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The Ultimate Budget Friendly Adventure Vehicle

One of my all time favourite vehicles is the 3rd generation 4Runner which Toyota produced from 1996-2002. At one point my mother drove a 2002 4Runner Badlands Edition with a hood scoop, fender flairs and All Terrain tires. It was a beast and it is the vehicle I first drove as a teenager. Toyota in general is known for the dependability of their vehicles and the 3rd gen 4Runner ranks up there with their best of all time. For example, one friend purchased a stock 2000 4Runner, which was 13 years old at the time, and drove it all the way from Alaska to Patagonia. The only modification was a sleeping platform he installed in the back. He put 70,000 kilometers on it over the course of the trip and in many cases ended up towing out others with much newer vehicles and expensive modifications.

In early 2016 I sold my ’08 Subaru and purchased a stock 2000 4Runner 4×4 with a 5 speed manual transmission and over 300,000 kilometers on it. I bought the 4Runner for approximately $5000 CAD which by today’s standards was quite the bargain (the popularity of this era of 4Runner has skyrocketed as of late and the price has followed suit). My goal with buying the 4Runner was to have a dependable vehicle for adventures that I really enjoyed driving without having a car payment. With the sale of the Sube I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase the 4Runner outright.

One thing that supported my budget friendly approach is that I have always enjoyed doing my own vehicle maintenance. This approach has allowed me to learn many hands on mechanical skills over the years. I have found that the key is to be patient, find a good manual and take things one small step at a time. Each endeavour may seem daunting but each little step is very achievable, which is not unlike most outdoor adventures. Immediately after buying the 4Runner I replaced the timing belt and water pump which was the recommended preventative maintenance based on the mileage. After this I drove the 4Runner for 4 years and 60,000 km completely worry free with the only other ‘modification’ being a solid set of light truck tires (32″ Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs). Fast forward to early 2020, my water pump began to weep a small amount of coolant so I spent a bit of time in the engine bay again. This time around I replaced the timing belt, water pump along with coolant hoses, oil cooler gaskets and the valve cover gaskets to remedy a few minor items I discovered while in the engine bay. Again this was all preventative maintenance that I completed with the intention of driving the 4Runner for several more years.

Of course there were days when I dreamed of all the modifications I would do to the 4Runner. A lift, custom plate bumpers, winch, snorkel and the list goes on. I even listed all of the modifications out and priced them… $9.5k (almost double the purchase price of the vehicle). Although it’s fun to dream, the practical side of me could never bring myself to spend that kind of money on a vehicle that was working perfectly as it was. I was able to load up my camping gear, hiking gear, bike or snowboard and go anywhere I liked no matter what the weather. Any offroading I did was very minor so between the selectable 4Lo gear ratio and the aggressive tires I was able to go anywhere I liked.

When roof top tents became all the rage I decided that the $3k price tag was another thing I wasn’t willing to pay. So instead I built a custom drawer system in the back that doubled as a sleeping platform and avoided removal of the rear seats (which are often removed for sleep platforms in the 3rd gen 4Runners). I combined various elements of systems I had seen over the years and also leveraged my own creativity to come up with something that worked great for my purposes. I built the entire unit for less than $500 CAD.

Driving an older vehicle was a point of pride for me. I absolutely beamed when driving my 4Runner, especially when I was in 4Lo putting through a chopping looking for a spot to camp for the night while on a bike trip. I was fortunate that I never had any major mechanical failures while out on adventures but I was always prepared either way. I would carry enough tools that I would be able to fix minor things in a pinch but above all I focused on my mindset. I focused on having fun adventures for very minimal cost. I would also remind myself that if my vehicle did happen to break down that I was prepared for it so there was no point stressing about something that may or may not happen. It’s easy to always want the next best thing, be it the brand new bike or the new truck. Sometimes you will tell yourself the story of how if you only had that new vehicle you would be able to go on a more ambitious adventure. I can happily report that driving a 15-20 year old 4Runner for 5+ years did not hold me back one little bit. Often times, even though some of my friends had newer vehicles we would still take my 4Runner. Between my storage system, 6 bike rack and roof box it often made more sense as I was well prepared for any adventure. However, for full transparency, I usually pushed to take my 4Runner for my sheer love of driving it.

In the end I drove the 4Runner for 5+ years and put more than 60,000 kilometers on it with essentially zero problems. I completed preventative maintenance, built a custom storage system / sleep platform and had added more aggressive light truck tires to support my adventures. All together I put approximately $7k CAD into my 4Runner. In my mind that’s an incredible price to pay for such a capable vehicle that took me on countless adventures into the mountains and beyond.

My goal with writing this post is to encourage others who may feel stuck without that new vehicle or new piece of gear to reset their mindset when it comes to adventures. You don’t need all the newest gear to get out and explore. You can do a lot with a budget friendly vehicle, a bit of preparation and a positive mindset. If you have an older vehicle that you love to adventure with I would very much enjoy hearing about it. I encourage you to reach out, tell me your story and share a few pictures. You might even get featured on our Instagram page or in a future blog post!

Happy Trails,

Dave T

Author’s Note: In 2020 I found a great deal on a new Tacoma and reluctantly decided to replace the 4Runner. I plan to drive my Tacoma for 10+ years and log many many adventures with it as well. Since the Taco is my new long term adventure vehicle keep an eye out for photos and articles that feature it in the future. Again I am motivated to see how much I can do with the stock vehicle, although I did once again upgrade to a set of 32” Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs.

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Worn Soles – Getting maximum use from your equipment

Many people feel they need the newest top of the line gear before they can get out for an adventure. I love new outdoor gear as much as the next person but over the years I have learned to love the gear I have and I resist replacing gear until it is literally falling apart or I have been using it well beyond its’ capabilities for some time. The truth is you really don’t need much to be able to go for a hike, an overnight camping trip or even to get out snowboarding. You might just need to be creative and determined.

I grew up in rural Nova Scotia abundant with rolling hills and beautiful shorelines to explore. My siblings and I were hiking and mountain biking before we knew that they could be a specific recreational activity. For us it was just going outside to play which we did with whatever pair of shoes we had at the time. During university I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia so I had to make a specific effort to get out to explore natural places. There was a Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) near my school which is where I first discovered hiking specific footwear. Up to that point an old pair of running shoes were the hiking footwear of choice. It was at this MEC that I picked up my first pair of hiking shoes (Merrell Moabs, $120 CAD) and began to explore the rugged coastlines South of the city. I was blown away at the difference a Vibram sole and a plastic shank made on rocky shorelines. Suddenly my confidence in my footing grew and I would traverse long swaths rocky of shoreline via a half jog half parkour motion, running and rock hopping. I’m sure I looked hilarious, an adult male in his early 20’s with already greying hair, hopping down the shoreline as if everything not a rock was lava. I wore that first pair of hiking shoes for years. I wore them to my classes, on shoreline lava sessions and on some of my first multi-day backcountry hikes such as Cape Chignecto. As they wore out I realized I would benefit from a bit more ankle support for those multi-day hikes with a heavy pack on.

When the time came I upgraded to a pair of Solomon Quest hiking boots ($225 CAD) which were still light enough for day hikes but had the necessary ankle support for those days spent with a heavy pack on. I’m not sure if others feel this way but I can get borderline nostalgic about old gear. Those hiking boots took me there and back again on many many adventures. I wore them on backcountry hikes such as Cape Chignecto in Nova Scotia, the Long Range Traverse in Newfoundland and the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. By the end of their life they had begun to split at the seams from wear and I would often apply duct tap as a waterproofing solution.

Skiing and snowboarding are the types of sports that appear to have a high barrier to entry both from a financial and skills standpoint. In my experience that may be the general perception but it doesn’t have to be the norm. My first real snowboarding experience was when I joined a friend and his family for a trip to Quebec in high school. I borrowed a setup and learned how to snowboard on the fly, much to my friend’s enjoyment. He would typically stop at the top of every steep pitch to watch me crash, tumble and slide to the bottom. By the end of several days on the hill I was a bit bruised and battered but I was starting to figure it out. Prior to this trip I had only ever strapped a snowboard on once. Note that I was still young and bounced back pretty quickly from falls. To minimize chances of injury you might want to consider lessons with a friend or instructor. A few years later I picked up a used snowboard setup for $100 CAD that included boots, bindings and board. I rode this setup at ski hills in Nova Scotia, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. It was my only setup for 8+ years and it worked perfectly for me. I wasn’t caught up in having the fanciest gear, I just loved getting out on the mountain. Pictured below are my old boots complete with duct tape repairs as well as my old board setup (along with a small pair of old boots given to me by a friend). In winter of 2020 I sold the board, bindings and small boots for $40 CAD. Not bad considering the amount of use I got out of the board and I’m pumped to think it’s still getting more use!

I believe you should only buy new gear when you have been participating in an activity enough to justify it. For example, I love backcountry split-boarding. The initial setup is quite expensive however (~$1500 CAD) so for the last 5 years I have rented or borrowed gear each time I go, which up until this past winter was only a few times a year. This past winter I got out 5+ times and could have gotten out more if I had my own setup. Rentals were booking weeks in advance and at $75-$100 a day for a rental setup it’s now getting close to justifying the need for my own setup.

In summary here are a few of my own personal rules for equipment:

  • Don’t let the lack of specialized equipment hold you back from a sweet adventure, you can go hiking with an old pair of running shoes and you can camp with budget equipment.
  • Use the equipment you have to it’s capabilities and beyond (unless it’s a legitimate safety hazard).
  • Only consider buying new / specialized equipment once you have participated in an activity enough to justify the need.

I hope you enjoyed this post and are inspired to squeeze every last drop out of your equipment. Don’t let lack of equipment or old equipment hold you back from an adventure. You might just need to be a bit creative and maintain the focus that the adventure itself is the primary goal. Keep your eye out for another post this week. Last week was Canada day and we spent it out in the mountains camping and enjoying this beautiful country. As a result I now have to make up for it to keep my commitment of writing a post every week.

Happy Trails,

Dave T

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Mountain Biking is Awesome

I can still vividly recall the day I learned to ride a bike. I removed the training wheels and taught myself by riding back and forth on our deck on an old banana seat bike. A few pedal strokes at a time. I was a determined kid. Years later I would employ a very similar technique when teaching myself to ride a unicycle, but that’s a story for another day.

We (my 5 siblings and I) grew up out in the country in northern Nova Scotia at the top of a big hill overlooking the Northumberland Strait. We had forrest all around and lots of hills to rip down on our bikes. One particular day I decided to follow my older brother up the mill road behind our house. He was on his mountain bike and I on the old banana seat cruiser. He went almost to the top and then pedalled the whole way down. Very impressive. I decided I would do the same thing on the old cruiser. I made it all the way to the bottom before spotting that one rock, you know the type of rock you can’t stop looking at. That was my first lesson in where you look is where you go. Coincidentally also my first over the bars (OTB) experience. That rock met my front tire and I was sent soaring through the air after which I came down harshly on the gravel road. I crawled the 50 meters back to the house where Grandma bandaged me up.

Over the years I got pretty good at crashing. Even imagining that all too familiar feeling of being in the air, completely out of control waiting for impact can still send chills down my spine. My much older and much stiffer spine. A sentiment that I believe 99.9% of mountain bikers can sympathize with. It seems my determination also translates into being determined to learn most things the hard way.

During those early days I constantly worked on the important skills like cat walks and sweet tire skids. Eventually I would break most of the bikes in the house. Then came that fateful day that I bought my first real mountain bike… or so I thought. It had suspension which was a big deal. It was a dual suspension Supercycle (which would later be termed the Supersucky). By this time I had started watching some of the earliest freeride mountain bike films such as Kranked and New World Disorder and was ready to start sending it on my new bike. I had scoped my line dozens of times and there was nothing left to do but to drop in and go for it. Down across the lawn I came, focused my huck to flat which was a massive 1 foot rock wall. Luckily I sent it deep because it was the one and only huck I would get out of that sweet sweet ride. On impact the rear wheel exploded, literally sending spokes flying across the yard.

My first actual mountain bike was a Giant Rincon, purchased from the local bike shop. Man was that bike was bulletproof. I rode it off everything. 5 foot wheelie drops to flat concrete, kickers onto the side hill that would launch me at least 8 feet in the air and cliff drops in the local provincial park. I can remember one day my two older brothers were watching from the deck and telling me I was going to break the bike because it wasn’t made for that kind of punishment. They were right of course but somehow the bike held together. That moment remains a point of pride for me, older brothers telling you you’re going too big! After the Rincon I owned various other bikes from a 2000 Norco 4hun to a 2003-ish Santa Cruz Bullit to a 2008 Specialized Demo 8 to a 2013 Trek Fuel EX8, to a 2016 Rocky Mountain Altitude. All of these bikes have since been sold but I remember each of them fondly. I raced downhill (DH) on the 4hun, the Bullit and the Demo. I wasn’t the fasted downhill racer but man did I have fun. Part of my downfall was that I would always favour hitting the sweet jump over finding the fastest line. I did however manage to nab 2nd place in a mens sport category at one race. In 2012 I started racing cross country (XC) with the Fuel which was another completely new world. Again managing to nab 2nd place in one mens sport category race.

The Demo 8 holds a very special place among my past bikes. It’s the bike I purchased in North Vancouver while on a co-op work term for my engineering degree. I had dreamt of riding the North Shore since those early freeride films. It took me 3 months to pay for the bike and I spent 3 weekends on the North Shore before heading back to the East Coast for another semester of school.

First weekend riding the Demo on the North Shore (2009)

I finished university in 2011 after which I worked in Nova Scotia for several years. During this time I continued to race DH and this is when I took up XC racing. I also volunteered with an association called Positive Action for Keppoch (PAK) aimed at developing an old ski hill, the Keppoch, in my home town of Antigonish as an outdoor recreation hub for Northeastern Nova Scotia. I had skied at the Keppoch with my siblings and cousins as a young child. Unfortunately we only got one or two seasons in before the ski hill shut down. Fortunately old ski hills are great for mountain biking and this is where the local downhill races were hosted. While part of this volunteer association I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to attend a mountain bike instructor course organized by PAK and facilitated by Shaums March. I became certified as a mountain bike instructor and guide. My accreditation has since lapsed but the skills I learned have carried on and I have had many opportunities to informally coach others. Note that the Keppoch has continued to be developed as a year round outdoor facility and it gets better every year. Check out their website here and if you are visiting Northeastern Nova Scotia it’s a must stop for outdoor enthusiasts. I love that I got to play a small part in something that has become such a success thanks to the dedicated volunteers that have continued to push the project.

All of these past experiences (and past bikes) tell my personal mountain biking story. Each time I would think I was getting pretty good I would have a very humbling experience. This continues to this day. I have been in Alberta with immediate access to the mountains for almost 8 years and I’m still learning. Learning new skills, learning new trails and learning how to be humbled all over again. One lesson in particular stands out. That lesson is to make sure you keep your ego in check. Letting your ego make decisions on the trail is a recipe for disaster. If something is feeling off it’s okay to skip the drop or the sketchy line. There’s always next time. And honestly, it’s very rewarding on the day you do feel good and nail that drop or line you’ve had your eye on for some time. The older I get the more I realize it’s about consistency. Being able to ride consistently while having a blast is my main goal now. I don’t want to give the impression I’ve gone soft. I like to think I’ve just gotten wiser. Yes I’m still sending it and yes I’m definitely still learning the hard way (aka crashing).

2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude A50

Side note: I’m currently riding a 2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude Alloy 50 and I absolutely love this bike. It is foolishly capable on the downhills and pedals really well. It’s well suited to my current style of riding which is geared more towards all mountain / enduro (coincidentally this style of riding combines the fitness of XC, the rush of DH while allowing for exploration of amazing mountain landscapes – all things I love).

Some years the amount of riding I have done has been limited as a result of injuries or work commitments. There was a string of about 3 years where I tore my ACL/MCL, recovered, had surgery, recovered again then broke my scapula. During this time my work commitments were also extremely heavy with 60-80 hour weeks for months on end. I’m a bit embarrassed at how little I rode during those 3 years but I’m a firm believer that you need to experience difficult times to truly appreciate the good times.

The past 2 years have without a doubt been my best mountain biking years to date. My riding has been strong and confident. The confidence did take a while to get back however after the various injuries. I have been able check several bucket list trails off my list and have continued to explore new trail networks every year. I’ve got several friends that I mountain bike with who, even though they only started biking during my time in Calgary, have caught up and surpassed my riding level in some areas (again… humbled). Having a solid network of people to ride with is extremely motivating and it’s also super fun to take long weekend trips into interior British Columbia (BC). BC never disappoints when it comes to sweet terrain and awesome mountain bike trails. I’m constantly blown away that I can take a day trip or a weekend trip to places I could only dream of when I was younger. At least once during every ride someone in the group will just shake their head and utter “man, mountain biking is awesome”.

If you made it this far through my meandering reminiscing I hope you enjoyed it. I’m borrowing another recommendation from one of my favourite authors and podcasters (T. Ferriss) with this blog thus far and ensuring that I at least have an audience of one. Meaning that no matter how much (or how little) traffic I get to my blog I am enjoying the process immensely. My hope is that others enjoy the read and are inspired to get outside and enjoy the beautiful landscapes Canada, and the world, have to offer. Maybe you have been daydreaming about an outdoor pursuit you enjoyed when you were younger. Possibly, as in the case of my mountain biking buddies, you will pick up a new sport and accelerate past your friends that got you in to it in the first place (honourable mention for Bid Daddy Z). Or maybe you have a similar story to mine where you have that sport you have loved since childhood and continue to enjoy to this day. Whatever the case may be, get out there and have a blast!

Happy trails, and remember mountain biking is awesome!

Dave T,

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Talk less and take Action

It’s been a little while since I have written a post. I would like to think I have a good reason for slacking off but it’s too easy to call my own bluff and call such reasons a convenient excuse. So let’s just agree that I’ve been slacking (bad Dave!) and that I need to pull my socks up. In previous posts I have written about committing to a weekly adventure and I have written about committing to daily physical activity (almost to 200 days!). I think it’s time to set another personal commitment regarding these blog posts. Moving forward I will release one new post every week. Like my daily physical activity I will set the bar low so it’s easy to get started writing with the intention that once I start I will exceed the bar, most of the time.

Now on to the theme of this post, Action. One of the reasons I started writing this blog is because I really wanted to start an adventure company but I had no idea where to start. Years went by where I would spend long hours dreaming and talking about how cool it would be to have an adventure company. After a few false starts I almost gave up on the idea because each time I would become overwhelmed by the pure fact I had no idea where to start. I’ve listened to hundreds, if not thousands of podcasts aimed at personal development and entrepreneurs. I’ve read stacks of books on the same topics. While I know I have benefitted in life and in my day job from all of this learning I was still paralyzed when it came to actually starting a business.

My absolute favourite podcast is The Tim Ferriss Show (I also have a shelf full of his books) and earlier this year he posted an interview with Marc Randolph who is the founder of Netflix. That episode led me to read Marc Randolph’s book, That Will Never Work, and to start listening to his podcast that goes by the same name. It was with the combined inspiration that I took from Tim Ferriss and Marc Randolph that I once again decided it was time to take action. The only difference being that this time around I would just start. Rather than immediately start trying to plan out an entire adventure business that would allow me to make it a full time career and then become paralyzed yet again, I decided I would just start. Just do something. So one Friday night back in February I dusted off a previous attempt at this website and told myself that by Sunday I would make it public. Being an self diagnosed introvert I find putting something like this out into the world quite nerve racking. But I held myself to my goal and over the course of a weekend I updated the site and made it public. I decided my first order of business was to start releasing regular blog posts (again sorry for slacking, bad Dave!).

So here we are, four months in and the adventure continues. I do need to take more action beyond committing to writing blog posts (as he furiously scribbles down more to do items in his journal). So far my blog posts seem like they could be summed up as a combination of adventure themed and personal growth themed. But I like to think that we’re still getting to know each other. I also told myself that I would be authentic with my posts and if I’m being honest my authentic self likes to talk about adventures and personal growth. Unfortunately my authentic self also likes to talk a lot but procrastinates on taking action.

Coincidentally, over the past year I have made it a point in my life to try and talk less and take more action. Lately I have been exercising this new action muscle quite a bit in the form of mountain biking. While I love all types of outdoor activities from hiking to kayaking to snowboarding to snow shoeing, mountain biking is my bread and butter. So lately, rather than talk about biking I have been biking, lots. At least for me. I have been getting out for rides at least two nights a week and then doing one longer adventure ride on weekends. My goal has been to do 50 kilometers a week with over 1000 meters of elevation gain. Most weeks I’ve been hovering around my distance goal and crushing my elevation gain goal which I’m super happy with.

Me having fun on some rock rolls during a recent weekend MTB adventure on Razor’s Edge, one of my favourite trails.

Now since I have been bragging about shutting up and taking action I should probably shut up. Rather than continue talking lets take some action. Do you have something in your life that you have dreamt about or talked about for an extended period of time without taking action on? Is there a specific adventure or activity that you would love to experience but you get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? Or maybe you have already gone through this journey and you have taken action on something awesome. Either way I would love to hear from you. Check out the Contact page and reach out to tell me more and maybe I can help you move the needle from dream to action.

Happy Trails,

Dave T

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Committing to Daily Physical Activity

Back in December of 2020 I went out for a day of splitboarding with a few buddies. I hadn’t been exercising regularly but I was working out here and there and I had a great mountain biking season in 2020 and felt like I was still reasonably fit. Well I was in for a rude awakening… granted it was an ambitious day for my first day out of the season but I got my ass completely handed to me, on a silver platter with a side of muscle spasms. It was at this point that I resolved to increase my level of activity to avoid similar embarrassments in the future. Inspired by a good friend and one of my splitboarding companions on that particular day, who shall remain nameless although some may know him as Big Daddy Z (BDZ), I made a commitment to myself to get some form of physical activity every day from that point forward.

I have long understood that fitness is something that you acquire over a long period of time in small increments through continued commitment. But understanding is one thing, execution is another. Over the past several years I had gone through various different roles at work with wildly varied hours and stress levels. I have gone long periods of time without regular workouts and I have gone through stints of intense training playing catch up, usually in advance of the mountain biking season or some ambitious goal / trip.

Side note: I have a tendency to learn most lessons the hard way… and I learned first hand the effect stress can have on your mental and physical health. After one especially stressful role that was a year in duration it took me six months to bounce back physically and up to year to bounce back mentally to the point where I felt fit and healthy in both regards.

The summer of 2020 was one of my best mountain biking seasons in many years. We completed a bucket list ride in Rossland, British Columbia called 7 Summits which we spent the entire summer preparing for. That ride was the highest point for my fitness level in the last number of year however is began to taper off from there leading into that fateful day in early December.

On to my personnel commitment and how it relates to sweet outdoor activities. Inspired by a BDZ who had made the same commitment a year earlier, I decided to get some form of physical activity everyday. I set the bar low so there’s no sensible reason for me to make excuses. Some days my daily activity is as simple as a nice long walk ensuring I hit a target number of steps. Other days I hit the trainer in the basement for a solid 30+ minute interval session. I’m also fortunate to have a squat rack and olympic lifting bar / bumper plates in my basement (along with a few other odds and ends) that proves very useful for building strength. This approach worked great during the winter months and getting out for ambitious splitboarding days became a lot less demoralizing. Also, utilizing a sweet outdoor adventure has turned into my favourite way to check off my daily activity.

This all ties in very nicely with my earlier post where I described my other commitment to myself to get out for some form of adventure every week. It’s now spring in Calgary and more often than not I’m able to get outside in the evening for a bike ride (even if just on the local pathways on my commuter bike) to achieve my daily activity. I’m more motivated than ever to get outdoors and some weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to get out for multiple adventures.

As of the writing of this post (Apr 2020) I’ve completed some form of daily activity for over 140 days in a row. I achieved this by setting incremental goals of 10 days at a time to make it more palatable. Initially, I decided that hitting 90 days in a row would be a solid accomplishment. This seemed like a foolishly lofty goal which, if I’m being honest, it was a lofty goal at the time considering my lack of commitment to exercising regularly up to that point. But leveraging the bite sized goal approach I have been able to remain focused and continue to get some form of physical activity everyday. Full disclosure, there are some days that I put it off until super late and end up going for a walk around my community at 10:30 at night to get my steps in. Other days I’ll have a video call and a fews beers after the end of the workday on Friday and then hop on the trainer an hour or two later to sweat it all out again. I wouldn’t say I’m back to peak fitness level but I believe I have developed a solid foundation that has allowed me to get more ambitious with my weekend adventures and allows for a quicker recovery afterward. Below I’ve included a few shots of a few of my sweet daily adventures over the past 4+ months:

If you have been experiencing a similar pattern to what I have described of various ups and downs in fitness level over a long period of time I would encourage you to make a similar commitment to yourself. I have always found that the hardest part of going to the gym was the act of just going and putting on your workout clothes. Once that step was complete it became exponentially easier to workout. I have taken a similar approach to my daily activity. Just do something, which is why I set the bar low for what counts as an activity. Once I start doing something it regularly turns into more. Similarly, it’s important to set small incremental goals for yourself. Essentially whatever increment allows you to say to yourself “oh I can do something for the next X number of days easily”.

If you found this post relatable, if you have made a similar commitment in the past, or if I have inspired you to make a new commitment for daily activity, I would love to hear your story. Feel free to reach out via email or through the Contact page. I’m also toying with writing a longer post every two weeks (like this one) as opposed to a short post each week. If you have been enjoying reading my posts and have a preference one way or the other I would love to hear about it as I’m still figuring this whole blogging / writing thing out.

Happy Trails!

Dave T

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Head First

This post will focus on some of the pre-trip preparation for a hike called the Long Range Traverse in Newfoundland. When I sat down to write this post I had a momentary gasp realizing that we did that hike in 2012… 9 years ago… which is very close to 10 years…. which is a long time for something that I can still vividly recall. It’s similar to that feeling when you look in the mirror and gasp at all the grey hair you have that seemingly appeared over night (but really it was always there).

As I mentioned, this post will be about the preparation for the Long Range Traverse. I’ve got a longer more in depth post planned for the hike itself that will be released at a later date, and possibly in multiple chapters since I can literally talk about sweet outdoor activities all day long and I will likely get lost in the photos and memories from this trip for quite some time during the writing process. This particular hike is located in the backcountry of western Newfoundland the begins at the eastern most point of Western Brook Pond and finishes in Gros Morne National Park. This hike is a multi-day backcountry hike that is self supported and requires that you utilize skills of route finding as there is no defined / marked trail. You are required to check in with park officials and complete a quiz to confirm you possess the necessary knowledge of map and compass navigation prior to departure and you are required to check in after the hike. You are also required to carry a tracking device with you which would aid search and rescue if needed (if you are late by more than a day they will come looking for you). It’s common for this area to be completely socked in with fog or rain for days on end which would greatly increase the risk of getting lost.

During the planning process for the hike one of the main obstacles was to ensure we were prepared to navigate the terrain with map and compass (we would also have a GPS as backup but did not want to be solely reliant on a battery powered device). Past experience told us that the best way to learn a new skill such as this was to dive in head first (hence the title of this post). Our version of diving in head first was to sign up for an adventure race / orienteering challenge hosted by the Halifax Regional Search & Rescue called the Eco Endurance Challenge (E2C). The E2C had two different durations, an 8 hour challenge and a 24 hour challenge. The 24 hour challenge started at 12:00 p.m. and ran until 12:00 p.m. the following day. Naturally being young and naive we signed up for the 24 hour challenge even though we had never participated in such a competition before. Our logic was that the 24 hour challenge would help simulate the experience of being multiple days into a difficult hike in the East Coast backcountry, being tired and possibly cold / wet and needing to rely on our orienteering skills to safely finish.

The E2C proved to be the perfect learning ground and our approach allowed us to maximize the learning in a short period of time. We read a book on navigation with map and compass the days leading into the competition and made a deal with ourselves that we wouldn’t worry about our placement and that we would just focus on practicing the necessary skills and finding as many controls (checkpoints) as we could. I can still recall the feeling of “navigating” our way to the first control wondering if we were even close to being on the correct bearing. Imagine our surprise when we located it on the first try! Our first 8 hours went really well and we were finding a solid number of controls both with map bearings and magnetic bearings (a very important distinction and easy to forget when you’re exhausted). After the first 8 hours was when things started to get difficult. At one point we were all feeling quite exhausted, it was getting dark and we had a moment of realization that maybe we would need to go back to the car and rest a bit… but we were 14 kilometers from the car as the crow flies… and we had dense East Coast forest complete with windfall zones, lakes and swamps between us and car.

At first, when hiking back to the car for a couple hours of sleep, our resolve remained strong and we were still trying to find controls along the way. As the night wore on even going a couple hundred meters out of our way to find a control was out of the question. By that point we were somewhere between 12-16 hours into the competition and utterly exhausted and there wasn’t enough Mike & Ike’s in the world to keep the spirits up. I will admit there were a few moments, sitting on a mossy log for a rest, where I was questioning all of my life decisions. But we finally made it back to the car and grabbed a couple hours of sleep. The next morning we got back out on the trail but realized that bushwhacking through 50 plus kilometers of uneven terrain the day before left our muscles and joints utterly destroyed. We got out for the last hours of the competition, hobbled another 10+ kilometers but only picked up 2-3 more controls.

At the end of the competition we placed somewhere in the bottom of the pack in the 24 hour recreational category. This is a category that allows use of a GPS (which we brought as a backup) but we ended up using the map and compass the entire time which was our main goal. We picked up about 85% of our points in the first 8 hours of the competition which was a solid lesson in how much more challenging navigation can get when you are exhausted and when it’s night time (as it turns our night was a good simulation for dense fog since you couldn’t see land marks or unique geographic features). It was an extremely physically and mentally challenging experience, we hiked over 60 km in 24 hours, but it served it’s purpose wonderfully. By the end of the competition our navigation skills with map and compass had increase significantly and we felt much more prepared to take on the Long Range Traverse.

As an aside, we enjoyed the challenge of the competition enough that we went back the following year to compete in the same category. We took the same approach of navigating the entire time with map and compass and planned our route so we would circle back past the vehicle sometime during the night for a couple hours of sleep. We also planned our route such that most of our travel after dark would be on dirt roads we could see on the map which helped compensate for how difficult it is to navigate with map and compass after dark. The second time around we placed mid-pack in the category which was a significant improvement on our previous attempt.

For us there were many benefits of competing in an orienteering challenge like the E2C to learn this new skill. The E2C is run by a professional search and rescue operation, there were a large number of other teams out in the woods at the same time and there were checkpoints you could stop at if you got into trouble. This also added a lot of enjoyment to the process of preparing for the hike. As I have said before, the planning process can add months of enjoyment to a trip that may only last a week. Once you start adding in experiences like a competition, regular training hikes or just getting out for car camping or short hikes to test your equipment you will be even more prepared and a single hike can turn into an entire summer of fun outdoor experiences.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have had a similar experience were you dove in head first to learn a new skill I would love to hear about it. Feel free to send an email or reach out through our contact page. Your story may even be featured in a future blog post!

Happy Trails,

Dave T

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Weekly Adventures

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the routine. Work all week, crash on the weekend only to feel that Monday came too quick once again. What did you really accomplish on the weekend? I guess that hike you’ve been meaning to do will get pushed out another week, or two.

Recent Prairie Mountain hike

I think we can all relate to this feeling. Before you know it your weekend has slipped away. Something I have been trying to do this past year is to commit to a weekly adventure. Some weekends this has been as simple a nice walk along the Bow River here in Calgary or taking a couple hours to go hike Prairie Mountain in Kananaskis. Other weekends it’s an overnight mountain bike trip into BC with lots of “braaaps” yelled into the wind, a few cold post ride beers around the camp fire and lots of chuckling about your buddies epic (injury free) crash earlier that day.

While I often find myself longing for the next big adventure it is these small weekly outings that really keep me going. I would encourage you to commit to one adventure per week. If you can’t find anyone to go with then find something safe, simple and go alone. Just make sure to leave your trip plan with someone you trust if you are venturing out into the mountains. If you are feeling uneasy about going solo pick a trail that is known to be heavily trafficked and schedule yourself so you won’t be the last one on the trail.

If you have started committing to weekly adventures I would love to hear about them. You can send me an email at 118degreeswest@gmail.com or drop a quick note through our Contact Us page.

Happy trails!

Dave T

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Economical Adventure Upgrades – Custom Car Camping Window Screens

The 2008 Subaru Outback (the Sube) was a great adventure rig for many years. One of my favourite parts about the Sube (aside from it being a 5 speed manual) was the fact that it was a station wagon. I could haul all kinds of materials and gear in the back and it also had ample space for simple car camping. This post describes one of the upgrades that made sleeping in the back of the Sube much more comfortable.  Custom screens are a simple project that is very cost effective.

Custom screens with magnetic inserts

It started with a roll of standard screen from Canadian Tire for around $10.  I taped the screen onto the car to get the outline and sizing needed.  Once trimmed I used a roll of fabric ribbon and thread from Michaels for around $5.  The magnets required a few iterations.  I started with magnetic tape which wasn’t strong enough.  Next I used a 10 piece magnetic disc set from Princess Auto for about $8.  I spaced each magnet equally and the final product worked perfectly.  The total price is about $23 for the whole setup.  I used a hand sewing kit which we already had around the house.

I paired this simple setup with my sleeping pad and sleeping bag to make for a very comfortable sleeping arrangement.  Considering the standard rooftop tent runs $2500 CAD or more this is an extremely affordable way to start camping in your car.  The screens allow  you to keep your windows open for a nice cross breeze while keeping pesky mosquitos from feasting on you while you sleep.

This post ties in very nicely with one of my main goals at 118 Degrees West.  I want to show people that you don’t need to spend a fortune to start exploring the world around you.  All you need is a creative mindset and the desire to get outside. Along this theme, keep an eye out for a future post about the custom sleep platform, with drawers and storage cubbies, I built for the back of my 2000 Toyota 4Runner for less than $400. There’s also a sneak peek of the 4Runner setup on the 118 Degrees West Instagram page for those interested.

Happy Trails,

Dave T