The Growler’s Outdoor Guide

Illustration by Rebecca Cahill

Illustration by Rebecca Cahill

During the four glorious months that compose summer in the Midwest, the call of the wild echoes over the plains and through the river valleys, through the forests and along the lake shores, and into our hearts and minds. 

For some, the call stokes the fires of adventure and self-reliance. It’s a chance to test one’s mettle, whether that be scaling a craggy rock face, flying through sharp, tortuous turns on a mountain biking trail, or hiking off the grid and deep into the backcountry. 

For others, it promises respite and revitalization for body and mind. It’s a way to slough off the baggage of email inboxes, social media notifications, and ever-expanding to-do lists, and experience the quiet of the woods or the zen of ripples expanding across the glass-like surface of a lake from a well-cast lure before sunrise. 

But the question is: When is the last time you answered the call? 

We get it. Maybe you’ve been too busy to coordinate a camping weekend, or maybe the typical canoe trip just feels old hat at this point. We hope the ideas in this Outdoor Guide give you new reasons to venture out into nature and inspire you to seek out the wild places in the Midwest this summer. 


– Brian Kaufenberg, Editor-in-Chief of The Growler

5 Most Extreme Outdoor Activities to do in the Midwest

Thrill-seeking has become a traveling sport, with adrenaline junkies posting online from states out west and far-flung destinations across the world. While those places look incredible, why go through the hassle and expense of travel when all the heart-pounding outdoor adventure anyone could ever want can be found right here in the Midwest?

Here are five activities for risk-taking residents looking to enjoy the beauty and challenges available a little closer to home. Read more…

How to Social Media Outside Without Ruining Everything

Much has been said on the impact that social media is having on our outdoor spaces; the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics released its first set of social media guidelines last June in response to the issue. While there is no fast solution—social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, folks—there are steps we can take to be more mindful of our impact going forward. Because currently if Mother Nature could serenade her well-meaning human visitors with just one song, it might well be Sharon Van Etten’s “Your Love Is Killing Me.” Read more…

Dehydrated Dining and Recipe for Peanut Coconut Curry

Extended camping treks involve a lot of planning, especially when it comes to meals. To punch things up—and not drag down your pack in the process—turn to dehydrated food.

Before you run out to your local outdoor goods store and stock up on vacuum-sealed, off-the-rack bags, consider taking the campsite gourmand approach and prepare your meat and veggies at home in a food dehydrator. Ranging in price from around $60 to upwards of $300, there’s no lack of options; we recommend checking out reviews on websites like Foodal to find your ideal fit. Read more…

Nalgene Cocktails

If you’re going camping, you can nip on a 1.75 of whatever whiskey you can find in a plastic handle and that’s a perfectly respectable way to get three sheets to the warming summer wind.

But if you’re feeling a little extra—and goodness knows we spirits writers tend to feel a little extra in these situations—you might be thinking about bringing a batch of cocktails along in your water bottle. There are just a few things to consider. Read more…

Best Camp Coffee

While backcountry camping, a full-flavored, fresh cup of coffee is one of those small luxuries that can lift one’s spirits. But how do you produce the highest quality flavor while keeping the amount of equipment and hassle to a minimum? Let’s run through your options. Read more…

Trail Mix: 2 Essential Spice Rubs for Camp Cooking

Everything tastes better in the wilderness, but that’s no excuse to eat bland food out of plastic bags. One of the most versatile (and lightweight) weapons in a camp cook’s arsenal is the spice blend. The right mix of dried herbs and spices, when rubbed or sprinkled onto steak, pork, fish, or vegetables (and much more) can help add a deep, flavorful bark to fire-cooked foods. If you’re using some kind of an oil- or yogurt-based marinade, a healthy blast of blended spices can put your protein on good footing to receive the blast of a campfire cooking environment and give you great flavor in return. Read more…

Learn how to live the Growler Life in our other Growler Guides