From the Road: Favorites, pt. 1

Leg one of our summer pilgrimage is complete:  

7,002 miles.  5 Weeks.  12 States.  

We are now on our way to explore the Mid-West at a much slower pace. We described our western adventure as a sample-trip.  We didn’t stay in one place long enough to really explore, just long enough to sample.  What many don’t know is that before this trip, as a family we had never camped more than two nights.  That’s right.  Spring-break 2015, was the first time in 15 years that we ever camped, and we camped for two-nights.  So we didn’t ease into this, we jumped in the deep-end.  So, we wanted to write a short blog about some of our favorite and most necessary items we had on the road-trip:

The Ice Chest: The ice chest was one of our few constants.  We lived out of it.  The ice chest at times was very inconvenient, but it saved a lot of money on food and beverages.  Gas-station snacks are expensive, and the food is usually crap.  The ice chest allowed us to eat good food and keep the prices low.  Speaking of low prices, when it comes to the ice chest, we suggest, if you can, splurge.  Spend the money on a good ice chest.  We didn’t.  We had a good sized one, but a Yeti would have been worth the investment.  That said, even if you can’t buy an expensive ice-chest and you buy a cheaper one like we did, make sure it is iced 24 hours before you load it up.  Fill it with ice 24 hours before you leave, then dump that ice out, and refill with the ice and your food.  It keeps the ice chest chilled longer and the ice and food will last longer.  

Sleeping Bags: Sarah and I used marmot sleeping bags and the kids had REI bags.  Everyone had mummy bags - the ones that are more shaped to your body as opposed to the large rectangles.  Spend the money for the low-degree bags, it’s worth it.  It’s hard to justify it when you are shopping at REI on a 105 degree day in Austin, but when you are crawling into your bag in 38-42 degree weather, you will be glad you did.  Go quality. One interesting thing we learned about sleeping bags, is that like cars, every year there is a new model, and if you can hold out and find the “last year model” you will essentially get the same bag at a better price.  As in the real world, while camping and roadtripping, good sleep makes for quality days, and a good sleeping bag is key to that.

Tents: We could have gone for less expensive tents, but we shelled out for REI tents - shop their outlet.  REI has one of the best return policies if something happens to the tent, especially if you are an REI member.  They are nationwide.  They are quality tents and less expensive than some of the higher-end out-door adventure brands.  We bought two tents: the kids had one, and we had one.  When it comes to size, add two to the number of people actually sleeping in the tent.  The four kids had a six-person tent and we had a four person tent. It was perfect

Kammoks: We love our roos.  The truth is you can buy less expensive hammocks.  But with kammok you are buying amazing customer service, and a quality and comfortable product.  On top of that, by joining the Kammok Mob, you are participating in a company committed to positive social impact - they are a B Corporation and 1% of all their profits goes to CTC.  Personally, I feel kammoks are great to sleep in, but even if you prefer the tent, hanging a kammok on a tree to simply recline and enjoy some down time is amazing.

Quality Snacks: We did a lot of hiking - a lot! We needed quality fuel.  We stocked up on Epic Bars and Clif Bars.  These two made up the bulk of our snacking, and to be honest, after a long hard hike there was nothing better than sitting down under a tree, and opening an Epic bar.  In a way it made one feel even closer to nature than we already were.  The question has to come up, why not cheaper bars?  Two words: Ethics and Quality.  If you would like to read more about the ethics and values of Clif, click HERE.  If you would like to read the values and ethics of EPIC, click HERE.  If those aren’t enough, go out and buy some, you’ll be convinced.  Anyway, the point is, with the amount of physical exertion on a camping trip, quality recovery fuel is a must, and we feel the best fuel out there to be EPIC Bars and Clif Bars.

Back Packs: Everybody had REI backpacks.  Everyone needed to carry their own water, their own snacks, rain jackets if needed, water shoes if needed, and a change of clothes - in short everyone carried their own load when able.  In fact, the right backpack, may just save your life - you can ask Sarah about that, and apparently that backpack is an REI pack.

Knife: We said before the trip that every good adventure needs a good knife.  And we had one.  We had a custom made knife from right here in Austin, Weige Knife.  It was used for everything from cutting up meat, sharpening wood sticks for marshmallows and hot dogs, cutting clothes lines, and more.  Honestly, I didn’t anticipate we would need a good knife as much as we did, but we did, and it was great!

Headlamps: Yes, they looks ridiculous.  They may even seem unnecessary, or you may think, you only need a few, but we bought six of them (and a lantern), and we all used them - A LOT!  

Shoes: When it came to clothes we came as close as we could to minimalism - even though we were gone for five weeks, each person brought five changes of clothes, that’s it.  We washed a lot of clothes.  But when it came to shoes everyone had three pairs: a hiking pair, a water pair, and an “around the fire” pair.  The “around the fire” pair were slip-ons, comfortable, easy to slip-on or off for getting in or out of the tent.  These stayed dry and clean and were almost like a reward for our feet after a long day of hiking.  

Maps: Like the old-school maps.  You know, the one’s that are on paper.  Those. First of all it is a great skill to teach your kids: how to read and follow a map.  But other times, technology failed us.  It’s true, even google and apple maps miss it sometimes.  Or sometimes we were out of range.  We had no cell service, and we had to trust our maps.  Plus, maps are just fun!

For now that’s it.  We are going to follow this blog up with a couple more suggestion blogs...But for now, please let us know your suggestions and our favorite items you take with you when you camp. Use the comment section below to do so!