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Hiking Essentials

hiking essential

It is no secret, that we love the outdoors. We love camping, hiking, backpacking, pretty much anything to do with the outdoors. When we hike, there is a list of 10 hiking essentials then we always carry with us on every hike. Below is a list of the items we always carry with us and the reasons why.

hiking essentials

1. Water. Camp Gear Center’s world headquarters are tucked into the mountains of Northern Arizona. Even though we are in the mountains it is still pretty much a desert climate. Water is the most important thing we bring with us on every single hike. The amount of water you carry is dependent on how much you drink, and how much you sweat. We like to carry at least 32 oz of water sometimes 64oz depending on the time of year, the length of the hike, and who we are hiking with. There have been times where people hiking with us are not quite as prepared and run out of water and it is always nice to be able to help them out. We also recommend a shatterproof bottle such as a Nalgene or equivalent so if you happen to drop your water bottle it doesn’t break and you lose your water. It sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised just how uncommon common sense is.

Hiking essentials

2. First aid kit. As a scoutmaster, I like to live by the Boy Scout motto of be prepared. Although I haven’t had need to use my first aid kit, knowing that I have one and that if there was an emergency, I could either help or have somebody help me with my first aid kit. Besides being prepared, there was one incident that led me to always throw my first aid kit in my backpack. I was out hiking and there was a older couple that was coming towards me on the trail, and the gentleman had his hand in the air as if he were asking a question. I noticed he had blood running down his hand and his arm. He turned out to be okay, but had I had my first aid kit I could have helped bandage him up and help stop the bleeding. It turns out he was poked by one of the yucca plants which are quite common in Arizona that have “leaves” that are literally needle sharp. Ever since that incident, we always carry a first aid kit. This is the kit we carry. (click link)

hiking essentials

3. GPS. For Christmas last year, my wife got me the Garmin etrex 20x GPS unit. I absolutely love this little thing it has a decent size screen that can show you the trails and when you start your hike it actually keeps track of the trail you Heights. There have been many times where I got off the trail, and I pulled out the GPS to find out where the trail was and how I can navigate back to it. I will put a link to the video I made on why I love this little GPS unit here. That way you can check out the video and not have to read all about why I love my GPS.

hiking essentials

4. Survival blanket. We are a scouting family, and the Scout motto is being prepared. A survival blanket for us is a necessary item to carry for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is if you get stranded someplace and need to stay warm, a survival blanket which is usually a reflective material, will help reflect up to 90% of your body heat back to you and keep you warm. Another good use, is if you are in a warmer climate comma and you get stranded the survival blanket can be strung up to create much-needed shade. Survival blankets do not weigh very much and they compress down fairly small so they are not that cumbersome to keep in your pack. We have yet to need to use this, but it is reassuring knowing that it is there.

5. Signal mirror. Another small, lightweight useful item is a signal mirror. It is fairly obvious what this is used for. If you get stranded someplace and need to signal for help a signal mirror will do the task. A fun fact, a computer hard drive usually has up to 4 very reflective discs inside and can be used for a signal mirror. That is what we carry with us. They are super reflective and conveniently have a hole in the middle so you can aim where you want the signal to go. Again, this is another item that we have not used while hiking but it is good to know that it is there should we need it.

Hiking Essentials

6. Multi tool. A good multi-tool is essential to carry with you for numerous reasons. The one we carry, is the Leatherman skeletool. Which has a knife, pliers, bottle opener, and a number of screwdrivers. We have never had the need to turn a screw while out hiking comma but the knife, pliers, and of course the bottle opener have all been used. You will probably want to pick the right multi-tool for you based on the various things that they have. We just happen to have one of these skeletools and throw it in the pack.

7. Snacks. We always throw in a handful of our favorite cliff bars or trail mix packs when we are hiking. Depending on the length of the hike, you may want to carry more food than just some granola bars and trail mix, but for short hikes that’s usually what we carry. You never know when you need the extra boost of energy to help get up that mountain, or back to base camp. Also, if you do happen to get stranded and need to use your reflective blanket and or signal mirror, you are able to eat something to help sustain you while waiting for help to arrive.

Hiking Essentials

8. Fire starter. Again, something we have not had to use while we are hiking,  but always carry just in case we get stranded. While a signal mirror is a good signaling device to use, a small fire putting out a lot of smoke can work even better. If you happen to get stranded on a cloudy day a signal mirror won’t do much good, but a fire can be seen even on the cloudiest days. It is important to stress fire safety when building a signal fire, or even just a fire to keep yourself warm if you get stranded. Make sure that you clear the area around the fire as not to set things on fire that you don’t intend to burn. We typically carry a small metal tin that contains a flint and steel and cotton balls to start a fire as well as a lighter. Sometimes, the lighter either doesn’t have butane in it or decides it doesn’t want to work so we have the flint and steel with cotton balls as a backup which works really well.

hiking essentials

9. Rain poncho. Since we are based in northern Arizona comma the weather can change pretty quickly. Especially during the summer time. It could be sunny in the morning and raining buckets in the afternoon. We always carry a rain poncho with us in our pack. Like the emergency blanket, a inexpensive rain poncho is lightweight, folds up small, and is barely even noticeable in your pack. If the weather does happen to change quickly, we are prepared for it by having our Poncho with us. This is one of the items that we have used on occasion. And been very thankful that we had it. No need to spend a lot of money on a rain poncho you can pick them up in most stores for less than a dollar and trying to refold them while somewhat cumbersome, it can be done but these are usually a one-time use item.

Hiking Essentials

10. Backpack.  so we’ve got all these essential items that we carry with us on our hikes, but how do we carry it? We use a smallish tactical style backpack that has four separate Pockets or compartments to hold our gear. Any backpack will do, we happen to like this particular pack because of some of the additional features that it has. It has the Molle connectors so you can attach things to the outside of the pack, it has the room inside in the ability to put a hydration bladder in, the straps are fairly well padded and quite a adjustable. It does come with a waist strap which we don’t use as a waist wrap, but we do have it rolled up inside. They come in many colors and additional sizes, but this one seems to work the best for us to carry our essential gear. It also has a larger storage compartment for items that mean we may want to discard, such as a light jacket that we may be wearing, or extra storage for any other items we want to carry with us. This is the pack we carry.

You may decide to carry more or less, that is entirely up to you. This is the list of things we always carry. Usually, we carry more than just this, but this is the list of items always in our pack. What do you always carry on your hikes? Leave us a comment below.

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Fall Camping

Fall Camping

Fall camping is the perfect outdoor activity! It is certainly our favorite time of the year to camp! The days are cooler, the leaves are beginning to change color, and the crowds begin to thin. The skills you use when camping in the fall are the same as in the fall, but there are a couple things to consider as the season changes at your campsite.

Fall Camping
Grand Canyon – North Rim

Tips to make your fall camping trip successful

Fall weather can be unpredictable so you should research the average temperature in the area you plan to visit and then pack for your trip accordingly.  Here are some other simple tips for making your fall camping trip a success:

  • Adjust your schedule. Night comes earlier in the fall than the summer. You may need to set up your campsite earlier in the day than you are used to – unless you don’t mind setting up your tent in the dark! 
  • Don’t forget to bring a sleeping pad. During the summer you can get away with sleeping on the ground but as the outside temperatures start to cool, the ground will get harder and colder – you’ll be glad to have a sleeping pad on chilly fall nights! A sleeping pad will insulate you against the cold ground. You will sleep warmer and much more comfortably too!
  • Have a plan for keeping warm in case it gets cold – Depending on where you camp, fall weather can turn on a dime and you never know when you might get stuck in the rain. Make sure to pack a rain-proof tent with a full fly and pack layers of clothing so you can add or subtract layers with changing temperatures. Always bring rain gear or a poncho in case the weather turns wet.
  • Bring plenty of lighting. Because night comes earlier in the fall, you may need to rely more on flashlights, lanterns or headlamps in the fall than you would in the summer. You don’t want to be stumbling around your campsite in the dark! If your light requires batteries, bring extra. Our Scoutmaster used to say “if you have one, you have none; if you have two, you have one”. (always have a back up!) Shop ours here!
  • Have a plan for bad weather days. Fall weather can be unpredictable and can sometimes change quickly. Have a plan if you’re stuck in your tent all day with bad weather. Napping is a favorite, but travel-sized board games, books, cards, and other simple ways to keep busy are always good. (we used to bring coloring books, paper, & crayons for the kids).
Beef stew
  • Bring plenty of hearty food. Not only will you be exerting a lot of energy while hiking and doing other outdoor activities, but your body will burn extra calories to keep your body warm during the colder days and nights. Make sure to start your day with a hearty breakfast and refuel every few hours. Eating a hearty dinner will also help keep you warm at night. We make stews, chilis, and other meals that fill you up and help keep you warm at night.

Fall can be an awesome time of year for a camping. The temperatures are more tolerable than they are in summer depending on where you camp.  Besides that, you get to enjoy the beauty of color-changing leaves as well as the crisp air. If you are planning a camping trip for this fall, keep some of the above tips in mind to make your trip a success.

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Camping Hacks

hack  n \hak\ :

The dictionary describes a hack as “a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently”. As with everything in life, there is always a “hack” to make things easier. Below are some of our favorite camping hacks. Have you tried any of these? Have any hacks to add? Comment below and share!

Fill your Nalgene with warm water and put it at the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm

Strap your headlamp to your translucent water bottle with the light shining inward for a makeshift lantern. A translucent bottle works best!

Making pancakes? Make your mix ahead of time and store in an old ketchup squeeze bottle.

Camping Hacks

Freeze gallon jugs of water and put them in your cooler as an ice block. When it melts, you have water!

Camping Hacks

Keep tomorrows clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night. The clothes will be warmer to put on in the morning and your feet will stay warmer too.

Use microfiber towels. They dry fast and are lightweight.

Camping Hacks

Backpack not waterproof? Use a trash bag as a liner to keep your gear dry.

Camping Hacks

An old coffee can, can make a great TP holder.

Camping Hacks

Wrap a layer of duct tape around your water bottle, just in case.

Keep a pair of dry, clean socks in your sleeping bag that are only for sleeping in. Your feet will thank you and you will be warmer too.

Camping Hacks

Keep the old silica gel packs that come in, well, everything and keep one in your mess kit. It will absorb any moisture and prevent rust.

Forget your pillow? Stuff some clean clothes into your sleeping bag stuff sack for a good replacement pillow.

Camping Hacks

Make toothpaste dots. If you are worried about weight, pus toothpaste in dots on a wax paper, let dry, sprinkle with baking soda and you have “single serving” toothpaste at the ready.

Camping Hacks

Put some dryer lint or cotton balls into an old Altoids tin with a metal match for a handy fire starting kit.

Camping Hacks

Stuff a shirt or newspaper in wet shoes with the insole removed for a quicker dry.

Forget your plate? Have you ever eaten out of a frisbee? It works as a great plate (& you can play with it too!)

Camping Hacks

Hand sanitizer can be a great fire starter!

Make tick deterrent.

Camping Hacks

Dryer lint and cotton balls make great fire starters. You can also dip cotton pads in wax for a great fire starter.

Cooking directly on coals in foil pouches? Wrap meat in cabbage to keep it from burning.

Old birthday candles can also be used as a fire starter.

Camping Hacks

A 5 gallon bucket with a toilet lid make a good alternative (don’t forget the bag to go inside).

Those plastic bread tags can be re-purposed as clothespins.

If you lose a grommet in your tarp, twist a rock or small stick into the corner for an anchor point.

Camping Hacks

Doritos actually make great kindling to start a fire.

An old candle rubbed on a zipper will help it work smoothly.

Seal spices into old drinking straws for a small spice rack on the trail. Tic Tac boxes work well too!

Camping Hacks

Add a bundle of sage to the campfire to keep mosquitoes away.

Camping Hacks

Pack a mini first aid kit into an old Altoids tin.

Camping Hacks

Use tennis balls in the dryer with your sleeping bag to maintain the loft.

Do you have any hacks to add? Please leave them in the comments section below.

 

 

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How to Get a Longer Life Out of Your Tent

Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent

For many campers, the most important piece of equipment is their tent. Tents can range anywhere from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. The best way to make that money stretch is caring for your equipment. If you take care of your equipment and treat it right, there’s no reason your tent cant last a decade or even more!

1. Here comes the pitch….

When you pitch your tent, be sure to make sure any sharp objects aren’t going to be underneath you. Not only can this be uncomfortable, but those sharp objects can poke a hole in the floor. This is a great argument for a ground cloth. In the past, I have preached that you don’t really need a ground cloth; and while that may be true, a ground cloth can add an extra layer of protection to the floor of your tent.

When you put your poles together, don’t snap them into place, but put the poles together section by section. Snapping them can cause fiberglass poles to splinter and while not an end-all, creates more work to have to repair the pole.

If you tent is pitched out in the open with no shade, leave your rain fly on. The sun’s UV rays can break down the ten’s walls and the rain fly with it’s waterproofing, will offer more protection.

Coleman Hooligan Tent 8' x 6', 2 Person

2. Keep it clean

After each campout, clean out your tent. Be sure to get all the leaves, sticks, twigs, pine cones, etc out of there.  Also if there are extra dirty spots, spot clean them with simple soap & water. Don’t use stain sticks dishwashing liguid, or bleach. These can break down the material of your tent. To minimize the amount of debris, I actually take off my shoes and leave them outside under the fly, or bring them in if it’s going to rain or snow.

3. Seal the seams

Most tents nowadays are factory sealed at the seams. If your tents starts getting older, you may have to re-seal your seams to keep them waterproof. We like the Coleman seam sealer that can be purchased here.  This seam sealer is pretty easy to use with it’s applicator tip. You may have to re waterproof your rain fly as well. If you do, spray some of this on your tent and it will be waterproof again. Be sure to let both of these products dry before packing your tent away!

COPPERHEAD 6×5 DOME TENT

4. Storage

It should go without saying, but never store your tent when it’s wet. Sure, you may have to break camp in a hurry due to a down pour, but as soon as you get home, set it back up and let it dry out completely. Packing a wet tent can cause mildew which is not only unsightly (black spots on the walls), but it can also break down the fabric.

5. Zip it good

All too often, tents get thrown out because the zipper fails. Be careful when zipping & unzipping the door or windows. If you catch the fabric, this can cause a tear in the wall. Since zippers take so much strain (all the tension when the tent is up), be sure to show the zippers some love. You can do this by rubbing an old candle on the teeth of the zipper. This will help keep it lubricated and less likely to snag.

Tent fold

6. It’s all in the fold

When folding your tent to pack it away, try folding it differently. It’s easy to fold it along the same seams as before (heck, the lines are already there for you!). Folding along the same crease each time can make the crease brittle and cause unwanted tears. Try folding your tent different each time. As long as it fits in the bag, you’re good!

 

Your tent is an investment just like a vehicle. If you take care of your vehicle, it will last a long time. Same goes for your tent!

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What is Dispersed Camping?

Dispersed Camping

There are 2 types of camping. Campground camping and dispersed camping.

The dictionary defines dispersed as ‘to separate and move apart in different directions without order or regularity; become scattered. Campgrounds are orderly, and regular. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great campgrounds; but if you’re tired of being right on top of the people you are trying to get away from by going camping, dispersed camping just might be for you. 

Dispersed camping is camping anywhere that’s not a developed campground. There are no services such as toilets, trash removal, picnic tables, or fire rings. You are as out in nature as you can be. There are extra responsibilities to adhere to when dispersed camping. These responsibilities help keep everyone safe and leaves the are for others to enjoy as well.

Some guidelines for dispersed camping:
  1. Use an existing campsite. Camping where others have camped before minimalizes the environmental impact of camping and helps leave the area around the campsite pristine and the reason to go out & camp.
  2. Be prepared. Know before you go what amenities you will need to provide for your outing. No trash service? Be prepared to take your trash with you. No restrooms? Be prepared to dig “cat holes”.
  3. Follow Leave No Trace principles. For more on this, click here.
  4. Pack it in, pack it out! I just got back from a campout where there was trash everywhere. It was sickening the amount of trash that was left behind. We found that all the trash effected our camping experience because we were cleaning up after others instead of enjoying ourselves.
  5. Bring more water than you think you will need. If you’re camping near a creek, consider a water filter. This one works awesome!
  6.  Know where you can & can’t camp. Many states have restrictions such as not camping within 1 mile of a developed campground or not camping within 1/4 mile of a watering hole (camping closer denies wildlife access to the water). If a sign says “no camping” don’t camp there. Most local sporting goods stores have maps and can tell you where you can camp.
  7. Adhere to all fire restrictions. We are located in the Southwest and frequently, the area has fire restrictions due to the dryness of the area. If there are restrictions, listen. If you think you can’t camp without a campfire, try camping without a forest!
  8. Don’t cut live trees for firewood. There is usually plenty of downed & dead firewood around; use that. Besides, live wood doesn’t burn very well and smokes a lot.

Dispersed Camping

What if you gotta go?

As mentioned in # 2 above, dig a cat hole. A properly dug cat hole will allow your waste to biodegrade, won’t disturb other visitors, and animals won’t dig it up. In most locations, 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter will work. In arid or desert locations, dig 4-6 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. 

When digging a cat hole, select an inconspicuous site at least 200 feet (70 steps) from the nearest trail, campsite, or water source, including streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The best sites have deep organic soil with a dark rich color and good exposure to sunlight to aid in decomposition. Avoid areas with water runoff, particularly above water sources, which might erode your cat hole and carry your waste  into the local water supply. 

Check local regulations on burying toilet paper. Use non perfumed paper, and as my grandfather used to say “you only need a few squares”. Hygiene products (wipes, tampons, etc) should never be buried.

What to dig with? A small trowel works perfectly. They are usually lightweight and sturdy enough to dig the hole size needed. We like this one. 

Bottom line is that if you really want some privacy, dispersed camping is for you. If you prefer the amenities described above, campground camping is best for you. If you participate in dispersed camping, please follow the guidelines above. 

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Hammock Camping Tips & Tricks

Hammock

My Boy Scout Unit Commissioner once told me “the best night’s sleep I ever got on a campout was in a hammock”. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I picked one up for our next campout. Since this was my first time sleeping in a hammock, at least not overnight; I probably didn’t sleep as well as I could have. My only regret is that I didn’t adhere to #5 below. If I had an underquilt or a camp pad, I would have been much warmer and therefore slept better. Besides that, I am hooked.

Hammock Tips
Kids love hammocks too!

Hammocks are super easy to set up and if you get the right straps, you don’t even have to be able to tie any knots. They are also the ultimate in Leave No Trace, when hung properly you leave zero impact on the campsite. I now take my hammock on every campout just in case there’s an opportunity to use it.

 

We have compiled some tips and tricks to make your next hammock campout even more comfortable.

  1. Hang your hammock with a good sag.  Too many people try to string up their hammock tightly between two anchor points. Heck, I even used to. Stringing too tightly between anchors causes a cocoon effect and put pressure on your shoulders and back. Putting a good sag in your hammock lowers the center of gravity making it more stable and harder to fall out of. You want to have your hammock look like a smile. For the techies, a 30 degree angle at each end will be the most comfortable.

2. Lay on the diagonal.  This is actually how hammocks were designed to work. Once you have your “good sag”, laying across the diagonal is very comfortable. If you start to feel some pressure behind your knees laying like this, use a small pillow under them and sleep like a baby!

3. Raise your feet slightly higher. Sometimes your body can slide to the middle of the hammock and be uncomfortable. Raising your feet 8″ – 10″ will keep your torso from sliding into the middle and be more comfortable.

4. Keep the bugs at bay. Some “jungle hammocks” come with a built in bug net. If yours doesn’t, it is an inexpensive addition to help keep the bugs outside where they should be.

5. Use a sleeping pad or under quilt. Sleeping pads aren’t just for sleeping on the ground comfortably. They also keep you warmer by insulating you from the cold ground. Many people think all you need to stay warm in a hammock is a sleeping bag. When you lay on the sleeping bag in your hammock, you compress the filling which is what helps insulate you. Sure, you will be warmer than if you had nothing, but a sleeping pad or under quilt will be much warmer.

Hammock Drip Line

6. Use a drip line. A simple drip line on your suspension system (see above) can help keep you dry. Water can seep down the suspension line and right onto you. Be sure to place this drip line under your tarp for the best effect.  You can make a drip line with a small piece of para cord on the suspension.

7. Fold in the edge for a more comfortable chair.  Sitting in a hammock is like sitting in a big comfy seat. If you don’t wan the circulation cut off at your knees, fold the edge in and sit on the nice flat area.

8. Check local regulations. There are some local areas that do not allow hammock use. This usually has to do with the potential damage to trees (See # 9).

Hammock Webbing

9. Use webbing straps. Webbing straps are designed to evenly distribute the weight when anchored to a tree. Webbing straps won’t cut into a tree the same way rope will. These straps also make hanging your hammock a breeze. No knots to tie, just loop the webbing around a tree and hang!

10. Hang your floor mat. If you use a mat on the ground. Hang it up when not in use like when you’re out hiking or sitting around the campfire. There is less impact to the environment this way.

11. Be an advocate. Campers are great people. We certainly didn’t just magically come into all this camping knowledge, we were taught. Help others. Guide them, be friendly about it and people will usually accept the help. Share this site with them, we are happy to help others too!

12. Use a sleeping bag. When you’re hanging in your hammock and the breeze starts to blow, it can cool you off quickly. What I like to do is have a camp pad or underquilt in the hammock and use the sleeping bag as a comforter. I unzip my bag about 3/4 down and stick my feet inside and cover myself with the rest of the unzipped bag. This will help keep you warmer at night.

Hammock safety

As fun as camping in a hammock is, there are some things to consider to stay safe.

  1. Don’t hang your hammock over 3 feet off the ground to prevent dangerous falls.
  2. Hanging over sharp objects or water is never a good idea.
  3. Don’t stack hammocks (where multiple hammocks are stacked vertically).
  4. Don’t keep food in your hammock, just like a tent.
  5. Inspect your anchor points and look for dead limbs above or anything that can fall on you.

Shop our offering of hammocks here

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Low Impact Camping

Low Impact Camping

I have a bad knee, so I practice low impact exercise whenever I can. I am a Boy Scout leader, so I do my best to practice low impact camping every time I camp.  Low impact camping has little to do with the impact on your body, but everything to do with the environment. In Boy Scouts, we call this Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is more of an attitude than a set of rules for camping, hiking, or backpacking.

You might wonder how one group can make a difference, but over time small impacts can add up and cause a great amount of damage to the environment. What we will discuss here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

1. Plan ahead and prepare

The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared. Proper planning and preparation helps Scouts have an enjoyable adventure while minimizing damage to natural and cultural resources. You can follow this motto too! Another way to say this is having the right equipment. Bringing the right equipment can make or break an outing. Knowing the regulations of the area where you plan to visit can help you plan as well. Certain land managers have certain rules and it is important to know them before you head out. Check the weather reports for your destination and pack  food to minimize the amount of trash to pack out.

2. dispose of waste properly

This is quite simply put as “pack it in, pack it out”. Leaving trash has an impact on both the environment and other campers. Nobody likes to see a bunch of trash laying around so pack it out! If there is trash at or near your sit, grab it too! We always carry a few trash bags with us on our hikes and unfortunately, come back with the full.

Wastewater: After straining food particles, properly dispose of dishwater by dispersing at least 200 feet (about 80 to 100 strides for a youth) from springs, streams, and lakes.

Human waste: Cat holes should be dug 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water, trails, and campsites.  Don’t try to burn your toilet paper; this can start forest fires.

3. travel and camp on durable surfaces

Low Impact Camping

Damage to land occurs when visitors trample vegetation or communities of organisms beyond recovery. The resulting barren areas develop into undesirable trails, campsites, and soil erosion. In high use areas, concentrate your activities where vegetation isn’t present. In remote areas, spread out and move your tent daily so as not to create permanent looking campsites. Avoid areas where impacts are just beginning to show. Try to camp or hike on durable surfaces such as rock, gravel, sand, compacted soil, dry grasses, or even snow.

4. leave what you find

Leaving what you find allows others to enjoy the outdoors and have the same sense of discovery as you did when you explored the area. Leave rocks, plants, animals, and archaeological artifacts as you found them. The old “look but don’t touch” comes to mind with artifacts. In some areas it may be illegal to move artifacts.

Trenching near tent. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS

Minimize site alterations. Good campsites are found not made. Avoid building structures or digging trenches.

5. minimize campfire impacts

Low Impact Camping

To some, camping without a campfire is plain wrong. If you MUST have a campfire, pick a campsite where a campfire ring has already been established. This minimizes the impact on the environment by creating another fire ring. Leave No Trace campfires are small. Use deadwood that can be easily broken by hand. Burn your fire down to ash and remove any trash that may be in the fire ring (whether it’s yours or not).

6. respect wildlife

Remember, you are a visitor in their environment. Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Observe wildlife from afar, give them a wide berth, and don’t leave food out. Human food can harm or even kill wildlife. Keep the wildlife wild.

7. Be considerate to other visitors

Thoughtful campers respect other visitors and the quality of their experience. Travel in small groups and let nature’s sounds prevail.Nobody like to be out camping to relax and unwind and have a huge party going on near them. Select campsites away from other campers to preserve their solitude. Respect private property and leave gates as found.

On our last campout, we decided to camp in a pre-camped in site with a fire ring and plenty of room for our troop. We Hauled our trash out and even brought back quite a bit of trash left by others.

I’m not saying you have to follow 100% of these principles 100% of the time;  but if you are mindful of them, and follow them as best you can, there will be plenty of wilderness for ages to come.

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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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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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