Category Archives: Recreation/Lifestyle

Do you need a roof rack for your equipment?

Tips for choosing the right car rack for you

If you spend your weekends biking, kayaking or snowboarding far from home, then chances are you need to look into car roof racks. Not only will a good rack carry your equipment securely wherever you go, but it also opens up lots of storage options for when you are going on a road trip and can’t fit your luggage in your trunk. Here are some tips for picking out the right rack for you, your car and your lifestyle:

What do you need it for?
Before you start checking out prices and models, consider what kind of roof cargo you’ll most likely be using the rack for. Are you simply an avid biker and want the flexibility to try out different trails in your area? Or are you more of a jack-of-all-trades and will be using it for packing everything from your snow skis to a kayak? While you certainly don’t want to limit what you’re going to be able to use your rack for, you probably don’t want to invest in a ton of extra accessories that can fit a paddleboard if you’ve never even used one before.

What kind of car do you have?
Make sure you drive a car that lends itself to a roof rack. Though given the correct equipment, the majority of cars can hold some type of rack, be realistic. If you drive a two-seater soft-top convertible, you’ll have to figure out a different way to store your bikes. Be sure your car has a secure and rust-free area the rack can attach to. Also, consider the height of your car. If it is relatively tall with a narrow wheel base, you may not only have trouble loading up a roof rack, but the extra weight may make it too top-heavy to be safe on the road, especially in crosswinds.

Factory or aftermarket?
Depending on the car you drive, there is a chance that the auto manufacturer makes a rack specifically designed to fit the make and model of your car. If this is the case, your job will be relatively easy. However, if you drive one of the many cars without this option – or if you just don’t care for the options the manufacturer offers you – there are plenty of aftermarket brands available for sale. The benefit of these brands is that you often have more ways to customize the product, as many are sold as individual parts as well as completed kits. So, if you drive a sedan and are a mountain biker in the summer and a snowboarder in the winter, you can put together a rack that suits your exact needs.

Can you install it yourself?
Depending on the type of rack you pick, you can probably assemble it yourself. Often, it’s no more difficult than putting together a bookshelf. However, there are many racks that require a little more work. If the rack you choose requires any kind of drilling into your car, it’s a task best left up to a professional.

What other options are out there?
A roof-top rack has plenty of advantages – they can transport a whole host of equipment, it keeps you from having to load dirty gear into your trunk and it never blocks your view. However, they aren’t right for everyone. If you keep your car in a garage and don’t have access to a driveway where you can safely load up the roof, you may run into height restrictions. If you are loading up a bike on a tall SUV by yourself, you may run into some problems. However, there are plenty of other products on the market that can attach to your trunk, spare tire or hitch as well.

Is your RV secure?

Keeping your RV secure

There are no shortage of Americans – old and young – who consider driving the open road in a recreational vehicle to be the ideal vacation. Whether you are bringing your whole family along for the ride, exploring new areas with your spouse or striking it out alone, RVs are a great way to see the country. The great thing about RVs is that they are your home and your vehicle all rolled up into one. However, this does mean you’re probably carrying more of your belongings with you than you would if you were just on a road trip, and your RV likely  has a less-sophisticated security system than your house. Nothing ruins a vacation more quickly than a break in, so here are a few tips to keep in mind to help keep your belongings and family secure:

First and foremost, make sure you lock your RV before you leave it. When you’re at a camp site enjoying a drink outside the door after a long day’s drive, it can seem like no big deal to leave the door unlocked. But if you step away or are just out of sight of your door, it’s easy for someone to slip in and make off with your valuables.

In addition, RV locks aren’t always the strongest. A crowbar and some persistence will allow thieves easy access. Consider investing in a deadbolt to reinforce your door. It will not only strengthen it, but it will discourage would-be thieves from targeting you as easy prey.

Keep your valuables safe
Even if you’ve triple-reinforced your doors, there is a chance a particularly determined thief could still get into your RV. Because of this, you need to make sure you are keeping your valuables secure. The good news is, there are plenty of products available that can help you with this. A portable safe, for instance, is perfect for jewelry, small electronics or your firearm. Many of these also feature strong cords so you can securely tether them to part of your RV so no one can steal the entire safe. You can buy laptop locks for your computers, as well.

Use good sense
While you may feel like you are kindred spirits with another couple staying in the same RV park as you, be careful about what you tell them. Showing off your expensive new gadgets or diamond necklace can just tempt those with sticky fingers. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chit chat with your temporary neighbors. On the contrary, do your best to be friendly to those you meet for a few reasons. First of all, you’ll get to know those around you, and anyone lurking around who doesn’t belong will be more conspicuous. Plus, if you have new allies, they may notice if a stranger is tampering with your RV.

When you pick a spot to park your RV, look for one that is surrounded by lots of people and has plenty of sight lines. If possible, park near people you know and in good light. You may even do well to buy flood lights to make sure the door of your RV is always well-lit.

Finally, consider investing in an alarm system. Most RVs don’t come with them, but they are a great way to ward off intruders. There are all sorts, and they range greatly in price and features. A simple motion detector attached to floodlights may be enough to scare potential thieves off, and an alarm system will be sure to draw attention.

Are you ready for your kayaking trip?

Planning for a kayak trip

Packing for a kayak trip is like preparing for no other kind of experience. Everything you bring with you needs to be stored in your kayak and you have to expect that it will get wet. Here are some tips for packing for a successful kayaking trip:

Water, water everywhere
No matter how careful you are, there is a very strong chance just about everything you bring with you is going to get wet. With that in mind, pick your items wisely. The gear itself should be either waterproof or quick-drying. This means you need to leave your down and cotton belongings at home. Not only will your down coat or sleeping bag lose all of its power to hold in warmth if it gets wet and take days to dry completely, it will also essentially turn into an anchor, as it gets extremely heavy when wet. While cotton doesn’t have the latter problem, it also will chill you quickly and dry slowly.

On a similar note, unless you have dependably water-proof electronics, don’t bring them with you. If you needed a GPS or smartphone to get you to your launch spot, leave it in your car. To give you some extra peace of mind, consider picking up a portable safe to keep your valuables – wallet, electronics, firearms or anything that won’t react well to moisture – secure while you’re away.

Size and weight
Your kayak is going to be your home for the next night or two, so make sure you have everything you think you’ll need on hand. Of course, you can’t exactly tow a trailer off of the back of your boat, so you’ll have to be able to fit it all inside. Unfortunately, kayaks aren’t known to be particularly spacious, so it’s important to be smart about what you pack. Say goodbye to your beer cooler and cast-iron frying pan, you’ll be traveling light on this trip. Usually, the best way to pack is in a series of small bags, which will be easier to cram into every little nook and cranny of the kayak. That said, avoid overloading the boat – you will need to carry it to and from the water, a task that will prove difficult with a fully packed kayak. Make sure you have at least three others with you to carry a kayak that is fully loaded.

Don’t forget to balance out the heavier items across the boat. The last thing you want is your kayak to be nose-diving all day because you over-loaded the front end. The good news is, if you load up your kayak properly, the extra weight will make it even more stable than when it is empty because of the newfound low center of gravity. The heaviest items should be packed low and as close to the cockpit as possible. Then, pack outwards from there, putting the lighter items further toward either end. Avoid packing up too high on  your deck. Not only will this raise the center of gravity, costing you the aforementioned stability, but it will cause wind resistance. However, a low-profile deck bag or a couple of light-weight items shouldn’t cause too much of a problem.

When you’re packing, don’t forget to keep water within easy reach at all times – usually the best place to keep your water bottle is the deck. You may opt for a hydration backpack, but be wary about those. If you capsize, the last think you want is a bag weighing you down.

Are you ready for your winter hike?

Winter hiking tips

For those of us who love the great outdoors, winter can be one of the best times for hiking. Familiar trails have a whole new look, plus there are far fewer people out and about that you have to work around. 

While you can simply set out with your hiking boots, back pack and your water during the warmer months, winter hiking takes a bit more preparation. Here are a few tips to make sure you're safe and comfortable while out in the cold:

Dress in layers
Of course, this isn't the first time you've heard this particular tip if you are a veteran hiker, but it can't be emphasized enough. Dressing for a hike in cold weather can be tricky because the amount of heat your body can generate may surprise you. However, you need to be protected from the wind and any precipitation to keep your body as dry as possible. Always have a base layer with fabric that is designed to wick moisture off of your body, while the outer layer should be a waterproof shell of some sort to keep you dry from the outside in and to block the wind. In between, depending on how cold it is or how strenuous your trail is, is where you can add or subtract layers. A fleece jacket is always a good option for insulation. 

Remember, no matter how many layers you put on, avoid cotton, as it sucks warmth away from your body as soon as it gets wet, a sure cause of hypothermia. 

Use proper footwear
Even if you have a pair of trusty boots that you love to hike in throughout the spring and summer, make sure to get yourself a new pair designed for winter hiking. They should always be above the ankle and waterproof, at the very least, and you may want to consider gaiters if the snow is more than a few inches deep. Wool blend socks are your best bet, as they will keep your feet toasty and dry quickly if they get wet. Remember to always bring an extra pair in your pack.

Keep your belongings safe
It's a good idea to leave your electronics in the car while you're on a hike – you never know what is going to get wet or frozen. Consider investing in a portable safe or laptop locks to be sure that everything is safe and secure, so you have peace of mind as you explore the trails.

Stay fueled
Hiking in cold weather can burn significantly more calories than a similar hike in the summer. Because of this, it's essential that you have lots of high-energy snacks to keep you fueled along the way. Plus, as you consume calories, you will help your body warm itself. Keep your snacks – especially those that can freeze – in your jacket or fleece pocket instead of in your backpack so your body heat can keep them from frosting over. Also, even though you might not feel as thirsty as you may while hiking in August, make sure you keep drinking water. Surprisingly enough, it's easier to get dehydrated during the winter because the air is so dry.

Be prepared for an emergency
Depending on where you're hiking, you may be at risk for avalanches or other hazards, and there is always the chance of an unexpected snowstorm moving in. Make yourself aware of weather forecasts, and be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Avoid hiking alone and be sure to carry a topographical map and compass, along with a first aid kit, fire starter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife and an emergency blanket. Finally, make sure you tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back.

What new gadgets will you pick up for this camping season?

Must-have camping supplies

Sure, winter isn't exactly the time most of us are clamoring to spend a few nights sleeping in a tent, but spring is right around the corner. Sure, a few of us are willing to brave the cold, but there's no doubt that summer is the prime camping season. While you wait for the snow to melt, here are a few gadgets to stock up on so you're ready to pack up and see the great outdoors this spring:

Solar anything
As the world become more ecologically conscious, solar powered technology is becoming more prevalent. While solar panels are useful for cutting down your energy bills at home, they also have tons of different uses for when you're out in the wilderness. There are gadgets for sale that will charge your cell phone or mobile device with just a few hours of sun, for example. If electronics aren't your thing, you can find solar powered flashlights or water heaters – practically anything that needs electricity to run can take advantage of solar energy.

Portable coffee maker
Whether you're getting up to go to the office or for a hike, if you need coffee in the morning, you need it. Just because you're camping doesn't mean you need to forego your morning pick-me-up. There are plenty of portable coffee makers on the market that will suit your needs. Whether you and your camping buddy need just a cup each to kick start your morning or you'd like to make enough for a few mugs, you can find one that works for you. Some models need boiling water added to work, while others run on propane. 

Rugged digital camera
There's nothing like the breathtaking views that can only be found at the peak of a mountaintop vista or along a quiet river. Capture these moments using a digital camera. However, with your rough-and-tumble lifestyle, not just any dainty camera will do. Look for one that is water and shock resistant – there are even some on the market small enough to attach to your helmet as you bike, climb or kayak, which is the perfect way to capture your adventure. Remember, if you leave your electronics at your campsite, make sure they are protected. Invest in a small portable safe – it will be sure to keep your items safe while you are out and about.

Portable kitchen sink
It's important to do more with less while you're out in the woods, and that means cleaning a lot of dishes – a task that is much easier with a big basin of water. Such an object would be too big to lug around on your trip, so there are portable kitchen sinks that have been designed. These waterproof containers can hold up to 20 liters of hot water, then collapse into a pouch that you can easily fit in your bag or pocket.

Portable shower
Let's face it – after a long day of hiking, fishing or hunting, a warm shower sounds pretty good. Unfortunately, a dip in the cold lake or river isn't going to have quite the same effect. However, if you bring a portable shower along, you can treat yourself to a good rinse. There are those available on the market that can hold more than 2.5 gallons of water – just fill up the pouch, let it sit in the sun to warm up and you've got yourself a shower. Your fellow campers will thank you for this purchase.

Water filtering bottle
Though the water may look crystal clear where you're hiking, it's important to filter out anything you drink. Fortunately, there are water bottles on the market that will strain any bacteria or pathogens out of your water in one easy step.

Is your family ready for a road trip?

Taking road trips with your kids

Perhaps, in your younger days, your image of a road trip involved a convertible, a mix tape, spontaneity and the open road. And, sure, that was a good time. But if you’ve got a spouse and a couple of kids, chances are that’s not quite what your road trips look like any more.

Whether you want to save money on airfare or give your children a glimpse of the countryside, road trips can be a blast with the whole family. That is, assuming you’ve planned it out thoroughly.

Here are a few tips to make sure your family vacation is safe and fun:

Plan, plan, plan
Gone are the days that you can drive until you find a campsite or hotel that suits your fancy. When kids are involved, it’s much more important to make a plan and stick to it. First and foremost, make sure your kids understand what they’re getting into – especially the younger ones. Tell them how long you’ll be driving each day, when you’ll be stopping for lunch and what your expectations are for them.

As for your trip, make sure you know where your nightly stops are going to be. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a stretch of road with a carful of wailing kids searching for a place to stay that doesn’t resemble the Bates Motel.

Pack smart
You can’t be over prepared when it comes to traveling with children. Snacks, books, paper towels, water and toys are all necessities if you’re going to be traveling for long distances. Consider bringing along extra pillows – they not only make the backseat more comfortable, but they are a great make-shift wall to give each kid his or her own space.

And, on top of keeping the little ones safe, make sure your belongs are secure as well. Your roof cargo needs to be locked down to ward off break-ins while your family is having lunch or asleep in a hotel room. Smaller items should be kept secure to – a portable safe or laptop locks are both good ways to keep those with sticky fingers from getting their hands on your valuables.

Travel around their schedule
It’s much easier to drive with a couple sleeping kids than those who need to be constantly entertained. So, if you have kids that are still napping, plan your trip around their schedule. If you leave a little bit before lunch time, they can eat in the car – which should occupy them for a little while – and then be snoozing in no time. Do your best to get as many miles in as possible while they sleep.

Consider seating arrangements
Depending on the age and number of kids you have, it’s not a bad idea to shuffle the seating arrangements around throughout the trip. Letting Junior – assuming he’s old enough – ride shotgun is a great way to shake things up and ward off arguments that can devolve into full-on meltdowns.

Plan family activities
There is no shortage of car games the whole family can play and make the hours zip by. Old standbys like I Spy or 20 Questions are great for kids of all ages. That being said, eight-straight hours of just about anything can get tiresome, so consider some individual activities as well. Audio books are a great way to quietly pass the time, and there are plenty of options that are enjoyable for both kids and adults. Hand-held video games and portable DVD players are another handy way to occupy the little ones while the parents get some much-needed quiet time.

Are you ready for a winter road trip?

All about winter road trips

While most Americans consider the summer to be road trip season, the more hardy among us aren't afraid to hit the roads during the winter. So where are the best spots for beautiful winter road trips? Here are a few of our favorites:

If you're looking for some beautiful country in the Northeast, check out Route 100 in Vermont – it will take you more than 200 miles through the state from top to bottom – or bottom to top, depending on your starting point. One of Route 100's most notable features is its series of picturesque bridges, like the Big Eddy and the Lincoln Gap.

For small-town charm, consider Maine's U.S. Route 1. Beginning at the southern-most point, Kittery,  this historic highway runs along Maine's east coast through Portland, Calais and terminating at Fort Kent. The scenic drive will bring you through national and state parks, plus all sorts of historic buildings like forts and lighthouses.

Though you may picture sunny beaches when you think of the West Coast, there is plenty of beautiful winter scenery to be found, as well. If you have a vehicle that is reliable in the snow and are feeling adventurous, consider exploring the continental divide. It can be found in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and is some of the most beautiful wilderness in the country. While this is true of all winter road trips, don't overestimate your car's ability to handle some rough conditions and be sure to check for closures before setting out.

The Pacific Coast Highway runs down nearly the entire coast of California. While this isn't your traditional winter road trip – don't expect to see many snow-capped peaks, especially once you start getting into Southern California – it's a great option for those looking to hit the road in the off-peak months but don't want to fight through harsh weather. Consider driving this particular highway from north to south, which will keep you close to the coast for the entirety of your drive. San Francisco is a popular starting point, though the highway stretches up into Oregon, and it runs down the coast to San Diego.

Depending on the part of the country you're in, there are a few special considerations to make before setting off. If you're planning a road trip during the winter, here are a few tips to make sure your drive is safe and enjoyable:

Plan your route
If you're driving in the warmer months of the year, spontaneity is a bit easier. However, if you're setting out on a trip during the winter, it will behoove you to be a little bit more diligent in your planning. With today's technology, planning out a route complete with designated stopping points is easy – there are a number of websites that will help you with this. Keep in mind that there are far fewer hours of daylight in the winter, so this may restrict the time that you feel comfortable driving, particularly on snowy roads. 

Make a contingency plan
Though you'll likely be watching weather reports like a hawk in the days leading up to your trip, you never know when a winter storm is going to move in unexpectedly. There are plenty of cases that you'll have to change plans on the fly, so make sure there's always a second option – the last thing you need is to be stuck in a remote area with no where to stay the night during a blizzard. 

Protect your belongings
During a road trip, it's likely that you'll have more valuables with you than on an average day. It's a good idea to make an investment to keep these items safe. A portable safe, for example, is a great option to secure valuables like passports or firearms while you're on the road – many come with security cables so no one can make off with them. Car roof racks are great for storing luggage and other belongings so they don't take up space in your car. Look for one with a solid lock system to deter would-be thieves.

Be prepared
It's hard to overstate the importance of being prepared for any problem you may encounter during a road trip, and this is especially true for long drives in the winter. A broken-down car can be a major inconvenience in the fall, but down-right deadly in the winter. Check the weather frequently in case any unexpected storms develop. Also, have your car packed with an emergency kit. This should include the following:

  • lots of drinking water
  • long-lasting foods like protein bars
  • a first aid kit
  • a blanket
  • jumper cables
  • a flashlight
  • an ice scraper and a shovel. 

Make sure your car is fully tuned up before you set out, and consider investing in heavy-duty windshield wipers. 

Remember, always keep a charged mobile phone so you have a line of communication in the case of an emergency.

Make sure your valuables are safe while you're camping.

Tips to keep your stuff safe while camping

If you are getting tired of the city grind, a weekend camping trip can be the perfect way to escape and relax. While your biggest worry may be how many fish you catch, the last thing you want is to return to your campsite or Jeep to find your valuables stolen or destroyed. Here are a few tips to make sure your stuff is kept safe while you’re out enjoying the wilderness:

Upgrade your Jeep

While the vehicles themselves are great, Jeep storage may leave a bit to be desired, especially if you’re looking to store valuables for a few days while you’re out camping. For example, the cubby is protected by a flimsy cover, so it’s not a bad idea to upgrade it to keep your items safe while you’re not there to look after them. A storage box with lid is another good option to hold larger items you may have. If you have a nice stereo system in your car, invest in a cover so it doesn’t tempt anyone with sticky fingers. Are you worried about someone making off with the batteries, intakes, superchargers or other contents of your hood? Protect it with a hood lock.

Do your research

The Internet is your friend when it comes to protecting yourself against robberies. While you’re planning out your camping trip, do some research into the areas that you are considering. If you see an especially large number of robberies that took place at those sites in the past few months, it may be a good idea to keep looking. Once you’ve made your decisions and arrived at your camp site, talk to park rangers or camp staff to see if they’ve noticed any issues – they may give you a good idea of any problems they may have had in the past.

Leave things with your car

If you’re the kind of person who spends most of your camping trip hiking or boating well away from your tent, it’s not a good idea to bring anything of value with you to the camp site. Sure, your e-reader is a good way to pass the time at night, but it’s too delicate to take with you all day and it is extremely easy steal from your tent. Invest in a portable safe for your valuables like electronics, jewelry or firearms that need to be kept safe while you’re away.

Meet your neighbors

Once you arrive at your campground, go and say hello to your neighbors to give you a better idea of who is around. You’ll meet new camping buddies and now you’ve got an extra set of eyes while you’re away from your site. Or, if your neighbor doesn’t seem particularly trustworthy, you’ll be glad you upgraded your secure storage options as part of your camping plans.

Check things frequently

Whether you leave things in your car or carry them with you, it’s a good idea to check them as frequently as you can. When something does turn up missing, you’ll want to be aware as soon as possible – the last thing you want is to have your car broken into and not find out for a few days. While it may feel like overkill, consider keeping a list of any valuables you brought along so you know you are leaving with everything that you came with. If you’re lazy like me, skip the list and give yourself some peace of mind by investing in some secure storage for what you came with.