29 July 2016

A Technical Review: Unicorn Onesie

Kristina the Unicorn and Rosie the Riveter

If you're in the market for an adult onesie, but are holding out due to performance concerns, I'm here to help. I recently tested the Unicorn Onesie at 10,000 feet in Washington's most unforgiving wilderness: Mt. Rainier. Read on for all of the beta on the technical performance of a Unicorn Onesie in the backcountry.

If I had to boil my review down to one sentence, I'd say: You should absolutely buy an adult onesie because the price to fun ratio cannot be beat, just don't expect any technical performance out of it whatsoever.

Look how much fun I'm having!

The "Product"
The UBeauty Unisex-adult Kigurumi Onesie Unicorn Pajamas has 4.5/5 stars as reviewed by current Amazon customers. One happy customer called it "fun, entertaining, and great to curl up in." Another said, "Everyone needs a unicorn in their life!". Since I only listen to strangers on the internet, of course I ordered one. Naturally I got turquoise, because the purple and pink options are stupid.

Allegedly made out of flannel, the fleenal (what I'm calling a combination of fleece and flannel) onesie comes equipped with one yellow unicorn horn, two eyes, two ears, and a floppy mouth. Oh, and it has an awesome pink mowhawk which matches a pink tail, both made out of the softest materials imaginable.

Uni, as I affectionately call her, also comes with 5 buttons for easy on-and-off access (assuming you aren't wearing shoes), which also come in handy when you have a pee funnel and don't want to take off your whole ensemble to use it.

Uni also has a secret feature - POCKETS! These shallow wonders are a perfect place to put your cell phone if you want it to fall out while you're walking around. You can store anything you brought but don't really need: a headlamp, extra batteries, sun screen, hand sanitizer, Grandpa Max, lotion, and much, much MORE!

Features GALORE on this baby!

No one looks good in Uni. Do not expect it to make your ass look good or your stomach look trim. Much like the coutur fashion runways, you are not supposed to look good. You are making a goddamn statement, okay!?

I digress.

As a person who suffers from shortness, I ordered a small. This was a mistake, as apparently I have very obese wrists and ankles. I might have ripped the cuffs putting it on.... When you order your own Uni (which you will), I recommend going up a size - especially if you plan to venture into the backcountry to allow for bountiful layering options.

What it lacks in fit, Uni makes up for in mobility. You can lunge, lounge, crab walk, rock climb, ski, and pee standing up to your heart's content. Need to do a cartwheel? No problem (assuming you can actually do one...), Uni has you covered. Just don't fall in the snow or you will be wet. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Check out that mobility! Here's Uni going for a ski bottom-left.

Insulation & Breathability
Made of fleenal, Uni is quite insulataive - assuming it's not raining or windy or snowing, and assuming you aren't in an active hurricane/volcano. I guess what I'm saying is, Uni makes an excellent sleep outfit for camping in the mountains, but not much else. It's completely penetrable to wind, does not protect against precipitation of any kind, and becomes quite water-logged if you take a quick nap on the snow (not that I would know).

It is, however, quite breathable. You can fart in it and everyone will immediately know. Which is a nice bonding experience when you spend too much time in the mountains with people like to play "whoever smelt it dealt it."

If you need to stay dry and are suffering from altitude sickness while wearing Uni, pass out in a tent or you will get wet.

Weight & Packability
I have no idea how much Uni weighs. A pound? Two? Maybe only like 8 oz? It doesn't matter because you will carry it anyway.

It's also not very pack-able, but given it's enormity it'll surely reduce the amount of space in your backpack, leaving you even less space for group gear. This is good for you becuase group gear is heavy and it's more fun to watch your teammates suffer as you stroll along enjoying the lightness of your pack.

When you bring a onesie, famous skiers like Lynsey Dyer will kiss you on the cheek.

Verdict? Buy one. Buy one right now. I mean, you don't want to be like these losers (photo below) who had to improvise a unicorn horn because they came unprepared?

Little girls shouldn't grow up without Uni in their lives.

Look at little McKinley. She's 8, and already a master of wearing pink and rocking the unicorn horn. Her life would only get richer with the addition of Uni to her life.

Next up - the skiing t-rex. Because: dinosaurs.

Yulia stealing Lynsey's skis for a trip down the snowfield.

21 July 2016

The Outdoor Toilet Fails

Prettiest place I've ever bathroomed

Going to the bathroom in the outdoors is an endless source of amusement. It mixes the urgency of really, really needing to go to the bathroom with the hilarity of really, really needing to do it in an unfamiliar place. 

For some people, time in the outdoors is relaxing. The trickling flow of a nearby stream, the soft chirping of local birds, and the mushy forest floor all contribute to a sense of calm and a gentle loosening in the nether regions. For others, the screaming river, the frenetic chirping, and the uneven ground under foot causes us to clamp up, leading to performance anxiety and intense internal discomfort.

I'm watching you....

As a frequent backcountry traveler, I have experienced all of the above... and then some. Normal backcountry conversations cover all topics of the outdoor bathroom: when to go, where to go, should I use the funnel, can I poop under a rock (no!), what should I do with my toilet paper (pack it out!), do you really pick up your poop and carry it out in a doggy bag (yes!), oops I peed on myself what should I do, and hey I know we're roped up how about we both just poop at the same time... just to name a few. I've probably spent more time, cumulatively, talking about going to the bathroom in the outdoors than any other single topic.

I guess you can call me an expert.

Which is why I'd like to present to you three stories of outdoor bathroom fails. At least one of these stories is mine, but in the interest of self-preservation I am not going to tell you which one or who wrote the other stories. I just want you to sit back, relax, and let the bathroom humor wash over you.

Story 1: When a tree falls in the woods, will your pants arrest your tumble?

As a teenager, I was hired by a local film crew to schlep gear up a mountain for a rock climbing movie.  About half-way up the fairly steep hike, I felt some movement and knew I'd need to take a break. I left my pack on the trail and made my way up the hill into the trees to find some shelter from the other hikers.

It's worth mentioning that I was only about 15 at the time, and this was early-on in my "outdoor career". I didn't yet have the hang of the "outdoor squat", and instead had adopted what I called the "tree theory". I would search for either a downed tree that I could sit on while my bum hung over the back, or I would search for a tree that I could lean up against "wall-sit" style while I did my business.

With no downed trees in sight, I found a stable-looking tree, dropped my pants, and leaned back against it. I was on the uphill side of the tree, with my bum against the tree facing downhill toward the trail, my pack, and the rest of the party who were patiently waiting for me.

No sooner had I fully weighted the tree than I heard a terrible cracking sound. I felt movement, and looked between my legs to see the ground moving as roots jutted upwards parting dirt like the red sea. Before I knew it I was falling... tumbling down the hill with my pants around my legs - all orifices temporarily clamped shut save for my face, which was screaming, "Oh my god, the tree fell, THE TREE FELL!".

Luckily I didn't tumble far, and was able to pull my pants up before anyone saw anything. I skulked back to my pack and hoofed another 30 minutes before I found sweet relief in the form of a downed tree I spotted from a switchback. You would think after this experience I would learn the outdoor squat, but that took another 10+ years to master.

This is a stable tree.

Story 2: The little pooper

“Mama? I have to go poop.”

I looked around. We were just below the Mount Fremont Lookout. The ground was covered in snow and where there wasn’t snow, there were rocks or rocky ground, completely inhospitable to digging a cathole. And there were no trees for even a semblance of privacy.

“How bad? Do you think you can wait? There’s nowhere for you to go here,” I told her. “I can’t dig you a hole in this rocky, rocky ground. And I don’t have anywhere for you to get privacy.”

“Can’t we just dig a hole in the snow?”

“Well, no. Because the snow will melt. And then, well, your poop will just be sitting there. Would you like to see poop up here?”

She made a gross out face. “I can wait,” she said.

“You sure?”





“I actually can’t wait.”

And that’s how I ended up teaching my 6-year-old to poop in a bag.

I helped her hide her tiny body in a moat between the snow and a large rock. She pooped in a bag. I carefully reinforced the bag to ensure it wouldn’t make a mess before I could properly dispose of it, and we headed back down the trail.

Is it horrible to admit that this is one of my prouder parenting moments?

I could have done, however, without her loudly proclaiming, by the busy Sunrise parking lot, “Mama! Don’t forget my bag of poop is on your back!”

Mama's so proud of her little pooper.

Story 3: The Trouble with Underpants 

One of the more annoying parts about being a woman in the outdoors is having to pee. Just learning the physics of the squat is mindboggling. How do you do it without peeing on your pants? Your shoes? What do you do about epic splashback?

Because peeing was such a chore, I found myself drinking less water to avoid the outdoor bathroom situation - which is probably not a good thing. Then, I learned about a funnel ladies can use to pee outside standing up. I bought one, and practiced in the shower as my friend recommended.

With a few outdoor trips under my belt, I was feeling pretty confident. I loaded up my funnel with the rest of my ski gear and started off on our day's adventure. After about an hour I really had to go, so I ducked into a tree alcove to relieve myself.

As often happens with needing to go to the bathroom, as soon as relief was in sight I couldn't get there fast enough (think: the outdoor version of the pee-pee dance when you're just trying to unlock your front door before running inside barely making itto the nearest potty). I pulled down/away all of the layers and shoved the funnel into it's place and just let go.... I made sure to lean forward, and not go too fast, to avoid "overwhelming the funnel".

That's when something started to seem.... off. I knew I was really going, but not enough liquid seemed like it was coming out. I "clamped it off" (an achievement for any women) and pulled away as many layers as I could to reveal the problem: I had forgotten the last essential layer - my underwear. As you might have anticipated - they were covered with urine.

So I did what any self respecting woman would do: I shoved the funnel back down there (under the undies this time) and tried to enjoy a moment of relaxation before the real work began. Then, I launched the difficult endeavor of removing my ski pants AND leggings (without the panties soaking them). I should mention I was also wearing ski boots at the time.

Fifteen minutes after ducking into the grove, I emerged as a triumphant! My commando bum was mostly dry and my secret pee-panties were tucked safely away in a ziplock in my pack. I just told everyone the delay had been a stubborn poop.

Even if you think you've done everything right, sometimes you're just going to get wet.

14 July 2016

Modern Outdoor Romance: Finding Love in the Mountaineers

"I’m a sucker for a good love story, especially one that includes meeting in the great out-of-doors. My maternal grandparents met in the Sierra Club. They fell in love at a trail work party while bridge-building in Butano State Park, California. My parents met in in the aspen trees of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where my dad was a ski instructor. For years I’ve shied away from online dating, preferring to meet new people through activity groups like running and climbing. You could say it’s in my blood."

So begins my latest article for Mountaineer magazine, wherein I get to write about my friends Gwen and Stephen (and many other couples) who met in The Mountaineers. This story is especially dear to my heart because I, too, met my beau through The Mountaineers. To see the photography, including the center-spread (and cover!), check out the full version of the magazine online, or continue reading for the rest of the article.

Gone are the days of stolen glances and formal courting, replaced by mindless swiping on phone screens while sitting in a room full of perfectly interesting people. But it’s not like that for everyone. When I met Gwen Young and Stephen Sherman through The Mountaineers, I knew immediately that I wanted to share their love story.

When Gwen showed up for the first day of the Crag Climbing course in March 2011, she had no idea how much it would change her life. At the kickoff party, Loni Uchytil, a volunteer instructor and friend Gwen met through Basic,  casually introduced Gwen to Stephen, a fellow crag student. She felt butterflies. Fast forward five years and Gwen and Stephen are married, and recently welcomed a baby girl into the Sherman Family. Naturally, little Quinn has already been to Yosemite and Mazama.

A dating revolution

When The Mountaineers were established 110-years ago, the dating landscape in the Pacific Northwest was quite different. If a man was interested in a woman, he began the process of “courting” her by visiting her house and presenting a calling card at the door. The woman could choose to receive him… or not. Social events were the only times men and women were allowed to mingle, and each gender had calling cards to express romantic interest. Unmarried couples were never allowed to kiss. A woman could not take a man’s arm unless it was offered. Proper decorum had to be followed at all times to uphold the propriety of any social group lest a scandal bring the whole thing crashing down.

These were the social rules when the The Mountaineers formed in 1906. And that makes the fact that over half our founding members were women all the more remarkable. Our founders of 77 women and 74 men were groundbreakers on the mountains and off, doing something unusual for the time. Granted, women were not permitted to wear pants on outings without causing an uproar (skirts over bloomers were acceptable), but it says a great deal about the quality of the early leaders that women felt so comfortable joining the club.

oday, our members joke The Mountaineers should create a “Mountaineers Dating App.” Apparently, a lot of folks are looking to meet their ideal outdoor date. But perhaps the ‘singles’ of today are failing to see the lessons from yesteryear: when you embrace your passions and do the things you love, you’re bound to find people who love the same things. Many of our members have met their future spouses in The Mountaineers for this very reason. The outdoors brings us together.

A modern courtship

The ultimate display of our love for the outdoors is when it becomes a life-long commitment to adventuring with one special person. In the case of Gwen and Stephen, climbing was the catalyst of their courtship. That, and a little help from their friend Loni.

Unbeknownst to Gwen at the time, Stephen was also friends with Loni. Prior to enrolling in crag, he’d joked with Loni about potential ‘dating prospects’ in the course. “In fact, I have the perfect girl for you,” she’d replied with a devious smile. Giving little weight to their conversation, Stephen arrived at the kickoff party and went to greet Loni hello. Instead, Loni walked Stephen right over and introduced him to Gwen. “To be honest, I was pretty intimidated. I spent evening wondering if I would ever have a chance.” Said Stephen. Gwen shared his feelings. “I thought he was very cute and handsome when he walked in, but it didn’t occur to me that he’d ever want to date me,” said Gwen, of their first encounter.

It wasn’t until the second or third crag class when Stephen worked up the nerve to ask Gwen if she’d like to go climb sometime. Their first dates were at the climbing gym and during crag field trips. On a memorable trip to Tieton, Gwen was taking practice falls and looked down to see Stephen watching her. “I was super giddy about it, because it meant he would be there when I got down.”
“It was kind of nice because she was stuck with me for all of the field trips,” Stephen said with a smile, knowing Loni the matchmaker had a hand in the scheduling. Their first multi-pitch climb ever was with Mountaineers legend Jim Nelson. “I don’t know who I was more excited about climbing with: Gwen…or Jim!”

Halfway through the crag course, Gwen and Stephen made their relationship official. They celebrated with a picnic on the beach at Golden Gardens. As the sun set, Stephen thought to himself, “I think I might have found my forever climbing partner.”

Their first summer together was full of climbing trips in the Pacific Northwest. Beautiful places like Squamish and Smith Rock served as the backdrop to their blossoming relationship. After two years, Stephen proposed on a canyoneering trip to Zion with friends made in The Mountaineers. The pair took a day to climb “The Headache”, a three-pitch classic consisting of sustained 5.10 crack climbing. Undeterred by the hanging belay station at the end, Stephen reached into his pocket and took a ring — which he had wrapped in three plastic baggies yet had failed to “anchor” to anything — and asked Gwen to marry him. She said yes.

A forever climbing partner

Nearly three years-to-the-day after their first date, Gwen and Stephen became Mr. & Mrs. Sherman in an outdoor ceremony. Loni spoke at the wedding. As a final celebration of their love for each other and the outdoors, the Shermans loaded up the adventure van they bought and built together before getting engaged and enjoyed a four-month climbing road trip across the United States.

Today, they are trying to figure out how to be parents and enjoy the outdoors as a family. Stephen is proud that Quinn has already won a competition at the Seattle Bouldering Project. She was voted “best-dressed” on Halloween.

The Shermans also continue to help teach the crag climbing course each year. “We’ve been teaching crag for five years now. We do it because the class gave us so much. We want to give other people that opportunity to learn. But it’s also really fun to meet new climbers and be reunited with our climbing friends,” said Stephen. “We look forward to it every year,” added Gwen.

In a way, volunteering with crag lets Gwen and Stephen revisit the early days of their love story. Gwen and Stephen get to experience their life-changing moment year after year. And isn’t that better than a Mountaineers dating app? The next time someone mentions needing a date, you can say, “Why don’t you take a class? You never know how it might change your life.”

More Love in The Mountaineers

For this story, we spoke to many amazing Mountaineers couples. With 110-years of history, our members have celebrated thousands of unions. Here are a few stories from our couples, told in their own words:

Duncan and Marla Cox
Met: 1991
Relationship Status: Married

Their story (as told by Duncan): I had a job offer to come here from the UK and one of the reasons I decided move was the outdoor access. I saw The Mountaineers because I worked right on Queen Anne. I joined and started with the Singles Group in the early nineties. We used to have a Mountaineers volleyball group on Monday nights, and we’d go to this bar afterward. One night Marla showed up with a friend. For me it was love at first sight – Marla not so much, she just made fun of my accent. I signed up for the climbing program in 1991 and learned that she had also signed up. Our courtship really became about getting through the climbing course together. I proposed over beers and pizza after a snow field trip where we got completely soaked by standard PNW weather. There were quite a few of us who met in that singles group and we still hang out with some of the other couples from our early days today.

Editor’s Note: The Singles Group, or “Swingles” as it was known for a time, was organized in 1971 as an offshoot of the former Trail Trips Committee. Appealing mainly to younger members, their activities included day hikes, backpacks, lodge weekends, and a Christmas potluck with a slide show. More than 100 people led Singles’ hikes, and about 1,000 people participated. An annual salmon bake and weekly volleyball were especially popular with participants. Today the Swingles group is mostly inactive, but our 20-30 Something’s group is growing in popularity.

Tim and Masako Nair
Met: 2001
Relationship Status: Married

Their story (as told by the happy couple):
Masako: We met in the Mountaineers in 2001. At the time I was into speed hiking, and I was looking for a partner/friend who could hike as fast as me. I really couldn’t find anyone until I met Tim on a Mountaineers hike to Granite Lakes, which was considered a strenuous hike. I was hiking with a top group and Tim was behind, but on the way back it turned into just the two of us. We realized we were way ahead, and started talking, then made plans to go hiking together. 
Tim: Then the next weekend we went hiking together again. Fifteen years later we are still hiking together every weekend.
Masako: Tim proposed to me in Forgotten Mountain Meadow after two years. He said he ‘really liked the lifestyle and wanted to do this for the rest of his life, and will you marry me?” And I said yes, sure! We had been on multi-day strenuous backpacks together. Those bring out the WORST part of you. We had seen the ugliest part of our personalities, but it was still fun and we still loved each other. That’s the magic of backpacking: you know he’s the one if you still feel the love after the trip.
Tim: We were engaged for a year after that, and after 15 years our life hasn’t changed. We’ve taken snowshoeing and alpine scrambling together. We continue to backpack and snowshoe and do some easy scrambles. I still volunteer and lead backpacks in the summer to give back. Basically all the friends we have now is because of The Mountaineers. Our friends are people we met in the club. It’s so great to meet people who love the same things we do.
Masako: And they’re all mutual friends. We created this community together. It’s a great asset for both of us.

Matt Palubinskas and Andrea Moore
Met: Fall 2013
Relationship Status: Engaged

Their Story (as told by Matt): We were colleagues for more than a year before I asked Andrea to join me on a hike one Saturday in the fall of 2013. Our first date was a hike to Rachel Lake. While she wasn’t a Mountaineers member at the time, she was an avid hiker and outdoors enthusiast. As we spent more time together, we found that our happiest moments were the ones outside, in the mountains, in the snow, in the forests. I volunteered with The Mountaineers often, due to convergence of my passions for climbing and teaching, and Andrea knew she would have to learn new skills to safely share my mountaineering zeal. After dating for a few months, she signed up for the Scramble Course. She had a great experience, and she wanted to learn more alpine climbing skills, so Andrea took the Basic Alpine Climbing Course the following year. This year, for Andrea’s 31st birthday, we climbed Little Tahoma with a Mountaineers group that I led. I hiked up to Meany Crest, our base camp, with a bottle of champagne and a birthday care package (including a compass) in order to celebrate her birthday. We’ve been scrambling and climbing across the Northwest for the past two years, and hopefully for many more.

Editor’s note: as of the timing of this interview, Matt was about to propose to Andrea. She said yes, and they’ll be married in an outdoor ceremony this summer.

07 July 2016

Why You Should Care About Conservation

I am not what you would call "conservation minded". The concept of conservation has always appealed to me, but more in the "I want my grandkids to have a planet to enjoy so I'll recycle this" type of a way, and less of a "I am going to dig deep into political policy to figure out what it means for me" type of a way.

Put simply: I know conservation is important and I know I should care about it, but I need conservation-ey things explained to me like I'm a 5-year old. Since I'm more of an armchair conservationist - not naturally inclined toward reading conservation articles or researching new initiatives - I need someone to tell me what is going on, why it is important, and how I can make an impact.

Lucky for me, in my role as the Membership and Marketing Director at The Mountaineers, I get to participate in pretty cool projects which help me understand conservation and stewardship better. Our most recent endeavor involved translating one of our "Low-Impact Recreation" seminars into a series of videos laying out the transferable skills of Leave No Trace for the everyday adventurer. I wrote these videos and am really proud with how they turned out. Check them out:




Using the Bathroom

Basically: stay on the trail, camp in established areas, always take your toilet paper with you, a fed animal is a dead animal, etc. To someone who has spent a lot of time outside, most of these skills seem really obvious, but I'll admit even I learned something new. I hope you'll watch all of the videos and use the skills to become an outdoor ambassador: someone who is mindful of your impact on our wild places, and who follows the ethics of leave no trace to preserve our outdoor playgrounds for generations to come.

I know I will. After all my grandparents met in the Sierra Club on a trail stewardship day. Here they are 30 years ago, fighting for my ability to recreate today. If they were willing to spend time preserving nature for me (and we all know how much I like it!), I should damn well do my part to protect our wild playgrounds for the next generation.