Friday, January 30, 2015

Reading Non-Fiction

I have always struggled to read non-fiction, preferring romance novels or other fiction instead. Last year I made a resolution to read 1 non-fiction title per month. I started myself off easy, reading books like “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” and “No Riding Bikes in the House, Without a Helmet.”

Books I Meant to Start Reading...
While these books were certainly non-fiction, they were also narrative style tales, making them more interesting to me right away. I love a good story! It got me in the right frame of mind to pick up some less fluffy reads like “Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre” which is now one of my favorite books (seriously, after borrowing it from the library, I then got a copy as a house warming gift, bought a copy for my brother, and got my best friend to buy herself a copy, too).

I only succeeded in reading 8 non-fiction books in 2014, but that’s 8 more non-fiction titles than I've ever read in a year unless I was being forced to by school or work. I loved it and I felt smarter because of it.

This year I decided to make the same resolution, which a minor tweak – I selected the books to be specifically useful for my upcoming trip to Patagonia. It’s now the end of the first month and I’m nowhere near finished with my first book, “The Wilderness First Responder Manual.” However, I have (embarrassingly) already read 6 romance novels. Clearly my failure was not due to a lack of time…

 For February, I’m going to tweak the plan once again and read a more narrative style non-fiction to get back into the mindset of reading for learning instead of just for fun. For Christmas, I bought Derek the book “Beyond the Mountain” by Steve House. I think this will be a much more enthralling read, and I am already looking forward to getting started.

Anyone else tweaking their New Year’s Resolutions?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gear Review OR Trailbreaker Pant

When it comes to clothes, I’m not much of a girly-girl. I prefer performance over looks, and I despise the entire shopping experience. When I do get new clothes, I look for pieces that will be durable and multi-functional. If they happen to look good too, then awesome. But it’s more important that they can take a beating and do what I need them to do.

With that in mind, I have been testing out a new pair of pants for my winter wardrobe. I have the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Pant. Technically, this pant is designed for back-country skiing. For that task, it has been fantastic. I've worn it a few times now, in heavy wet snow and in powder. I've also taken it out snowshoeing, hiking, and even alpine-style rock climbing.

With those experiences in mind, here is my review of the Trailbreaker Pant.


This pant is a durable softshell designed specifically for back-country skiing. Even though OR did not intend it for rock climbing, I've found it to be remarkably resilient, holding up to rough rocks and the occasional bush-whacking.

It has reinforced scuff guards and is waterproof up to the knee, water resistant everywhere else. So far the pant has done an excellent job of keeping me dry, even in thigh-high, wet snow.

Other features include side zips for ventilation, boot zips, snow gators, and four zippered pockets. One of those pockets includes a clip and pouch for your beacon – sweet! The side zips are fantastic, helping me avoid getting sweaty on the up-hills and keeping me warm on the down-hills.

 I especially love the back pockets that are down on the backs of the thighs. I stash my Freshette in one pocket and my snacks in the other. Those two zippered pockets are awesome!

The pants are nicely fitted with articulated knees, allowing for great freedom of movement with a slim cut. The cut makes it easy to move around without feeling like Ralphie’s little brother, and has the extra bonus of looking good. I know I said I don’t care much about my pants looking good, but hey, it is a plus when it happens and it happens with these pants!


I’d say the only thing I don’t like on these pants is style of the opening on the front two pockets. While I enjoy how deep the pockets are, and I love that one of them has a dedicated beacon pouch, they are set very high on the waist, zippering flat across. This makes for a small opening that is hard to get into. I have to lift my jacket out of the way, take off my gloves, and do an awkward hip-hand shimmy to get in there. I looked at the men’s version, and those pockets are set lower, with an angled openings. I imagine that doing this to the women’s pant may reduce the depth of the pocket, but what’ the point of having a pocket if I can’t get my hand into it anyway? The men’s pockets are a much better design in my opinion.


Overall, I am a huge fan of the Outdoor Research Women’s Trailbreaker Pant. It is a highly functional pant providing freedom of movement, useful features, and a solid fit. It is exactly what I want for this season of back-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking, and it looks like it will have the durability to last me many seasons to come.

If you are looking for sizing beta, I think the fit for these pants is fairly true. The size small is perfect for me and I am 5'7" at about 120 lbs.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Susan's New Year’s Resolutions 2015

I haven’t posted my NYRs on our blog in a couple of years, but I’ve still been keeping up with them. I have always enjoyed planning and goal setting, so NYRs are a lot of fun for me. I totally understand that NYRs don’t work for a lot of people. But I love them. It must be the librarian in me.

I think one of the reasons that NYRs do work for me is that I make them very specific and mostly achievable (I confess, I have sandbagged myself with some ridiculous goals on occasion). So, instead of resolving “I want to be healthier this year,” I make goals about how exactly I can do that – for example, “I will train for and run in a half marathon this year.” I tend to have an overarching resolution or theme to guide my goals, but in the end it is the specific, actionable goals that I track.

With that in mind, my overall theme for my 2015 Resolutions is to be physically & mentally ready to make two separate expeditions to Patagonia, Argentina. One will hopefully be the winter of 2015-16 with the Weber State University Outdoor Program and the other will be 2016-17 with a private party.

I like my resolutions to be multipurpose, so I love that this theme will also help me be healthier, expand my knowledge, and motivate me to keep my finances in the black so that we can actually afford these two trips.

It’s also cool that this will be a two year process – with my second trip being more demanding than the first. My plan is to use year 1 to prep as though I’m going on the more demanding trip, so it’s like a test run for the year that I think will be more challenging.

So, without further explanation or rambling, here are my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions.

By the end of the year, I will:

1. Be able to lead 5.8 in mountaineering boots. First step = buy mountaineering boots. I sold my old ones because they were a poor fit & expected to be able to buy new ones right away since we live next to freaking Salt Lake City. Annoyingly, none of the retailers here seem to think women climb, and I’ve had an impossible time finding any boots that I can try on.

2. Be able to comfortably hike 15 miles with a 55 pound pack. Roughly.

3. Have gone on multiple solo backpacking trips, including a week long solo backpacking trip. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods, but surprisingly, I haven’t done much backpacking and unless I’m trail running I always have folks with me. I want to get my systems dialed and be totally comfortable backpacking by myself.

4. Have read a whole bunch of relevant non-fiction books. I have the list already, but it might grow so I’m going to hold off on posting it here. I will add book reviews on my writing blog as I complete them, as a way of holding myself accountable to this goal.

5. Have my gear ready. I’m going to be carefully selecting and testing the gear that I think I will need on this trip. I want to make sure that
I not only have the right gear for the job, but that I know how best to use it, maintain it, and repair it in the backcountry. Similar to Goal #4, I’ll be posting gear reviews on this blog to keep myself accountable.

6. Be able to converse in Spanish. At least the basics, anyway.

Those are the major goals. I have a few other things like sticking to the budget that Derek and I set for the year, but I’m not going to add those as resolutions because they are really just daily life responsibilities. When I am tempted to veer off of them, I’ll just chant “Patagonia” in my head until the temptation passes :)