Tag: camping gear

car camping road tripping the mountains are calling christmas wish list

Gear, lifestyle, travel December 12, 2014

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Ok. This is my third and final car camping gear post. I promise. Maybe.

I have just realized that the last good trip I went on was three years ago, a combination of San Francisco (including running the marathon, ouch) and Alaska. It was our last hurrah before the kids came and we didn’t know it. It was a good one. Beer, friends, running, eating, travel and mountains. Some of my favorite things in no particular order. We covered a lot of ground, had zero itinerary, lots of time and were light on the luggage. Ahhh. I have been making a decent yearly trip for most of my adult life and this year as December closes in on me, I think I’m getting some major cabin fever. There was a time when I felt that 14 miles was the perfect distance for a run and that a trip didn’t count unless it lasted atleast a month. Now, I’m lucky if I can find 45 minutes to walk 1.5 miles with my double stroller up the hill by my house. My diaper bag is roughly the same size as the bag I lived out of for 6 months in Africa. The grass is growing tall under my feet. I am nursing a newborn constantly, buried in childrens’ naps and diapers, and have yet to figure out how to get my brood out the door within a reasonable time frame. I’m itching for an adventure. With this realization, my current and almost pathological obsession with camping and road trips makes some sense. At least that’s what I’m going with. In honor of those suffering from cabin fever and wander lust everywhere, here is my finalized wish list for the epic family road trip/ camping set up. Our current plan is to start with short jaunts to Colorado for beer festivals and go from there as our clan gains some finesse.IMG_3026.JPG

1. Vehicle: we just traded in the very fuel efficient station wagon for a Nissan Xterra. Not efficient. Not at all. It does however, have 4wd and we do live in the mountains where there is (hopefully for the ski season) plenty of snow. It is also very offroad capable, came with a tow package, and holds both our car seats and our legs comfortably. It also has a rubber cargo area that will contain our muddy dogs beautifully. This is our ticket to freedom. And yes, we looked at more efficient crossovers, but most of the fibers of my being resisted such a practical mom choice. I wanted a car that I can drive up the side of a mountain.
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*** update, Xterra was too small and too thirsty. Traded it in for a Toyota Siena minivan. Amazing. Never driving anything else on road or camping trips.

2. Sleeping: this has been the biggest challenge because it is the most expensive and biggest commitment. And for a lifelong insomniac like myself, the most important. I’ve got it narrowed down-ish.

Least expensive: the good old fashioned tent. Coleman has some good cheap quick set up ones. Kelty has some neat inflatable camping palaces.

Pros- affordable, roomy. Cons- more set up, more restrictive in terms of where you can sleep. (We’d love to be able to park in a friend’s driveway and sleep in our car).

Middle road: Cartop tent, ranging from $1500-$3500 (for the size we would like). Pros- comfortable, quick setup, doesn’t take up cargo room. Cons- expensive, smaller, drag on fuel efficiency, and you have to schlep small children up and down a ladder and not let them fall out.

In my dreams: a teardrop (Camp Inn, Little Guy) or other compact, lightweight camper trailer like the Cricket or Sylvan Go. Pros- easy, just hitch and go. They carry your gear. Home on wheels. Cons- expensive. We probably should not spend our children’s college fund on this. The Sylvan and the teardrops start around 8k, and you can go as high as you want from there. These also have the added benefit of including kitchens or dining areas, shaving more time off set up and take down as well as a little savings on gear.

Last post, I had settled on the behemoth Tepui Kukenam XL. I’ve since decided that it is too heavy and make our already thirsty xterra even thirstier. I have finally decided on the Cascadia Mount Hood tent out of the following:

A. James Baroud Nomad 160: 62×86, 95lbs, nice windows, looks airy on the inside, 30 seconds to set up. $2,199.95

B. Cascadia Mount Hood: 72×96, 140lbs, $1,495. A few minutes to set up.

C. James Baroud Grand XXL: 63.75x 89, weight unknown but hard shell so probably not much. Opens in 5 seconds. Fan and led lighting as well as exterior cargo bag. $3,510.95

D. Autohome Maggiolina Airland Lg:63×85, 150 lbs. Hard shell opens with crank in a few seconds. $3,199.00

E. Tepui Kukenam XL: 76×98, 205lbs, $1,925. Huge. Rugged. Would work well on a trailer if we could afford that.

The hard shells are really nice with quick set up but they are smaller and more expensive. The middle road seems to be the nomad which is also smaller with a quick set up, but $1k+ cheaper than the hard shells. This one is also the lightest at less than 100 lbs. Then, there is the large, economical and slightly more involved set up of the Cascadia mount hood.

Al we will need to complete our sleeping set up will be a couple of sleeping bags for the boys and some pillows for all of us from Sierra Designs.

3. Eating: we have a back packing set up from GSI Outdoors. I really like it, efficient and useful and stores nice and small. I think we will go with another more expansive GSI system for car camping. They also sell nice classic enamelware table settings,
Volcano three fuel grill for cooking and aeropress for coffee.

Also, you need a place to store it, so the Camp Chef Camp Sherpa comes in at $100 to store and serve as a table for the stove.

A collapsible sink or two from from Sea to Summit, coupled with a water bag for washing dishes and toiletries.

GSI macro table and helinox chairs for dining

Hydroflask insulated growler. Beer festivals.

Yeti cooler- doubles as bear vault

4. Power
Goal zero generator kit to power lights, phones/tablets, and cooler.

5. Misc.
Nemo pressurized solar shower

Small porta potty and pop up tent seems like it might be nice for late nights and showers. Never used one.

Books! Books. And more books with maps.

The gear without the tent adds up to a little over a grand, with my husband’s discount through his winter job at a ski/outdoor shop. By my estimate, we can be fully mobile with our dream gear for around $2,800. That can be shaved down considerably if we make do with things like a normal cooler, our backpacking stove and dishes, no table, no solar power etc. In any event, that is a budget I can work with. Bye bye airfare, cramped hotel rooms, and terrible road food. Hello national parks and lots of bathroom breaks for the kids. In the meantime, it looks like ski season has started:

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budget (car) travel with champagne taste

lifestyle, travel November 22, 2014

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When I get moments to myself, I tend to fantasize about things I can not afford. Like traveling. I want to go everywhere and take my kids everywhere. Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the idea of easy mobility. The ability to just get up and go. Backpacking (of both the traveling and camping varieties) appealed to me immensely, and I was supremely happy for the six months I lived out of a back pack in Africa. Now I have children and dogs and a husband and in general a lot more to carry. We are also on a tight budget with a new business and me a mostly stay at home mom. It does not stop my dreaming. Someday my husband and I want to take the boys for a trip around the world for a year. It would be awesome to drive through north, central, and South America. Having children means that traveling by plane is a lot more expensive when you consider the tickets, the hotels, and the food. The ability to travel by car would save a lot on all fronts. And I have always enjoyed seeing the world through the windows of a moving train, car, bus, or boat.

Our mission: We have two children and a station wagon. I want to be able to comfortably drive down to Mexico and camp on the beach for an extended period. So we need to cook, sleep, and attend to our toiletries on the road without too much setup and take down. Here are some of my favorite fantasies of how to do so.

First, simple is good. The Cricket Trailerfrom a NASA architect. (Pictured above) This solves all problems in an efficient way. J and I sleep in the queen bed in the trailer, the kids sleep in the car. It has a refrigerator, kitchen area, handheld showed, even a portable toilet.

IMG_2905.PNGIt is lightweight and can be towed with our station wagon. No messing with tents, or set up while on the road, and no need to worry about keeping our stuff locked up. It has all kinds of neat extras like solar panels and little berths that can hang above the bed for kids. It also comes in a very pretty blue and looks cool. It is also on the pricey side, starting at 21k. Onward.

Ideally, I want to be able to stop at a beautiful spot, eat lunch, take a hike or a nap, and move on without too much fuss. In the event that someone doesn’t decide to make us a gift of the cricket trailer, I like the idea of a car top tent from Autohome.

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The Columbus could accommodate my whole family for around $3,400. It is quick setup and take down, spacious and lightweight. It also has the benefit of allowing us to have our car and nothing else. However, it only covers sleeping. We would need a car kitchen setup that is quick and simple. This means: atleast a stove, table, sink basin of some sort, cooler, and storage for food, dishes etc. We have some of it already, but I imagine only trial and error will provide the answers as to what will work fast and efficiently and not take up too much space.

Another cool option is the Sylvansport Go. It is a tent trailer, providing a sleeping and eating space as well as a means of towing your toys. I’m thinking bicycles to get us around our various destinations. This would also require the camp kitchen as an additional set up, but would provide the storage needed to transport the gear. (Not sure whether our dogs are with us on these adventures or not). This is great, but also pricey at around $8,000.

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My next task is to figure out how to plug a portable refrigerator like this Colemaninto a solar panel. I would love to not have to worry about ice while on the road. When I figure this out, I will update.

Additionally, I like the idea of a little toilet and pop up tent to go with the solar shower we already have. It looks like we can have a reasonable (depending on your definition of the term) camp bathroom for under $50.

For a little more, (around $250) this is a pretty neat item. It is a solar shower mounted to your car that holds 5 gallons of pressurized water.

If any one from Cricket, Sylvansport, or Automhome wants to throw a sample my way, I’ll promise to write all about it to my 26 readers! Starting with a trip to the Baja in Mexico this winter and a Chicago/Michigan trip next fall!
(With plenty of local lake outings in the summer). Happy camping. Just like with gardening, winter is a good time to dream.