Coffee Break

June 1st, 2010

Primus Litech Coffee Press

Let’s talk camp coffee. 

We’ve gone old-school – dumping coffee into a pot, letting it boil over the campfire and waiting for the grounds to sink to the bottom.  The result: gritty coffee.

We’ve prepared little coffee bags at home with our favorite grind and paper coffee filters. The result: Drinkable coffee, but usually weak.

We bought a cool little coffee press designed for camping. The result: Decent coffee, complicated preparation.

We’ve packed a tiny bottle of instant Folgers. The result: really bad coffee.

We’ve even gone without.  The result: grouchy campers.

But the camp coffee dilemma has been solved, thanks to Starbucks and its VIA Ready Brew packets. This is instant coffee that actually tastes like really good coffee.  It’s available in Starbucks stores and now can also be found at Costco, Target and WalMart. Twelve packets are $9.95.

Deb Acord

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Still Cold, Snowy in the Colorado High Country

May 26th, 2010
Camping Near Lake City

Planning on camping this weekend?  The region’s late-season snows have taken their toll on campgrounds near the Colorado Front Range. The U.S. Forest Service suggests contacting the ranger district where you want to camp before you head out.

Here’s a roundup:

Leadville Ranger District:  719-486-0749 – All sites are open, but some Turquoise Lake campgrounds are without water and flushable toilets.

Salida Ranger District:  719-539-3591 – Monarch Park and North Fork campgrounds are still closed.

San Carlos Ranger District:  719-269-8500 – Blue and Bear Lakes campgrounds are still closed.

Pikes Peak Ranger District:  719-636-1602 – All sites are open, but the Crags still has snow on the ground.

South Platte Ranger District:  303-275-5610  – All sites are open.

South Park Ranger District:  719-836-2031 – Kite Lake and Selkirk campgrounds are still closed. Jefferson Lake is still frozen, so it’s closed to boating and fishing.

Deb Acord

For a Lifetime

May 21st, 2010
Cheyenne Mountain State Park

The Colorado State Parks Aspen Leaf pass has always been a good deal for seniors. Now, it’s even better.  Governor Bill Ritter signed a law on Wednesday that makes the pass good for a lifetime.

The pass, for Colorado residents 64 and older, allows unlimited access to all Colorado State Parks, as well as discounted camping Sundays through Thursdays (excluding holidays).

For more information, go to the Colorado State Parks website.

Deb Acord

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Snow Delays Colorado Campground Openings

May 12th, 2010
Camping

I know – you’re itching to plan that first camping trip. Before you go, check with the U.S. Forest Service and make sure your favorite campground is open.  Late spring snows have delayed openings at some Colorado campgrounds in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands.

Check the status of these campgrounds before you head out:  Kite Lake, Selkirk, Lost Park, Weston Pass, Kenosha Pass, Devil’s Head, Alvarado, Purgatorie, Bear Lake and Blue Lake.

For information, contact the appropriate ranger district:

Leadville, 1-719-486-0749

Canon City, 1-719-260-8500

Colorado Springs, 1-719-636-1602

Fairplay, 1-719-836-2031

Morrison, 1-303-275-5610

Pueblo, 1-719-553-1400.

For reservations, call 1-877-444-6777 or go online.

Deb Acord

Check Your Gear after Storage

March 24th, 2010
Broken Tent Poles

You took good good care of your gear at the end of last season. Now whether it’s the start of camping, climbing or skiing season, you can just grab your gear and go, right? Actually it’s not the best idea.

I’ve found this out the hard way a few times over the years. Obviously I haven’t learned my lesson since the latest was this last week. We went to Big Bend National Park and camped for the first time this year.

We were busy before going and just grabbed the camping gear that we last used last fall out of the garage. We got to the campground late at night. When I pulled the tent out of the bag, the poles fell out in individual sections instead of corded together.

Just touching the cords in places was enough for them to fall apart. We found out quickly that without the cords to hold the poles together it was impossible to slide the poles through the sleeves. They just kept falling apart.

Fortunately the cords are just needed to hold the poles together to put the tent up. Once the poles are under tension they aren’t needed. By taping the joints together, we were able to set up the tent.

We were fortunate that not checking our gear ended up not being too bad. It was a reminder though that gear should be checked after storage.

UltraRob

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REI Nodder +25 Kids Sleeping Bag in for Review

March 17th, 2010

One thing we learned pretty quickly about camping with kids is they get cold easily at night. Even in the summer here in Colorado, we’ve had it drop close to 30 degrees when we’ve been camping close to 11,000 feet. Once the kids are cold, no one gets much sleep. The last couple years, my wife and youngest have slept together in cheap, bulky sleeping bags that zip together. D, our nearly 7 year old, has been sleeping in one of my old -10 degree winter sleeping bags that has become more of a 30 degree bag.

There have been some drawbacks to D using my old sleeping bag. Because it’s too big for her depending on how she lays, a lot of cold air can come in around her. It is a mummy bag so pulling the drawstring tight helps. The problem is she has trouble adjusting the drawstring herself and can end up tangled up in the extra when it is pulled tight. We’ve also had problems with her unzipping the bag all the way and having trouble getting the zipper started.

With camping season almost here, we’ve gotten her the kids 25 degree Nodder sleeping bag from REI. It’s kid sized so it’ll fit her better. Also the hood uses elastic rather than a drawstring to keep it snug around the head. There’s also Velcro for adjusting the opening.

It has a zipper down each side and they only run about half way down the bag. The stuff sack is attached to the sleeping bag so there are no worries about it getting lost. The stuff sack also can be used as a space adjuster allowing you to shorten or lengthen the bag as child grows.

She hasn’t used it yet but it seems that it will work well and solve the problems we’ve had. I plan to do a follow up post once she’s slept in it some.

Currently the REI Nodder sleeping bag retails for $69.50. REI dividends for members become available next week and along with that will be a 20% off one item coupon. The coupon will be good from March 22nd to April 18. If you buy from REI much, the one time $20 cost for membership is well worth it. I believe buying the membership now also gives you the 20% off coupon.

REI Nodder +25 Sleeping Bag – Kids Specs (from REI)

Specification Description
Temperature rating (F) 25 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperature rating (C) -4 degrees Celsius
Average weight 2 lbs. 8 oz.
Average weight – metric 1.13 kilograms
Shell Ripstop nylon
Fill Polyester fibers
Lining Nylon taffeta
Fits up to 5 feet
Shoulder girth 52 inches
Hip girth 48 inches
Stuff sack size 10 x 16 inches
Stuff sack volume 20.6 liters
Sleeping bag shape Mummy
Gender Kids
Insulation type Synthetic

UltraRob

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Start Your Fire

November 24th, 2009

If you’re a fan of “Survivor,” you know it’s coming – the fire challenge that is an inevitable part of every one of the thousand or so seasons the reality show has aired.

Knowing how to start a fire without matches is part of Survival 101, yet after all these years, very few contestants practice before they’re called up. “Survivor” fan or contestant or not, fire-starting is a valuable skill in the outdoors.

Colorado Springs survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt told me he relies on a metal match for fire starting. “My number one fire-starting tool is a standard metal match that is not embedded in magnesium,” he says.

After metal matches, Kummerfeldt recommends REI’s storm-proof matches that are wind proof and nearly impossible to extinguish. He doesn’t recommend waterproof matches, which are painted with lacquer and are hard to light. Next most effective? A cigarette lighter. “The ubiquitous Bic lighter works,” Kummerfeldt says. “But it’s difficult to use when your hands lose their dexterity. Whatever your fire-starting tool is, it should be able to be used one-handed.”

Kummerfeldt suggests practicing before you head out. “The worst time to get your survival experience is when the experience is happening,” he says. The nuances of fire-starting are illustrated in this Teva video which spoofs outdoor experts like Bear Grylls and Survivorman Les Stroud. Check it out (wait for the ending), then go pick up a metal match and start practicing.

Deb Acord

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Going Glamping?

November 12th, 2009

Don’t get me wrong. I love being comfortable in the outdoors. I’ve been lusting over a Big Agnes sleeping pad for our late-fall camping trips, and I balk at backpacking without carrying a camp chair.

And I’m not even against a stay in a luxury mountain cabin now and then (I wrote about the concept of “roughing it” last year in a column for the Rocky Mountain News).

But when I’m going camping – with a tent – I think part of the fun is packing, unpacking, and setting up the gear.

Apparently, others don’t feel the same way. A recent news story described a special perk at a regional park in Montgomery County, Md. Campers at Little Bennett can pay an extra $25 for the park staff to set up their campsite with chairs, tent, a lantern and propane stove.

The story also details other luxurious outdoor “adventures” – feather beds at a KOA site near Santa Cruz, Calif., butler-prepared meals at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, and hand-woven willow beds on wooden platforms in California’s El Capitan Canyon.

The luxury details are part of a trend to get comfort-seekers out of their comfort zones and away from their technology.

The new trend is called “glamping,” named for the glamorizing of camping. Comfort, technology and service all transform a traditional camping trip.  If it catches on, we might have to retire the phrase “roughing it”.

Deb Acord

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Eating Well – Even in the Winter

November 3rd, 2009

In the 1952 “Your Own Book of Campcraft,” author Catherine T. Hammett enthused about the “new trick” in outdoor cookery – aluminum foil. Today, foil is still a great way to cook if you have a campfire. At home, create meals in foil packets and freeze them. At camp, build a small campfire and bury the packets in the hot coals until they are hot and steamy. Try these combinations: Sausage, peppers and potatoes; stew meat, potatoes and carrots; chicken breasts, Japanese vegetable mix and rice. (Works best to cook the meat at home and freeze it before you pack it up.) When you leave your campsite, don’t forget to take the foil with you.

For camping trips where you don’t have to carry your gear on your back, Jack Daniels from REI’s Denver flagship store says the classic double-burner Coleman stoves are still popular and perfect for those elaborate pancake breakfasts. For backpacking, the newest compact stoves, some practically pocket-sized, are perfect for one-pot meals.

“The iso-butane self-contained stoves and cartridges are a big trend,” Daniels says. “You just screw the fuel cartridge onto the stove, turn it on, light it, and you’re ready to go.”

Not sure what kind of stove you need? REI offers these guidelines:

  1. Think about the kinds of trips you’re planning, and choose the lightest, most compact stove for your particular needs. How many people will you be feeding? What will the air temperature be where you are going? How elaborate will your meals be? Will you need more than one burner at a time?
  2. Look for these features: stoves you can disconnect from the fuel source (easier to store, harder to break); stoves that fold up or collapse; and stoves that can fit inside your cookware to save space.
  3. Choose your fuel.
    • Butane, propane or isobutane blend canisters are convenient, easy to light and burn cleanly. Downside – they are more expensive than other fuel types; you have canisters to throw away and they are not readily recyclable; they aren’t as effective at low temperatures.
    • Kerosene is inexpensive and easy to find, but it can burn dirty and it’s smelly. Downside: Priming is required.
    • White gas, also inexpensive, is easy to find and burns cleanly. Downside: It can be volatile if it’s spilled and it requires priming.
    • Denatured alcohol is a renewable resource that burns very quietly. Downside: It doesn’t put out as much heat as other fuels so it increases cooking times.
    • Unleaded gas is relatively inexpensive and easy to find. Downside: A dirty fuel, it can clog your stove and it’s extremely volatile.
    • Multi-fuel stoves do just what their name implies – they are engineered to burn more than one kind of fuel. Downside: they cost more than single-fuel models and can be hard to maintain.

  4. Decide what’s important for your backpacking or camping needs – average boiling time, efficiency of the stove, and burn time at maximum flame.


How to improve the performance of your stove, from REI:

  • Invest in a heat exchanger (a corrugated metal wind screen that wraps around your pot).
  • Use alcohol to prime your stove.
  • Clean your stove and maintain it at home before you head out.
  • Pour your liquid fuel through a coffee filter.

Deb Acord

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Salomon X Alp Pro GTX Hiking Boots
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The Good, the Bad and the Memorable

September 3rd, 2009
Fall Camping

My family has always preferred fall camping to summer. Our favorite backcountry haunts and favorite trails are uncrowded and the weather is more predictable. We’ve had many nearly perfect camping trips through the years, but for some reason, it’s the ones that weren’t so perfect that stand out in our minds:

The time my boots caught on fire. It was Thanksgiving. It was really cold, so we built a campfire in a fire ring. I put my feet on a stone near the fire and after about 20 minutes, we smelled rubber burning. I backed away from the fire, and after a couple of hours, my boots had stopped smoking.

The time(s) the dog took the fire. We don’t always have a campfire, but if there’s a fire ring and wood available, we’ll build one for warmth, using small sticks and pine cones. Our irrepressible yellow Labrador retriever, Waldo, loved fire for a different reason – it was a collection of sticks. He would wait for the perfect moment to retrieve a flaming stick from the fire and then stand proudly, waving it like a sparkler.

The time the dog retrieved the bait (related to the previous incident.). I mentioned that Waldo was a retriever. We spent a long weekend fishing for brookies in a mountain stream, and each time we would throw a line into the water, Waldo would jump in and retrieve it.

The time we were surrounded by a herd of cows It’s not funny. We were hiking in a wilderness area where ranchers hold grazing permits, when we met a dozen unfriendly black cows that felt they deserved the right-of-way. We were on a narrow path with a raging stream on one side and a steep, rocky hillside on the other. We yielded by crawling up the hill and allowing the unfriendly group to pass.

The time we forgot the food It was OK. We didn’t forget the whiskey.

Deb Acord

Hi Tec Penrith Mid Jr. WP Hiking Boots
Hi Tec Penrith Mid Jr. WP Hiking Boots
Price: $38.73
 
Salomon X Alp Pro GTX Hiking Boots
Salomon X Alp Pro GTX Hiking Boots
Regular Price: $280.00
$209.95 on sale
 
Salomon X Alp Mid LTR GTX Hiking Boots
Salomon X Alp Mid LTR GTX Hiking Boots
Price: $219.95
 


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