Category Archives: Recreation/Lifestyle

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.

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.

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.

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.