Archive for the ‘Tips & Advice’ Category

Bandanas – The Perfect Camping Accessory

Bandanas aren’t just for pirates or Harley riders! They are the perfect camping accessory, especially if you are camping with kids.

bandana

Here’s 19 reasons why I love them:

  1. They’re light and don’t take up much room
  2. You can wash them each night and they’ll be dry by morning
  3. Use them to wash grubby faces and hands
  4. Cover messy hair (especially when you decide to go out to eat!)bandana covering hair
  5. Mop up spills
  6. Bandanas are perfect for using as a hanky.
  7. They can be a bandage
  8. Tie it in a triangle and use as a sling for an arm
  9. Tie a red or orange bandana to your car’s antenna to signal for help in an emergency
  10. Get it wet and tie it around your head or neck to cool off
  11. As a puppy fashion statementPuppy Bandana
  12. Tie over your nose and mouth to keep out dust
  13. Use it as a belt (maybe if your waist is tiny or for your kid!)
  14. Cut it up and patch tears in your jeans
  15. Tie it to your daypack so you can find your pack when you put it down under a tree
  16. Make a bundle and tie it to the end of a stick (pretend you’re running away from home!)
  17. Make like a cowboy and tie it around your neck
  18. Get one with Insect Shield and keep away the bugs (Don’t believe me? See my product review!)
  19. Three words: Cops & Robbers

So go ahead: Play Pirate!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your favorite uses for bandanas?

Camp Setup Order of Priorities

Remember how last week I said that we weren’t expecting rain for our Black Canyon kayaking trip until Monday afternoon? Yeah, well the rain showed up early!

But, thankfully, ESP Boss is a super-duper camp-setter-upper. And, he doesn’t listen to his daughter when she’s saying (over and over)

“Pops! I’m SOOOOO hungry. You never feed me!”

When we finally found a reasonable beach, the very first thing we did was to set up the tent. As you can see, the beach was far from level and that was the ONLY spot that we felt was far enough away from the river AND was big enough to pitch the tent.

Camp Composite

Our tent is a back-packing tent and the rain fly is optional; you don’t have to put it on the tent to keep the bugs out. It was hot and muggy so I didn’t really WANT to put it on, but the clouds kept building and I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.

Did I mention ESP Boss is an EXTRA super-duper camp-setter-upper?

By the time the tent was fully set up WITH the rain fly secured, and loaded with all our stuff, it was drizzling. By the time we were done with dinner. It was raining. By the time the dishes were put away and the kayaks unloaded it was POURING.

I don’t have any photos of the storm but let’s just say the rain was coming down in sheets. We developed a waterfall on the west side of camp and the gully we were camped next to started running.

We sat out as long as we could with a rain poncho over our knees and wearing our rain gear. But watching the rain when the rain is also dripping off your nose just isn’t as much fun as watching it through a window!

But us? We were able to crawl into a warm, dry tent!

Moral of the story?

Set up the tent FIRST! Load it with your sleeping stuff, even if you don’t roll out the sleeping bags. Then have dinner.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have any tips for setting up camp?
  • What do you always do first?

Camping Trip Planning From The Ground Up

I’ve published several articles about checking your gear after you get home from a camping trip. But ESP Boss & I have a trip planned for October 16-17 that made me realize there’s a whole OTHER dimension to planning a trip:

Pre-Planning!

For our trip, ESP Boss & I will be kayaking the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to Willow beach. Now, that can be done as a day trip, but we’ll be doing it as an overnighter. Packing for an overnight kayaking trip is a lot like packing for a backpacking trip. Since I’ve never been backpacking (it’s on my list of things to do!) I’m pretty much a newbie to it all.

Hoover Dam

We'll be going south of the river towards Willow Beach.

I figure I’ve been camping all my life but I’ve never backpacked or done an overnight kayaking trip. This means that YOU get a really interesting experience where I can write some articles from the window of a beginner:

ME

Here is what I’ve learned so far: (and I think most of this will apply to all beginners going on a first camping trip)

Do Research About Where To Go.

ESP Boss knew that we could kayak the Colorado River but he did some serious research about which stretches of the river are the best. We were looking for something really specific: steady current, not too rapid, not too much boat traffic but not too remote either. Turns out, the section that we’ll be doing is motor-prohibited on Sundays and Mondays. Perfect for our trip!

In case you didn’t realize it, my website EatStayPlay.com has GREAT information about public camping areas. It covers all the western states and is free.

Find Out If You Need Any Special Permits or Permissions.

There are actually a lot of areas across the USA that require a special access permit. Often times if you’re going to a Wilderness area you’ll need to get a permit to be there. When the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family attended a big geocaching event/campout last March there was a special permit we needed to get.

The Outdoor Princess & ESP Boss at Blue Ridge Reservoir

We'll need a special permit to kayak the river.

Most of the time, special permits aren’t expensive or hard to get. But what IS expensive is getting fined for NOT having a permit. Call the governing body of where you’re planning on going and ask if am access or use permit is required. I recommend CALLING as opposed to looking on line since sometimes the permit requirements aren’t clearly published.

Decide If You Need Special Gear.

If you’re camping in a campground, chances are good that you can make your gear list as easy as falling off a log. Place to stay? Check! Way to cook? Check! Sleeping bag? Check! Food? Check!

But for this trip, we needed some gear for above and beyond: a water filtration system.

The need for specialized gear can be really daunting for a lot of beginners. But don’t let anything get in the way of having a great outdoor adventure! I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about this topic in this post; it needs more than a paragraph or two. Just keep it in mind and then check back next week for my thoughts on it.

Create A Budget.

Yes, camping can be a “cheap” vacation. But sometimes I think that’s only in comparison to, say, a week at Disneyland! You’ll need to have a budget for gear, fees, gas, and food. Once you know where you’re going and if you need a permit or gear, then a budget will help you decide if you can actually take THIS trip or if you need to re-think your plans.

Trust me, it’s better to think about the money-side of adventures before you’re committed to a trip that gets more expensive by the minute.

Buy The Gear. Test It Out.

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, right? Or a pair of shoes without trying them on and walking around the store either. So why people go straight from the store to the campsite is beyond me!

Before you head to the woods (or in this case, the river) test out the stove. Make sure all the parts work and you know how to use it. Open the sleeping bag and lay it out. Does the zipper work? Are all the seams intact?

Tent

For the geocaching event in March, we broke a cardinal rule! We didn't set the tent up until we got to camp. We were really lucky and all the tent pieces were in the box!

And the big one: Set up the tent! Partly so you know how to do it, but also because if you’re missing a part, if the tent wall is torn, or if a pole is broken, etc, you can fix it BEFORE you head out.

I wish I had a picture, but last week, I set up our backpacking tent INSIDE the house! It was crammed into the spare room at my folk’s and looked completely ridiculous. But, I figured out how everything went together AND I made sure that it all worked. ESP Boss will be testing our new backpacking stove this weekend.

Make Some Lists.

Anybody who regularly reads my articles knows I’m really big on checklists. Just because you might not have a ready-to-print checklist doesn’t mean you can’t make lists of your own!

Good list topics are:

  • Food
  • General “big” gear (stove, tent, sleeping bags)
  • Specific “little” gear (camera, GPS, flashlight)
  • Clothing (be specific!)
  • Medicines/Toiletries
  • Maps and manuals

When I’m making lists, I start with generalities to brainstorm what I’m thinking of (like the list above) and then I make a specific list for each topic. Trust me, after one packing list that said “Toiletries” and then a trip where I didn’t bring my allergy medicine, toothbrush, or bug spray I go ahead and get specific!

Readers Weigh In:

  • If you were giving advice to a person who was planning their very first camping trip, what would you tell them?
  • What pre-planning steps do YOU do?
  • What are your must-do steps to get ready for a camping trip?

9 Must-Know Things About Fall Camping

Yeah for fall! Any long-time reader of the newsletter would know, I LOVE fall camping. Why? Because there are fewer crowds, most insects have died off or have reduced their activity, fewer people, the crisp fall weather, good fishing with fewer biting bugs, fantastic nature hikes with changing vegetation, oh, and fewer people!

Ah! Fall.

(Okay, so maybe that can get boiled down to: less people and biting bugs & good fishing…)

This year, I’ll be heading camping in September rather than October. I’ve got a trip planned the last weekend in September for my birthday. We’re going earlier this year since fall is appearing across Arizona’s High Country with a vengeance this year AND because I don’t really want to chance snow in a tent!

Of course, fall camping doesn’t come without risks. People die each year when they get caught in weather they weren’t ready for. (Do you remember ESP Boss’ “fall” hunting trip in October 2006? He got snowed out!)

1. Don’t get caught in the snow. In most mountainous areas of the United States a light dusting of snow can be expected in the fall (thinking places above 7,000 feet.) If you are going to be camping at altitude be very aware of the weather forecast. A chance of rain in the low-country may mean dangerous conditions at higher elevations. Getting snowed on in the backcountry can collapse your tent, soak your gear, and can cause a number of risks and dangers.

2. Watch what you’re packing. Keep in mind that warmer clothing is going to mean added weight which means more stress on your body (if you’re backpacking or hiking.) Don’t go crazy packing for every emergency, but be prepared for what nature has to offer and cut back on how far you can travel in a day. Always bring a space blanket no matter the weather! You should keep one in each car, in your backpack, in your RV… They don’t weigh much, take up much room, or are very expensive, but they can save your life.

3. Don’t get left shivering. Make sure that your sleeping bag is temperature appropriate for the conditions — it should be written on the tag. And, don’t think that you’re close to town is any excuse! We typically go fall camping at Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff, Arizona and are literally just half an hour from town. But, trying to make that drive in poor conditions, or suffering from hypothermia, is NOT my idea of a good time.

I'll be bringing sleeping bags AND flannel liners just in case.

If you don’t have a mummy style sleeping bag sleep with a hat on, 50% of body heat is lost through your head. Use a closed-cell foam sleeping pad under your sleeping bag — foam based pads will provide better insulation than an air mattress.

4. Cooking time! Try to keep your meals simple. You already know that elevation adds time to cooking, but also remember that colder temperatures mean longer cooking times. You’re going to consume more fuel trying to get a pot of water to boil or cooking meals. Keep a lid on the pots when you are cooking to maximize heat retention.

Oh, and pick up a good recipe book that is specifically for camp cooking. I recommend “Camp Cooking from the Pitch Your Tent/Set Your Hook Newsletter”

5. Look out for bears. Bears can spend as much as 20 hours a day foraging for food during the last weeks of fall. Keeping a clean campsite is critical this time of the year. And, if you don’t know if there are bears in your area, assume there are! Call the local Forest Service office for recommendations about safe camping in bear country where you are.

6. Be ready for the wind. Fall brings strong cold fronts across the United States which can mean cold temperatures, crystal clear skies, and a lot of wind. Your tent might be great in the summer, but could have a hard time in the wind. Make sure you stake your tent securely; they have been known to blow away even with gear and people inside of them! And, take a tip from Barry B. — check the weather. If it’s going to be windy, you might want to stay home rather than have a lousy trip!

7. Stay dry. Don’t underestimate the power of hypothermia. With daytime highs reaching only into the 50s and 60s in the fall, treat getting wet as an emergency. In air, most heat is lost through the head so hypothermia can thus be most effectively prevented by covering the head. Having appropriate clothing for the environment is another important prevention. For outdoor exercise on a cold day, it is advisable to wear fabrics which can “wick” away sweat moisture.

8. Don’t end up in the dark. Remember that not only will the weather get cooler and more unpredictable, the days are getting shorter as summer ends and we’re heading into winter. Give yourself enough time to arrive at your campsite during daylight hours so you don’t end up hiking (or setting up!) in the dark.

9. Other fall camping considerations

  • After Labor Day, many campgrounds reduce their fees, so one fall camping advantage is reduced costs. Some campgrounds are also free, but that usually means that there are no amenities like water, toilets, and garbage service. Be sure to call ahead and make sure that the campground is open!
  • Make campground reservations. Popular campgrounds will still fill up on weekends, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Most campgrounds don’t require reservations in the fall, but even if you should call and find that you don’t need a reservation, you’ve at least saved yourself the worry.
  • Plan to arrive early. At Pine Grove, they close entire loops of the campground so reservations wouldn’t be a help (they’re only accepted on the areas that are closed in the fall!) so you want to arrive early in the day to get the spot you want.

I’ve already started making my camping lists for my trip. The friend I’m taking has only been camping once before (EVER!) so I’m doing everything I can to make sure this is a fun experience. To that end, I decided to go to the more developed Pine Grove Campground (my old standby) rather than a more primitive area. Trust me, when you’re new to camping, real flush toilets make a huge difference!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your favorite fall outdoor adventures?
  • At what point do you pack away your camping gear for the winter?
  • What would you do to make sure a net-to-camping friend has a great experience?

Polite Camping: 9 Tips

I really like camping out in the sticks — dispersed, dry camping where I have to haul in all my own stuff (including water), use my porta-potty, and haul out all my trash. But, on holiday weekends, (like Labor Day this weekend) all the traffic from ATVs and trucks can make me nutsy, so I head to a campground.

But, there’s nothing worse than camping in a developed campground than inconsiderate neighbors. Here are 9 tips to help YOU not be one of those people!

1. Respect other’s rights. Don’t walk through another camper’s site — walk around it. Most public campgrounds (in Arizona at least!) have paths between sites to the bathrooms, trash, etc. Use these paths and enjoy the stroll!

2. Be noise aware. I have no problem with shouting children having fun during the day — I love to see families out camping! However, noise like radios, generators, yelling for no reason, and fighting is really rude. You should also obey the campground’s quiet hours. Voices, radios and other noises carry further than you might think on a quiet evening. (A good rule is to tone down the noise as the sun sets.)

When Nicole and I went camping a few weeks ago, a huge group of women came in. They were up to all hours of the night drinking, yelling, throwing wood on the fire and just being obnoxious. The camp host was fantastic, asking them to be quiet, but no such luck!

3. Pack out what you pack in. You should leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. If the campground has campground hosts, they are responsible to keep the campground tidy– NOT to clean up after wild parties! Many campgrounds have trash service that you should use, making sure to close the lids tightly to keep animals out. Recycle when possible — many campgrounds have recycling programs.

4. Keep your pets under control. If you camp with your dog (or cat!), keep Fido contained and clean up after him, just like you do in a city park. Before tying him to a tree, make sure it’s permitted. (I prefer collapsible pens.) If your dog likes to bark, like Lily does, then make sure you keep it under control. Lily barks when somebody walks by and then stops — if she continues, I put her in the trailer.

Lily loves to camp AND she loves to bark!

5. Don’t cut living trees for firewood. In Arizona, most of the time, any downed (dead) wood is good to use, but not necessarily the dead wood on a living tree. California has completely different rules so know the campground’s rule on finding your own wood or buying it.

6. Clean up after yourself. Campground facilities exist for the benefit of all campers. Help keep them clean!

7. Be water respectful. Do not clean fish or wash dishes in lakes or streams. Waste water (grey or black) should not be dumped in a lake, stream, or on the ground. If the campground offers potable water (drinking water from a faucet), know the rules of what you can and can’t do at the spigot. Most of the time, this means no washing ANYTHING at the spigot.

8. Know and respect the campground’s rules. Even if you don’t understand the reasons for them. The rules have been established to protect and respect the rights of campers, the campground, and the environment.

9. Be considerate with your generator. If you’re going camping, CAMP! Get out of the RV and enjoy nature. If you’re going to use your generator (we’ve got one, so you know I approve of them) be sure to be considerate of others.

A few summers ago, my folks went camping at Rainbow Campground in Arizona’s White Mountains. For the last three days, a HUGE RV pulled in beside them and ran the generator non-stop! My folks ended up leaving a day early because of the noise and smell.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Are there any campground etiquette issues I’ve missed?
  • What particularly makes you mad when your neighbors don’t (do)?
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