Getting Ready for Adventure

In 104 days (about 15 weeks) I’ll be arriving at the AT Approach Trail, which goes from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain in Georgia. As I write this it feels like more than a lifetime away, but I know all too well that the day will sneak up fast. My gear has a few tweaks left but is more or less complete at this point. My plane ticket is booked and my plans are set in stone. ...

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How Much Does It Cost To Live In Tokyo?

Tokyo is an always-blossoming destination. 

The population is ever growing due to their advanced technology and opportunities. While it’s high in technological advancements, it’s also a fashion forward city. Tokyo is one of the largest city on the planet Earth.

How crazy is that?!


Monthly Housing and Utilities

There are many things to take into account when looking at the prices month to month. With rent being your number one priority, falling short behind are utilities, groceries, transportation and washing clothes.

For monthly rent in an apartment that is 900 sq. feet in the heart of Tokyo, it is over ¥280,000, which equates for $2,300 USD a month. But this isn’t in a cheap area. This is if you want to live in the middle of the city where all the action happens. But with an expensive apartment like this per month, surprisingly, utilities aren’t as high. For two people to live in said apartment, it will be around $111.00 USD in utilities per month. That comes to over ¥13,000. You’re paying mostly for the location.



For Internet, it is around 3600 Yen a month, which equates to $22 USD.  For that great 40” flat screen, that will run you about $600 USD to purchase, which comes to around 72,000 Yen.  

To buy your apartment's first microwave, it will cost you around 24,000 Yen or $210 USD.  For two tickets to that awesome new action movie you’ve been wanting to see, it will be about 3500 Yen or $30 USD.  You can watch a movie from home on Netflix to save cash but you may need to unblock it due to geographical restrictions.

But if you’re looking for a beverage, the price will vary on what you get and where.

  • A beer in your neighborhood:  ¥618 or $5.23
  • A cocktail at a club in the city: ¥1,300 or $11.00
  • Coffee, latte or cappuccino in the city: ¥480 or $4.00



For gas, it will cost you about 628 Yen for a gallon of gas, which is the equivalent of $5.30. But for a monthly, unlimited bus pass in Tokyo, you’ll pay around 12,000 Yen or $102 USD. With the public transportation system going to so many places within the area, the bus pass is a steal if you don’t have enough money for a car monthly!



As you can see, it may not be as high monthly as New York City or Los Angeles, but moving to Tokyo would require some planning no matter what part of the world you are coming from. It may be an easy transition or an extremely hard one but knowing the average prices before hand for certain locations will help you tremendously.




NEMO Disco 15 Sleeping Bag Review

The NEMO Disco 15 (updated for 2019/2020) is a spoon-shaped three-season down sleeping bag for camping and backpacking that has more elbow and knee room than a traditional mummy bag.  Its thermal retention and draft management features add to its versatility, and several well-designed small features make for a bag that contributes to restful sleep.  …

The post NEMO Disco 15 Sleeping Bag Review appeared first on Section Hikers Backpacking Blog.

Thru-Hiker’s Gift Guide 2019: Under $50

We polled thru-hikers, our gear review team, and our writer crew to find out what they’d most want to find neatly wrapped and ready to throw into the pack. These are the items long-distance hikers couldn’t live without this past season, recommended straight from their packs.
Here are the gifts thru-hikers, gear reviewers, and the Trek team recommends, all under $50.
PICKY Oats Performance Oatmeal
MSRP: $3

I loved these. They are $3 a pop, so kind of a luxury—hence, ...

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Gear Review: GORE H5 SHAKEDRY Hooded Rain Jacket

Gore has always been a forerunner of new rainproof technology and this jacket takes the latest innovations to come out of the Gore labs and combines them into an impressive package. The Gore-Tex SHAKEDRY Jacket guarantees to keep you dry,and is impressively breathable and extremely light, weighing a mere 235 grams (8 ounces). If you are looking for something reliable, comfortable and at the cutting edge of its category, this jacket’s a great option.

MSRP: $399.99 (£329.99)
Weight: 8.3 ounces – 235 grams
Materials: Shell face: 100% GORE-TEX membrane; ...

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Where to Shop in Singapore: Best Places for all your Shopping Needs

Shopping is an obvious element of traveling, where a trip is incomplete unless you have walked around the many markets in the place. Maybe because shopping is also an experience in itself, which allows you to enter into an everyday element of the locals’ life - buying the things they buy for yourself, and taking some parts of that place back home with you as a memory.

There are a ton of fun things to do in Singapore such as visiting Disneyland of Singapore and Universal Studios (book your ticket online here to save time). However, if you’re a shopping addict, Singapore will not disappoint you for sure - from big brands to street corners, from souvenirs to vintage items, you’ll find everything here. As you may know, Singapore showcases multi-cultures, which is why not only will you find everything here, but also something from every culture - their way of dressing, the items of use, decor options, souvenirs, and many other items.

The shopping options in Singapore are endless - from Malls, Shopping streets, to Independent Boutique stores, there is a plethora of each of them. Which is why I've listed below the best Malls, Street Shops and Boutique Stores listing what is it that you can get there and what makes it unique.


Scroll below to read about where to shop in Singapore:

1. Malls in Singapore - for all the luxury shopping 

- The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

A luxury shopping mall that is not found on Orchard Street. The Shoppes is where you’ll find many international as well as emerging brands. Gucci, Armani Exchange, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, are a few of the many labels that you’ll find here, allowing you to immerse yourself into a luxurious shopping experience.

Once you’re done shopping here, you can also indulge in some extremely fine dining, as they have an entire floor filled with celebrity chef restaurants. So, if you want to spend a lot of money, and pamper yourself, The Shoppes is your place to be.


- PARAGON Shopping Centre

Situated on the very popular Orchard Street, Paragon is another fine luxury mall in Singapore with around 200 stores spread over six levels. It is known for housing brands like Miu Miu, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Gucci. The store also became popular when the Spanish brand Loewe opened its first-ever concept store in this mall. 

They also host a lot of interesting events like Live Music Sessions, Craft sessions and Screenings, which also makes Paragon an interesting place to spend the evening.

- The Shopping Gallery at Hilton

Known for its premier fashion labels, The Shopping Gallery at Hilton Singapore is perfect for those who want to shop the finest of luxurious clothes, some of which head straight here after their showcase on the ramp. Which means this is where you’d find the latest collection of premier brands. You can also get some of the finest European watches and jewelry as well.

From German Label Jil Sander to Giorgio Armani’s collection, visiting Hilton Shopping Gallery is for those who want to shop luxury fashion. 

- Mandarin Gallery

Mandarin Gallery is situated in the fashion belt of Singapore on Orchard Street, with many other malls, but what sets it apart is that if you want to spend your shopping time only at one place, then this is your place to be, because at Mandarin Gallery, not only would you find the renowned luxury brands, but also independent collectives, where you can shop independent artists’ unique and eclectic work.

From home decor, lifestyle stores, fashion labels, to accessories, you’d find the best of labels for all. Some of the popular brands at the Mandarin Gallery are - Victoria’s Secret, Actus Hause, Boss, and Bimba Y Lola.

There's not only shopping at Mandarin Gallery, but you’ll also find dine-in options, salon and spa, and a jamming studio - making it a perfect one-stop destination to shop, eat and relax. 


- ION Orchard Mall

ION Orchard will instantly attract your attention at the Orchard Street Junction with its glittery outlook during the day, and magnificent shades of light during the evenings.

With stores spread across eight floors, ION Orchard is another luxury shopping mall, which is known for its shopping experience. From Luxury Fashion, Jewellery and Watches, to Sports and Lifestyle, at ION Orchard there are over 300 retail stores. Apart from the stores, shoppers also get to enjoy the many F&B and entertainment stores that are housed in the Mall.

Some of the renowned brands at ION Orchard are Dior, Armani Exchange, Estee Lauder, and Bottega Veneta, among many other fine brands.

Apart from shopping, ION Orchard actively organizes many events and promotions where something interesting is always happening. So make sure you stay updated with their on-going events and promotions whenever you visit Singapore.


2. Street Shopping and Unique Markets in Singapore for an immersive experience 

- Haji Lane

This Arab Quarter in Singapore has a colorful lane filled with many street-style vendors and boutique stores, which gives this lane a very cozy, colorful and bohemian vibe.

You’d find some of the most unique items here and it can be a great place to fulfill a shopping spree. Not only for shopping but at Haji Lane you’d also find some great artworks as graffiti on walls, and cute cafes and eating joints.

- China Town

China Town is known for its Hawker centres, but that’s not it. It is also a prime location to immerse in some street shopping and even get the best bargains. Here, you will find some great spices, souvenirs, and colorful items you can take home. Make sure you look out for Satin Chinese style robes, for a perfect souvenir or item of use from Singapore. 

The market is very colorful and lit and is always filled with people. Once you’re done shopping, you can always hog into some food stall delicacies to end your shopping spree. 


- Katong Square Lifestyle and Vintage Market

Unlike other markets in Singapore, this one is for those who love all things vintage. The Katong Square Lifestyle and Vintage Market is where you will find vintage watches, retro vinyls, bags, jackets among other antiques and vintage goods. 

Not only for shopping, but visiting the Vintage Market is an experience in itself, where you’d see musicians and artists grooving, and playing around while you continue with your shopping.

The Market opens up multiple times in a year, and you can follow Vintage flea Market by the Retro Factory on Facebook to stay updated about a pop-up happening when you’re in Singapore.

- Bugis Street 

Another street-side gem for shopaholics, is Bugis Street which is a paradise for fashion lovers, where there are over 600 stores and street vendors, and you’d find a vast variety of products here in all colors, styles and sizes.

It’s also amazingly pocket-friendly where you can get yourself a casual, everyday outfit for under 10 dollars. You can also look for some great accessories and watches here, as there are a plethora of such products in Bugis Street.

- Singapore Really Really Free Market

Yes, you read that right! A very unique concept, Singapore Really Really Free Market, is absolutely free and is for those where everything is free and nothing is free. It’s kind of like a community, and is based on the concept of alternate gifting economy, and goes beyond the concept of capitalism.

It’s a place where you’d find people giving away clothes, or other items, all for free. You must visit this market, for a unique concept and experience and to see how a market operates without the exchange of money.

The market takes place multiple times in a year, and you can follow them on Facebook to stay updated on the next date of the market.

3. Independent Boutiques in Singapore - to shop exclusive designs and concepts

- Kapok Store at National Design Centre

Originally found in 2006 in Hong Kong, Kapok is a fashion and lifestyle store which showcases different products that are sourced internationally. It brings unique, creative and quality products from different parts of the world specially curated for their store.

There are two Kapok stores in Singapore, but I suggest you go to the one at the National Design Centre (NDC), as it is a huge store which has the best collection.

It’s perfect for those who are fashion savvy as here you will find great clothes from some of the best designers like Saint James, Postalco, Commune de Paris, etc.

- Supermama Store

Supermama is a perfect independent gallery store for travelers, as this is where you’d find quirky and beautiful souvenirs, something you may not only gaze at but also something you can take along.

A very interesting thing about Supermama is that it is not another souvenir shop, rather a place where every souvenir holds a meaning. They work with designers and craft facilities to create authentic souvenir products.

From cute cushions to trays with Singapore’s Map, to artistic tea towels - you must visit the Supermama store for all your souvenir shopping, especially if you have a long list of friends who are expecting souvenirs from your trip to Singapore.

To have a look at their collection, you can visit their website here.

- For The Common Goods

One of our favorites in the list, For The Common Goods, literally lives up to its name and is a sustainable furniture store in Singapore.

At their store, you’d also find many products which are a result of unique collaborations, to showcase craftsmanship, and create sustainable products. You may not be able to buy furniture items, but you can get yourself tea towels, and throws, and otherwise also, visiting the store is a delight in itself due to its aesthetic sensibility.

Their store is only open on weekends, and you can visit only with prior appointments, so make sure to book yourself an appointment before you visit them.

- Niasse Store

Niasse started off as an online retail store, which after great reception from people turned into a huge store, which showcases over 15,000 unique products. It’s a massive store, with all things small, quirky and great.

From t-shirts, souvenirs, gifts for kids, craft items, there is nothing that you wouldn't find here. Basically, it’s a place for all age-groups, no matter what you’re looking for. You’ll be amazed by their huge collection, so make sure you drop in at Niasse to fulfill all your shopping cravings.

There are many Niasse stores in Singapore due to its popularity, but I suggest you visit their flagship store as it is the biggest one and has a huge collection. 


- The General Co Singapore

The General Co in Singapore is where you’d find some unique leather products which showcase a sense of unique craftsmanship and exclusive effort which goes into designing their products. From leather journals to gin bags and canvas totes, they have a very unique range of products.

Apart from their goods, they also offer customization services, where you can get a product specially customized for you depending upon your needs and preferences, be it an additional pocket, or even your initials embossed on a product.

You can visit them on King George Ave, and even participate in some craftsmanship yourself to awaken your hidden artist.

There are many shopping lanes, shops, markets and hidden corners in Singapore, where you can find unique picks, and even be surprised at their prices. So make sure you put these markets on your to-do list whenever you’re in Singapore! Shopping in Singapore is a must!


Travel tip shared by swapnil


Gear Review: TOAKS 900ml D130mm Pot

One of the most enjoyable parts of a long day on the trail can be a hearty hot meal in camp. The TOAKS 900ml D130mm Pot is a nicely sized vessel that can help make that happen. Its extremely light weight makes it easy to throw in your pack without worrying about adding much strain to your shoulders. If you want to boil water for your food in the backcountry, this TOAKS pot is a solid option.


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What 2020 PCT Hikers Need to Know I: Gear, Permits, and Getting to the Terminus

Being a 2020 PCT hiker means you’re going to have to do some research. There are plenty of questions you’ll spend hours thinking about before you ever take your first step on the Pacific Crest Trail. You can dream about hiking from Mexico to Canada for years, and then when you commit it, not know where to start planning.
But worry not, because whether you’re a planner or a total procrastinator, we’ve got the breakdown for you here. ...

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Traditions for Christmas in Barcelona

Christmas is a very important time of year in most calendars and that does not change for Barcelona.

Here, there are many parts of tradition, both new and old, for people to enjoy. Whether it be food, stalls, religious or not, there is plenty to learn about.


Here are some of the most traditional aspects of Christmas time in Barcelona.

Firas: Christmas markets in Barcelona

The “Firas” are one of the main things to be a part of in terms of traditions around Christmas in Barcelona.

These Christmas markets are found throughout the city. The main two being the Fira de Sant Llúcia and Fira de Sagrada Familia. With the Santa Llúcia market being located in front of the beautiful Barcelona Cathedral, dating back to 1786, making it the oldest Christmas market in the summer. The Fira for the Sagrada Familia dates back to the 1960s, making it a newer market but no less entertaining!

Here you will find a range of handmade gifts that any loved one would love to receive. In addition to this, figures that you will not want to miss some traditional Catalonian Christmas. Firstly, with the Caganers, these are miniature figurines that became part of tradition in the 18th century, depicting a follower at the nativity scene. Nowadays you can find Caganers of many famous people, from footballers to politicians! 

Secondly, the “Caga Tió de Nadal” is another piece of history associated with the festive period in Barcelona. This is a log with a face on it has legs and, usually, from the 8th December becomes a member of the family. The idea is that kids leave food out for the Christmas log, look after it by wrapping it in a blanket and taking good care of it. If the children do this then they are rewarded with presents on Christmas Day. This Catalan tradition is concluded with the burning of the log after Christmas Eve!


Traditional Christmas Food

"Rostit de Nadal" is the main food eaten for a Christmas meal in Barcelona, it compromises of roasted chicken, that is placed into the oven with other vegetables and spices, usually onions, garlic and, of course, some rum! The dish is slow cooked and is served as a juicy and warm meal that really brings families together at this time of year in Barcelona.

"Escudella i Carn d`Olla" is another dish that forms the catalan Christmas traditional as it is found on the dining table in Barcelona during Christmas. This starts off as a meat broth that contains chicken, pork and botifarra- a Catalan styled sausage. Then, the meat is cooked with meatballs, or pilota, and once it is ready will be drained. 

The broth, now separated from the meat is used to cook some long noodles. At Christmas time large noodles are used, called “Galets”, as they look as big as snails! The noodle soup is then served before the meat that is a main dish accompanied by seasonable vegetables.

"Turrón or Torró" is one of the most well known Spanish Christmas foods to find in Barcelona. It is made from honey, sugar, egg white and toasted almonds. Once baked, it is rested into long cubes and enjoyed around the table once being broken. The first time Turrón was first made in Spain dates back to the 16th Century and since then, it has become a traditional Christmas sweet that is enjoyed all over Barcelona.


Barcelona Shopping Night

A new tradition that has become just as popular in Barcelona, is the one night of late-night shopping on Passeig de Gràcia. Here, on 19th December 2019, shops will reopen from 8pm-1am for last minute shopping. This night has music and food on offer, with the street becoming more like a fiesta than a high-street! It is great fun and the ideal way to get those much desired Christmas presents for loved ones.


El Gordo

This is the second longest continually running lottery in the world. Beginning in 1812, The big one, or “El Gordo”, is the maximum prize of the year. It is common to buy friends and family a ticket for this lottery in the hope that they win El Gordo for Christmas.The first prize is €4,000,000. Yet the main aspect of this lottery is the number of prizes you can win, with many winners named each year. It is a large part of Christmas tradition in Barcelona and, as they say, you have to be in it to win it!



Lastly, the Pessebre is a nativity scene that can be seen in Barcelona, and is high on most families´ to-do list as Christmas approaches and it is not getting a Christmas tree... which is becoming more and more popular! Instead, the nativity scene is seen on Plaza Sant Juame and is visited by people in their thousands. Each year, the designer of the scene changes, giving the locals a chance to enjoy a new design every Christmas season.


Why Hike the AT Now?

Why the AT?
Sometime at the end of 2018 Hannele and I were discussing that we would like to use some of our long service leave to take a bit of time off work and do something totally different and amazing. We initially thought that it would be a 4WD trip up the north end of Australia because 4WDing is one of our passions and this is an area we are keen to explore. Somehow the conversation turned to a recognition that we could do this anytime we want and, ...

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