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Winter Hiking in the North Carolina Mountains

A brisk trek with friends is one of our favorite activities during the season of staying inside. When a sunny day shines down between bouts of frosty mornings and blustery afternoons, it’s a great time to explore new trails that are harder to access during the warmer months. It’s the perfect prescription to warm you up on those chilly, gloomy days!

As a kid, winter is the season of finding the best spot for sledding, snowball throwing, and snow fort building quicker than anyone else. As an adult, it can be making fresh tracks in the snow or avoiding mud puddles as you check out a view usually obscured by leaves during the spring and summer. There are also few sights that compare to a frozen mountain waterfall and one of the coolest sights to be seen in WNC: needle ice.

There are plenty of rewards to a winter hike including refreshing temperatures, fewer fellow hikers, and endless views of deep blue skies. While higher elevations typically see snow, the valleys around Asheville are usually clear and great on mild days. The North Carolina Arboretum is a great place to explore during these months as sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are often inaccessible since it’s never treated or plowed.

As with any season, it’s best to be prepared when heading out for a hike of any length. Trail-tested essentials to keep in your daypack year round are water bottles, trekking poles, snacks, first aid kit, and whistle. A headlamp and a rain jacket are also imperative if you like to enjoy too-beautiful-to-miss sunsets or make a wrong turn. This is one season you can leave the insect repellant at home.

With heavier used trails, winter hiking can present packed snow turned slick or slushy mud. Consult with a footwear expert at Frugal Backpacker to choose footwear based on expected trail conditions. Winter hikers usually have better grip and sturdy ankle support. A good pair of hiking boots – no matter the season – provide great piece of mind.

Even though the days seem shorter, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy an afternoon or weekend hike and come back home for a warm bowl of chili or cup of tea. Layer up and get outdoors!

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503 Coats for Eblen Charities

Even after 54 years, the spirit of the mountains we call home continues to amaze. We issued a challenge to collect 300 coats during our annual Bundle Up for Good coat drive for Eblen Charities. You helped us blow past that goal by donating 503 quality coats for those in our community who need them most, just as the lowest temperatures of winter hit.

During November and December, we joined with Diamond Brand Outdoors and our customers to collect coats, hats, and gloves for the third year in row. Thanks for showing us the great things that can happen when we all join forces to strengthen our community!

We’re local and we like to support local groups doing awesome things to make our little corner of the world a better place. Call it civic pride or mountain spirit, but we think it’s the right thing to do. When you choose an independent, small business like ours, you not only enjoy a more personal experience, you’re helping build community, strengthen our local economy, create jobs, and shape Western North Carolina’s character. In 2017, we were able to support more than 60 organizations with over $70,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

If you didn’t get a chance to drop off any items, you can support Eblen Charities with a donation or as a volunteer.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.

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Lake Julian Festival of Lights

Time spent with family creating lasting memories is what the holiday season is all about. Lake Julian’s 17th annual Festival of Lights is a local favorite with games, crafts, s’mores, and an impressive collections of 50 animated light displays. Drive through tickets are $10 per passenger vehicle at the gate, but stop in Frugal Backpacker or any Diamond Brand Outdoors location to purchase advance tickets for just $7 per vehicle (excludes large vans, motor coaches, and buses). The park is open nightly from 6:00-9:00 p.m. through December 23.

Your ticket purchase also helps the community. 20% of proceeds are donated to Buncombe County Special Olympics, while the remaining income is reinvested by Buncombe County Recreation Services to enhance the Festival of Lights for the following year. Be sure to add this magical journey to your holiday bucket list. Watch the lights twinkle over the lake and turn on your favorite yuletide tunes!

More about Lake Julian (from Romantic Asheville)
Lake Julian Park is a family recreational facility located on the banks of 300 acre Lake Julian in Arden. The park offers picnicking, boating, fishing, a playground, outdoor games, and special events. Lake Julian has an abundance of bass, catfish, brim, crappie, and imported Tilapia. Because Lake Julian is used as a cooling agent for Progress Energy the lake is “thermal.” Some of the best fishing occurs from October through March. Six picnic shelters are available for rent at Lake Julian Park. In addition to the shelters, many tables and grills are available at no charge on a first-come first-served basis.

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Feature image provided by Buncombe County Recreation Services

Share the Frugie Love

We think our frugal-loving friends are pretty awesome! We’re showing some love to all of you frugies with exclusive access to early holiday deals. Through November 22, save 40% on the men’s and women’s apparel sample, footwear, and gear picks of your choice. Just show us the coupons below.

You can receive special offers by email when you join our newsletter. You can also score 20% off any item when you donate a gently-used coat before December 24.

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One category discount per customer (men’s sample clothing, women’s sample clothing, pack or sleeping bag, and footwear). Coupons may not be combined with any other offers. Valid on regular priced items only and some exclusions may apply. No rainchecks; sizes and colors are limited. Socks and footwear accessories excluded.

Bundle Up for Good Coat Drive 2017

Last year, you helped us get over 200 coats to those in our community who need them most. This year, we’ve set a goal of 300 coats for Eblen Charities and you can score a discount for doing good.

November 12-December 24, you’ll receive 20% off an item for bringing in a gently used coat. (There’s a limit of one discount per person during the length of this promotion.) You can drop off a coat at Frugal Backpacker or either Diamond Brand location. You’ll only be able to use the discount on one item, but if you’d like to bring in multiple coats during the drive, that’s awesome! We’re also not allowed to discount certain items like gift cards.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.

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Free $10 Gear Card When You Purchases $50

Buying gift cards for friends and family members? Give a personal, thoughtful gift of adventure and get a treat for yourself in the process!

Whether you’ve got someone on your list who’s hard to shop for or you want to keep some extra gifts on hand just in case, Frugal Backpacker gift cards are excellent choices. Through December 24, get a free bonus $10 gear card when you purchase $50 in gift cards at Frugal Backpacker or Diamond Brand Outdoors. The bonus gear card can be used for anything in stock, December 26-January 31. There’s no limit on how many bonus gear cards you can earn!

People enjoy receiving gift cards because they get to choose their own gift, ensuring they’ll think of you each time they use their new vest, hiking shoes, or tent. Gift cards never expire and can be used at Frugal Backpacker or any Diamond Brand Outdoors location. A Frugal Backpacker gift card is the gift of memories and experiences that last for years — from enjoying a campfire with friends in December, camping with family in March, lounging in a hammock on a sunny day in June, or hitting the trails in September.

If you’re looking for a bulk gift card purchase, we offer a discount of 20%-30% depending on the total purchase. Just call (828) 209-1530 or stop in for more information.

Gift cards can also be purchased online, but the free bonus $10 gear card offer is only available in stores.

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Donate Your Eclipse Glasses

As Monday’s total solar eclipse passed through Western North Carolina, it offered a rare moment for friends and families to collectively enjoy an unique outdoors experience. In the days leading up to the big event, eclipse glasses were the hottest item in town. Now that the event has passed, we’re collecting your used eclipse glasses and donating them to Astronomers Without Borders and local schools. The glasses do not need to be those sold by Frugal Backpacker.

Bring in your solar eclipse glasses by Monday, August 28, and we’ll give you a coupon for $5 off any purchase of $20 or more. Astronomers Without Borders has announced a program to collect the used glasses and distribute them to schools in South American and parts of Asia, which will experience their own eclipses in 2019.

Since we’re local, we’re also working with local school systems interested in used glasses for astronomy activities and experiments. If you’re an interested local educator, shoot us an email.

The lenses on eclipse glasses expire after three years, meaning they’re not safe to use when the next solar eclipse moves through eastern Canada, the central United States, and part of Mexico in 2024. Many locals are framing or preserving them as souvenirs of the celestial experience. Paper frames can be recycled, but you’ll need to remove the lenses. Specialty recyclers like camera stores may accept solar filters for recycling. Glasses with plastic frames are likely not recyclable.

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Your Total Solar Eclipse Checklist

Your opportunity to experience a rare total solar eclipse in western North Carolina arrives on Monday, August 21. To make sure you’re prepared and packed for totality, the experts at Frugal Backpacker have assembled this helpful checklist. For more on what to expect, check out Everything You Need to Know About August’s Total Solar Eclipse.

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of this checklist.

What to Do Now for the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Select the best location and route for viewing the eclipse based on accessibility, weather forecast, and the time of day the path of totality will pass through the area. Many prime viewing spots require tickets or have a capacity cap in place for the day, so do your homework.
  • Select an alternate location and route. 64,000 tourists are expected to visit the mountains for the eclipse.
  • Book lodging close to your primary viewing location. Hotel rooms, campsites, and cabins are going fast!
  • Build your total solar eclipse viewing kit. (See the bottom of this post for a checklist.)
  • Purchase your eclipse viewing glasses at Diamond Brand Outdoors. We’ve ordered a lot, but they’re going fast!
  • Use an app, website, or book to find out which bright stars and planets you can expect to see during the totality, impressing your friends and kids!

What to Do the Week of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Test all of your equipment by doing a “dry run.” Nothing’s worse than having a faulty camera when the big event gets underway!
  • Pack your total solar eclipse viewing kit and camping kit.
  • Review the eclipse timing and weather forecasts for your primary and alternate viewing locations.

What to Do the Day of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Leave early for your viewing location.
  • Claim your spot by setting up chairs and viewing equipment, but remember to be a good neighbor so others may enjoy the experience.
  • Test your equipment.
  • Enjoy the day with your friends and family. The time of totality will be brief, but the experience leading up and following the first total solar eclipse in western North Carolina since 1506 will lead to storied memories for years to come.

Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Kit Checklist

  • WNC + NATIONAL PARK MAPS: Cell towers will likely be overloaded, so don’t rely on an app.
  • ECLIPSE VIEWING GLASSES: You must have these for direct solar viewing. They’re inexpensive and available now.
  • HAT: To protect your head from the sun while you wait for the main event.
  • SUNGLASSES: NOT to look at the sun, but to cut down on the glare when you’re looking everywhere else.
  • PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER: Make sure you’ll be able to document the day through photos and videos.
  • CAMPING CHAIRS + TABLES: Get yourself a chance to stake your claim to watch and rest after the excitement!
  • BLANKETS: No matter where you’re watching, blankets keep things cleaner. Bring more than you think you need.
  • COOLER: You’ll likely get to your viewing area hours before the eclipse. Drinks, lunch, and snacks are a must!
  • DRINKWARE + WATER BOTTLES: Insulated cups and tumblers keep your drinks cold (or hot), don’t sweat, and are reusable.
  • HEADLAMP OR FLASHLIGHT: Since you’ll be looking up, this is primarily for emergencies. Use the red setting instead of white.
  • COMPASS: There’s plenty of information online that will tell you exactly where to look as totality begins.
  • CAMERA: This is one of the times you may want a nicer camera than you’ll find on your phone.
  • CELL PHONE: Coverage may be too spotty for weather and GPS, but your clock and camera will still work.
  • WATER: Always stay hydrated, whether the sun is shining or not.
  • SUNSCREEN: Always a good idea when you’ll be outside for any period of time.
  • INSECT REPELLENT: Another good idea anytime you’re heading into the outdoors.
  • OUTDOOR GAMES: Help pass the time and enjoy some relaxation with friends and family.
  • HAMMOCK: If you’ve got space to set up an ENO hammock or WindPouch, laying down is a great way to watch.
  • ELECTRICAL TAPE: Some folks don’t know how to turn off their camera’s flash. Be prepared to help them out.
  • CAMPING KIT (OPTIONAL): Traveling the day before or staying overnight after the eclipse helps avoid traffic and can be fun!
    • TENT
    • SLEEPING BAG FOR EACH CAMPER
    • LANTERN
    • SLEEPING PAD FOR EACH CAMPER
    • PILLOWS
    • TARPS
    • STOVE + FUEL
    • MATCHES
    • FRYING PAN + POT
    • CUTTING BOARD + KNIFE
    • SPONGE, SOAP, + BIN FOR WASHING DISHES
    • PAPER TOWELS
    • FIREWOOD (IF ALLOWED)
    • ROASTING STICKS FOR S’MORES + HOT DOGS
    • BEAR KEG
    • ICE
    • TRASH BAGS
    • FIRST AID KIT
    • CORKSCREW

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Win a Pair of KEEN Shoes, Sandals, or Boots

We hear people like free stuff so we’re giving away more of it this year! Make sure you’re signed up for our super duper fly emails to make sure you don’t miss any contests.

KEEN is one of our favorite outdoor brands. Not only do they make pioneering, quality footwear, they also believe we should all live and work monumental every day. Like other Going Further brands, KEEN strives to reduce the company’s impact on the environment, protect the places where we play, and give back to communities in need.

We’ve partnered with KEEN to give away a pair of shoes in August. You can choose from any pair in stock at Frugal Backpacker orDiamond Brand Outdoors. You can also chat with one of their experts at the Asheville Outdoor Show on September 17 to learn their evolving story, from the iconic Newport sandal to the Terradora hiker.

Introducing KEEN Terradora

From off-the-grid trails to urban hiking on city streets, women on a journey know that the right shoe makes all the difference. That’s why our Terradora shoe has an uncompromising focus on fit. It’s about biomechanics, and an evolution in women-specific performance footwear. And with the streamlined design, progressive style and color palette, it pairs as well with jeans as it does with technical outerwear.

  • WOMEN’S-SPECIFIC FIT

    Designed for a woman’s foot, with a glove-like fit and a cushioned panel to take pressure off the Achilles.

  • HILL PERFORMANCE

    Get the best of both worlds: efficiency and speed on uphill climbs, cushion and protection on the way back down.

  • IMMEDIATE COMFORT

    Lightweight, flexible construction and a lower collar height encourage freedom of movement without sacrificing support.

Events

Asheville Outdoor Show 2018

Stay tuned for BIG changes to this one-of-a-kind community driven event celebrating all things outdoors! There will still be plenty of local gear makers and national innovators showcasing the latest trends in outdoor recreation, but you’ll find far more diverse offerings of interactive demos, educational workshops, and informative speakers.

Check out pictures from last year!

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Kids are welcome at this free public event. There’s even an awesome Family Adventure Zone!

Women Outdoors in the Mountains

Mountain women love to explore wherever the adventure takes them. If you’re equally at home on the trail or on the town, join other women to share adventures, learn new skills, and gain insights and experience at this free inaugural event.

Frugal Backpacker gets women. And we get them geared up, excited, and ready for the outdoors with expert advice, clothing, and top outdoor products for less.

FREE CLINICS + WORKSHOPS

  • 12:00 – Eating Healthy in the Outdoors
  • 1:00 – Choosing the Right Hiking Boots
  • 2:00 – How to Fit (and Pack) a Backpack
  • 3:00 – Leave No Trace Principles
  • 4:00 – Layering for Adventure
  • 4:30 – Dressing for the Outdoors
  • 5:00 – Hiking Clothing + Outdoor Outfits Fashion Show
  • 5:30 – Glamping and Incredible Asheville Adventures

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Kids and well-behaved pets on leash are welcome at this community event.

The Ten Essentials

The Ten Essentials date back to the 1930s, when the Seattle-based organization The Mountaineers assembled the first list to help people be prepared for emergency situations in the outdoors. Though they’ve been revised over time, the lit remains dedicated to answering two basic questions:

  • Can you respond positively to an accident or emergency?
  • Can you safely spend a night (or more) outside?

Julie S. will run through the current list, Ten Essentials: A Systems Approach, and expand on what you can do to ensure a safe day hike, backpacking trip, or other outdoor activity. Come with questions!

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Kids and well-behaved pets are welcome at this free interactive presentation.

Backcountry Camping in the Pisgah Ranger District

One of the most popular areas for hiking in Western North Carolina is the Pisgah Ranger District, located southwest of Asheville. Filled with scenic roads, backcountry and wilderness areas, geologic points of interests, and more, there’s no reason to limit your time spent in PRD to day hikes.

Join Graham Coffey, co-author of Backcountry Camping in the Pisgah Ranger District with Brooke Harrison, the first all-inclusive guide to this area. Drawing on knowledge from years as a wilderness guide working in Pisgah National Forest and experiences backpacking with others, this interactive presentation will help you find the passion, peace, and joy these woods have given the authors.

There will be plenty of time for Q&A, as well as a chance to purchase signed copies of Graham’s book.

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Kids and well-behaved pets are welcome at this free presentation.