Dangers of Heat Related Injuries

Dangers of Heat Related Injuries

As temperatures climb into the triple digits, many of us run for cover.  Air conditioning becomes more than just a luxury, it can be a lifesaver.  For those who can't remain somewhere cool, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are very real threats.  Stillwater Outdoors would like to share important information about these heat related injuries as well as ways to prevent them and what to do if you or someone around you is suffering from them.

What are they?

 All three are conditions that are caused by exercising in high heat/high humidity.  They all affect the body in various ways and to various degrees with heat cramps being the mildest reaction and heat stroke being the most severe and potentially life-threatening.

men running outdoors

Heat Cramps

Symptoms:

Painful, involuntary muscle spasms that occur when performing heavy exercise in hot environments

Who is most at risk?

Anyone exercising in high heat can experience heat cramps

Prevention:

Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.  Work in the shade if possible.  Avoid working during the hottest part of the day.

First Aid:

Rest in the shade.  Drink plenty of water.  Perform slow, easy stretches or gently massage muscles affected.  Do not return to exercise for several hours after spasms stop.  

fan in sunshine

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms:

Headache, Nausea, Muscle cramps, Low blood pressure when standing (light-headed), Weak and/or rapid pulse, Dizziness, Fatigue, Heavy sweating, Cool and moist skin with goosebumps even when in heat

Who is most at risk?

The old and young, those taking certain medications that affect your body's ability to stay hydrated or react to heat (like blood pressure medications, allergy medications, and more), overweight/obese, those not used to the heat (those traveling, for instance), those consuming alcohol, and those overdressed

Prevention:

Wear loose and lightweight clothing.  Protect against sunburn (wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses).  Drink plenty of fluids often (not just before or after working).  Avoid working during the hottest part of the day.  Never leave anyone (human or animal) in a parked car for any length of time (temperatures can rise 20 degrees inside a car within 10 minutes).  Go slow until you acclimate to the heat (which can take several weeks).

First Aid:

Loosen clothing.  Drink plenty of water.  Find shade/cool areas to rest.  Bring your body temperature down however possible: dampen towels or cloths and place on skin, take a cool shower, submerge yourself in a lake or other body of water.  If you don't feel better within an hour of starting these measures, seek medical attention immediately.

military, running in high heat

Heat Stroke

This is the most severe and dangerous of heat injuries and requires immediate medical attention!

Symptoms:

High body temperature, Altered mental state or behaviors, Nausea and vomiting, Flushed skin, Rapid breathing, Racing heart rate, Headache (often severe)

Who is most at risk?

The old and young, those exerting themselves in hot weather (participating in sports, military, etc), sudden exposure to extreme heat, those with certain health conditions (like heart or lung disease), those taking certain medications (those affecting blood pressure, treating ADHD, antidepressants, and others), those without air conditioning

Prevention:

Wear loose and lightweight clothing.  Protect against sunburn (wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses).  Drink plenty of fluids often (not just before or after working).  Avoid working during the hottest part of the day.  Never leave anyone (human or animal) in a parked car for any length of time (temperatures can rise 20 degrees inside a car within 10 minutes).  Go slow until you acclimate to the heat (which can take several weeks).

First Aid:

Home treatment isn't enough for heat stroke.  Seek emergency medical attention immediately.  Don't drink any fluids while awaiting medical help.  Take measures to cool down your body (cool damp towels, find shade/air conditioning).  Heat stroke can cause damage to vital organs and even death.  When in doubt, don't risk it - seek emergency help immediately.

Please be careful and take the proper steps to help prevent heat related injuries this summer.  Save and share our infographic to help spread the word and make everyone's summer safer.

Heat Injury infographic, symptoms and prevention

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Whitewater SUPing: The Next Adventure

Whitewater SUPing: The Next Adventure

You've tried and subsequently fell in love with stand-up paddle boards ... but flat water just doesn't hold the same appeal it once did.  Sound familiar?  You're not alone.  Many who learn the sport on flat water find themselves wondering what's next?

Stillwater Outdoors has the answer or, rather, we know the answer.  Whitewater SUPing.  That's right.  It's no longer reserved for kayaks and rafts and is quickly becoming a nation-wide competitive event.

Now, we don't suggest that you dive into competition immediately.  Like any sport, there is a fair bit of learning and practice involved.  Where whitewater is concerned, this training stage is vital as it can, quite literally, save your life.  Here are a few other tips for those looking to try a new, exciting use of their SUP.

1.  Gear Up

If you already have an SUP, you should already have the basic gear needed for being on the water: PFD, whistle, paddle, leash, and SUP.  Whitewater SUPing requires a few additional pieces of equipment.  First of all, inspect your SUP.  There are many different types designed for many different uses.  For whitewater rafting, you want a stable, durable board (inflatable boards work well) that has considerable rake (an upturning of both the front and back) to ensure you remain on top of the waves instead of being pulled under them.  If you don't have much rake on your SUP, adjust your placement on the board by standing farther back to keep the nose of the board up while riding the rapids.

Whitewater Helmets

Consider buying a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and potentially a different PFD.  The ACA (American Canoe Association) recommends an inherently buoyant lifejacket for all whitewater rafting.  You may need a new leash as well (if you choose to use one).  For whitewater SUPing, the ACA recommends that you wear a leash at waist level, accessible with both hands, and it must have a quick release feature.  For more information on the basic equipment needed for different types of SUP uses, check out this video released by the ACA:

SUP Leashes and Lifejackets

2.  Consider Taking a Class

For those who have no whitewater experience, we highly recommend taking a class with a certified whitewater instructor.  The ACA offers a list of classes offered, including classes for those wishing to become certified as an instructor.  Check it out here:

American Canoe Association: Whitewater Classes

Whitewater Rafter Overboard

Whitewater SUPing is swimming.  You will fall off.  You will have to swim.  This is yet another reason why taking a class is important.  Swimming in a rapids isn't the same as swimming in a lake or even a calm, flat river.  There are unseen obstacles, plenty of places to get caught, and the water is volatile making it difficult to tell which way is up in some situations.  Take the time to become a better swimmer before attempting any serious rapids.  The more comfortable you are in the water, the less likely you will be to panic and the more likely you will be to walk away unscathed.

3.  Start Small

Once you feel comfortable understanding the proper way to handle and remain safe on whitewater rapids, the next step is to try it out.  We recommend starting small with a class I or class II rapids.  Though it may be easier, don't always practice on the same rapids.  Exposure to new situations, different currents, and new obstacles will help you grow as a paddler and will help you be better prepared to move up to the next class of rapids.

Couple in Canoe Going Down Rapids

4.  River Etiquette

Like almost everything in life, there are certain rules that should be followed while on the river.  Canoe & Kayak offers a wonderful blog post about river etiquette that outlines the basic rules of the river.  One of the most important?  Those upstream on the river have the right of way.  Just like when you cross the road, always look before entering the river to be sure you don't cut off another river user and create a potentially dangerous situation.  You can find Canoe & Kayak's complete list of river etiquette here:

Canoe & Kayak: River Rules

5.  Pick Your Rapids

Now that you have a better understanding of what you need to get started on your SUP whitewater adventure, you probably need to find the perfect location.  American Whitewater offers an interactive map that shows you the class of rapids, its current water level, and when the information was last updated.  While there, consider offering your support by becoming a member or by donating (money or time) to help preserve our river systems.

American Whitewater Map

Kayak in Rapids

This is just a basic outline of some of the factors to consider before starting whitewater SUPing.  It is a challenging, fun way to get more out of your SUP experience.  Just remember to be careful, plan ahead, and, as always, have fun.

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10 Reasons to Visit Idaho

10 Reasons to Visit Idaho

Idaho is definitely one of those states that gets overlooked, which is a shame when you consider just how much it has to offer.  For those looking for adventure, wanting to escape into the wilderness, or just planning to enjoy the view, Idaho needs to be your next stop.

Here's why ...

Indian Tunnel, Craters of the Moon

1.  Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

A mouthful, but this is guaranteed to offer a unique experience.  There are plenty of hiking trails for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the unique terrain features formed by lava flows.  Or, for the more adventurous (and experienced) types, there are five caves to explore.  Some are difficult to traverse, so be sure to grab a cave guide at the trail head.  The Indian Tunnel (pictured above) is rated easy and has steels stairs at the entrance.  At over 40 feet high and 800 feet long, it provides a great chance to explore a cave without the claustrophobia.

2.  Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail

This 15-mile route crosses the Bitterroot Mountains between Montana and Idaho.  It passes through 10 tunnels and goes over 7 high steel trestles.  The best part?  It's all downhill with a shuttle service to take you back up to your car.  The "Taft" Tunnel stretches for 1.66 miles, so remember to bring a headlamp or other flashlight.  If you don't have a bike, don't worry.  You can always rent one from the Lookout Pass Ski Area (which offers great skiing come winter).  This is a prime example of how we can reinvent pieces from history - the Milwaukee railroad went bankrupt in 1977 and in its place the Route of the Hiawatha was born.

Sawtooth Mountains

3.  The Sawtooth National Forest/Recreation Area

Considered to be the "crown jewel" of Idaho, the Sawtooth Recreation Area has over 700 miles of trails, 50 peaks topping 10,000 feet, and nearly 400 alpine lakes, many of which have no trails to access them.  There are plenty of opportunities for adventurers - hiking, horseback riding, snowmachining, downhill skiing, camping (at campsites or dispersed), and more.  This area has made headlines as being part of the first dark sky reserve - making it one of the best places for gazing at the night sky.  

4.  International Selkirk Loop

Not into camping?  Prefer a scenic drive instead?  This has got to be on your bucket list.  The loop itself crosses the border into Canada, so be sure to have your papers in order, but the extra red tape is definitely worth it.  You'll be able to view stunning mountain vistas, crystal clear lakes, caves, rivers, and don't forget wildlife.  With plenty of options for staying overnight, you can take your time and enjoy all the Loop has to offer - cruises, wine tasting, canoeing, wildlife viewing (including some amazing bird watching), skiing and sleigh riding, horseback riding, fishing, and more.

Minidoka Internment Camp, Idaho

 5.  Minidoka National Historic Site

During World War II, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that forced 120,000 people of Japanese descent to leave their homes, jobs, and lives in order to be moved to one of ten internment camps around the country.  Minidoka is one such camp and allows visitors to see what life was like inside the camp.  It's a powerful place to visit, one that echoes the words of those held there - Let it not happen again.

Climbing Bread Loaves in City of Rocks, ID

6.  City of Rocks National Reserve

Get your hiking boots, climbing gear, and sense of adventure ready.  Here you will find unusual geological features that inspired the pioneers passing through to call this region the "silent city".  There are over 600 routes to follow, or you can scramble around on your own.  Don't own climbing gear?  Don't worry.  Try their Climbing Experience Program where all gear and training is provided.  If climbing doesn't interest you, there are over 22 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous throughout the park.

View of Lake Pend Oreille from Sandpoint, ID

7.  Lake Pend Oreille

It's 43 miles long with nearly 200 miles of shoreline and, at its deepest, is 1,158 feet deep.  Surrounded by mountains and national forests, much of the lake offers pristine shoreline with sheltered bays and plenty of open water.  Stop in to Sandpoint on the northern end of the lake and consider taking a cruise.  Visit Farragut State Park (Idaho's largest state park) on the southern end of the lake to enjoy camping with easy access to the water.  While there, visit Bayview and stop by the Tree to Tree Adventure Park and experience a truly unique adventure up in the treetops.

 8.  Ghost Towns ... Need We Say More?

Although we can't guarantee actually seeing a ghost, Idaho offers several chances to visit ghost towns.  Most were constructed during the gold rush and were just as quickly abandoned when the mining stopped.  If you want an interactive experience, try visiting the Custer Ghost Town where many structures were restored and workers provide historical information about what it was like to live there.  If you want a more raw experience, check out the Gilmore Ghost Town which used to be a silver mining town.  Now, eight log and frame structures remain in their original state (except for pieces added for stability and safety).

River Rafting, Snake River

9.  Snake River

It's the largest tributary of the Columbia River and spans over 1,000 miles beginning Wyoming and ending in Washington.  Besides the obvious benefits of visiting a river (swimming, boating, fishing), the Snake River offers a few unique opportunities.  One - Hells Canyon is 10 miles long and almost 8,000 feet deep, making it the deepest river gorge in North America.  Besides its beautiful vistas, it offers some excellent rafting experiences.  Two - Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey.  A mouthful to be sure, this national conservation area boasts the nation's (if not the world's) largest concentration of nesting birds of prey.  

Fun Unlimited on the Spokane River just outside of Coeur d'Alene

10.  Lake Coeur d'Alene

This lake truly has something for everyone.  Bring your golf clubs and check out their famous floating green.  Stop by Sherman Street for a bit of shopping, fine dining, or just to enjoy the view.  Hike or bike along the North Idaho Centennial Trail, Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, or Tubbs Hill.  And, of course, stop by to see our sister company, Fun Unlimited, in Post Falls, just down the Spokane River from Lake Coeur d'Alene.  There you can rent SUPs, kayaks, PWC, and boats to take upriver and enjoy all the lake has to offer.

Or just stop in to say hi.  We're always glad to make new friends.

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10 Reasons to Visit Washington State

10 Reasons to Visit Washington State

The United States is incredibly diverse and offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors whether you're looking for the perfect hiking trail, a peaceful lake for canoeing, or maybe trails for horseback riding.  With so many places to choose from, it can be difficult to find that perfect destination for your next adventure.

Here are 10 reasons why Washington should be your next vacation destination.

1.  San Juan Island

This National Historic Park has something for everyone.  Hiking trails spread through forests, up mountains, and alone pristine beaches.  There are opportunities to brush up on your history during a re-enactment at English Camp.  Enjoy wildlife?  Watch whales, seals, porpoises, foxes, deer, and make sure to stop by American Camp, one of the best locations for bird watching around the world.  Both camps have boat launches so be sure to bring your canoe, kayak, or SUP.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

2.  Olympic National Park

A gem of the state, Olympic National Park offers a wide range of activities to enjoy year-round.  There are 16 campgrounds for those who plan to stay a while, and we highly recommend that you do.  The park covers over 920,000 acres which amounts to over 1,400 square miles.  Complete a day hike on the 600+ miles of trail or enjoy the 3,000+ miles of rivers and streams.  Curious about the natives of the area?  Check out over 650 archaeological sites and the half million museum objects.

Diablo Overlook

3.  North Cascades National Park

Personally, I love viewing the mountains but have no experience actually climbing them.  The North Cascades Highway offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy the mountains without experience - either by car or by bicycle.  Stop by the Washington Pass Overlook for spectacular views, continue down to the Diablo Lake Overlook to see the aqua blue waters, and then stop by the North Cascades Institute or the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center for educational programs and tours.  For those looking for a little more adventure, consider boat-in camping on Ross Lake.

4.  Lewis and Clark National Park

Looking for an interactive experience?  The Lewis and Clark National Park is a great place to learn about local history by seeing it in action.  Summer and Winter programs showcase flintlock muzzle loaders (fired by rangers) as well as historical demonstrations.  Participate in guided hiking tours along the Netul River or sign up for a guided paddle tour on the Lewis and Clark River.

Mount Rainier

5.  Mount Rainier National Park

If hiking is your thing, consider making this your destination.  Mount Rainier National Park has over forty hiking trails and offers permitted backcountry camping as well.  Want a challenge?  Consider completing part or all of the Pacific Crest Trail which weaves in and out of the park and spans 2,650 miles from the Canadian border down to southern California.  If you are thinking of completing the entire trail, plan for 5 months of intense hiking (although some elite hikers have completed it in as little as 2 months).

Lake Roosevelt, low water table

6.  Lake Roosevelt National Park

Enjoy spending time on the water?  Stop by Lake Roosevelt National Park and explore 130 miles of lake formed by the Grand Coulee Dam.  There are 22 public boat launches available, but remember to call ahead.  Because of the nature of the man-made lake, water levels change throughout the year and certain launches may be closed.  Want a truly unique experience?  Consider renting a houseboat from either Lake Roosevelt Adventures or Lake Roosevelt Vacations Inc.

7.  Colville National Forest

Although not as well-known as some of the other national forests on our list, we consider Colville National Forest to be a perfect choice for those looking to get outdoors.  It spans 1.1 million acres that cover three mountain ranges and three river valleys.  There are nearly 500 miles of hiking trails, horse trails, biking trails, and OHV trails.  While exploring, be on the look out for grizzlies, bald eagles, cougars, black bears, and the last remaining caribou herd in the contiguous United States.  There are plenty of campgrounds to choose from or go off-grid with backcountry camping.  And for those who love winter, 49 Degrees North is an excellent place to snowboard, ski, and snowshoe.

Spokane Falls

8.  Spokane River Centennial Trail

This nearly 60 mile stretch of paved trail is great for pedestrians and bikers alike.  It stretches from Nine Mile Falls in Washington all the way to Coeur d'Alene in Idaho and presents beautiful views of the Spokane River.  Completing this trail will take you through forests as well as metropolitan areas, giving you a unique experience.  While passing through Spokane, consider stopping at Riverfront Park to enjoy views of the Spokane Falls from the Skyride, cruise around the newly added skate ribbon, or take a ride on one of the last hand-carved, wooden carrousels around, the Looff Carrousel.

Lake Chelan

9.  Lake Chelan

This lake has so much to offer including the 139-acre Lake Chelan State Park on the southern shore with its 6,000 feet of shoreline and, on the northern shore, the remote village of Stehekin which is only accessible by boat, plane, or foot.  The lake itself is over 50 miles long and and is over 1,400 feet deep.  Here, you can enjoy boating, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing, and more.  Spend the day at a family water park or consider visiting one of the many wineries and enjoy a glass of wine while viewing the stunning mountain vistas.

10.  Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

Formed during the Ice Age, the Dry Falls (a former waterfall 4 times the size of Niagra Falls) stretch for 3.5 miles and stand over 400 feet tall.  This is one of many sites along the National Ice Age Floods Geologic Trail.  Deep Lake, visible from the falls, is a perfect place for paddling or kayaking.  Hikers can enjoy trails that wind over sage-brush covered hills to the table-top cliffs.  This park perfectly showcases the diversity that Washington has to offer.

 

Hopefully, this list will prove that Washington is more than just coffee, rain, and technology.  The incredibly diverse landscape provides something for everyone whether you prefer snow-covered mountain slopes, aqua-blue waters, or shifting sand dunes.
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How to Care for Your Inflatable SUP

How to Care for Your Inflatable SUP

Like most sporting equipment, an inflatable SUP is a significant investment.  No one likes spending hundreds of dollars on something only to have it break down or stop working long before its typical lifespan is up.

Stillwater Outdoors wants to help you protect your investment.  That's why we offer a 5-year iron-clad warranty on all of our double-layer technology SUPs.  Fortunately, there are a few key steps that you can take to make sure that your inflatable SUP lasts for many years to come.

Step One: Wash the SUP After Use

This one may not seem necessary.  After all, SUPs don't have the same nooks and crannies that kayaks do so there are fewer places for water, plant life, and other debris to collect.  Even so, it's always a good idea to hose off your SUP after use, especially if you use it on salt water.  Salt is never good when it comes to equipment ... or skin ... or just about anything for that matter.  Do yourself, and your board, a favor and give it a rinse when you're done having fun.

Step Two: Keep the SUP Flat at all times

There are two factors to this step.  One is fairly obvious - flat boards can't fall.  Though inflatable boards are far lighter than their counterparts, they can still get damaged by falling off their sides (especially the fins).  Two - the boards are built to handle weight and stress on their larger, flatter surfaces, not the sides.  To avoid unnecessary wear and tear along the seams on the sides, keep them stored flat whenever possible.

SUP stored with fins up

Step Three: Fins Up and Out

Never set your SUP on the ground with the fins down.  Yes, we know that the top of the boards are prettier, but the bottom is where all the magic happens.  Dings and dents on your fins will make tracking difficult if not impossible.  Along those same lines, while rolling up your inflatable SUP, make sure to roll it so that the permanent fins end up on the outside and not squished in the middle.  And it's never a good idea to leave the removable fin in place while storing, so go ahead and pull that out as well.

Step Four: Don't Be a Drag

With inflatable SUPs, this step is far easier to follow.  Their lightweight construction means just about anyone can lift and move them without dragging them across the rocks, sand, or grass.  Carry your SUP down to the water and carry it back up again to keep it in prime shape.

People carrying SUPs across beach

Step Five: No Sun for SUPs

Of course your SUP is going to be exposed to the sun while in use, but in general it's a good idea to keep it out of the sun while you're taking a break.  Why?  UV light can damage your SUP's skin just as it can yours.  The SUP will also absorb a lot of heat if left on a hot shore for any length of time.  That heat causes the gases inside of the SUP to expand, which can put even more pressure on the skin and may cause the PSI to go well beyond the safe amount.  If you do have to keep it in the sun for any length of time, consider venting a little air to lower the PSI and allow for future expansion.

Step Six: Don't Stack Things on Your SUP

Whether it's in a carrying case or is inflated, it's best not to stack things on top of your SUP.  Besides the added strain (especially if stored for a long time) there is always a risk of puncture or other damage to the surface.  Inflatable SUPs are durable, but its best to practice caution and keep them stored on top of anything else.

Step Seven: Dry Before Storage

This is an important step.  Mold is everywhere - in the dirt, in the air, in your house.  If you leave any water on the surface of your SUP before it goes into storage, all it takes is one little spore of mold to start a big problem.  Make sure to dry your SUP thoroughly before putting it in any long-term storage.  If you are camping or hiking with it and must put it in the carrying case while wet, be sure to air out both the SUP and case thoroughly when you return home before storing it again.

We hope that these simple reminders will help keep your inflatable SUP looking like new for years to come.

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SUP Camping: A New Way to Explore

SUP Camping: A New Way to Explore

There is something thrilling about loading your gear into a backpack, driving out into the wilderness, and then leaving everything behind as you explore a world very few are lucky enough to see.  The challenge isn't just in the terrain, but in the very act itself.  When you are limited to a backpack and are faced with surviving in the wilderness ... what do you bring?

But backpacking has even more limitations, especially when it comes to water.  That's why we are huge fans of SUP camping.  A relatively new activity, SUP camping brings a few notable advantages your to next camping adventure while still providing the challenges you crave.

Hiking boots and backpack

There's more space than a backpack ... but not much.  While SUP camping, you have two main loading areas: one at the front of the SUP and one at the rear.  What you load and where you load it depends on what you plan to plan to do, where you plan to go, and how long you plan to be gone.

Consider your board.  There are many different types of SUPs, and not all are created equal when SUP camping.  Typically, touring or all-purpose boards are best.  They are wider, longer, and generally more stable than other boards.  You also want a board with adequate places to anchor your gear.  Bungees in the front and back are ideal.

SUPing is about balance, so be sure to balance the weight along the center line of the board.  Weight distribution back-to-front is important as well.  In most cases, you will want equal weight in the front and back.  If you are planning to go through any whitewater, considering packing more of the weight up front.

First Aid Kit

Create a day/ditch bag.  This is the bag you plan to grab if you need to ditch your SUP for some reason (whether you're going to do a little exploring on land or you tip, your gear gets free, and you have to make a quick decision before it floats away).  In it, store what you need to survive - water purification system, matches, first aid, some food, your cell phone and money, and so on.

Do a dry run.  This may seem like overkill, but it's better to figure out that you have too much gear and not enough board in your backyard than at your drop-in site.  If possible, test it out on the water.  This allows you to adjust weight distribution to be sure you can balance properly on the board.  It also gives you a chance to feel how the board handles on the water with your gear attached.

Weight Scale, Light and Heavy

Think light.  Don't be fooled.  SUP camping isn't just about minimal gear, it's also about lightweight gear.  All boards have a maximum weight with the larger boards topping out around 300 pounds.  After you consider your weight, the weight of the dry bags, the weight of any food and water you need to bring, sleeping gear, cooking gear, clothing, first aid gear ... you see where I'm going with this.  After packing, weigh your dry bags to get a better idea of what the combined weight will be to make sure that you don't overload your board.

And, of course, follow all of your water safety rules.  That includes bringing safety gear (compass, maps, GPS, etc.) as well as creating a float plan to leave with an emergency contact.  Make sure to follow any laws/rules associated with the body of water you are traversing as well as any camping regulations that apply to your planned rest stops.

 

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6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

Technology is wonderful, right?  No more paper maps (that never fold back the way they are supposed to), no more clipping coupons, no more waiting for ... well, anything really.  With the internet, the world is literally at our fingertips, just one tap, swipe, or voice activation away.

And yet, technology pulls us away from the world.  We see everything through a screen and are bombarded by information, most of which we never actually wanted.   Rather than watch an event we pay hundreds of dollars to attend (like a concert), we watch it through our phones.  We see birthdays, first steps, and even our food through the lens of a phone.

Taking picture with smartphone

This new world is our children's world.  And frankly, I think it's a terrifying one.

Not that I'm against technology.  I love streaming movies just as much as the next person, but as we connect with the rest of the world, we disconnect from the world itself.  You know ... trees, grass, dirt, nature?  Sound familiar?  Most of us have memories of playing outside as children, letting our imaginations run wild as we create pirate ships out of fallen logs, slay dragons with our mighty broadsword branches, and do all the things kids are supposed to do.

Now, instead of playing pretend, many children are checking their social media accounts, watching YouTube videos, and are growing up far faster than ever before.

Is that a good thing?  Time will tell, but many are saying no.  No it is not.

So how do we fix it?  How do we disconnect from the world of technology and reconnect with the world around us?  Stillwater Outdoors has a few suggestions to help you and your family get started.

Man hiking down trail

1.  Lead by Example

This one can be hard, but it is by far one of the best ways to get kids excited about the world around them.  Schedule some technology-free time for yourself and do something that interests you - ride your bike, visit a park, read a book, take a walk.  If your kids see you doing it, they'll be more likely to do it as well (or at least may groan a little less when you make them do it since you're following the same rules).

Kids making crafts

2.  Plan Themed Activities

Pick something that interests your kids and then for that week/month, plan activities around that interest.  If your kids like water plan a visit to the local pool, a trip to the aquarium, a craft activity creating fish out of various materials.  Letting your kids pick the topics or activities gets them involved.  Utilizing the same theme for a longer period of time allows for a more in-depth look at the topic and more time for fun activities.

United Way, Volunteering

3.  Community Service - As a Family

This one is perhaps one of the most important ways to reconnect.  It helps to teach kids compassion, empathy, and kindness (and parents as well).  Although there is nothing wrong with donating to a local shelter or food bank, it can be beneficial to go one step further and donate your time.  Having children work to help others, to see how their efforts can change someone's life, is truly an awe-inspiring experience.  It lets kids know that what they choose to do in life does matter, that they can make a difference, and that everyone, regardless of background, deserves respect.

United Way helps communities all around the globe by focusing on education, income, and health.  On their Get Involved tab, you can search for volunteer opportunities right in your community.

kids splashing adult with water

4.  Visit Somewhere New

This is a wonderful way to spend a weekend.  Have the family choose a new spot (or take turns picking the next location) and go explore.  It could be a park, a national forest, a beach, a library, anywhere really.  Set boundaries early on (miles from home, cost, and so on) to keep things fair.

This is a particular favorite of mine as I tend to frequent the same places again and again.  It's not that I'm adverse to change, but habit oftentimes gets the best of me.  By choosing new locations to explore, I'm expanding my comfort zone, having new experiences, and am showing my daughter that the unknown doesn't have to be frightening.  Sure, we may have no idea where to park, how to participate, or what to buy, but by figuring it out as we go, we are teaching her how to solve problems, be flexible, and, most importantly, have fun.

dragon fruit, cut to show inside

5.  Try Something New

This could be a new type of food, a new game, or even participating in a new event.  As I mentioned before, it's easy to slide into the same routine day after day, week after week, so why not schedule one day where the family does something different?  Food is an easy way to start.  Pick out a new recipe, have everyone help make it, and then try it out.  Not every choice will be a winner, but it's a great way to spend time together and make a few memories.  If you don't know which recipe to start with, why not have your kids choose an ingredient to give you a starting point.  It helps make grocery shopping a little more exciting when they get to choose the secret ingredient.  Then have the kids research what it is, how to cook it, and pick a recipe.

children visiting grandparents

6.  Visit Family

I know, I know ... it's not Christmas.  Or Thanksgiving.  But when did it become the rule that visiting family only happens on holidays?  Go visit a family member you haven't seen in a while, but go with a purpose.  Do they have a particular skill that the kids might find interesting?  Do they have family stories (even embarrassing ones about yourself) that the kids might love to hear?  As a child, I used to love sitting around the campfire, listening to the adults in my family tell stories from their youth.  There is something oddly satisfying in learning that your father used to tease his sisters as much as you tease yours.

 

There are a million other ways to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the actual world and what works best for you and your family may not work for others.  Hopefully, this list will give you a few ideas to try the next time you see your kids staring at a screen or hear them complain about being bored. 

We'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for reconnecting.  Contact us today or join our mailing list for more information.

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A Beginner's Guide to Camping

A Beginner's Guide to Camping

Most outdoor enthusiasts understand the allure of camping.  They appreciate the solitude, the chance to connect with nature, and power of unplugging from technology.  There is a certain primal satisfaction to be gained from disconnecting from the rest of the world, facing all that Mother Nature has to offer, and returning again a bit dirtier and maybe with a few more bumps and bruises.  They've gone off-grid, challenged the most wild and untamed parts of this world, and pushed themselves to go farther, climb higher, and stay longer.

This article is not for them.

For those of us who are relatively new to the idea of off-grid (no campgrounds and no amenities) camping, the idea is ... well, fairly daunting.  How do you get water?  Where do you go?  What do you bring?

Woman overlooking lake and mountains

Where should I go?

That's completely up to you, and by that I mean it's up to your skill level, location, preferences, and so on.  When choosing your destination, consider these questions:

  • How do you plan to get there?  Hiking?  Biking?  Boating?
  • What skills/limits do you have?  Mountain climbing?  White water rapids?  A mile walk?  Ten miles?
  • What temperature/weather conditions are you willing to handle?  Hot?  Cold?  Rain?
  • Who is coming with you and what are their capabilities/limits?
  • How long do you want to be gone?
  • How much are you willing to spend on food, permits, and any additional/specialized gear?

Answering these questions will help narrow down your list of possible destinations.  My go-to off-grid destinations are almost always National Parks/forests which cover thousands of acres, encompass varied terrains for all skill levels, and can be found in just about every climate.  Check with these websites for more information (including campground information for those who want to use them):

US National Forest Campground Guide

Government Recreation Site

US Forest Service

Tents on mountain overlooking lake

What should I bring?

There are too many variables to come up with a complete list, but this should provide you with a good start for your next camping expedition.

Shelter

Whether that means a tent, a camping hammock, or a rain fly stretched out between two trees, you are going to need somewhere to sleep.  Other things to consider when choosing what type of shelter to bring include weather (temperature and precipitation), bugs (mosquitoes and sleep don't mix), and even wildlife (it's never fun to wake up with a snake in your sleeping bag).  If you are planning to carry your gear in, lightweight shelters are a must.  Also consider bringing some sort of compact, lightweight sleeping mat.  Rocks and tree roots start to feel like boulders and logs after a few minutes of sleeping on them.

Fish cooking on campfire

Food

If you are planning to fish or hunt (check for licensing requirements and seasons before doing either) for your food, that's fine, but what if you don't catch anything?  The fish don't care how hungry you are - if they don't want to bite, they're not going to bite.  How much room do you have for food?  How long are you going to be gone?  How strenuous will your daily activity be?  Answering these questions will help you determine how much and what to bring for meals.  Also consider how the meals will be prepared.  Are you going to have to cook?  How are you going to do it?  Cooking gear adds a lot of weight and takes up space, so consider your options carefully.

Water

How do you plan to get water?  Bringing it along may not be an issue if you can drive directly to where you plan to camp, but in many situations that isn't possible.  Water is heavy, bulky, and necessary.  If you are planning to use water you find (even water from campground spigots), it needs to be treated first.  There are many options including chemical tablets (remember to wait the recommended time before drinking/adding flavoring), water filtration systems, and boiling the water (for at least five minutes and make sure to cool before drinking).

Compass and map

Safety Gear

This includes basic first aid equipment, compass/GPS, a knife or multi-tool, maps (digital and paper), a cell phone or other communication device, and so on.  Waterproof matches and/or a lighter are always a good idea, even if you're not camping near water - just be sure to check for any burn restrictions in your area.  Again, where and when you go will help determine which items are considered necessary.

Clothing

Consider the climate, terrain, and what you'll be doing.  How much room do you have?  What are potential weather concerns?  How long will you be gone?  Dressing in layers allows you to adjust for changes in temperature throughout the day and clothing that dries quickly is always good to have.  Don't forget to bring a change of clothes to leave in your car for the trip home - especially if your route out involves water travel.

Hiker, mountain gear

Camping Plan

It is always a good idea to have an emergency contact with all of your information including where you will be staying, the route you will take to get in/out, any day trips (hiking, biking, boating) that you plan to make, and when you'll be leaving/returning.  Make sure to bring a copy with you and include any safety phone numbers (forest service, local police, etc) on it.  When the trip is over and you've returned home, make sure to notify your emergency contact that you made it back.

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Health Benefits of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Health Benefits of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Almost every sport offers some health benefits - some more than others.  So how does stand-up paddle boarding rate?

In my quest for alternatives to the gym, I came across many articles touting the health benefits of stand-up paddle boarding.  But how healthy can it really be?  In many pictures, I see individuals almost casually coasting across clear, smooth water.  Not exactly what I envision when I think of exercise.

Woman on SUP

So what's the answer?  How does it rate against other forms of exercise?  Well ... like most things in life, the answer is complicated.

Myth One: It's a great way to exercise your core

Well, that is true, but it isn't necessarily true in all cases.  Using an SUP can be a great way to exercise your core, but only if you do it right.  And by right, I mean you have to push yourself.  If you can easily cruise around the lake for hours without feeling much in the way of muscle aches, you probably aren't getting much of a workout.

yoga on SUP

So how do you maximize your core routine on an SUP?  Dig deep.  Dig hard.  Fully rotate your torso with each stroke. 

Try going out on windy days when the rougher water presents more of a challenge.  If that feels a bit daunting, go out on calm water but set goals for yourself.  See how fast you can go, have a race with a fellow paddle boarder, or try adding a new component - like yoga - to your routine.

Myth Two: It's great for your cardiovascular system

Good?  Okay, yes, just about every form of exercise is good for your heart.  But does stand-up paddle boarding really improve your heart health enough to be considered great?  Again, yes and no.  According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), most who paddle board don't hit the target zone for heart rate during exercise.  The harder you work on the water, the more your heart will work, so pushing yourself is obviously better than cruising along at a leisurely pace.

SUP race

Are all the benefits myths?

Not at all.  In fact, even the first two "myths" are only so in certain situations.  And there are a surprising number of other benefits to be gained from a few peaceful hours out on an SUP.  Here are a few of our favorites:

1: It's low-impact

This is great for those with joint pain or those who are recovering from an injury.  You can work your muscles, stretch them, and not have to worry about repeated stress on your ankles, knees, and hips.

Water

2: It's a great way to relieve stress

All exercise releases endorphins, which helps to boost your mood.  Stand-up paddle boarding adds another, often overlooked, benefit - "blue space".  Research has shown that just looking at a picture of nature, specifically one with water, can help create a better sense of well-being.  Feeling good about yourself can go a long way toward living a healthier lifestyle.  

3: Social Health

We've talked about physical health and we've talked about mental health ... but what about social health?  Is that a real term?  I don't know, but if not, it should be.  Humans are social creatures and our general satisfaction with life, happiness, and well-being is closely related to the quality of our relationships.

Three people on SUPs

Stand-up paddle boarding is a wonderful way to spend time with friends or get to know someone new.  It's quiet enough to allow conversations, is easy enough for anyone to learn, and is a great activity to do as a group.

Final Thoughts

Should you invest in an SUP?  Yes.  Not because it's going to make you dominate in the next triathlon or because it will knock three inches off your waist, but because any step you take to get out and do more is a step in the right direction.  The more opportunities you give yourself to exercise and release stress, the better off you will be.

So the next time your best friend asks if you want to take a spin class at the local gym, suggest paddle boarding instead.  As far as well-rounded, integrated exercises go, stand-up paddle boarding stands alone.

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Destination Spotlight: Clear Lake

Destination Spotlight: Clear Lake

In honor of our military families, today we would like to showcase the Clear Lake Recreation Area.  It is designed to provide family fun for all active duty, retired military, active members of the Reserves, National Guard, DoD civilian employees, and their families.  The 34 acre recreation area is along the shore of Clear Lake, which spans nearly 337 acres and is over 100 feet deep.  The Recreation Area is located at South 14824 Clear Lake Road, Cheney, WA.

If you're not associated with any military branch, don't fret.  Clear Lake is easily accessible thanks to the public boat launch (on the same road) near the south end of the lake.

Map view of Clear Lake Recreation Area and Clear Lake Public Boat Launch

I am always impressed by how much they have to offer.  Besides an extensive list of rental items (ski boats, paddle boats, SUPs and kayaks, fishing gear, and far more), there is also a large playground, several picnic acres with grills for cooking, a swimming area, docks for securing your boat, and camping spaces whether you bring a tent, RV, or stay in one of their cabins or yurt.

There are three reasons why my family and I keep returning to this particular spot again and again ...

1.  It's rarely busy.

This is, of course, rather subjective.  Although many of the camping areas fill up quickly, the beach, grassy areas, and the lake itself aren't usually crowded.  We last went to Clear Lake on Memorial Day weekend and expected it to be chaotic, especially since we got there later than expected.  We were pleasantly surprised to find no competition for a nice grassy area down near the water, had plenty of time to set up our stuff for the day, and got our boat launched and docked all with minimal frustration.  And when we got out onto the water?  There were a few fishing boats scattered around, but even so there was ample room to cruise the water at speed without bothering anyone.

Clear Lake Recreation Area, Playground Equipment

2. There is something for everyone.

My daughter loves the playground and beach and will gladly spend all day digging in the sand if we let her.  My husband likes to cruise around on the boat or PWC and recently learned how to wakeboard while on Clear Lake.  I prefer the challenge of man-powered vessels and spend most of my time on an SUP or kayak.  Whatever your preference, Clear Lake Recreation Area has something for you.  And if you don't own it, don't worry.  They have a surprising number of watercraft available for rent and include boater safety training with each motorized rental. 

Clear Lake, Stand-up Paddleboard, SUP

On most lakes, I am often forced to deal with speeding boats and thoughtless drivers who rarely consider how their wake or proximity might bother a nearby SUP.  Clear Lake offers a very large no-wake zone, well beyond what would be necessary for safety alone.  Because of this, Clear Lake is an ideal spot for anyone wishing to learn how to SUP, kayak, or canoe.  There's little chance for tipping when the boats putt along from the launch toward the north end of the lake.  This area is also a haven for many water birds, so keep watch as you coast along the shore.

No wake zone, Clear Lake

3. They offer more than just water fun.

During the first Saturday of May, they offer a Kid's Fishing Derby which allows kids between 5 and 14 the chance to fish on the lake.  For $10, the kids get a t-shirt, a fishing rod, and can keep up to three trout that they catch.

Those looking to challenge themselves on another level should consider registering for the Clear Lake Triathlon.  Registration is from June 6th to July 18th with the big event happening on July 21st.  Complete a 500 M swim, 15 M bike, and 5 K run as an individual competitor or build a team of three and have a different person complete each part.

Does anyone out there not like a good movie?  Well, probably some one, but for those of you who are looking for something to do on a warm summer night, check out their free movie nights.  The gate will remain open late, allowing you to settle in with free s'mores and hot dogs (while supplies last) while watching a family-friendly movie. 

For those of you who may be interested in visiting, check out Fairchild's website for more information.

Public Boat Launch

Clear Lake Public Boat Launch

Keep in mind, the Clear Lake Recreation Area is for our military families only, but that doesn't mean that non-military families can't enjoy the lake itself.  Clear Lake offers a public boat launch (use requires a Discover Pass) on the south end.  From here, you can access the extensive no-wake zone for those with man-powered vessels or take your motorized boat beyond it if you want to pull skiers, wakeboarders, or just cruise the lake.

Note: Stillwater Outdoors received nothing for posting this and is not affiliated with the Clear Lake Recreation Area or the Fairchild Airforce Base in any way.  Our only purpose was to offer our readers a short review of a local lake and recreational area.

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