Summer Fitness Adventures to Keep you in Shape

Do you avoid exercise because the standard fitness routines—jogging, walking, hitting the gym—are boring? Now is the perfect time of year to try new, adventurous activities to get your blood flowing and your body in shape. The following activities are fun, challenging, and provide you with a great workout at the same time. Try something new this summer, and get or stay fit while doing it! Please note, however, that many of these activities require special equipment, experience, or guides.

Kayaking is an adventure and good exercise in any type of water, whether it be a calm bay or whitewater. Because you sit upright with your legs outstretched, it’s important to have loose hamstrings and strong abdominal muscles. Regular kayaking will work both of these muscles groups, in addition to the muscles in the arms, shoulders, neck, and back. In particular, kayaking will exercise the Rotator Cuff in the shoulder, the biceps, triceps, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and the obliques.

According to Best River Adventures an hour of moderate kayaking will burn roughly 300 calories for a roughly 130 pound person; 350 calories for a 155 pound person; and 430 calories for a 190 pound person. More strenuous kayaking will burn more calories.

*Canoeing is an easier, less strenuous option.

Snorkeling is a fun, recreational activity that allows you to see amazing underwater life. Though often thought of as more of a leisure sport, snorkeling nonetheless burns between 295 and 430 calories per hour depending on body size. That puts snorkeling right up there with kayaking, downhill skiing, skateboarding, and low-impact aerobics! Snorkeling uses several muscle groups, including the abdominal muscles, the glutes, arms, legs, and hips.

*Once you learn to snorkel, consider scuba diving, which burns between 400 and 600 calories per hour depending on body size.

Rock Climbing
Rock climbing has been touted as one of the best all-around workouts because it works nearly every muscle group, and it is a dynamic muscle exercise, which means your muscles are flexed and stretched for long periods of time. This causes your heart to work harder, and your respiration rate to increase. Rock climbing, therefore, is truly an aerobic activity. According to Nutri Strategy Calorie Counter, rock climbing burns an awesome 649-949 calories per hour when ascending, and between 472 and 690 calories per hour when rapelling.

Rock climbing not only increases strength and endurance, it exercises the mind. In order to successfully climb a rock, you must choose a path and navigate tricky terrain. This develops the decision-making, visualization, and concentration areas of the brain.

Mountain Biking
If exploring rugged and awe-inspiring terrain is your thing, try hopping on a mountain bike to do so. Mountain biking requires balance, endurance, concentration, and confidence, and will likewise help you develop these attributes. Though mountain biking primarily works your leg muscles, your arms, shoulders, abdominals, and glutes, are also used. Depending on terrain, mountain biking can burn 600 calories or more per hour for a 150 pound person.

* If navigating the back woods isn’t for you, try a bicycle tour. Bicycle tours are now offered all over the United States and abroad.

Take the day hike to a new level, and make it an overnight trip. Backpacking provides many opportunities to see spectacular scenery that’s not accessible any other way. It’s not only fun and adventurous, it’s a great workout, too. On average, backpacking burns around 500 calories for a 150 pound person, so if your trip takes 5 hours, you’ve burned 2,500 calories! The primary muscles used in backpacking are the legs, hips, and glutes. You will also need strong back and stomach muscles to carry the weight of your pack.

Backpacking will require outdoor survivor skills. If you lack basic first aid, navigational, plant identification, and other survivor knowledge, be sure to hire a guide, or take a survival course.

Dude Ranch
For the ultimate adventure, head to Dude Ranch for a vacation filled with genuine rancher experiences. Enjoy pack trips, cattle drives and round-ups, roping, horseback riding, fly fishing, and much more. Working and guest dude ranches exist all over the United States and Canada, so pick a location you’re interested in and have fun and get fit while learning what it takes to be a “cowboy.”

Grilling Tips for Great Outdoor Barbeques

Summer has finally arrived! And what better to do on a warm, sunny day than light the grill and have a barbeque? If that sounds like your idea of a good time, pay attention. The following grilling tips will have you making juicy burgers, tender steaks, succulent vegetables, and more, that are sure to amaze your friends, family and neighbors.

A Properly Heated Grill

If you’ve had problems with food sticking or burning upon placing it on the grill, your grates aren’t properly heated. Too little heat will cause sticking, while too much will send your grub to cinder-ville. If your grill comes equipped with a temperature gauge, consult a cooking guide as to what temperature to cook your particular food at, and for how long. A note of caution, however: Heat rises, so if your temperature gauge is above your grill, it will read a higher temperature than what you’re actually cooking at.

If your grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge (or you just don’t trust it) use the 3 Mississippi Test. Hold your hand about 4 inches above the grate and count. You should be able to hold your hand there until 3 Mississippi. Anything less is too hot. Anything more isn’t hot enough.

A Clean Grill is Your Friend

Have you ever grilled a steak only to have it taste like last week’s salmon supper? If you don’t clean your grill before each use, this is bound to happen to you sooner or later. To ensure your grilled food retains its true flavor, always clean your grates immediately before using. A stiff wire brush works best for removing burnt stuck-on bits of food and grease. If you want sparkling clean, soak the grates in warm, soapy water and scrub with a dishcloth. If your grill hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, however, a more powerful method may be in order—set your grill to high and let the heat cook off the grime. This will take about 5 minutes. Afterwards, you should be able to scrape off whatever’s left. If you’re using a charcoal grill, be sure to scoop out the old ash, too.

Lubrication and Seasoning

Another important step to ensuring your food doesn’t stick to the grill is adequate lubrication. Once your grill is clean, rub it with a high temperature oil. Vegetable oil, such as canola, or peanut oil, will work fine. Olive oil isn’t generally a good choice, as it burns at a lower temperature and will cause your grill to smoke.

Seasoning the grill can produce great results as well. A common method of seasoning is to rub half an onion across the grates. Bacon lard, beef fat, or chicken skin, also works great.


To sear or not to sear? Searing, quite simply, is when you cook both sides of your meat over high heat just until it’s browned—generally a dark brown. Some people claim this seals in the juices, while others say this isn’t true, but the caramelized crust searing produces is visually appealing and tastes good. Searing, therefore, is a matter of personal preference, though it seems more people fall into the searing camp than not.

After searing you should reduce the heat to low to finish cooking. Most meats, including beef, chicken, and pork, benefit from searing.

Testing for Doneness

Sure, you could insert a thermometer in that steak or chicken breast, but guess what happens when you do? You create a hole that allows juices to escape. Try the 4 Finger Thermometer instead. Touch the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The pad at the base of your thumb will feel soft and squishy, which is what a rare steak will feel like when you touch it with your forefinger. Next, touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your middle finger. The pad of your thumb will now feel a bit firmer. This is what medium-rare feels like. The tip of the thumb touched to the tip of the ring finger produces a medium firmness, and the tip of the thumb touched to the tip of the pinkie feels like well-done. If you’re just not sure, however, a thermometer is better than serving under-done food.

Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades

Sauces, rubs, and marinades are great for adding flavor, but how should you incorporate them into foods that are to be grilled?

For marinades, the longer the food is in the marinade, the more flavor it will soak up. For best results, marinate overnight. To grill food that has been marinating, pat the food dry before placing it on the grill to avoid flare-ups. Also, let any remaining liquid from the marinade steam off before searing.

For rubs, remember that grilling foods that have a rub will create a crust, and you must take care not to burn the crust.

Sauces, such as barbeque, should not be used until the last few minutes of cooking. At this time, you can start to baste your meat with the sauce. The majority of the sauce, however, is best used after cooking.

Quick Tips

• Don’t mix meat, seafood, and vegetables on the same skewers. Most veggies and seafood cook quicker, and you don’t want to end up with mushy zucchini, shrimp, and tomatoes, or underdone chicken.
• Flavored skewers are a quick and easy way to add instant flavor to food.
• Make sure whatever you’re searing is dry on the surface.
• Use tongs instead of a fork to flip the meat. Tongs won’t pierce the surface and let the juices escape.
• Always make sure you have enough coals or propane before starting.

Essential Items to Pack on a Day Hike

When most people strike out on a day hike, they don’t usually plan for the unexpected. Common thoughts are: I’ll only be gone for an afternoon. I know where I’m going. I’m an experienced hiker. What could go wrong? Even if you are an experienced outdoors person, the wilderness is adept at throwing curve balls. From inclement weather to wild creatures, you never know what you’ll encounter out there. Personal situations can arise, too—a twisted or broken ankle, or an allergic reaction. Don’t be caught unprepared. Carry a day pack with the essential items listed below, and trek into the wilderness with confidence.

Enough water. 2-4 liters per person is recommended. Pack more if you’re hiking in a dry climate, or in an unfamiliar area.

Enough food. Pack a lunch, plus snacks such as energy bars that travel well and contain plenty of calories.

Map/GPS/and/or compass.

First aid kit.

Flashlight or headlamp.

Waterproof matches.

Pocketknife or multi-tool.

Space blanket.

Whistle. Whistles are great as a bear deterrent, and as locators.

Seasonal gear. If you’re hiking in summer, be sure to pack items such as sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and bug repellent. In the spring or fall, rain gear is handy.

Medication. If you rely on daily medication, don’t leave home without it.

And last but not least, always tell someone where you’re going, when you’re going, and when you intend on returning. If no one knows you’re gone, they won’t know to look for you if you go missing. On this note, it’s also wise to pack some form of identification.

All of these items should fit easily into your day pack, and you’ll feel better knowing that if the unexpected were to occur, you’d have the tools to handle almost any situation.

Catnip is a Natural, Effective Mosquito Repellent

With the prevalence of mosquito borne diseases, such as West Nile Virus, it’s important to wear a protective mosquito repellent. Unfortunately, nearly all repellents contain DEET, a chemical which is dangerous to humans, especially children. According to a study conducted by Duke University Medical Center, DEET can cause brain-cell death and neurological damage. But what other options do you have? How about catnip? Iowa State University researchers report that nepetalactone, catnip’s essential oil, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.

As a member of the mint family, catnip is primarily known for its intoxicating effects on cats. It is also used in tea, and as a natural remedy for fevers, colds, cramps, and migraines. With this latest research indicating its effectiveness as a mosquito repellent, it’s surprising that companies manufacturing repellents haven’t produced a green alternative to DEET. Fortunately, catnip is an easy to grown perennial herb, and you can make the mosquito repellent yourself. Check out these two recipes provided by the Seattle PI, but be advised that the Iowa State researchers warn that pure catnip oil is too strong to put directly on your skin. You only need 1-5% of the essential oil for it to be effective.

Seattle PI: “Grow your own mosquito repellent”


Science Daily: “Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively Than DEET”

Get Pure, Clean Water with the Click of a Pen

If you like to camp, hike, travel abroad, or if you’re concerned about the quality of your local water supply, forget boiling, or packing those bulky water purifiers, exhausting hand pumps, or using tablets that release chlorine, iodine and/or hypoiodous acid. Check out the light and ultra portable SteriPEN. The SteriPEN is the only water purifier that uses ultraviolet light to destroy viruses, bacteria, and other protozoa, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium, one of the hardest microorganisms to eradicate.

Weighing in at 4-8 ounces, depending on the model, and measuring less than 8 inches, the SteriPEN is small and light enough to pack anywhere. It effectively kills organisms in 48 seconds (compare that to the time it takes to light a fire and boil water, or the 30 minutes to 4 hours it can take for the tablets), and it’s easy to use. Simply push the button once to treat a liter of water, or twice to treat half a liter, immerse the pen in the water, and agitate. A green light will tell you that the process was complete.

There are currently four models to choose from—the Classic, Adventurer, Traveler, and Journey. They all work essentially the same and cost between $79.95 and $99.95. The differences amount to size, weight, and more advanced options, such as LCD screens that display battery status and treatment selection. You can purchase the SteriPEN online through Campmor or at retailers such as REI, Bass Pro Shops, and L.L. Bean.