Here is a quick video review of the Garmin etrex 20x GPS unit. We point out a few of the features we love and you probably will too!
A video review of the Ultimate Survival Technologies’ reusable hand warmer.
A video review of the ultralight Moon Lence backpacking / camping chair. We love this chair! it’s lightweight & easy to set up. Get yours here.
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.
Freeze gallon jugs of water and put them in your cooler as an ice block. When it melts, you have water!
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.
Backpack not waterproof? Use a trash bag as a liner to keep your gear dry.
An old coffee can, can make a great TP holder.
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.
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.
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.
Put some dryer lint or cotton balls into an old Altoids tin with a metal match for a handy fire starting kit.
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!)
Hand sanitizer can be a great fire starter!
Make tick deterrent.
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.
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.
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!
Add a bundle of sage to the campfire to keep mosquitoes away.
Pack a mini first aid kit into an old Altoids tin.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent Review
We were excited to pick up the Luxe Tempo 4 person tent. It arrived well packaged and in a stuff sack as you would expect. The first thing we noticed was that the stuff sack had compression straps and a handle so you could carry it like a duffel bag which is cool.
What’s in the bag:
- Rain fly
- 2 main poles
- 1 pole for rain fly
- 14 aluminum tent pegs
- 6 neon guy lines
We opened up the stuff sack (tent comes out through the top), and pulled out the tent, aluminum poles, pegs, & rain fly which were all bound by a strap. The first thing we noticed was how light the tent material itself was. Another cool thing we liked, was that the instructions were sewn into the top of the stuff sack.
We laid out the tent and started setting it up. The aluminum poles went together as if they were magnetic (gotta love new elastic!). The poles slip easily int a grommet in each corner crossing at the top. Instead of feeding the poles through a flap, there are clips to hold the sides of the tent to the poles which makes for a much easier set-up. The tent went up very easily and without any issues. We unfolded the rain fly and draped it over the tent. The rain fly clips into each corner and has a strap for adjustments. The rain fly features two vestibules and 2 vents that pop up for increased circulation. After we installed the rain fly, we installed the pole for the fly. In hindsight, we should have done the fly pole first before setting up the rain fly, next time. We staked down the 2 vestibules, popped up the vents and attached one of the guy lines.
What we lined about the tent:
We really liked the size of this tent. At just under 8′ x 7′, this tent has plenty of room. Add the 2 vestibules into the mix for gear storage and you have more than enough room for everyone. This is sold as a 4-person tent, but 3 people can sleep comfortably. (see my article on tent sizes here) We also really liked the weight of this tent. At 7 pounds, and given it’s compact size when in the stuff sack; it will easily fit into a back pack without too much pain. You could even split up the components between hikers if you were back pack camping to distribute the weight even more. When the rain fly is foo, the whole top of the tent is a fine mesh. Small enough to keep the bugs out, and awesome for star gazing! We also liked the fact that there are 2 doors! No more climbing over your tent mate and waking them up in the middle of the night. Not only are there 2 doors, but they are HUGE! Most of the wall on the door side is the door itself. In each corner of the tent there is a pocket for your “stuff” (flashlight, glasses, phone, etc) which is really a cool feature. The gear loft at the roof of the tent inside is also cool. We were able to put our headlamps up there and light up the whole tent without accidentally looking at the other person and blinding them.
What we would change:
The only thing we could think of that we would change is the rain fly opening. When you stake down the rain fly at the bottom of the zipper, you have to squeeze through the slit of an opening. We are fairly agile here at Camp Gear Center, so it wasn’t a big deal. We could see it being a point of potential damage to the tent at this area.
This is a great tent! We didn’t get any rain so we cant attest to the “waterproofness” of it, but if the rest of the construction is any indication, we have no doubts that we would stay dry in this tent. With the amount of ventilation, we also doubt there would be much condensation in cold weather camping either! Below are some additional pics of the features:
You can purchase this tent here
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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.
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.
- 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.
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).
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.
As fun as camping in a hammock is, there are some things to consider to stay safe.
- Don’t hang your hammock over 3 feet off the ground to prevent dangerous falls.
- Hanging over sharp objects or water is never a good idea.
- Don’t stack hammocks (where multiple hammocks are stacked vertically).
- Don’t keep food in your hammock, just like a tent.
- Inspect your anchor points and look for dead limbs above or anything that can fall on you.
Shop our offering of hammocks here
What other tips & suggestions do you have? Please leave a comment below. Also be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
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
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.
Minimize site alterations. Good campsites are found not made. Avoid building structures or digging trenches.
5. minimize campfire impacts
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.
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: Best for sitting around and put out a lot of heat & light. Please note: teepee fires burn fast.
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 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: 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”
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.
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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
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
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
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
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!
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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