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.

Seven of the best Christmas gifts to wow the active woman in your life

This Christmas, that outdoor active woman will really appreciate a gift that goes on giving as she spends time on her favourite trailblazing adventure.   At Outdoor Adventure Store, we are pleased to stock a wide range of gift ideas for those intrepid ‘wild-wimmin’ who enjoy hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, snowshoeing, sea swimming, mountain biking and all other trailblazing adventure you care to mention.  Here are seven of the best gift ideas for the active ladies.

Multi Tools

A welcome, quirky and useful Christmas present for anyone who enjoys outdoor life, a multi-tool will fast become an essential part of all the upcoming outdoor adventures.   For the more adventurous ladies, the Squirt PS4 multi-tool is among our best-selling items which is a discreet keychain size but packs far above its diminutive size in terms of usefulness, durability and clever innovation.  While it slips nicely into a corner of her backpack, it will fast become one of her most favoured items.  This is from the Leatherman range of multi-tools that comprise sets with attachments from bottle openers to wire-cutters and knives to rulers.  Check out the choice and be prepared for some ‘gift envy.’

Head Torch

Head torches are the best invention ever!  An absolute must for hiking, camping, trekking, fishing, and for daily life. Reading in bed, working outside at night and all types of winter activity.  Having your hands free on dangerous terrain is a must and in the days around Christmas, when daylight is at its lowest level, a head torch is a brilliant present for the busy woman.

Socks  

 Sock it to her. Socks. Traditionally the go-to ‘I cannot think of anything else’ gift for men, socks are not what they used to be.  A good soft, quick drying, hiking sock engineered for comfort and fit is a must for any serious hikers/trekkers.  Soft Merino wool blends, flat toe seams with extra zonal padding is the type of innovation that has lifted the gift of a well-crafted hiking sock to the top spot for  ‘stocking fillers’, if you will excuse the pun. Find a wide range of socks here:   

Base Layer Clothing

Whether walking, cycling or taking part on any other outdoor activity, a base layer acts like a ‘second skin’.  Base layers give a layer of warmth yet they absorb and evaporate any perspiration and keep the wearer feeling warm and comfortable. There is a variety of base layer clothing to choose from but every piece will absolutely be a welcome warm hug to the wearer. Check out this Helly Hansen set.

Rainwear

Decent rainwear is an investment. Not just an investment in a quality piece of clothing, but an investment in all the future walks, hikes and treks that will be enjoyed all the more as she is  protected from the elements while being comfortable and stylish.  Chose a Gore-Tex breathable waterproof hiking jacket in a snazzy colour and look forward to those post New Year walks. Jackets designed specifically for the female body shape will bring a smile on Christmas morning that will extend right through miles of trekking through snow showers and windy walks.

Trekker Chair

For the outdoor woman who already has it all, there is the unique luxury of her very own trekker chair. This 10oz of portable seating creates a comfy place to rest and recover after a long day hiking. The elastic sleeve edges stretch to fit both the NeoAir and self-inflating pads.    It is lightweight, completely portable and is guaranteed to induce seat-envy in all. Suitable for all outdoor activities, including climbing, fishing and backpacking.

Voucher

You know what she likes but don’t know exactly what she needs.  Give a gift voucher and let her choose the perfect gift for herself from our wide range of stock. Vouchers are available online and instore.

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

What you will need for the trek to Everest Base Camp

So, you are off on one of the most iconic historic treks in the world!  The infamous expedition to the base camp at the top of the world is on the bucket list of many adventurous spirits. Knowing what to take, and what to leave behind, is essential to enjoying, and successfully completing this experience.

A 45minute flight from Kathmandu to the landing strip of at Lukla brings you straight to the heart of the adventure. Breathtakingly beautiful and winding trails surround the lower lush green regions where you will pass through traditional Sherpa villages, Buddhist temples and bazaars.  

Mount Everest base camp stands at 5,364m in the shadow of the summit of highest mountain in the world, Everest( 8,848m ).  Chomolungma ‘The mother goddess of the Earth’ in Tibetan and Sagarmatha ’ sky head’ in Nepalese,  offers one of the most scenic and culturally rich treks imaginable.  Once above the 4,500 meters or so, the landscape changes and your breathing becomes more difficult as the air thins.  The views of these mountain ranges must be seen to be believed and nothing prepares you for the incredible might and awe of rock, snow and ice at the top of the world.

Most trekkers choose to travel with a trekking group, but it is possible to take the challenge on your own.  The best months to take up the challenge of Base Camp is pre-monsoon (February through to May) and post monsoon (Late September through to December).  April and May are the most crowded as those with permits to summit are acclimatizing, so it might be best to avoid those times. Your equipment or gear list is pretty much unchanged no matter what time of year you choose to trek.  That moment when you arrive at Base Camp brings an exhilaration and a sense of achievement which is unforgettable and life affirming.  Check out our gear list to ensure that your Everest experience is positive and successful.

Climbing equipment

  • Ice axes with straps
  • Crampons
  • Climbing harness
  • Locking snap hooks (2)
  • Classic snap hooks (4)
  • Blocker (Ascender). A right or a left
  • Insurer (2)
  • Climbing helmet
  • Draw strips
  • Adjustable trekking poles

Shoes

Technical clothing

For the hands

For the head

Personal equipment


Camino de Santiago – What will I need for trekking the Camino?

Walking the Camino is one of the most popular adventures, rite of passage or pilgrimage in the world.  In English it is The Way of St James and it attracted more than 327,378 pilgrims from over 200 different countries to complete the Camino last year.  That does not take into account the thousands of walkers who trekked sections of the pilgrimage route in France, Portugal and Spain.   All roads on the Camino lead to Santiago de Compostela where pilgrims who have completed the entire route are presented with their Compostela certificate

The idea of walking a pilgrim path in the 21st Century may seem a bit archaic and quaint, but the increasing crowds is testament to the benefits and popularity of walking through nature, without modern devices and in the footsteps of many.  This pilgrimage was popular in the 10th, 11th and 12th Century and then lay going wild and alone, and only began to be of interest again in the late 20th century.  Modern travellers choose the section of the Camino that best suits their activity level, the time they have allocated to complete the walk and the scenery they would most enjoy along the way. 

The most famous and popular route is the French, Camino Frances, with the Camino Portugues, originating in Portugal, as the second busiest route.  These can be busy routes, so if you prefer a quieter road, the Camino Primitivo or Original Way offers 261km of beautiful scenery and a fairly strenuous trail.  Should the  wildness of a rugged coastline appeal to your senses, then the Camino Del Notre which takes in 825km of incredible, and rigorous,  sea trails  is probably the route for you.

It is possible to do the Camino de Santiago at any time of year, although snowy mountain trails may slow you down and become dangerous in winter.  Spring and Autumn are the best times for the pilgrimage, no matter which of the trails, paths or pilgrim’s way that you choose.   

No matter which itinerary and season you chose to embark on your iconic pilgrimage, you will need the right equipment.  At Outdoor Adventure Stores, we have compiled a list of gear which are essential for a successful pilgrimage, where your thoughts are mindful of the road and the journey itself and not the pain of your blisters!  Whether you decide to camp out and need a good sleeping bag or stay in hostels and pack a good sleeping bag liner, we have listed everything for you to customise to your own pilgrimage needs.  Good walking shoes and rain ponchos or coats are a must for all.  

The Camino is more than just an amazing outdoor adventure. Those who have embraced the rigours of its dusty and arduous roads say it that for many, it holds a specific spiritual symbolism too. We think you should be well prepared and are right here to assist in any way that we can so that your Camino trail is memorable for all the right reasons.

Gear List:

Ultra-comfortable walking shoes or boots 

Good quality hiking socks (merino wool or other)

Comfortable backpack, with hip straps (30-45L will work) 

Trekking poles or walking pole

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bag liner

2-3 light cotton shirts. (one long-sleeved, one short-sleeved- look at base layer clothing if trekking in the colder weather)

Fleece jacket

Hat and sunglasses

Good rainwear or rain poncho

2-3 trousers options (hiking pants, sweatpants, leggings, shorts, anything goes as long as you’re comfortable) 

Plastic flip-flops (hostels essential)

A large quick-dry towel

Flashlight  or headtorch

Swiss army knife

Earplugs and eye mask

A medikit   (Check out our readymade, compact and complete first aid kits)

Sunscreen

Water bottle

Guidebook

Moneybelt

Phone Charger and an adapter/converter for the outlets

Sleeping Pad – This is optional, but some people like to have them.

What gear do I need to climb Kilimanjaro?

Your essential packing guide for Tanzania’s iconic mountain.

Kilimanjaro has gorgeous views, abundant wildlife and challenging landscapes making it the perfect destination for the adventurous traveller. Luckily, Mt. Kilimanjaro is less of a technical climb and more of a long trek, making it a possible climb for those without extensive mountain-climbing experience. It is often called the ‘walk-up’ mountain.  But Africa’s highest peak is not an easy climb. It is an ascent into extreme altitudes of 5,589m on a trek that can last anything from five to nine days to complete. Statistically, less than half of all climbers on Kilimanjaro make it to the summit, although all make it some way up the mountain to enjoy the awesome views of waterfalls, lava rock formations and glaciers.  Pre-trip training and packing the right gear will increase your chances of summiting the iconic Uhuru Peak and will ensure an enjoyable, thrilling yet safe adventure that is memorable for all the right reasons.

Kilimanjaro has two rainy seasons, the first is from March through May and the second occurs in November. This means that there are two distinct trekking seasons, January-March and June-October, which give the optimum conditions for climbing. January to March is generally colder than June through to October and there is a higher probability of encountering snow on the summit. The gear list below is suitable for both climbing seasons.  

Kilimanjaro guides warn that most travellers bring too much gear. For this reason, we have kept the list to the bare minimum and to the essentials.   It is worth noting that all climbers are obliged by Tanzanian law to climb with a guide AND to hire a porter to carry equipment.

Outdoor Adventure Store staff have tried and tested all the gear we sell and are on hand to assist with your questions and gear related queries. 

We want you to enjoy your Outdoor Adventures to the absolute max!  

Climbing equipment

  • Ice axes with straps
  • Crampons
  • Climbing harness
  • Locking snap hooks (2)
  • Classic snap hooks (4)
  • Blocker (Ascender). A right or a left
  • Insurer (2)
  • Climbing helmet
  • Draw strips
  • Adjustable trekking poles

Shoes

Technical clothing

For the hands

For the head

Personal equipment

Sleeping bags explained

Ok folks.  There are sleeping bags and there are Sleeping Bags!  

There are functional zipped body bags that will adequately do the job required of a bag that you sleep in. Then there are rolling clouds of enveloping coziness that fold gently around your tired body and hold you snugly in their comfiness while you sleep.

 So, how do you know which you are buying?

In this blog, we will talk you through the joys of good sleeping bags, great sleeping bags and life-saving sleeping bags. Our simple explanation of temperature guides, insulation options and the best shape bag for you will help find a sleeping bag best suited to your needs.  As always, at Outdoor Adventure Store, we have an incredible range of sleeping bags to choose from and friendly, knowledgeable staff to assist.  Check out our mid-price two season sleeping bags here.

Shapes and Sizes

Square sleeping bags are the classic of the species.  A basic square sleeping bag offers more room at the bottom where the feet should be.  This gives more toe wriggling room. If you don’t like your feet to feel constricted while you snooze, this is the one for you.   Square sleeping bags are also available in double size, so are the best choice if you prefer to sleep as a couple.

Mummy sleeping bags are well named.  Wrapping yourself up in a mummy sleeping bag, which is cleverly tapered at the bottom will keep you ‘snug as a bug in an Egyptian sarcophagus’ vibe. The design is excellent, as it keeps warm air inside and without circulating and cooling it ensures your sleep is at a steady warm, toasty level.  The Mummy design is commonly used from single season to expedition bags, and is a must in sub-zero temperatures.

The size of your sleeping bag is a very logical matter.  Manufacturers cater the sizes of the bag for the average physique of kids, youth, women and men.  

Kids and Young Adults

Children need a sleeping bag designed especially for them, with a shorter length. This is because excess space in the bag allows air to circulate and cool.  Wee ones will be better insulated in a product that is meant for their size. This is true for teenagers and young adults too.  The Kampkraft junior sleeping bag is particularly good value, offering a built-in pillow, soft touch fabric, a TOG rating of 13.5 and an easy carry bag.

Women

Some manufacturers offer sleeping bags especially for women.  This is in recognition that a smaller physique may need a better fit and higher insulation.   At Outdoor Adventure Store we can advise on the most appropriate sleeping bag for every shape and size of body type. Both for men and women.  Check out the choice here

Season Ratings Explained

Anyone who has ever shared a bed with another human being, can testify that we all have different comfort temperatures for a good night’s sleep.  There is the generalised belief that women feel the cold more than men, as previously discussed, although our customer feedback indicates that it is not always the case.  Your personal optimum sleeping temperature should be a consideration when purchasing a new sleeping bag.  But the most important thing to consider is the time of year and the temperatures prevalent where you will be sleeping. Most sleeping bags are season rated, following a very logical thought process of Season 1 being light weight and heading up to Season 4/5, where the expedition bags abide.

Season 1-2 Sleeping Bags are generally compact, light and ideal for camping in warmer climates and temperatures.  This is the most common all-use sleeping bag, suitable for family camping, Irish summer use and general festival camping. A comfortable rating for most seasonal uses.

Season 3-4 Sleeping Bags are a thicker sleeping bag, often made with down filling and offering that bit more insulation than the lighter models. Season 3 to 4 rated sleeping bags are ideal for those on adventure trips and expeditions in late Autumn and early Spring outdoor adventures.  A season 4 sleeping bag copes easily with extremely cold temperatures, while having a low weight and small pack size.  Check out this sleeping beauty, a mummy sleeping bag which fits most needs at a good price. 

Its unique Thermal Embrace System allows the bag to hug your body and maximize insulation while the aluminised reflective lining also pulls heat back. Simply snuggle into the Latitude and you won’t ever want to get out!

Packing some Weight

If you are buying your sleeping bag for a road trip or festival, then the weight may not be a huge factor.   But should you need to carry your bed on your back, for longer expeditions and over difficult terrain, then you need to choose wisely. Check bag weight and pack size (how small the sleeping bag is when packed away) online or in the shop before you buy.  For thicker sleeping bags a compression sack can reduce the volume of your packed bag.  Even the most compact sleeping bag still takes up a fair bit of space but a compression sacks provides space saving solutions by packing and compressing contents to half their size. This makes it really handy for bulky sleeping bags or clothing. 

Sleeping Bag Liners and Accessories

The liner is a very useful light inner sleeve which fits inside the bag. A sleeping bag liner can prolong the life of your bed roll as it reduces the need for washing the entire bag.  It also can be used alone on very hot nights or can add an extra layer in colder ones. 

Over the past few years, sleeping bags have evolved to the next level, putting you in control of temperature and comfort and now with added extras.  Built in LED torches, mosquito nets and DVD players.  Ok, we were kidding about the DVD players, but if you want a bag with its own integrated LED torch, mosquito net or matching compression bag, chat to our staff and they will point you in the right direction.

There is a sleeping bag to suit every need, every wallet and every sleeping temperature. Consider the dark cold nights ahead lying in your choice of sleeping bag.  You may be either shivering in misery, cursing the cold, or hopefully, basking in the glow of self-satisfaction and cozy warmth.

Sleep well folks!