2018 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s December and so we have our annual Kansas Trail Guide gift guide. These are a selection of ten awesome and unique gifts for anyone in your life who loves trails, loves Kansas, or both!

Not on the list, but just as a reminder, that any Kansas trail lover in your life would love a copy of the award-winning Kansas Trail Guide! Order your signed copy for 24.95 within the next week for Christmas shipping.

Heartlandia sticker

1. Heartlandia stickers

This Wichita based company makes fun stickers, t-shirts, pins, and keyring, all celebrating Kansas. I’ve got the Ad Astra Per Aspera one on my car, and the No Coast/Best Coast one on my trusty water bottle. For the cyclist in your life, there’s the I Bike Wichita and the I Bike Newton.

They’ve also got things like the quirky Jackalope and the nostalgic Joyland. They’re high quality, and the perfect stocking stuffer. Buy online or at a local store. Items from $3.

2. Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers

By the talented Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe, this is the second edition of their much-loved Kansas Guidebook for Explorers. It’s got 4,500+ entries of awesome things to do and see around the state. For $24.95.

Garmin Fenix 5 watch

3. Garmin Fenix 5 Watch

We’ve loved Garmin from the beginning of our trail book writing days, and while we had the handheld devices (which are also awesome), the Fenix 5 watch has up to date, color topographic maps, measures your heart rate, tracks your info from distance to altitude (yes, there are hills in Kansas!), and even connects with Spotify so you can get a playlist for your route.

From $699.99 (currently at the time of writing on sale for $100 off) via the Garmin website.

4. Buckskin Road Coffee Roastery

You’ve got to be able to get up and going for the trail. So power through with a super strong, super tasty cup of coffee made by a local Kansas roaster. Started in 2017, the Buckskin Road Coffee Roastery is based in Inman. You can order online, or stop by and they’ll refund the shipping. I also saw their bags of beans at downtown Hutchinson’s new Wool Market & DIY School. From $11.

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack in Balkan Blue

5.  Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack

Store everything you need easily at hand and avoid getting a sweaty back with the Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack. Named the black hole because it holds so much!

It’s got one big compartment, plus stretchy water bottle pockets. It’s generally waterproof (in that it’s water-resistant and finished with DWR), and it’s got compression straps that hug your hips and keep it from bouncing around too much. Available in four different colors. From $59.

6. Conscious steps socks

Give back with your gift of these socks. They have a sustainable supply stream, and the socks are made from organic cotton by workers in an ethical workplace. Oh, and they’re in a variety of patterns and styles for men and women. You can also designate where you’d like your donation to go when you buy them — to fight poverty, to give water, to protect elephants, to give books. From $11.95.

7. Stall Watch

There are cameras to remotely watch your baby in his/her crib, cameras to see who’s at your door. Why not a camera for your horse? Keep an eye on your horses (or I guess anything you might keep in a stall), day or night, near or far with Stall Watch. It’s a portable video surveillance system that is easy to set up and doesn’t require wi-fi to operate. From $225 plus data plan.

8. The Muncher – multi-tool utensil

As they bill it, “this ain’t your dad’s camp spork.” So yes, it is a spork, but it’s also a:

All the ways to use The Muncher

  • Serrated knife
  • Fire flint
  • Peeler
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Pry bar
  • Box cutter
  • Cord cutter
  • Flathead screwdriver

It’s made of titanium and weighs only 20 grams. It’s the everything but the kitchen sink of multi-tools. From $49.98.

9. Lezyne Sport Drive HP Hand Pump

Flat tire out on the trail? No problem. The Lezyne Sport Drive HP Hand Pump is 6.7 inches long and 2.65 ounces, and it fits Presta, Schrader valves. It comes with a frame mount, or you could stash it in your Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack. Most importantly, though, it can pump to over 100psi without exhausting you. From $19.99.

Oofos sandals in black/aqua

10. Oofos sandals

Admittedly, these aren’t the most traditionally attractive sandals, but if you’ve ever had a long day out on the trail and you come home with sore feet and never want to talk again — these are the sandals for you.

With the design of the foam, they absorb 1/3 more pressure than regular shoes or sandals, and that helps reduce the pressure on your joints. They’ve got good arch support, and they’re even machine washable! It means wearing them around the house after a long day on the trail means you’ll be able to get back out there sooner and feeling better than ever.

They’re available in a variety of colors. From $49.95

Show your Kansas love with Heartlandia stickers

While shopping at Smith’s Market in downtown Hutchinson, I spotted stickers celebrating Kansas by Heartlandia.  I bought a couple for gifts, but before I could mail them off to friends, I decided to keep them for myself! (I’ll make another trip to get the gift ones.)

I reached out and found out a bit more about this Wichita based company. Here’s what they had to say about the how, what, and why of the sticker (and t-shirt) business that celebrates the Midwest.

KTG: When did the business get started and what inspired it?

Heartlandia did not start as a business, but it turned out to be!  It started as a way for the talented, mostly young, graphic designers at Gardner Design in Wichita to be part of the Wichita/Kansas/Midwest pride scene that is surging right now. (And may I say – it’s about time!!!)  They designed 41 stickers, and while they did not do it as a money-making venture, between Thanksgiving (when the stickers were released) and Christmas of 2017 around 10,000 stickers had been sold, mostly at boutique-style stores in Wichita, Hutchinson and Salina.

Stickers, it appears, are a “thing”, especially among young people – they love to put them on their bikes, cars, computers, notebooks. It’s how they brand themselves.  But everyone seems to like the sticker idea.  For $3 you can tell the world, I love my city, my state, my part of the country!

Do you take requests for new sticker ideas?

The designs were a result of a brain-storming session the designers had, but we take suggestions all the time (ideas don’t happen in a vacuum), and we come out with new stickers occasionally.

Is there a best selling sticker?

The most popular stickers have been:  Tornado Warning, Joyland, Unibuff, Sunflower, No Coast, Ad Astra Per Aspera, and the Keeper of the Plains.

Have you ever come across one of your stickers “in the wild” / on a random person’s water bottle or car bumper or bike, etc.

We find the stickers in the wild all the time!  Many of the orders on our website are from people who now live in other parts of the country, but clearly want to stay connected to their roots by proudly displaying the stickers in their new surroundings.  It’s fantastic. There’s a few pictures of stickers caught in the wild on our Instagram account, heartlandiastix.

We recently came out with t-shirts with some of the stickers designs, and those have also been well-received.

The t-shirts are only available at some of our retail stores:  Lucinda’s, The Workroom, Vortex Souvenirs, Botanica, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Watermark Books, Best of Times.

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Here’s our annual gift guide for the trail lovers in your life. Of course, there’s always our favorite gift of the Kansas Trail Guidebook, but here are 10 more awesome gift ideas.

1.  The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers

The perfect companion to the Kansas Trail Guide, this completely updated volume includes the best insider information about local favorite places to eat, visit, and stay throughout Kansas. Buy it from the Kansas Sampler foundation.  $29.95

 

2. Rab Kinetic Plus Jacket

Kansas weather can throw everything at you (in one trip!). Be prepared to weather the storm and enjoy the trail in this outstanding softshell from Rab. $225

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3. Capitol Copper

Own your own piece of Kansas history with copper from the Capitol dome from the Kansas State Historical Society. Replaced in 2013, the copper was made available to the Kansas Historical Society and Kansas Historical Foundation for use in products to be sold in the Capitol Store. Items you can get range from jewelry to oil bottles to a single sheet of the copper to put on display. You can buy it in person at the gift store of the Capitol, or online. 

 

4. Ad Astera Per Aspera Hat

Every hiker in the Sunflower State should be sporting a stylish hat while on the trail.  Get yours from a Kansas company served up with some retro style and a side of state pride. Currently on sale for $27.99

5. Ultra-Sil Day Pack

Tired of flimsy drawstring packs? Still hiking with a backpack that you used in middle school? Lugging around a full-size pack for a day-hike?  Too cheap to buy a pack for the kids to hike with?  Problem solved. $32.95

Sea to Summit Pack

 

6. Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) in Kansas class enrollment

Mark your calendar for May 4-6, 2018 at Rock Springs 4-H center for a woman’s weekend of wilderness skills and outdoor fun.  Excellent course and a gentle introduction to high adventure and outdoor skills.

For the already intrepid outdoors-woman, get inspired with a subscription to Misadventures magazine.

7. Prairie Earth Tours

Experience the best of the Flint Hills like you never have before!  If you are looking for a guided adventure that takes the guess-work out of planning an awesome trip, here’s the place to sign up!  Choose from a guided photography, craft-brewery, moonlight tours of the Flint Hills, or customize a private tour.

8. Pat’s Beef Jerky – Liebenthal, Kansas

In my book, nothing is better on the trail than beef jerky!  And no beef jerky is better than Pat’s (#boldstatement).  If the wonderful town of Liebenthal is not on your daily commute, just have it shipped to your door in time for Christmas or a First Day Hike.

9. National Parks Trivial Pursuit Game

After a day of hiking and around the campfire, bring out this fun and challenging game. Easy to pack and carry with a small carabiner attached, it’s got over 600 questions about the national parks with categories including Natural Wonders, Battlefields & Historic Sites, Cultural Heritage, Science & Nature, Wildlife, and Wild Card. $19.18 on Amazon

10. NSR Riding Bicycle Tour Camping Tent

This tent fits both you and your bike, with room for the bike to securely stand upright, cutting down on concerns about theft and weather. It packs down to fit into a pannier, and weighs only 4.1 pounds. You could be the envy of everyone on the Bike Across Kansas! $299.99

On Trails: An Exploration book review

On Trails: An Exploration book review

When hiking it’s easy to appreciate the scenery, but how often do we stop and think about the trail itself? In his book On Trails, Robert Moor draws from his own experience on the Appalachian Trail to contemplate the nature of trails.

He reflects on the intricacies and origins of all types of paths that serve to connect places.  Moor delves deeply into the process of trail creation by organisms ranging from ants to elephants and connects this process to the trail experience of modern hikers.

The book has weighty thoughts on trail origins and it is indeed interesting to consider the natural development process that creates trails and paths.

The foray into the intersection of ecology and trail-building can be somewhat fascinating, but a hiker may gravitate more towards the chapters on modern trails including an insightful glimpse into the development the International Appalachian Trail which spans continents and exists as a ‘trail’ that is not physically connected or continuous.

iat

International Appalachian Trail Marker

Moor also tells tales from the trail itself, recounting AT hiking trips and tagging along with the ultimate long-distance hiker, Nimblewill Nomad (whose mind-boggling walks have followed all the major trails and recently included a sweep across Kansas along the route of the old Pony Express Trail).

For trail buffs, this book will be a thorough guide to trails of all kinds and a reflection on how trails are ultimately shaped by travelers.

DRINKMaple – maple water review

Refreshing.

Crisp.

A touch of the flavor from licking the back of a fork after you’ve had pancakes.

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These were some of the responses I got after having various family members try out pure maple water by DRINKMaple. (I do realize that both crisp and refreshing are listed as tag lines on the bottle itself – but I did a blind taste test!)

Overall, the first thought was that it would be too sugary – that it would taste like maple syrup.

But once everyone tried it, the consensus was that it was unexpectedly light and tasty, and that it tastes best after it’s been in the refrigerator.

The water is pure maple sap, sustainably tapped from maple trees in Vermont – no concentrate and no connection to maple syrup production.

It’s closest comparison, in terms of flavored, slightly hipster seeming drinks, would be coconut water. But the advantage the maple water has is about half as much sugar as coconut water – maple water has 7 grams per serving (one 12 fl oz bottle).

It’s got manganese, calcium, and potassium — all helpful minerals. And it’s certified organic by Quality Assurance International (a USDA-accredited agency). To top it all off, part of the proceeds for every bottle sold goes to supporting MORE Than Sport – an organization that supplies clean drinking water to “individuals in developing nations beset by drought and disaster.”

Why not simply drink regular water? Maple water seems to stand in a sweet spot between water and sports drinks. For most of us, we aren’t exercising enough to really warrant needing the amount of electrolytes and sugars that are in sports drinks like Gatorade. But it does give you more fuel than plain water.

The website has some fun recipes you can try from the healthy to the indulgent (with far fewer additives and processed sugars) – wellness shots to pumpkin protein smoothie to watermelon mint maple water cooler.

Overall – tasty and good for you (as far as I can tell – I’m not a doctor!), better for you than sports drinks or coconut water, and great for drinking by itself or using as a recipe ingredient.

Product provided free of charge for review purposes, but opinions are all my own.

2016 Christmas Gift Guide

Looking for a unique outdoor gift for the trail-lover in your life? The annual Kansas Trail Guide Christmas Gift Guide features the best unique and inspiring products that are sure to be perfect for your loved ones (or yourself – we won’t judge!).  Without further ado:

1. A signed Kansas landscape print by David Welfelt

Welfelt captured some stunning trail imagery included in the Kansas Trail Guide and we’ve been consistently impressed with his landscape shots. What better reminder of your hiking adventures than a signed print that captures the grandeur of some of the greatest wild places in the state?

From David Welfelt's website.

From David Welfelt’s website.

2. Pocket Monkey Multi-Tool by Zootility

You can never have enough multi-tools.  Especially one shaped like a monkey!  This unique design is American-made and has a plethora of handy features in a compact design.

And did I mention that it looks like a monkey?

$12.99 via Amazon

3. A subscription to Cairn

Here’s the gift that keeps on giving – a subscription for a monthly or quarterly box of new outdoor goodies from Cairn. The boxes are always a surprise, but they include a variety of items from these categories: food, clothing, gear, skin care, and emergency/medical. They’ve also got a limited set of holiday gift boxes.

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4. Adopt a Black-footed Ferret with WWF

The black-footed ferret, once thought extinct, is back on the Kansas shortgrass prairie. Show your support for the little animal and  symbolically adopt a black-footed ferret in the name of a loved one. They’ll get a cuddly stuffed toy ferret, and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped keep a species alive.

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5. Fatboy Lamzac

Ideally suited for lounging at the campsite after a day on the trail, this is an innovative way to pack along a comfortable (and very cool) place to kick back and relax. You will most certainly be the envy of all your friends.  Just remember – you move it, you lose it!

Lounging on the Fatboy Lamzac

Lounging on the Fatboy Lamzac

6. Last Wild Places in Kansas by George Frazier

This is one of the best new books on exploring Kansas that we’ve read!  An instant classic for the outdoor lover; Frazier weaves vignettes of his own adventuring into a compelling page-turner.  For planning that big adventure while sitting by the fire this winter.

$17.49 on Amazon

7. TreePod Hanging Tree House

This totally makes me want to be a kid again.  Place strategically on your next camping adventure and keep the whole clan entertained.

Plus, for every TreePod sold, they plant a tree.

Treepod!

Have kids? Look no further.

8. LuminAID PackLite Nova Inflatable Lantern

Long name, cool product. This solar powered, rechargeable lantern is collapsible and weighs just 4 ounces. From one charge, you can get about 24 hours of light. And that’s not just any light – it’s 75 lumens of LED light. Plus it’s waterproof.

$14.99 from Amazon

9. A Signature Camping trip with REI Adventures

For you big spenders out there or those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, go on a Signature Camping trip with REI Adventures. While backpacking and roughing it in the wild has its charms, so does someone bringing hot coffee to your tent in the morning and having a hot shower at the end of a day. Everything gets sorted out for you from tasty food to camp set up to transportation.

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We’re not in Kansas anymore! REI Adventures campsite in Canyon de Chelly.

All you have to do is show up ready to hike and explore. Their most recent addition to their Signature Camping trips is the Arizona Ultimate Adventure – Grand Canyon & Beyond. It’s eight days of awesome where you explore many of the legendary canyons of Arizona – Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Canyon de Chelly – and kick back at the end of the day. Next trip leaves April 29, 2017.

10. Flint Hills Nature Trail Patch

So this is more of something that you have to earn.  But what better addition to your patch collection then one that signifies the completion of the Flint Hills Nature Trail challenge? Give the gift of adventure and use a signed copy of the Kansas Trail Guide to plan an epic trip with your favorite hiking partner.  Only 2 patches that have been earned so far.  Will you be next?

fhnt_patch

Flint Hills Nature Trail Patch

 

A Walk With Grandma – book review

A Walk With Grandma – book review

In the rich history of the Appalachian Trail, a more unlikely hero will not be found.  In the spring of 1955, a grandmother from Ohio decided to walk the trail from Georgia to Maine “on a lark” and captured the attention and adoration of a nation.  “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk” by Ben Montgomery recounts the story of the hard but captivating life of Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, a now iconic hiker of the Appalachian Trail, whose walk along the trail characterized her life of determination and grit.  While many hikers today obsess about the latest gear, technology, and trail amenities, Gatewood had little more then a napsack, umbrella, and the kindness of strangers to see her through a 2000+ mile journey.

Gatewood Picture

Grandma Gatewood on the Trail

At a time when only a handful of people had hiked the entirety of the AT, she started walking at the age of 67 and just kept on going.  The challenges that she overcame on the Appalachian Trail alone would make for an exceptionally inspiring read, but the book also artfully recounts Gatewood’s earlier walk through a marriage filled with adversity and abuse leading up to her first epic trail journey.  Gatewood’s long walk is just the start of her remarkable hiking career and the book will certainly inspire people of all ages to dream big and hike on.

Grandma Gatewood Trail

Hikers on the Grandma Gatewood Trail in Ohio

“Grandma Gatewood’s Walk” by Ben Montgomery is published and available through the Chicago Review Press