Tuesday, October 6, 2015

D is for Driving

I did most of the driving on our 12,360-mile road trip, which freed Joel up to take pictures. For the most part, this worked out well since I’m not much of a photographer but don’t mind driving except in cities or heavy traffic, neither of which was much of a problem in Alaska and Canada. The problem I did have in the far north, however, was driving too far and for too long.

For those who haven’t experienced it firsthand, the long daylight hours in the far north during late May and early June can cause you to totally lose track of time, which in turn can lead to extremely long days behind the wheel. Many mornings we started out around 4-5 am and didn’t call it quits until 10-11 pm. After a few days like that, the lack of sleep starts taking a toll!

But the beauty of car camping is that you have everything you need with you at all times so you can stop anywhere safe that doesn’t prohibit overnight parking and/or camping. We just didn’t manage to stop at a reasonable time more than once or twice during the whole seven weeks…

Anyway, here are my Top 5 car-camping driving tips:
  • Dress comfortably for distance driving (stretchy clothes, slip-on shoes)
  • Limit your daily distance/drive time and pull off the road to nap if you become sleepy while driving
  • Look for a camp spot early, and when traveling in bear country, stop and cook dinner at a location other than where you’ll sleep
  • Keep unshelled sunflower seeds handy for a little pick-me-up while driving and chewing gum on hand to keep your ears clear during elevation changes
  • If you don’t need prescription glasses to drive, you might want to wear Sunreaders (magnified sunglasses) instead of regular sunglasses anyway - I find that the magnification compensates for the reduced vision due to darkened lenses

Friday, October 2, 2015

P is for pStyle

My life is changed! If you’re a guy, just skip this. But if you’re a gal (and especially if you’ve reached your middle years), read on.

The pStyle is a nifty device that lets us ladies pee standing up and fully clothed, which makes car camping out in the boonies much more comfortable and convenient. The pStyle also comes in handy in places you might rather not sit, such as pit toilets and port-a-potties.

The pStyle is:
  • Simple
  • Sturdy
  • Easy to use
  • Nearly foolproof
  • Easy to clean
  • Very affordable

Although there are many types of female urinary devices available, I chose the pStyle for its utter simplicity. Basically, it’s just a contoured plastic trough that fits against your body and directs the flow. It’s easy to use while clothed and can even eliminate the need for toilet paper (truly – it’s not perfect but pretty darn close!). And the one-piece smooth plastic design makes cleaning your pStyle easy. What's not to love?

Word of caution: Do not store your pStyle where it can be crushed. Although the plastic is sturdy, if you drop your heavily loaded backpack on the ground with the pStyle at the bottom, it can split. I found this out the hard way when I pulled mine out to use it the first time at a rather nasty roadside pit toilet halfway between Whitehorse and the Yukon/Alaska border. Fortunately it wasn’t split the full length and I was able to repair it with electrician’s tape, after which it worked fine the next six weeks of our trip. As soon as I got home, however, I ordered two more so that I’m prepared should I ever have another pStyle mishap.

NOTE: Amazon links are affiliate.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

N is for National Forest

Although all the National Parks we visited during our 12,360-mile road trip prohibited camping except in designated campgrounds (yes, even just sleeping in the car), you can camp free many places outside campgrounds ("dispersed camping") in many National Forests and on other public land.

In the eastern and middle US states, public land may be scarce, but west of the Rockies you can find thousands of acres just waiting for members of the public to happen by.

To find pubic land on which to camp:
  • Check official agency websites, specifically the US Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Stop by the local USFS or BLM office for maps and information
  • Ask the locals
“Dispersed camping” on public land usually allows stays of up to 14 days in one spot so you can stay a little while if you find a place you’d like to explore further. Just be polite and leave no trace.

Friday, September 25, 2015

W is for Water

Never assume there will be water where you camp! Have plenty with you and remember – you likely use more water than you think, so don’t skimp. Since water is essential for life and health, at a minimum you should carry:
  • 1 gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation (per ready.gov)
  • Water filter in case you need to drink from a stream
During our epic car-camping adventure, the gallon water jugs we bought leaked (even before they were first opened) so we switched to buying smaller water bottles by the case and stashed them in all the door pockets and the crevice created with the back seat folded down flat for sleeping.

As for a water filter, many available nowadays are very effective, easy to use and compact. The one that came highly recommended from one of our super-outdoorsy sons is the Sawyer Mini, which "Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli; removes 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium" according to the manufacturer. At under $20, how can you afford NOT to get one for your car camping adventures?

NOTE: Amazon links are affiliate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

G is for Gum

Chewing gum is a great car-camping companion for many reasons. Chewing gum:
  • Wards off boredom during long drives
  • Helps keep your ears clear during elevation changes
  • Freshens breath
  • Doesn’t cause weight gain
  • Comes in many flavors
  • Is just plain fun
And it’s cheap! At just pennies per piece, who doesn’t love chewing gum?

Friday, September 18, 2015

T is for Tires

Before heading out on a car camping adventure, be sure your tires are up for the trip. At a minimum, you should have:
  • Decent tires on all four wheels
  • Decent spare (preferably full size)
  • Tools to change a tire (and the know how to do so!)
  • Tire repair kit (and the know how to use it)
  • Tire pump
Also, check your tires periodically for uneven wear, especially when traveling unfamiliar rough roads – you can easily knock a wheel out of alignment and wear the edge of a tire bald (ask me about Durango, CO).

These Amazon affiliate links are to the exact items I bought, chosen based on customer reviews/ratings. Fortunately, we didn't have a need for either on our trip but they now live in my car and I sure feel better being prepared for a flat!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

J is for Jetboil

I’d never experienced a Jetboil prior to our big trip but have decided it’s a must have for any car camping adventure. Jetboil advantages include:
  • Fast, easy and efficient
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Versatile – heats water almost instantly and you can cook in it, too!
On our trip, I believe we had the Jetboil with the 1 liter cup but I think the larger one would have worked better for the two of us. There are also many accessories that we didn't have that would have been nice, like the Jetboil FluxRing Fry Pan, so I included several Jetboil links below.

Although a Jetboil might seem a little spendy, if you camp or hike, do yourself a favor and invest in one.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Time to Get Ready for Christmas!

I know it's only September but Christmas is fast approaching. Are you getting ready yet? I try to prepare throughout the year (with some success) but would like to be done before Halloween.

Did you realize that in less than week, there will only be 99 days until Christmas? So... I wanted to share an ebook by the same title - 99 Days Until Christmas - which is part of a 99 Tips for 99 Cents series. Another book in the series is 99 Affordable Gifts for Everyone on YOUR List .

So what are you waiting for? Let's get ready for Christmas!

(BTW - all links are affiliate.)