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DARK PEAK BLOG

Outdoor Activities: How to Get the Kids Excited about Going Outside

Outdoor activities all too often take a backseat now thanks to phones, tablets and televisions. Although screen time can be fun and even educational at times, there’s nothing like learning about the environment around us and getting back to nature.

If you’ve ever wondered why your kids enjoy the cardboard box their new toy came in, more than the toy itself, the answer is simple: imagination. This is exactly why kids love sticks, leaves and mud. These pieces of nature do nothing on their own – unlike toys and devices these days – so a child has to use their imagination and creativity to come up with uses for them. Outdoor activities encourage kids to step outside of their comfort zone, using sticks as pens to draw with or make dens, and by using mud as their canvas to draw on or make messy mud pies.

There are all sorts of opportunities out there, and if you can get your kids involved in fun outdoor activities, they’ll always be excited about going outside.

Leave No Trace

The first – and maybe most important – thing to remember when taking part in outdoor activities is to treat the countryside with respect, and leave no trace of your presence there after you’ve left. A few key tips for doing this are as follows:

  1. Never leave litter – pack it in, pack it out.
  2. Only use what has already fallen (unless you plan on eating it).
  3. Don’t trample plants, break sticks off living trees, or pick wildflowers.
  4. Never disturb nesting animals.

Try to use only what nature offers you. If you do need to use anything like rope or string, just make sure to take it back with you at the end of the day. Kids learn by example and by instilling a respect for nature and the environment through fun and responsible outdoor activities at a young age, you will help them grow into responsible adults who will pass that respect onto future generations. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, keep an eye on our site – we’ll be going into more detail about the importance of Leave No Trace in a future post.

Outdoor activities: how to get the kids excited about going outside

Wildlife

The great outdoors is home to all sorts of wildlife, so make the most of it when planning outdoor activities for your little ones. They’ll love seeing who can spot the most squirrels or identifying different types of birds or insects. Once they get a little older, they’ll also be able to start tracking animals by identifying paw prints or fur that’s been caught on fences or trees. Encourage your little adventurers to listen to all the sounds going on around them and challenge them to identify which noise belongs to which animal. Kids are often fascinated by animals, so using wildlife to support your outdoor activities will always be a winner. Just remember to treat wildlife with respect, encourage unobtrusive observation, and make sure not to interfere with the wildlife they encounter.

Building, Making And Creating

Sticks are great when it comes to outdoor activities; their possibilities are endless. If there’s a stream nearby, why not skip the easy option of ‘Poohsticks’ and instead make boats! Use sticks for the hull, leaves for the sail, and anything else you and the kids can find to make each boat. Then race them to see whose boat is the fastest!

One of the main outdoor activities kids love is building dens, and let’s be honest, you’ll probably enjoy this just as much as they will. If the kids are old enough, they should be able to lift relatively big sticks, so you can try building a den big enough for them (and you) to sit inside. Use long, straight sticks to build the main structure, lots of thin, bendy sticks to weave between the big sticks, and as many leaves, moss and grass to cover the walls and make the carpet. If your kids are quite little and big sticks are a bit of a challenge, they can still get involved with den making by building them for animals or fairies.

For the more artsy children, outdoor activities can involve using sticks as pens, with mud as their paper. They can write their name, draw pictures and even use other items they’ve found to stick in the mud to create a masterpiece. Or, if they’d rather not use mud as their paper, bring a small bag or box for them to collect their favourite items in and when you get home, they’ll be all set to make a nature collage.

Most kids will love messy outdoor activities, so head off to find the muddiest spot you can for mud pies. If you’ve got beach buckets or even small plastic tubs, take them with you, if not, be prepared to get even messier. Fill the buckets with mud, and whatever else the kids can find to put in them, turn them over onto the ground and voila; one mud pie. If you’ve not got buckets with you, it just means you’ll have to use your hands to mould the mud into a pie shape instead. Here, the most appealing pie wins, just don’t eat them. As far as outdoor activities go, this one is one of the muckiest, but also one of the most fun!

If your kids really struggle to be away from their tablets, give them a camera or a phone to take some pictures with. They might still be on an electronic device, but their focus is on the outdoor activities they’re taking part in as well as nature and what they can see. Eventually, the kids might get interested enough to put the phone down and get involved in some more hands-on outdoor activities.

Outdoor Activities: How to get the kids excited about going outside

Nature

Nature has so much to offer simply by being there, making it one of the best props for outdoor activities. The kids will love a scavenger hunt, so make a list of a few things to find such as pine cones, feathers and twigs and send them off on their adventure. You could even get a nature picture book to help you identify any plants, trees or wildlife you come across.

The nearest, stream, river or lake can be a great place for a variety of fun outdoor activities, such as paddling, skipping stones and searching for creatures that live in or near water, such as frogs, tadpoles, fish and birds. Water can be hazardous, so always take care and supervise your kids carefully. Be sure to check for water hazards such as fast flowing currents, and beware of dangerous animals if you live in an area where they are known to inhabit.

If they’re old enough, the kids will love the thrill of climbing a tree. This is one of those outdoor activities which should be left to your best judgement and should only be attempted under your supervision. The achievement of climbing even just a short way up a tree will make your kids proud of themselves, give them a confidence boost, and even encourage them to problem solve and work together so that everyone can complete the challenge.

Sometimes, when you’re out doing outdoor activities, you might come across wild garlic or a blackberry bush. Take a few bags or jars with you when you go out, in case you come across anything you can forage and include in that evening’s dinner. Your kids will love knowing where their food has come from, and the fact that they were involved in the picking and making of it. Educate yourself on edible plants that grow near you and of course, if you aren’t certain a plant is edible, then it’s best to leave it be.

Games And Exercise

As well as walking to your destination, your little energetic monsters can get some exercise with games and outdoor activities, such as hide and seek and tag, which are far more fun when you’re outside in nature. You can also set up races and challenges for everyone to get involved in. Why not have your own mini Olympics with relays from tree to tree, weight lifting with small stones, climbing up rocks and anything else you can think of?

An obstacle course competition is possibly one of the most fun outdoor activities out there, and nature offers a lot of obstacles. Use a fallen tree trunk as a balance beam, rocks for climbing, streams for jumping. There are all sorts of challenges waiting to be overcome, and the kids will thrive off completing them, giving them the confidence and skills they can use in future.

These are all outdoor activities which the kids will love getting involved in. Take them to the same places throughout the year so they can see the change in seasons and the varying items nature has to offer for different times of year, and every time you head outside, take a picnic so you can be with nature all day long, just maybe bring the mud pie suggestion out after everyone has eaten! Here at Dark Peak, we’re all about outdoor activities and getting everyone back to nature. Take a look at our pages to find out more about our love of the outdoors.

Helping the Homeless: Making a Difference for Someone Sleeping on the Streets

Helping the homeless is something most of us think about doing when we encounter someone living with homelessness on the street. Maybe it’s in the moment, or sometime soon after we feel like we should do something to help, but many people aren’t sure of the best way to lend a helping hand. Should you give money? Should you give food? Should you simply offer a conversation? When it comes to helping the homeless, some of these things are more helpful than others, so below are a few pointers that will really help you make a difference.

The first thing to do if you’re interested in helping the homeless to any extent is educate yourself, so you can gain some understanding of rough sleepers, without judging them. Learn about the reasons someone could end up sleeping rough; it’s often not what you might think. These include a lack of affordable housing, loss of a job, divorce, illness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, amongst a whole host of other reasons. If you’d like to know more about the causes of homelessness, some good resources are listed at the bottom of this article.

It’s also wise to research local charities, non-profits or shelters which work towards helping the homeless, so you can pass on this information to any homeless people you meet. They might not be aware of the support available to them and might be grateful to know of organisations who can offer them food, shelter or even just a listening ear.

How to Act

One of the main things to bear in mind when approaching a homeless person is that they are in fact just that; a person. Helping the homeless doesn’t have to be difficult; all they might want from you is a little acknowledgement, compassion and to be treated like a human being. A homeless person might spend their whole day being ignored, so a smile and a simple ‘hello’ can go a long way towards improving someone’s day.

When striking up a conversation with someone on the streets, show respect and compassion towards them and their situation. Firstly, make eye contact so that they feel valued and second, if the person is sitting down, try to speak to them at their eye level, by crouching down or asking if you can sit with them for a short while.  One of the easiest ways to help is to ask them if there’s anything they need and then offer to buy them something if you can afford it. Sometimes this can be as simple as offering to buy them a cup of tea or coffee.

If you see someone who looks to be in immediate danger, call the emergency services and let them know where they are.

Sometimes the homeless person you approach might not want to talk to you, or might not be in an appropriate state of mind for conversation. You can still help by taking the time to find out which organisations in your area are geared towards helping the homeless people in your area. These organisations – be it a shelter, soup kitchen, registered charity, or non-profit etc – will almost always appreciate your support. Be aware that these helping the homeless organisations all have different needs; some may ask for lightly worn clothing, others might prefer monetary donations to provide meals and other services to their homeless clients. Talk to them and ask what they need and if you can help, donate whatever you are comfortable with. Whatever you do, don’t just send a bunch of old clothes or some tinned food etc to one of these organisations unsolicited, as while they’d probably appreciate that your heart’s in the right place, they might not be set up to receive these items.  

What to Give

Remember, when you see someone begging in the streets, that not everyone who begs is actually homeless. This is why a lot of charities and shelters advise that you might not be helping the homeless at all by handing out money, which could be spent on alcohol or drugs. While providing short term mental escape from their situation, these do not actually help a person and could result in them being left in a worse mental state or in a physically vulnerable condition, unable to look after or protect themselves.  

In many cases, it’s much more helpful to donate food, clothes and other useful items, instead of money. In addition to this, care packages containing a few essential, low-cost items are a great way of helping the homeless. Below is a list of items to consider giving:

Helping the Homeless: Making a Difference for someone sleeping on the Streets

Food & Drink

  • Water bottle or a soft drink
  • Canned food with pull tabs that can be eaten cold, such as tinned fruit or tuna
  • Crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Cereal or granola bars
  • Cheese
  • Mints
  • Tea or coffee or another hot drink
  • Pet food

You could also consider donating a gift card for a food shop or café (we suggest ones that don’t serve alcohol). This way, they can choose the meal they fancy the most, and even escape from the elements for a short while.

Additionally, more and more cafes are choosing to try helping the homeless with a pending coffee scheme, whereby you can buy an extra coffee and leave it as ‘pending’ until someone comes in who can’t afford one. Ask if your regular cafe does this, and if so contribute. If they don’t, make a friendly suggestion to their management that they consider starting a similar scheme.

Toiletries

  • Wipes
  • Alcohol hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Nail clippers
  • Plasters
  • Lip balm
  • Comb or brush
  • Deodorant
  • Hand lotion

Other Useful Items

  • Blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Rucksacks
  • Cups
  • Utensils
  • Books
  • An encouraging personalized note

Helping the homeless with a package made up of some of the above items is a great way to show you care, though bear in mind that the essentials required by a homeless person vary from place to place and season to season. For example, in the winter, great items to give are gloves, hats and heat packs, as well as a decent jacket or even a sleeping bag. However, the summer heat means that summer essentials include sun cream, a sun hat, or perhaps a frozen bottle of water to help protect from the sun and cool down.

Another great thing to include when helping the homeless with care packages is a list of free resources and helplines in your local community. A rough sleeper might not always be aware of the assistance available to them, so a list like this could get them the support they need to get off the streets.

Helping the Homeless:  Making a Difference for Someone Sleeping on the Streets

Giving Clothes

Giving clothes is a great way to begin helping the homeless in your area. The below items are always near the top of many shelters ‘items we need’ lists:

  • Coats / jackets
  • Socks (new pairs)
  • Gloves
  • Base layers (t-shirts etc.)
  • Sweaters / Hoodies
  • Trousers / pants
  • Shoes

Of course, not everyone is the same shoe size as you and your old jacket might not fit the nearest homeless person who you’d like to donate it to. It’s often better to donate clothes through an organization who can sort them and distribute them appropriately. If you have lightly worn clothes consider donating them to a local shelter, but make sure to contact them first and ask what they need, before wasting a journey turning up with bags of old clothes.

Alternatively, you could consider running a coat drive. One Warm Coat (https://www.onewarmcoat.org/ ) is a US national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need. They support individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the U.S. by providing the tools and resources needed for helping the homeless, collecting lightly used coats for donation to people in need.

Similarly in the UK, Wrap Up London https://wrapuplondon.org.uk/ run a yearly winter coat drive to gather coats for the local homeless. Don’t live in the US or UK? Start by searching the web for “coat drive UK” (change UK for your country / city) to find out which organisations arrange coat drives near you.

What to Do Next

Depending on where you live, there might be a local or national organisation nearby, for when you come across a homeless person who looks as though they need a helping hand. For example, StreetLink (streetlink.org.uk) work in the UK towards helping the homeless across England and Wales, by connecting people sleeping rough with local services that can support them. If you don’t live in the UK, there may be a similar organisation in your home country – the best place to start is by searching the web.

Helping the Homeless: Making a Difference for someone Sleeping on the Streets

If you live in the UK and the weather looks to be getting bad, get in touch with your local council to ask about SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol). This is an initiative whereby local authorities aim to provide emergency shelter to homeless people in extreme and dangerous weather conditions. If there is a local SWEP location helping the homeless to escape the weather in your area, point people you see in the right direction so they can get shelter.

Similar to this in the US, some fire stations, libraries or recreation centers open their doors on especially cold nights as emergency shelters, or warming centers. Make a point of knowing what sort of emergency weather services are available to help the homeless people in your area, so you can pass this information on if you encounter anyone who needs help during extreme weather events.

For ongoing ways to keep helping the homeless, you could consider calling up your local shelters to find out which items are needed and try and source them. It’s amazing what items you can find when you have a clear out, that would be gratefully received by a homeless shelter.

If someone is begging aggressively, or even harassing you, call the police and report the incident. Again, if someone looks to be in any immediate danger, call the emergency services to get them the help they need.

There are many gestures big and small which can contribute towards helping the homeless. If you’re looking to work towards helping the homeless, you can do so with our NESSH Jacket. We’ve designed a jacket tailored to the specific needs of a homeless person, and for every NESSH Jacket we sell, we give one of these jackets away as part of our #OneSoldOneGiven initiative. This means that by purchasing one of our NESSH jackets, you are also helping the homeless. Take a look at our website to find out about our story and the only jacket in the world which keeps two people warm.

Find out more about the causes of homelessness:

UK:

Homeless Link: https://www.homeless.org.uk/facts-figures

Crisis: https://www.crisis.org.uk/ending-homelessness/about-homelessness/Streets of London: http://www.streetsoflondon.org.uk/about-homelessness

USA:

National Alliance to End Homelessness: https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/

National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org/about-homelessness/

Europe: FEANTSA: https://www.feantsa.org/en/about-us/faq

Down Jacket Care; How To Safely And Effectively Clean Your Pride And Joy

How to wash a down jacket is one of the biggest questions that outdoor clothing owners face. You’ve invested in a down jacket, so to preserve its quality, it’s worth investing your time into keeping it looking and functioning at its best.

Many hikers, cyclists, adventurers and climbers believe it isn’t possible to clean a down jacket, for risk of ruining it or being left with a down jacket that’s not as insulating as it once was.

The truth is that it is totally possible to wash a down jacket, you just need to make sure that it’s done properly, using the right equipment and detergent to avoid the panic of thinking you’ve ruined your prized possession. With a bit of time and care, this guide will have your down jacket looking good, feeling warm and will actually extend its usable life.

What you’ll need:

  • Front loading washing machine (or large tub if hand washing)
  • Down jacket specific washing detergent
  • Dryer
  • 2 or 3 clean tennis balls or dryer balls

Expected time: 2 – 3 hours


Down Jacket

Down Jacket Washing and Drying Method:

1. Pre-Wash Preparation

Before you wash your down jacket, it’s a good idea to remove any loose dirt with a brush. Make sure you do up any zips or velcro, close any flaps and ensure there’s nothing in the pockets. Down jackets can tear against rough or sharp objects and surfaces, so don’t give them any excuse to.

Turn your jacket inside out, and if it’s really dirty, you can even soak it for an hour in warm (not hot) water, before sticking it in the washing machine. This will help to ease off any excess dirt, just try to squeeze out some of the water before you put it in the washing machine, but make sure not to wring the jacket out as this is likely to damage it.

2.a. Machine Washing

It’s important to note that you should only use a front loading washing machine for this step. If you don’t have access to one, we recommend hand washing instead (2.b). Do not use a top loading agitator washing machine, as this can damage the jacket.

The first thing you need to do when you wash your down jacket in a washing machine is clean out the detergent section of any leftover suds or powders. Then if you can, run a hot wash without anything inside the drum. This is to ensure that there’s no residue left in the machine that can damage the delicate plumes in your jacket.

Set the machine to a cool, gentle wash at around 30°C (some machines refer to this as the Wool Cycle). We recommend using a down jacket specific detergent, these are designed not to damage the water-resistant coating or the down itself. If you can get hold of NIKWAX Down Wash Direct, this is a great detergent to use.

Follow the instructions on the down jacket detergent, regarding the amount of detergent to use, and set the cycle going.

Once the machine has finished its cycle, run an additional rinse cycle to make sure all the detergent residue in the down has been washed away, and place the machine on a low speed or a gentle, delicate spin cycle to remove any excess moisture. After that, it’s time to start the drying process (3).

2.b. Hand Washing (skip this step if you followed 2.a)

Machine washing your down jacket will yield the best results, however, if you don’t have access to a front loading washing machine or if you’re not very trusting of your washing machine and you’d rather wash your beloved down jacket by hand, you can do so by placing the jacket in a large tub, or even the bath.

First, fill the tub with warm (not hot) water and leave your jacket to soak for about 30 to 60 minutes. Then, using the same down jacket friendly detergent, gently hand wash the jacket to remove dirt and stains. Finally, rinse the jacket well under cold water, making sure to remove any excess detergent, and then carefully squeeze out any excess water (making sure not to twist or wring it) before you start the drying process.

3. The Drying Process

Once your down jacket has been thoroughly cleaned, carefully lift it from the washing machine or tub, making sure not to twist or wring it en route to the dryer. Don’t be alarmed that it looks like a soggy mess, this will improve as the jacket begins to dry. Before popping it into the dryer, squeeze any excess moisture gently from the jacket, again without twisting or wringing the fabric.

Tumble dry the jacket on a low heat (some dryers call this a Wool or Delicates drying cycle) and before you close the door, throw in two or three clean tennis balls or dryer balls. These help to re-loft the down as it dries and stop it from clumping together. Do not try and speed up the drying process by using a high heat setting as this is likely to damage your jacket.

Take your down jacket out of the dryer approximately every 15 minutes to fluff the jacket by hand, as you would a pillow or a cushion. This might sound quite lengthy, but it will result in returning your puffy jacket to its best. Depending on the amount of down in your jacket, it can take up to 2 hours for it to dry completely, so make sure you’ve got a good book and a cuppa to hand. Once the jacket is mostly dry, you can begin to give it a little shake to reposition the down to any areas that feel a little empty, returning it to the dryer again for another 15 minutes or so. Once it’s completely dry, your down jacket should be as good as new and ready for your next adventure together.

Down Jacket

Things to bear in mind:

  • Don’t wash your down jacket in a top loading washing machine. The centre agitator is likely to damage it.
  • Don’t worry if your jacket smells a little straight after you’ve washed it – this should have disappeared once it’s totally dry.
  • The thing to bear in mind when you need to wash a down jacket is to do it as sparingly as possible, but as frequently as necessary, or in other words, about once or twice a year.
  • If the outer fabric on your down jacket is old, weak, damaged or deteriorated, we recommend hand washing instead of using a machine.
  • If you’ve got a synthetic insulation jacket, the cleaning process is much the same, except you don’t need to be as rigorous with the drying process, as the synthetic material doesn’t clump or absorb water in the same way natural down does.

Follow this simple guide to keep your down jacket in the best condition possible. It is commonly believed that washing a down jacket will damage it, but in fact, keeping it dirty and unkempt is likely to be more damaging. It’s good to take the time to care for your down jacket to ensure it has a long and functional life, keeping you warm. Take a look at our NESSH Down Jacket to explore the features it has to offer and to get to know our story.

Down Jacket