Back to the Hills

It has never felt better to get out and about for Outdoor Adventure.  Our enforced time at home may have been pleasant but it is time to run for the hills.  The easing from 2km to 5km felt amazing, but now we are flying free again. We are unleashed to enjoy all that this great country has to offer in terms of thrilling treks, fantastic walks and amazing scenery.  At Outdoor Adventure Store, we have missed you all as much as we have missed walking, climbing, running and revelling in the outdoor life.   To celebrate our joint freedom and renewed appreciation for the world, we have generous reductions on many items in-store.  So, take this opportunity to treat yourself to some new equipment as you get back to the hills.

Hiking and Walking Boots

Before you invest in some awesome footwear, take a wee moment to decide what is best for your needs.  Consider which type of hiking, hill walking you plan to do and what kind of terrain it involves. This will be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing appropriate footwear.  A good pair of hiking boots is an investment in many years of comfortable trekking. Getting back to the Hills will be a charm with the right footwear.    Hiking long distances and upland trails comfortably and without blisters or wet feet while reducing the dangers of slipping and falling, is dependent on good footwear.    A good pair of hiking boots are optimised for ankle support on all terrains and will protect your feet from rocks and spikey trail debris.   The wrong shoes are simply not suitable and those who start walking in regular footwear, often regret their decision quickly.   It may be that the type of hiking/hill walking that you are planning to do, would be better suited to a walking shoe or sandal.  The important thing is not to get blistered and footsore.   Check out our blog on how to choose the right pair of boots for you, or call into the store to avail of the expert advice of our friendly staff.

Walking and Trekking Poles

Perhaps you are not as fit as you were prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, but this should not deter you from getting back to the hills with vigour and enthusiasm.  A good walking pole is not just an extra piece of equipment, it can be the difference between making the summit, and safely descending your favourite mountain with a smile on your face.  At Outdoor Adventure Store we have a fantastic range of trekking poles and hiking poles to suit every expedition, whether they are big or small.  For walking pole novices, we recommend the robust three-piece trekking pole from Leki .  Its adjustable safety strap and rounded supporting surface on the new Evocon trekking grip are particularly pleasant for a downhill climb.  The length of the poles should be adjusted to suit your height and the activity you are planning. Generally speaking, lengthen the poles for descents, and shorten them for ascents and the length for walking along flat or gently slopes should be around waist height.  To avail of our great offers on walking poles, see the range online or talk to one of our knowledgeable staff.

Trekking poles for walking

Baby comes too!

There is no reason why baby cannot come too!  Especially when we have great offers on all baby carriers.  One of our most popular models is the Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier, a sturdy model that boasts the same innovated suspended mesh back system as some of our most comfortable hiking and backpacking packs. It also has essential sun protection. The rapid deploy Poco Plus Sun-Shade, with an UPF 22 rating it protects your little cargo from harmful sun rays, making the perfect shaded spot for an afternoon nap. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, deploy the integrated rain-cover.  See our previous blog on which is the best buy for you and your little one. 

hiking with baby

Tents

We truly cannot keep the tents in the warehouse this year!  Our unbelievable value in tents for family staycations or for solo travellers has seen an unprecedented amount of canvas sold since the lifting of restrictions.  But don’t worry, we have plenty of tents still in stock for your camping needs. RockNRiver have the very best in adventure camping packages for as little as €99.00, and if you are looking for some luxury at the campfire, the Vango range of tents has all you could ever need and more.

As we all enjoy our staycations in Ireland, with a reborn appreciation for alfresco living let’s do with the best equipment possible.  Whether we are camping with the family, hiking solo or climbing to the top of the tallest mountain.  Outdoor Adventure Stores have everything you need to make the experience a pleasant, fun and unforgettable. We have your back as you get back to the hills.

7 Free and Essential Apps that you need for Traveling the World


Zoe off the Road!

Our Zoe Kinsella  headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Unfortunately, that adventure was cut short by the Covid-19 Pandemic.  This is her last blog from the road and a list of all the Apps that we will need when we get back on the road again. For now, you have the  time to look at the wistfully and make plans for the future!

Welcome Back Zoe.


Going traveling? Download these free travel apps before you jet off!

With so many apps available out there for both Android and iPhones, how can we know which ones are worth the space they consume on our smartphones especially when every megabyte counts these days? Before I set off on my travels I had no idea of the array of travel apps that were available to me. Check out these 7 FREE travel apps that will have you wondering how you ever travelled before without them.

Essential Apps for Travelling the World

1. XE Currency Exchange

There are plenty of currency conversion apps out there, however, XE Currency is at the top of its league. Choose whatever currencies you’d like to convert between and the one you’d like to use right now. Select an amount and the equivalent will show in all of the other currencies you selected. You only need an internet connection initially to download rates when you first select a currency and after that, you can use offline. 


2. Google Translate

Probably one of the handiest apps you’ll download for your trip. Not all areas we travel to are used to tourists so they might not speak English.  Google translate is the perfect travel companion. You can download a language pack ahead of time and use it without needing to be connected to the internet. Simply type in what you are looking to say, choose your language and off you go. You can also take a photo, handwrite and voice record words or phrases to be translated. 


3. Google Maps

Where would we be without Google Maps? By far the best mobile navigation app available, you’ll find yourself using it daily, especially while you travel. Although you’ll need an internet connection to find new locations you can save maps for later use while offline. Google Maps allows you to star locations so while you’re out and about you can pull up your offline map using the GPS signal in your phone and see your starred locations. 


4. Trip Advisor

If you are like me and you love to read and also leave reviews of accommodations and attractions, then you just have to download the TripAdvisor app. The app is much more than a place to leave reviews. It provides all of the information available about accommodation, restaurants, activities, and flights. Its forums include information about worldwide destinations and different travel themes such as bargains, business, weddings, ecotourism and so much more. 

You can book through the app and also save what you like for later use.


5. Booking.com

Similar to TripAdvisor, Booking.com allows you to book accommodation at the lowest price. You receive further discounts and perks the more you use it too. Booking.com helps you make the most of your trip from finding great deals, renting cars, booking airport transfers, reading reviews and also supplying travel articles to help you make the most of your trip. 


6. Rome2Rio

Traveling can be daunting and no matter how much research you do you can often feel lost. Rome2Rio is one of the best apps I have learnt about while on the road.  Simply pop in your starting location and your intended destination, and it will pull up all of the different routes with times and pricing. The app highlights which routes they recommend. The fastest and the cheapest too! When traveling as a backpacker you can be in a different country every other week if you wanted so this app is a lifesaver in helping you get from place to place efficiently. 


7. Hopper

Who doesn’t love to bag a bargain when booking flights? That trip of a lifetime doesn’t have to cost a fortune and usually the most expensive thing is the flights. Here’s where Hopper comes in. Pop in where you are flying from and to, choose the number of passengers and Hopper will let you know what dates are the cheapest to fly on. You can also choose to watch a trip, so it will notify you when prices have gone up or down and will advise you on the best time to buy. 


Traveling the world and seeing new places is exciting but it can also be a bit scary and intimidating.  Help yourself out and download these apps so that nothing will stand between you and your perfect trip! 

The troubles with technology while traveling


Zoe on the Road

Our Zoe Kinsella has headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Having assisted all kinds of travellers to access the very best in back-packing gear, she took to the trail herself.  Currently backpacking through South East Asia, Zoe shares her thoughts, musings and travel adventures with all of us poor folk left at home.  Thailand brought beautiful beaches & clear blue skies and fellow travellers with their noses stuck in phones.

Enjoy the sun Zoe!


As I walk the white sandy beaches of Koh Samui, Thailand soaking in every ray of the 34-degree heat I can’t help but feel lost in the moment. My head clear, my worries non-existent and my heart full. I can’t help but think of how lucky I am to be here. As my gaze is pulled from the clear blue ocean to the droves of people resting on the beach, it’s evident that while I seem to be one of few lost in the tranquillity of the island, others are lost in endless scrolling on smartphones.  Ignoring those next to them, their conversations stagnant and with the occasional tilt of a phone to show the other what they are looking at in order to show that they are acknowledging their existence and not out rightly ignoring them. 

This had me thinking of my trip to Thailand 6 years previously when I used to call my Mam on Viber on my iPod Touch whenever I got to a place with half-decent Wi-Fi. There was no lying on the beach scrolling through social media. Mainly because you couldn’t connect to Wi-Fi and this was before you could get a sim with data on it for next to nothing. The sad reality today is that people seem uninterested in each other’s company until a phone is taken out for a picture or video to post on social media. And this, to make people feel as if they are missing out on the ‘fun’ or that their lives are inadequate. Feeling as if you’re missing out is far more prominent nowadays because of posting on social media. People have become so obsessed with getting that Instagram picture or video that will make others wish they were them. But, have we become so consumed with this façade? As I look around the beach groups of friends sit together scrolling through their social media pages, not acknowledging each other until one shouts “get in a video” and all of a sudden everyone is animated, laughing, singing, dancing, and looking like they’re having the time of their lives. Designed to spark envy. In reality, they are doing the exact same thing as those at home except they’ve spent a fortune to sit on a beach leeching off terrible Wi-Fi to do it.

When I envisioned traveling, I imagined people would be chatty, almost intrusive, but in a way that backpackers can traditionally be. Conversations without inhibitions or fear of rejection. Don’t get me wrong, these people still exist but it can be harder to approach others if their heads are buried in their phones. You cut yourself off from meeting new people and instead feel more connected to your phone. Think about it, when was the last time you went for a coffee or out for a meal by yourself and didn’t have your phone in your hand as an armour of some sort, and to make you look less sad for being alone? 

One thing that has stood out while traveling, is the extremes people will go to bring along their phones and cameras on excursions in order to document the whole thing. Waterproof cases, dry bags, and selfie sticks certainly have their uses in keeping these safe and dry till you absolutely need them. It seems as if nobody can live in the moment anymore, mentally capturing images instead of physically recording them. Visiting some of the world’s natural wonders and unbelievably beautiful sights can really reset your state of mind but instead of realizing how fortunate you are to be there, tourists queue up to take the same photo one after the other to boast about on social media. Put the camera down and enjoy the moment. 

Technology isn’t all bad.

Besides the aforementioned, it has many positives especially while traveling. From maps to Netflix, online banking to booking accommodation and of course being able to Face Time your loved ones or chat instantly on WhatsApp or social media, technology takes the distance out of traveling making it easier to spread your wings without the feeling of being homesick or not knowing if that postcard from home will arrive.

troubles with technology while travelling

According to new research published by the communications watchdog ComReg, Irish people spend 4 and a half hours on their smartphones daily and only 10% of that is spent talking. Balance would seem to be the key.  If you are a solo traveller or even if traveling in a group, why not set certain rules regarding phone time. Try to stick to set times where it’s okay to be on your phone guilt-free and others times where phones aren’t allowed.   Meal times, for example, although this means forgoing the ubiquitous pic of your meal!  The key to reducing the amount of phone time and increasing the amount of time you spend living in the moment, is to acknowledge how much time technology is spent second screening your experiences and how much is spent actually experiencing!   Why not make the facade a reality. Stop pretending to have fun and actually have it! Lose your inhibitions, leave your phone at home, make memories and capture each moment with your hearts.

As for me, I am about to leave this screen time and soak up the sun, the sights, the sounds and the wonders of traveling abroad.  Just don’t expect any selfies !!!

8 Top tips for being environmentally conscious while travelling in third world & developing countries


Zoe on the Road

Our Zoe Kinsella has headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Having assisted all kinds of travellers to access the very best in back-packing gear, she took to the trail herself.  Currently backpacking through South East Asia, Zoe shares her thoughts, musings and travel adventures with all of us poor folk left at home.  Thailand brought beautiful beaches & clear blue skies but unfortunately the amount of wasted plastic is of huge concern!

Travel well Zoe!


Environmentally conscious travelling



8 Top Tips for being environmentally conscious while travelling in third world & developing countries:

As I sit here getting lost in the sounds of nightlife creatures overlooking a peaceful pond at my hostel in Pai, Thailand I am struck by the disparity in lifestyles all around the Globe. Let’s face it we are all guilty of having an ‘I’m on holidays’ attitude while we’re away. From the amount of calories we consume to the lack of exercise we do. Regardless of whether we eat too much or move too little, we aren’t harming anything other than our bank accounts and our waistlines. The huge influx of tourism in third world and developing countries means that although they are flourishing in areas such as accommodation, food and drink and retail it also means that the level of waste and pollution being produced is taking a toll on the ecosystems of these countries.

In Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, Maya Bay, made famous in the 2000 movie “The Beach” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, has been closed since June 2018 and is set to remain closed for a further two more years due to tourists flooding the beach and destroying the ecosystem. The closure of Maya Bay is part of a rejuvenation program aimed at reviving the area’s decimated corals. 

If we are being honest we have become too accustomed to blaming developing countries as the prime cause of plastic pollution due to their non existent recycling programmes. In reality, wealthier countries send their recyclable waste to developing countries branding them the cause of plastic pollution. Although, as a single traveller we cannot fix the world’s recycling issues or rejuvenate beaches whose coral have been diminished we can make simple changes on a personal level to help reduce the amount of waste we accumulate while travelling.

My top tips:

  1. Reuse your towels. Conserve water and reduce electricity and gas costs by reusing your towels. 
  2. Bring a reusable shopping bag away with you. These bags can be flat packed or stuff sacked to take up literally no space and can have a huge positive effect on plastic waste. 
  3. Ask for no straw or bring a reusable one with you. Can we please think of the turtles?!
  4. Bring a water bottle with you. Many airports now have refill water stations where you can refill your bottle to save some money and also save you from buying a single use plastic bottle. Win, win!
  5. Bring a Knife, Fork, Spoon set away with you. Okay, let me clarify, if you are boarding a plane do not, I repeat do not pack the knife from said set in your carry on luggage. However, the fork and spoon are 100% acceptable on board a flight. Yay!
  6. Ladies, get yourselves a menstrual cup. According to Menstrual Health Alliance India, one sanitary pad could take 500 to 800 years to decompose as the plastic used is non-biodegradable and can lead to health and environmental hazards. Reusable menstrual cups are durable and can last anywhere between 6 months to 10 years with proper care. 
  7. Although, it is cheap and easy to hop in a taxi and you tell yourself it’s too hot to walk, if it is within walking distance then walk it! You’ll thank yourself in the long run and so will your waistline and wallet.
  8. Get yourself some shampoo bars and bars of soap. Not only will you reduce the amount of plastic being wasted on packaging but you also reduce the risk of spillage in your backpack that could potentially ruin your year long’s wardrobe! The other handy part of bars of soap is that they smell delicious so store them in your shoes or throughout your rucksack to keep it smelling fresh. Check out the Irish company Suds Johnson who specify in natural handmade soaps and zero waste products.
Environmentally conscious travelling

Trying to reduce your carbon footprint can be a daunting task at the best of times. If you try to take on too much you can feel overwhelmed and as a result you’ll more than likely just give up. So, take it at your own pace and start by doing what you can and encourage others to follow suit. As for me, I will be stepping lightly, very lightly on this planet as I navigate the road between South East Asia and Indonesia while contemplating the responsibility we all have to ensure not just the survival, but the celebration of this wonderful world.

We are Glamping- Not Camping!

Transform your camping adventures into more glamorous events with the addition of a few boutique ideas and options

Camping doesn’t have to be a grim or spartan experience.   Change your opinion of camping from awful to opulent with just a little preparation and a sprinkle of ingenious arty hacks and ideas. Glamour camping, or Glamping, has become an increasingly popular foray for Ireland’s hesitant campers. Luxury with just a hint of the rigours of the more usual outdoor adventure.  Mainly, glamping means spending the night in a more upmarket tent, a yurt, a cabin or a Nissen hut that has been up-scaled with clever use of chintzy fabrics, good lighting and some country style décor.  Plump cushions and a fire-pit are also a major feature of the glamping experience. But, there is no reason why you cannot mimic the wonders of glamour camping for your own usual weekend under canvas.

A few steps to instant luxury

There isn’t a tent in the world that won’t look instantly more captivating with the addition of solar or battery powered fairy lights and a wee bit of hippy style bunting.  Overstuffed cushions and a few chintzy curtains will complete the boutique camping image. The fairy lights will add visual warmth, while the fabrics will soften the look of the camping environment.  A few Director’s chairs and warm travel rugs will be a welcome addition in the cool evening air and if you are feeling truly opulent, the Thermarest trekker chair is the most comfortable and convenient fold up chair imaginable. Pop a throw rug on it, sit by the fire and its quite likely that you will not want to go to bed.

And so… to sleep

Without a doubt, a good night sleep epitomises the difference between a brutal and a bijou camping trip.  All the scatter cushions in the forest will not ensure a peaceful night’s slumber if the hard ground is keeping you awake. That one rock that is missed when pitching the tent, has ruined many a night’s repose.  A good sleeping mat under a great sleeping bag is the simple answer to enjoying a cosy and restful night in that glamorous revamped tent. Many seasoned campers suggest using a double high inflatable mattress, but a reputable sleeping mat will do the same job, take up less space in the packing and is not likely to deflate during the night.   A camp bed that takes you off the floor might just be the thing to elevate your sleeping   experience.   At Outdoor Adventures Store, we have the Dormir traditional camp bed that is particularly beloved of taller campers, and will enhance any glamping experience.  Bring a wee side table for your lamp and sure you are home from home. See Dormir Campbed XL

Fire Pit Dining

Portable fire pits are essential for the glamping experience.  Campfire cooking may need to be aided by the use of a good quality butane stove and popped on the fire for a charring before being served.   Check out our blog on campfire recipes for delicious and inviting campfire cooking.
At the risk of being accused of bringing everything including the kitchen sink, you can bring the oven.  The Dynasty oven is portable, large and could be a great asset for long glamour camping trips with the family.  Pizza on the trail? Sunday roast by the river anyone?

Introduce  The Vango brand  also produce some really good bamboo plate sets and glasses to add a touch of class to your dining event.   Just sit back and enjoy al-fresco feasting under the stars.

Luxury with intent

Of course, it is a little bit more difficult to ‘pimp’ that pop up tent for a more fancy camping trip. A good tent definitely helps.  We cannot all have a full size palatial Yurt complete with roll cushions, palm trees and long brocade curtains.  The best inflatable tent of 2019, the Tahiti 800Xl is a pretty good alternative for some ritzy posh camping. 

Camping Magazine rightly gave the accolade to this brightly coloured family tent. Spacious Bedrooms, a conservatory that lends itself to getting a glamping make-over.  To add to the ease of your grand glamping camping trip, these inflatable tents have no physical poles.  Hook them up to the pump and they inflate in a few minutes.  Nothing says glamping like avoiding the fight over tent poles and pegs, and the arguments as you attempt to put your canvas/ neoprene home together.   If you are thinking of investing in a tent this year, the award winning Tahiti should be top of the wish list. 

Added Luxury

No matter which tent you have, roughing it in style will be chic, elegant and swanky with just a few little bits of added luxury.  Scented candles.   Choose citronella, as it has the added bonus of bonus of being an effective insect repellent. Twinkly Lights.   We just cannot stress it enough. The immediate and inexpensive effect of adding those twinkly lights is a no-brainer for glampy campy types. Rug.  A floor rug for warmth on your bare feet in the morning and cosying up the appearance in general.  A Mirror. Hang a mirror in your tent.  This gives the illusion of space and lets you check just how fabulous you look in the glow of the fire and the twinkly lights. 

Boutique camping will alter your outdoor adventures and change your whole perspective of roughing it in the wild.  Once you get the real hang of this ‘do it yourself glamping’, you may never want to go home again.  Happy Camping Folks.

Star Gazers

The uninterrupted panoramic skies of Ireland’s Dark Sky Reserves are the perfect spot for star gazing.

Star gazing is increasingly popular all around the world.  Not stargazing on Instagram or the latest gossip blog type, but genuine staring into the sky Star gazing.  Sleeping out under the skies full of wonder. Perhaps as the world becomes a seemingly more troubled place, the calm and infinite beauty of the universe above us is more and more enticing and enchanting.

The prolific and widespread use of artificial light at night has meant that millions of children world-wide have never seen a sky full of stars.  They have never experienced the simple and magical joy of   constellations, planets, meteorites and space stations.  Never tried to point out the ‘Plough’, the Milky-way or the ‘Seven Sisters’.   Light pollution from cities and towns makes it so difficult to experience the full beauty of a starry sky. It is a rare and wonderful thing for many.  In Ireland, it is always wonderful, but not so rare. Ireland is one of the best places for star gazing and boasts two dark sky reserves, dedicated to seeing the sky in all its glory, without interference. Clouds are the only issue in viewing the sky at night.

Ireland has the honour of being the only country in the Northern Hemisphere that can boast two Gold Tier dark sky reserves.  A dark sky reserve is essentially an area designated to avoiding light pollution and keeping an unspoilt environment. The Kerry Dark Sky Reserve is 700 sq. kilometres of amazing protected land and skies hugging the Atlantic Ocean, while Mayo’s Dark Sky Park, and is nestled near Nephin Mountain and an area of awesome natural beauty.  This makes Ireland one of the most appealing and rewarding destinations for dedicated star gazers.    There are over 4,500 twinkling stars visible to the naked eye.  There are the identifiable planets in our solar system, The Milky Way and even meteor showers to enjoy with the naked eye. A growing number of people are choosing to sleep below the stars and enjoy this unique experience.  In many cases, our wilderness already has a great many places where the night skies are viewed unimpaired by any distraction from below.  Donegal coastline has been a perfect place to view Northern Lights over the past few years. Parts of Sligo, Clare and Antrim also offer vast clear sky views across the Atlantic Ocean guaranteed to reconnect us with the natural beauty of the night, inspiring creativity. But the designated Dark Sky Reserves are protected for the future.

Since 1988, the International Dark-sky Association, a non-profit organisation based in the USA have been promoting ways to preserve and protect dark sky regions.  There are designated reserves in Namibia, New Zealand, Snowdonia in Wales and Quebec in Canada, among others.  The preservation of night time environments is not just about assisting humans to see the wonders that are above. It is also about human health, preserving wildlife and the environment.   Plants and animals depend on the daily cycle of light and dark, the earthly rhythms to govern life-sustaining behaviours such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Artificial light disrupts their nocturnal activities and it is thought to have an adverse effect on breeding and the fore contributes to reducing populations of creatures, such as toads and frogs, alongside mammals, insects, birds and even plants.  Predators also use the man made light to hunt animals that traditionally hid in the darkness of the night.  Scientific evidence also suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on bird migrating. Confusing birds into migrating too early or too late.

Research also suggests that false man made light at night has a negative effect on humans.   Similar to most life on Earth, humans are linked to a circadian rhythms or a biological clock. The sleep-wake pattern governed by the day-night cycle may be severely disrupted by artificial light and so, has been linked to obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes and other scary illnesses.  Of course, there is also the links to wasting energy, which in turn, has a detrimental effect on the environment. It is estimated that over an average year in the U.S. outdoor lighting uses about 120 terawatt-hours of energy, mostly to illuminate streets and car parks. That’s enough energy to meet New York City’s total electricity needs for two years!  Turn it off folks and let’s step into the dark.   If that doesn’t have you rushing to turn off the outside lights, then nothing will.   But reach for the tent and sleeping bag too, and plan a trip that includes this wonderful, free and awe-inspiring beauty that is on our doorsteps in Ireland.  The Irish Dark Sky reserves are rated as Gold Tier, in international ranking.  This makes us the only country in the Northern Hemispheres with two Top rated reserves.

There are only good and worthy reasons why we should be out in our sleeping bags, having outdoor adventures under a blanket of stars.  It is better for the environment, for the bats, the owls, the mice and the toads.  It is better for the climate.  Ultimately, though, it is better for us too. So, consider an expedition to one of Ireland’s best kept dark skies secrets and add star gazing to your list of adventures this year. For added ‘oomph’, plan to coincide with a meteor shower.  Meteor showers generally occur from November to March and timing and projected weather conditions can be checked on the Astronomy Ireland website in advance.  Of course, warm clothes, decent camping gear and an intrepid spirit is needed.  The rewards are immeasurable and are waiting… just above your head.

References:

https://www.independent.ie/editorial/StoryPlus/be-captivated-by-kerrys-dark-sky-reserve/

http://www.mayodarkskypark.ie/

http://www.astronomy.ie/

Seven of Ireland’s Lesser- known treasures and trails for the Outdoor Enthusiast to Explore

Just when you think you have seen all that Ireland has to offer.  There have been those unforgettable times when you’ve been awestruck by incredible cliff walks, astounded by rocky mountain trails and chilled into a peaceful space beside secluded lakes.  And yet, Ireland still offers more. There are always those hidden treasures to explore. Those just off the beaten track areas of unfrequented beauty.  Sometimes these are places known only to locals and those ‘in the know’. Sometimes they are overlooked, as the more famous tourist attractions take the focus.  Here is our list of seven hidden treasures that are worthy of inclusion in your Outdoor Adventures.

St. Catherine’s Demesne.  Dublin and Kildare

A totally under-rated nature reserve, which features some of the oldest woodland in Co Dublin and is so accessible to the Capital city, that the calm solitary vibe of the trails and secluded pathways are always a mystery and a joy.  You might imagine that this vast impressive amenity would be packed at all times, but you can pretty much have the paths all to yourself. The River Liffey is at its finest in these 200 acres of woodland and grassland.  Cows graze, herons’ fish and while there is a playground, a dog run, a running track and football pitches, there is still a vast amount of unexplored habitat for the very best of Ireland’s wildlife to live undisturbed and untroubled.    The playground is impressively big, with a maze, zip lines and swings etc. but, it is in the wilder side of St Catherine’s that its true beauty is revealed.   The primeval landscape of St Catherine survives and welcomes season’s changes under a canopy of ash, beech and elderly oak trees.  Explore the woodland trails by the River Liffey weirs and leave the nearby city behind as curious squirrels and foxes peep from the undergrowth.  The OPW bought this estate, which had many previous owners, in 1996 and it remains one of Ireland’s most wonderful hidden treasures. It can be accessed by three Counties, Fingal, Co Dublin and Kildare, with adequate parking and is a perfect place to stroll, picnic and rejuvenate the tired spirit.
 

Dursey Island

Dursey Island lies of the tip of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. It is as off the beaten track as you are likely to find.  Dursey has no shops, no pubs and no restaurants.  It does, however, have a cable car.  Irelands only cable car. Opened in 1969, it is the only one in Europe that traverses open seawater and is one of the great attractions of the island.   

On the island itself, there is a 4 hour loop walk from the cable car exit point and the village of Ballynacallagh. The loop affords unrivalled scenery and fantastic views.  Taking the hardy traveller past the ruin of an ancient church, ascending to the remains of the Signal Tower, where the spectacular views of Bull and Cow Island and the beautiful coastline of West Cork will take the breath away! Dursey Island offers quirky and novel transport and a fantastic days hiking in the best that this country has to offer.  Bring your sandwiches and enjoy on one of the Ireland hidden treasures.

Benwee Head Mayo

The North Coast of Mayo is one of Ireland’s closely guarded secrets.  Of course, it’s on the Wild Atlantic Way, but the outlying villages around Blacksod Bay are often bypassed as adventurers head to other more famous places on the route.   This is part of its charm. The cliffs, the sea stacks and arches in the Atlantic swells near the small Irish-speaking village of Carrowteige are every bit as impressive as the Cliffs of Moher or Slieve League. The fact that you may enjoy them practically to yourself only adds to their appeal.  Carrowteige village is the base and the trail head for four signposted walks, of which the Children of Lir walk  is the most rewarding.   A rugged and breezy 10km coastal route through a wild landscape of bog and windswept mountainside. It follows surfaced roads, grassy tracks and paths and brings you past the Children of Lir sculpture, a sweeping and striking art work overlooking the outstanding beauty of Benwee Head.  This loop walk is a little known gem and one of Ireland’s great lesser travelled routes.

Caves of Kesh. Sligo

Just twenty minutes south of Sligo town, nestled in the rolling hills near the town of Ballymote, the Caves of Keash are a natural wonder.  Accessible and exciting, these caves can be easily climbed to by family groups and day trippers.  The effort of the clamber up the trail is rewarded with incredible views. The lush valley and Lakelands stretching to the Ox Mountains are inspiring. On a good day, the iconic Mayo Mountains of Croagh Patrick and Nephin, can be seen to the South, while Sligo’s Ben Bulben peeps into view to the North. The caves are situated on the west side of Keshcorran Hill and are part of the Brieklieve Mountain range.  Sixteen caves, some interconnecting, are magical, dark, dank spaces that spark the imagination of children and peak the interest of naturists. There are a few stalagmites and stalactites. Excavations carried out in the early 20th century, showed evidence of significant animal remains. Among these, there were the bones of brown bear, arctic lemming, Irish elk, and grey wolf. These days you may disturb a few bats, but the bears will be confined to imagination. Mythology and legend link the caves to Fionn Mac Cumhaill and other Celtic mythology.  

The Arigna Miner’s Way

Walk in the footsteps of the Leitrim coal miners.  The 112km route from Arigna to Dowra in Co. Leitrim takes the lonely traveller through bog lands and pathways traced by the men of this region who spent their days underground. Smaller sections can be traversed, such as the 8km route from the mine itself (now a visitors centre near Ballinamore) across the panoramic Iron mountains to the opulent splendour of Kilronan Castle.  Not just a scenic walk, but a history lesson too, as you walk the miner’s way and end up at ‘the big house’!  Coal mining was a back breaking part of life around Arigna for over 400 years.  As you hike the hills above Lough Allen, and trek down to the villages of Keadue and Lough Meelagh on this network of beaten tracks, through heather and ferns, you can contemplate on the lives of those men. To spend life working underground when all of this amazing vista was denied to them above ground seems extremely harsh.  The Miner’s Way preserves the heritage of this area and is a testament to these men, but also brings us luckier souls on an amazingly beautiful journey through one of Ireland’s most incredible areas of natural beauty.

The Coumlara Loop trail in Waterford

 A wilderness walk for those who like to have the trail to themselves.  It is also a dog friendly trek. This is a looped hike of over six and a half kilometres which climbs to 350 meters on track and trail, roadway and mountain terrain heading towards the lower slopes of the Comeragh Mountains.  Waterford is just an hour away and a whole world away. The trail crosses the Nire River, which is usually little more than a stream flowing from Coumlara . The Comeragh Mountains are a remarkably varied range, stretching from the coast near Dungarvan inland as far as Clonmel, and this loop walk is particularly beautiful and remote with scenic views and has the added attraction that most day trippers are off at the incredible Mahon Falls, leaving you to relish your outdoor adventure on less travelled paths and revealing unexplored beauty of Ireland.

Blessington Greenway and Russborough House.

Blessington was once a quiet Wicklow town but is now firmly on the Dublin commuter belt. This does not mean it has been spoilt or that access to nature and quiet walks are not still close by.  The Blessington Greenway is a short enough trek that will keep all the family happy on a Sunday afternoon.  There is the added bonus of the grandeur of Russborough House as an end-of -trail prize! Blessington Greenway starts in the town itself and winds around the south shores of the famous lakes, and traverses through forest and woodland.  It passes an ancient ring fort and is a wonderful place for flora and fauna of every variety.  Sneak previews of the stately home can be seen as you walk the trail. The house can be accessed for an admission fee and offers all the graciousness and beauty of one of Ireland’s finest stately homes.  The gardens are a’maze’ ing!  Yes, they have a maze. There is a 2000 metre beech hedge maze and it is its most fascinating feature.   A statue of Cupid stands proudly on a column at the centre of the maze, as a beacon to help you find your way. Very popular with children, it is open every day of the week March-November.   The Blessington Greenway is 6km long and is a moderate to easy trek which has the added advantage of being just 30 mins from the capital city, yet still reveals to you another of the lesser outdoor adventures of Ireland. 

Photo Credit: Best of Sligo

Tips for traveling light for the active man and woman

Travel clothing  

Over-packing is much more common than most of us will admit. As we plan our expeditions, there is an aspirational intention to travel lightly through the world.  But, somewhere in those panicked moments between putting the first sock in a bag and waving the folks goodbye, strange events occur and we end up completely over-packing. So, before you stuff a ridiculous amount of clothing into your backpack, let us help you avoid this tendency to over-pack, while still ensuring that you bring exactly what you need.

Packing correctly is a simple art.

  • Make a List, or adapt the one below for your own needs.  This is essential. 
  • Lay all the items out on the floor or your bed before packing. Then take a few items away before you even start. 
  • To be pack-worthy, all of the clothes and accessories you choose should be a dual purpose item, everything should be interchangeable.
  • If you are clever, you will choose clothes that are monochrome, one pallete or block coloured, so that you can mix and match. Work with a base of brown, black or blue and add an accent colour to make sure everything works.
  • Only take footwear that you know is comfortable.

The Minimalists packing list:

  • Shoes – Maximum two pairs. One for walking or for day wear and one pair of dressier shoes if needed, plus a pair of light flip-flops if you’re staying in a hostel.  If you need hiking boots, wear them on the plane. You can tie them onto your carry-on or backpack and wear your street shoes at your destination.
  • Trousers – You will never need more than three pairs in total. And for those so inclined, this can be swapped to two pairs trousers and one dress or skirt or one pair of shorts.  
  • Tops – four tops at most, including two tee shirts, a light sweater and a vest top.  Base Layer clothing is great for style, fit and practicality and can be used as outer wear too. 
  • One cardigan or a light jacket that lends itself to being dressed up easily with accessories.
  • A Pashmina scarf for women.  – This has so many uses: from beach sari, chilly night cover up and protection from the wind or sun.
  • Waterproof jacket.  – Choose one that is light weight and stylish, which you can carry on to the plane. If the destination requires something heavier, you can also wear on to the plane.
  • Scarf, gloves, hat, head torch, pair of sunglasses (depending on the destination and the climate)
  • Bathing suit, if needed.
  • Basic toiletries.
  • Something to sleep in (This can be outdoor clothing that is easily rinsed out).
  • 5pairs of pants, 2 bras, 5 pairs of socks.

This seem like a lot. But, it really isn’t. We are counting on you wearing some of the clothes while you travel! The rest you might consider rolling, rather than folding to ensure a better fit in your backpack and less creasing.  Rinse clothes out when necessary. And finally, count what you didn’t use when you get back and don’t pack it again.

Traveling light makes sense. It means not paying for that extra bag on some airlines and it avoids the annoying queues for luggage drop off.  The return journey is when you may really appreciate the joy of a traveling light.  We all know how clothes, miraculously and inexplicably tend to expand when away. They refuse to fit back into the same space they enjoyed on the outward journey.   Add to this, the few souvenirs or gifts you were given and it makes packing for the return journey a potential nightmare. But if you travel light from the start of the road, you should reach the finish line with a smile and light load for all your Outdoor Adventures.

What gear will I need for backpacking/hiking in Ireland?

In Ireland, we are blessed with a wide range of wonderful terrain for hiking and trekking. With that comes a similarly wide variety of weather to make your Outdoor Adventure even more exciting!   This can bring a dilemma when purchasing and packing the right equipment for making your day out the best experience it can be.  Wet feet or chaffing clothes can ruin the day.  The weather can change drastically from morning to afternoon, and indeed it can also present challenges as you move from sea level to mountain top.  At Outdoor Adventure Store, we appreciate the need for good equipment that combines value for money with the practicalities of hiking in Ireland. Here is a few pieces of salient advice, tried and tested by staff and customers and then a list of all you might need.  Enjoy!

Waterproofs

It doesn’t really matter whether you are hiking in January or July, you are likely to need waterproof jackets and over pants.  The weight of these items is what will change, depending on the temperature and time of year.  A good warm outdoor jacket is a must for an Irish winter regardless of whether you are just taking the dog to the park, or embarking on a treacherous trek up the mountains. There is a great variety of waterproof jackets and pull up trousers to choose from.  For the summer months, choose a lightweight ‘pop in the backpack’ brand and bulk it up for the winter.  The important thing is to not get caught out in the rain.

Shoes, boots or walking sandals

The terrain is the deciding factor when it comes to the appropriate footwear.  A good pair of hiking boots is an investment in years of outdoor adventure enjoyment. Check out our blog on how to choose the right pair of boots for you, or call into the store to avail of the expert advice of our friendly staff.  It may be that the type of hiking/hill walking that you are planning to do, would be better suited to a walking shoe or sandal.  The important thing is not to get blistered and footsore.

Base Layers

If you have never enjoyed the comfort and warmth of modern technology and common sense that comes wrapped up in base layer clothing, then you are in for a real treat.  Base layers are versatile pieces of clothing (T shirts, long sleeved tops etc.) in different fabrics that provide the buffer zone between you and certain climates and conditions. They draw moisture away from the body, so no need to feel sweaty, to stop you feeling damp and allowing cold to creep in.  Good base layer clothing is a modern day essential for outdoor activities.

Once you get the basics right, your expeditions will be transformed into great adventures,  as you concentrate on personal goals, the amazing countryside, the route and your overall sense of achievement and happiness. With the right gear, your mind will be focused where it should be… on where the foot is falling and not what that foot is wearing!  Here is a short list of essential equipment to set any intrepid hiker/backpacker/hillwalker or trekker off on the trails comfortable, happy and safe.

Hiking socks

Waterproof jacket or poncho

Waterproof over pants

 Fleece long sleeved shirts

Base layer clothing, as appropriate

Light and comfortable trousers

Appropriate foot wear/boots/sandals  

Comfortable, adjustable waterproof back pack

Walking Poles

Hat

Gloves

Snood or scarf

First aid kit

Survival blanket

Torch or Headlamp

Mobile phone

Battery pack for phone   

Sunscreen, sunglasses and sun hat (on the good days!)

Compass, map, GPS

Water Bottles/Rehydration system

Multi Tool

Food Protein Bars, chocolate, nuts etc.

All the equipment you will need for Traditional Climbing in Ireland

Ireland is the perfect place to trad-climb.  From Donegal to Kerry and from Antrim to Dalkey there is plenty of terrain that will challenge even the most fearless climber.  And trad- climbing is indeed for the fearless.  Traditional climbing is a style for rock-climbing where the climber places footholds, bolts, cams, nuts and gear to protect against falls.  So while sport climbing focuses more on the physical challenges there is also a mental challenge to trad climbing.  This form of climbing means carrying and placing protection (chocks, camming devices, bolts etc) together with your usual gear.  Trad climbers and their partners need to decide on a method of carrying this collection of climbing gear that works for both of them. We have a selection of light weight backpacks suitable for purpose.

If you are new to trad-climbing, it can be daunting and exciting in equal measure. Physically demanding and mentally challenging, this sport is not for the faint hearted, especially when you consider that a mistake can have very serious consequences.  Most people begin with a climbing group and literally follow the more experienced climbers in ‘getting to know the ropes’.  Get a good instructor and learn the basics slowly advancing as you go.  Indoor climbing walls can hone the physicality and train the mind for the heights, but the greatest thrill is always in outdoor adventure. 

The right equipment will help to ensure the best possible experience.   We have compiled a list of trad-climbing essentials which will bring you warm and dry to the rock face and upwards.  The rest is up to you. 

Gear list for Trad- climbing:

Climbing Gear Basics

Hardware and protection quantities depend entirely on the route and climb itself, but this is a general list

Personal Gear and clothing

References:

https://www.mountaineering.ie/climbing/tradclimbing/

http://climbit.ie/brians-blog/

www.climbing.ie

www.uniqueascent.ie