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OUTDOORS TRAVEL

2017 Gift Guide

Somehow, the end of another year is here and so is another season of holiday gift giving. Whether you enjoy giving gifts or dread the holidays, I have some ideas for you! Here is my 2017 list of Erin Outdoors approved items, full of products I have been loving in the past year at every price point to give you some inspiration for the adventure-seekers in your life.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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Sony A6000 Camera with Kit Lens / $498
This is for the person in your life looking to get started in photography. This camera is my Number One Recommendation for a starter camera due to the amount of features it has for its price point. It comes with a 16-50mm lens, which is great for shooting in the outdoors and traveling. This is a mirrorless camera, which makes it smaller in size compared to many DSLRs–– great for someone who is on the move frequently. If you’ve got more of a budget, the A6300 would be the next step up.

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Peak Design Leash Camera Strap / $39.95
A reliable lightweight camera strap for a smaller mirrorless camera. Peak Design’s products feature attachment points that can be unattached super quickly for when you don’t want to use your strap–– a big upgrade from the strap that comes with your camera. If you are shooting on larger cameras (Sony full-frame or larger), I would up-level to Peak’s Slide strap instead to give you more support.

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Peak Design Everyday Camera Pack 20L / $259.95
I used a handful of camera bags this year from a handful of brands, and this one is my favorite. It keeps your stuff accessible, the customizable dividers make sense and are easy to use, and it doesn’t look like your dad owned it in the 90s (no offense, dad). PS– Nope, it doesn’t come with all the stuff in that photo. 😉

Memory cards / $30+
A practical stocking stuffer for any photographer in your life. If you’re giving this to a pro, make sure you buy a fast card (a la 300mb/sec write speed). If they’re newer to the craft, lower speeds are just fine.

TRAVEL & OUTDOOR

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Cotopaxi Roca Duffel Bag / $99.95+
This has been my go-to bag for most of my trips this year. I own the 50L and 70L sizes and find both to be great. The 50L can pretty much always be used as a carry-on size, whereas the 70L is better for when you’re going to be checking your bag or want some extra room. The bag is water resistant and durable, which matters if you’re as clumsy as I am (or if you go to extreme places).

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Cotopaxi Dopp Kit / $19.95
These bags are awesome. I use them for toiletries, lenses, and loose cords. Each one is unique in color, so you will always be able to tell them apart.

TSA approved lock / $10
These just give me peace of mind when I’m checking a bag halfway around the world.

Tea Tree Special Conditioner 10.14 oz.

Travel Size Tea Tree Shampoo & Conditioner / $10 each
This year, I put a bit more care into my beauty & hair routine. My hair stylist told me it’s important to travel with quality haircare, so this is my go-to for most of my trips. I use the same shampoo & conditioner at home and fill up the travel sized bottles in between trips.

Bumble & Bumble Pret-a-Powder Mini / $13
This is the dry shampoo I use on most trips in-between washes. It does a good job of absorbing oil and smells great, plus it isn’t aerosol, which is something I’ve been trying to get away from. This tiny bottle goes a long way!

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Moleskine Cahier Journals / $20 for 3
These were on my gift guide last year… sorry to be so predictable. But they’re awesome. Still. They’ll probably be in next year’s gift guide too.

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Leatherman Juice CS3 Multi-Tool / $29.95
I have become quite familiar with Leatherman’s products over the past year through working with them, and this is one of my favorite tools they make. It just has three things–– a bottle opener, a corkscrew, and scissors, so it’s great to keep stashed in your backpack, car or suitcase for moments when you might need it. I haven’t had any problems taking this tool with me in my carry-on, but keep in mind that TSA can confiscate what they want, so carry on at your own risk.

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Tarte Glow to Go Highlight & Contour Palette / $23
This is a great, easy palette for traveling that I use every day that I wear makeup. If you are curious how it will work on your skin tone, look at the product page at Sephora and scroll down to see looks from girls of all colors on Instagram.

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Ursa Major Traveler Skincare Set / $41
Ursa Major’s simple ingredients and clean scents make for refreshing products for your skin. This kit includes some of their most popular products, sized for travel. Their deodorant is a favorite of mine as well.

travel pillow

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow / $19.95
I never fully understood anyone’s obsession with travel pillows… until this one. I bought it for camping and loved it, so it’s become my companion on long haul flights. It comes in a few sizes– the small one is enough for me personally.

OTHER IDEAS

Ubuntu Made Bandanas / $18
Some of my favorite bandanas are from Ubuntu Made–– an organization that employs and empowers moms in Kenya. Each print is limited-edition.

Books /

  • From Excuses to Excursions by Glo Atanmo. For anyone needing a kick in the pants to get out and see the world. This also happens to be written by one of my favorite humans. (Print version here)
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. For anyone who could use a reality check. Mark Manson is one of my favorite bloggers and his work has always inspired my blog. His book is excellent.
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. For someone who would like a powerful novel that makes you think about culture and history.
  • Braving the Wilderness by Dr. Brené Brown. Dr. Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame is fascinating, and her latest book is a deeper dive into what it takes to be brave.

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Kotah Bear Jewelry / $25+
I love rings. I collect them everywhere I go. Some of my favorites were purchased from Kotah Bear and are from different Indigenous tribes in the American Southwest. Native-made jewelry should always be purchased from Native people. Here’s your opportunity. Kotah Bear is owned by husband & wife team Kotah & Missy, friends of mine who I met on Instagram.

cotopaxi outdoorsy shirt

Cotopaxi Outdoorsy Tee / $22.95
In case you need to remind anyone how outdoorsy you are… there’s this shirt. I like the men’s colors better, so that is where the link will take you. I have both colors.

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Natives Outdoors merch / $25-30
Supporting the visibility of Native people outdoors is important. This year Natives Outdoors started making shirts and hats featuring Native artists for anyone to buy and wear. My favorite is the Ganado Tank.

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Science and nature inspired prints from Brainstorm / $40+
These prints are inspired by the outdoors and are a fun way to brighten up your indoor space. I enjoy the Northern & Southern Hemisphere Star Chart prints… allows me to study constellations instead of fully zoning out in moments of daydreaming.

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Dr. Roebuck’s FACE Moisturizer / $45
This is a new product for me, but in the past month it has been a total treat for my skin, which gets exposed to lots of elements throughout my travels. I am always wary of products that say “anti-aging”, and almost never seek them out, as personally I’m not trying to go against aging–– but this cream has totally hydrated and calmed my skin. You can also pick it up in travel size as part of this kit.

Volunteer your time / Free
This is one of the best gifts on here. Invite your friends and family to participate in a give-back day with you where you clean up an area, spend a few hours at a soup kitchen, or dedicate some time with a local organization.


Whatever you end up buying this year, consider that where you spend your money is important. Consider the ethical and environmental impact of what you are buying overall, and consider that some companies are better at things than others. Consumerism by nature is not environmentally friendly–– that is no secret. Assuming you are going to participate (I am!), ask yourself how you will do so thoughtfully.

I hope this list gave you some inspiration for whatever gifts you are giving this year, or helped give you ideas for what to ask for yourself. I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission if you choose to buy something. These links help me keep this blog full of meaningful content and ad-free, so I really appreciate your purchases!

OUTDOORS SUV CAMPING

Guest Post: How to Turn Your RAV4 into a Camper

A few years ago, I converted my SUV to a camper by building a platform bed in my 2009 Honda CR-V. It’s still a super popular post on this blog– link to the post here. Every so often, folks reach out to me by email or Instagram DM with their own stories and how-to’s on how they converted their car or SUV, so I decided to start featuring them.

Here’s Aric Sparmann on converting his 2008 Toyota RAV4 into a camper. All photos courtesy of Aric.


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Four years of sitting behind a desk for sixty hours a week starts to make you wonder what you’re missing after awhile. The idea of waking up someday as an old man with nothing to show but a lifetime of paperwork is sort of terrifying to me.

I spent most of my time staring out the window, so I decided that’s where I was headed.

I work as a kayak guide on the weekends now. A slow transition away from the dealership I still work at on the weekdays. When I have more free time I prefer to bicycle tour. But the location of the kayak shop is almost two hours away! There’s no sense in driving back and forth everyday, and it’s tiresome to do anyways. Hotels are expensive after awhile. What else could I do?

I’ve literally been driving the answer around every day. I became inspired by Instagram posts of people traveling full time in conversion vans or busses that they’ve made into homes. I didn’t see any reason I couldn’t manage something similar with my 2008 Toyota RAV4.

THE HOW

I removed one of the backseats and laid the larger of the two down flat. Old comfortable couch cushions wrapped in sheets make up the bed. A sleeping bag and pillows on top. Sitting where the other seat was, is a wooden shelf. There is plenty of storage for towels, books, and clothes underneath. A fan, some silverware, obligatory bottle opener, a candle, and an iPod speaker are on top of it. The warm glow of Christmas lights strung around the headliner make it even more cozy. My surf board fits along the side and reaches back between the shelf and the door. My kayak rides on top of the vehicle, with the seat and paddles stored in the lower storage area in the trunk next to back up survival gear, first aid, water jugs, jumper cables, and dehydrated food (ya know, just in case). There’s even a Playstation Two under the seat that plugs into my cars radio unit for rainy days.

Most campsites don’t cost more than $20-30 a night and offer power and water. An extension cord and a power strip light up the interior and charge my devices. The car battery gets disconnected once I park as the rear gate being open keeps the BCM awake and drawing power. But campsites aren’t always available and sometimes I get to rough it with no luxuries. Sometimes that just makes the weekend more exciting!

It’s a tight space, but a cozy one that I call home on the weekends. It makes the weekday drag more tolerable, and has only provoked a strong desire for more.

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Check out Aric’s adventures on Instagram at @asparmann. Questions for Aric? Email him at asparmann@me.com. Have a car or SUV to camper conversion you’d like to submit for me to feature? Shoot me an email at info@erinoutdoors.com.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION SOCIAL MEDIA

You Will Have Haters

And they’ll be loud sometimes. For real. They’ll get inside your head and make you think you should just be quiet.

I write personal development for adventurous people. I also write about things I believe in, including social & racial justice. This grinds a lot of gears for some folks. It’s political. Well, whoop dee doo– I’m over posting neutral content. I’m over seeing it. I’m over the idea that we should try to appeal to a wide audience. Over. It.

Having an opinion based on your values is way more important than trying to get people to like you.

There was a time when I took everything personally. I can’t anymore.

When you exist on the internet, the one negative comment you get (out of however many) will be the one that sticks, I promise. It’ll be the one you zero in on– the one you let define you. But you can’t let it stick. It’s not personal.

Haters come with the territory when you say anything at all that takes a side. Giving enough of a fuck to take a stand is worth it. It’s not really about you, it’s about a bigger picture, so release yourself from having to take everything as a personal attack. Choosing to stand up for anything says far more about the strength of your character than a few (or even a few hundred) negative comments.

I wear my values boldly because I believe that’s how you get shit done. Anyone can tell me that my values or beliefs are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are right in their accusations.

You do not exist to make other people feel comfortable. Your actions speak to your priorities. What do you care about, and are you speaking up about it? Standing up? Showing up? When you decide to do so, I’m on your team.

I have been called many names on the internet– some that I am not even comfortable repeating. But it’s the internet. Is anyone surprised?

Getting hated on means I had something provocative to say in the first place. Many agree, some will not. It is hard to have a peaceful conversation with someone who is determined to bring you down. So if that isn’t going to happen, let it go.

When you live in your truth, people will disagree with you loudly and rudely, online and in person. You cannot let this dampen your spirit or dim your light. More people need your ideas, your vision, and your love more than you will ever know.

We have to give a fuck about things that matter, and we’re always going to get hate for it from someone, somewhere.

And I guarantee that amidst any negativity, there will be a day when you will get an email or comment that simply says, “Thank you for speaking up.”

It will be the only reminder you need that now is not the time to be silent.

 


 

Photo snapped by Adaeze Azubuike.

GEAR REVIEWS OUTDOORS TRAVEL

2016 Gift Guide

I wanted to put together a list of stuff I use and love, not because it’s sponsored by anyone, but because I thought you’d like it. I describe my style as refined grit– and so, this list is for the sophisticated explorer in your life. Someone who gets after it outdoors but enjoys little luxuries too.

This list includes stuff from companies that I work with and companies I have nothing to do with. Whatever you choose to buy this holiday season, remember that you are voting with your dollars.

$25 OR LESS

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Burt’s Bees Lip Balm / $9.01 for two at Amazon
Burt’s Bees has been my go-to chapstick for a while now. Lately I’ve been digging the tinted lip balms, but the original is still great too. A solid choice for a stocking stuffer.

Bananagrams / $12 at REI
Bananagrams is like Scrabble but better and you can play it anywhere. A great game to have and bring on trips!

Topo Designs Accessory Bags / $13-17 at Topo Designs
Full disclosure: I modeled for Topo a year ago and got a bunch of swag. My favorite things from them? These bags. I have one for makeup, one for stationary supplies, and one for memory cards & tech. They are also super durable and Colorado made.

Moleskine XLarge Soft Cover Cahier Journals / $14.69-$19.95 for three on Amazon
The only journals I use. I have been writing and sketching in these for ten years– they are durable and slim so they can go anywhere.

SugarSky Bandana / $22 at SugarSky
A few months ago, SugarSky sent me a couple of headbands, and I haven’t come across any bandanas that I like more! Their patterns are awesome– you are sure to find something for every style.

$50 OR LESS

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Tarteguard 30 Sunscreen Lotion / $32 at Sephora
Give the gift of SPF! I have been wearing this for months as my daily moisturizer and really dig it– I was surprised to see that it only has 4 stars on Sephora! The packaging is annoying for travel since it’s in a pump bottle, but I have been really happy with the formula. I only buy cruelty-free cosmetics and this product is vegan.

Goal Zero Switch 10 Portable Recharger / $39.95 at REI
I don’t actually own this, but I really want one. I’m always running out of juice. There are plenty of portable rechargers out there, but Goal Zero makes durable stuff so I trust that this is no exception.

BioLite Powerlight Mini Light / $44.95 at REI or Amazon
BioLite gave me one of these to try over the summer, and it’s pretty darn handy. It keeps me visible on the trail and it’s a great light to have for reading or hanging out inside a tent. It has multiple modes and is super slim so you can pack it anywhere.

Ethnotek Chiburi Travel Organizer / $50 at Ethnotek
My friend Tiffiny works for Ethnotek and gave me this to try. I have never been one for travel organizers– they just always seemed uncool and over-the-top. I was shocked that I not only continued to use this, but I liked it a lot! This is like a bigass wallet that fits your phone, passport, cards and money. Plus it has a zip pouch for coins.

$80+

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America The Beautiful National Parks Pass / $80 at REI
Access to every National Park in the USA for a year. Pretty sweet.

Ubuntu Made Canvas Shopper / $149.99 at Ubuntu Made
I first found out about Ubuntu Made at a Kammok event this fall. I love their product line– canvas and leather is a combination I will always rock, and this bag is classic. Ubuntu Made celebrates the artisan work of makers in the Maai Mahiu community in Kenya. They have recently partnered with (RED), the global fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Blundstone Boots / $169.95 on Amazon
I got these boots as part of a collaboration with Zappos and fell in love. These are comfortable, durable, and stylish and I wear them every day. Adventure ready for sure.

Cotopaxi Kusa Bomber Jacket / $189.95 at Cotopaxi
So that “refined grit” style I was talking about above? This is that. It’s made from sustainably sourced llama fiber insulation and I could not make that up if I tried. I love that this jacket looks seriously good but also works. Fashion meeting function: yes please. For 15% off, use discount code “ERINOUTDOORS15”.

ANY AMOUNT

Donate to an organization that can use the funds for something you believe in. Here’s where I am giving:

I hope this post gave you some ideas! What is on your list?

 


 

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using the a link above, I may receive a commission at no cost to you. That’s not the point of the post. Just wanted to let you know.

GEAR REVIEWS OUTDOORS

The Deal with Those Folding Kayaks

I present to you, A Skeptic’s Review of Those Foldable Kayaks You May Have Seen on Instagram.

I mean, these things were everywhere. I couldn’t walk two feet in social-media-land without seeing one gracefully gliding across some super blue lake in Canada.*

I went on a trip to Mexico in April, organized by photographer Ali V. and filmmaker Aly Nicklas. There was an Oru Kayak involved.

On our second night of the trip, we found ourselves camping on the beach of a calm bay. I sipped a beer and looked over at the Oru Kayak and thought, I’m gonna set that sucker up.

Turns out we forgot that little thing called the instruction manual. But I figured it out sans instructions and went for a paddle. And it was freaking awesome.

So then, when Oru approached me to see if I wanted to be an ambassador, I said yes. I figured that if they could convert a skeptic like me, it was really a good product.

The first time I took my kayak paddling on my own, I hiked it 2 miles uphill to a lake in Colorado. Everyone I passed wondered what I was doing carrying a box up the trail.

I have to say, it’s pretty cool to get a kayak to a lake that you otherwise wouldn’t paddle on.

oru-dream-10Some talking points:

PACKABILITY

This is my favorite feature. Being able to hike a boat somewhere beautiful by myself is so cool. My boat weighs 28 pounds and goes into its own backpack. It fits on top of my platform bed in my CR-V so I don’t have to think about putting it on a roof rack or doing a really amateur job trying to tie it somewhere. And it’s easy to find a space for it in my garage because well, it’s basically just a box.

EASE OF SET UP

When I first got my kayak, I could set up the Bay+ by myself in 30 minutes. Now it’s more like 20. It’s easier with another person. Taking it down takes me 10 minutes or less. There are, of course, some parts of the boat that are easier to set up than others, but once you understand the process, it’s pretty easy and intuitive.

PRICE POINT

There is no question that these are not cheap, so I think it all depends on your budget and your usage. For me, the biggest reason to buy an Oru is to hike it to remote places, plus it fits in my car. Another thing to consider is how often you’ll be using it. I think it all depends on what makes it worth it for you, but having my kayak in my car makes it way easier to go on spontaneous water-related adventures.

snapped by Nate Luebbe

If you are planning on joining the Oru Kayak family, Oru is providing a 15% off discount code for readers of this blog. Use code “ErinOutdoors” at checkout on OruKayak.com.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!

 


 

I am an ambassador for Oru Kayak, which means my kayak was free. My opinions, as always, are my own.

*Just an assumption that it was Canada. Probably. Anyway.

JOURNAL OUTDOORS

The Biggest Backpacking Trip I’ve Ever Led

I don’t mean big like length of time. I don’t mean it was the hardest trip I’ve led. It wasn’t the trip where my pack was heaviest.

But it was the most impactful.

I was an adventure trip leader for teenagers all over the world, on-and-off for about seven years. I guided on a freelance basis. The job took me to big cities and to remote mountain passes. On this particular trip, it took me to Australia.

When Backpacks.com approached me and asked me what my most meaningful backpacking experience was, I had memories of this specific trip in my head and heart immediately.

Here is the link to the story, now live on Backpacks.com. I hope you’ll check it out!

Backpacks.com is a new site that just launched, aiming to house the right pack for every journey– be it city, mountain, or somewhere in between. My new pack has been hiking, kayaking, and has spent a lot of time inside a less-exciting convention center, at meetings and coffee shops.


 

This post was sponsored by Backpacks.com. My voice is always my own.

GEAR REVIEWS

I Tried Period Underwear

This is a post about period underwear, so first of all, if periods gross you out, you’re gonna need to get over that. The majority of uterus-owners that you know have experienced menstruation for much of their lifetime, so I encourage you to read this review even if you don’t think it applies to you. | Photos by Ali V.

So, let’s talk.

Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing ads on my Facebook about period underwear called Thinx (read: very effective target marketing). Period underwear is exactly what it sounds like– it’s underwear you wear on your period. It’s designed so that you don’t have to wear a pad, tampon or cup, though you can absolutely just wear them as backup.

I’d seen a couple of reviews on Buzzfeed and another website that starts with B. I wanted to review Thinx to see if they’d hold up to my adventurous lifestyle (and yours). I wanted to know if they felt gross. I wanted to know if this would forever change my period routine. I emailed Thinx and they agreed to be best friends forever (or to send me a couple of pairs of underwear).

Two pairs of Thinx came in the mail and I was never so excited to get my period. They suggest on their packaging that maybe I have actually been more excited to get my period. And on second thought, they’re right.

Anyway, I got a hiphugger and a thong style, thinking that I’d have a pair to try on both heavier and lighter days.

Once they arrived, I obviously rushed to try them on. This underwear is soft, kinda silky, sexy and feels awesome. You can tell there’s a little something in terms of padding, but no, it doesn’t feel like a diaper.

DAY 1

The first day of my period was pretty light, and I didn’t change into Thinx until I got home. I decided to wear the hiphugger overnight.

Usually I wear my Lunette cup around the clock on my period, so it was nice to not have to worry about leaks. It seemed counter-intuitive to just…wing it… but sure enough I woke up and the Thinx did its job.

let’s pretend I look like this when I wake up.

DAY 2

The second day of my period is typically heavy, and since the hiphugger was now in the wash, I wore the thong as backup for my cup. The padding on this is so light that I forgot I was wearing it. Backup you don’t even know about is a WIN!

At this point, I think to myself that I could wear Thinx when I’m not on my period… just ‘cuz they’re comfy.

DAYS 3 & 4

Once I had the general idea of how Thinx were going to work for me, I rotated wearing the hiphugger and the thong-as-backup.

When I wore just the hiphugger, I didn’t feel like I was sitting in soggy underwear, but I didn’t feel totally dry– and this isn’t a negative thing, just something I want to mention. This should not deter you from trying these!

I wore the thong to yoga and hiking without backup. It went great. It’s a strange feeling knowing that I’m on my period and knowing that I’m not wearing a pad/tampon/cup. It reminds me of skinny dipping or wearing a maxi dress. Anyway, the thong was definitely enough coverage for a few hours of activity. This depends on your flow.

DAY 5

Typically my periods only last 5 days, so today was a lighter day. Once the thong was dry from washing it, that’s all I wore. I went to work, walked around, sat down, stood up, did things. Thinx has my trust.

BUT ARE THEY GROSS?

well played, Thinx, well played. (via shethinx.com)

 

Nope. Not gross. They explain it well.

 

 HOW DO YOU WASH THEM?

(via shethinx.com)

 

It’s pretty simple really. I will probably pick up a few more pairs so I don’t have to think about dry time, but they do dry overnight if you need ’em for the next day!


VERDICT

Believe the hype!

I will continue to use my Lunette during the day, but will switch to the Thinx hiphugger at night, plus the thong for activities like yoga and hiking on lighter days. It’s really, really nice to have a pair of underwear that does the job of a pad. It’s really nice to not have to worry about it. And it’s really nice that those underwear happen to be comfortable and beautiful looking as well.

Thank you, Thinx, not only for creating this innovative product, but for opening up a conversation about periods that needed to happen, and that needs to happen every single day. We have been taught that periods are a shameful thing, something we shouldn’t talk about. What Thinx (and the people behind it– lookin’ at you, Miki Agrawal) is doing is incredibly important. Let’s have the damn conversation already.

here I am conversing with a lamp, but would love to converse with another person about periods.


Other things I recommend for your period:

THERE ARE PERIOD APPS

Generally, if something is not in my calendar, it does not exist. This would include my periods, however my body doesn’t sync up to my Gmail, so Kindara is a great app to help me pay attention. I use Kindara to track my periods. It’ll also show you your most fertile days, plus you’ll never have to say “two weeks ago” to the gyno again. Unless your last period was actually two weeks ago.

MENSTRUAL CUP

A menstrual cup is a re-usable silicone cup to use as an alternative to tampons. I have been using a DivaCup or Lunette for five years due to rumors and eventually scary facts about tampons. Give it a couple of cycles to get used to it and be patient. This is also what I use when I’m camping– beats packing out a bunch of tampons. Plus, you save money and there is no waste. Party time! There are two sizes, so make sure you get the right one for you. Amazon has ’em at a good price here, or pick one up at REI here.

 


 

As always, I love to hear from you, so feel free to let me know what you think about this review!

Photos by Ali V. Find her on Instagram at @alisonvagnini.