Tag: Camping

A Packable Panini Press and Other Outdoor Gear You Never Knew You Needed

panini press

BuzzFeed’s list of 30 Insanely Useful Camping Products You’ll Wish You Knew About Sooner is an awesome assortment of good, bad and ugly outdoor equipment that you either need or need to avoid.

The Good

Water Filter. The MSR Miniworks water filter is fantastic. I’ve used it on numerous trips and it works great. Be aware that in the winter the ceramic will freeze and you won’t get any flow.

Inflatable Solar Lantern. My daughter got us a bunch of these blow-up solar lights. They are fun, lightweight and festive. Easy to pack but they do pop, so be careful.

Stormproof Matches. Seems like the only time I need to make a fire or light a stove is when it’s cold, drizzly, windy and my fingers barely work. Stormproof matches are like tiny highway flares that burn for a while even when the wind is blowing hard.

The Bad

Electronic Pest Repeller. Uh, yeah. And you also have a million dollars waiting for you in a Nigerian bank.

Poler Napsack. These things get great reviews. And yet… Maybe bring an emergency blanket just in case (mylar emergency blankets really work in a pinch.)

The Ugly

.

EVA Poncho. They just look stupid.

Seriously though, most of the things on BuzzFeed’s list are worth a look, like the JetBoil backpacking stove – I wouldn’t get one ($$$) but they work as advertised and I’m always a little jealous of the folks that have these and are enjoying their hot freeze-dried Teriyaki chicken twenty minutes before I am.

Giant List of the Best Off-Road Camping Trailers

off-road camping trailers

You like to get far off the beaten path but you hate sleeping on the ground. We get it. And so does the Adventure Portal with their buyers guide to off-road camping trailers. All in all they cover trailers from 32 different manufacturers, with a rundown of models, features and specs:

The styles of the off-road trailers covered in this article are:
(1) Teardrop.
(2) “Internal Living Space” trailers.
(3) Fully spec’d Box Frame/Expo.
(4) M416 Utility.
(5) Flatbed Toy Hauler.

Terrain capability of each off-road trailer is rated:
(a) Easy: graded fire roads where 4High is only used on occasions.
(b) Moderate: rough terrain where 4Low and high clearance is needed.
(c) Difficult: 4Low, lockers, high clearance required with careful wheel placement and spotters. Potential for trailer and rig damage.

The Adventure Portal’s guide has a great rundown of makes and models with prices and differences between models. With a wide range of trailers from off-grid capable teardrops to DIY project rigs, you’re bound to find something that works for you.

If that’s not enough, you can find even more camping trailers at:

6 Adventure-Going Off-Road Trailers from Gear Patrol
1001 Off-Road Trailers on Pinterest

UPDATED 5.25.2016: An incredibly comprehensive review of Turtleback trailers at Expedition Portal

UPDATED 5.27.2016: Gizmag lists the latest and greatest off-road camping trailers from Arizona’s Overland Expo.

And for the budget-minded? How about a roof rack and a two-person tent cot (available on Amazon)?

two person tent cot

Teardrop Trailer Holds its Own in the Outback

off road teardrop trailer

This Teardrop holds its own on technical trails | Photo Chris Cordes, Expedition Portal

One of the big questions about mechanized camping is whether the expense and trouble of a camper offsets the hassle of setting up and striking a tent. But when you’ve got a camping trailer as capable as the SoCal Teardrop the equation starts leaning in the direction of “camper.”

Chris Cordes takes an in-depth look at the performance of a fully outfitted SoCal teardrop and has a lot of good things to say. This rig was equipped with an ARB refrigerator powered by a couple of Goal Zero Boulder 30 solar panels which gives it some off-the-grid capability. The suspension was retrofitted and a fold-out side tent added.

But the best mod that was made to the trailer?

By the end of our first journey I had begun implementing a series of small changes aimed at making trailer more enjoyable and easier to live with. This began with swapping out the wheel on the tongue jack. As anyone who has pushed one of these things around can tell you, plastic wheels are awful for maneuvering. We picked up a pneumatic rubber model from AT Overland, and spent the rest of the year and a half thanking ourselves for such a smart decision. Seriously, it might be the best investment you’ll ever make.

If you have an inclination toward taking a trailer on one of your explorations, give this article a read.

Also: Tent Camping Vs. Trailer

We Designed the Best Roof Top Tent Ever. Sort of.

Car Camping in an 1967 Chevelle in the Arizona Desert

Gear Filter: How to Avoid Going Broke Buying Adventure Gear

Mark Shipman's Garage via JustGetOut.net

Mark Shipman’s Garage via JustGetOut.net

Our ancestors went camping with little more than a breechcloth and stick. Nowadays you can’t get out without your Osprey Stratos pack and MSR Hubba Hubba.

There’s no upper limit to how much you can spend on adventure gear. The big question is how much do you really need?

The Last Whole Earth Catalog gives us the answer with a handy little “gear filter.”

As Dan Schiller suggested in Popular Photography, the CATALOG will bankrupt you if you can’t distinguish between what you need and what you wish you needed.

Start extravagant, and you’ll never finish. Get the cheap tool first, see if it feeds your life. If it does, then get a better one. Once you use it all the time, get the best. You can only grow into quality. You can’t buy it.

Most of the stuff in the CATALOG can be borrowed free from a library.

Good advice. Start with a Jansport pack and pair of comfy sneakers and try a six mile hike on for size. If you start doing this every weekend move up from there. And don’t be afraid to beg, borrow or even rent gear for your next adventure.

 

The 5 Worst Places to Stay in America

Bates Motel

Who plans a crummy vacation? If you’re like most people you check out the travel guides, Google the internets and browse through the Pinterests looking for the best places to vacation.

That kind of thinking is only going to leave you disappointed.

Instead I say shoot for the worst travel destinations and if they turn out better than you expected, well you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth.

So here you go, some of the worst places you can stay:

Tonopah Clown Motel, Tonopah Nevada

Delightful circus-themed motel and the only rest stop in 250 miles.

What makes it so bad? Clowns. Clowns everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of clowns. Oh yeah, did I mention that next door is a graveyard.

San Onofre State Beach Campground, San Onofre, California

Sunny beaches, amazing bluffs, far from mad Los Angeles Traffic.

What makes it so bad? Tiny, cramped campsites. No showers. All within a mile of a nuclear power plant. A nuclear plant that closed because it was leaking. And still houses over 4,000 lbs. of nuclear material all in shouting distance of a major earthquake fault.

Townhouse Motel, Tupelo Mississippi

What could be better than a stay at the birthplace of the peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich?

What makes it so bad? “…and there was a puddle of blood outside our front door.”

Tipi Village Retreat, Marcola, Oregon

Beautiful setting, top-notch amenities, close to wine tasting.

What makes it so bad? Airbnb price is $1735…for a night in a tent…actually two nights minimum.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Experienced staff, views are beyond amazing, personal attention galore.

What makes it so bad? You’re 2,000 frickin’ feet off the ground, sleeping in a hammock that’s pinned to a granite wall using a couple of titanium toothpicks. Any questions?

Top 20 Best Places to Camp in California

Wild Willy's Hot Spring | Photo by Greg Balkin

Wild Willy’s Hot Spring | Photo by Greg Balkin

The Huffington Post lists their picks for must-do adventures in California. There are some great spots on the list, even if it is a little heavy on campsites and hot springs.

I’m a little surprised to see Two Harbors on the list – I think I’d opt for camping on Anacapa Island instead. That said, my favorite thing to do in Two Harbors is go through the sea cave. BONUS TIP – sing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song in your best pirate voice when you go in the cave. Watch for tides and be advised that in the afternoon you’ll likely be fighting the wind and current on the way back home.

[Photo: Greg Balkin]

On the Road with Jucy Lucy – Our Experiment with Low Cost RV Rental

I’ve always wanted to rent an RV but every time I looked into the deets I found them crazy expensive to rent. Well, the ones I looked into a required a huge ($2500) deposit. Granted there are better deals if you take some time to look into the best rates for rv rentals, but I stopped looking.

Enter Jucy Campers. You don’t go looking for Jucy, Jucy comes looking for you. By that I mean the lime-green-and-purple paint job is so loud you can hear it two blocks away. The good news is that Jucy RV rates are about what you’d pay for any mini-van, and quite a bit less than most hotels.

Because I’m lazy (hey, my vacation starts NOW) I’ll let Travel Fashion Girl provide the full review. Let’s just say that aside from the relative hassle of picking up an RV from Lawndale, my initial experience with Jucy has been great. The Jucy website recommends taking the Hostel Hopper from LAX, which I sorta did. NOTE: Jucy has a bad link to Hostel Hopper so you’ll need to follow the link above (or google Hostel Hopper). The nice people at the Hopper had know idea that Jucy was referring them, but my lift was prompt, pleasant and cheaper than a taxi.

Getting the Jucy van home and packed was a snap and we’re getting ready to roll out of here. So far the only downside is terrible racket made by the Jucy-provided kitchen gear. I stuffed towels around all the pots and pans and crockery and hopeful it will be a little better than a 5.0 earthquake in a china shop.

Love Camping but Can’t Part with Your Mid-century Modern Life? Try These

Face it, sometimes you want to live in a better part of town. Maybe on the grounds of a rolling estate or some place you can fish from your back porch. Architizer features the Markies camper, something like an Eichler home in a box.

If you’ve got a spare $55,000 in your budget, then check out the Spartan Carousel, sparkling like a diamond among a bunch of canned hams on MessyNessyChic. The Carousel was a premiere offering of the Spartan trailer company, demonstrating that trailer life could be fashionable. (So many ironies.)

Maybe Frank Gehry type, if so check out this pop-out postmodern camping trailer.

But for camping in the era of the Apocalypse, this one has my money – a tent trailer that fits in a shopping cart.

German Hotel for People Who Want to Pretend They Are Camping

Huttenpalast Camper

Do you love camping but hate mosquitos and…well, everything that has to do with the outdoors? Welcome to Hüttenpalast, an affordable (30 euros per person, roughly $43), hotel near Berlin that brings the outdoors inside. Here you can sleep in a tiny hut or canned-ham style trailer, sing campfire songs with total strangers, and stumble through the trees to the bathroom in darkness…all the things you love about camping without the fear of getting eaten by bears.

If the idea of sleeping in a tiny hut thrills you but you aren’t planning a trip outside the US any time soon you might try renting a yurt in Big Sur, staying in an Airstream in the Catskill Mountains, New York at Kate’s Lazy Meadow (owned by Kate Pierson of the B-52s), or sleeping where the bough doesn’t break at the Treesort treehouse bed & breakfast in Cave Junction, Oregon.

Via Treehugger

Bear-Proof Expedition Quality Kitchen

Kanz Field Kitchen

One of the dreariest chores that goes along with car camping is stashing your cookware and supplies in the bear-proof cupboard at each campsite. You’ll never have to do that again with these expedition-tough purpose-built field kitchens from Kanz Outdoors. Built from marine-grade aluminum with polished birch plywood interiors, Kanz certifies that their rugged boxes are bear-proof. But before shelling out six bills for one of these high grade boxes, you might want to check local regulations regarding bear canisters.

Unfortunately I think the Kanz boxes are a little too pricey for the typical Suburban Frontiersman. But they look well worth the attention of outfitters, trail guides and yurt-dwellers.

Via The Kitchn

Free National Park Guides for Your iPhone/Android (April 24 Deadline)

In honor of National Park Week, Chimani is offering free downloads of their popular National Park smartphone guides. They have a selection of apps for both iPhone and Android. The Android apps, usually $4.99 are discounted to 99¢ but they also have free “Lite” versions.

Kerry Gallivan, founder of Chimani, says that his company’s guides are designed to be essential equipment for travelers:

I like to think of these apps within the tradition of the telescope or astrolable of our adventuring ancestors instruments to help us navigate the natural world (terrain and trails) and provide insight into its workings (the weather, moon phases, tides). All of this information is presented on an intuitive user interface that is visually well designed, includes professionally designed maps, up-to-date and well-researched content, high quality photographs and rock-solid programming.

The apps include detailed maps, driving tours, park schedules and info to assist photographers. They’re definitely worth a look.

Chimani Parks smartphone apps via TUAW

Cowboy Cooking with a Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens come in all sizes

Not for the ultralight crowd, though I once ran into some guys who hiked into Tassajara with heavy cast iron cookware, a dutch oven lets you prepare gourmet meals you wouldn’t think possible at the campsite. Casseroles, fresh baked bread — it’s all possible with with a humble cast iron pot and some red hot coals. Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchen can get you started with dutch oven cooking.

Dutch Oven Madness is a blog with recipes including Dutch Oven Orange Rolls. This recipe is similar to one of our favorites, only we put the dough inside a hollowed out orange rind. Before your trip you take a dozen or so oranges, cut off the top third, spoon out the pulp (juice it) and then freeze the remaining rind. The frozen orange-shells keep well in a cooler. Then fill the orange-cups with the dough mixture and bake until brown.

Target has a nice selection of dutch ovens. You want one with a loop handle, and the spiral handle grip is a nice touch. The only thing is, as of this writing, none of Target’s dutch ovens have feet and the lids don’t have a lip so you can’t really pile hot coals on top. The Camp Chef oven available through Sports Authority has the better design for true cowboy cooking.

Where to Camp in Ventura County

car camping

Whether you’re coming from out of town or just need a quick overnight outdoors break, there are more places to camp around Ventura than you might imagine.

The Real Cheap Sports blog has a comprehensive list of campsites in Ventura county. They list phone numbers, locations, amenities and fees. By the way, Real Cheap Sports has an awesome assortment of Frisbees, including the only night time disc I’ve ever seen. You can check out Real Cheap Sports sales here.

My favorite camp spots from their list are:

McGrath State Beach (the sand dunes are great)
2211 Harbor Blvd. Oxnard, CA
5 miles south of Ventura, off Hwy 101 via Harbor Blvd.
174 campsites. RVs up to 45 feet. No hookups. Set between river banks and sand dunes. $25 per night. Open year round. 805-654-4744. Reservations 800-444-7275. www.parks.ca.gov

Steckel Park (All-new facilities. Tent camping, I believe, is first-come, first served)
8080 Mistletoe Road, Santa Paula, CA
First come, first served. Open year round.
RV, tent, group sites. BBQ, firepits, electrical hookups, restrooms, showers, water. Reservations two weeks out. 805-654-3951

Some camp spots not on their list:

Camp Comfort
Once a haven for hobos, this county park has been redone. Close to ghostly Char-man bridge.
11969 North Creek Road, Ojai. Hwy 33, S.E. on Hermosa Road. 654-3951
Host, Restrooms/Water
Picnic Family, Group, BBQ/Firepits
Activities Playground, Horseshoe Pits
Camping Firegrate, Showers, Laundry

Kenny Grove Park
Funky and near Fillmore. Half the park has long-term camping.
823 Oak Ave.
Fillmore CA 93015
Phone: 805.524.0750
GPS: 34.4069, -118.9467
RV sites
Amenities: Bathhouse, tent sites.

While technically not in Ventura County, Point Mugu State Park has some great camping…and they have WiFi!

And if you have an RV (including a VW bus) you can always camp at WalMart in Oxnard. We tried that once for fun with the kids. Really noisy because of the parking lot sweepers. Here is a list of WalMarts that don’t allow camping.

If you have any other favorite spots to pitch your tent, let us know in comments.