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How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

The right sleeping bag can make the difference between a great camping trip and a miserable one. If you get cold and wet, the right bag can also ward against hypothermia. 


It is important to choose a bag that will keep you comfortable. If you’re normally warm, choose a bag rated about 10 degrees lower that the lowest temperature you will be camping in. If you’re normally colder, choose a bag that is rated at 20-25 degrees lower than the lowest temperature you will be camping in. 


Sleeping bags can vary in price anywhere from $20 to 700 depending on a variety of factors such as temperature ratings, insulation, weight, shape and construction. 


Temperature Ratings

Sleeping bag temperature ratings identifies the temperature at which the bag is intended to keep the average person warm. When a bag is described as a “0-degree bag”, it means that most users will be warm when the temperature goes no lower that 0 degrees. Important: manufacturers assume the camper is using a camp pad and wearing a layer of long underwear while using it. These ratings are not a guarantee of comfort, but a guide. 


Insulation

There are 2 types of insulation: synthetic & goose-down. Many campers choose the synthetic insulation for the price and versatility. Synthetic insulation is less costly than it’s goose-down counterpart and insulates even when wet (it also dries quickly). If you camp with kids or animals (many dogs love camping!), the synthetic insulation filled sleeping bag will hold up better. One downfall to synthetic insulation is that it does not compress down as much as goose-down which makes it less desirable for backpack camping. 


Weight

Weight is usually only a factor when backpack camping. When car-camping it doesn’t really matter how much your sleeping bag weighs, because often times the cot, dutch oven and other comforts usually weigh more! Sleeping bags that are lighter and have higher quality insulation will cost more, but bringing the right bag for the conditions will help you trim bulk and weight. 


Shape

The way a sleeping bag works is that once you’re inside, the bag traps the non-circulating air inside and your body heats it, keeping you warm. The less air inside, the quicker it will warm and less time for you to not be comfortable. Sleeping bags come in 3 basic shapes: rectangular, semi-rectangular, and mummy.

-Rectangular bags are by far the most common shape of sleeping bag. This shape bag offers the most comfort and roominess. With all that “roominess”, it will take longer to heat the non-circulating air and therefore rectangular bags aren’t as efficient. One thing you can do with rectangular bags is zip two of them together (if they have the same size zipper) and make a double person bag. 

-Semi-rectangular bags, or barrel shaped bags, have a tapered shape and are more efficient than the rectangle shaped bags. These bags still offer comfort and roominess; just not as much as the rectangular bags. 

-Mummy bags have a narrower shoulder and hip width and taper down even at the feet. These bags are designed for the backpack camper as they are usually lighter and more efficient. Many people find it difficult to get comfortable in a mummy bag. 

-Double wide sleeping bags are basically rectangle shaped but are sold as basically 2 rectangular bags together. Many can be unzipped to make 2 separate rectangle bags. If you put a double-wide sleeping bag on a queen sized air mattress you and your sleeping partner are sure to be comfortable. 


Construction

Your sleeping bag’s outer shell is usually made out of nylon or polyester and the inside lining is not. The shell is designed to deflect water and the lining is designed to disperse body moisture. Some outer shells have a waterproof coating which can be tested with a wet cloth. Rub the wet cloth across the lining; and if the water beads, your bag has the waterproofing! A bag with high quality horizontal baffles are usually warmer and don’t have air leaks and keep you warmer. 


Additional Features

There are some bags that have some pretty cool features to help keep you warm and comfortable. Some of them are:

-Sleeping bag hood. Since campers loose the most heat through our heads, some manufacturers’ semi-rectangular bags have a built-in hood that is cinched with a drawstring to help keep you warm. If your bag doesn’t have a hood and you’re doing some cold weather camping, consider a fleece hood. I have one that is basically a hood that I can wear to help keep my head (and therefore the rest of me) warm in colder temperatures. 

-Sleeping pad sleeve. Some bags have a sleeve built-in to slide your sleeping pad in and not have to worry about slipping off the pad at night(something I seem to always do). 

-Small pocket. Some sleeping bags have a small pocket sewn into them for keeping your glasses, phone, flashlight, or whatever you need close by. 

-Inside collar. Some colder weather bags have an inside collar with an elastic drawstring designed to bring the lining around you and keep the warmed air inside. 

-Pillow pocket. There are some bags that have a pocket in them that is for inserting clothing to act as a pillow. I suppose you could also insert your camp pillow int one of these pockets as well. 


Sleeping Bag Accessories

There are some accessories available that make caring for and transporting your sleeping bag easier. 

-Stuff sacks. Many bags come with a stuff sack, but in case yours didn’t, they can be purchased so you can easily transport your sleeping bag. Tip: Get a stuff sack that’s a little larger than what you need and throw your camp pillow in it. It won’t get lost that way!

-Storage sacks. Instead of storing your sleeping bag all rolled up or stuffed into a stuff sack, hanging your sleeping bag fully unrolled will help prolong the life of the bag. When you store the sleeping bag in the stuff sack or rolled up, the insulation compresses and becomes less effective over time. 

-Sleeping bag liner. Sleeping bag liners can add to the warming effectiveness of your bag. They can add as much as 15 degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag! If you’re camping in really warm weather, leave the sleeping bag at home and just use the liner!


The Bottom Line:    

Get a sleeping bag you can afford. A borrowed bag or inexpensive bag will still get you outside and camping. That really what matters! A $600 bag will make camp a little more luxurious, and if you can do it, by all means do. The most important thing is to be out there!

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Camping Essentials

With the right gear, you can be prepared for anything. Camping essentials lists come in many shapes and forms. You can search the internet and come up with about a thousand different lists. We have compiled a comprehensive checklist for you. For a printable version, click here.
As a scout leader, we teach the new scouts about the ten essentials for camping which are listed below:
The Ten Essentials (BSA)

__Pocketknife20161102_165208
__First aid kit
__Extra clothing (Weather appropriate)
__Rain gear
__Water bottle
__Flashlight/headlamp
__Trail food
__Matches and fire starters
__Sun protection
__Map and compass (& know how to use them)

Below is our comprehensive list for camping. You don’t have to bring everything on this list, but this is meant to get you thinking and make sure you don’t miss something. If you have anything to add, feel free t
o comment below and we can add it to the list. Here is a link to a printable version (list).

Shelter

__Tent
__Ground cloth/tarp
__Extra stakstakeses
__Shade tarp/poles/rope/stakes
__Axe or hammer
__Mat for tent entrance
__Dust pan/brush

Bedding

__Sleeping bag
__Sheets/blankets
__Pillow
__Air mattress/sleeping pad/cot/tarp
__Air pump
__Repair kit for air mattress

__Utility bags for storage

Cooking

__Large water jug & water bucket         20161106_120613_1478464536041_resized
__Coolers/ice
__Thermos
__Stove with fuel/propane/mess kit
__Matches/lighter
__Charcoal/firewood/buddy burner
__Dutch oven/tin can stove/box oven/etc
__Campfire grill/BBQ grill
__Fire starters/newspaper
__Tablecloth/thumb tacks/clips
__Plates & bowls/paper plates & bowls
__Silverware/plastic silverwarecook-set
__Measuring cups / cook set
__Heavy-duty aluminum foil
__Paper towels
__Trash bags
__Dish soap
__Clothes pins
__Cooking oil/spray
__Containers for food storage
__Potholders/oven mittsstove
__Pots and frying pans with lids
__Soap for outside of pots and pans
__Cook utensils-spatula, knife, spoon
__Tongs
__Skewers/grill forks
__Can opener/bottle opener
__Folding table
__Mugs/paper cups
__Mixing bowl
__Cutting board
__Ziplock bags
__Napkins
__Dish pan
__Dish rags/towels
__Scrub pad/brillo
__Seasonings/sugar/condiments
__Potato peeler

Clothes

__Shoes/boots
__Jeans/pants/belt
__Shorts
__T-shirts
__Socks/extra socks
__Hat
__Bandana
__Sweatshirt/jacket
__Underwear
__Sleep clothes
__Rain gear
__Swim suit/towel
__Laundry bag

Personal

__Shower shoes/flip flops
__Towels/washcloth
__Soap in plastic case/shampoo
__Tooth brush/tooth pastesolar-shower
__Deodorant
__Comb/brush
__Razor
__Feminine products
__Toilet paper
__Shower bag or 5 gallon bucket
__Camping shower/shower pump
__Other personal items
__Personal medications – take extra

Miscellaneous

__Sunscreen/chapstick
__Lantern with fuel/mantles
__Extra batteries/bulbs
__Compass/GPS
__Bug repellent/candles
__Whistle
__Water filters/purification/treatmentfirst-aid-kit
__Camera/batteries
__Books/magazines (a Kindle would be better)
__Candles
__Maps/directions
__Misc. tools
__Backpack/fanny pack
__Fishing gear/license/bait
__Radio
__Musical instruments/song books
__Camp chairs
__Sunglasses
__Hammock
__First aid kit
__Tissues
__Saw/axe
__Park map/guidebooks/trail maps
__Lantern pole or hanger
__Collapsible drying rack
__Popcorn
__Marshmallows, Graham crackers, Hershey bars (Smores)
__Flashlight/batteries
__Pocket knife
__Plastic grocery bags
__Binoculars
__Rope/clothes line
__Canteen/water bottle/coffee pot
__Bungee cords/straps
__Cards/games/toys/golf
__Duct tape/electrical tape
__Notepad/pen
__Reservations info./confirmation
__Cell phone/charger & 2-way radios/walkie talkies
__Small shovel
__Safety pins
__Money/ID/credit card/quarters
__Bikes/helmets
__Travel alarm clock
__Work gloves
__Umbrella
__Hand wipes
__Drinks/snacks
__Small sewing kit
__Fire extinguisher
__Hot chocolate/tea bags/coffee
__Scissors
__Watch

Tell someone of your plans – give details of where you are going and when you expect to return, give directions and possible alternative roads that you may take, provide cell phone numbers, vehicle description and license plate numbers, hand-held radio channel and codes that you will use, and provide local authority phone numbers (State Police, Game & Fish Commission, Sheriff Dept, etc.) for the county or area that you will be in.

Basic First Aid Kit

__Personal medications
__Roll bandages
__Adhesive tape
__Antiseptic wipes
__Sterile gauze pads
__Cotton swabs
__Tweezers
__Safety pins
__Scissors
__Bee sting kit
__Sinus medications
__Tissues
__Bug repellent
__Sunscreen
__Notepad/pen
__Sterile compresses
__Splinting materials
__Personal information/contact person
__Feminine products
__Ipecac
__Razor blades
__Plastic bags
__Small bottle of water
__Blanket
__Other personal needs
__Small mirror
__Triangular bandages
__Misc. Band Aides/bandages
__Anti-acids (Tums, Rolaids)
__Antibiotic cream
__Aspirin/Ibuprofen/Tylenol/Naproxin
__Hydrogen Peroxide
__Ace bandages
__Sunburn lotion
__Burn ointment
__Snake bit kit
__Eye drops
__Poison ivy cream/cleansers
__Heat/cold packs
__Small flashlight
__Latex gloves
__Antibacterial soap
__Thermometer
__Coins for emergency phone calls
__Antibiotic soap
__Butterfly bandages
__Twine
__Mole skin for blisters
__Road flares
__First aid manual
__Nail clippers

Know what the weather forecast is for your camping destination. This will help alleviate many issues encountered at camp. If you are expecting bad weather, you can prepare for it or rearrange your trip. If you think of anything I’ve left out, please comment below.

 

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How to Choose a Campsite

You’ve decided you want to go camping this weekend and head out to do so. Once you’re out in the wilderness or at the campground, the most important thing about your campsite is where you’re going to sleep.

Ground Surface

Having a flat ground to pitch your tent is crucial to a good night sleep. If your spot for your tent isn’t flat, you could find yourself completely off you sleeping pad and against the wall of your tent. Believe me, this is no fun, I’ve been there. You will also want to make sure your flat ground is free of debris. The smallest rock or pine cone in the wrong spot can completely wreck a night’s sleep (again, I have experience with this). Debris can also poke holes in the bottom of your tent. It is important to not only clear the debris from under your tent, but look for rocks that may be mostly buried and could also wreck your night; sometimes moving your tent a few inches or feet will fix this.

family-campout-coh-fall-2016-73
Nice flat ground

Campsite Shade

Having shade over your tent all day isn’t necessarily a must. In our minds, having shade in the morning is important. Look for a site for your tent that will be shaded in the morning, this will keep you from being woken up earlier than intended. Finding a flat spot with shade can be a bit of challenge in the desert (the shade, not the flat). If you’re camping in the desert, consider bringing your own shade. If you are bringing your own shade and you’re in the desert, you now have the option to move that shade from blocking the sun in the morning to blocking the sun in the afternoon and keeping your tent a little cooler.

What’s above you?

Not only is important to observe what’s underneath your tent, you should also look above you. Setting up your tent under a dead tree branch is just a bad idea. The thought may be “it’s up there, so it must be safe”, eventually, dead branches fall. Branches falling out of trees onto your tent is dangerous. The same thing goes for rocks. Pitching your tent at the base of a hill, or beneath a loose rock rock ledge could also be bad news.

What’s around you?

It is important to check your surroundings when setting up camp. You may not want to camp right next to the lake because of bugs. I actually camped next to a lake once and the croaking frogs sang a sweet lullaby! Downed or dead trees nearby, this could potentially be dangerous. Dead trees fall over; especially if it’s windy. Be sure to check your weather forecast. Not only can bad weather make a trip less pleasant, but if your tent is pitched in area of water run off, you may get flooded.

Lastly, please consider the impact your campsite has on the environment. Picking a spot that has clearly been camped in before has less of an environmental impact than forging ahead to find that pristine spot. Leave No Trace is a principle any responsible outdoors person should follow. Always try to leave your campsite cleaner than when you found it. For more information on Leave No Trace, click here.

Campsite Privacy

Neighbors are a good thing. In fact ,there can be safety in numbers. Having a large group that is right next to or near your campsite can certainly make your experience less enjoyable. On one of our first outings with the kids, we were across from a group site. It was empty when we checked in and got all set up. At around 10:00 that night is when everyone arrived. The kids slept right through it, but my wife & I didn’t get much sleep that night. Luckily the camp hosts were able to move us to a different site. Don’t settle for the very first spot you find, but you also don’t have to hike miles and miles into the woods to find a good spot.

mchood-2016-42
Too close?

Room

The number of people in your group and the amount of gear you have will dictate how much room or space you need in camp. Kitchen area and tents take up the majority of the space, but if you plan to throw the football or frisbee,  you will need to account for that as well.

 

Get out there, go camping and enjoy the outdoors.

 

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Video Gear Review: LED Headlamp

LED Headlamp Review

Here’s a video of a cool little headlamp I picked up recently at Amazon. Because we like to work with our hands while camping (or anything else), we love headlamps. Headlamps are an essential part of our camp essentials. For the complete list, click here. This little headlamp is pretty awesome. It’s bright, it has multiple modes, and it won’t break the bank! Click here to get one for yourself! Oh yeah, be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel and our mailing list.

 

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Mess Kit Video Tour

Below is a video tour of my mess kit that I carry. Many a soldire carried one of these. They are great because you can cook in one half and the other half features a divided plate. I also store my utensils and seasonings inside. Another great feature is that it is made out of stainless steel. I have seen aluminum mess kits twist and contort when used to cook; this won’t do either. You also don’t have the issue of aluminum leaching into your food potentially. The whole thing snaps together and stows in your pack fairly small as well. Check it out below and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.

Product links:

20161106_120613_1478464536041_resizedcook-setstove

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How Much Gear is Too Much?

As an assistant Scoutmaster, I have the opportunity to do a lot of camping. I love being out in the wild with the Scouts; it makes me feel younger and I get quality time with my son. We do a variety of camping, from “dump-outs” to “backpacking” trips. I love both types of camping and always look forward to the next one before the current trip is even over.

Backpack Camping:
Backpacking trips with the scouts are great for the following reasons:

  1. Every scout is responsible for all his gear.
  2. Cooking on a backpack stove is always interesting.
  3. The younger scouts really learn what “roughing it” can mean
  4. There is less impact on the campsite
  5. We can be a little more remote
Coffee is important

Dumpouts:

Dump-outs are great trips with the scouts for a number of reasons.

  1. The food is ALWAYS good.
  2. Plenty of man power to get everything done.
  3. There are almost always enough supplies.
  4. We usually attract more scouts – which is always entertaining!
  5. Did I mention the food?

 

Lots of gear on this trip

When we do our dump-outs, we bring the troop trailer which has everything under the sun in it. We have at least 4 dutch ovens, multiple cooking sets (utensils, pots, bowls, etc), food gets stored there, wash bins, extra TP, rakes, shovels, propane, you name it. Which brings me to the question: How much is too much?

With a dump-out, all the gear (and usually scout gear included) is pulled in a 10′ trailer. We usually have a larger group so loading & unloading isn’t an issue. The scouts usually prepare some really good meals with all the coocking gear as well! Did we use that 20′ canopy in the trailer? You bet! it was a hot weekend and it provided some much needed shade. Some of the leaders were able to bring cots for in their tents, a few EZ-Up canopies were also brought. We were quite comfortable.

BSA regulations won’t allow a scout to carry more than 25% of his body weight in his pack. This can be an issue for some of the smaller guys. It really makes you look at your gear to see what is truly essential.

It comes down to how much gear does it take to be comfortable? Nobody wants to go camping and be miserable (well maybe a few people). My advice is to bring what you think you’ll need. Would you being a cast iron pan on a backpacking trip? Probably not. Are you going to rake your site upon departure? Probably not on a backpacking trip. I also recommend bringing things that can serve multiple needs. Do you need a bowl, pot, & plate on a back pack trip? I suggest eating straight out of the pot if it’s just you. Less to clean too! For a list of camping essentials, click here.

What are your  essentials? What have you taken on  a trip that you wished you hadn’t?

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That Tent Sleeps How Many?

 

Tents come in all shapes & sizes. One of the great great mysteries of life for new campers is tent sizing. I’m often asked, “How is it that such a small tent is considered a 2-man tent?”. I used to wonder the same thing. I had a small “2-man” tent that had a footprint to 5′ x 6′ and used to wonder how 2 men could sleep comfortably in there.

It turns out that tent manufacturers use the back packing tent capacity method. Self inflating sleeping pads are laid next to each other until no more will fit without overlapping. That’s how they figure it out. Granted, this does not make for roomy accommodations since sleeping pads are usually 20-22″ wide.  To conserve weight, backpackers will often cram into a tent sleeping head to toe in mummy bags (this also conserves body heat in the winter). In this scenario, back packs and other gear are stored under the rain fly or just left outside if no rain is eminent.
Most campers (me included) want a little more room than afforded by the backpacking style when camping with the family.

Tent manufacturers adopt this model of capacity rating to make their product more attractive to buyers by increasing the sleeping capacity of the tent. One thing is for sure; if you sleep 4 people in a 4 person tent, there is no room for another living soul or their gear!

This gives you a pretty good indication of just how many people you don’t want in your tent. I use the formula of “SSC-2” (where “SSC” = stated sleep capacity) and subtract 2. This will give you plenty of room for the number of campers and their gear without being right on top of each other. Depending on how much gear, the tent will be full but not too full. My son & I used to share a 4 man dome tent and we were comfortable. Our setup included a 2 cots, sleeping bags, back packs, and a cooler. We would set up the cots across from each other with the cooler in the middle serving as a sort of “night stand”. Our backpacks would fit easily under our cots so we had plenty of room.

Obviously, tents with 4 sides (either rectangular or square) offer less sleeping area than the dome tents with 6 or 8 sides. With the dome type tents (and a rectangular sleeping bag) you have the space not taken up by sleeping bags for gear utilizing this “extra” floor space.

The one exception to the SSC-2 rule is the 1 man “bivy” style tent. Obviously, you cant subtract 2 from a 1 man tent. I like a small bivy tent when out by myself or camping with the scout troop. It is big enough for me & my gear and not so big that my gear can get scattered around.

What size tent should you choose? It depends on the type of camping you’re doing, who is camping with you (sharing a tent), and how much gear you have. Camping is fun. It is better to have a bigger tent with a family so that you’re not all cramped together (especially if the weather turns and you have to take shelter!)

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Welcome!

 

Welcome to Camp Gear Center! This is where we will talk about everything camping; things we love, things we’d like to change, camp recipes, and some product reviews.

Because we love camping so much, we decided to dedicate our lives to finding the best products and information to share with you. While we are out enjoying nature, we are compiling ideas to share and testing new products to review for you.

Pull up a camp stool around the fire. Welcome to camp, we’re glad you’re here.