Monday, November 4, 2013

Camping With Kids: What's The Big Deal?

As I cruse the internets in search of new gear or new ideas to make trips to the woods better I continually find articles on how to make camping with kids easier.  A lot of these come from Pinterest.  Don't get me wrong, I love the 'Outdoors' board on Pinterest.  I will also admit that there are many people that aren't as into camping as I am.  However that is part of the problem I have with these blogs and sites that have tips for camping with kids.
My first born on his first camping trip at 4 months old.
He loved it then, and loves it more now.
You shouldn't need tips for taking your kids outside.  Just get them out there.  Sometimes you might struggle. Trust that your kids are going to get dirty, wet, and maybe cold.  However, they are going to love it.  You will learn what they like about it and or don't.  You will figure out your own tips for making future trips successful.  Otherwise all you are doing is making your trip to the outdoors feel more and more like being indoors.
I don't have any tips for taking your kids camping.  I would suggest, however, that you start taking your kids with you as soon as possible.
My son camping this summer.  He loves having his own gear.
I have an old friend that went camping for the first time with his kids last summer.  They were 3 and 1-1/2 years old.  Some might think that is pretty young to take children out into the woods.  However his kids hated it.  His infant son cried the entire time, just for being outside.  It got so bad that he eventually packed everything up and headed to a hotel.  Once indoors his son calmed down and they could finish their family trip in relative peace.
Knowing that I go camping a lot he asked what I could suggest to help him for next time.  All I suggested was getting his kids out more.  If an infant is already trained to feel uncomfortable in the outdoors then why would that get better with out more and more conditioning to the outdoors.
So, don't wait to go out with your kids.  Don't hesitate to treat them to the medicine of our crazy world.  Take your kid out into the fresh pine scented air as soon as their lungs are strong enough to breath it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Gear Review: REI's Camp Pack-N-Prep Tote/Table

I have been mulling over the thought of making a chuck box.  A box, usually made of plywood, that stores most of your camping gear in one place.  These make it easier to store, organize, and carry your smaller items to and from the campground.  A chuck box also makes life easier in camp by placing everything you need right at your finger tips.  Unfortunately I had a few problems with the idea of a chuck box.  First, they are, or can be, heavy.  Second, I don't have the tools or space to make one in my current living situation.  Third, unless you make legs, making it even heavier, you need a table to set it on to make it effective in camp.  Finally, they are usually pretty darn bulky.
The solution?  The REI Camp Pack-N-Prep Tote/Table (yes this is the actually name, not just a description). The name does kind of say it all though doesn't it?
The stove itself doesn't fit into the tote with
all the other gear, but that doesn't bother me much.
You have a cooler sized bag, connected to a frame, with multiple pockets, and a table attachment.  It comes with a divider for the main section, that turns into a hanging utensil pouch when the table is set up.  There are three colored bags that fit into the main compartment for easy division and storage of smaller items.  A paper towel rack, in table mode, allows for easy access for clean ups.  On one side of the bag there is an external water resistant pouch that hold a small dish washing bag.  Two other external pouches hold more gear, and the fourth pouch on the back holds the table top components.  A video on the REI website shows all these features and how they are used.
All packed up and ready.
The pictures below show what I have been able to fit into the bag.  All this gear was held in three different bags or buckets before getting this REI Tote.  Filled to the brim it is no heavier than a cooler full of food, and the frame keeps it nice and sturdy.  The table accommodates our Coleman camp stove and, though not pictured, there is even room for the fuel canister to rest on the side.
All this gear used to be in three different places,
now it is all together and ready in a  flash.
This new equipment is going to allow us to go camping with the piece of mind that we have everything we need.  Our car trunk will be filled with this tote, our cooler, stove, bags of clothes, Rubbermaid tote full of sleeping bags, tent, and tarps.  We are good to go in 5 minutes if we wanted.  Even without having the chance to use the tote in the field yet, I know this new piece of camp kit is going to make our trips into the woods much easier and more enjoyable.  Thank you REI.

Cost: $129.00
Find at: (free shipping for items over $50 if you are an REI member)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Trail report: Mailbox Peak

A few months ago I posted about being in a new place and having new chances to explore.  Well, since that time I haven't spent any time on any trails in my new location of North Western Idaho.  All my hikes have been best West of the Cascades closer to my hometown of Renton, WA.
This zoomed in picture of my brother, climbing a snow covered
rock field, does not do justice to the steep grade.
This hike near North Bend, WA. has been on the bucket list of day hikes for a while.  It is often talked about by family and friends, but no one had seemed to have tackled it yet.  When I told my brother I was coming home for the weekend and wanted to hit up a trail we chose this one.  Not sure if I was up for a hike, that I heard was the killer of killer hikes, I got onto the Washington Trails Association website to really see what I was getting myself into.  The reviews all made comment of the fast elevation gain, from 820 feet to 4,841 feet in 2.5 miles.  Some resent posts warned of ice and snow on the trail that could cause a dangerous situation.  Others praised the novelty of the mailbox at the summit and the great view that makes the strenuous climb well worth it.
At the summit.
All expectations were met.  It was a hard climb to the top.  An even rougher climb down (imagine leg muscles burning while climbing, well leg joints were crashing for the reverse route).  The mailbox was present.  Snow and ice near the top made for a slow going and slippery ascent and and even more dangerous descent.  However, all that was almost forgotten while sitting at the summit.  The views were amazing.  The clouds hung out just above the peaks of the central cascades.  The 360 degree views were inspiring.  This is probably the most western peak in the Snoqualmie area that allows for such great views in all directions.  From Seattle and beyond to the peaks surrounding Snoqualmie Pass (and Rainier on a clear day), you can pick out land marks from all over the Puget Sound region.
I highly recommend this hike.  There is a new "easier" trail being put in that will be 5 miles to the summit.  So if you don't feel up to the challenge of this classic Seattle area route, then just wait a couple months for the new trail to open.

Difficulty: Extreme
Fees:  Discovery Pass required
Directions:  See the Washington Trails Association website for more details on the trail and directions.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tiger Mountain West

Another weekend back home in the Seattle area made for another opportunity to hike a local hill.  Last Saturday morning I went out with my father and brother to hike Tiger Mountain.  Due to time constraints and other obligations we decided on a short trail that would lead to a decent view spot for the effort put in.
We drove I-90 east to the High Point exit.  After the exit turn right, and then turn right again to the road with trail access.  There is a parking lot past the gate that is managed by the state (Discovery Pass required).  We parked just in front of the gate at an unmarked trail head.  There is parking along the road  and even at 6:30 am there were a dozen cars lined up.  Some park here so they don't have to pay, and they use the maintained trails.  We wanted to use the un-maintained Power Line Trail.  It is a more direct route with a faster elevation gain.
In ten years or less this hike won't have a view.

Because the trail is un-managed it was pretty muddy.  I expected that for this time of year.  Once we got towards the top of Tiger Mountain West there was some older snow that hadn't completely melted away yet.  Even with these minor obstacles we were up and down in about two hours, with some rest at the top.  Something that has become disappointing about this hike is the fact that the view from this look out is disappearing.  Trees are growing too tall to see anything from the bald destination of this trail.
Olympic Mountains to the West.
This hike is great because you get about 2,000 feet of elevation gain at around two miles of distance, with a consistent grade.  As conditioning hikes go this is one of the best around.  It is short enough to do before work, especially with long Summer days.  Even on early Summer morning you are going to be pressed to find a parking spot that doesn't extend your hike and extra half a mile.  Although this specific trail is less traveled compared to others in the Tiger Mountain circuit, it is still very popular and very active.  So plan accordingly.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trail Report: Mt. Si

Way back in May of 2012, I went on a hike on Mt. Si.  My father and brother had invited me to come along.  This was a great early season hike of one of the most popular climbs in the area.  Only about 20 minutes from downtown Seattle, this trail gets a lot of traffic.  Even on a wet Spring day like the one we experienced there were dozens of people, some with children or dogs, on the trail.
The trick to skipping, or at least avoiding, the crowds is to use the "Old Si" trail.  The old way of climbing the  3100 feet is no longer maintained, and therefore used much less.  This route is also a much more direct route to the top, there are fewer switchbacks, and therefore a steeper grade.  Still, it is clear by the wide berth of the trail that there is still plenty of foot traffic.  You can even see the trail on Google Maps, displayed in "terrain" view.
Dad taking in the view.  To get to the tippy top you have to climb
"The Haystack".  It was too icy this day to attempt.
The trail is so much more extreme that my brother, almost from the get go, decided he wasn't going to be able to complete the four mile trip to the top.  Fortunately the trail head for the old route is also the starting point for Little Si, a 2.5 mile trip to the top of an out cropped part of the mountain that tops out at 1,200 feet.  So, my brother took on that challenge while we continued on.  Once at the top we contacted my brother and informed him we were going to descend by the "new" trail.  He had to bring the car over to the other lot to pick us up.  However it did make the way down a little less monotonous and easier on the knees.
Mt. Si is so popular because it gives a great challenge with little distance from home.  It is also used for mountaineers as a training hill for climbs up Mt. Rainier and other Cascade peaks.  Anyone in the area should limb Mt. Si at least once, if for no other reason than to say you have done it (try to get up on a clear day to see to Seattle and beyond).  Be cautious though, there will be many other people accompanying you.

View Mt. Si in a larger map
Please excuse the GPS lines, they got a little off track in the trees.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sierra Designs Zissou Lite & Sawyer Push Filter: First Look

A couple of weeks ago I took some items back to REI, taking advantage of their 100% satisfaction guarantee.  This allowed me to replace some gear I have been wanting to upgrade for a while.
In the field my SteriPen turned out not to be a great option.  It drained batteries on my Yellowstone trip and my back ups weren't lithium (must have lithium batteries to work a SteriPen).  Admittadly it may have been defective  most reviews of the unit are good and note that the batteries last for multiple days with many uses.  I also want to stray from using water bottles on long trips, and a SteriPen won't really work in a bladder.  So, my solution was the Sawyer Squeeze Filter.  (I am going to note here that the SteriPen is a water purification unit, meaning it kills bacteria and viruses, and the Sawyer filter only filters bacteria).
The Sawyer Squeeze Filter is a smaller, lighter (3oz.) option.  It comes with bags that you fill up with water and then roll up, forcing the water through the filter and into your water container.  It also screw to most plastic water bottles and has adapters that allow you to create an inline filter right in your bladder tube (more on this in a later post).  One of the best parts about the filter is that it is rated to last for 1 million gallons, when back filtered on a regular basis.  That is a lot of use out of a little piece of gear at a not very expensive price.  With it's size I will probably carry this filter on day hikes and not bother carrying more water than I need.  The efficiency of the filter and its small size allow it to go in any of my packs.
My second piece of gear is a new sleeping bag.  I chose the new Sierra Designs Zissou 30 Lite.  This is my first down bag.  I chose down because in general it is lighter and compresses better than synthetic substitutes.  My former bag was the REI Zenith 0 (no longer made or sold).  This new bag is almost 2 lbs lighter and compresses to less than half the size of the old bag.  So the upgrade in size and weight are substantial.  The real reason I chose this bag was for its new innovative down treatment that Sierra Designs calls DriDown.  You can visit their website for the specifics, but DriDown basically means the down has been treated with a water resistant coating.  So in the moist environments of the Northwest I will stay warm if it rains or snows and I get a little water on my bag.
My first impression of the bag is that it is going to be great.  Just trying it on in the living room I started to get over heated after only 30 seconds.  If I need to use it in below freezing weather I plan on buying a bag liner to at extra warmth.  The shell is made of a very soft nylon.  It almost feels like silk against the skin.  I also like the fit.  There is plenty of room in the knees, hips, and shoulders to roll around and get comfortable in any position.  The mummy hood also tightens up perfectly around the eyes and mouth.  My last bag tightened over my mouth and I always had a cold damp lip on my bag when I woke up.
It is my hope that both these new pieces of kit will treat me well for many years to come.  I'll be sure to let you know how they perform in the field.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Place = New Opportunities

Well I have moved again.  This time I am back in Idaho.  Moscow Idaho is on the Western border of the state, near Pullman Washington.  Northern Idaho has many outdoor opportunities that I looking forward to exploring.  I have been talking with locals, finding places to fish, hike, and camp.  There seem to be plenty of great places in the area and beyond.  I am excited for new exploration and hope to get out as much as possible, even with a busy schedule.
View Moscow, ID in a larger map