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If you didn’t grow up in an outdoorsy family, the idea of wandering into the woods can be pretty daunting. If you’re queer, trans, BIPOC, disabled, or plus-sized, hiking might be an even scarier idea to consider, for a number of reasons. Though you may not have had access to outdoor activities in the past, or don’t think you belong outside, I’m here to tell you that you absolutely do! Anyone with any body type and any ability can hike, no experience necessary. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be prepared. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to start hiking and to make sure your first experience is safe and fun. First, let’s cover a few basics that you’ll need on your first hike.
What to Bring Hiking
Hiking and having fun outdoorsPhoto by photo nic on Unsplash
No matter where you decide to hike, you still need to have the best hiking gear so your adventure is safe and comfortable. Here is a brief list of some items you will need:
- A comfortable and breathable outfit - The clothes you choose to wear should fit comfortably and ideally should be made of quick-drying or wicking materials. This means synthetic materials (think stretchy leggings or shorts) or natural fibers, like wool. These materials will quickly dry sweat or moisture, whereas cotton will hold onto moisture, leaving you more vulnerable to becoming cold and uncomfortable.
- Supportive footwear - You have a couple of different options when it comes to hiking footwear. Hiking boots are great if you have weak ankles or tend to trip a lot, as they offer more support around your ankles. Boots tend to be durable and waterproof. The downsides of boots are that they can be a bit bulky and heavy, and can also be a big investment. Another great option for hiking is trail runners. Trail runners are sneakers designed to perform well on different types of terrain (dirt, grass, pavement). They are typically lightweight and less expensive than hiking boots but offer less overall support. If you’re not ready to invest in hiking shoes, any pair of athletic sneakers you have will do the trick on most easy to moderate trails.
- Water and snacks - Whether your hike is two miles or ten miles, remember to always bring water. Fill up a couple of water bottles or purchase a hydration pack, and make sure you take frequent sips while hiking to prevent dehydration. Bring a couple of snacks to enjoy on your breaks. Jerky, fruit, cookies, and trail mix are my go-to's while on the trail and always give me a boost of energy.
- Tip: Pack all of your snacks in a gallon-sized ziplock bag for easy access, then use that bag for trash later. Always practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out all trash and waste.
- Sunscreen and bug spray - These two items are fairly self-explanatory. Even if hiking under tree cover, it is good practice to wear sunscreen to avoid getting roasted, especially in the summer. Depending on where you are hiking, you might encounter pesky flies or ticks, which you can deter by spraying your clothes, shoes, and backpack with bug spray.
- A map or GPS - Make sure you bring a map of the area you are hiking in or a GPS that depicts the trail you are on. My recommendation for this is an app called AllTrails. You can download it for free to search for hikes and to make sure you are following the correct trails. A physical map is always good to have as a backup, in case your phone were to die.
- Backpack - Bring a comfortable backpack or hip belt to place your water and other items in. While special hiking packs are the best choice for hiking, any pack that doesn’t move around or slips while you walk will be just fine for your first few adventures.
Choosing a Hike
Choosing where to hikePhoto by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash
Now that you have everything you need to begin hiking, it is time to decide on a destination. This will be highly dependent on where you live, how far you want to travel, and what type of hike you want to do. Even if you are relatively fit, you may want to seek out an easy to moderately difficult hike for your first outing. As mentioned in the last section, AllTrails is a wonderful resource for finding hikes in your area. You can search by your location or your desired destination and can filter hikes based on distance, difficulty, and other factors, such as whether or not the hikes are dog friendly.
Once you apply your filters, select a hike that has something you will enjoy, whether that be a body of water, trees, wildflowers, cool rock formations, or great views. Read reviews on the hike so that you know what to expect.
Though hiking is a relatively safe activity, there are certain things to consider in terms of personal safety, especially for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC folks. If you are hiking in a more rural area and are nervous, try hiking with friends or joining a hiking group. Check social media for local hiking groups that get together, or reach out to someone you know who hikes. Unlikely Hikers is an organization that offers group hikes all around the US and is inclusive of all people.
Do your research and find out what kind of wildlife exists in the areas you’ll be hiking. If you are hiking in an area with bears, always carry bear spray with you. Most of the time, wildlife will keep their distance, but you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from any wildlife you come across.
Check the weather before you depart for your hike. A little rain is fine, but if storms are in the forecast, save the hike for another day.
Most importantly while hiking, trust your instincts. If someone is giving you bad vibes or you feel unsafe, leave the area. Go back to your car, or link up with another group on the trail if you can.
You're Ready to Hike!
Hiking is a wonderful way to enjoy nature, exercise, and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Preparing for a hike ahead of time can create a more safe and more enjoyable experience for you and anyone you choose to bring on your adventures. Hopefully, these tips help you gear up and get outside. Happy Hiking!
Healthcare is a hot topic for many Americans. No matter your stance on it, most of us can agree that it’s not easy for everyone to access affordable medical care. If you’re in the LGBTQ+ community, you might face another obstacle – discrimination.
It can be hard to believe you would be discriminated against or even turned away based on your sexual identity, but it does happen like so many other injustices in this world. If you already have a healthcare provider you like and trust, you might be worried about coming out to them.
Will they treat you differently? Will your care be compromised?
Let’s cover some of the common barriers people within the community can face in the healthcare industry, why your doctor should know if you’re LGBTQ+, and what to look for in a provider that won’t discriminate.
What Challenges Do LGBTQ+ People Face in Healthcare?
There are a variety of underserved populations in healthcare, including minorities and those in traditionally underserved or poverty-stricken communities. Those in the LGBTQ+ population are often underserved because of discrimination. Think it doesn’t exist? Consider some of these staggering statistics from a 2017 national survey:
- 8% of respondents said a healthcare provider refused to see them because of their sexual orientation.
- 6% said a doctor refused to provide them with care.
- 9% said a healthcare provider used abusive or harsh language while treating them.
- 7% said they received unwanted physical contact from their healthcare provider.
It should come as no surprise, then, that fewer LGBTQ+ are getting the healthcare they deserve. These statistics are more than numbers. They are people. They are stories. If someone you know had a negative experience with their doctor and told you about it, you’d be less likely to go. Maybe you even had a bad experience yourself, and have never trusted the medical industry again.
Several things need to be done to serve the LGBTQ+ community better, including:
- Federal initiatives
- Smart devices that make it easier to access public health care
- Education on inclusivity within the medical field
Unfortunately, it will take time for this kind of reform and restructuring to happen within the healthcare industry. In the meantime, what can you do to get the care you deserve, whether it's from your current doctor or someone new?
Why You Should Talk to Your Doctor
Building up a trusting relationship with a healthcare provider can take some time. Maybe you’ve been working with your doctor for years, and you trust their medical knowledge and like their personality.
However, maybe they don’t know your gender identity or sexual orientation. Maybe you’ve thought about telling them in the past but have been worried about discrimination.
While it’s always a risk, it’s important to come out to your doctor for medical purposes, if nothing else. Certain health issues affect higher proportions of the LGBTQ+ community, including:
- Mental health issues
- Sexual assault
HIV is still a problem among members of the community, too. According to a 2010 study by the CDC, 63% of new HIV infections impacted men who had sex with other men.From a mental health standpoint, telling your doctor can be both freeing and can get you the help you need. It’s not uncommon for those in the community to experience extra stress, anxiety, and depression due to discrimination and constant worry. Because LGBTQ+ people are also at a greater risk of sexual violence, finding the right mental health treatment for the aftermath is crucial. Medical attention is needed to document evidence and identify any injuries or long-term risks, as well as to set up a mental health treatment plan that will help you process what happened.
Finding the Right Healthcare Provider
Whether you’ve experienced discrimination from your doctor or you want a clean slate in a place that will give you the care you deserve, there are a few things to look for in an LGBTQ+-friendly healthcare environment.
- First, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Shop around, and set up consultations with providers you’re interested in. Ask them about their experience with the LGBTQ+ community. You’ll get a lot of information from that answer, and can probably trust your “gut” with whether they’re comfortable or not.
- You should also do your research. Seek both online and offline resources for LGBTQ+-friendly physicians in your area. Read reviews, look for doctors who offer a safe and inclusive practice for everyone, and consider asking your friends about their personal experiences and where they go. Thankfully, despite the obstacles you might face in finding a doctor, it’s not impossible. Even if you live in a rural area or far away from a doctor who is willing to give you proper care, nowadays, it’s easier than ever to connect with the right provider.
- If you can’t find someone nearby, consider choosing telehealth services for your general well-being and for regular checkups. While they can’t cover everything, it can help to have a physician in your corner who you trust, even if they’re hundreds of miles away. Don’t let discrimination in the healthcare industry get you down. With a little bit of time, research, and doctor-shopping, you can find a provider who will give you care without judgment.
The weather is warming up, and that means it’s grilling time. It's time to invite friends over and fire up the grill. If you are new to grilling, it's best to start with the basics, and a charcoal grill is a perfect place to start.
What You’ll Need
Before you get started, it's important to learn about the type of charcoal grill you have. Ensure everything is in working order and familiarize yourself with the air vents on the grill because these help you control the heat. If you are looking to buy one, you will need to consider which size is best for your needs. We recommend buying one with an ash container for easy cleanup. Charcoal grills come in different shapes and sizes, and the price range starts at around $100 and can go up from there.
Once you have your grill set up, you will need a couple of things.
- Chimney starter (optional)
- Grilling tongs
- Pumice stone for cleaning the grill grate
- Heat resistant gloves
Choose Your Charcoal
Charcoal briquettes are the classic choicePhoto by Amin Hasani on Unsplash
Charcoal grills, of course, use charcoal as fuel, and there are two types of charcoal you can use. Charcoal briquettes are the most affordable option. You can find them in any supermarket in a big bag. They create consistent heat and burn for an extended time. While they are inexpensive, they don't add much smoky flavor and the slow burn creates a lot of ash.
Hardwood charcoal is the more expensive option, but worth it if you love the smoky taste of grilled food. This type of charcoal burns quickly and leaves little ash for easy clean-up. If you want the best of both worlds, you can use both charcoals together.
Before you get started, you will want to make sure you have enough charcoal. The amount of charcoal needed depends on how much you are planning to cook and for how long. A rough estimate is if you are cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken for a group, 4.5 to 5 pounds of charcoal is best. If you are cooking for 2-3 people, then 2.5 pounds of charcoal should be enough. And, if you are grilling a long-cooking cut of meat or using your grill as a smoker with lower heat but for an extended time then 2 pounds of charcoal is fine.
Light the Grill
Waiting for the grill to heat up is hard when you are hungry.Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash
There are a few ways to get your grill fired up. The most traditional way is to arrange the charcoal in a small pile on the grill and spray some lighter fluid on the charcoal. Always read the instructions on the bottle for the exact amount of fluid to use. Using too much lighter fluid can affect the flavor of your food. Give the charcoal a minute to absorb the fluid, then light the charcoal with a utility lighter. Once the charcoal is lit, resist the temptation to add more lighter fluid, it's dangerous, and it will be difficult to control the flame.
If you prefer not to use lighter fluid, you can use a chimney starter. Chimney starters are available at any hardware store, and if you grill frequently, they are a great investment. Using a chimney starter is the fastest way to get your charcoal piping hot. Some starters have a place to add either newspaper or fire starter cubes. Follow the instructions, add the charcoal to the starter, and light from there. Once hot, pour onto the grill. Use heat-resistant gloves for safety.
For tech lovers, there is also an electric charcoal starter. Just place the charcoal on the grill and touch the electric starter to the charcoal until it lights.
Another option to light the charcoal is a strike-able fire starter. They are like a large match that you can place in the middle of the charcoal to get the coals going.
However, you get your charcoal started, you will need to wait for your grill to heat up before you start cooking. It can take around 15- 20 minutes to get hot enough to cook your food. Most charcoal grills have a built-in thermometer to help you know when it reaches grilling temperature which is anywhere between 350 to 450 F. While your grill is heating up, you can prepare the grill grate.
Prepare the Grill Grate
Oil up the grill grate to keep juices meats from sticking.Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash
You should always start with a clean grill. While you don't need to deep clean the entire grill after each use, you should clean the grill grate before and after each use. Use a pumice stone made for grills to clean your grill grates. There are wire brushes on the market for this, too, but there have been cases of metal bristles breaking off and getting stuck on the grill and then sticking to food, so stick with a pumice cleaner.
Once the grate is clean, brush some oil on the grate to keep food from sticking. Save your olive oil for your salad. Instead, use a high heat oil like vegetable or canola.
Arrange Coals for Effective Cooking
Sear some steaks for the perfect grill marks.Photo by Paul Hermann on Unsplash
Once the charcoal has heated up, you can use your grilling tongs to arrange the coals. Charcoal placement is key to coking with charcoal. As a general rule, you will want to have two cooking areas on your grill—one for direct heat to sear and one for indirect heat for foods that require longer cooking time. Searing is good for steaks, while indirect heat is better for meat on the bone and roasts.
Another option is to use grilling planks on the charcoal grill. Grilling planks are pieces of wood like cedar or alder that you can cook food on rather than placing the food straight on the grill. Soaking the planks in water for an hour prior to grilling ensures they won't burn. Then, place meats, fish, or vegetables on the plank for a smoky dish.
Cleaning Up the Grill After Use
Properly caring for a charcoal grill extends its life.Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash
When your last burger has been flipped, and it's time to turn off the grill, just close the vents and put the lid on the grill. Without air to fuel the fire, it will gradually burn out. This can take up to 48 hours for it to completely cool and be safe enough to remove the coal and ashes.
If you are in a hurry you can use your tongs and pull out each charcoal brisket and place it in a metal bucket filled with water. Scoop the hot ash into a metal container to let it cool. Never pour water onto a charcoal grill as it can damage the grill and leave a sludge that you will have to clean later. Plus, water directly on hot coals creates dangerous steam that can burn anyone near the grill.
When your charcoal grill is cooled and cleaned, it's ready to be stored for next time. While charcoal grills are sturdy and can be left outside, if you live in a colder climate you will want to ensure it is protected from the elements to extend the life of the grill.
Tips and Tricks for Charcoal Grills
- Resist the temptation to flip your food too much
- Control the heat by using the vents and lid
- Keep the heat around 350° F for most foods or 450° F for searing
- Add a handful of wood chips like hickory or mesquite to the coals for more flavor
Traveling and camping in an RV has many advantages and essentially allows you to have a home away from home, from county campgrounds to the remotest of locations. But those with RVs know that preparing for a trip can be quite stressful. There are countless items to remember to pack. That is why we have put together the perfect list of RVing essentials. Check out this list before your next adventure to make sure nothing gets left behind.
RV Specific Items
What you need for the RVPhoto by Kojiro Inui on Unsplash
- Roadside emergency kit
- Sewer kit
- Extra motor oil and transmission fluids
- Surge protector
- Electrical adapters
- Water pressure regulator
- Drinking water hose
- Leveling blocks
- Tire pressure gauge
- Extension cords
- Wheel chocks
- Duct tape
- Battery jumper cables
- Fire extinguisher
- RV documents (registration, insurance, etc.)
Kitchen and Food
What to cook while RVingPhoto by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash
- Potable water
- Water bottles
- Food storage containers
- Food and beverages
- Cooler and extra ice
- Plates, cups, bowls
- Cooking utensils
- Eating utensils
- Paper Towels
- Dish soap
- Sponge or scrubber
- Grill for outdoor cooking (optional)
- Can and bottle opener
- Pots and pans
- Coffee pot and/or tea kettle
What blankets to bring while RVingPhoto by Jordan Bigelow on Unsplash
- Sheets, blankets, and comforters
- Pillows and pillow cases
- Extra cots or air mattresses as needed
- Air pump if needed
Toiletries for the RV
Toiletry essentials for RVingPhoto by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
- Soap (face and body)
- Hand soap
- Hand sanitizer
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Toilet paper
- First aid kit
- Tampons/sanitary products
- Bath towels
- Shoes to shower in (if using campground facilities)
- Solar shower (If RV doesn't have a shower/bath)
- Bug spray
Personal Items Needed While RVing
Taking your personal items on your RV adventurePhoto by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash
- Phone and phone charger
- Laptop or tablet and charger
- Wallet with ID and credit/debit cards
- Campsite reservation information
- Eyeglasses and sunglasses
Clothing and Footwear Needed for RVing
What clothes do you need when you go RVing?Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash
- Moisture-wicking shirts
- Moisture-wicking pants
- Long sleeve shirt
- Down or fleece jacket
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Hiking boots or sneakers
- Sandals or flip flops
- Winter/snow gear depending on the season
What else will we need for Rving?Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash
- Extra batteries
- Cleaning supplies
- Portable charging bank or solar charger
- Firewood and fire starter (If fires are permitted at your campsite)
- Books and/or games
- Dog gear if bringing your four-legged pals
- Dry bags or plastic bins to store items
- Backpack or hiking pack
- Hiking, fishing, kayaking, or other gear for activities
- Outdoor rug
- Patio furniture (chairs, tables, etc.)
- Pop-up tent (if RV doesn't have an awning)
Enjoy Your Trip
You've gone through your checklist and have inspected your RV to make sure everything is up to standard and in working order. Now it's time to decide where you are going to set up camp and hit the road! There are many more logistics to deal with when RV camping compared to car camping, but with the right preliminary preparation, you can relax knowing everything is in place for the perfect RVing experience.