Monday, June 22, 2009

Camping: After Action Report

Ok, it's time for some thoughts and reviews.

I know our camping trip only lasted about twelve hours, but to be honest it was only ever supposed to be a short, local trip to test out our gear and to make sure there wasn't something we really needed that was totally off our radar. Let's just say that it was a good thing we did.

The first thing I want to talk about is our 'Ozark Trail' 9x8 Dome tent. This tent is just totally unsuitable for hot weather camping. As I said in my last post, we left the rain-fly off and only zipped the screen door in order to keep the inside as cool as possible, but even though the tent was pitched in 100% shade and we got in it over an hour after dark, it was as if we'd bought a solar heater instead of a tent.

Basically, inside it was too hot to breathe or sleep, and even though the gauze-screen door and roof stopped any air from getting in and out, it didn't actually stop any bugs from getting in. Since the tent was pitched the door was opened twice for about 20 seconds a time. Once so we could change clothes and the second time so we could put the air mattress in. However, despite the fact the tent was shut tight the inside was still infested with gnats and mosquitoes when we got in for the night.

In hot weather, or in areas with a high bug population, this tent is simply unlivable. Quite simply, it felt like trying to sleep inside a sealed latex balloon, and that was without putting the rain fly on and only zipping up the screen door. However, as long as it stays waterproof, considering it got at least 20 degrees hotter inside the tent and stayed that way, I'm pretty sure this would be a good cold weather tent

Completely changing gears, the Weber 'Smoky Joe' grill we bought was perfect, especially when teamed with the chimney starter we bought. It's the perfect size for two or three people, it's ultra-portable, holds its heat for ages and doubles as a fire-pit. It's also constructed out of ceramic-coated steel, meaning it's not a huge deal if you have to leave it outside in the rain. The other good thing is that because of its shape and size you don't need much charcoal either. Basically, you can get this grill up to cooking temperature and get it to stay that way for a couple of hours with only about 1/8th of a bag of charcoal.

One of the other things I have to recommend is a hand-cranked LED flashlight. We bought a cheap one for ten bucks from Wally-world that had a built in radio, 'emergency siren' and cell-phone charger.

The first thing I'll say is there are probably more expensive models that work much better, but the radio sound quality was absolutely terrible and used up battery power at a massive rate. The siren for an average camping trip is totally useless, and the geniuses who built it decided to put the siren button right next to the on switch, just so you can shit yourself in the middle of the night when you try to turn on your flashlight and get a siren blast.

Ok, with all those downsides you're probably wondering why I'm recommending it, but something happened to us that proved why they're so handy. While we were unpacking, Sunny managed to accidentally turn it on, which we didn't notice in the bright sunshine until a good few hours later. Had this been a regular flashlight, we'd have been stuck without any light, or would have been in the car driving around looking for batteries. Instead I just cranked the handle for a couple minutes and we were back in business.

The last thing is our Igloo 'Ice Cube' cooler, which I was totally impressed with. We put in all our perishable food, our drinks and a 20lb bag of ice. It spent an entire day of 97 degree heat inside a car and now, three days later, there is still solid ice inside it. You can't really ask for much more from a cooler. I'm convinced that if you put a block of dry ice in the bottom and covered that with a thin layer of regular ice, you'd be able to keep your food cold for five or six hot days.

Basically, the only thing that really let us down was the tent, which wouldn't have been so bad if we had camped somewhere that wasn't so over-run with bugs so we could have cracked the door a little bit.

Oh, and if I ever go camping in the woods again, I'm taking a 12 gauge…there are bears.

1 comment:

Woman atop her Soapbox said...

That cooler recommendation is really good for those who live in the hurricane zone.