Posts Tagged ‘gear’

Best Camping Blanket Ever

I hate getting cold when I’m camping. Hate it, hate it, hate it! That’s why I always use a fleece liner inside (and sometimes on top of) my sleeping bag. Of course, picking the right sleeping bag helps too!

Finished blanket

Finished blanket and Lily the EatStayPlay.com mascot!

So when I ran across this fleece blanket I knew I had to add it to my camping collection. This is a basic, no sew fleece blanket that’s warm and simple to make.

The best part about fleece? It won’t unravel! Ever. And some fleece is made from recycled plastic. How cool is that!

1. You start with two pieces of fleece. Each should be two or two and half yards (72 inches) and 60 inches wide. Now, do yourself a favor and get thick, heavy fleece! Yes, you can buy it at a discount store but it isn’t as nice. And if you go to one of the better fabric stores you can get it in all different colors and patterns.

Or you can buy a no sew blanket kit. (Amazon affiliate link)

2. Make your bed. No seriously, a queen size bed is the PERFECT place to lay out this blanket since it is a large and elevated surface. I think it would slip around too much on a table.

3. Place the fleece layers wrong sides together. That’s the side that is less fuzzy OR the side where the pattern isn’t as pretty. The fleece will “stick” to itself so make sure that it’s nice and flat.

4. Line up the edges as best you can. I can guarantee one piece will be wider than the other AND one piece will be longer. Trim the excess so both pieces are about the same size. Don’t worry about cutting straight or if the pieces aren’t exactly square. You’ll never see it on the finished project!

5. Make a line of pins around each side 7 inches in from the edge. Don’t worry if you drift a bit! I use a regular school ruler to help me measure in 7 inches.

6. Cut 7″ squares out of each corner. The blanket will now look like this:

corners cut out7. Cut 7 inches into fleece at one-inch intervals around all four sides. Be sure to cut through BOTH layers. And you want to make your strips about and inch. Again, don’t worry if they’re not perfectly straight or perfectly seven inches long. However, if you go much wider than and 1.5 inches it WILL make it hard to tie!

Fringe

You can see the fringe and the pins. These are a bit wider than an inch but an inch wide strips are MUCH easier to tie!

8. Using a double knot, tie the fringe pieces together. Make sure you get one from the top and one from the bottom AND that you don’t jump ahead on one layer. You want the knots to be firm but not too tight or it will pull the fabric.

Knot step 1

Knot step 1

Knot step 2

Knot step 2

Knot step 3 (Finished knot)

Knot step 3 (Finished knot)

You can use a shorter length of material for a child’s blanket. Launder according to fleece directions. I just throw mine in the washing machine on cold, regular cycle and then into the drier. I DO try to empty the lint trap halfway through the drying cycle.

Product Review: Insect Shield Clothing

In late summer of 2010 I was asked by a blog and newsletter reader to do some reviews of various types of insect repellants. Now, as The Outdoor Princess, I realize that bugs are just a part of being outside.

But, I will admit, as part of doing this research, I was surprised at how many people said that they absolutely never go outside for hikes, camping, or geocaching without some type of bug spray. Here in Arizona, we have our share of biting bugs, but thankfully, we’re pretty much safe from ticks, chiggers, and no-see-ums.

For all the long-term blog and newsletter readers, you’ll know that I’m allergic to pretty much everything that grows here in Northern Arizona. So, last September, I mentioned to my allergist that I wanted to do a product testing article and review on various insect repellants.

Well! Dr. Zeschke got very animated about that subject. (He’s opinionated about EVERYTHING so it wasn’t surprising.) Dr. Z told me that I absolutely had to test insect repellent clothing. He’s an avid hunter and when he told me that a shirt and hat were enough to keep the car-sized mosquitoes at bay in the Arctic Circle in the middle of summer, he had my attention.

The shirt I tested.

I contacted the great people over at Insect Shield to see if I could test their products and see if Dr. Z was right or if his success was an isolated incident. Not only are the Insect Shield shirts insect repellent, many are also rated at 30 SPF. Very cool!

The Test

My Insect Shield long-sleeved shirt arrived via UPS (happy). Of course, it arrived on the Tuesday before Labor Day weekend so there was no way I could test it until the holiday weekend.

Test 1:

Sunset picnic at Fain Park

Fain Park has a small trout pond so I thought it would be PERFECT for an evening test. I sat at a picnic table for a few minutes (munching KFC chicken) and looking for mosquitoes. The light breeze would have been great on a normal night but not when I was LOOKING for bugs! I finally found one buzzing around and then ran to my truck to put on the Insect Shield shirt. I never saw that mosquito again, or any others, all evening, even when I walked by the water.

Test 2:

Morning kayak at Lynx Lake

It was interesting to kayak in long sleeves, but I got used to it quickly.

Lynx is a beautiful lake here in Prescott. I really wanted to try out the SPF 30 rating on the shirt so I made sure NOT to put any sunscreen on my arms under the shirt. It took a while to get used to wearing long sleeves in the heat, but after ten minutes or so, I really didn’t notice if I was hot at all. I didn’t see a single bug all trip so I don’t know if it was the Insect Shield technology or if it was just a bug-free day. I can say that the SPF 30 worked like a charm though. I didn’t get any color on my arms but I DID get pink on my hands. I’ll remember next time to put sunscreen on my hands!

Test 3:

Morning kayak at Goldwater Lake

I was determined to find mosquitoes at the lake so I could really test the insect repelling properties of my new shirt. I saw several swarms buzzing around various trash cans and signs, but they were all too far away from my kayak. Then I hit the jackpot! I large swarm of mosquitoes buzzing along the shore, a foot above the water, near a tree. I kayaked over and held out an arm. Poof! All the mosquitoes got near the shirt and then promptly took off. Gone! Outta there! Adios!

Test 4:

Afternoon geocaching in Prescott National Forest

It was a lovely day for geocaching: hot and buggy. But not a bug to be seen near me!

In my area of Arizona, it seems the nastiest mosquitoes are the really hungry ones that lurk on the sides of the trails. So I went geocaching along trails, in bushes, and over boulders. No bugs. Even when I could see them up head on the trail, by the time I got close: gone! The closest I came was when I brushed a bug off a bush I was pushing through and onto me. The clothing not only repelled bugs, it also held up well to sweat (breathable and not too hot) and didn’t snag or catch when I was pushing through scrub oak. I was still careful with it as I bushwhacked, but I didn’t feel like I needed to find a path AROUND the bushes!

The Results

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit, I figured the clothing would work (truth in marketing) but I wasn’t prepared for how WELL it worked. When I saw all those mosquitoes head for the hills on the lake, I was sold on the Insect Shield Repellant Clothing right then.

I hate getting bit by mosquitoes. Like when I went camping with Nicole — mosquitoes turned our trip from “Great!” into “Okay”. But with this shirt… I’m 100% sold. This is a must-have for any adventure weather it is geocaching, camping, kayaking, hiking, hunting, biking, fishing, bird watching… (you get the picture!)

Pros

  • The clothing repels all types of bugs: mosquitoes, chiggers, black flies, ticks, ants, etc.
  • SPF 30 (not all clothing, but a lot of styles)
  • Very stylish (pockets, breathable, variety of colors)
  • No mosquitoes! It even kept the flies away.
  • Excellent construction (I didn’t worry when I was pushing through the brush going after geocaches)
  • Comes in a variety of styles: shirts, pants, socks, bandannas and more
  • Lasts through 70 washes. Which, when I sat down and did the math, comes out to be 3 years or so. I wore it as a shell (over my tee shirt) so even though I wore it 4 times, I don’t feel it needs to be laundered.
  • Not a bug bite all weekend (while I was wearing the shirt. Without…well, that’s another story!)
  • Wash at home like any other piece of clothing. In fact, if you dry clean an Insect Shield product, it removes the bug repellent!
  • Not putting chemicals onto your skin. (That’s a big thing that Dr. Z really liked about the clothing!)
  • Kid and pet safe. Tie a bandanna around your dog’s neck, or over your kid’s head and you’re good to go!

Cons

  • Price. Clothing ranges from $20 to $80. My shirt was $80, so it can be kind of spendy. BUT, when you figure that on a per-wearing basis (maybe wear twice before washing?) then it comes out to be about $0.57 per use. Not bad!
  • You have to wear long sleeves in the heat. Of course, if you’re in an area with ticks, you probably wear long pants and long sleeves ANYWAY so it probably doesn’t make much difference.
  • You have to remember to bring it with you AND to wear it. Trust me, insect repellents (of any type) don’t do much good sitting at home!

About Insect Shield Technology

Insect Shield uses a man-made version of a natural insect repellent found in certain types of chrysanthemum flowers, like an African Daisy. There is a patent-pending process and proprietary formulation that secures the active ingredient to the fabric fibers. It lasts through 70 washings which would be more than the life of the garment.

Please check out Insect Shield on Facebook or directly on their website.

Where To Get The Clothing

If you follow any of these links and purchase your Insect Shield clothing, then I get credit as an affiliate. And that’s a GOOD thing!

Continuing Results

I’ve worn my Insect Shield shirt from everything to kayaking to hiking, gardening to parade watching and the shirt WORKS. After the initial test, I had no issues wearing long sleeves in the heat.

Knowing that I’m safe from bugs AND sunburn: wow!

Though the affiliate links above, I’ve also sold over $400 worth of Insect Shield clothing. Not one person has written to me complaining about the products either. This product is fantastic and I tell everybody I know about it. Well worth the money!

Future Testing

ESP Boss and the Queen Mother will be taking a 4 week long trip this June through Zion National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Montana. They’ll both be wearing Insect Shield shirts. As soon as they get back, we’ll get the results of their trip.

When I contacted the makers of a spray-on insect repellent last summer they NEVER got back to me. I’ll try again this spring. The same thing happened when I contacted the makers of the insect repellant bracelet.

However, I did get an all-natural product to test. That’ll be coming up in the next weeks so look for it!

Spring Camping Maintanence

Yeah! I am so excited it’s FINALLY spring. It’s been a long LONG winter here in Chino Valley. To make matters worse, spring teased us several times by getting warm and then snowing. Getting warm and then having knock-you-down wind that dropped the temperatures back into sweatshirt weather.

But it’s spring. For real. (And if it’s NOT for real, I’m here to tell winter to take a hike!)

That means that it’s time to do a pre-season shakedown of all your camping gear and head out!

Stoves and table top BBQs: Wipe them down from any residual grease or food particles. Yes, you should have done this in the fall, but a winter of storage will usually attract dust (and other more unsavory things!) to any spots you missed.

Stoves

Dirty campstove

Fuel: Check your stove’s fuel source to make sure you have enough and that it didn’t leak away over the winter. (Scary!) It is a good time to take the stove or BBQ outside and fire it up to make sure that all the hoses and connections are still in good shape. Replace anything that you’re worried about.

propane fuel

Lanterns: take a look at the mantels to make sure they don’t need to be replaced. Make sure you have a stock of replacements on hand. (And yes, I use a propane lantern like the one pictured below. BUT, I also carry a battery powered one as well!)

Lanterns

Propane lantern

Ice Chests: Check for mold, mildew, sour smells and left-over bologna sandwiches. A little chlorine bleach and mild detergent should clean them up sufficiently. I’m also a big fan of letting them sit opened in the sun for a while; UV rays kill a lot of icky things. Just be sure to properly store the ice chests away from UV rays since they’ll deteriorate the plastic and shorten the life of the ice chest.

Ice Chests

Ice Chest

Water Containers: You DID completely empty them and allow the inside to fully dry, right? If you grew mold in your water container over the winter, you might want to consider replacing the container; you’ll probably always have a funny taste. Make sure all the seals still work and that the inside is clean, dry and critter (bugs or mold) free.

Aqua-Tainer (this is the brand I use personally!)

Water Container

First aid kit: Make sure that you replenished any supplies you used last year. I recommend opening a bandage and making sure the adhesive hasn’t turned into a sticky mess. (Be sure to replace it!) Discard any outdated medicines. If any ointments look or smell funny, replace them as well.

First aid kit. Get a pre-made one and then customize it to your family.

First aid kit

Sleeping bags and pads: open and fluff! Look for any smells (mold or mildew are possible!), check zippers, drawstrings, etc. Now’s the time to repair any holes, rips or tears in your bag as well. Be sure to inflate your sleeping pads and check for leaks.

Sleeping bags

sleeping bags

 

See my article on sleeping bag maintenance.

Tents: set it up and make sure that all the zippers still work, the seams are in good condition, and all poles are still in good shape. Now’s the time to make sure you still have all the tent stakes and guy lines as well. Before your first camping adventure is the perfect time to apply seam-seal (if recommended by the tent manufacturer) and repair any rips in the walls or floor. Don’t forget to check the rain fly!

Tents

tent

 

Other gear: go over your camping checklists to make sure that all your favorite camping gear is still in working order.

If you discover anything broken, you can repair it yourself, find a professional repair service, or set about replacing it. And it’s better to do that while it’s still a bit cold and windy rather than when you’re heading out for your first camping adventure of 2011!

To make your life easier, I included a link after every category to Amazon.com. I’m more and more impressed with that company and use it to get a LOT of my gear! Those are affiliate links, FYI.

 

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you fix your gear in the fall or spring?
  • If you had a tear in a sleeping bag or tent, do you fix it or buy a new one?
  • What’s you must-do activity before heading out for the first camping trip of the season?

Preparing A Tent For Storage

No matter what, when you get home from a tent camping trip, you should open up and tent and let it dry out. ESP Boss & I suffered the dynamic duo of tent destroyers on our kayaking trip: camping on sand AND rain.

When we got home it was still kind of rainy so we decided to set the tent up in my garage and dry it out and clean it up.

Why Dry It Out:

Moisture on the tent, even just from dew or condensation from breathing, will cause mildew. Gross! And mildew not only smells and looks bad, it will eventually eat through the tent material.

Why Clean It Out:

Sand is a very abrasive. Just think of sand paper! So you don’t want it rubbing or even poking into the sides causing small tears in the fabric.

Both will keep your tent in tip-top camping condition for years to come.

Steps:

  1. Fully set up your tent in a well ventilated area that is not going to receive dew or rain.
  2. With no shoes on, inspect the floor of the tent for tears or holes.

    No shoes in a tent

    Use a folded towel to cushion your knees.

  3. With a small, hand-held broom, sweep from the corners of the tent to the door.

    sweeping

    Do you SEE all that sand!?

  4. Use a dustpan (or a vacuum hose attachment!) to remove any dirt.
  5. Tip the tent on its side (if you can) and gently wash the tent bottom with a soft rag and plain water.

    tent bottom

    Um, don't mind all the stuff in my garage!

  6. Examine the walls & ceiling of the tent for tears or holes.

    check walls

    Running a hand along the fabric can help you find tears and holes.

  7. Check the zippers of the tent (doors and windows!) for bent or missing teeth.
  8. Allow the tent to dry completely before packing it away.
  9. As you tear down the tent and pack it away, examine the tent poles for stress or breakage.

Perform the same steps with the rain fly and ground cloth!

You’ll want to do this after EVERY trip, not just at the end of the season!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you do to put your tent back into order after a trip?

Ground Cloths

When ESP Boss was doing research for our new back-packing tent, he read a lot of online reviews. On of the things that the reviewers said that made a huge impact on him was to buy the matching footprint (or ground cloth) for our tent.

And boy was I ever glad he did!

Now, when you’re buying a tent, you want to get a tent that has a waterproof floor. But even WITH a waterproof floor, you should use a ground cloth beneath your tent. (You should always use a ground cloth beneath the tent, no matter when or where you go camping!)

The ground cloth serves two purposes: it protects the floor of your tent from getting torn by rocks and debris below the tent, and the second purpose is to keep moisture from seeping up from the ground into your tent.

Ground Cloth Tips

If you DON’T have a waterproof tent floor:

  • Get a ground cloth that is the same size or a few inches smaller than your tent floor. That way, rain water won’t get between the two layers as easily.
  • Purchase a ground cloth that’s made for your tent’s size. If you can’t cut one to size from an old tarp.
  • It the ground cloth is too large, fold the edges UNDER to make it smaller. You want to fold the edges under or else rain will puddle under the tent floor.
Backpacking Tent

You can't SEE the ground cloth, but trust me: It's there!

The ground cloth for our backpacking tent is exactly the same size as the tent. Both the tent floor and the ground cloth are waterproof.

If you DO have a waterproof tent floor:

  • Consider using a tarp that extends out in front of the tent door a few feet. That makes it a perfect “porch” for your tent where you can take off your shoes.
  • Use a ground cloth that will allow water to pass through it. That way, the water won’t puddle under the tent!
Ground Cloth Car Camping Tent

See my shoes in the corner? There's plenty of room for me to take them off outside so I don't bring extra dirt into the tent!

But, for my car-camping tent, I personally prefer a larger, non-waterproof ground cloth. I like it because it traps the cushions the tent floor from pokey things, it allows water to run through and away, and because I have about three feet of ground cloth extending out from the main zippered door.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What’s your take on ground cloths? Do you like them the same size as the tent or larger than the tent?
  • Have you ever been camping without a ground cloth and wished you had one?
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