2019 Holiday Gift Guide

We’ve been busy this year and not posting as much, but we haven’t forgotten about you!

We’re excited to offer free shipping of a signed copy on the Kansas Trail Guidebook (a savings of around $5) throughout the rest of the month, year, and decade! (So through the end of December 2019). Buy it here now!

Along with our book, which we think is a great gift for really anyone on your holiday gift list, here are 10 awesome gifts for the trail lover in your life.

*Disclosure, for some of the links, we may get a small return, and all prices were accurate at the time of writing.*

1. Raw Elements Reef Safe Sunscreen

If you’re going to be out on the trail, you want to keep yourself protected from the sun, and you might as well do that in the most eco-friendly way as well.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I know there aren’t any reefs in Kansas; however, sunscreens that make for healthy reefs also make for healthy people. My favorite is the Raw Elements brand. It works well, and one tin lasts a long time.

We’ve reviewed it more in-depth here, but some of the highlights for me include options for plastic-free packaging, lip balms, and kid-friendly options. Plus it would fit perfectly into a Christmas stocking!

From $15.99 for sunscreens.

2. IceMule Cooler Bag

If you want to ensure cold food and drinks at the end of a long day on the trails, the IceMule Cooler Bag does the trick. With its sling backpack style, it’s easy to carry if you want to hike it in to have a picnic, say along the Rocktown Trail along Wilson Lake.

It comes in options of colors as well as 10L, 15L, and 20L sizes. Plus it’s waterproof!

From $59.95.

3. Membership to Flint Hills Discovery Center

In Manhattan, the Flint Hills Discovery Center celebrates the iconic tallgrass prairie. They have a membership program which includes a year of free admission, discounts at events and the gift store, plus free or discounted admission at other science centers and museums that includes the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Science City at Union Station in Kansas City, and many more.

Contact them here for information on pricing and to purchase the membership.

From $30 for an individual adult membership, $27 for a senior, and $80 for a family membership.

4. ENO DoubleNest Hammock

Portable and easy to set up, the hammock weighs in at only 19 ounces, but it can hold up to 400 pounds.

It extends from its 5″ by 5″ packed size to 9′ 4″ by 6′ 2″ and it’s ideal for relaxing after a long hike or ride.

*Note that it doesn’t come with hammock straps.

From $69.95.

5. Garmin Forerunner 935 Watch

We used Garmin devices to help map out the trails for the guidebook, and they were absolutely invaluable. You can read our reviews of some of their products here. Plus, I love that it’s a Kansas based company, with its headquarters in Olathe.

If you’re a hiker, runner, or triathlete with an extra $400 or so, the Garmin Forerunner 935 watch does all kinds of things. There are color maps, an altimeter, compass, and barometer. It provides training analysis as well as information on things like stride length, time and the ground, and more.

From $394.95.

6. Oiselle Flyte Long Sleeve Tee

Style isn’t at all the most important thing in life or out on the trail, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice. The Oiselle Flyte Long Slee Tee is an ideal mix of style and substance.

It’s comfy thanks in part to its seamless design. With anti-odor and wicking properties, you’ll be able to wear and rewear it out on the trail. It’s got thumbholes to help keep the sleeves from riding up, and the overall flying bird pattern is beautiful. It may have a high starting cost, but it will last a long time.

From $68.

7. Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle

Keep your water cool on a long ride with the insulated water bottle from Polar Bottle. It’s got double wall insulation with an added layer of foil to reflect the sun’s rays.

Made in the USA, all of the bottles come with a lifetime guarantee. Bonus – they’re dishwasher safe. With 20 and 24 ounce options, you should be able to find one to take along on your ride, and you’ll be glad you did when instead of a hot swallow of Gatorade, you get a nice, refreshing one instead.

From $10.95.

8. Heartlandia Stickers and Accessories

These stickers made our gift guide last year, and thanks to the expansion into other items including pins, magnets, and keyrings, they’re on this year’s list as well. All represent Kansas pride and landmarks, particularly in Wichita – think Joyland, RiverFest, Douglas Ave.

But they also have other locations featured, like in the range of “I Bike _____” stickers with locations including El Dorado, Newton, Hutchinson, Lawrence, Emporia, Hesston, Salina, Humboldt, McPherson, and Great Bend.

The stickers can take the beating of being on a water bottle that you use daily, like mine has, and I assume their other products are as just of high a quality.

Buy online or see where they’re sold near you.

From $3.

9. GoPro Hero 8

You can strap it to your helmet while you’re out on your horse or your bike (always wear a helmet!), and you get a chest mount for when you’re on foot. But you’ll always be able to remember your trip with your GoPro footage. If it starts to rain or snow, no worries since it’s waterproof. There’s video stabilization, and it’s got a touchscreen as well as voice activation. What seems really cool for a long trail is that it has a time-lapse mode.

From $349.

10. Lost Trail Soda

Hopefully you don’t ever get lost on the trail (our guidebook should help!), but whatever happens out on the trails, you should be able to enjoy a one of the Lost Trail sodas.

Brewed at the Louisburg Cider Mill bottling plant, the Lost Trail sodas were inspired by an 1848 journal entry from Joe Marshall (great-great grandfather of Shelly Schierman–one of Louisburg Cider Mill’s founders).

That quote from their website, “I been a lookin’ for the Santa Fe Trail three days now. Met up with some good folks. They give me some grub and something to wet my whistle. Say they call it ‘Root Beer’ — been a makin’ this brew from roots and herbs. Think I’ll forget the trail and just settle here.”

Along with root beer, they have cream soda, sarsaparilla, black cherry, strawberry cream, and ginger brew.

From $7.95.

Stay safe with safe sunscreen

Happy 4th of July! I’m hoping that you’re staying safe not just with fireworks but by using sunscreen. There are sunscreens and then there are reef-safe sunscreens. Reef-safe sunscreens, or mineral sunscreens, use non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect people from UV rays, and they don’t use chemicals that damage coral reefs and contribute to coral bleaching like oxybenzone and octinoxate.

So admittedly there are zero reefs in Kansas, but sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have now been banned in various parts of the world. A lot of that is to take steps to help protect coral reefs, but you should consider using non-chemical sunscreens when you’re in Kansas too. Here’s why.

Impacts of chemical sunscreens

UV filters, the chemicals used to block our skin from absorbing UV rays, have been found in water systems around the world; they can’t be filtered out by waste-water treatment plants. The chemicals have also been found in fish and other aquatic animals. There are studies being done to see what the long-term impacts of chemical exposure are on the wildlife, ecosystems, and in turn humans, who may be eating certain seafood.

Image from Raw Elements

For our own health, the FDA is taking a look at ingredients for sunscreens, and it’s currently in the process of figuring out how sunscreen chemicals impact human health. Oxybenzone, for one, is absorbed through the skin and can cause hormone disruption. Methylisothiazolinone, another common ingredient in traditional sunscreens, can cause allergic reactions. Here’s a link to some of the FDA’s recent published work.

Obviously sunscreen serves a purpose – protecting our skin from harmful UV rays. But if traditional sunscreens are also harmful? Go for natural sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the only ingredients the FDA has recognized as generally safe and effective.

Profile and review: Raw Elements, a mineral sunscreen

But do the mineral sunscreens actually work? I had a chance to try products by Raw Elements, a company committed to protecting people from harmful UV rays and also protecting the planet.

Brian Guadagno, who’s an ocean lifeguard, founded Raw Elements. He started by experimenting with different ingredients in his kitchen, and now the line has expanded to include lip balms, a revitalizing skin tonic, and baby+kids products. They use non-nano zinc oxide along with other organic, natural ingredients. A bonus is that many of their products are also in plastic-free packaging. The company was instrumental in spearheading the inaugural World Reef Day, celebrated in Hawaii on June 1, 2019, dedicated to helping people better understand, care about, and protect coral reefs.

Again, I get that as Kansans, we don’t have coral reefs in our backyard. But we do travel! And we have freshwater lakes and rivers and our skin absorbs some of the chemicals in traditional sunscreens.

If you know me, you know I’m very pale, and I was worried that the white cream wouldn’t rub in and it would leave me looking more ghost-like than usual. But it goes on smooth and rubbed in easily. After working outside in the summer, no sunburn. Not even a little hint of red! Plus, even with all the sweating I was doing, it didn’t run – no stinging eyes!

When you’re out celebrating summer here in Kansas or traveling, take a moment for a look at the ingredients in your sunscreen. Look for non-nano zinc and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. Keep yourself safe from the sun with natural ingredients that work and help keep you and the planet healthy.

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

rab-kinetic-plus-womens-jacket-001-5.jpg

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.

***img_5327

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.