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.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

M is for Map

We have a GPS but I still prefer a good old-fashioned map. With a map, I can get the big picture and it doesn’t require power. Plus, I don’t really trust the GPS and like to verify whatever it tells me with a map.

Although you can often get maps free at visitor centers, consider buying a fold-up laminated map for your next trip. These durable beauties will likely last forever and they definitely take map ownership to a whole ‘nother level!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

C is for Clothing

When car camping, wear easy-care clothing layers.
The key to packing for a car-camping trip is to choose casual, multi-purpose, easy-care clothing that you can layer. I hate to admit it but I way over packed. I was doing well until I thought about the dramatic season change we’d experience during our 7-week road trip, starting in Alaska in mid-May and ending in the lower 48's southwestern states in late-June. So I added a bunch of clothes that took up valuable space and never even got worn.

Here’s what I’d take if I got a do over:
  • T-shirts – 5
  • Jeans – 3
  • Leggings – 2
  • Flannel shirt – 1
  • Jacket w/gloves – 1
  • Rain gear – 1
  • Hat w/brim – 1
  • Socks – 5
  • Hiking boots – 1
  • Slip-on shoes – 1
  • Tank tops – 3
  • Shorts – 2
  • Sandals – 1

This pared-down list would have easily gotten me through the whole trip just fine, despite changes in weather/climate. Next time I’ll pack lighter for sure! And in the meantime, clothing gets the third slot in my upcoming Car Camping ABCs guide.

Friday, September 4, 2015

B is for Bedding

My car-camping bedding goal was to mimic a real bed as closely as possible because I knew if I didn’t sleep well, neither of us would have any fun. Beings I didn’t have what I needed on hand, I bought the following:
  • Full-size air mattress (the 54-inch width fit nicely in the Outback and conformed to the wheel wells when inflated)
  • 12-volt air pump
  • Quilted cotton-top fitted mattress pad
  • Cotton flannel sheet sets (2)
  • Twin-size down alternative comforter (full size would have been too wide) 

I also packed several additional blankets/throws to give us individual control over our number of covers and we took our usual pillows from home.

Although you likely won’t spend as much time in bed while traveling as you do at home, how much you enjoy car camping will depend on whether you’re getting decent sleep, so bedding gets the second slot in my upcoming Car Camping ABCs guide.

NOTE: I added Amazon affiliate links to show bedding options similar to the ones I chose but be sure to read customer reviews and shop around for the best price. And you may not even need to buy bedding; check if you've already got some that will work or if you can borrow what you need.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A is for Apple

During our epic road trip, we found apples to be the perfect car camping snack. Consider these awesome apple attributes:

  • Readily available
  • Come in many varieties
  • Wholesome and nutritious
  • Long shelf life without refrigeration
  • Affordable (i.e. cheap)
  • Easy to eat (one hand!)
  • Neat to eat (minimal drips/mess)
  • Zero prep except washing

I wasn’t much of an apple fan prior to the trip but I sure am now! So apples get the first slot in my upcoming Car Camping ABCs guide.