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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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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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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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UST Folding Stove Review

Folding stove

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

First impression of the folding stove

folding stove

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

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

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

Folding stove

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

folding stove

what we like:

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

What we would change

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

Conclusion:

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

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Caring for & Storing Your Tent

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Just like a vehicle, you have to maintain your tent if you want it to last. If you don’t take care of it, you will more than likely need a new one soon. Take care of it well, and it will last almost forever!

Cleaning your tent

Don’t try to go the easy route and throw your tent in the washing machine; this can damage your it. The agitator could actually tear your tent. The heat of the dryer can damage the material as well. The best way to clean your tent is by hand. Use a mild detergent and an non abrasive sponge or rag and gently scrub the soiled areas. This is especially important when your tent has been exposed to sand, silt, bird droppings; well you get the idea. You also want to avoid any harsh household cleaning products. Pre-soaking products, bleach,  and spot removers; these products will damage the tent’s waterproof coating.

Cleaning Mildew & Mold

mold

Hopefully, you’ll never have to do this. But even the most seasoned campers have to deal with mildew and mold. How do you know if it’s there? Typically, there is a musky smell and some discoloration. Use an enzymatic cleaner to stop the growth of mold & mildew. Your goal is to stop the growth because continued growth of mold and mildew will leave a permanent stain and smell. There are also the health ramifications of sleeping in a moldy tent. The gear cleaners that are available are either spot cleaners or submersive.  Monitor the time your tent is submerged. Prolong exposure to these cleaners can also damage the waterproofing properties.

Cleaning Pine Sap

The Camp Gear Center headquarters is snuggled withing the largest ponderosa pine tree forest in the world. We know all about pine tree sap. If you get sap on your tent, it can be a hassle. Sap isn’t necessarily an end game. You can gently clean it with mineral spirits being careful not to scrub too hard or you can damage the waterproofing. Another option is to sprinkle some powder on the sap and simply move on. After time and more and more sap, your tent can look freckled, but that’s not really a big deal.

Zippers & Poles

Don’t neglect cleaning the zippers and poles. Simply brushing off the zippers and poles before storage will go a long way! Adding a dry lubricant formulated for outdoor gear will prolong the life of your zippers.

Tent Storage

There is no more important rule than NEVER STORE A WET TENT. If you get nothing else from this article, please remember this. There is no such thing as too much drying time. A wet or damp tent will breed mold and mildew and can ruin the wall and roof materials. As soon as you get home from a trip, pitch your tent in a shady area or inside to let it air out. If you don’t have the space to pitch the tent, drape it over something to air out.

Store your tent loosely in  cool dry place. The fabrics work best when they’re able to relax. Sure storing your tent in a stuff sack or the bag it came with is better for space savings, but a loosely stored tent will let be able to breathe and not be as stuffy.

Avoid storing your tent is really hot or damp places. A car trunk is not a good option as much as it sounds good to be “ready to camp at any moment” . The heat can damage the materials. Store your tent in an air tight bin or container if you live in a tropical or moist area.

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Camping Essentials

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

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

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

Shelter

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

Bedding

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

__Utility bags for storage

Cooking

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

Clothes

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

Personal

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

Miscellaneous

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

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

Basic First Aid Kit

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

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

 

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How to Choose a Campsite

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

Ground Surface

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

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

Campsite Shade

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

What’s above you?

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

What’s around you?

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

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

Campsite Privacy

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

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Too close?

Room

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

 

Get out there, go camping and enjoy the outdoors.