Posts Tagged ‘gear’

Light Up The Night

I’m sure many of you have seen our big white truck on the website. This truck is what we take when we go camping, since it is big enough to pull our trailer.

Actually, ESP Boss got a NEW truck for his 42nd wedding anniversary. It’s an even BIGGER white truck since The Queen Mother got a new trailer about a year ago. The first big white truck (Toyota Tundra) just doesn’t have enough oomph to pull the trailer!

Even though the “Royal” Family goes camping in an RV, I’ve still found a use for magnetic tent lights.

These lights have a powerful magnet in them. The light goes on the inside of the tent and a metal plate goes on the outside of the tent, then the magnet holds the light in place.

But, when you put them in the bed of the truck, under the rail and near the tailgate, they light up the bed of the truck perfectly. This way, when you’re rooting around in the bed of the truck after dark (with or without a camper shell) you can see what you’re doing, and you don’t have to hold a flashlight in your mouth!

The light in the picture is made by Coleman. Here’s a link so you can buy the light. If you bring the metal plate with you when you go tent camping, the light can do double duty in your truck and in the tent as a safelight source.

ESP Boss’ pickup has a sprayed-in bed liner and the magnet has no problem holding the light tight. It never moves no matter if we go on the roughest of roads. However, the lights tend to get fine dirt in them so we always carry extra batteries.

My truck has a plastic bed liner and the magnets aren’t powerful to attach to the truck’s bed THROUGH the liner. But, as you can see from the bottom, you can just put in a couple of short screws to hold the light in place!

Since these lights are battery powered, be sure to check out my article The Power Of Batteries for more helpful camping tips.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you use to light up the bed of a pickup?
  • Have you found any must-have camping tools that do great double duty?

After Camping Checklist

An Internet search will turn up a million and one checklists about what to take with you when you GO camping. What I’ve found, however, is that people have little problem bringing everything they need with them, but where they fall apart is knowing what to do with it all when they get home!

Who hasn’t just left a suitcase full of unworn clothes, dirty clothes, and toiletries languishing in the corner for a few days (or longer) after a trip? NOT a good idea for your camping gear, since there’s been considerable expense over the years to gather all your equipment. Unpacking later, rather than sooner, can ruin many different items.

When I got back from my camping trip with Nicole last weekend, I was hot, tired, and dirty. But I knew I shouldn’t leave the gear just sitting there (especially in the back of my truck!) So after a quick lunch, I got right to the business of unpacking all my gear.

Unpacking Checklist

Do you RV? The very first thing you need to do is dump your holding tanks of grey and black water. If you can, dump the tanks at the campground, since many provide RV dumps. If you camp a lot, and if it’s feasible at your house, consider having a sewer connection near where you park your RV.

We usually dump at the campground and then make sure the holding tanks are really clean when we get home.

The “Royal” Family (okay, so it was all ESP Boss!) had a level concrete pad poured where we park the RV. Right there we have a sewer dump, fresh water connection, and power.

Return any leftover foods to the refrigerator or pantry, as necessary, and discard any foods that may have spoiled. Do this sooner rather than later. Some items on the put-away checklist can be done the next day, but food needs to be unpacked and returned to the refrigerator or pantry right away.

Rinse the ice chest and allow to dry. Sprinkle some baking soda in the ice chest to keep it odor-free and fresh until the next time you use it. This is a great time to make sure the valve to let out water is still working and that there are no cracks or bows in the chest. If anything is damaged, replace the ice chest.

Gather up and dispose of any remaining trash.

As you unpack, take inventory of your gear. Did you leave anything behind? Identify any items that are damaged, broken, or consumed (like matches). Be sure to count your tent stakes to make sure you’ll have enough for the next trip. Then, make a list of what needs repair or replacement. Pay special attention to items in your first aid kit.

When we get home from a camping trip, we also make sure to restock on any paper products we’ve used: toilet paper, paper plates, paper towels, plastic silverware, and make sure that the replacements get back into the trailer or camping box.

Separate all clothes and bedding items that may need laundering. Don’t wait to start doing the laundry; wash whatever you can, as soon as you can, to remove outdoor smells that can come from campfires, or from lakes, streams, and beaches, or from dirt, mud, and sand, etc.

Set up your tent to air it out, especially if it got wet while camping, and give it a good sweeping before stowing it. Be sure to air out any other camping gear, which may have gotten wet on the trip, to avoid possible mold and mildew. If your RV has slide-outs or anything tent-like (awnings, tent trailer sides, fold out beds, etc.) be sure to open all of these when you get home and make sure they are dry.

The dew had fallen the last morning in camp so I had to set up the tent at home too!

(If you are in an area that gets morning dew, make sure that all the gear is stowed before the dew falls, or you’ll have to wait for everything to dry out again!)

Clean all kitchen utensils, cookware, dishes, glasses, and silverware – if you can, run everything through the dishwasher. Return kitchen items to where they belong, and store all camping specific cooking items together.

Open your camping stove and wipe off any grease or food particles. You also might need to wash any cooking surfaces.

I wiped my stove down before I packed it up in camp. It WAS greasy!

Make sure that any camping stoves and lanterns are turned off and that all fuel containers are properly stored.

My new lantern is battery powered: I removed the batteries when I got home. It can't turn on in storage AND the batteries can't leak.

Empty any water containers and allow to dry. You’ll want to keep a close eye on it however, so as soon as the inside is dry, you put the lid on tightly. There is nothing worse that filling up your potable water container and having a big dead spider looking up at you from the bottom! Or peering inside to see dust, cat hairs, dead bugs, LIVE bugs… You get the picture!

Take good care of your camping gear since it was an investment and you will want to use it for many years to come.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have other items on YOUR unpacking checklist?

5 Uses for Camp Containers

Plastic boxes with lids have a ton of uses in the home and they’re very useful in camp as well. Here are my top five uses for plastic containers. These tips are good if your car camping, tent camping or have an RV. They also work for day trips!

When buying your plastic box, keep in mind how it will be used. Does it need to fit in a certain cupboard in your RV? What about in the trunk? Between a pickup truck’s wheel wells? When I’m buying more plastic boxes, I also look to see how well they stack on top of each other. If you’re camping with kids, you may also want to figure in how easy or difficult it is to remove the lid.

To quote The Queen Mother, “Don’t worry that you look dorky when you’re standing in Wal-Mart with your tape measure, measuring Rubbermaid boxes. It’s worth looking dorky knowing that they’ll fit in your RV or truck!” Plastic storage containers are sized by volume (quarts, gallons, etc) but there can be inches difference in footprint size or height for the same volume container.

1. Corral like items: batteries, games, tea, etc. The picture shows our game box- a Rubbermaid shoebox that holds our cards games, Scrabble dictionary, and other small games. In the trailer, I also have a box for all my teas, one for batteries, clothes pins and string, and another for pre-packaged seasonings like meat marinade.

Some things fit better if you take them out of the original packaging!

2. If you’re car or tent camping, a good sized plastic container works perfect to hold boxes of dry food mixes like ‘Quick Mix Baking Mix’ or packages powdered hot chocolate. It can stay outside or under the picnic table or trailer, and I don’t have to worry about rain or items blowing away. We still do this in the trailer because we can carry the entire box out to the camp kitchen at mealtimes.

Be sure to bring any boxes of food in at night- either into the RV or in the car. Squirrels are great at getting into things or, even worse, attracting a bear! Just because you don’t think there are any animals near by that might bother your food is no reason to tempt fate.

Measure your space before you buy containers! You need to make sure everything fits.

3. Pack your clothes in a plastic box instead of a duffel bag or suitcase. The plastic containers can stack in a corner of the RV or tent for more room. When we used to tent camp, we’d actually put all the clothes boxes outside at night. Of course, before you do this, you want to make sure that they are waterproof!

4. My favorite is an empty container by the front door of the tent or RV to hold shoes. That way, if your shoes are muddy or wet, or even just dusty, you’re not bringing that mess inside. Line the bottom with several layers of newspaper to keep the mud or wetness off the plastic. Snap the lid on to keep out rain and bugs, of course. I like to sit on the trailer step to put my shoes back on.

5. Create a separate ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ for day trips, either from home or from the campsite. Ours has extra batteries, water bottles, dry jackets, a flashlight, large garbage bags, and snacks. The idea is to pre-pack anything that you might need in case of an emergency or sudden weather change. With a ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ you know that if you forget sweatshirts and it gets cold, you’re covered. Just be sure to replace any supplies you used when you get home.

A variation on the ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ is to have a box for specific purposes. We have one that has all our digital camera stuff (batteries, lens cleaning, memory cards, a pen and notebook, etc) so we can get out the door faster, knowing our gear is ready to go.

The need for tight-fitting lids:

ESP Boss was out hunting one fall when he was caught in a torrential rain storm. (The type where you can’t get the RV out and have to come back for it when the road dries out.) His containers were flipped over from the wind and bobbed around in the standing water but his stuff stayed dry- thanks to the tight fitting lids!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you use to corral your gear when you’re camping?
  • Do you have a favorite size or type of plastic container?

Sleeping Bag Care & Cleaning

Now you’ve learned all about the different styles of sleeping bags, you need to know how to care for and maintain your sleeping bag.

In Camp

Be gentle when you remove your sleeping bag from the stuff sack. Don’t yank it or it could tear.

Carefully remove the sleeping bag from the stuff sack.

Before you crawl into your bag on the first night of your camping trip, be sure to give the bag a few shakes. You want to fluff the insulation — but of course not damage the seams or zipper!

I recommend using a sleeping bag liner whenever you’re in your bag. Some types of liners will actually keep you warmer by giving you another layer of insulation.

The real reason I recommend a sleeping bag liner is to keep the inside of the bag cleaner. Come on, how many times have you just barely pulled off your boots before tumbling into your sleeping bag? Well all the sweat and dirt (and campfire smoke!) you’ve accumulated during the day has now transferred to the inside of your bag.


A liner is a lot easier to wash since they’re usually like a small blanket, unlike washing a sleeping bag which can be like washing an enormous comforter off your bed at home!

Don’t put your sleeping bag directly on the ground. Always have a sleeping pad or ground cloth down first.

If you spill something on your sleeping bag, let it it dry completely, but out of the sun. If you have a towel, you can use it to sop up any excess moisture.


For years, I always stored my sleeping bag all wadded up in a stuff sack. And then, I could never figure out why it wasn’t as fluffy as it used to be. And it didn’t seem as warm.

It turns out that sleeping bags should NOT be stored in a stuff sack or rolled!

If you can, sleeping bags should be stored flat. I’ve seen under the bed as a recommended spot but I’m not really excited about that idea. Lily (my dog) likes to scoot under my bed and it always seems that under the bed gathers dust bunnies.

Good storage is hanging over a large hanger or rod in a closet.

Or, you can put the sleeping bag in a LARGE mesh laundry bag so it is only loosely stuffed. Then, the whole thing can be stored on a shelf in a closet.

Don’t use a plastic bag or garbage sack! If the bag is damp at all, the plastic will keep it from drying out completely. The plastic will, however, encourage the growth of mildew, mold, and icky smells.

Storage Tip: Put the sleeping bag’s stuff sack into the sleeping bag before you store it. That way the stuff sack can’t get lost!


Sleeping bags do NOT need to be laundered after every trip! An exception would be if you spilled something on the bag, if a child had an accident, or if you went to bed extremely dirty.

Washing Your Bag

Do not wash your sleeping bag in your home washing machine. Instead, grab a good book, lots of quarters and head to your local laundry mat. You’ll want to launder your bag in warm or cool water on a front loading machine. Use the gentle cycle so zippers, seams, and straps are less likely to become damaged.

I also recommend using less soap than you think it needs. Because there is so much mass to your sleeping bag, it will take several rinse cycles to fully remove the soap.

Avoid fabric softener and dry cleaning since both will damage the bag.

If you have a down bag, you can purchase special soap formulated to wash down. If you’re not comfortable laundering your down bag yourself, call around to local laundry mats or dry cleaners to see if any body specializes in WASHING down items. You want to make sure they wash it not dry clean.

If you decide to try hand washing, the bath tub is your best bet. Give yourself plenty of time because it’s going to be a BIG job.

Drying your bag

Again, don’t try to use your home clothes dryer for this job! It will be too small to do the job properly and you could damage your sleeping bag, dryer or both!

Sleeping bags take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours to dry completely. I want to impress upon you that laundering your sleeping bag could very well be an all day job so give yourself plenty of time.

Tumble dry the sleeping bag in the largest commercial dryer you can find. You’ll want to use a low heat setting since a high heat setting can scorch the synthetic shell, fibers, or liner. If in doubt, air-dry your bag, or use a no-heat setting in the dryer.

Check the bag periodically to make sure the fabric isn’t scorching hot and the insulation isn’t bunching or clumping. To combat clumping you can throw in a tennis ball or two. They help maintain the loft of the insulation.

Just be sure they’re NEW tennis balls not the ones Fido buries in the back yard. Yuck!

Moving A Wet Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag full of water will be very heavy and very delicate. If you’re not careful, you could tear a seam in the bag. When moving your wet sleeping bag, always move the ENTIRE thing — never pick it up from the end. I recommend putting it carefully in a large plastic clothes basket to move it from the washer to the dryer.

If you are going to let the bag “drip dry” you’ll want to find a place to lay it flat, out of the sun. Layer several clean towels below and above the bag to absorb excess moisture. Change the towels as they become sodden. And keep an eye that the bag is drying out — you don’t want to grow mildew in a bag you just laundered.

I don’t recommend hanging a sleeping bag to dry for a couple of reasons. It can damage the seams from the weight of the wet bag AND the insulation can shift and clump. If you’ve ever slept on a lumpy pillow that somebody threw in the washer and dryer you know what I mean.

A Quick Definition

There’s nothing I hate worse than reading an article and getting to the end and saying: What was XYZ term they used? What did it mean?

So, in case you don’t know what a stuff sack is a tubular bag that you can stuff gear into. You don’t roll your sleeping bag first — you just stuff in (gently!) into the bag. Most bags then have a flap that covers the opening and a draw string to cinch it tight.

You can also get a compression stuff sack which also has straps around the bag. Once the bag has been stuffed, you draw the straps tight to further compress the bag’s contents.

Reader’s Experience:

  • Have you ever laundered your sleeping bag? How did you do it?
  • Would you rather wash your bag yourself or pay somebody to wash it for you?