Archive for March, 2009

How to Buy Hiking Boots

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Good quality hiking boots aren’t cheap, but trust me – the expense is well worth it! If you’re planning a major camping or hiking outing, the last thing you want is a pair of cheap boots that causes you injury or falls apart in the middle of your journey. The following are a few tips to help you select the right pair of hiking boots.

Buy from a Hiking or Camping Store

Buying hiking boots is one of those times when it’s best to buy from an expert on the subject. If you’ve never purchased boots before, a professional fitter will help determine which pair is best for your feet. If you have wide feet, fallen arches or any other condition that requires special shoes, you’ll need to find hiking boots that accommodate these needs. A professional salesperson who has an extensive knowledge about the different styles of hiking boots available will be able to find the best fit for your needs.

Think Support

When you try on a pair of hiking boots, the first thing you should look for is good support in both the arch and the ankle. The arch of the boot should feel comfortable, but not too high. While you can expect the arch to settle slightly with use, an insole that feels uncomfortably high is unlikely to give enough to fit correctly. In addition, the upper portion of the boot should feel snug around the ankle, but not so tight that it will chafe with regular use. The upper boot will help to protect the ankle from rolling or twisting while hiking, but again, don’t expect it to give too much if it feels uncomfortable on your first fitting.

Examine the Construction

As with regular shoes, the way hiking boots are constructed will vary. Some boots are attached to their soles with glue only, while others are supplemented with stitching. Once you’ve narrowed down your selection of hiking boots, closely examine the construction of each of your finalists. Is the sole made out of a durable material? Is the boot made out of high quality leather, or does it feel cheap to the touch? Does the tongue appear to be connected firmly to the boot? If you have any concerns about the construction of the hiking boot, see if there’s another pair that feels better – the last thing you want is for your boot to come apart on your trip!

Consider Cost

Of course, cost shouldn’t be your first consideration – cheap boots are just that, and put your whole vacation in jeopardy. However, expensive hiking boots can easily run as much as $300 or more, so it’s important to find the right fit for both your feet and your budget. The price of the boots is often an indication of the quality of the materials used in their construction, so you’ll need to find a balance between cost and value. Spend as much as you can afford to, without taking out a second mortgage to do so.

How to Build a Campfire

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

You don’t need a Boy Scout merit badge to build a roaring fire at your campsite – all you need are a few simple supplies and the following technique.

To get started on your campfire, there are a few things you’ll need to gather, including matches, newspaper, twigs and logs of varying thicknesses. It’s probably easiest to bring the matches and newspaper from home, although you may be able to find a camp store nearby that carries these items. You can find twigs around the campground, and you can even make it a game for small children to see who can gather the most. As for the firewood, drive around the community surrounding your campground. You should be able to find at least one home that has firewood stacked for sale with a “scouts honor” cash box.

As a note, many campgrounds are asking that campers refrain from bringing firewood from home, in order to control the introduction of emerald ash borers and other pests into managed forests. Don’t waste valuable car space bringing firewood that you may just have to throw out – wait until you get to the campground to purchase firewood locally.

When you’re ready to start your campfire, begin by crumpling up several pieces of newspaper and stacking them in the middle of your fire ring. Don’t ever try to start a campfire in anything other than the cement-filled fire ring located on your site – this could have disastrous results! The best time to start your campfire depends on what you plan to do. If you intend to cook lunch or dinner over the fire, start it at least an hour ahead of time to give the coals time to form. If you’re only interested in roasting marshmallows and spending the wee hours with friends and family around the fire, shoot for a mid-evening start.

Once you have a small pile of newspapers built up in the middle of your fire ring, begin to stack the twigs vertically around the newspapers, forming a small tee-pee over them. You don’t need to completely cover the newspapers with twigs, but you do want to include enough so that the twigs will burn long enough to catch the heavier firewood on fire. Next, add pieces of firewood briketter around the twig tee-pee in the same structure. For best results, make a pyramid of three thin pieces of firewood over the twigs, and then add 2-3 heavier logs around the perimeter.

Once your structure is set, light the newspaper in several places around the fire ring using the matches you brought along. The goal is for the newspaper to burn long enough to catch the twigs on fire, which in turn catch the thin logs and then the heavier logs on fire. If the newspaper goes out before catching the twigs, add more, being careful to avoid any pieces of paper that are still on fire. Once the fire is going, keep an eye on it, using a separate stick to nudge any falling pieces into place. At the end of the night, be sure to douse any remaining embers with water to be sure the fire doesn’t spread overnight.

Easy to Prepare Campsite Meals

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

When you’re packing up for your big camping trip, the last thing you want to do is to weigh down your car with all the extra pots, pans and kitchen utensils you’ll need to prepare your favorite meals over the camp stove.  You also need to pack sensibly when it comes to perishable foods – nothing will ruin your camping trip quite as quickly as spoiled meat or potato salad.  If you’re stuck on what to pack for your camping trip, read on for more tips on easy-to-prepare campsite meals.

Breakfast

Check your local grocery store for pre-mixed pancake batter.  In most cases, all you’ll need to do is add a certain amount of water to the package, shake to mix and pour onto a fry pan on your camp stove.  To round out the meal, pack a few eggs and some strips of bacon.  Cook the pancakes first, then the bacon and then the eggs – they’ll pick up a nice outdoorsy flavor from leftover bacon grease in the pan.  Just be sure to eat this meal within the first day or two of arriving at your campsite so that the eggs and bacon will still be fresh.  After the fresh stuff is gone, cereal and toast (check your sporting goods store for a camp stove toaster) can get you through the rest of your trip.

Lunch

Lunchmeat and deli cheese make great lunch sandwiches for the first day or two you’re at your campsite, but if you’re going to be around for longer, you’ll want to pack some non-perishable items as well.  If sandwiches are your thing, consider peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese – their ingredients will keep longer in your cooler.  You can also try things like canned spaghetti or soups that heat up well in only one pot.  Be sure to pack plenty of goodies – like cookies, crackers and other snacks that will help round out your meals and keep hungry kids going until mealtime.

Dinner

When you’re making dinner at your campsite, you have a couple different options.  For an authentic camping experience, consider roasting hotdogs on sticks over the fire.  Just be sure to purchase pre-cooked hotdogs – there’s no guarantee that an over-excited 8-year-old will evenly roast a hotdog to an internal temperature of 160o!  If you have a Dutch oven or tripod for hanging pots over the fire, you can also experiment with stews (either canned or pre-mixed from home) or by cooking baked potatoes in the fire. 
If you’re working with a camp stove, you’re options are only limited to what food products you can bring with you or purchase from a local store.  With a single fry pan and sauce pot, you can cook up dinners as complicated as ham steaks and rice pilaf or as simple as canned ravioli and green beans.  You can also ask at the campground check-in station for directions to the nearest pizza place. If it’s nearby, you may be surprised to find out that they’ll deliver directly to the campground.

Above all, when you’re planning meals for your upcoming camping trip, think food safety first.  Meat products and any salads should be eaten within a day or two, since the temperature of your cooler isn’t as stable as your refrigerator at home.  Milk, cheese, eggs and condiments have a slightly longer shelf life, provided you ice down the cooler regularly and make sure that the items are as buried in the cooler as possible.