If you’ve looked for hiking footwear recently, no doubt you’ve noticed a dizzying array of options. Here’s a quick guide to finding the right shoe for your foot in five easy steps.

  1. Which shoe type fits your terrain and hiking style?
    1. Trail Runner – Heavier than a road running shoe, but still can be light weight. They are designed to support and protect the foot on rugged trails.
    2. Light Hiker – Made for hiking on well-established trails, they are not meant for extremely rocky, rugged or off trail hiking.
    3. Mid Hiker – These are sturdier than the light hikers, usually with deeper lugs for increased traction.
    4. Heavy Hiker – Sturdy, usually boots that are higher cut and will protect the ankle and foot.
  1. Boot or shoe?
    1. A shoe is typically lighter in weight, more flexible and cooler than a boot. Shoes will mold to your foot faster and are often more comfortable out of the box. But they will usually wear out faster than a boot.
    2. A boot is usually thicker than a shoe and is heavier. Boots will help support the weight of a pack and often feature more dense midsole construction. A boot will usually offers more protection for your ankle.
  1. Waterproof or non-waterproof?
    1. For shorter summer hikes, non-waterproof shoes will offer more breathability. They are also often more budget friendly and lighter in weight.
    2. Waterproof shoes provide valuable protection from the elements on rainy days, stream crossings, and winter hikes. Waterproof shoes do not breathe as well as non-waterproof, and can trap moisture both directions. If you tend to have sweaty feet, keep this in mind. Waterproof shoes are typically a little more expensive than non-waterproof.
  1. Get a perfect fit.
    1. No guess work – an in store fitting is the best way to get shoes that work well for you. Our staff is always happy to measure your feet.
    2. It is very important to try on both shoes. Most people have one foot that is longer than the other and you want to make sure you have a proper fitting for both feet.
    3. Wear the correct sock when trying on hiking shoes. Make sure they are the same thickness as what you will be hiking in. A medium thickness is typically recommended. No cotton socks – they will give you blisters!
    4. Check to see if your foot slides when going down hill or your heel is slipping when going up hill. We have a special knot to fix that.
    5. Shoe size varies from company to company, don’t be surprised if you wear different sizes in different shoes. Some shoes are more narrow, while others can be a little wider. One of our shoe experts can recommend styles that will work well for you.
  1. Take ’em for a test ride.
    1. While a proper fitting will get you most of the way to a perfect fit, some issues may not be noticeable on a 10 minute jaunt around the store. Wear your new shoes around inside the house prior to taking them on the trail. I recommend wearing them while vacuuming or doing chores to get a feel for what they will be like during extended wear.

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Take it from someone who has contracted a water-born infection before. Water purification is something you never want to skimp on. After dealing with Giardia from ingesting improperly “purified” water, I always take water purification seriously.
There are several methods of purifying water. Here are four of the safest ways (when used properly).
1) Filters
There are several types of water filters including pump, gravity, and straws. My preferred method has been gravity filters because of the ease of setting up the filter. Most gravity filters require gathering water in a dromedary, attaching the filter tubing and let gravity take it from there. The unclean water flows through the tubing into the filter. Most gravity filters include several layers of filtration to catch micro-organisms that cause infections in human digestive systems.
A lot of filters will also contain a chemical such as activated carbon to reduce bitter tastes of tannins released from decaying leaves in a water source.
Filters are a favorite of many outdoors people because they have the least negative effect on the taste of water, and they can be lightweight and easily packable. They’re also budget friendly, because they are multi-use and replacing parts is easy and cost-effective. To lengthen the life of your filter,  gather water from clear water sources so that sand and debris does not clog the filter.
Filters do not protect against viruses, so they are not a typical preference of people traveling to regions with higher rates of virus contamination.
2) Chemical treatment
The two most common ways of treating water with chemicals are iodine and chlorine. Most people bring these purification types with them as backups if water filters break. They are lightweight options, though not reusable and can take up to several hours to be effective in treating water – longer if the water is cold. Chemical treatments for water leave a distinctive taste, which can be counteracted by neutralizing tablets or water flavoring. Iodine does not protect against
Cryptosporidium, but does purify most other protozoa.
3) Boiling
Boiling is effective when used properly. It’s not a common purification method anymore, except as a backup method or in specialty trip situations. A rolling boil must be reached for a minimum of one whole minute, or three minutes for higher elevation (when in doubt, go longer). This is time and fuel consuming. In addition to the time to reach a full boil, you then have to wait for the water to cool to a drinkable temperature.
This purification method can be used for murky water, and then strained through a clean bandannas or other fabrics to filter out debris and sand.  
 
4) UV Light
UV purification is a relatively new method and is not a common practice. It works by killing bacteria and viruses. UV light purification is usually in the form of a “pen” that is run on batteries. The light end goes directly into the water bottle or dromedary and either stirred or shaken. It is rarely used by itself, because it does not filter out any chemicals or debris in water. UV light purifiers are also expensive, and many people do not trust using anything that requires batteries in the back country. It is important to bring a backup purification method if this is your primary. 
 
When planning a trip into the back country, it is important to plan water sources along your hike. Take note of any trail guides that warn of unreliable water sources, as they can disappear in dry seasons. Whatever your preferred method of water purification is, always take a backup and follow instructions carefully.
I was lucky that when I contracted the parasite, I recognized the symptoms early and was able to seek treatment early on. Some water-born pathogens can cause life-long complications, dehydration, and even death if left untreated.
Fewer crowds and bare trees make winter hikes unbeatable for solitude and sweeping views. Be prepared to get the most out of winter adventures with these 6 tips.
Check the Weather
Before any hike you should check the weather, but this is even more important when winter hiking. You’ll want to check not only the temperature, but the predicted precipitation, wind and daylight hours so you can plan accordingly. Don’t forget that high elevation and bald peaks can make trail temps much colder than in town.
Layers, Layers, Layers…
Be prepared for all conditions. You may work up a sweat going up a steep incline and times but be cold walking a flat section or taking a moment to enjoy the view.  Be prepared for unexpected changes in the weather by bringing layers that offer insulation and wind/water protection.
Pack Safety Equipment
Hiking in the winter can be unpredictable at times. Trails and conditions may not be what you are used to during the warmer months. Make sure that you have the necessary emergency equipment (see our blog post on Outdoor Safety Basics). It is always a good idea to throw a basic first aid kit in your bag and let someone know your planned route and return time.
Start Early and Be Flexible
Because of the limited sunlight during the winter months, you might want to start earlier than usual on your adventure. Plan a turn-around time and stick to it so you can get out of the elements before the sun goes down and the temperature drops.
Invest in Good Gear
With winter hiking, it’s critical to have the appropriate gear when heading out. Avoid cotton, it loses its warmth when wet and takes a long time to dry. Instead opt for synthetic, merino, or bamboo apparel.
A few gear essentials are waterproof or insulated boots, baselayer, something to keep your head warm (hat, balaclava, etc), an insulated jacket, and a weatherproof shell. It is always good to have a change of clothes in your bag or waiting for you in your car!
Treat yo’ self!
After braving the harsh conditions of winter, treat yourself to a nice warm meal and a hot cup of cocoa or tea. It’s always good to have a thermos of something hot waiting for you at your car or in your pack.
The dog days of summer.

Tubing the French Broad River is a quintessential Asheville experience, one which combines languid, fluvial enjoyment with artistic urban charm. You will float through forests, breeze past breweries, and find ample opportunity to shore up for local brews, bonfires, and food trucks. It’s no wonder that tubing has become a time-honored tradition here in Beer City. Read on for tips and tricks for cruising the French Broad in style.

What to expect

Get ready for a pleasant and peaceful day on the water. There are no rapids within this section of the river, only ripples, so allow yourself to relax and allow the current to gently carry you away. In fact, it’s quite possible to float the whole river without getting wet, although you’ll probably choose to swim or get blasted by the water cannon at the Asheville Outdoor Center.

Be prepared for a highly social excursion. While there are plenty of places to find solitude on the French Broad River, this section is not one of them. On any given summer day you can expect whole legions of floaters, but as long as you know what you’re in for, this can make for a festive and convivial atmosphere.

What to Bring

Now this is how you partake in one of Asheville's greatest summer traditions
Now this is how you partake in one of Asheville’s greatest summer traditions

Melina Coogan

Aside from a raft, water shoes, and the recommended PFD, the seasoned floater will bring along a well-stocked cooler filled with snacks, ice water, and beverages. Most outfitters rent cooler floats, although they strictly prohibit glass containers. A tube paddle is optional but can help you keep up speed during particularly slow sections. Remember to bring a change of clothes, your ID, and plenty of sunscreens.

Getting In

The French Broad from above.
The French Broad from above.

Melina Coogan

As you plan your excursion, take into consideration how many miles you’d like to cover, time in the sun, and how eager you are to drink your take-out beer. Float times will always depend on water levels.

For an extended day on the river, begin at Hominy Creek River Park in West Asheville, just north of the Biltmore Estate. A second option, Carrier Park, is located approximately 1.5 miles downriver, about an hour and fifteen-minute float from Hominy Creek. For a shorter day, put in at Jean Webb River Park, two miles (about a forty-five-minute float) from Carrier.

All three parks offer stacked concrete steps for easy entry. In addition, a number of informal pull-offs and sandy shoals offer even more opportunity to get in the water. Always be minded of private property.

Many riverside businesses offer and encourage river access, including Asheville Outdoor Center, Asheville Adventure Rentals, and 12 Bones BBQ.

Getting Out

A summer evening at The Wedge Brewery.
A summer evening at The Wedge Brewery.

Melina Coogan

While nothing beats a day on the river, some Asheville locals believe that the real fun begins at the take-out. That’s because riverside bars and restaurants offer a seamless transition between cold river and cold beer, no driving necessary.

Your first option for dining is 12 Bones Smokehouse, which offers slow-cooked, scratch-made BBQ cooked in the traditional Carolina style. Their mouthwatering ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and sides (tangy pickled okra, jalapeño cheese grits) are famous throughout the Southeast; in fact, President Obama names 12 Bones as his all-time favorite BBQ joint, and claims it’s the number one reason he purchased a home outside of Asheville!

Unfortunately for everyone, their Riverside location is only opened during the weekdays. That’s right, the store owner claims their popularity would utterly overwhelm them on weekends, to the point where the cooks would not be able to keep up with demand! If you’re floating by Monday through Friday, make sure and stop for some of this legendary Southern cuisine. If you’re a weekend warrior, float on by.

Thankfully, The Wedge Brewery is just downriver. This is the most popular take-out for those who put in at Hominy Creek or Carrier Park. Famous for their Iron Rail IPA, The Wedge is a unique brewery that features outdoor seating in an eclectic and inviting ambiance. Split a pitcher of Apricot Pale Ale and a bucket of peanuts, or grab a bite from one of the on-site food trucks, such as El Kimchi or Melt Your Heart Grilled Cheese.

Your final stop on “The French Broad pub crawl” is the Bywater Bar, a hot-spot for adventure enthusiasts offering a full cocktail menu, outdoor grill, and 18 beers on tap. Between the live music, lawn games, and locals milling between bonfires, you may feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a summer camp for grown-ups. Just remember that someone still has to drive the shuttle back to the put-in, so imbibe accordingly.

River cruisers and fans of the River Arts District now have even more look forward to: the much-anticipated opening of both the Smoky Park Supper Club and New Belgium Brewery. Both establishments will offer yet another tempting reason to eddy out for beer, BBQ, and live music.

Rentals and Shuttles

Slow current makes for a peaceful float.
Slow current makes for a peaceful float.

Melina Coogan

For an affordable price,  Asheville Outdoor Center and Zen Tubing offer rentals and shuttle services for a variety of river sections. Asheville Adventure Rentals offers shuttles, gear, and beta for all things paddle sports. Here at Frugal Backpacker, you can find kayaks, tubes, and air pumps, and we will gladly fill up any tube you bring in the door.

By all means, bring along your pup, but keep her safe and happy in the bird Dog K9 Personal Floatation Device, created by Astral Designs, a local Asheville PFD, and footwear company.

More to Explore

Has tubing wet your appetite for the river life? There are some fantastic opportunities for adventure along the 140 miles of the French Broad River. Check out The French Broad Paddle Trail for a multi-day river trip, or bounce down the class III rapids of  Section 9  by raft or kayak. This ancient river is one of Asheville’s greatest assets—go forth and explore!

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Featured image provided by Eli Duke

Travel, especially international travel, is a perennial wish list topper for most adventure lovers, but is all too often brushed aside by budget concerns. As an avid traveler on a budget, I can relate. But, if done properly, international travel doesn’t have to be an out of reach luxury. In fact, I’ve found that many of the travel experiences that I’ve enjoyed the most, have been those that were the least expensive. Here are a few of my tested strategies for planning an enjoyable trip on a frugal budget.

Rethink Your Destinations

Instead of sticking to tried and true tourist destinations, get off the beaten path. Consider limiting your time in larger cities and exploring the countryside, where prices tend to be lower. Choosing less well know destinations in the same region can also be a great way to save. Dying to explore the mediterranean coast? Your budget will stretch much further in Croatia or Slovenia than in France or Italy.

Pick What is Important to You

Spending top dollar on every aspect of your trip can add up quickly. But fulfilling travel is all about having the experiences that you truly value. Spend your budget on the things that matter to you and follow our tips to save everywhere else.

-Accommodations: Instead of springing for a hotel in the city center, staying even a couple miles away can equal some serious savings. Finding a place on Airbnb is a great way to get comfortable accommodations and meet locals. Plus, chances are you’ll be able to save a nice chunk of dough by preparing some meals and snacks in your own kitchen. Hostels and house sitting can also be great ways to save on a place to stay.

-Food: I love food. Like, really, love food. So this is one area where I’m not willing to compromise. Fortunately, in many countries, the really good stuff doesn’t have to be expensive. Avoid restaurants close to tourist destinations that cater to foreigners (multilingual menus are usually a good indicator) and opt for establishments frequented by locals; they tend to be less expensive and higher quality.

I also love exploring farmer’s markets. It’s a great way to get a real test of the local flavor and get high quality food for a great price, perfect for a picnic or a relaxing evening in. As a bonus, vendors are usually friendly and willing to share their favorite local spots.

-Sight Seeing: Many points of interest have hefty fees that can add up quickly. See the ones that are really important to you, but avoid the trap of feeling like you have to see every point of interest in a particular city. If landmarks and museums mean a lot to you, save some dough by purchasing a discount ticket that includes multiple destinations. Many museums offer free entry on certain days, do some research ahead of time, and to take advantage of this.

Don’t discount the best way to see most cities – your own two feet. Not only is walking around free, it’s a great way to get a feel for the unique flavor of the city and see things you’d miss on the big tours.

-Transportation: From airfare to intercity transportation, getting around can occupy a large portion of your budget, making it a great place to find some savings.

Being flexible when looking at flights can be a huge money saver. If you don’t mind a little bit of a drive, flying out of a hub city like Atlanta or Charlotte can seriously expand your cheap flight options.

One of my favorite recent discoveries to get a little more bang for my travel buck is Clever Layover, a website that takes your starting and ending destinations and strings flights together to find you a great deal. It also offers the option of finding you a long layover in a third city of your choice. It’s an awesome way to save on multi city trips. I used it when planning a recent trip to Romania and was able to get a ticket that allowed me to spend a few days in London and then continue on to Romania, for several hundred dollars less than a ticket to Romania alone.

Skipping the rental car in cities and walking or taking public transportation saves you the hassle and expense of paying for parking. For city transfers, don’t forget to check out low cost airlines; many of them don’t show up on traditional airline comparison websites, so this may require some research.

Buy Good Gear Once

Buying good travel gear and apparel can be pricey, but it’s an investment that will last you for years and will save you money in the long haul. Most higher quality brands, like Osprey and Thule, offer lifetime warranties and bombproof construction. Not to mention, they are much more comfortable to travel with. After enduring cheap luggage on an extended trip, my Osprey bag has become one of my most prized possessions. The same thing goes for clothing. High quality clothing is versatile, lasts a lifetime, and will keep you smiling and comfortable on your journey.

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