Category Archives: Recreation/Lifestyle

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:

East 
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.

West
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.