last minute gifts for campers

last minute gifts for campers

Last Minute Gifts for Campers

The perfect gift for the campers who love to bring their kitchen outside and need help with the clean up.

Kelty Camp Chair
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The chair that’s missing something and for a good reason. Clearly this chair is missing its legs which makes it ideal for setting up in a tent. Essential for that much needed back support while you’re reading a book by headlamp.

Compact gear is every camper’s best friend. This super compact, super absorbent camp towel is a necessity for every damp camper out there.

Another compact little guy to save room in the toiletry bag. The TOOB tooth brush is a toothbrush and toothpaste all in one, it also comes with a cover for the brush. It’s something they can leave in their camping bag so they never forget those super important teeth cleaning essentials again.

A top rated book perfect for that camper who already has all the latest and greatest gear. Full of tips and tricks, they are sure to learn something they never knew about camping before.
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happy birthday

happy birthday

yosemite-national-park-wallpaper

photo credit

Did you know that August 25th is the National Park Service’s birthday? This year the NPS is 98! With just over 400 parks, like the beautiful Yosemite pictured above, the National Park Service is responsible for caring for these precious American gems that we all love to explore. My husband and I have only been able to visit a few of these beautiful places, but certainly have many on our bucket list. What parks have you visited? What’s on your bucket list?

It’s super important that we help maintain these parks we love to visit along with the NPS. There are tons of ways to help, too, from volunteering your time, donating, or simply observing “pack it in pack it out” and picking up other trash you see on your hikes (this should be observed regardless of where you are; national park or small neighborhood park). Maintenance of the parks is crucial for future enjoyment.

So in honor of the National Park Service’s birthday, get out there and explore a park and help keep these amazing places here for generations to come.

geocaching

geocaching

In addition to camping and hiking, Joshua and I really enjoy geocaching, which all go hand in hand pretty well. The great thing about geocaching is that you can do it in the middle of a huge national park or in the middle of your city. So you might be asking, “What exactly is this geocaching she speaks of?” Well, geocaching is  the process of someone hiding a cache, and you use the GPS coordinates of the cache’s location to try and find it. It’s very easy to pick up, a great way to explore your area, and a fun way to get fresh air and exercise. So how do you get started…
geocaching
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The first thing you do is create an account on the geocaching website. Then you search for a cache in your area and get its GPS coordinates, as well as clues and important details about its size and location. A cache can be a cylinder smaller than a quarter or a container as large as a gallon of milk. There are also some sneaky little caches that can look like a screw, rock, or even a chewed piece of gum (don’t worry, it’s plastic not actually chewed gum). Even the smallest cache contains a narrow rolled up piece of paper; this is the log. The log is what you sign when you find the geocache. This is the proof you found it (always bring a pen or pencil when you geocache). The larger caches can contain items for trading, like small toys or stickers. There are also little trinkets called trackables. These are little tokens, tags, coins, and even Legos that have a code on them that when found you enter online to see where all it has traveled. You can buy these trackables online and track their progress there. When you finally find the cache, though, you sign the log and go online to log it on the cache’s page. That’s it, you’ve done it! You’ve just found your first geocache. Now, keep it up because there are over 1.75 million caches all over the world, so there are plenty out there to find.
micro
You’ll need a few things if you are going geocaching. Our little geocaching bag has:
  • pens
  • some extra paper in case the log is ruined or full
  • small dinosaurs and army men for leaving or trading in the bigger caches
  • a flashlight
  • some extra batteries
  • GPS
Geocaching is way easier if you have a GPS, and Magellan, a pretty well known GPS company, has partnered with Groundspeak, the company that started the geocaching craze, to make a geocaching geared GPS. The eXplorist GC is made specifically for geocaching, but it can double as a basic GPS for those hikes, too. So you can find caches and find your way back to your car or camp site. It’s a little finicky at times, but it can normally find a cache within a couple of feet. You can also use most regular hiking or trail GPSs. Here is a guide to buying the ideal GPS for geocaching.
Now, if you don’t have or don’t want to invest in a GPS just yet there is a basic free app by Groundspeak, available for iPhone and Android, that allows you to see their recommendations for beginning geocaches, as well as tips on geocaching. This version is obviously limited, but they also have a full version that costs $10. Cheaper than purchasing an actual GPS, this version basically lets you use your phone as a geocaching GPS.
geo
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All in all, geocaching is great for the explorer/treasure hunter inside all of us, and perfect for those Saturday’s that you just don’t have anything planned and don’t want to stay home or spend a lot of money. Do something new, go geocaching!  We love spending the day finding a bunch of caches all over our city, or taking time to search for them on our hikes. It’s really a ton of fun!
p.s.- Neither Groundspeak or Magellan have endorsed me for this post. These are strictly my opinions.
favorite outdoor brands vol. 1

favorite outdoor brands vol. 1

 Now, I just want to preface this by saying my husband and I have been camping and hiking for about 5 or 6 years now. Now, that’s not an incredibly long time, but that’s also not to lessen the degree to which we enjoy it, because we LOVE both camping and hiking. When given the choice of an all inclusive 5 star luxury resort in Fiji, or finally getting to camp at any one of the bigger parks we have on our list at the moment stocked with our wish list of gear, we’d go with the latter (although camping in Fiji would be cool!). However, our current gear situation isn’t as fancy or as well stocked as we would like. But that’s ok! We are certainly getting there. In fact, we were recently married and I can easily say I was 1,000 times more excited when we got the camping gear off of our registry then anything else. Yes, we registered for a few camping items, but this is a great tip. If you have a wedding to register for go ahead and register for that latest and greatest whatever you have on your gear wish list. We did a fun Amazon registry in addition to the typical bedding and china registries, and people really enjoyed buying us the fun stuff every now and then. Don’t forget to ask for birthdays and Christmas too!
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Anyway, if you’re new to camping the following are some great brands that are a little more on the affordable side, but definitely a step up from the gear you’d find at the local big box store. Unfortunately, down here in good ol’ Louisiana, not only do we not have great options for outdoor retailers/outfitters that specialize in outdoor activities other than hunting (My kingdom for an REI! Reason #4 why we want to move to the fantastic Pacific Northwest), but our camping within a 100 mile or even 200 mile radius is pretty much slim to none (that’s reason #2!). That being said we haven’t quite gotten the opportunity to explore and test some of the more well known brands out in the field just yet. But Lord knows I have done my hours and hours of research and lord knows I have a wish list! (See the wish list here.)
I also want to add that most outdoor gear is an investment. If you are just starting out I would borrow someones gear or even rent some (if you are lucky to have an REI nearby). Believe it or not camping is not for everyone, and you would hate to spend $400+ on even the most basic gear and then have it sit in your garage.
Don’t buy super cheap gear either. 9 times out of 10 cheap outdoor gear means flimsy, which means a lousy time when your tent has a hole in the roof and rain is pouring in, or you didn’t realize it but your backpack from jr high you decided to take hiking got snagged and you’re hiking 6 miles without a snack. Once you’ve tried it by borrowing or renting some cool gear and you’ve decided you love camping and can’t live without it, start investing those pennies on some quality gear for yourself. You won’t be sorry!
So finally, here is my short list of favorite brands. Feel free to click on the links for reviews of certain products. Also, I’d love to hear some of your favorite gear, so just leave a comment below.

GEAR


Kelty

They are probably our all time favorite brand. Our day pack, cooler, organizer, picnic lunch box, etc. is all Kelty. This award winning brand is just wonderful! Seriously, no complaints. You can tell they really value quality and that they put a lot of effort and research into their products. Our next big purchase is going to be a Kelty tent. I have read excellent things about them I just want to check it out first hand before investing, because a Kelty tent is an investment, but it truly is one that will last for years.

kelty                                                                                                                                                                                       photo credit

Coleman

One of the oldest camping brands out there, Coleman is great for all of those fun basics you think of when you think camping. This is the brand your parents and grandparents probably camped with. They have super affordable products that still have really good quality, like: lanterns, starter tents and sleeping bags, coolers, chairs, grills, propane camp stoves, and so much more. We’ve got a ton of the little stuff like little fire starters, glowsticks, first aid kits, a tent fan, backup stake kits, the list goes on and on. One of my favorites though is their Quad LED lantern. It’s a lantern that has 4 panels; when docked on the lantern’s core it’s a super bright full sized lantern, but you can remove each panel individually and you’ll have 4 smaller flat LED flashlights. It’s pretty cool! They’ve been around for over 100 years so they’re definitely doing something right.

Camelbak

Outstanding brand that specializes in those funny little backpacks with the water hose sticking out of it. A Camelbak was one of the first things other than a sleeping bag and tent that I purchased. They sell everything you could possibly need to hydrate yourself from the packs to a bunch of different water bottles, filters, and water flavor enhancers. They also sell the separate reservoirs so you can replace them if need be, or backpack makers like Kelty often engineer some way for you to rig a reservoir into their packs. For someone who is easily affected by heat like I am, I typically use my Camelbak for any outdoor activity I’ll be performing for 2 hours or more. I also like to carry a water bottle with me throughout the day. My favorite Camelbak water bottle so far is the Podium Big Chill that I got for about $15 at Target. It does a great job of keeping my water cold for roughly 8-12 hours and it’s spill proof.

Eno

We love our Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock! Another wedding present, we now have the double with the atlas straps. Easy to assemble and even easier to enjoy. Perfect for camping, picnicking, or just hanging out in the backyard. These hammocks are really high quality and come in a ton of different colors. The hammocks also pack down into a compact little bunde about the size of a large grapefruit. This is definitely on our essentials list for outdoor fun.

Jetboil

Jetboil is a fairly new company started in the early 2000’s with a great idea: a compact camp stove that is light and efficient. May I just say, they certainly achieved that. This was one of the gems that we registered for; we have the Sumo which is perfect for 2 people, and it was way at the top of our wish list. Great for backpacking, which we haven’t quite tackled yet; we wanted the Jetboil for long day hikes to have a hot meal before the trek back, and for when it’s pouring rain and starting a campfire is just out of the question. It is such a handy gadget that we know will be our must take for when we finally tackle backpacking. We haven’t gotten to take it out in the field just yet but we have definitely experimented with it at home and we love it. It does everything it’s marketed for and then some. We’re super impressed with the construction and quality too. When we finally get to use it more I hope to post some fun delicious recipes, so be on the look out for that.
jetboil
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Gerber

Confession: I’m a pretty big Bear Grylls fan. Say what you will about him, I think it’s a fun show and it doesn’t hurt that he’s cute. Anyway, in addition to Gerber being an amazing knife manufacturer, they have partnered up with Bear Grylls to make some impressive survival/hiking tools. One of my favorites is the super compact Scout Essentials Kit. It’s perfect for a light emergency kit that’s about the size of a mans wallet complete with a small first aid kit, waterproof matches, small LED micro torch (super bright with a few different settings), compact scout knife, small button compass, and a little leaflet with some priorities of survival in case you get lost. They even have an “apocalypse kit” that’s pretty pricy but comes with 7 different weapons and just happens to be at the top of my husbands wish list. All in all if you just need a great basic knife for the trail, some survival tools, or even an apocalypse kit Gerber won’t let you down.

GSI Outdoors

One of our favorite parts of car camping is cooking over a campfire. Joshua and I love to cook and there is just something about the challenge and creativity that you feel when you’re cooking in the outdoors. GSI understands this and tries to alleviate just a little bit of that challenge aspect by providing super ingenuitive camp kitchen tools. Known for their light camping and backpacking cooksets, they also have tableware and kitchen tool sets. High quality, durable, and lightweight GSI products give you that little bit of luxury that you don’t typically associate with your poor overlooked kitchen tools at home.

CLOTHES


This is where my girly side comes out. I love shopping for clothes for outdoor activities. Cozy pullovers for camping, a cute little athletic top for hiking, colorful board shorts for kayaking, I could go on and on. Also, in addition to this list there are other brands like Nike and Champion at Target that have great quality athletic wear that can certainly double as hiking/camping wear. The brands in the list below are more geared to hiking and camping, with the exception of the lesser known MPG which I just wanted to highlight as another good athletic brand. Here is a quick list of my favorite shoe and apparel brands:

Merrell

Merrell is a great hiking geared footwear, clothing, and accessory brand. I have a pair of the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove Trail shoes and I absolutely love them. They are so incredibly light and breathable, it almost feels like I’m not wearing anything. I wear them all the time; jogging in the neighborhood, running errands, camping, hiking (nothing too strenuous though; you need a good sturdy hiking shoe for strenuous hikes), you name it. I also own some cute Merrell athletic wear. The apparel as well as the shoes do exactly what they’re advertised for. If it tells you it’s going to wick away moisture and keep you dry it will. This is another great brand that cares about quality and puts the customer first.
merrell

Patagonia

Patagonia is yet another phenomenal brand. They use very high quality materials and really research every aspect of what you would possibly require in an article of clothing for whatever activity they are designing it for. Be it surf wear, running shorts, super insulated but also super light snow/cold weather clothes, yoga outfits, or just a simple cotton blend short you can wear hiking or running errands. In addition to clothing they sell shoes and some accessories like packs and bags. They even sell clothing for the little ones. When you buy Patagonia you really are buying from an awesome company. They are very environmentally conscious and love to give back.

Columbia

This is another favorite of mine, and probably what I have most of in my closet due to their availability and affordability. They design clothing, shoes, and some gear for everyone in the family. They have great basics including fleece, layers, and active/sportswear. They also have a fantastic line of Performance Fishing Gear, or PFG, which come in a variety of colors and items from shirts to pants to hats and sunglasses. More well known in these parts as “fishing shirts,” this line’s more popular item is the long or short sleeve shirt that has an ingenious vent in the back to keep you cool, and typically has UPF 30 for that extra layer of sun protection. I don’t do a whole lot of fishing, but I love these shirts for hiking and kayaking or any other water sport. Columbia is an incredible brand that holds up really well and is, in my humble opinion, one of the more affordable outdoor clothing brands.

MPG

Mondetta Performance Gear is an athletic company that has a little more of a fashionable flare to it. I typically find this brand at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls (in fact, that’s where I discovered it). They have cute, great fitting, quality workout apparel that I can find affordably at the discount stores, and still look cute while on the trails.
Hope you enjoyed this list of my favorite brands. Again, please feel free to leave a comment on some of your favorites, and make sure to click the links for actual product reviews.
Disclaimer- None of the above mentioned brands or retailers have endorsed me for this post. These are strictly my opinions.
the beautiful cloudland canyon

the beautiful cloudland canyon

Last fall we took a wonderful trip to Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia. We stayed for a few days and had a blast! We absolutely love car camping and they have wonderful sites for this. Whenever we look for a primitive tent camp site we love a little privacy and the options were pretty good here. The shower/bathroom facilities (very clean by the way) as well as the parking lot were about a five minute walk away. They have a great little office/store that had some fun camp equipment, (hammocks, Frisbee golf supplies, etc.) some basic supplies you may have forgotten, and souvenirs. The staff was also very friendly!
 cloud land canyon text

The park itself was gorgeous especially since we were there for the beginning of fall.  The also host some events in the park. Make sure you visit the nature center (great place for kids) and say hi to their opossum mascot. There are several well established super clean trails most of which have waterfalls.

cloud land
This is truly a spectacular little gem just about an hour south of Chattanooga Tennessee.
cloud land canyon overlook
Speaking of Chattanooga we also took a quick day trip to Ruby Falls in southern Chattanooga. This was a neat spot, a little touristy but still fun, that is actually a 145 foot underground waterfall. You take about a half an hour walk through the cave system to get to the end of the system and the home of the falls. Once you reach the falls you get a minute to look at the falls in their natural state and then there is a light show that lasts a few minutes, this was one of the touristy aspects but it did make for some cool pictures.
ruby falls
Hope you enjoy your trip!