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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There are 2 types of camping. Campground camping and dispersed camping.
The dictionary defines dispersed as ‘
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:
- 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.
- 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”.
- Follow Leave No Trace principles. For more on this, click here.
- 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.
- Bring more water than you think you will need. If you’re camping near a creek, consider a water filter. This one works awesome!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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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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.
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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We were recently given the opportunity to review Ultimate Survival Technologies’ folding stove. This stove burns the solid fuel hexamine type tablet. Hexamine tablets burn smokelessly, have a high energy density, do not liquefy while burning and leave no ashes. This stove doesn’t have to be used with the tablets, but that’s how we tested it.
First impression of the folding stove
We opened the box to pull out the metal folding stove all folded with the hexamine cubes inside. (We sell each separately). The folded stove is about 4-1/2″ x 3-3/4″ x 1″ thick and weighs approximately 4 oz without the cubes. It’s a nice compact little stove. We decided to unfold it and see how long it would take to boil 12 oz of water.
The instructions say to use 1-2 tablets, so we used 2!. We figure if 1 is good, 2 is better!
Lighting the hexamine tablets proved to be a little tricky since the wind was blowing pretty well. A little research determined that these tablets don’t like the wind. We agree. We sheltered the wind and lit the tablets. After about 30 seconds, they were burning pretty well so we added our pot with 12 oz of water.
In hindsight, we should have angled the sides in to support the pot which it probably said to do in the instructions. Reading instructions was never a strong suit. To our surprise, the water started steaming within just a couple minutes; and by just over 5 minutes, we had boiling water. We probably could have used 1 hexamine tablet and achieved similar results. If we had though, we wouldn’t have melted the plastic coating on our handles! It is also advised to use this stove on a non-flammable surface. We accidentally set a few pine needles on fire that didn’t get moved.
what we like:
This little stove has a couple things that we really like. 1. it is lightweight. Weighing in at about 4 oz, it is almost as if it’s not even in our pack. 2. The size. This stove is nice and compact and fits in the smallest of our pack pockets. 3. It cooled off quickly. We expected the metal to stay hot for much longer than it did once we removed the fuel tabs. It was cool enough to put back in our pack within 5 minutes (the air outside was cool, which may have helped that).
What we would change
When we lit the stove, there was a “chemically” smell. We’re not sure if it was the metal stove being used for the first time, our pot handles melting, or the hexamine tabs. Further use will clarify this question. We will post updates after further use to let you know if the smell continues.
This is a cool little stove. The tablets burn for about 18 minutes which seems to be plenty of time (you can add another just after for longer cooking). The tablets also fit neatly inside the folded stove keeping everything contained. This is an inexpensive little stove that does a great job at what it’s supposed to do. You can purchase the stove here and the hexamine tablets here.
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