Category Archives: Recreation/Lifestyle

All about AreaBFE: 320 acres of open wilderness

For the uninitiated, AreaBFE is a recreational park in Moab, Utah. Its 320 acres can be used for any manner of outdoor activities – from hiking to dirt biking to camping. It was created by a group of guys 10 years ago who wanted to create a place where people could enjoy the landscape and all it offered without the threat of being kicked off by a cranky land owner. The site is open seven days a week all year round and is free to the public.

It is constantly being improved and new features are added often. According to its website, new trails and campsite are being developed all the time. In addition to being an inviting place for off-road vehicle enthusiasts, the area is available for corporate events, club gatherings, competitions, weddings and music festivals. These events, along with donations from users and the public at large, help keep AreaBFE open.

AreaBFE rules

As far as rules and regulations for a recreation facility go, AreaBFE is pretty lax. They ask that visitors to stick to the upper lot if they’re coming in for a day trip and reserve the lower lot for overnight camping. Camp sites also need to stay west of the tree line out of respect for neighbors in the area.

Once you’re settled in, the staff of AreaBFE don’t ask much of you. As the expression goes: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” This means no abandoning unneeded supplies, trash or materials behind and don’t take your new favorite rock home as a souvenir. Also, leave the vegetation alone. Don’t cut down trees, dig up plants or drive over shrubs.

Staying safe at AreaBFE

Just like any camping trip, you need to keep yourself and your belongings safe. Because AreaBFE relies on the honor system and a “police yourself” system, it’s up to you to look out for No. 1. If you’re leaving your car, truck or RV for any period of time, make sure you lock your belongings up securely. While your Jeep storage may be fine for holding onto your things while you’re driving or hanging around your campsite, you’ll need something a bit more secure if you’re not around to keep an eye on it. Bring along a portable safe for your valuables like small electronics or firearms that need some extra protection.

Because some of the trails are dangerous, avoid hitting the trails on your own. Traveling in groups is the best way to ensure you will have help if anything should happen.

On that note, while there aren’t any specified helmet rules in AreaBFE, make sure you are keeping yourself as safe as possible. Wear the proper safety gear for whatever activity you are engaging in. This means head gear, seatbelts and the appropriate pads, if necessary.

If  you’re planning to camp or hike for an extended period of time, be sure to bring the supplies you’ll need. Summer in Utah is no joke, so lots of water is always a must. Be sure to carry enough snacks and other supplies for the amount of time you’re planning on staying. Bringing a bit more water or provisions than you think you’ll need is never a bad idea, either.

Always keep a first-aid kit or other medical supplies with you when you’re going to be camping or engaging in any activities where you may take a spill or turn an ankle. You should also keep a flashlight with you in case you lose track of time and find yourself unexpectedly caught in the dark.

Most importantly, enjoy your time at AreaBFE. It was designed so people like you can enjoy the land, so take advantage of it.

Tips for your Grand Canyon trip

There are few locations in the United States as iconic as the Grand Canyon. Whether you are just visiting to take in the views from the South Rim, are planning on taking a short hike or are paddling down the Colorado river and camping out for a few nights, you can be assured it will be a trip worth remembering. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your Grand Canyon experience:

Pick your season
While the summer is the undisputed traveling season across the country, think twice before you plan your Grand Canyon trip then, as temperatures can average as high as 106 degrees. If you're planning on simply stopping for a couple quick snapshots, excessively warm temperatures may not put too much of a damper on your plans. However, if you are looking to do some hiking, consider planning your trip around the cooler months to avoid the dangerously high temperatures. Couple that with the fact that Arizona thunderstorms tend to generate lightening, and you should have plenty of motivation to move your trip to cooler months. In fact, January sees average highs of 56 – those from parts of the country or world with harsh winters see that as ideal outdoor weather. On top of that, you can avoid fighting the massive crowds that tend to visit the canyon between Memorial Day and Labor Day by planning an off-season trip.

Planning ahead
If you are traveling to the Grand Canyon with the intent to hike – whether it's short or long – it's important to do your research so you know what you're getting into. For example, if you have any known asthma, heart conditions, problems with your knees or back, or any other medical concerns, talk to your doctor before planning your trip and take it easy. Understand and respect your limits – many visitors report that the Grand Canyon is a more difficult hike than they expected. Make sure you plan out a reasonable route as well. There are plenty of maps and guides to help you do so. Keep in mind that you need to allow yourself about twice as long to climb back up as it takes for you to descend. That means that if you hike down into the canyon for about 30 minutes, it should take you about 60 minutes to get back up.

Short hikes
No matter how short you think your hike is going to be, it's still important to be prepared for anything. First and foremost, this means plenty of water. Particularly in the warmer months, don't wait until you're feeling parched to drink water, as this means you are already dehydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink between a half to full quart of water per hour that you are hiking. You'll also have to eat more than you might expect, so be sure to have a good meal before setting out, and bring snacks along with you on any trip longer than 30 minutes. Focus on salty foods, which will give you a boost in the electrolytes that your body needs.

Long hikes
If you're planning on a longer hike, it's essential that you bring food and sports drinks with you, especially if you are hiking during the summer. That said, the less you carry with you, the more enjoyable your hike will be. Anything heavy or valuable – think bulky electronics, firearms and so forth – should be left in your hotel room or car. Invest in a portable safe or lockbox so you don't have to worry about theft while you are enjoying the views. Be sure to take frequent breaks, too. Stopping for about 10 minutes every hour, even when you don't necessarily feel like you need it, will help you from wearing yourself out. Propping your legs up while you're sitting down will help as well. Depending on the time of day and how ambitious you're feeling, you may need to bring along compact flashlights so you don't find yourself navigating the hills in the dark.

Watch out for mules
While hiking is an extremely popular choice when it comes to enjoying the Grand Canyon, it's by no means your only option. Another well-liked activity is riding mules down the trails. If you happen to be hiking when a team of these steady animals passes you on the trail, make sure you pay attention to the wrangler's instructions. It's likely he or she will ask you to move off the trail to the uphill side and keep still while allowing the mules to pass. It's a good idea to wait until they are several lengths away from you before getting back on the trail. Remember, though the animals are well trained, quick movements or loud noises can startle them and cause injury to itself, its rider or you.

Campfire safety tips

Whether it's a cool summer night or a chilly winter afternoon, you don't need Smokey the Bear to tell you that campfires can be dangerous and need to be attended to carefully. Even if you have been building fires since you were a Cub Scout, it's important to brush up on your safety techniques. Here are a few tips to make sure you leave your campsite just as you found it:

Selecting a site
No matter where you find yourself camping, selecting a proper location for your fire is an essential first step. This is more than just how close to your tent the fire pit can be or what a safe distance from the nearest plant growth is. Before you leave for your trip, check for the weather and any fire restrictions that may be in place where you plan to camp. While you are driving to the site, keep an eye out for signs that indicate fire danger. Even in generally safe areas, a dry spell or a particularly windy day can make any campfire dangerous. Once you're confident the weather is on your side, double check that the campsite you selected is fire-friendly. In some cases, you may need to obtain a permit before getting started. 

After all of that is cleared up, it's time to pick a spot to start your fire. If you're camping in a developed site, there is a good chance there is a fire pit already designated for use. Usually, it's surrounded by a metal wall or a ring of rocks. If not, pick a spot that is at least 15 feet away from your tent, as well as any shrubs, trees or any other potentially flammable objects, including low-hanging branches. Clear any grass, twigs, leaves and extra firewood from a 10-foot diameter around the fire pit.

Starting your fire
Always remember to use local wood when building a fire. No matter how much truck bed storage you have, hauling your own firewood from more than 50 miles away can introduce new insects to the campground, which have the potential to cause huge problems to the local flora and fauna. Generally, you can find wood for sale at nearby stores. If you start collecting fuel from your immediate area, only use downed wood. Cutting trees or breaking branches – even those on dead trees – may disrupt birds and other animals who make their homes there.

To get started, build a small cone or stack of dry twigs or sticks and ignite them using only a match or lighter. Do not use any kind of flammable liquid when starting or maintaining the fire. As the flame grows, introduce gradually larger pieces of wood, saving the biggest pieces for the end. As the fire grows, push embers into the center of the fire to ensure they burn completely. The best way to protect the surrounding forest is to reduce everything to white ash.

Staying safe around the fire
Always keep a bucket of water nearby in case the fire starts to get out of control. Also, consider keeping a shovel nearby to throw sand to extinguish any errant flames. Never leave the fire unless you have put it out completely and are confident it is cool. Any extra wood or flammable objects should be kept upwind and well away from the fire. If you have brought any valuables to the campsite with you, consider investing in a lockbox or portable safe to ensure their safety. For drying out wet clothing, secure a cord between two trees safely above the flames. Be sure it is taut, then carefully hang the clothes over the fire. If you have any children or pets with you, do not let them near the fire and never leave them unsupervised. Kids should be taught proper fire safety techniques, including how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. Never burn trash that can't be completely consumed by the fire, like plastic, foil or cans.

Putting out the fire
Whether you are leaving for the afternoon or for good, safely and thoroughly extinguishing your fire is paramount to preventing a forest fire. When you leave your campsite, all of the coals, embers and unburned wood or ashes should be completely put out and cool to the touch. The best way to do this is to pour water over the embers until the hissing sound stops. Then, stir the ashes and continue to add more water. Repeat this until you are confident that the fire is out completely. If you don't have water nearby, you may mix soil and sand with the embers. Continue to add and stir the mixture until everything has cooled. Be sure to avoid burying the remains of your fire, as they may begin to smolder and burn. 

King of the Hammers Race 2014 attracts thousands

Each year, some of the country’s toughest racers meet in a dried lake bed in Johnson Valley, Calif., to take part in The King of the Hammers Race. What started as a casual race between a dozen teams in front of a few friends in 1997 has since evolved into a massive race that brings together more than 300 teams each year. The King of the Hammers Race is attended by more than 35,000 fans in person and an additional half-million online.

Cars and trucks race around the lake bed and tackle nearly every imaginable condition, including mud, dirt, sand, snow and rocks. During portions of the track, drivers tear around at more than 100 miles per hour, while at other times they creep over massive boulders and rocks.

As for the cars themselves, requirements are fairly lax. As long as they are four-wheel drive, they can participate. Many vehicles boast gear ratios that near 100-to-1 in order to tackle the rocks. The driver and co-driver are on their own when it comes to any repairs that may need to be made throughout the race, so both competitors need to have the technical savvy to fix just about anything on the fly.

The 2014 King of the Hammers Race kicked off on Feb. 1 following a week of qualifying rounds. While the top 20 teams from last year’s competition automatically were granted spots in the 2014 competition, all other vehicles need to qualify to race in the official race.

Race week
While the King of the Hammers Race is certainly the big draw for audiences, the week is filled out with plenty of other races. Drivers of motorcycles, utility task vehicles and stock cars will all have the chance to earn their stripes. During the first two days, King of the Motos – a motocross race – is run. There are 60 riders who competed on Feb. 1 to secure their start position the following day. Two at a time, competitors raced over 40 miles of desert track followed by another 40 miles of the trying rocky terrain.

Feb. 4 and 5 will feature the qualifying rounds for the main competition, including a Last Chance Qualifier race for the final spots in the King of the Hammers Race. Later on Feb. 5, audiences will get a chance to see the UTVs – two- or four-person off-road vehicles – tackle a 114-mile course that will include both high speeds in the desert portion and technical rock courses.

Finally, starting in the early morning of Feb. 7, drivers will compete to be named King of the Hammers. Drivers are given 14 hours to compete the nearly 200-mile course. Of course, not every vehicle will make it to the end of the race. In fact, only 27 out of 129 cars finished the 2013 race.

An eye on security
The 2014 King of the Hammers Race is expecting teams from eight countries and 31 states on top of the tens of thousands of spectators that will be in attendance. For many, this race is a yearly pilgrimage to be made each year from all across the country.

Because of the huge number of people expected, it’s essential that all attendees take the utmost care when it comes to security. Any valuables brought along need to be kept in a portable safe or lockbox.

When looking for the appropriate mini safe, it’s important to find one that is both extremely secure and easy to transport. Drivers should look for one that has enough room for their valuables – like important documents, cash, electronics or firearms – without taking up a huge amount of space in their car or RV.

Though Jeep storage is not always as secure and spacious as many drivers require, there are plenty of options to ensure that all valuables are safe. For example, a lockable storage box is a great addition to existing trunk space, as it can hold larger items that need extra protection.

Those who are attending this year’s King of the Hammers Race are going to enjoy themselves and watch tough cars tackle everything that Mother Nature can throw at them, so keeping their personal belongings secure will help make sure they have confidence that anything they leave with their truck will be there when they return at the end of the day.

Bringing your dog camping

Camping is an activity that can be enjoyed solo, but many of us prefer to hit the trail with our loved ones. Those of us who are dog owners know that Fido isn’t just a pet, but a member of the family, so wanting to bring your dog on your camping trip is only natural. While bringing your dog along can be a fun change of pace for your and your pooch alike, there are a few special considerations you need to make to be sure everyone is safe and happy:

Getting ready

Bringing your dog camping isn’t as simple as just loading him up in your car as you get ready to leave. Before you head out, pay a visit to your vet to make sure he’s up-to-date on all of his vaccinations. Because there are lots of other wild animals in the woods, it’s important that he has had his rabies shot and, because mosquitos can transmit heartworms, be sure he’s protected from them, as well. You also may want to consider having him vaccinated against Lyme disease, especially if there is a large tick population where you’re planning on traveling. No matter how well-trained your dog is, always keep a collar on him with the appropriate contact information. If you haven’t already, consider microchipping as an extra precaution as well.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking, especially in hilly or mountainous areas, be sure your dog is physically ready. Take him on long walks and practice hikes so he can build his endurance and keep up with you where ever you go.

Packing

Find out whether there is plenty of water available for your dog at your campsite and, if not, pack enough for the entire trip. Same goes for food – bring along his regular dog food and treats along with a food dish and water bowl. You’ll probably want to bring an extra leash and collar in case one gets lost or is broken. If you have a bigger dog, pick up a dog-friendly backpack so he can carry his own weight on longer hikes, just be sure to give him a chance to get used to it before your trip.

During your trip

Be sure to bring a few toys to occupy your dog. It’s likely that he’ll be somewhat unsupervised at times, so keeping him busy will prevent him from wandering off and getting into trouble. If you are planning on bringing along any firearms or valuables that can be chewed on, take the proper precautions and keep them in a portable safe or small lockbox to make sure everyone is safe.

If this is your dog’s first time camping, there is a good chance that he’s never been around a campfire before, so make sure you keep an eye on him when he’s near it. Be sure he’s well-trained and understands commands like “leave it” something similar to get him out of trouble if he starts playing with something potentially dangerous. Perform regular checks for ticks, burrs or thorns, which should all be removed right away. While a burr may seem harmless enough, if your dog has long enough hair, you may find yourself having to shave the area completely to get rid of them if you don’t take care of them immediately. Ticks should be removed by pinching it as close to the skin as possible and pulling it slowly and gently. Be sure to wear gloves while you’re doing this, as diseases can be transmitted to you if you’re barehanded. If there is one nearby, you can bring him to a vet, as well.

There are times you may have to leave your dog for a while, so make sure he is safe and secure while you’re gone. Avoid tying him to a stationary object, instead opting for a crate or a portable fence. Make sure he has plenty of water, food and something to keep him busy while you’re gone.

Dog etiquette

Just like walking in the city or suburbs, there are certain unspoken – or clearly defined, depending on where you are camping – rules that you should abide by. If you have a dog that barks at his own shadow, it might be a good idea to leave him at home, especially if there are other campers nearby. Do your best to keep your dog with you while on the trail so he doesn’t disturb other hikers or stir up trouble with other wild animals in the area. Remember, not everyone is comfortable around dogs, so only let him off the leash if he is well trained in voice commands. And, even though you are out in the wilderness, it’s bad etiquette to let your dog do his business in the middle of the trail. Your best bet is to burry it off of the path.

Making your kids’ first camping trip a success

Camping can be the perfect family vacation. It’s relatively inexpensive, there is plenty of together time and no television to distract everyone. Your kids can learn all about your love of the outdoors. Maybe you’ll bond over fly fishing as the sun comes up over the trees or quietly bed down and observe a herd of deer grazing nearby.

But, let’s all be honest with ourselves. There’s a good chance some of those things won’t happen. Camping with kids, especially very young ones, can be its own special challenge. Sure, it will be rewarding and a fun shared experience, but only if you go in prepared. Here are a few tips to make your first camping experience with your kids a fun one:

Stay close to home
For your first attempt at camping with your family, it’s not a bad idea to stay close to home. If you have a toddler who absolutely cannot sleep in a sleeping bag or a preschooler who discovers she is terrified of the dark, it will be much easier to just hop into your car and zip home instead of driving five hours out of the backwoods. It even opens up the option of spending a few days at the camp site and returning to your own beds at night.

Prepare the kids
The key to a successful camping trip is laying out the appropriate groundwork before hitting the trail. Discussing what camping is and what they can expect is a great start. Try watching movies or television shows where the main characters go camping, though make sure you stick to ones that show a fun and successful trip – maybe they can watch The Blair Witch Project when they’re a bit older. Another good idea is to introduce them to different aspects of camping in an environment where they are already comfortable. Try setting up a full-fledged campsite in your backyard for a night. Take a walk around your neighborhood when it’s dark out so they know what to expect.

Pack for the kids
If you’re a veteran camper, you can probably pack for a weekend outdoors with your eyes closed. However, packing for your little ones requires more than just bringing smaller clothes than usual. Make sure you have enough to keep your kids feeling safe and secure. If they are not quite comfortable with the dark, bring plenty of flashlights and lanterns. Consider bringing some disposable glow sticks along as well. They are great as makeshift night lights – just slip them into mesh pockets in their tents for some extra illumination without wasting batteries.

Bring along entertainment
While your idea of a perfect evening of camping may consist of a quiet evening around the campfire with close friends, don’t expect your kids to feel the same way. Be sure to plan kid-friendly activities for the evening when hiking is no longer an option. Of course, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores is a time-honored activity, but be ready with a contingency plan. While you’ll probably be happy leaving your smartphones and portable video games at home, being prepared with cards or other travel-size games as a fun way to pass the time before bed.

Get plenty of sleep
Nothing ruins a trip faster than tired, cranky kids. Because of this, it’s important to make sure your kids get plenty of sleep. There are a few things you can do to make this easier for them. Sleeping on the cold, hard ground in a sleeping bag may be tough for little ones. Consider investing in a camping-friendly air mattress to make them more cozy. A few days before the trip, have your kids try a night out in a sleeping bag in the safety of their own bed. If they find they can’t get comfortable in one, pack accordingly.

Camping is naturally a fairly active adventure – lots of hiking, swimming and boating can really tucker the little ones out. If they are still taking naps, be sure to stick to their regular schedule to avoid a meltdown later in the day. Even if your kids no longer require daily naps, plan a little downtime during the day so they can catch some Zs if they need to recharge their batteries for the afternoon.

Stay safe
Whether it’s for safety or sport, you may be in the habit of bringing a knife or even a firearm with you when camping. While you don’t necessarily need to stop doing this once kids are in the picture, it is essential that you take extra precautions with dangerous objects around your kids. A handgun lock box or portable safe are both great options for guns and knives. They are lightweight and easy to keep close at hand without the risk of kids getting their hands on anything they’re not supposed to.

Tips to properly pack your pack

Whether you are backpacking through Europe or through the Rocky Mountains, a well-organized bag is the key to comfort and convenience. The less experienced among us may be tempted to just shove as much stuff as possible into our bags and hit the road. However, there are lots of tips and tricks that will make packing easier and keep you as comfortable as possible. Here are a few:

Organize
If it’s your first time packing a hiking backpack, give yourself plenty of time to get yourself organized before actually putting anything in the bag. Obviously, what you pack will depend largely on where you’re going and how long you’ll be staying there. The best way to do this – and keep yourself from getting overwhelmed – is to give yourself plenty of space and spread out everything you need. If you’ll be camping, this includes any food, water bottles, tents, sleeping bags and other equipment you’ll have to carry with you.

Remember, it’s a good idea to leave any expensive or delicate electronics somewhere safe. You should consider picking up a portable safe if you’ll be keeping valuables anywhere besides in your home. While you are organizing the items you’ll be brining along, set aside your boots, water bottle, sunglasses, knife and first day’s clothing. You’ll obviously be wearing the clothes and boots, so no need to pack them, and you’ll need to keep the other items handy and on your person or attached to the outside of your bag.

Prioritize
Assuming you are hiking out to a camping spot, look at what you have and determine what you’ll probably need to access while you’re on the trail and what you won’t need until you reach your destination. Whatever items you probably don’t need to get to during your hike – sleeping bag, tent and other nighttime supplies – should go toward the bottom, while anything you may need to get to quickly or regularly – snacks, bug spray, a GPS or rainwear – need to be easily accessible.

Internal backpacks
Next, you’ll have to start thinking about the weight of your items. If you have a pack with an internal frame – the type that has become more popular as of late – you’ll want to pack all of your lightest items in the bottom of the bag. Next, the heaviest items. You’ll want to pack these items as close to your back as possible and centered halfway between the top and bottom of your bag. This will put them as close to your shoulder blades as possible, transferring the weight to your hips, which should hold most of the weight. If you are traveling over rough terrain, put the heavy items a bit lower to drop your center of gravity and make you more stable. The top of the bag should be reserved for more mid-weight items and things you’ll need to access.

External backpacks
This style of backpack is currently less popular, but they are certainly still perfectly good packs for trail hiking. Just like an internal frame, keep the most lightweight items low in the bag. However, external frame packs should have the medium-weight items in the middle, while the heaviest items go on top close to your back. This centers the pack’s weight over your hips and allows you to walk comfortably upright.

Whether you are using an internal or external frame backpack, it’s important to remember to balance your pack horizontally as well as vertically. If you load up one side of the pack, you will not only be uncomfortable, but you may do some real damage to your shoulders or back over a long period.

External gear
While a properly-packed backpack should not require many items attached to the outside of the bag, sometimes it is necessary. Usually, this is due to oddly shaped items or a bag that is a bit too small for your needs. Watch out for anything attached to the outside of your pack as they may swing, clank against other hanging items or get caught on branches or other obstructions along the trail. If attached improperly, it may also have a detrimental effect on your balance.

Most commonly, hikers will attach trekking or tent poles to the outside of their packs. These can be attached vertically on either side of the pack under the compression straps. Make sure you tuck them into water bottle pockets on the bottom of the pack to keep them from getting caught on clothing or plants.

The hip and shoulder belts of most backpacks usually have daisy chains or other ways to hook equipment on the front. These are intended for mountaineering equipment, so if you’re not heading for Everest, they make ideal places for things like water bottles or sunscreen so you can easily access them.

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.

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:

Locks
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.

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.

Placement
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.