What Climbing Has Done For Me

I am seriously blessed that rock climbing has become a part of my life.

I’ve never been an “active” or “athletic” person until the last five years of my life. I didn’t play organized sports, no gymnastics, or dance classes, I didn’t run, or even walk regularly. And as I’ve already discussed (link to blog post) I ended up finding a love for outdoor recreation as a way to get through some tough life altering relationship changes in the beginning of 2014.

Fast forward to today when I climb almost 4 days a week every week, averaging three hours in the gym each time. I’ve never really craved physical activity like I hear runners do, but after our local gym finally opened, I can say for certain that has changed. Friends of mine will attest that if we are on an out of town weekend trip, I frequently comment, “I NEED TO CLIMB SOMETHING”. I get feeling antsy and a little trapped if I’m not able to get on a wall of some sort. Becoming a climber has done me a whole lot of good in so many ways.

TIny speck of red hair = me. 

TIny speck of red hair = me. 

First of all, I’m not one to randomly introduce myself to a stranger, but the tight knit gym community in my town has really helped me with that. It’s a whole lot easier to meet someone when you’ve been helping each other work a boulder problem for the past hour. A common goal allows you to meet people without pressure. It’s nice that our community is small enough to let me refill my introverted “talk to people” tank, while also having private climb time when I need to be by myself.

I think it would be tough to identify another sport that is as uplifting and encouraging as climbing. I’ve never experienced such enthusiasm, motivation, and excitement from people as I strive to finish a v3 that’s been absolutely killing me. One time I asked a gym acquaintance to video me trying a problem I’d been throwing myself at for over two hours, and when I finally sent it, the entire boulder area applauded me because they knew how hard I’d been trying. That’s incredible to me.

The more I climb, the more confident I become, both mentally and physically.  I try harder problems that I would never have even glanced at a few months ago. I don’t worry about failing a route because I know it will just push me to get it later. You’re only competing against yourself anyway.

Physically, I’ve never really been proud of my body. I’ve never been severely overweight, but if you had looked at those average weight charts on a medical website, I was in the “overweight” category  (which honestly is so rude for those charts to say). Thankfully, due to some lifestyle changes along with pushing myself at the climbing gym, that is no longer the case, and I’m much more confident in my appearance. (Though to say I don’t still struggle, would be a total lie.) When I first started climbing, the gym was a huge room full of comparison. An average female climber is smaller, slighter, and a lot more toned that me. But I just don’t have that body type. Women in my family have big arms and big thighs, there’s not much you can do to change genetics. However, my arms and thighs house some powerful muscles now. These days I look at a person who would have been my “ideal” body type and I see that I climb stronger and better than them with MY body that looks MY way. (not that it’s about being better or feeling superior to others, but you see the point!)

I’ve also learned to listen to what my body is telling me.  If I’ve climbed hard a few days in a row and my  shoulder starts feeling whacky, I know you need to ease up. I can tell exactly when my skin is reaching its breaking point, and I know when it’s worthless to keep climbing because my energy level isn’t up to snuff. When one of my fingers’ joints starts getting twinge-y feeling, I know I have to let it rest. It’s been so cool to learn more about how my body works while climbing, and when to chill out to prevent any injuries.  


And the last nugget of gold I’ve gleaned from climbing is that I’m an extremely good judge of character (woman’s intuition is probably the biggest factor in this…) when it comes to belay partners. I can watch someone and their attitude towards climbing and determine that I do not want them belaying me on lead, much less on top rope. You have to be able to trust your partner completely when your life is in their hands.

I could go on for ages about how much I love climbing, what it has done for me, and what i’m excited to accomplish, but these are the main things that stand out when i’m asked about why I love climbing. If you’ve ever been curious about the sport, and want to try something new, find a local gym and give it a go! I’d love to hear about how it changes you.

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Cotopaxi Allpa 35liter Pack Review

I was on pins and needles waiting for this bag to arrive. I have never backed anything on a crowdfunding project before and I was worried about the process and if I would get my product in time for an upcoming trip. Cotopaxi did NOT disappoint - shoutout to the customer service Llamas. Y’all are fantastic!

I ordered the Allpa pack in July in hopes that it would arrive in time for me to take it on my New England trip. I kid you not, I received it 10 hours before I had to leave. Cue a mad dash and throwing things around my house trying to pack everything.

So what’s so great about this backpack?

The Allpa pack is a 35 liter pack that was designed specifically for on-the-go travellers who want to skip the hassle of bag checking. Every inch of this product was mindfully created to work well when you are travelling through an airport or a busy city.


When you first look at the pack you see nice rugged nylon exterior with a magnificent llama on the front. All the zippers and lash loops around the pack are sturdy and reinforced. I was really impressed that all the zippers are actually metal instead of the junky plastic so many bags have these days. You can definitely feel that this bag will hold up. Along each side of the bag there are handles so that you can easily heave it up into an overhead, carry it through the airport not on your back, or shove it in a trunk. Each of these seem really sturdy.

If you’re traveling through a crowded city, the threat of theft is unfortunately a possibility. Cotopaxi has that covered. Each zipper has a anti-theft loop that the zipper pull fits through so that anyone trying to get into your bag is stopped immediately.


The next thing you’ll notice about the pack is the heavy duty backpack straps and hip belt. These things are extremely comfortable and have all the same features that you’re 65 liter backpacking pack have. I had to carry this bag through two airports, Boston streets, and the subway and it was just as comfortable as my Osprey! There’s a small zipper pouch on the hip belt that was perfect for holding my ID and boarding pass and later on, a granola bar.


On the front is a deep pocket that has two mesh dividers in it so that essentials are easily accessible. There is a second zipper on the side that houses two padded compartments. One for up to a 15 inch laptop, and a second for a tablet/ipad. I also found it was the perfect size and structure for keeping a couple magazines for when boredom strikes.


The most obvious feature you see is that when you open the main compartment, it lays out like a standard carry on suitcase. This makes packing quickly a breeze. Both sections have a mesh cover that zips up and holds everything in place. In the right side - which is the deepest section that holds most items - there are cinch straps that compress everything so you can zip the bag easier. When I ordered my bag, I opted for the accessory kit which included a mesh laundry bag, a nylon shoe bag, and also an attachable mesh water bottle holder for the outside of the pack. These definitely came in handy. 


In the left side is a place to store the SECOND BAG that pairs with the Allpa. The Batac daypack slides right inside so you can stow it away for when you arrive at your destination. Then you're able to take the smaller day pack around on your adventures while your larger Allpa stays at home.


I haven't had a new daypack since I bought my Osprey "daylite" about four years ago, so this was a breath of fresh air. It has easily accessible pockets and super fun one-of-a-kind colors. I definitely was on the side of over stuffing the pack when I was running around Boston and Acadia, but it held up so well even when I was stressing it's capacity. If you're thinking about purchasing the Allpa without the added Batac pack, I would think twice. The pairing is certainly helpful.


Overall, I give this pack a 9.99/10 rating. My only tiny complaint is the fact that there is no specific camera padded pocket. I think these days most travelers have an SLR in their exploring arsenal. I was able to pack my camera with a sweatshirt around it with no issues, and all the added pockets held my batteries and memory cards perfectly. I think if Cotopaxi were to add a camera pocket or insert this would be a perfect bag.

It's sturdy, fun colored, secure, and expertly designed for hectic travel. It's going to be in my gear closet for years to come!

Buy Here


*This is not an advertisement or an endorsed review. All views are my own and all merchandise was purchased with my own money.

Advice for the First Time Backpacker

I am by definition a novice backpacker. So don't think i've been on some incredible life changing thru hike. I've literally been on two trails. That's it. Though I will fight anyone who says the Fiery Gizard Trail is easy....

My first two trips were such a great learning experience and they've set me up for years of more prepared backpacking. I thought I would share some of my (extremely limited) wisdom for the first time backpacker. 

Go with someone who knows what they are doing.

Make sure you aren’t stuck in the backcountry with someone who hasn’t done the appropriate research about your trip. Make sure you have proper water sources, enough food, you know precisely what paths you are taking, etc.

No matter how tempting it is to go on a jumbled, thrown together, “let’s just GO!” backpacking weekend, I don’t recommend seeking out THAT big of an adventure if you are just as inexperienced as the dumbo planning it. My first trip was planned and executed with incredible precision by a trusted, experienced Boy Scout leader. That’s the type of trail captain you want for your first trip.

Don’t overdo it on your first trip.

You don’t need an expedition the first time you’re dipping your toes in the backcountry waters. I’d suggest keeping your total mileage between 10-15 miles (or less! My first trip was only 6!) with minimal elevation gain. This is most likely your first time carrying all of your belongings on your back for an extended time. Don’t ask too much of yourself.

Borrow. Don’t buy.

Now this is a suggestion I didn’t follow. I knew that when I went on my first trip that I would be using my gear for years to come. But if this a completely new activity for you, I encourage you to try borrow a friend’s gear instead. You can spend anywhere from $250-$1,000 on backpacking equipment (frighteningly easy to do, no matter how absurd that seems), so save your cash and borrow or rent some equipment until you’re ready to make the investment.

For locals, I know that there is backpacking equipment available to rent through ORAC at WKU!

Don’t pack your bag alone.

Ask questions at your local outdoor store, or the ask the trip leader how to pack efficiently. I promise you there will be no judging. Backpackers love to nerd out about their kit. Make sure you learn the method of weight distribution when packing. It’ll make your miles a whole lot easier to bear.


Don’t over pack

If you’ve done any backpacking research you’re going to have already read about weight, weight, weight. Your base weight is important. This includes your entire pack and contents minus your consumables (your food and water). You don’t want to be staggering through the woods with a 7 pound tent, 4 pound sleeping bag and a 2 pound sleeping pad. Keep your essentials lightweight so you have enough room/energy to haul your water and meals. Clothing takes up a TON of room. Try to plan out what you’ll wear each moment of the trip

Subpoint: layer, layer, layer. Make sure all clothing works together and is multipurpose. Bring lightweight layers you can piles on in case of colder temperatures, and then ditch when the sun comes out.

Don’t be so worried about weight that you leave out a few comfort items.

I know this seems to contradict the previous point, but just listen. There are a couple things you might want to bring along to make “roughin’ it” a little bit less…rough! My biggest things are:

Extra pair of camp socks for the evenings. Keep those feet dry and warm at the end of the day!

In-camp shoes. I am partial to Birkenstocks (they are lightweight and easily lashed to your pack) for my camp shoes, but a dollar pair of flip flops are great too. Believe me, after you’ve been walking miles in a day, you are going to want to ditch those chunky hiking shoes and let those barking dogs breathe.

Extra bras and underwear. I’m going to be real (and we haven’t even gotten to pooping out doors yet…..) I’m a sweater. And if I’m hiking or backpacking in temperatures above 75, it’s not going to be pretty. Being able to change into dryer clothing for the night is a major blessing

Share weight when possible.

Coordinate with your trail peeps and make sure you all aren’t packing multiples. You don’t need five stoves, ten canisters of propane, four bottles of sunscreen (well, if I’m with you that may be necessary – redhead problems.), and three water filters. You only need one of each with maybe a few backups depending on the trip. Communication is key.

If you’re cool with sharing tents, split up the poles/rainfly/tent into two or three hiker’s packs. That way one person isn’t stuck with the full weight.

No bathrooms. Don’t freak out.

Pooping in the woods is inevitable. And it’s weird. But here’s the thing, you’re going to be way more uncomfortable if you try to hold it. Fight through the fact that you’re going to be naked and feeling a little too vulnerable. It’s honestly not as bad after the first time. Make sure you learn how to dig a “cat hole” and bring a tiny trowel to share with the group. You’re gonna feel super proud of yourself after you take care of backwoods business. And for you ladies who may be dealing with Mother Nature on a trip, bring plenty of plastic baggies to carry out your trash, don’t bury that non-biodegradable stuff.

Attitude Issues (This one is for me)

I’m mashing three points into one title here.

  • Stay positive and keep complaining to a minimum (unless there’s a legitimate problem obviously!)
    • Everyone is hot, everyone is tired. Point out the great things instead of dwelling on momentary discomfort. No one made you come on the trip!
  • If you are truly struggling, don’t keep it to yourself.
    • You’re companions have no idea If the pace is too fast or you need to break for extra snacks or water. They won’t be able to help if they don’t know! I’ve had full blown panic attacks on trips before, and It was totally okay to take a while and get back to normal. Everyone is going to be so kind and helpful if you give them a chance!
  • If the first trip is awful. Give it another chance.
    • Learn from what made it bad and make the appropriate changes for the next outing. Remember, second or third time’s the charm!

Maybe this list was a no brainer to some, but hopefully it was helpful for someone who's never ventured out for more than a day hike. I think everyone should carry their belongings on their back for a few nights and see how little you actually need to survive.

Happy packing!



Maria Goes

Maria Goes.

     ...That's what people think about me at least. I can't tell you the amount of times that a friend or acquaintance has come to me and asked, "Do you still work? You're always on a trip or going somewhere!". This statement never fails to catch me off guard because to me, it seems like my 40 hour work week is all that I do. Wake up, coffee, desk, emails, numbers numbers numbers, clock out, eat, workout, sleep. That is the normal schedule.

     So if that's the non-glamorous truth, then how are people getting the impression that I'm constantly adventuring in the woods, mountains, or even just a new city? The answer, my friends, is the "micro adventure". A phrase coined by the inspirational Alastair Humphreys. He describes a micro adventure as " Simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organize". 

     Despite my despairingly average week life, I try to create as many three day or two day weekend excursions as I can possibly muster during the weekends, along with a few weeknight activities to spice up the monotony of my existence. Camping, biking, hiking, road tripping. It's simple!

     I suppose that my skill set of being not only a meticulous planner, but also a photographer, lead people to believe I have an overly exciting lifestyle simply because I document the places I go, the people I'm with, and the things I see a whole lot more than the average human bean. (That was one good run on sentence, eh?)

     So, what has been the point of all of this needless information? I have made the decision to utilize the blog feature on my website that I pay for year after year but never put to use. Instead of flooding my portfolio with every photo I take, I will add them to blog posts where I will re-cap the "adventures' that I experience. Follow along, leave a comment, and ask some questions, and even subscribe if you'd like! I'm happy to share the things that perk up a young (semi) professional's life.

(Photos below are from 2017 excursions)