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How to Build the Best Campfire

One of the best things about camping is the campfire. Whether you’re using if for cooking, warmth, or just gathering around with friends; the campfire is the focal point to any campsite.

Location, location, location 

Perhaps the most important part of a campfire is choosing where to build the fire. If you are camping in an established campground, there are usually fire rings already in place. Some of them even have grates for cooking! If you’re camping out in the wilderness, look for a spot where there has already been a campfire; this will impact the environment the least (leave no trace). If this isn’t an option, look for a clearing without a lot of material close by that can catch fire. You also will want to clear around your fire pit as not to burn more than you intend. Make sure your spot is away from dead trees or overhanging branches that can catch fire. You will also want to make sure not to build a fire underneath a heavy canopy as it can trap the smoke. 

Types of Campfires

Teepee fire

Teepee fire:  Best for sitting around and put out a lot of heat & light. Please note: teepee fires burn fast.

Type of campfire
Swedish torch

Swedish torch: put out a little heat and little light. Can set a pot right on top. Swedish torches use very little fuel.

Log Cabin Fire

Log Cabin fires: great for cooking on. The criss-cross pattern of the fuel will put out a steady amount of heat and burn longer than a Teepee fire.

Keyhole Firepit: The best of both the teepee and log cabin. You can build the teepee fire in the circle and rake the coals into the slot for cooking.

Lean-to: these fires are best for poor weather due to them being sheltered on one side.

Star Fire

Star fire: minimal fuel used and the slowest burner of all the fires. You have to stay on top of this one to make sure it keeps burning.

Building  & lighting the fire

Once you’ve selected your site, and you know what type to build, you want to make sure the site is completely clear of debris. We like to clear about 6′ in all directions of the fire pit if possible. Once the site is clear, dig down a little bit in a circle (about the diameter of your desired fire), and surround with rocks or stones. This will help contain any coals from rolling out.

There are 3 ingredients you will need for your fire; tinder, kindling, & fuel. Tinder can be dry pine needles, paper, dry leaves, dryer lint or cotton balls. Kindling is typically twigs, sticks, & small branches no bigger than the diameter of your finger. The last ingredient is fuel. Fuel is your larger sticks & logs thicker than 3″. Once you have all your ingredients, place the tinder in a manner so that it makers a little cave and stack some kindling around it. Light your fire in the manner in which you prefer whether it be a match, lighter, flint & steel, or a glowing ember from a friction fire starter. The tinder will light and catch the kindling. start adding more and more kindling being careful not to smother the fire. Once you have the kindling going pretty well, start adding the fuel. You should now have a healthy camp fire.

Make a “Fire Kit”

My fire kit

This is the kit I carry with me for fire starting. It consists of a UST SparkForce fire starter, and some cotton balls. All of this fits nicely into an old mint tin. I use the cotton balls to start the tinder easier. Pull a cotton ball apart so it is fluffy and surround it with your tinder. Point the SparkForce into the cotton ball and place the striker on it (like you were going to scrape it). When you pull the metal match part back, you should get a spark and ignite the cotton ball. Now just start adding tinder then kindling and you have just made fire.

Extinguishing your Campfire

The most important part of your campfire is putting it out. Failing to put out your fire properly can lead to a forest or wildfire. Always have water nearby so when it is time to extinguish your fire you are ready. It is also a good idea have water on hand in case of an stray spark. Pour water on the fire being sure to put out all the flames and stir the “slurry”. Put your hand over the now extinguished fire to make sure it is cool. You can’t use too much ware for this. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Smoky the Bear

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How to Keep Warm in Your Tent at Night

Winter camping is great! Being cold at night in your tent…not so much. We have compiled a few tips to help you keep warm in your tent at night so your trip is more enjoyable.

Get an Appropriate Sleeping Bag

keep warm in your tent sleeping bag

Having the proper temperature rating on your sleeping bag is the number 1 way to stay warm. If you are camping in lower temperatures, a zero degree bag  can keep you plenty warm. For an even warmer bag, try a fleece liner. A fleece line will increase the rating of your bag from 10-15 degrees! If you need a good rated bag, check out these.

Use a Sleeping Pad

keep warm in your tent sleeping pad

Air mattresses are great in the summertime. I colder temperatures, air mattresses are filled with cold air. A sleeping pad will offer more insulation because they are filled with compressible foam as well as the air which insulates well.

Use a Mylar Blanket

Mot people consider these “emergency” blankets. A mylar blanket works by reflecting your own heat back to you. Some propose to attach these to the inside of your tent roof to keep the heat in. This can cause condensation inside your tent which equals wet. Wet + cold = miserable. It is best to wrap the mylar blanket around you or on top of you.

Cover Your Lid

Keep warm in your tent hat

A lot of your body heat is lost through the top of your head, most people know that. Wearing a stocking cap to bed will help keep the heat lost through your head in and therefore keeping you warm. We actually keep a winter hat in our bag at all times in case it gets cold at night.

Warm up a Bottle

keep warm in your tent bottle

Another trick we use to keep warm is to heat up some water on your camp stove and fill our water bottle. We keep the water bottle (with the lid on tight) inside our bag at night which helps to keep us warm. Obviously, an insulated bottle won’t work for this. We use a plastic Nalgene bottle which works great!

Socks

Keep warm in your tent socks

You can’t argue with a pair of wool socks to keep your feet warm at night. We were on a campout recently and didn’t wear our socks to bed the first night and slept horribly. The next night, with the socks…slept like a baby!

Rock that Tent!

You can actually warm up rocks next to the fire before turning in for the night and put them in a towel, or sock and stick them in your sleeping bag. Make sure the rock(s) you use are not wet to begin with. A quickly heated rock can explode and cause a lot more grief than being cold.

Vent the Tent

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a well ventilated tent is less likely to have condensation inside. When the heat from your body and breath on the inside of the tent is warmer than the outside of the tent, condensation occurs. A thin layer of moisture inside your tent will certainly be colder than no moisture. Vent the tent to keep the inside dry and be warmer.

Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you have to be cold inside your tent. These ideas are tested by us and work. What other methods have you tried that work? Leave us a comment below.

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UST Folding Stove Review

Folding stove

We were recently given the opportunity to review Ultimate Survival Technologies’ folding stove. This stove burns the solid fuel hexamine type tablet. Hexamine tablets burn smokelessly, have a high energy density, do not liquefy while burning and leave no ashes. This stove doesn’t have to be used with the tablets, but that’s how we tested it.

First impression of the folding stove

folding stove

We opened the box to pull out the metal folding stove all folded with the hexamine cubes inside. (We sell each separately). The folded stove is about 4-1/2″ x 3-3/4″ x 1″ thick and weighs approximately 4 oz without the cubes. It’s a nice compact little stove. We decided to unfold it and see how long it would take to boil 12 oz of water.

The instructions say to use 1-2 tablets, so we used 2!. We figure if 1 is good, 2 is better!

Lighting the hexamine tablets proved to be a little tricky since the wind was blowing pretty well. A little research determined that these tablets don’t like the wind. We agree. We sheltered the wind and lit the tablets. After about 30 seconds, they were burning pretty well so we added our pot with 12 oz of water.

Folding stove

In hindsight, we should have angled the sides in to support the pot which it probably said to do in the instructions. Reading instructions was never a strong suit. To our surprise, the water started steaming within just a couple minutes; and by just over 5 minutes, we had boiling water. We probably could have used 1 hexamine tablet and achieved similar results. If we had though, we wouldn’t have melted the plastic coating on our handles! It is also advised to use this stove on a non-flammable surface. We accidentally set a few pine needles on fire that didn’t get moved.

folding stove

what we like:

This little stove has a couple things that we really like. 1. it is lightweight. Weighing in at about 4 oz, it is almost as if it’s not even in our pack. 2. The size. This stove is nice and compact and fits in the smallest of our pack pockets. 3. It cooled off quickly. We expected the metal to stay hot for much longer than it did once we removed the fuel tabs. It was cool enough to put back in our pack within 5 minutes (the air outside was cool, which may have helped that).

What we would change

When we lit the stove, there was a “chemically” smell. We’re not sure if it was the metal stove being used for the first time, our pot handles melting, or the hexamine tabs. Further use will clarify this question. We will post updates after further use to let you know if the smell continues.

Conclusion:

This is a cool little stove. The tablets burn for about 18 minutes which seems to be plenty of time (you can add another just after for longer cooking). The tablets also fit neatly inside the folded stove keeping everything contained. This is an inexpensive little stove that does a great job at what it’s supposed to do. You can purchase the stove here and the hexamine tablets here.

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How to Tie a Trucker’s Hitch

trucker's hitch

Before we had ratchet straps, we had to tie things down with rope. A trucker’s hitch will help you cinch down a load as secure as any strap. This hitch uses a pulley effect in a loop tied in the middle of the rope. The trucker’s hitch is excellent for tying canoes to the roofs of cars or anything that you really want secure. I use this hitch all the time. It was actually even taught to me by a trucker!

How to tie it

Trucker's hitch

Tie one end of rope to fixed object such as car bumper. About mid way on the rope tie a slippery half hitch to form a loop in the middle of the line. Be sure the loop part is formed with the slack part of the rope or it will tighten down on itself under pressure.

Make a wrap around another fixed point opposite the tie-in point and feed free end through the loop.

Using the loop as a pulley, pull down with the free end as tight as you can and secure the knot with two half hitches around one or both lines.

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How to Tie a Clove Hitch

clove hitch

The clove hitch is a simple all-purpose hitch which is easy to tie and untie. As with most hitches, the clove hitch can come loose or undone if you don’t have constant maintained pressure. The clove hitch is an excellent start to any lashing.

The difference between a knot and a hitch is that a knot is used to join two ropes together or a rope to itself. A hitch is used to fix a rope to another object such as a tree limb, pole, or carabiner and uses that object to hold.

how to tie it

clove hitch

First, Wrap the free end of a rope around a post.

Crossover itself and around the post again.

Finally, slip working end under last wrap.

Pull tight

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How to Tie a Sheet Bend

sheet bend

The sheet bend is an essential knot to know. It is used to join 2 ropes together (even if they are different thicknesses). For additional security, a double sheet bend knot is a better option. This knot is an old “sailor’s knot” when they used to tie ropes to sails (sheets). This knot is one of the most important ones to know because having a little bit longer rope is never a bad thing.

how to tie it

sheet bend

Form a loop in the end of one rope.

Pass the free end of the rope to be joined under the opening of the loop, around both parts of the first rope and back under itself.

Pull all four ends to tighten.

double sheet bendTwo wraps around both parts of the first rope make a double sheet bend.

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How to Tie a Bowline Knot

The bowline knot is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. The great thing about the bowline is it is both easy to tie and untie. The bowline knot is also easy to untie after being subjected to a load and having been tightened even more. The bowline is sometimes referred as King of the knots because of its importance.

How to tie a bowline Knot

bowline knor

Lay the rope across your left hand with the free end hanging down. Form a small loop in the line in your hand (over the top of itself). This is the “hole”

Bring the free end up to and pass through the eye from the under side (the rabbit comes out of the hole).

Wrap the line around the standing line and back down through the loop (the rabbit goes around the tree and back down the hole).

Tighten the knot by pulling on free end while holding standing line

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How to tie Taut Line Hitch

The taut line hitch is an adjustable loop-type knot for lines under tension. This knot is perfect for tying guy lines to pegs or any place you need to adjust the tension. A fairly easy knot to tie and a very handy one to know.

 

How to tie the taut line

taut line hitch

Make a turn around a post or other object several feet from the free end.

Coil the free end twice around the standing line working back toward the post.

Make one additional coil around the standing line on the outside of the coils just made.

Tighten the knot and slide it on the standing line to adjust tension.

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Insulated Water Bottle by Liquid Hardware Gear Review

Insulated water bottle

We all know the importance of staying hydrated. When the Camp Gear Center crew is on a hike, out camping, or just on a road trip; we like our water cold. To us, it just seems more refreshing than room temperature water. We were excited to test out the Sidewindertm vacuum insulated water bottle.

Water Bottle Features:

  • Vacuum Insulated-  COLD 24 hours HOT 12 hours
  • Magnetic Quick Stick Lid tether allows you to quickly attach your lid to the bottle’s side
  • Food grade 18/8 stainless steel and BPA free 
  • Easy to hold in your hand and fits in car, golf cart, SUV etc. cup holders
  • Triple layer vacuum insulation technology – does not sweat!
  • Drink spout quick pops open for drinking and securely snaps shut to seal your bottle
  • Leak-proof lid design
  • Wide mouth opening is easy to clean, easy to fill and add coffee, tea, hot cocoa etc…
  • Fits most back country water filters that are Nalgene compatible
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • USA patented and international patents
  • Custom bottle Finishes Available on large Orders
  • Bottle sticks to just about any metal surface for storage, even when full! (refrigerator, gym equipment, playground equipment…)
  • Lid floats in water and becomes a survival compass!

First Impressions:

When I opened the box; inside was the bottle, the lid, the care instructions wrapped around the bottle, and a Liquid Hardware sticker. The first thing I noticed how solid the bottle felt. I tested the bottle in my vehicle and it fit every cup holder I have. The lid screws on snugly and try as I might, I couldn’t get it to leak when it was screwed on snugly.

Cold Water Test

I wanted to really test how well the bottle kept water cold, so I performed an unscientific test. I filled the bottle with ice and water at 3:30PM on a Thursday and the temperature was a nice cold 33.9 degrees.

Insulated Water Bottle starting temperature
Starting Temp

The next morning (6:40), I tested the water again and the temperature was 39.9 degrees. Pretty impressive only gained 6 degrees. I was busy and couldn’t test the water after 24 hours so I tested the water in the bottle at 4:15PM. The temperature was 48 degrees! Not exactly ice cold, but still cold and refreshing.

Insulated water bottle
End Temp

What We Like:

I like that this bottle kept my water cold while I was drinking it. I prefer colder water to room temperature any day. The wide mouth of the bottle is great! Easy to fill and even add ice. I really like the magnetic tether that keeps the lid in place. This is more useful when storing the bottle or drying it than while drinking since I would take the lid off, take a sip, and screw the lid back on. The fact that the lid seals so well is also high on the list of “likes”. My bottle spent a lot of time on it’s side and not a drop escaped! This bottle fits in my hand well and at 16oz is a pretty good size. Stainless steel! While a stainless bottle is a little heavier than a plastic bottle, you have zero issues to worry about with BPA. We love this! Another cool feature is that the lid can be used as a compass. With the magnet, the lid will naturally point north (magnet points south).  Speaking of the lid, I also liked that it has a loop for a carabiner to attach to a pack.

Insulated water bottle
Pointing North

What We Would Change:

The only thing I could think of changing would be color options (which I’m sure are coming) and maybe a larger bottle. 16oz of water is good, but if you’re doing some serious hiking, more water is better.

Conclusion:

This is a GREAT insulated water bottle! It does exactly what the manufacturer says. It keeps the water cold (& hot water hot) and just works. For all the reasons listed above you can’t go wrong with this bottle. Liquid Hardware is also concerned with the environment and offers a lifetime guarantee. How can you lose? You can purchase the insulated water bottle here.

 

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10 Signs You Have a Camping Addiction

We love camping. The smell of the fire, the sounds of nature, the lack of busyness; these are just a few of the reasons. As I look around at all my gear, it occurred to me that I might have a camping addiction. As far as addictions go, there could be worse ones. I have compiled a list of “symptoms”. How many of these do you have?

Camping addiction
Camping and canoeing with the Boy Scouts
You have an entire wardrobe dedicated to camping.

There have been many times where I went to grab a shirt and decided I couldn’t wear it because it was a “camping shirt”. This has also happened with shorts, jackets, hats, and shoes.

You have a tent for every scenario

Am I camping with the family? Am I sharing a tent? Do I need more room for my gear? Is it going to be windy, cold, rainy? Will I be able to drive in pegs? I have a different tent for almost every one of these situations.

You have as many backpacks as an outdoor retailer

When I open my closet, I have a minimum of 6 different day packs. I’m pretty sure they multiply in there, but I can’t be certain. Due to my camping addiction, and changing tastes, day packs seem to add up.

When you drive down the road, you always scope out good camping spots

Camping Addiction

When  travel, I am ALWAYS on the lookout for a road that may take me out into the forest for a nice secluded camping spot. There are times when I’ve driven into the woods, scoped out a great spot and marked it on my smart phone map for a return trip.

You cook your meals over a fire
camping addiction
Dutch oven coking

Cooking over fire isn’t just for camping. We have cooked many a desert and meal in our dutch oven at home. We store it in our pop-up camper so we know to keep it handy so we can use it.

You have a stocked camper ready to go
camping addiction
Reloading

Our pop-up is always at the ready. In fact, all we need to grab to get out the door is food and clothes. Everything is always in the camper. Propane is full, dishes, silverware, towels, bedding, and everything else is always ready to go. Because of this, we can mobilize for a camping trip pretty quickly.

You can’t use your garage due to camping gear

Back when we had a garage, 1/2 of it was taken up by our pop-up camper and the other half my wife’s car used. Of course the camper was stocked and piled up with other tents, chairs, and other outdoor gear; but this only left a small percentage of the garage for other uses.

You have a sleeping bag for every temperature

Zero degree, 20 degree, summer bag, it doesn’t matter. You have these bags and more. You even have a liner for either a light bag or to make your cold weather bag better. When my daughter asks for a bag for a sleep over, I immediately ask “how warm is the room going to be?”. Gotta make sure to be warm enough.

You scour yard sales for camping gear

Camping addiction - yard sale

You probably have the gear you need, but finding decent gear at a bargain? Heck yeah! I don’t know how many times I’ve visited a yard sale and asked “any camping gear?”. If the answer is no, I typically move on. If the answer is yes, awesome! Typically there are stories shared about why they’re selling, where they’ve camped… Good times.

You suggest a camping trip for Mother’s day

Camping addiction

or her birthday, your anniversary, valentines day, or just because. Because she loves you (and camping), she agrees. The picture above is from one of our Mother’s Day trips which was an awesome weekend. Due to my wife being awesome, this trip was actually her idea!

Did we leave any symptoms out? What symptoms do you exhibit that are not on this list? Since we admittedly have a camping addiction, we want to hear from others who do as well. The question becomes: “should I seek help?”. No way! Get outside & camp more!