting essential, which can be matches, lighters, or an emergency fire-starting kit. Your choice may depend on the conditions in which you’ll be hiking.

Matches (either waterproof matches or conventional matches stored in a waterproof container) can start fires quickly and easily, and they make for ideal back-ups when conventional lighters run out of fuel. Pro tip: Consider packing along a little paper, dryer lint, wood chips, and petroleum jelly-covered cotton balls to help start a fire (and keeping it going).

7. Repair Kit and Tools

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Duct tape works as the best temporary fix for any rip or tear in fabric, or just about anything.

woodleywonderworks

Your repair kit and tools depend on your needs, climate, conditions, outdoor comfort level, survival skills, and gear. The longer you’re out, and the more gear you carry, the more you’ll want for repair and safety.

At the very least, consider a pocket knife or multi-tool; the latter is especially helpful for screwing glasses back together, repairing gear, preparing food, opening cans, cutting cloth, and more. Other optional accessories include patch kits for air mattresses, trowels for digging holes, extra screws for glasses, and duct tape—for repairing seemingly everything. There’s a reason many veteran adventurers always carry a roll of duct tape in their packs.

8. Nutrition

There’s very little downside to bringing extra food on a hike, even a short one. Be sure to pack a few snacks, as well as an extra meal’s worth of food (if not two). Aim for non-perishable items that won’t wither in extreme conditions, including jerky, gels, trail mix, granola or energy bars, dried fruit, chips, and crackers.

9. Hydration

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Nalgene bottles are perfect for water storage, and they also serves as a great source of light if you shine your headlamp through the bottle!

John Loo

There’s no magic formula for figuring out how much water to carry. So keep your distance in mind when deciding: The longer you hike, and the more strenuous your trip, the more water you’ll need. Always bring at least one full bottle of water, as well as water purification tablets or a portable purifier for longer trips (if water sources are available).

Whatever you do, be sure to rehydrate before you feel parched, and remain mindful of how much water you have left. (Remember that scene from the book-turned-movie Wild, when hiker Cheryl Strayed was out of water on a particularly grueling stretch of her hike?)

10. Emergency Shelter

If you become lost or otherwise stranded, shelter can play an important role in keeping warm and guarded against the elements.

If packing a tent seems excessive or unwieldy, consider a lightweight tarp, foil emergency blanket (commonly called "space blankets" for their resemblance to something an astronaut might wear), sleeping pad, or even garbage bag—all of which can make an unexpected night in the outdoors a little more bearable.

Written by Matt Wastradowski for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Heath Cajandig

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Ask Aspen local Tony Vagneur what he remembers most about skiing in the old days, and he answers immediately: “the cold.”

Circa 1949, when Gore-Tex was a long way off, layering wool was the only way to attempt to ward off the frigid temperatures. Factor in an hour-long lift line and a 30-minute ride up what was then the world’s longest chairlift—with single seats—and idle time adds up to freezing digits.

“By the end of the day, my hands would be numb and as they warmed up the pain was a killer,” Vagneur, still active on the slopes at 71, recalls. “But that was part of the game. Skiing was so much fun. We didn’t care if we were cold.”

If there’s anywhere in America that showcases how skiing has evolved from its humble origins, it’s Aspen. In 1950, it was a sleepy ranching and mining town when it hosted the first worldwide skiing competition held in the United States. Today, the four resorts that make up Aspen-Snowmass have a combined 41 lifts serving 5,500 acres of terrain.

But there’s a lot more about skiing that has changed, in Aspen and across the world, than just the size of the resorts. Here, a look back at the olden (and some might say golden) days of skiing—and how things are different now, from incredible improvements in gear and technology to the not-so-incredible price hikes, and everything in between.

The Cost

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Back in the day, a solo trip up the lift was the only way to go.

Chuck Battles

On Dec. 15, Snowmass will celebrate its 50th anniversary with $6.50 lift tickets, honoring the price from 1967. Resort officials were reportedly shocked when they sold some 12,000 of them by early November, and subsequent sales required a lodging purchase.

The popularity might be in part because lift tickets in peak season can top $150 here. Of course, nothing is as cheap as it was in 1967, but the cost to hit the slopes at big resorts has risen astronomically. Nowadays, a family ski trip can easily run into the thousands of dollars (though, by choosing more old-school resorts, you can help your budget a bit; more on that below).

The Gear

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Ski fashion has come a looong way over the decades.

Chuck Battles

In the old days, breaking an ankle or fracturing a leg was almost a rite of passage for skiers. That injury rate was due in part because of the gear: Skis were long, skinny, and fast, and didn’t release during a crash—which happened a lot, because they were not ideal for turning, especially in deep Colorado powder. Over the years, boots got stiffer, bindings safer, and skis shorter and wider.

At first, Vagneur and his old-timer friends considered these newfangled models skis to be cheating. “Then we skied on them and said, ‘Oh God, this is great.’”

But like many skiing innovations, there’s a downside to making it easier and more fun to ski powder. The hill gets tracked out quicker, including the trees, which used to be too dangerous for sloppy-turning skis.

“Because of these skis, everyone can ski powder pretty much, so all the good stuff gets used up in a hurry and people go looking for it out in the trees,” says Vagneur. “It’s pretty damn hard to find a stash. I’ve got one place up there nobody seems to be able to find and I’m not talking about it.”

The Technology

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Cell phones have revolutionized the way skiers can document carving it up on the slopes.

Aspen Snowmass / Jeremy Swanso

In the old days—in this case, before everyone had a cell phone in their pocket and a GoPro on their helmet—skiing offered a way to disconnect. If someone needed to find you while you were on the slopes, too bad for them, but good for you—you were essentially off the grid until the lift lines closed.

These days, even when the weather is so cold fingers turn blue trying to activate an app, the lift ride has shifted from quiet introspection among the trees or chatting with your fellow rider to nonstop connectivity: taking pictures, uploading shots of that epic powder to Facebook or Instagram, trying to track down friends (or even checking work e-mail if you’re taking a “sick” day.)

Sure, there’s an upside to all this access: You can instantly get the snow report, check what others are posting about conditions, or upload a lift selfie or GoPro video of your powder run. But something is unquestionably missing—that feeling that it’s just you and the mountain. If you lost your friends, you knew you’d meet up again for après at the bar, where an in-person account of that epic line you hit beats an Instagram post any day.

As for another noteworthy technological innovation, the automatic pass scanner, you’re not likely to find many skiers or lift attendants pining for the old days of punching tickets.

The Terrain

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Many resorts, including Aspen Highlands, have expanded their terrain over the years.

Aspen Snowmass

In the old days, nobody dared to ski Highlands Bowl. “It was almost a sure bet you’d die if you went up there,” Vagneur says. “We had a lot more respect for avalanches in the old days.”

Today, it’s the crown jewel of extreme terrain of the Aspen Highlands resort, reached only by hiking, double-diamond terrain that has been called the most intense skiing in Colorado. There's a monument to three patrollers killed in a 1984 avalanche up there.

Wider skis and adrenaline junkies chasing more extreme terrain have led many resorts to allow access to this sort of avalanche-prone terrain above timberline, the slide risk mitigated by modern avalanche control techniques.

You won’t find many skiers who lament the opening of more terrain, but Vagneur does believe it has changed the culture of skiing as the race to fresh pow becomes ever-more intense. “A lot of it is just competition—who gets the first tracks, who does the first 100,000 vertical feet,” he says. “To me, who cares? You just go up there and have fun.”

The Vibe

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An off-duty cop or killer costume? You decide.

Aspen Snowmass

Just as depicted in the classic ski film Aspen Extreme, every winter a new cycle of would-be ski bums arrives in town. The cars have changed—now it's more likely to be a Subaru stuffed with worldly possessions instead of an old Ford van—but Vagneur still sees the same types year after year: the guy with a PhD washing dishes in a restaurant by night, trust-funders living in a fantasy world, A-listers who come to Aspen to see and be seen.

(One thing he hasn’t seen much of over the years, however: clothing-optional skiing. Vagneur recalls one spring day when an attractive woman decided to ski topless, to his and his friends’ delight. With the proliferation of cell phones, stunts like this are much less common.)

The days are gone when they all knew each other or recognized each other at the bar from riding the lift together. The resorts are too big; the population too transient. And fast-moving lifts mean a conversation that might have taken 20 minutes is over in five—and that’s if you even manage to chat with someone who’s tapping away at their phone the whole way up.

But the more things change, one thing has remained for Vagneur: a love of skiing, of being out in the mountains, in the snow and crisp air, surrounded by amazing views. “When I was a kid, I’d go out there with my buddies and we skied most days in the winter,” he says. “We [still] laugh a lot and have a good time. We find runs we like. We’re in our 70s and still ski bumps.”

5 Spots Where You Can Get a Throwback Experience on the Slopes

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You don't have to look too far for a throwback experience.

Aspen Snowmass

Craving an old-school ski experience? Here are five ski resorts and towns where you can travel back in time for a nostalgic day on the slopes.

Arapahoe Basin

A true Colorado “locals” hill just down the road from the mega-resorts of Keystone and Breckenridge, A-Basin has free parking a short walk from the lifts, affordable tickets, and a fun, festive atmosphere. They also have the longest ski season in North America, usually from October to June (and sometimes July!)

Bridger Bowl, Montana

If you live in Bozeman and see the blue light atop the Baxter Hotel flashing, it might be time to take a “sick” day—because that means this nearby ski area has fresh snow. Locals are the bulk of those on the slopes, since most visitors opt for snazzier resorts in the northern Rockies, like Jackson Hole. But that’s all the more reason to book a trip, since Bozeman is mostly a summer tourist town and rooms are cheaper in winter.

Mad River Glen, Vermont

“Ski it if you can” is the well-known slogan for this rustic ski area, which has the gnarliest terrain in New England. It’s also skier-owned, which means you don’t buy a pass but a share in ownership that gives you a voice in how the area is managed. It also has one of only two still-operating single-seat chair lifts in the United States.

Homewood Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

You don’t have to drop a fortune to ski California’s crown jewel at this family-friendly resort at the west shore of Lake Tahoe. Enjoy jaw-dropping views like other Tahoe resorts—the lifts begin almost at the shores of the lake—without the steep prices of other areas. So many modern ski resorts focus on real estate as much as the skiing, but you won’t find a slopeside condo here—just lots of wide runs, a laid-back vibe, and excellent skiing.

Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado

You won’t find many ski areas whose owner is up the ridges with a snorkel, dropping avalanche bombs. This southern Colorado resort is known for its rustic vibe and deep powder, and with 450 inches a year, they claim to have the most snow in Colorado—130 inches more than Snowmass, for a lift ticket ($70) that’s less than half the price. Lines are unusual, and powder lingers for days for those willing to hike a bit.

Written by Scott Rappold for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Aspen Snowmass

How To Protect Your Eyes From The Sun

Make sure your sunglasses are doing the job.

Summers are getting hotter every year—the vast majority of us have become well acquainted with the crucial ways to protect our skin when heading outside for long periods. However, it’s not just skin that needs protecting from the sun – our eyes can also be damaged by UV radiation.

Fortunately, the straightforward solution is to stick on a pair of quality sunglasses.

What kind of short-term and long-term eye problems can UV rays cause?

In the short term you’re looking at something called photokeratitis, which is basically sunburn for your corneas. If you spend too long out in the sun – I think one study has shown it’s about six hours in direct sunlight – then it can cause quite red, painful eyes. The symptoms generally resolve themselves and after about 48 hours it tends to disappear.

There are more damaging long-term effects like cataracts and macular degeneration, which can be accelerated by UV exposure. You can also get skin cancer on the eyelids and fatty tissue building up on the white parts of the eye.

The eye is ten times more sensitive to UV light than skin and although it has natural protection, it can still be quite exposed to damage.

How much time spent in the sun without protection puts you at risk? Is up to six hours OK then?

I would say it can be shorter [than six hours]. It depends on how much UV exposure there is as well. The strongest levels of UV light are between 10am and 2pm, and it’s a lot stronger during the summer months as well. Also you’re more exposed at higher altitude. It depends on a lot more than just the duration of time that you are outside.

Are reflective environments especially risky?

Yes. A reflective surface – when you’re out skiing or fishing, say – reflects a lot more light, and it’s more scattered. It doesn’t necessarily increase the chance of UV damage, but it definitely causes more irritation to the eyes in terms of glare.

What should you look for in terms of protection when buying sunglasses?

You want to find a pair of sunglasses that protect against 100% of UVA and UVB rays [this may be labelled as UV400, which protects against wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, covering both UVA and UVB rays].

This may mean it’s described as protecting against 99% of UV light as there is also UVC radiation, which has a shorter wavelength but doesn’t penetrate the ozone layer.

Also, look for something that protects against HEV light. Sunglasses have a grading system between one and four. So four is the darkest tint that sunglasses can have, which blocks out 95% of visible light. They’re for people working in really bright conditions or in high altitudes. They’re not for people who drive for example, because of the amount of light they block. Most people tend to go for a category three, which is a little bit lighter. It blocks out 85% of visible light. But all of them should say they protect against UVA and UVB – that’s the important thing.

If you’re in a brighter environment, or at high altitude, you also want them to be quite big and maybe wraparound to give you more coverage.

Can you get contact lenses that protect the eyes from UV rays?

Yes you can. Most contact lenses have the technology to protect against UVA and UVB, which is brilliant, because that will protect the internal parts of the eye. It does, however, mean that there are parts of the eye that are exposed to UV light, so it’s still a good idea to wear sunglasses on top so you’re still protecting the eye and its surroundings.

Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Coach

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Weekend backpacking trips are one of the greatest gifts of the summer. You can get so much in just two to three days: a breathtaking vista, a serene mountain lake, a secluded old-growth forest. The only problem is that all too soon you’re back at the trailhead, preparing for the long drive home and wondering how you’ll get through five more days before your next big adventure.

Usually, this is when hikers start to google “Appalachian Trail Town Guide” or “PCT Gear Checklist,” but if you aren’t quite ready to quit your job and sell your house, there are other long trail options, ones that can be squeezed in alongside life’s many other responsibilities. And since these trails don’t get the same press as the jewels of the triple crown, the odds of getting a week of breathtaking vistas all to yourself are even better.

1. Benton-Mackaye Trail

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A 270-foot suspension bridge crossing the Toccoa River on the Benton MacKaye Trail in North Georgia.

Richard

States: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee
Season: Year round
Duration: 2-4 weeks
Learn more: BMTA.org

The Appalachian Trail is widely considered one of the most social trails in America, and no wonder as thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike every year. But if you’re looking to experience what the AT might have been like before its fame grew far and wide, look no further than the 300-mile Benton-Mackaye Trail. It shares its southern terminus (Springer Mountain) with the AT, but quickly veers to the west, deep into the Appalachian Mountains and away from the crowds. Here you’ll find the small wonders this corner of the world is known for: deep, lush forests, blooming wildflowers, and cool, bubbling creeks. While this trail is well-maintained by a devoted group of volunteers, amenities are kept at a minimum compared to other trails in the region. The good news is that a lack of established shelters and infrequent signage mean that you’re even more likely to have this trail all to yourself. (If you only have time for a section hike, be sure to check out the best Benton Mackaye day hikes in Georgia and in Tennessee/North Carolina.)

2. John Muir Trail

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Camp vibes along the John Muir Trail

Rick McCharles

States: California
Season: Summer
Duration: 2-3 weeks
Learn more: PCTA.org

The granddaddy of them all, the John Muir Trail offers a wholly unique adventure for intrepid backpackers: 211 miles of trail without a single road crossing. Starting at a mere 4,000 feet in Yosemite Valley, you’ll soon leave behind the crowds as you climb up above the treeline and into the high country where no fewer than eight mountain passes await you. Make no mistake about it, the remoteness (not to mention the difficulty) of this trail requires serious training and planning, so be prepared to cross snowfields, wade through swollen rivers, and safeguard your food from the area’s notorious bears. The majority of JMT hikers are headed southbound, but you’ll still see plenty of northbound hikers along the way, as the PCT shares 170 miles of trail through the High Sierras. The only real downside to this trail is its popularity as most reservations are snapped up months in advance of hiking season.

3. Lone Star Hiking Trail

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The Lone Star Trail as it passes through the Stubblefield Lake Recreation Area

Adrian Delgado2012

State: Texas
Season: Year round
Duration: 1 week
Learn more: LoneStarTrail.org

Leave behind the noise and crowds of Houston and travel an hour north to find the solitude and quiet you’ve been craving on the Lone Star Hiking Trail. Tucked away in the Sam Houston National Forest, this 128-mile pine needle-cushioned footpath takes you deep into the backcountry along serene, bubbling creeks and over gentle slopes. As you hike, you’ll wind your way through dense stands of magnolia trees and miles and miles of hardwoods, home to woodpeckers and bald eagles alike. This is one of the few long distance trails that can be hiked year-round, and might even be best in winter, when the scorching temperatures of Texas are moderated. Another bonus: no permit is required to get started, and maps can be downloaded for free at the volunteer-maintained website.

4. The Long Trail

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The Theron Dean Shelter on the Long Trail of Vermont

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States: Vermont
Season: Late spring through late fall
Duration: 3 weeks
Learn more: GreenMountainClub.org

America’s obsession with thru-hiking may well have started with the Long Trail, the country’s oldest long-distance route, and the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. Traveling the length of Vermont, the bulk of its 272 miles trace the ridges of the Green Mountains, traveling along remote streams and through alpine sedge, and climbing the state’s highest peaks: Camel’s Hump, Killington Peak, Mount Mansfield, and more. But this trail is known less for the views than as a rugged journey through a thick forest of hemlocks, eastern white pines, sugar maples, and balsam fir. Be aware that while this trail doesn’t reach the same elevations as its Western cousins, it offers significant terrain challenges for the novice and advanced hiker alike. Expect scrambling, slippery log crossings, and rough trails. Today, the LT shares 100 miles of trail with the AT, but while the latter stops midway through Maine, the LT takes you all the way to the Canadian border.

5. The Mid State Trail

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A Mid State Trail footbridge in Alan Seeger Natural Area of Rothrock State Forest

Nicholas A. Tonelli

States: Pennsylvania
Season: Spring to fall
Duration: 5-7 weeks
Learn more: Hike-MST.org

If you’re looking for something a little longer, and little wilder, check out the 522-mile Mid State Trail running straight down the middle of Pennsylvania. Straddling the Appalachians and the Allegheny plateau, this path is unusually solitary and remote, even as it brings you within spitting distance of established communities (and one or two ghost towns). It accomplishes this by keeping hikers above the fray, traveling from the highest knob and steepest ridgelines, across densely forested highlands, and up and around rolling hills. Like many of the trails in this region, the route is scattered with boulders of varying shapes and sizes, making it difficult to cover ground quickly. But, unlike those other trails, the secret’s not out on this one yet, and it’s a toss-up which you’ll see more of as you hike: bears or backpackers.

6. Ozark Highlands Trail

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The Ozarks in Autumn

OakleyOriginals

States: Arkansas
Season: October through June
Duration: 2 weeks
Learn more: OzarkHighlandsTrail.com

If your ideal wilderness trek is one where you won’t encounter another hiker for days on end, the Ozark Highlands Trail should be near the top of your list. But even if you start out in search of the trail’s peaceful valleys and lonely vistas you’ll stay for its smaller wonders: delicate waterfalls, remnants of bygone pioneers, and impressive rock formations, like the Narrs: a narrow catwalk of stone snaking along the Buffalo River. While reasonably well-marked, this trail is more rustic than most, so be prepared for your feet to get wet (and stay wet) during its many stream crossings. Fortunately, there are a number of ancient structures scattered along the way where you can air out and dry off. Procrastinating thru-hikers may rejoice that this one doesn’t require a special permit to get started, but know that the remoteness of the terrain and the difficulty of resupply (there are only two POs and no grocery stores along the way) mean it requires just as much, if not more, planning.

7. River to River Trail

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Illinois' Garden of the Gods State Park, one of the highlights along the River to River Trail

Curtis Abert

States: Illinois
Season: Spring through fall
Duration: 1-2 weeks
Learn more: fs.usda.gov

Even if you don’t have the time to hike the entire 6,800-mile American Discovery Trail, you can still tackle an important leg of it: the 160-mile River to River Trail travels across southern Illinois, from the Ohio River to the Mississippi. If you’ve never been to this part of the country, you’re in for a real treat. Towering slot canyons, sandstone sculpted bluffs, dense deciduous forests (hike this one in fall if you can), and, of course, sweeping views of two of the most iconic rivers of the Midwest are but a few of the treasures to be found along the way. While the forests surrounding this trail look untouched today, don’t be fooled, as you may be following an ancient wagon trail, long overgrown. A word of caution: since this trail is not maintained to the same standards that you’ll find in established wilderness areas, aspiring thru-hikers should come prepared with serious navigational skills.

8. Shore-to-Shore Trail

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from above

Josh Grenier

States: Michigan
Season: Spring through summer
Duration: 2 weeks
Learn more: MTRA.org

Begin your adventure by dipping a toe into Lake Huron at one of two starting points on the eastern half of the 220-mile Shore-to-Shore Trail. As you travel west, wander through warbler territory, join up for a section of the 4,600-mile North Country Trail, and then skirt the more popular tourist destinations as the trail winds across the rolling hills that characterize the middle of the state. End your trip with a plunge into Lake Michigan via the steep bluffs of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. While there are many upsides to choosing this thru-hike, one downside is that heavy equestrian use can make this trail more challenging for those traveling by foot. Expect longer distances between established campsites (20-25 miles), deep grooves along the path, and maps that are more focused on the needs of thru-riders than thru-hikers.

9. Tahoe Rim Trail

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Overlooking the Desolation Wilderness

Jeff P

States: California and Nevada
Season: July through September
Duration: 1-2 weeks
Learn more: TahoeRimTrail.org

While Tahoe’s beaches are packed with tourists you’ll be high up on the ridgeline enjoying stunning vistas on this 165-mile loop around the lake’s perimeter. This one is anything but routine, traveling through densely wooded forests, up high mountain passes (there may be snow early in the season), and around the shores of shimmering lakes set against the moonscapes that are specific to this region. The TRT also shares a footpath with the Pacific Crest Trail for 50 miles through the Desolation Wilderness, offering ample opportunity to get some insider info before you plan next year’s big hike. Give yourself a minimum of a week to complete if you’re doing it all in one shot, or break it out into 14 separate day hikes and earn your Weekend Warrior stripes. Added bonus: since the TRT is a loop rather than an end-to-end thru-hike, transportation planning is a snap.

10. Wonderland Trail

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Encircling Mount Rainier for 93-miles, the Wonderland Trail is worthy of any backpacker's bucket list

John Strother

Located: Washington State
Season: July through September
Duration: 1-2 weeks
Learn more: RootsRated.com/how-to-thru-hike-the-wonderland-trail

Discover 93 miles of pure heaven circumventing Washington’s most iconic peak. Its jaw-dropping spectacles include fields ablaze with wildflowers of all colors, bridges hundreds of feet over raging rivers and waterfalls, and a new angle from which to see the mountain up close and personal every single day (at least as long as PNW’s infamous weather cooperates). While you’re not climbing Mt. Rainier (14,411 feet), expect significant elevation change (22,000 feet in all) as you climb up and over its many ridges. The Wonderland Trail’s reputation has grown in recent years from a local treasure to a national destination, but if you have a flexible schedule this might just be the perfect year to hike it. A glitch in the reservation system for 2016 means that all reservations are now first come first serve, making it easier than ever to secure a last-minute spot on a once-in-a-lifetime thru-hike.

Written by Laura Lancaster for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by John Strother