Blistex ‘Lip Vibrance’ review

Blistex Lip Vibrance has been my go to lip protection since I discovered it seven years ago walking the John Muir Trail

Why do I LOVE Lip Vibrance so much? First it’s the restorative emollients – shea butter, grapeseed oil and vitamin E. It feels smooth, and rich.

Then there’s the sun protection at SPF 15. This isn’t your zinc oxide for alpine climbing, but Lip Vibrance protects pretty darn well on most exposed sun-shiny days.

Where can I get it?
Walgreens, Walmart, Amazon and CVS

Next, it’s absolutely lovely color. Every blissful hiker gal needs just a touch of color. This is pink and a glossy.

There’s a little mirror on the back. I wouldn’t use as a signaling device but works great in case you need to get food out of your teeth or when you want to make sure you’re coloring within the lines.

A couple of years back, I was unable to find Lip Vibrance at my local drugstore, so I purchased a competitor’s lip protection. It melted in my pocket and when I went to put it on my lips, a huge glob came right off in a huge smear. Blistex Lip Vibrance never, EVER melts in the field.

I gotta have Blistex Lip Vibrance and so I give it FIVE ANITAS!!


Post thru-hike gear wrapup: Hammock Gear quilt

My Blue Moroccan Hammock Gear was just right for the TA.

Here’s something I get asked a lot – How the heck do you wash your down quilt or sleeping bag?

For starters, you should probably not wash down until things get really out of hand. So let’s use our imaginations to take us to that moment of out-of-handedness when a good washing is all one can do.

Imagine putting your face right up against your furry dog. If she’s freshly cleaned, this might be a delight of fuzzy, nuzzly therapy. But had you two just returned from a long doggie run, your nose would likely receive a less-than-pleasant whiff of mousy, musty animal-odor.

That would basically describe my Hammock Gear Burrow quilt after I finished walking the Te Araroa. It’s not a totally horrible smell, but it’s mighty strong and it left me no other choice than to go through the arduous, time-consuming, gently-caring, get-completely-wet-and-covered-in-soap, hand-washing process to bring my HG “Blue Moroccan” (full review and specs) back to her fresh, fluffy self.

It was so worth it not just because I’ll have her ready for the next thru-hike, but also because this quilt is now on the list as a go-to piece of equipment and I want to take very good care of it.


post thru-hike gear wrapup: Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite

Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir is a “crinkly cloud of warmth” and ultralite.

Quick, what is the most important activity on a thru-hike?

If you answered, “Hike,” give that reader a Kewpie doll. But, indulge me just for a sec, and let’s rephrase the question just a little. To hike, you need to be strong and focused, and to get there, you need to be well fed and well rested. Each morning you have got to wake up replenished and refreshed, ready for the next day’s rigors or each step is potentially a misery. So I’d say, the most important activity on a thru-hike is a good night’s sleep.

That’s why choosing the best sleep “system” is critical. I conducted a test last year with the two ultralite Therm-a-Rest mattresses I own and decided the time had come and gone for me to manage a good night’s sleep on a closed cell foam pad. They’re just too uncomfortable on my bony hips. So, my choice these days is the blow-up style of mattress and I did not regret choosing Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir Xlite for 101+ nights on the Te Araroa.


post thru-hike gear wrapup: Columbia OutDry ex-reign rain jacket and pants

In New Zealand, when it rains, it pours.

If you’re going to be outdoors for any significant amount of time, you are going to eventually get wet and if you plan to walk the Te Araroa, you will get very wet. I always carry sturdy rain gear on my thru-hikes. I know it’s a cardinal sin in the ultralite community, but on the TA, I saw a few trampers with minimalist gear shivering on the verge of hypothermia and I was glad I packed the full kit.

Obviously, top-notch waterproof gear that is also breathable is indispensable for hikers. It’s also hard to make. That’s because unless you’re a fisherman and want a heavy, 100% impermeable rubber coat that won’t allow water in – or out – you have to make some compromises.


post thru-hike gear wrapup: La Sportiva Akyra mountain running shoe

Shoe swap in Wellington, New Zealand.

You might recall that it was one year ago, while hiking the Coast-to-Coast and aliloop-of-the-lakes in England, that I became a true believer in using trail runners for backpacking. It turns out this is not just a fling. We’re talking full-on love affair made to last for the long haul and that’s because for the Te Araroa, I had fantastic results wearing La Sportiva Akyras. (full review and specs)

In the words of Saturday Night Live’s Stefon – New Zealand has everything: the steepest climbs and the nastiest descents on ankle-twisting rock and mud, narrow catwalks of tussock-covered strips-of-slip requiring the twinkle-toes accuracy of an Alex Honnold, miles and miles of sand and sea, plus water, water and more water in the form of streams, rivers, and wetlands. By day five, my Akyras were sandblasted and mud-caked beyond recognition. But that’s just cosmetics. These babies kept me nimble and secure, one pair per island of over 2,000 miles walking.


post thru-hike gear wrapup: Kavu Fishermans Chillba

Kavu is all about living a big and awesome life.

It’s not that I have anything against baseball caps. I often wear them hiking, biking, kayaking, running, skiing, climbing – you get the idea. But for a long-distance thru-hike, I really need to cover more territory. I am a pony-tailed hiker most of the time, and there’s a lot of exposed skin. A wide-brimmed sun hat is de rigueur so I don’t need to go through the daily ritual of slathering sloppy sunscreen on my ears and the back of my neck.

Before I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2012, I wandered into Midwest Mountaineering here in Minneapolis and stumbled into a relationship with Kavu that changed my life. Kavu is an acronym for an aviation term describing the perfect day: “Klear Above Visibility Unlimited.” I mean how can you not want a bit of this sensibility on your body while hiking – especially on a thru-hike when some days might possibly be a bit less-than-perfect and you gotta push through anyway with a big smile on your face?


post thru-hike gear wrapup: Granite Gear Crown2 60

Olive Oyl was a bit wide with all her pockets full, but she felt great on my back.

When I purchased the iPhone that would become my camera, typewriter, microphone, editing studio and means of communication with the outside world, I needed to ensure it was big enough to handle all those tasks, but small enough to fit easily in the hip-belt pocket of my backpack.

“Olive Oyl” – my Granite Gear Crown2 60 pack (full review and specs) – easily held my mini computer. In fact, it fit like a glove, and the rest of the pack was plenty roomy enough to nestle in all the gear I needed for a four-month tramp with room to spare for around ten days of food.


TA Day 30, Rangiriri to below Hakamarita summit – 29 km

Rained all night.

Maybe it got it out of its system.

I slept well behind Cathy’s pie shop even though we shared nearly an entire bottle of chardonnay. She is a well off Kiwi who lost most of her wealth, but has found her own ‘trail’ after leaving a cheating husband and buying up property to rent. She loves us trail walkers looking for answers walking day after day and felt confident I’d work it all I out, that – like Dorothy – the answers are probably already inside me.

Of course that remains to be seen.


gear list for the Te Araroa

Backpacking: An extended form of hiking in which people carry double the amount of gear they need for half the distance they planned to go in twice the time it should take.
– Unknown

The Blissful Hiker does it!

Packed weight for five months on the Te Araroa under 15 pounds and she’s still taking professional audio gear. Praise the ultralight gods, and all my pals at Minnesota Public Radio.

I want to give a big thank you to Granite Gear, La Sportiva, Tarptent, Leki, Balega, SawyerWestern Mountaineering and Midwest Mountaineering for supporting me. I’m grateful to advocate for these fabulous companies while I (heavily) use their gear on the trail.

And also a huge thank you to John Reamer and Associates for supporting the making of my audio narratives.


Don’t shun (-tion) the “Ten Essentials”

Before any hike, you should ask the question “could I spend the night here?”
– blissful hiker

The ten essentials don’t take up much space in your pack: Navigation, Illumination, Habitation, Insulation, Protection, Medication, Reparation, Incineration, Nutrition, and Hydration

Have you ever set out on a beautiful sunny day that turned into a wet misery half-way through? Did a snowstorm suddenly change course and dump right on your course? Maybe you missed a turn and when backtracking, got lost? That’s the reason the “ten essentials” were created, to help prepare us for the unexpected.

I had fun making each “essential” end in the same suffix, reminding me to never “tion” them, even on a short day-hike.

this sign tells it like it is based on the misfortunes of many an unprepared hiker

  1. Navigation – I always throw in a map and compass. If it rains, snows, or there’s a white out, a compass will keep you moving in the right direction. One wilderness survival course noted that a compass can also keep you from walking in circles should you get lost (!) I have a GPS with spot locator beacon for multi-day hikes that allows me to stay in touch with the outside world should I have an accident or become delayed. But it’s best to keep in mind that rescue could be hours, even days, away.
  2. Illumination – In case you’re be-nighted, you should throw in a headlamp. An extra set of batteries in a ziploc is not a bad idea too.
  3. Habitation – Could you sleep out here tonight? I like to have an emergency bivy sack with me. They’re very light and small and could also help if you get cold. Depending on where you go, a more comprehensive bivy is worth the weight.
  4. Insulation – “Dress in layers” and bring extra layers. Hypothermia kills fast and just being shivery can leave you feeling crabby.
  5. Protection – The sun might be free, but it can burn your skin and bring on heat exhaustion. I find sunscreen messy, so I dress like an Arab in long sleeves, long pants, and hat. Umbrellas are awesome.
  6. Medication – Throw in the basics, like bandaids, tweezers, aspirin, etc. Consider where you’re going when packing a first aid kit, do you need a splint, an epipen, ice pack? I always take the ever-versatile athletic tape.
  7. Reparation -When the sole comes off your boot, you’ll be really slowed down. Believe me, I know. You can store a bunch of duct tape on your water bottle. Safety pins can repair almost everything.
  8. Incineration – I throw a lighter in a ziploc and cotton balls slathered in vaseline in another ziploc for a fail-safe fire starter.
  9. Nutrition – Take a few extra calories for a happy, healthy, fueled hike which may last longer than you anticipated.
  10. Hydration – Remember you can survive three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Iodine pills weigh next to nothing and kill most bacteria. Don’t forget a water bottle.

There is no 11th essential, but I’d add take along a good attitude, one ready to turn back and give up the summit if the day turns against you. The hike will be there tomorrow and it takes a balanced person to avoid getting into the position to need the essentials.

~Hike on and have fun, alison

Storms brewing near the saddle between Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Mountain, CO

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