Stellar Camping Tips and tricks for camping and backpacking Tue, 22 Dec 2020 21:56:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Stellar Camping 32 32 How to choose a sleeping pad for winter camping Tue, 22 Dec 2020 21:56:41 +0000

A well-insulated pad is a critical piece of gear for winter camping. How should you choose the right sleeping pad for your winter camping adventures? Read on for advice about the best sleeping pads for cold weather.

Sleeping pads are essential because they provide both cushioning and insulation. Although snow may provide an element of natural cushioning that’s not present in warmer temperatures, insulation is all the more important in winter. Your body can very easily lose heat to the ground in cold temperatures. Plus, if your pad isn’t well insulated, your sleeping bag will not perform to its temperature rating.

Insulation is measured in R-value, a standardized system. The system works roughly as follows:

  • R-value 2 and under: very little insulation, so only appropriate for warm weather use (or as supplemental insulation)
  • R-value 2- 4: generally good for three-season camping, down to about freezing
  • R-value 5 and up: designed for very cold conditions or particularly cold sleepers

Depending on how cold it is in your locale, you’ll probably want a pad with an R-value above 4 or 5 for winter camping. An alternative strategy is to use two separate pads with a lower R-value.

Of course, insulation isn’t the only feature to consider in a pad. The features important to you may depend on whether you’re car camping or backpacking, and also whether you’re a side sleeper, a cold sleeper, or a sleeper who craves extra comfort. Here are some of the major features to consider:

  • Length: In general, longer pads are more comfortable, but length also adds to weight and bulk. Taller folks may want 76-inch pad, while shorter campers may be content with a 66-inch pad.
  • Width: If you’re relatively large or want extra comfort, you can choose an extra-wide model.
  • Shape: Single pads may come in mummy or rectangular shapes or variations. Rectangular shapes add to comfort but also to weight.
  • Women’s specific: Women’s-specific models are often wider at the hip area and narrower at the shoulders. Because women tend to sleep colder, these pads may have extra padding for your torso and feet as well as higher R-values.
  • Weight: Ultralight air pads and foam pads can weigh less than a pound, but most pads weigh more. Weight is key for backpackers, but car campers can disregard this variable.
  • Packed size: Some pads pack down extremely small—even to the size of a can of soup. Again, this is important for backpackers but not for car campers.
  • Noise: Air pads, in particular, can make distracting crinkling noises, especially when new.
  • Material: Textured or brushed fabrics are less slippery than nylon, helping you stay put at night. Higher denier, such as 50+, leads to better durability—useful if you’re camping with a dog!
  • Ease of use: Self-inflating pads tend to be easy to use because they partly fill on their own once you open the valve. Dual valves are speedier than a single-valve style, and one-way valves also promote ease of use. Easy-to-use pads are especially important in cold temperatures when your hands may be numb.
  • Warranty: You may want think about how good a pad’s warranty is if you’re buying a type of pad more prone to damage, such as an air pad.

There are four main types of pads designed for camping (though car campers can always improvise with other forms of cushioning from home).

Air pads are comfy, lightweight, and compact, though many of them don’t provide great insulation. Air pads must be packed carefully to avoid damage. Because air pads are more prone to punctures than other kinds of pads, it’s critical to bring a patch kit (which pads usually come with). The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm is an excellent option for cold temperatures, boasting an R-value of 6.9. Another good choice for the winter (though not for extreme cold) is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (R-value: 4.2). It’s available in a slightly toastier women’s model (R-value: 5.4). Also check out the Exped MegaMat Lite 12 (R-value: 5.2). In super-cold temperatures, you may want to supplement your insulation by placing a closed-cell foam pad under your air pad.

Self-inflating pads are sort of a cross between an air pad and closed-cell foam pad. They’re somewhat bulky and heavy compared to many air pads. They’re relatively easy to use because once you open the valve they mostly self-inflate, and then you blow a little extra air in. Try the REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL Self-Inflating Deluxe Bed (R-value: 6.6), the Nemo Roamer (R-value: 6), or the REI Co-op Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad (R-value: 7.6).

Closed-cell foam pads do not inflate but rather are made up of super-dense foam with miniscule closed air cells. Though these pads are lightweight, relatively cheap, and durable, they don’t have enough insulation to use alone in cold temperatures. But they can be placed under other pads to boost comfort and insulation. Great options include the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol (R-value: 2.0) and the Nemo Switchback (R-value: 2.0).

Sleeping pads for car camping is our super-technical name for pads that are heavy and bulky and that have camping-friendly features (unlike the air mattress you may keep in your closet for houseguests). Some of these pads come in double sizes. Good winter options include the Exped MegaMat Max 15 Duo Sleeping Pad (R-value: 10.6) and the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 (R-value: 8.1).

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Trip report: Rio Grande National Forest camping, May 2020 Sun, 29 Nov 2020 01:14:13 +0000

Our first Colorado camping trip this year was in the Rio Grande National Forest, west of the San Luis Valley.

In May, it can still be frigid and snowy in the Colorado mountains, so we chose a lower-elevation destination. This being Colorado, that meant around 8,000 feet above sea level, on the eastern slopes of La Garita Mountains.

rio grande national forest camping photo

After arriving and unpacking, I noticed that a large insect had unfortunately gotten stuck between our front license plate and bumper. Looks like a dragonfly, but I’m no entomologist. Sorry, buddy.

rio grande national forest camping photo

Spring can be super windy in Colorado, and we endured our share on this trip.

Normally, I’m not a big fan of wind because it can interfere with drone flights and kick up dust that clouds landscape photos. I also feel like it saps my strength and drains my body’s water balance.

But in the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, we’ve learned to break out the kite and take advantage of windy times. 

Our campsite wasn’t anything special–more a convenient spot to pull off the side of a remote dirt road on public lands. But our campsite did afford wonderful solitude and expansive views of the surrounding landscape. At sunset, I found the most interesting thing to photograph was the silhouette of the horizon. 


For the first time, we brought along a telescope. I bought a Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ at for $160 and it seems like decent equipment, but I struggled to figure out how to operate the thing. I’m much more comfortable pointing a camera lens and found it hard to keep objects in focus. 

To keep my tripod stable, both for the telescope and camera, I pile a bunch of rocks into a simple nylon pouch and hang it to make the platform sturdier.

At night, the waxing moon cast shadows. With that much light, it’s hard to photograph the Milky Way, one of my favorite camping activities. But it’s a great time to break out a camera with a telephoto lens and capture lunar images like the one below.

I’m currently poring over a fascinating visual guide to our solar system and just learned that temperatures on the moon range from -413°F in permanently shadowed craters to 248°F while broiling under the sun.

All those craters are a potent reminder of how many times the moon–and Earth–have been struck by asteroids and meteorites, sometimes with devastating consequences. I find these features both beautiful and slightly unsettling!

Ginette was excited to find some pasque flowers, which are early bloomers and harbingers of spring.

Looking back on this Rio Grande National Forest camping trip, more than six months ago, I can better appreciate that it was a salutary infusion of nature after many weeks of hunkering down in our Denver home as the pandemic started spiraling out of control. 

It took a while for us to find our campsite, but after picking a spot, we saw neither hide nor hair of anyone else and enjoyed the solitude while bonding as a family.

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Our top 13 camping gift ideas for the 2020 holidays Fri, 27 Nov 2020 00:31:10 +0000

Is a camper on your gift list this year? If so, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got a list of camping gift ideas for this holiday season that will help your camper enjoy many happy trips to come.

  1. Customized Nalgene Sustain water bottle. The Sustain bottle by Nalgene is made with 50% recycled content and is BPA free. You can customize with colors of your choice and your own images!
  2. Patagonia gift card. Outdoor enthusiasts love Patagonia’s durable and stylish products. And you can feel good about buying from Patagonia. It’s a certified B Corporation, meaning it meets rigorous standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and accountability.
  3. Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps. The piney flavor of this liqueur is holiday appropriate and also makes great cocktails to enjoy tent-side. See the recipes at the product link. One of our favorites is the Alpine martini, made of pine liqueur, gin, and dry vermouth.
  4. Luci Solar String Lights, available with white or colored These solar-powered, lightweight lights on an 18-foot cord can be used camping, in the backyard, or on any adventure. They’re rechargeable with solar power or via USB.
  5. Moore Collection screen-printed t-shirt. Moore Collection, based in Denver, makes a variety of charming and stylin’ tees and other apparel with outdoor-themed prints.
  6. The gift of tree planting. The Nature Conservancy is a highly trusted environmental organization that’s working to plant a billion trees across the world, helping to preserve clean drinking water, improve air quality, and halt climate change. $50 can plant up to 25 trees!
  7. Little Sun Diamond. Designed by world-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson, this lightweight, solar-powered lantern is reminiscent of a diamond and works wonderfully at camp. For each product sold, one is donated to rural Africa.
  8. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs. In this well-reviewed book, explorer Tristan Gooley engagingly explains how to learn about your surroundings through close observation of the outdoors.
  9. Garmin inReach Mini portable satellite communicator. If your loved ones camp or explore in far-flung locations, this lightweight satellite communicator offers the gift of peace of mind.
  10. Teva Ember Moc. This versatile shoe is advertised as “part sneaker, part sleeping bag” and is perfect for around the house or around the campsite.
  11. L.L. Bean Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag. These virtually indestructible toiletry kits are perfect for a car camping trip or a weekend getaway. Bonus: they come in fun colors and designs.
  12. Big Agnes Insulated Tent Comforter. If your favorite camper has been known to get chilly at night, this is a great gift. The comforter, which is water-resistant on one side, can be used under sleeping pads as an added layer of insulation, as a regular blanket, or even as a picnic blanket.
  13. LifeStraw Water Filter. This super-lightweight water filter is also super-easy to use. It’s an important piece of survival gear, and one that won’t take up much space.

If the camper on your gift list needs a tent, sleeping bag or other equipment, check out our gear pages for other camping gift ideas.

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Top 10 ways to scratch your camping itch this winter Mon, 23 Nov 2020 01:04:51 +0000

  1. Go winter camping

Winter camping in a truly wintry location requires a shift in your expectations and gear choices. But winter camping is an unforgettable experience. You can see nature in a whole different way—and without worrying about mosquitos or throngs of people. You’ll want to read up on winter camping before trying it to make sure you’re well prepared. Check out these helpful guides from REI, Backpacker, Sierra, and Cool of the Wild.

  1. Drive to a warm(ish) location and go camping

Is camping in the snow and ice a little much for you? Luckily, the southern United States, from Florida to Texas to California, has winter temperatures that are downright pleasant for camping. If you don’t already live in one of those areas, pack up your tent and take a road trip!

  1. Plan an amazing future camping trip

Some special camping trips—like guided rafting trips or a tour of national parks—require lots of advance planning. Take this opportunity to plan your next awesome camping trip for when warm weather returns.

  1. Watch camping movies

Classic camping-themed movies include:

  • Wild
  • Stand by Me
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Great Outdoors
  • The Blair Witch Project (not for the kids!)
  • Into the Wild
  • Without a Paddle
  • Deliverance

  1. Organize, repair, and replace camping gear

Winter is a great time to take stock of your camping gear, as detailed in our post on storing your gear for the off season. Clean up and organize the gear you casually tossed into a dark corner after your last camping trip. Examine your gear for holes, broken zippers, and the like. Either repair the gear yourself or send it out for repairs (one option is Rainy Pass Repair). If you need to replace gear or buy new gear, winter is the best time to find good deals.

  1. Camp at home

If you’re not up for a winter camping adventure in the wild, try a camping “adventure” right at home! One option is to brave your chilly backyard in a tent. Another option is to set up a tent right inside your house. To make it fun, turn down the heat, build a fire in the fireplace, switch off electric lights and set up lanterns, project images of stars on your ceiling with a projector, use an app to play sounds like crickets chirping and frogs croaking, eat mac-n-cheese, make s’mores, and read camping-themed books with your headlamp!

  1. Create a camping photo book

Scroll back through photos of your favorite past camping trips and create a photo book using Shutterfly or a similar service.

  1. Outdoor activities

Daytime activities aren’t quite the same as overnight camping, but you’ll still get a taste of the camping experience when you hike, snowshoe, ice fish, or the like.

  1. Rent an RV or camper van for a road trip

Likewise, though sleeping in a vehicle isn’t the same as tent-camping, a road trip in an RV or a camper van checks many of the same boxes! Outdoorsy offers camper van and RV rentals, and RVshare offers RV rentals.

  1. Read a book about camping

Some much-loved books about camping and the outdoors for adults include:

  • Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
  • A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
  • Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
  • The Wilderness Idiot, by Ted Alvarez
  • The Unlikely Thru-Hiker, by Derick Lugo
  • Edge of the Map, by Johanna Garton
  • A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
  • Deliverance, by James Dickey
  • Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson
  • Stories Behind the Images: Lessons from a Life in Adventure Photography, by Corey Rich
  • Out There: The Wildest Stories from Outside Magazine, by editors of Outside

Great kids’ books related to camping include:

  • Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping, by Peggy Parish
  • Bailey Goes Camping, by Kevin Henkes
  • Curious George Goes Camping, by Margret & H.A. Rey
  • The Camping Trip that Changed America, by Barb Rosenstock
  • A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee, by Chris Van Dusen
  • When We Go Camping, by Margriet Ruurs
  • The Lost Lake, by Allen Say
  • Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
  • My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
  • The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
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Trip report: Berthoud Pass backpacking Sat, 07 Nov 2020 23:22:47 +0000

Our sole backpacking trip of the summer was short but sweet.

We camped one night near Colorado’s Berthoud Pass and did a day hike up to a vast, wind-swept plateau above 12,000 feet.


It was only about two miles from the trailhead to our campsite, though nearly all of that was a pretty steep uphill climb. We opted to leave the main trail and set up our tent near the Berthoud Pass Ditch, one of the earliest attempts to bring water from across the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range.

It was a bone dry summer, but we were grateful to see plenty of wildflowers and make the trip before some terrible wildfires clouded Colorado’s skies for months, destroyed homes, and caused massive evacuations.

Our campsite was next to a large boulder field that had lots of pikas and marmots. Pikas, which are related to rabbits, look a little like a gerbil or hamster. These boulder bunnies are very sensitive to high temperatures. As a result, they’re vulnerable to climate change since they already live near the tops of mountains and can’t go up any higher to find cooler conditions.

Marmots are another common sight in the boulder fields of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. They’re much larger than pikas and related to ground squirrels. We’ve read about marmots raiding tents and backpacks, so we were extra careful about stashing our food. I spotted at least two of them around our campsite. They’re not exactly shy with their piercing chirp and a tendency to use rocks like pedestals for perching above their surroundings. 

Two years ago, we did a similar backpacking trip, but we couldn’t travel far since our daughter was only four. On this trip, however, she was much speedier and had enough energy after the backpack to do a 4-mile day hike.

After setting up our tent and having a bite to eat, we set out along the main trail to see if we could reach the top of a ridge in the distance. Ginette had been up there once before and had enjoyed the expansive views, so we were motivated and blessed with fair weather.

At the top of the climb, around 12,000 feet, we were rewarded with a 360-degree view from a broad plateau close to the Winter Park resort, one of my favorite places to ski and snowboard. I could see the top of the Panoramic Lift and much of the route I’ve hiked to access the Vasquez Cirque, a steep, circular basin akin to a amphitheater that was formed by glacial erosion and now offers some amazing, ungroomed runs during a brief window in winter when there’s enough snow.

Our dog Phoebe enjoyed playing in some of the snowmelt that was leftover from last winter. She’s a Portuguese water dog living in Denver, so imagine her delight in swimming. 

The clouds started building up on our way down and we felt a couple of drops, but the skies never threatened and we took our time getting back to the campsite. Once there, we were treated to a fantastic display of mountain convection, with the clouds boiling up above the Continental Divide on their way out to the Great Plains.

For dinner, we kept it simple and just ate some sandwiches we’d brought from home, thereby obviating the need to bring a stove, cookset, and utensils. The skies above us cleared up but the setting sun lit up the remnants of the cumulonimbus clouds that we’d watched build up above the peaks along the Divide: James, Parry, Eva, Flora.

We turned in early, but not before a beautiful sunset. While car camping, I tend to stay up late to do astrophotography, but the only thing I was carrying on this backpacking trip was an iPhone, so I was happy to crawl into my sleeping bag after a long day’s hike.

The next morning, we woke up in accordance with the wishes of the kid and dog, but thankfully not too early. The Divide to our east delayed the sun from cooking our tent and when I emerged, somewhat later than my compatriots, I was surprised by how warm it was, given our elevation around 11,500 feet.

We ate a simple breakfast of pastries brought from home and played for a little on the rocks while the pikas and marmots chirped and squeaked. Then we packed it in and headed down the mountain. Compared to car camping, the simplicity of backpacking is a real treat.

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Storing camping gear for the off-season Sat, 31 Oct 2020 23:14:25 +0000

For most campers, fall and winter are the time to stow our camping gear until camping-friendly temperatures return in the spring. Here we’ll provide a quick run-down of the critical steps to ensure your camping gear successfully weathers the winter. Storing camping gear properly can save you money!

Storage locations for camping gear

You may want to keep camping gear somewhat accessible so that it’s available for use if you’re lucky and hit a spell of nice weather (or if you want to use some of your gear for other purposes, like sleepovers). Choose a cool, temperature-controlled location away from direct sunlight. Options include under your bed, a closet, or a basement. Be wary of storing your gear in a shed, garage, or attic, because pests and extreme temperatures may cause damage. To keep bugs at bay, try a lavender sachet.

Taking stock before storing camping gear

It’s a good idea to look over your gear before stowing it to see if any repairs need to be made. Winter is the ideal time to send gear out for repairs, in particular. Also, if you determine that items need to be replaced, you may be able to score a good deal on new gear during the off season.

Storing a tent

  • Clean dirty spots with a non-abrasive cloth/sponge and a specially designed cleaner like Nikwax Tech Wash or diluted soap
  • Dry thoroughly
  • Lightly roll your tent, or otherwise store in a way that doesn’t compress it
  • Consider cleaning and lubricating zippers

Storing sleeping bags

  • Spot clean your bag if not too dirty, or perhaps thoroughly clean it, following the manufacturer’s directions – check out REI’s comprehensive guide to washing sleeping bags
  • Store your bag hanging up, lying flat, or in a large mesh or cotton bag – not in a stuff sack or waterproof bag
  • Consider cleaning and lubricating zippers

Storing sleeping mats

  • Spot clean dirty areas
  • Make sure the mat is thoroughly dried (inflating and deflating a few times can help reduce moisture inside)
  • Don’t store compressed, and keep valves opened

Storing lamps, stoves, and other devices

  • Remove flammable material
  • Gas canisters should not be stored indoors, if possible
  • Remove batteries from the devices they’re used in to prevent corrosion

Storing backpacks

  • Make sure no crumbs are lurking at the bottom that might attract pests
  • Hang in a location that rodents would have difficulty reaching

Storing camping food and cookware

  • Check that food won’t expire during the winter, and if so, eat it up
  • Keep food where pests can’t reach it, such as in a plastic bin with a lid or your bear canister
  • Make sure your cookware is fully clean and let dry before storing
  • Don’t leave soap in a container with food, because food can take on a soapy scent
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Why aspen trees are so amazing Sat, 03 Oct 2020 00:27:32 +0000

Aspen are one of the most beloved trees in the United States, known for the lovely rustling sound of their leaves in a breeze, their unusual white trunks, and their golden hue in autumn.

Aspen are found throughout the American West, in the northern reaches of the Midwest and Eastern U.S., as well as in much of Canada. In fact, the quaking aspen is more widely distributed than any other native tree species on the continent. According to Audrey DeLella Benedict, “Aspen is one of the few plant species that can grow in every ecological zone except alpine tundra.” Oddly, the tree is rather fragile, being susceptible to snow damage and windthrow.

Aspen typically grow by means of root sprouting, which produces clones. Clone groups are distinguishable based on leaf shape, fall color, and other characteristics. An aspen clone called “Pando” in southern Utah is a single organism covering 100 acres, weighing more than 14 million pounds, and clocking in at 80,000 years old.

Aspen’s role in ecosystem

Many plants and animals depend on aspen forests. An individual beaver may consume about 1,500 pounds of aspen bark each year. Fungal diseases are common in aspen, causing the development of cavities that serve as homes for a wide variety of birds like owls, wrens, swallows, bluebirds, nuthatches, and chickadees. 

In the winter, small rodents like mice and voles may munch on aspen bark located under the snowpack, where they forage for food while awaiting spring. Elk are also prolific eaters of aspen bark, causing extensive scarring on trunks. Bears sometimes climb aspen trees to dine on bird eggs and nestlings, leaving distinctive claw marks.

Aspen forests are in jeopardy, with many stands in Colorado and Arizona seeing massive diebacks. The decline is thought to be related to droughts.

aspen range map
Map of quaking aspen's range. Source: Data Basin


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New vs. used vs. rental camping gear Sun, 27 Sep 2020 23:01:00 +0000

In the market for camping gear? Of course, you can visit your local outdoor store or friendly online retailer and pay top dollar for new-model camping gear. But that’s not the only option—you can also find bargain-price new gear from various retailers, buy “pre-loved” camping gear, or rent gear. Read on to find out more about how to choose between new, used, and rental camping gear and for some excellent resources in each category.

New camping gear


  • You can find the specific item, brand, functionality, and style you want
  • Nearly certain to be in great condition
  • Often carries good return/warranty policies


  • Can be very expensive
  • You may commit to a pricey item you don’t really use or need
  • Owning gear can require significant storage space

Used gear


  • Can be lots cheaper than new gear
  • Often is not used heavily – some individuals and outfitters change out gear each season
  • You can try out different options before investing in new gear
  • Buying used may enable you to afford a top-of-the-line brand
  • Better for the earth – reusing equipment and clothing saves water, reduces pollution, and lessens waste


  • Gear may have been returned because it didn’t perform well
  • Gear may have damage, unpleasant stains or odors, or mold/bug issues
  • Selection is more limited
  • Can’t always be returned
  • Owning gear can require significant storage space

Rental gear


  • Less expensive than buying
  • Packages of equipment are available to suit your needs
  • Conducive to trying out new types of gear or activities, like backpacking, before committing to them
  • No need to store and maintain the gear
  • Rental experts can provide advice about the equipment
  • Gear is likely to be in reasonably good condition
  • May be better for the earth than buying new gear, depending on how the gear is picked up or delivered


  • You may not feeI comfortable renting more personal items like sleeping bags
  • Costs can still add up
  • Less convenient, and tied to a rental schedule
  • You may be liable for the full cost of the gear if something happens to it

Below are some resources for campers hoping to find bargain camping gear, used gear, or rental gear.


Bargain sites for new camping gear


Where to find used camping gear


Where to rent camping gear

  • Local outdoor outfitter stores
  • Outdoors Geek (rental cost can be put toward cost of purchasing gear)
  • Gearo (marketplace for rental gear)
  • LowerGear (rental gear shipped nationwide)
  • Arrive (rental gear delivered)
  • Gear to Go Outfitters (nationwide backpacking gear rental)
  • Mountain Side Gear Rental (camping gear delivered nationwide)
  • Some colleges/universities rent outdoor gear to students and to the general public
  • Borrow from friends and family!

Finally, check out these webpages that list great ongoing deals on camping equipment:

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A quick guide to camping etiquette Fri, 25 Sep 2020 23:06:41 +0000

As the popularity of camping surges, many folks relatively new to the great outdoors are heading to campsites. If you’re one of those people—or if you’re a seasoned camper who would like a brief refresher—the following tips on camping etiquette will serve you in good stead.

Camping etiquette tips

  1. When possible, travel, camp, and walk on durable surfaces – in particular, avoid trampling vegetation, wet meadows, and cryptobiotic (living) soils in deserts.
  2. Don’t drive your vehicle on undisturbed areas; stick to established roads and tracks.
  3. Either pack out or bury human waste and toilet paper (see our peeing/pooping page for more details).
  4. Mind the level of your music, voice, and noise in general – many campers value quiet enjoyment of nature or have kiddos who need quiet for sleeping.
  5. Never leave any garbage at or near your campsite.
  6. Identify and follow applicable rules, like fire bans.
  7. Don’t alter a campsite any more than necessary; leave trees, plants, and rocks as you find them.
  8. Minimize campfire impacts by using existing campfire rings, not building fires under rock outcroppings that can be scarred by smoke, not burning trash, and of course ensuring your campfire is completely extinguished.
  9. When near other campsites, drive slowly to keep kids and pets safe and to minimize dust and noise.
  10. Observe wildlife from afar and quietly (except bears, who you should warn of your presence with noise), and never feed wild animals.
  11. In a dispersed setting, avoid camping close to others’ campsites, unless that’s typical of the area.
  12. Keep your dogs under control, follow leash rules, prevent excessive barking, and pick up pet waste.
  13. Don’t walk through other people’s campsites, and give other campers privacy and space.
  14. Dispose of wastewater in an appropriate location, away from water bodies and tents, and don’t wash dishes in a bathroom sink.
  15. Keep lights pointed down, not in other campers’ direction.
  16. Only burn firewood from less than 50 miles away, to avoid causing insect infestations.
  17. Respect campground facilities, like bathrooms.

Learn more about Leave No Trace

Many of these tips are drawn from the Leave No Trace principles, a set of guidelines designed to help ensure humans minimize their impact on the natural environment and fellow visitors. Visit the Leave No Trace website for more information.

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Tips for choosing a camping sleeping bag for kids Mon, 21 Sep 2020 01:28:39 +0000

Are you trying to find a great kids’ sleeping bag for camping? Read on for tips!


First, you’ll want to think about sizing. Dead air in sleeping bags reduces their insulating capability, so don’t choose a bag sized for a 5-foot tall 12-year-old for your 4-year-old munchkin!

That said, you won’t want to shell out for a new sleeping bag every year, so do buy a bag that has some extra space. You can always stash extra clothes or a hot water bottle in the bottom of a too-big bag to help maintain warmth.

Remember that when kids’ feet push up against the bottom of a bag, the insulation is compressed and that part of the bag won’t stay as warm. So don’t stuff your kiddo into a too-small bag! Some kids’ bags are adjustable, meaning you can zip off the portion that’s too long.


Next, what temperature will your kid be sleeping in? Bags come with a rating for the coldest temperatures they’ll work in, but it’s best to assume that a bag won’t be quite as warm as it promises. Temperature ratings are based on the assumption that a sleeping pad will be placed underneath the bag for extra insulation.

Mummy-shaped sleeping bags are often somewhat warmer, but rectangular bags tend to be more comfortable. For most kids’ needs, rectangular will work just fine.


When it comes to materials, there are lots of totally charming sleeping bags for kids made out of cotton (looking at you, Crate and Kids Llama Sleeping Bag!). But for camping you really need materials designed for the outdoors like nylon and polyester, which perform well when wet. (Remember the risks of both rain and pee.)

As far as internal insulation, lots of adult bags feature down insulation, but kids’ bags are likely to have synthetic insulation, which does far better when wet. On a related note, you’ll want to make sure zippers are both snag-free and heavy-duty, since kids may test zippers’ limits.


For most of us, budget is another important factor. This is particularly true for kids’ bags, since you may need to replace the bag every few years due to growth and to wear and tear. Fortunately, kids’ sleeping bags tend to be pretty affordable.


Most kids need a sleeping bag for car camping, but kiddos heading out on a backpacking trek will want the lightest possible model that will keep them warm. Aim for a bag weighing around 2 pounds.


Here are a few models of kids’ sleeping bags worth checking out:

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