So there’s absolutely nothing fab about socks, no matter how I work my way through this. But my hope here is that I write this post and maybe someday someone is researching hiking socks, Googles “Best socks for hiking” and stumbles across our blog. One can hope, right?


These are the socks I swear by and brought with me to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Of course it’s a personal preference but if you’re looking for kick-a$$ socks that will keep your feet warm, dry and comfy then read on!


5) Wigwam Merino Light Hiker Socks

Not only is Wigwam fun to say, they make great socks too! Ok, that deserves an eye roll. I like how these are a little tighter around the arch of your foot and have cushioning around the heel and forefoot. Can we all just take a second to read the top review for these socks titled “The Beatles of Socks” where they’re compared to “a million of the world’s cutest puppies licking your feet”?

‘Nuff said.

4) Smartwool Hiking Women’s Crew Socks

There’s nothing fancy about the Smartwool socks but they do the trick. I have a few pairs of them and over the years they’ve become a staple in my hiking wardrobe.


3) DARN TOUGH Light Hiker Micro Crew Sock

I only have one pair of these babies and they’re the pair that I grab as soon as they’re out of the wash. These were the first pair of hiking socks I bought when I was at SAIL; Up until then I was hiking in athletic ankle socks. How, I’ll never really know. Such a rookie move.

What I love about these socks are that they’re super light weight but are somehow (with the magic of Merino Wool) still incredibly warm.


2) Women’s Merino Wool GX Hiking Socks

These were an online find only a week or so before my trip to Tanzania and MAN, am I ever happy to have found them. They come in a beautiful rainbow of colours (FUN!) and also happen to be a cheap yet awesome sock. I wore these for probably 80% of my time on Killy.

Even though these are my second fave sock, there’s not much to say about them other than the fact that they’re super comfy, kept my feet warm (or cool in hotter temps) and didn’t break the bank. Two big ol’ thumbs up.


1) Icebreaker Lifestyle Ultralight Women’s Crew Socks

Oh, Icebreaker, you did it again. My collection is starting to look like I’m a walking ad for the company. If you don’t own anything by Icebreaker and you’re an outdoorsy person you need to drop every right this second and buy some NOW. This is an order.

These lightweight, super soft, non-itchy, anti-blister socks are the and well worth the slightly higher price-tag.


Happy trails!

– Vicky

Vicky Castledine

Vicky is a Content Marketing Manager from Monday to Friday and a trail runner/ book lover/ dog hugger/ wilderness explorer after 5 PM and on weekends.

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Oh, the joys of living 230 ft above sea level. Breathing is quite easy for most of us in Ottawa. I never realized I took advantage of oxygen until a simple task like rolling over in my sleeping bag took my breath away.

To give you perspective, the elevation of Mount Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 ft. At summit you’re breathing half as much oxygen as you are at sea level. So, what does that mean? Doing everything at high altitude is laboured, strenuous and difficult.

Altitude was the biggest unknown and also the scariest thing for a lot of us on the Dream Mountains team. You cannot train for altitude – unless you visit a place at high altitude for a long period of time, or you’re one of the African porters/guides who has summited Kilimanjaro over 400 times (no exaggeration).

Our lead guide and Dream Mountains Founder, Shawn Dawson, advised us that the following would help prevent/battle altitude sickness:
1. Drink 6+ litres of water per day
2. Don’t stress
3. Go slow
4. Sleep

Sunday, April 2nd we started our ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro. We were 30 clean hikers excited and a tad nervous to see what the next 8 days on that giant rock would bring.

After a fun and somewhat slow first trek through the rain forest, the first night at Machame Camp (just shy of 10,000 ft) was my first taste of the affects of altitude.

Machame Camp

I’m also going to factor the new food and water into account here – but I was up 6 times running to the little tented portable bathroom that night. When I curled up in my sleeping bag, it felt as though my stomach was rotting from the inside. I vividly remember trying not to cry too loudly so I wouldn’t wake up Vicky next to me. I remember thinking there was no way I could do the next 7 days on this stupid mountain. I wanted to go home.

The next morning I felt a bit better, told our guides in on my issue, and one of our African guides, Bruce, kept a close eye on me the rest of the day and advised me to only eat only toast and rice. Our hike was much slower that day and moving/lots of water/good company healed me.

I ended up feeling MUCH better but throughout the climb I also suffered normal side effects like headaches, fogginess, nausea, loss of appetite, and a lung-crushing feeling near the summit. The higher we went the harder it was to breathe, walk, drink and change. Bottom line: the less oxygen we had the more labouring it was to do everything.

To be fair I’d also like to point out I got off lucky – there were others who were in MUCH worse shape than I.

Yes, there’s a lot of negative crap that altitude does to your body, but it also affects your ability to be a rational normal thinking human. Being in high altitude is sort of like being drunk; everything is hilarious, having a conversation is tough, you don’t remember much and peeing a few feet from your friends doesn’t phase you.

There were countless moments of brain lapses, but one moment in particular stands out. To be honest, I’ll even blame to altitude for forgetting what day we were on.

There were a few of us sitting in the mess tent after a long day of hiking. Our teammate Paul McGuire was sitting across from me and I was wearing a Sens toque similar to this one:

There was a piece of lint on the “O” and Paul thought it looked like a “Q”, which I corrected him and said it was an “O”. He then asked me what the “O” stood for. Blank stare.

I had forgotten what the “O” in Ottawa Senators stood for.

This is just one small example of the ridiculous and delusional moments the 30 of us felt in that week.

You may be thinking “This sounds terrible, why would someone choose to put themselves through that?”.

Shawn told us there’s something called “altitude memory loss”, where after you get home you forget a lot of the tough moments. I can’t help but agree with him and think that all of the blissful and euphoric moments override the unbearable ones.

So I’m going to choose to forget that taking my pants off was the hardest thing I’ve ever done at 15,000 ft and start thinking about hiking Everest Base Camp next spring.

Lots of hiking love,

Mary Anne

Mary Anne Ivison

Mary Anne loves hiking, mossy rocks and her gig as a radio personality. She is in pursuit of becoming an ADK 46er and touching every mountain on planet Earth.

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It has been exactly one week since the Dream Mountains team took our last steps off the beast that is Mount Kilimanjaro.  It’s only been 2 days since the majority of us got back to Canada.  To be honest it hasn’t been the easiest weekend adjusting back to Ottawa life (I’ve woken up twice not knowing where I am).  But I figured opening up my Mac and blogging would be great therapy before heading back to work tomorrow to see my amazing work family.

It’s hard to put everything we learned on that mountain into 10 simple phrases. But after brainstorming with some Dream Team members, I present to you…

“The 10 Commandments of Hiking Kilimanjaro”

  1. Thou shall drink no less than 6L of water per day.
  2. Thou shall avert eyes when teammate is peeing one foot off the trail.
  3. Thou shall blame all ailments and idiotic moments on altitude.
  4. Speaking of which, altitude shall suck it. (yes, this is a commandment. It’s my list. Get your own.)
  5. Thou shall resent and curse Shawn Dawson until first step off mountain.
  6. Thou shall never eat millet (pronounced “mill-ay”) ever again.
  7. Thou shall have a sick playlist for the tough moments.
  8. Thou shall have toilet paper and Purell handy at all times.
  9. Thou shall forget all the pain, agony, puking, and extreme cold of summit night.
  10. Thou shall fondly remember the breathtaking, alien, once-in-a-lifetime views of Kilimanjaro.

Mary Anne Ivison

Mary Anne loves hiking, mossy rocks and her gig as a radio personality. She is in pursuit of becoming an ADK 46er and touching every mountain on planet Earth.

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One of the biggest stresses (for me) has been packing/ having the correct gear to get my ass up Kilimanjaro.

As a regular hiker, you would think I would have all the right equipment. Wrong. Hiking the Gatineau Hills or a day-hike up a mountain in the Rockies is a tad different than an 8-day trek in Africa. Until this adventure, the only experience I had was from trial and error and some internet articles.

I’ve learned an incredible amount about layers, gear and hiking in general from our Dream Mountains leaders: Shawn, Kristi and Jason (just Shawn alone has summited the highest peak on every continent – including Everest). In turn, this has made me a more knowledgeable hiker and adventurer.

There’s so much crap for Kilimanjaro so I won’t list EVERYTHING but here are some important layers any serious hiker should have in their wardrobe:


The Perfect Boots


Don’t go cheap here; You need your feet to work to get up that mountain or hill.  Try on several different boots and walk around the store in them.   The first hiking boots I owned would cut off the circulation in my baby toe because I bought them too small. Booooo.

Some things to look for in hiking boots:

  • Comfort and cushioning
  • Gore-Tex; you want those babies to keep your feet dry
  • A bit of room for when your feet swell
  •  Ankle support for rocky terrain or if you’ve had ankle injuries in the past

The boots I currently own are from Salomon (see above)- a trusted brand with amazing products across the board.


Merino Wool and Synthetic Layers


I’ll get straight to the point- Merino wool is EXPENSIVE. Like, $100 for a shirt expensive. But once you buy a few pieces you’ll have them a long time.  Yes, I even have a couple merino wool bras.

Benefits of Merino:

It’s comfortable, breathable, and most importantly for Kilimanjaro’s sake, it’s odour resistant – a.k.a. it won’t smell terrible after several days of wearing it.  I have a mix of Icebreaker and Smartwool brand merino wool and a couple merino wool blends.

If you’re just doing day hikes I would say that synthetics are fine, especially since you can throw them in the washing machine when you get home.


A Buff to Look and Feel Fly

Buffs are multipurpose and awesome. You can use them as headbands, to catch the sweat, protect your neck, protect your face from wind/sun/whatever.  A hiker’s must-have and the more colourful the better!


Waterproof Jacket

The North Face Dryzzle jacket has been one of my favourite purchases. We were told to buy a jacket with “pit zips” to give yourself some air when you’re overheated, which tends to happen with waterproof shells.


A Good Pack To Hold All Your Crap

Osprey Sirrus 24

This is the pack (in orange) I’m bringing up Kilimanjaro.  Enough to hold a few layers, snacks and a few extras – perfect for day hikes!  And don’t forget to get a water bladder and hose for your pack – I love a good 3L.


Some things I always carry in my pack:

  • A headlamp or flashlight
  • Emergency blanket
  • Painkillers
  • Small first aid kit
  • Non-perishable and energy boosting snacks (Larabars are my fav)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Kleenex


Lots of hiking love,

Mary Anne

Mary Anne Ivison

Mary Anne loves hiking, mossy rocks and her gig as a radio personality. She is in pursuit of becoming an ADK 46er and touching every mountain on planet Earth.

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We have just under two months before leaving to hike Kilimanjaro – meaning it’s time to step up our training game. As HikeAddicts, we like to hike as much as humanly possible, but we love to cross train and enjoy other activities and sports.

When I found out I was doing this hike back in the Fall, I decided to drop all activities that either:

a) Don’t train specifically for the hike
b) I don’t LOVE
c) I may hurt myself (as a clumsy person this happens more often than not)

Here are some of the things we’re doing to get ready to hike the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.



Stair Training

There is one thing that our Dream Mountains leader, Shawn Dawson, INSISTS that all climbers do: stair training. Anyone who has done a big hike with Shawn previously says that stair training makes a HUGE difference.

So what is stair training? There’s a 32 story building downtown Ottawa that we walk up and down, many times. Here’s what our plan looks like: Kilimanjaro Stair Training

Stair training helps with pacing, breathing, and obviously builds muscles that you may not be touching in the gym.

There’s one thing about stair training….I don’t like it. At all. The first couple of times, I could barely walk for several days after (that’s getting better as I slow down and have adjusted my foot placement).

It’s also incredibly boring – however other Dream Mountains team mates always seem to be willing to join – having a buddy makes everything better.



Weight Training

There’s something about popping in your headphones and lifting weights that makes you feel alive. With hiking, you’d think the emphasis is having strong legs, but I think having a strong core and a strong balanced body is even more important.

The benefits to weight lifting – especially for women – are endless (here’s 7 amazing reasons).


IMG_8554 (1)
Gatineau Park – Lauriault Trail

Winter Hiking

This one is kind of obvious. Do the thing you’re training to do. Here are some of our favourite winter hikes.




I LOVE yoga to train for a big hike, obviously for physical benefits, but especially the whole breathing and calming your mind thing while you’re physically uncomfortable. It will come in handy at 19,000 feet when we can barely breathe and moving at a snails pace to summit.


8am flawless conditions on the Rideau Canal


We only get the Rideau Canal a few weeks a year to skate on, and so far have been taking full advantage of it. It’s great cardio, and great for the legs!


Not me, but this girl looks like she knows what she’s doing

Muay Thai

I’ve been doing Muay Thai (sorta like kick-boxing) once a week just to mix things up. It helps with stress relief, it’s a solid fat-burning workout, and the kicking really helps open up my TIGHT hip flexors.



Running (Vicky’s forte)

Similarly to yoga, running is great for physical and mental training. The obvious benefits being building muscle and stamina, but A LOT of it is a mind game. Working on quieting your mind on a tough run takes practice and self discipline, both of which we’ll need while conquering the beast that is Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mary Anne Ivison

Mary Anne loves hiking, mossy rocks and her gig as a radio personality. She is in pursuit of becoming an ADK 46er and touching every mountain on planet Earth.

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Yesterday was a big day for us HikeAddicts; We did our first team hike with Dream Mountains! Mary Anne has been meeting and training with this group since the Summer but since I’m a late comer, this was my first time meeting the team and going on a hike with them.

We took on Wolf Trail, a favorite for both of us, and completed it in about 2.5 hours, which was a lot quicker than I had expected with it being WINTER and all. This was my first dead of winter hike and got to break in  my crampons that I got for Christmas- WOOHOO (it’s the little things, friends).

The best part of the morning was getting to meet the people I’ve been in contact with for weeks now and realizing just how dang small Ottawa is. Almost every single person I met knew someone I know. All it takes is “Oh, you play touch football too? Do you know ___?” or “You ski at Mont Ste. Marie? What’s your last name? I know your Grandad!” (anyone in my family can relate to that second one; my Grandad is the most popular guy on the planet).

(Mary Anne took this on our way up)

The actual hike was a chilly yet refreshing one. The first 15 minutes in the parking lot were definitely the most challenging since we were all just standing around shivering but once we got started the blood began to move and I think we were all okay and dressed warmly enough. When I checked the thermostat in my car it was -9 degrees (Celsius, of course) but that didn’t factor the windchill so the best way to describe it would be face numbing with a touch of slow-motion texting fingers. All Canadians know what I mean by that… Except maybe Vancouverites, you guys will never know. 😐

Luckily, there’s not much texting to be done in the middle of a hike.

It was sunny and bright which kept our moods and confidence skyrocketing. Kilimanjaro will be a cinch… Right? JK JK.

We took a break at the half way point for a snack where I learnt that “PACKS OFF” meant you have no choice- you take your friggin’ pack off. I didn’t bring snacks, thinking it’d be a quick and easy hike but my new friend, Bob, shared his homemade dehydrated strawberries with me. Aw man, now I need to buy a dehydrating machine.
(Photo cred: Harry Binks)

(HikeAddicts, baby!)

We began our descent after about 15 minutes of chatting/ taking pictures and I noticed the way down was a lot quieter as I think we were all getting a little more chilly with the lack of incline workout warmth. It went by super quickly though and before I knew we were high-fiving Kristi (one of our team leaders) in the parking lot.

(Snagged this shot on our way down)

Overall, the hike was wonderful and I’m counting down the days until the next one!






Vicky Castledine

Vicky is a Content Marketing Manager from Monday to Friday and a trail runner/ book lover/ dog hugger/ wilderness explorer after 5 PM and on weekends.

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