Monthly Archives: January 2011

Staying in Shape for the River Season

fit arm
Creative Commons License photo credit: austins_irish_pirate

I know it sounds silly to stay in shape for the river season, I mean isn’t a river trip supposed to be a vacation? Why do I need to be in shape to take a vacation?

The simple answer is, it is a vacation, however it’s an active vacation which requires the use of many muscles you normally don’t use during our normal sedentary lives. For example how many times do you do these activities:

  • Row a heavily loaded raft?
  • Carry heavy boxes and bags on and off a floating raft?
  • Walk along the tubes of a floating raft?
  • Squat onto your haunches as you put up a tent or help build a sandcastle?
  • Twist and pull a paddle through the water on a paddle boat or in a kayak?
  • Swim in a river?
  • Walk on uneven ground carrying gear?

Basically everything you do on a river trip isn’t something you would normally do on a regular work day, unless you’re a river guide.

Don’t panic though, you don’t need to be in great shape to run a river you just need to be in marginally good shape. If you’re only a passenger you don’t have to be as prepared but even then there are some things you can do now to make your summer river trip more enjoyable.

If you’re the oarsman responsible for getting your friends or family down the river safely you should be in good enough shape to row comfortably all day. It’s not all work, you can rest on the flat stretches but you want to be able to make a move when you have to without pulling your back out.

Preparing a little bit now will help you tenfold when it comes time to take your river trip. Here are some exercises I do on a regular basis to stay in decent shape. I’m not a physical therapist or a doctor, this is just what works for me, it is only a suggestion.

Basic River Trip Workout

1. Pull ups- Pull ups are my favorite exercise. they work your arms, back, shoulders, and even your core. I only do 2 sets of 10 each. This may not be attainable for you right away, but the nice thing about pull ups is how quickly you can see results. If you keep with it you’ll notice how much easier it is to do them and how many more you can do.

2. Push ups- Push ups are like pull ups, they’re hard at first but they build quickly. Push ups help your core as well as your chest, back and arms. I usually do about 3 sets of 25 a couple of times per week.

3. Sit ups- I know these can be tough, but they really help the core. I usually add some twisting at the end to help engage the obliques. In other words I put my right elbow on my left knee as I come to the top of the sit up and vice versa on the other side. 3 sets of 25 are what I normally do.

4. Running- I hate jogging, or running, it hurts and it isn’t fun for me, however it is the quickest and best way I’ve found to keep my cardiovascular system up where I want it. It also helps tone and keeps the weight down. I don’t run a lot, usually 2 three-mile runs a week.

Believe it or not having a good cardiovascular system will help you on your river trip. You won’t get winded when you have to make your way over uneven ground hauling heavy bags. You’ll be able to swim and enjoy the river more too.

I do other stuff besides what I mentioned but that is the core of all my workouts. If you do those exercises a couple of times a week and increase your frequency as the season gets closer, you’ll be ready for your river trip and feel good about taking your shirt off to boot.

Even if you’re only exertion on the river is lifting a beer and a fork to your face, you’ll be better prepared and have more fun if you have some level of fitness.


I’m on my 10th day of P90X and I’m loving it. It’s probably more than you need for basic physical fitness, but WOW, it is an ass kicker and really ramps up your fitness level. I’m committed to sticking with the full 90 days and I’m sure I’m going to have amazing results.

Portable River Toilet Accessories (part 3)

This is the third installment of all you need to know about portable river toilets. Previous posts are, why you need a toilet, and what kind of portable toilet .

Now you know why you need one and which kind you should have, it’s time to discuss accessories you should consider to go along with your portable river toilet.

River toilet
Creative Commons License photo credit: batschmidt

Think about what’s in your bathroom at home. You need some basic necessities like toilet paper but you also need some products you wouldn’t ordinarily need in your home bathroom.

Here’s a list of suggested accessories for your portable river toilet.

  • A medium-sized box to carry all your accessories. You need to purchase some kind of container for all your various toiletries. It should be big enough to accommodate your toilet seat and plenty of toilet paper. It’s a bonus to have a waterproof container, but not essential. We don’t have a waterproof container, but we keep our toilet paper dry by keeping it inside a large Ziploc baggie.
  • Hand cleaner is a must. Bring along either a soap dispenser or a hand sanitizer. If you opt for the soap you’ll need to set up a washing bucket too. This is easy: simply fill a bucket with river water and place it next to the toilet. It’s useful to have a cup for scooping the water onto your hands after soaping up. If you only have hand sanitizer you can skip the hand wash station at the toilet. You should have a soap and water hand-washing station setup at the kitchen area of your camp anyway.
  • A small bottle of dry bleach. When you’re breaking camp and taking down the toilet system, take a tablespoon of bleach and sprinkle it over the poop. This will keep sanitation up and stink down. Don’t put too much bleach in though, you don’t want to create a noxious, possibly combustible concoction.
  • Reading Material. Just like at home, it’s nice to peruse a magazine or some kind of bathroom book while making your morning deposit. However, simply looking at the river flowing by may be enough.
  • Small trash can sized plastic bags and one brown paper bag. If you’re on a longer trip and you’re trying to save space in your toilet, line a paper bag with a trash bag and encourage people to put their used toilet paper in it. I know this sounds gross, but it saves a lot of space and makes cleaning the toilet at trips end much easier. When done, roll up the plastic trash bag and put it in your normal garbage, or store it in a Ziploc in the accessories box. Just don’t forget to take it out at trips end. The paper bag can be used over and over as long as it stays clean.
  • A poop tent. This is certainly not mandatory and I’ve never been on a river trip where one was employed, but some people insist on total privacy when they visit the toilet. They do sell little tents specifically made to house portable river toilets. Be careful where you set them up though, they don’t look like they’d stand up too well to a strong wind.

I’m sure there are more portable river toilet accessories I’m overlooking but this basic list will get you grooving on the river pretty well.

If anyone has any other suggestions to make their daily dump more pleasant on the river, please feel free to comment.

Oregon Snow Pack: Looking Good

What do you do in mid-winter when you’re an avid whitewater enthusiast? You look at the water table and figure out what the coming river season will hold.

deep snow
Creative Commons License photo credit: Minimalist Photography

So far this Winter things are looking really good. There has been a lot of big storms hitting the northwest and the snow depth tables are all saying well over 100 percent. This site is very useful and shows us that for the rogue river basin the average is 121 percent of normal. this site updates daily which is really useful.

However, watching the snow tables is kind of like watching the stock market. There are constant fluctuations and each day is different. It’s far better to follow trends, not day-to-day. There’s also not one damned thing you can do about the results, so what’s the point of it? Really there isn’t one.

Besides, instead of worrying about snow pack you should be out with your kids skiing and playing in all the bountiful snow.

Isn’t it nice to know that all that snow were skiing on now will eventually touch our oars and paddles this Spring and Summer? Love that!

So for now, the Oregon snow pack is looking good. With Winter only just begun we should be in good shape come Spring and Summer as long as the storms keep coming through dropping that luscious liquid onto our playgrounds.

I’m thinking my first raft trip this Spring will be on the Illinois river. Last year we lucked out and got on it on the weekend of April 23rd, this year, with the snow pack, we may want to plan that for a bit later like mid-May.

The snow pack keeps us guessing but at least you can gauge some idea of river trip dates based on the information.

Kid’s Ski Gear: 7 Tips to Dress for Success

It’s been a cold Winter. We haven’t skied in temperatures above 25 degrees, but we are able to take our kids into these cold conditions and have great ski days because we have the proper ski clothing and gear. As my wife likes to say, “There’s no bad weather, just bad gear.”

well dressed skiers
Creative Commons License photo credit: cproppe

Here are some gear suggestions for keeping your kids warm while you ski.

1. Good Long Underwear. It’s not easy to find good long underwear in kids sizes. We have the best luck at local ski shops, but to save some money shop online at places like Sierra Trading Post.

Be sure to look for both shirts and pants that are moisture wicking and breathable. You don’t want real bulky stuff, we usually opt for the mid-weight long underwear.

Kids grow fast, so buy the biggest size you can, but be careful, you want the underwear to be snug. It doesn’t do much good if it fits too loosely.

2. Insulated pants with boot skirt. When you’re shopping for kids’ ski gear, pick ski pants that are lined with some sort of insulation. This won’t be hard to find as most are lined but make sure you’re not picking up just a shell.

Be sure the bottom of the pants have an inner snow skirt. This skirt fits around their ski boot once the boots are buckled. This is essential for keeping the pant from riding up and allowing snow to enter the top of the boot.

If you don’t have a snow skirt the boots will eventually get wet from melting snow and your ski day will end due to cold miserable children.

3. Gloves or Mittens. This is always a tough debate: which is better, gloves or mittens? Mittens are warmer but we use gloves because the kids like to have the use of their fingers when they ski. Mittens are just too restrictive.

In order to make the gloves warmer we always bring along hand warmers. These handy little bags get warm when you shake them. They last all  day if you shake them occasionally. We put them into the palm of the gloves and the kids never get cold hands. They’re cheap and are worth the minor expense.

4. Ski Socks. Buy ski specific socks. They’re more expensive but they’re designed to fit snugly and keep from bunching up in the ski boot. This is very important to make the kids as comfortable as possible. They come in varying thicknesses, we opt for the mid-weight, and as long as were actively skiing and not sitting around, the kid’s feet stay warm.

5. Ski Coat. Believe it or not we don’t get too fancy with the ski coat. You don’t need waterproof or any kind of expensive tech gear. If it’s raining, we aint skiing!

Purchase coats that can also be used for everyday. Really we only look for two things in a coat: warmth and length.

The coat should be insulated, warm and have an outer shell. You don’t want a cotton coat. We want the coat somewhat long, (about halfway down the butt) because the length helps keep snow out of the pants when the little skiers fall.

6. Helmet and Goggles. Yes, you need to purchase a helmet for your child. They can be expensive but you can usually find decent used ones at pre-year ski swaps. Just be sure there aren’t any cracks or fading. Kids grow fast so finding a helmet that’s only been used for a season is pretty easy.

Goggles should be ski goggles. They should fit around the helmet, and be big enough not to be squinching the kid’s eyes. Spend some time fitting the goggles to your child. There’s nothing worse than ill-fitting goggles. Be sure they don’t squish the nose, or encroach on the eye (the 2 most common complaints).

7. Skis and Boots. Go to a ski shop and have a professional fit your kids with skis and boots. You can try to find used gear, but unless you know what you’re doing it’s tough to fit the kids’ properly. If you do it wrong it’ll make for a miserable trip and season. Spend the money and get it done correctly.

Some ski shops have ski swap programs that allow you to purchase gear, (skis and boots) for a one time fee, but then you’re signed up for 3 years. In other words you pay once and get ski gear for 3 years.

At the beginning of each year you return the old stuff, and get new stuff. The third year you keep the gear forever. This helps keep it simple when your kids are growing so fast.