Visit Bend Blog

Category: Visit Like a Local

Pack the 10 essentials for your Bend winter adventure

January 25th, 2018

Avid outdoor adventurers know the phrase “ten essentials.” Some even have a list tattooed on their foreheads.

But for more casual explorers, a few reminders can be helpful. Yes, we know we should pack that mini-flashlight for our ski picnic, but where the @#$% did we put the darn thing?

Your phone is a handy tool, but make sure you have something else to rely on for navigation and illumination.

Find it. And find all the rest of the stuff on this list before you set out, since even a short snowshoe outing can turn dangerous if you’re not prepared.

We covered summertime essentials in this blog post, but here’s what you need to gather before setting out for your winter adventures in Bend.


There’s nothing wrong with an old school compass, and in fact, it has advantages over using your phone (which is more prone to battery depletion in cold temps). A paper map or guidebook is smart, too. If you’re determined to rely on your phone, make sure to pack a battery backup or portable charger.

Sun protection

I know this sounds weird in the winter months, but Bend boasts bountiful sunshine even in subzero temps. Not only that, but Bend’s high altitude (along with the albedo effect of spending prolonged time on a bright white surface like snow) can lead to a nasty sunburn. Even if it’s chilly or overcast, pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and a good pair of sunglasses in case conditions change.

Be sure you’re well-layered before heading into the wilderness this time of year.


Layers, layers, layers. That’s the name of the game in Central Oregon’s rapidly changing conditions. This time of year, wool and some well-made water-resistant layers are crucial. Stuff an extra pair of socks and gloves in your pack in case yours get wet.


Know what I’ve seen over and over again in articles about winter explorers needing rescue? They counted on cell phones as flashlights. Not a good gamble, especially if you’re sapping the battery for directions or Instagram selfies. Carrying a small headlamp can make a return trip in the dark hands-free (allowing you to use that compass and map you’re toting). If a headlamp isn’t your thing, you can buy a small, powerful flashlight for next to nothing these days. Do it, and make sure your batteries are good before setting out.

First aid supplies

You never know when injuries can strike, so nab a small, packable first aid kit. You’ll find some great options at outdoor equipment retailers like REI. In the wintertime, it’s helpful to have one that has a space blanket in it, too in case you need extra protection from the cold and wind.


Ever been stuck at a campsite with a lighter that won’t work? It’s a lot worse when it’s snowing sideways. Pack smart and include waterproof matches and a lighter. You also need some firestarter, which doesn’t mean filling your backpack with kindling. Some folks swear by dipping cotton balls in wax to make cheap and easy firestarters, or stuff an empty toilet paper roll with dryer lint as an alternative to newspaper. Fire can be a lifesaver in cold conditions, so don’t shortchange yourself on this one.

Make sure you’re carrying tools to repair all your winter recreation gear before setting out on an adventure.

Repair kit/tools

No, you don’t need a chainsaw on your Nordic skiing adventure. But you do need a good multipurpose tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife. Also think ahead to any sports-specific repair items you might need for your gear.


The rule of thumb is to carry at least 200 calories per person for every hour you will be out. High-carb energy bars like Bend-based Picky Bars are perfect! Steer clear of the sort of energy bars that turn into teeth-breaking ice bricks in cold conditions.


Here’s where a well-insulated beverage container like Hydro Flask is essential to keep hot liquids warm and cold ones from freezing. Pack at least 1 liter of water per person for short outings and 2.5 liters for longer ones. Keep in mind that if you run out, you’ll need to melt snow for water (which is why that firestarter thing is so critical).

Packing a tent may not be practical if you’re setting out for a half-mile snowshoe, but it’s wise to have some form of shelter if there’s a chance your day trip could become an overnighter.

Emergency shelter

This one’s tougher in wintertime, since you’re a lot more likely to freeze to death if you’re not prepared. A couple garbage bags might suffice in warmer months to insulate you from the ground, but they’re not so effective on frozen ground. An insulating pad is a must-have if there’s a chance you’ll be sitting or sleeping on snow. A space blanket (maybe the one in your first-aid kit?) or a bright plastic tarp is also a must, and keep in mind that you’ll need a shovel to dig a snow cave. If there’s even a remote chance that could happen, buy a small, packable one. Better safe than sorry!

P.S. While this isn’t technically one of the 10 essentials, make sure you have a good, sturdy pack to carry all your stuff. Trudging through snow is tough enough, but doing it with an ill-fitting or broken backpack can seriously wreck your day (not to mention your back).

Make a Bend New Year’s resolution and win a vacation!

December 28th, 2017

Ready to take The Bend Pledge?

We’re days away from the start of 2018, which means most of us are trotting out our New Year’s resolutions.

Eat healthier. Exercise more. Watch less television. You know the drill.

But how about resolving to leave Bend, Oregon better than you found it? That’s the idea behind The Bend Pledge, which Visit Bend launched a couple months ago as part of the Visit Like a Local campaign.

Win a Hydro Flask + for $10 Thump Coffee!

The idea is simple: Everyone who spends time in Bend is invited to vow they’ll abide by a set of values that Bend lovers hold near and dear. We’re talking about things like staying on trails and picking up your litter, not solemnly pledging to fight your enemies with a hand-forged sword (in case that crossed your mind. No? Just me? Carry on).

Everyone who takes the Bend pledge will be entered to win a Bend vacation that includes three nights of lodging, meals, and activities for the entire Bend stay.

But how about we throw in a little something extra just for readers of this blog? Say, a 16-ounce reusable Hydro Flask coffee mug (your choice of colors!) plus a $10 gift certificate to Thump Coffee so you can fill that bad boy with a tasty beverage or two.

Step one:  Go here right now and take The Bend Pledge.

Done? Pat yourself on the back! You’re now entered to win that Bend vacation I mentioned (plus you’re an all-around awesome person, so yay, you!)

Don’t forget your reusable water bottle when hiking in Bend!

Step two: Now, share it with your friends. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Tweet about taking The Bend Pledge using hashtag #BendPledge and tagging @VisitBendOR. Include this handy link so your friends can take the pledge, too:
  • Share your Bend Pledge enthusiasm on Instagram using the #BendPledge hashtag and tagging @VisitBend. Be sure to include the link, too!
  • Post on your Facebook page about how jazzed you are about taking the #BendPledge. Include the hashtag in your post so we see it, and be sure to share the link so your friends can take the pledge:
  • Share this blog post on any of the aforementioned social media channels using the #BendPledge hashtag.

For each of those things, you’ll get one entry in the giveaway for the Hydro Flask and Thump card. That’s in addition to being entered in the vacation giveaway, so you’ve got some pretty good chances to win.

Step three: Comment on this post to let us know which things you did.

We’ll draw a winner on Thursday, January 4. Good luck to all of you, and have a very happy New Year!


6 reasons Bend is better than Hawaii (don’t tell my parents!)

April 6th, 2017

I just returned from a blissful week-long vacation on the island of Kauai, where my parents were kind enough to retire so I could visit them there regularly.

That may not have been their sole motivation.

The destination was warm, lush, tropical, beautiful and sooo . . . not Bend.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to be said for a relaxing Hawaiian vacation in paradise. But here are 6 reasons I think Bend makes a better destination.

Can we not tell my parents about this?


Easier standup paddleboarding

One of my favorite warm-weather activities is standup paddleboarding, and I’ve been lucky enough to do it on rivers, lakes, and ocean bays throughout the six years I’ve been paddling.

Blogger Tawna with her dog, Bindi, on their standup paddleboard in the Deschutes River.

While I’ll admit that toppling into a warm ocean is a bit more pleasant than a tumble into a glacier-fed river, the relative stillness of lakes and rivers means you’re much less likely to topple at all. I’d been SUPing for years without a single fall off my board when I first tried it in Kalapaki Bay on Kauai. Within the first five minutes, a wave knocked my butt right into the water.

Now granted, you can do your SUPing year-round in Kauai, but there’s a reason Outside magazine named Bend the best SUP getaway in the world. It’s the beauty, the variety, and the phenomenal availability of the sport right here in our little high desert oasis.


Dry heat, dry cold

Ever notice how an 80-degree day feels much hotter in a humid climate like Florida than it does in a drier locale? The same holds true for “damp cold” (the sort you experience on a winter’s day in Portland) versus “dry cold” (the kind we have here in the mountainous high desert of Bend).

Bend’s desert climate means there’s no such thing as “damp cold” or “humid heat.”

It’s an important distinction.

Dampness has a way of making temperatures feel super-intense, which can be downright uncomfortable at the extremes of either end.

That’s one thing I’ve always loved about Bend. The dryness of our desert climate means 75-degrees feels like 75-degrees, and 35-degrees feels like 35-degrees. No need to account for humidity!


More room to spread out           

I know Bend locals sometimes fret about crowding at popular hiking trails and scenic landmarks. It’s one reason the Visit Like a Local movement took hold as a way of encouraging folks to help preserve our natural spaces.

Luckily, Bend has lots of those natural spaces to choose from. We certainly have more than an island constrained on all sides by a large body of water.

Two of the best Bend books you can possibly get your hands on will help you explore some of the area’s lesser-known attractions.

Too many hikers on Green Lakes Trail? Head someplace less-trafficked like the Oregon Badlands Wilderness or some of the areas west of Sisters. Pick an area along the Deschutes River Trail, many of which boast plentiful parking.

One of the best investments you can make in your quest to explore Central Oregon is a good guide book that opens your eyes to lesser-known trails and vistas. Two of my faves are Bend Overall by Scott Cook and Bend, Oregon Daycations (Day Trips for Curious Families), by Kim Cooper Findling. We sell both in the Bend Visitor Center, and I’d highly recommend either one to spark a host of new ideas for where to play and explore in Bend.


Cool critters

I love the tropical fish and birds that Hawaii has to offer, and feeding peacocks at Smith Gardens is one of my favorite Kauai activities. That said, I always feel like something’s missing in the critter department.

Bend is brimming with tons of unique critters!

That’s one thing I love about Bend. Any trek through the wilderness will expose you to oodles of creatures that might include eagles, falcons, otters, beavers, deer, elk, porcupines, and bats.

And while small mammals can decimate a place like Hawaii (i.e. the mongoose problem on the Big Island), little fuzzy guys like chipmunks, raccoons, squirrels, pikas, and rabbits frolic freely around Central Oregon, kept in check by predators like foxes, coyotes, and cougars who think they’re the best snacks ever.


Lower prices

Hey, I don’t blame the Hawaiian Islands for jacking up prices on things like sunscreen or fresh produce. It takes a lot of money and resources to transport those things to the islands.

Shopping in Bend is pretty darn reasonable.

But that’s not an issue here in Bend, with plentiful access to produce, relatively low gas prices, and budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals that won’t require you to take out a second mortgage.

Tip: Pay cash when you can in Bend, instead of whipping out the plastic. Not only does it save vendors from getting hit with extra fees (which keeps prices lower for all of us!) but it’s a great way to track your vacation budget.


What’s that smell?

No place on earth smells quite like Bend. It’s this unique combination of sun-warmed desert sage and juniper that makes my heart feel happy every time I return home from vacation and crack the car window open just to breathe it in.

It smells like home, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.


7 things to make you feel good about humankind in Bend, Oregon

September 1st, 2016

You know those heart-tugging stories on the evening news that make you feel happy to be a member of the human race?

While I won’t claim the folks in Bend are shiny-happy people 24/7, most of us spend a fair amount of time feeling darn grateful to be here. If the following 7 examples don’t make you smile at least a little, you might be dead inside.


We take care of our toys

Recreation lovers flock to Bend in droves, so our outdoor spaces need a little extra tending to keep them healthy. Thankfully, folks here are good about stepping up to the plate.

Interested in "voluntourism?" You'll find plenty of opportunities, including the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing.

Interested in “voluntourism?” You’ll find plenty of opportunities, including the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing.

The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council has held an annual river cleanup for 20 years. Their most recent one in July resulted in more than 200 volunteers removing 1,400 pounds of garbage from the Deschutes River and its banks. Keep an eye on their website to learn how you can participate next year.

The Annual Smith Rock Spring Thing has also been going strong for more than two decades at Smith Rock State Park, with volunteers pitching in on cleanup efforts, special projects, and trail maintenance.  The burrito supper afterward makes it even sweeter!

If fighting invasive weeds is your passion, join a Let’s Pull Together event in May or June to help eradicate those noxious plants.

Wanderlust Tours organizes a cave cleanup effort the first Saturday in May, so mark your calendar if you’d like to make Central Oregon’s lava tubes your personal “voluntourism” project.

And speaking of that . . .


It’s a team effort

When I reached out to Wanderlust Tours owner Dave Nissen for details on his company’s efforts to preserve our outdoor spaces, he wrote such a lovely response about Bend’s spirit of collaboration and corporate responsibility that I asked to share it with you. Take it away, Dave!

Wanderlust Tours cave cleanup sml

Volunteers turn out to clean up Central Oregon’s caves with Wanderlust Tours.

“A massive smile comes to my face knowing the volunteer efforts that take place in Bend.  Bendites find a passion to take part in, and once this happens, they give of their time to improve the circumstances surrounding that passion.  I see this made manifest in innumerable ways.  One event that I am passionate about is Wanderlust Tours’ cave cleanup day.  We simply clean up the environment around our cave systems.  The sweetest thing about this is witnessing disassociated locals coming to be a part of this event.  What used to be just Wanderlust Tours staff caring for the environment spread to passionate people at our local REI who jump on board to go “play” underground with us. Then a local restaurant, Jimmy Johns, got involved by asking if they could provide food for hungry volunteers, and their staff have joined in the day of community service.  A local realtor, John Furrow with Fred Realty, got wind of our efforts and not only do John and his family join in, but he brings his associates and personal friends along to help foster Bend as a shining star of community fulfilling its passion through local service.  Through a volunteer effort like this, relationships are built and our community is stronger for it.  This infectiously makes me smile.”

Now I’m not just smiling. There might be a little something in my eye.


Dog lovers unite!

There’s a camaraderie among dog owners in Bend, and it’s part of the reason we were named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine.

The abundance of wagging tails in Bend will make you smile even if you're not a dog person.

The abundance of wagging tails in Bend will make you smile even if you’re not a dog person.

Dog owners smile at each other whether they’re strolling the Old Mill District with their pooches on-leash, or visiting one of Bend’s eight dog parks.

Since I live near the city’s largest off-leash area, I’ve come to rely on it as my go-to mood brightener. If I’m having a crummy day, I grab my pup and head over there for an instant infusion of wagging tails and smiles from dog owners who always offer friendly pooch-related chatter.

Another bonus? Folks are serious about picking up after Fido, which you can see from the abundance of free doody bags in most Bend parks. The Downtown Bend Business Association recently added several doody bag dispensers around Downtown.

Is it the outdoor recreation or the city itself that keeps people young in Bend?

Is it the outdoor recreation or the city itself that keeps people young in Bend?

Make sure you grab one on your way into the Bend Visitor Center (which is dog-friendly, of course). While you’re here, you and Rover can snag a free dog biscuit donated by Mud Bay and a free collapsible dog bowl donated by Bend Pet Express.


Bend keeps you young

On Wednesday, a 98-year-old gentleman stopped by the Bend Visitor Center and mentioned how excited he was about purchasing his Mt. Bachelor season pass this year.

This was as he was on his way out to go jet-boating.

Oh, and have you ever looked at the results of the annual Pole, Pedal, Paddle and noticed how many competitors there are in the 70-74 age category or even 80+?

Few places are more joyful than the Bend Farmers Market on a summer afternoon.

Few places are more joyful than the Bend Farmers Market on a summer afternoon.

Think about that the next time you catch yourself muttering that you’re too old to do something.


Fresh from the garden

From May to October, I make it a point to stroll over to the Bend Farmers Market every Wednesday afternoon. It’s not because I desperately want fresh fruits, veggies, locally-sourced meats, cheeses, flowers, and jams (though there’s that, too).

But half the time I don’t even buy anything. I go because everyone there is smiling. There’s live music and cheerful mothers pushing strollers and the smell of fresh herbs in the air.

If you could bottle the vibe at the Bend Farmer’s Market, you could make millions selling it as an antidepressant.


So much free stuff

Of course we want you to stimulate Bend’s economy by spending money with locally-owned retailers who rely on it. But one of the cool things about Bend is how many amazing experiences don’t cost a dime.

The critters at the High Desert Museum will warm your heart almost as much as their free admission days.

The critters at the High Desert Museum will warm your heart almost as much as their free admission days.

Love art? You’ll dig the plethora of public art in Bend, ranging from the Roundabout Art Route to the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. If music is your scene, check out the wide range of free summertime concerts including Free Summer Sundays in the Les Schwab Amphitheater and Munch & Music in Drake Park (which segues into Munch & Movies as summer comes to a close).

The High Desert Museum routinely offers free admission days, so keep an eye on their Facebook page to know when those are coming.

Sun Country Tours offers free rental life jackets to anyone floating the river from Riverbend Park—even if you don’t rent gear from them!

Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream (a Bend staple for more than 30 years) offers free factory tours, which include a free sample of chocolate.

Smile. You're in Bend.

Smile. You’re in Bend.

And of course, there’s the great outdoors. Hiking, swimming, and exploring in Bend are all totally free, and the return-on-investment is immeasurable.


The smiles . . .

Do something for me, okay?

The next time you’re out on the trail or strolling around Downtown Bend, pick a random stranger and smile.

This is assuming the random stranger hasn’t already smiled at you first, which isn’t a safe assumption.

If the recipient of your unsolicited grin doesn’t smile back, consult your Smartphone’s location tracker. You are not in Bend.

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