Be proactive against tick-borne diseases this summer

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blacklegged-tickTicks are always a concern in the outdoors because they can carry bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a host of lesser-known viruses, like ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Although tick-borne diseases tend to concentrate in the western, southern and eastern states, the problem is rearing its ugly head this year in the upper Midwest and southern Canada. A Minnesota child recently died from Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

If ticks are a potential problem in the area that you are planning to camp, there are some proactive steps you can take to protect your family. Ticks are most commonly found on bushes and tall grass, where a passing animal is likely to brush-up against them. Sticking open spaces, like the middle of a trail, is your best defense against ticks. This includes setting-up your tent away from bushes, tall grass and overhanging branches that could provide ticks access to your shelter and your family.

permethrinClothing can be another line of defense against ticks. Although I prefer to hike in shorts, if I am hiking in a potentially tick-infested area, it pays to cover as much skin as possible and that means hiking in pants. Khaki colored pants are even better, since the dark-colored ticks will be easier to spot. Make sure to give everyone in the family a thorough tick-check during water and snack breaks, particularly around the waistline. A good practice is to tuck pants into socks and spray the pant legs, socks and boots with a permethrin product, like Sawyer’s. Permethrin lasts much longer on clothes than DEET, but it should only be used on clothing and not directly on skin.

If you routinely camp or travel outdoors in tick-infested areas, you can plan finding a tick on your body, at some point. This is not a cause for panic; a tick has to be attached to your body for 24 to 48 hours in order to transmit a disease. It needs to be removed as soon as you find it, though, so this means carrying tweezers and antiseptic with you on hikes. Tweezers are the only recommended method of removing ticks, so forget the old practices of burning or smothering with nail polish. The Center for Disease Control has a very good page on tick removal here.

See also…

Resources: Free eBook: Introduction To Family Camping | Authentic Whitewater Family Excursions | Outdoor Gear for Pets and People

Plan your Labor Day family camping weekend now

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apache-national-forestLabor Day is only four weeks away, but even if you have not yet made reservations for one of the most popular camping weekends of the year, there are still plenty of great campsites available all over the country. Here are ten great places I found this weekend that still have numerous open campsites available for Labor Day Weekend.

Joseph Stewart State Park, OR

Land Between The Lakes,  KY

Bolar Mountain Recreation Area, VA

Big Lake Recreation Area, AZ

Bear Brook State Park, NH

Norway Beach Recreation Area, MN

Lake Lowndes, MS

Mound Valley, KS

Jim Hogg Park, TX

Three Lakes, MI


I am surprised that Joseph Stewart State Park still has campsites available, as it is definitely a great family campground, and it is close to Crater Lake National Park. As of Saturday it still had 14 campsites available, which just goes to show that if you think it’s too late to make reservations for Labor Day, you just might be wrong.

See also…

Resources: Free eBook: Introduction To Family Camping | Authentic Whitewater Family Excursions | Outdoor Gear for Pets and People

Keep Mosquitoes Away While Camping

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No one wants their camping trip to be ruined by mosquitoes. Check out the following information on how to keep mosquitoes away while you’re camping.

The first thing you need to do is to protect yourself. This means wearing long sleeves and long pants whenever practical based on the weather. Mosquitoes seem to be attracted to darker colors, so choose light colors when you can. If you’re camping in an area where mosquitoes are prevalent, you might also want to consider treating your clothing with special mosquito repellents made for clothing or perhaps investing in pre-treated clothing. However, be aware that the repellents that are designed for clothing can’t be applied to the skin. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding their use and laundering.

The parts of your person that aren’t covered by clothing should be treated with a mosquito repellent. The most effect ones contain various concentrations of DEET. Depending on the concentration, a product with DEET can protect you from 2-5 hours without re-application. There are also some naturally-derived repellent products on the market, but they require more frequent reapplication to be effective.

If you don’t want to have to worry about slathering on some repellent, there are some products that are available in the form of towelettes, which may be easier for you to carry around. Whatever you choose, follow the label directions carefully when it comes to application and removal. Don’t apply mosquito repellent to broken or irritated skin, or to skin that will be covered by clothing. If you don’t have a combination sunscreen and mosquito repellent product, you’ll usually get better results by applying sunscreen first, then the repellent. Don’t forget the back of your neck!

Now that you have your person protected, it’s time to think about your campsite. First, your tent should have a mesh door – keep it closed at all times to keep mosquitoes out. This is also a good time to think about using that mosquito repellent for fabrics again. If thing are really bad, you can even use a mosquito net inside your tent. Netting is also a good way to protect yourself when you’re sitting outside and eating or cooking. Many outdoor stores sell square tent-like structures with net on the sides to keep mosquitoes away from your campsite.

A camp fire is also good for keeping mosquitoes at bay, as they don’t like the smoke. Depending on your camp site, you may or may not be able to have a campfire and you may or may not be permitted to keep it burning all night. Always follow the rules and regulations of the site where you’re camping.

In areas where mosquitoes or other flying pests are prevalent, you may want to consider treating the area. One of the newer products available is a portable device that uses butane to infuse the air with repellent over a 15 foot by 15 foot space. There are models designed especially for camping, as well as mini-models designed for easy portability. Just a few of these would provide effective mosquito protection over your entire camping area, allowing you to enjoy your camping trip without the constant threat of mosquitoes.

Car too small for family camping? Try a Tow-N-Stow

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tow-n-stow-trailerLet’s face it, not everybody has a pickup truck or a monster SUV to carry the tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, firewood, and all of the other associated gear and gadgets that help make a weekend family camping adventure fun and enjoyable. There is a new utility trailer / bicycle-canoe-kayak rack /storage shed, called the Tow-N-Stow™, which just might be your ticket to family camping without giving up the economy car.

tow-n-stow-storageDid I say storage shed? That’s right, when you are not using the Tow-N-Stow to haul your camping gear (or bark mulch for the backyard), just stand it up on its end and the Tow-N-Stow looks just like a standard yard-tool shed that you would find at any home improvement store. It’s completely weatherproof, lockable and can even be equipped with shelves to hold all of your yard care tools. Best of all, the Tow-N-Stow doesn’t take up any space in your driveway.

tow-n-stow-bikesThe Tow-N-Stow weighs about 400 pounds, so it’s towable with just about any vehicle that can be equipped with a Class I hitch, and it can haul up to 1,000 pounds. It has cargo rails that accept all of the popular roof racks, so it’s great for hauling bicycles, canoes, and kayaks, in addition to all of your camping gear and supplies.

I did a quick web search and found the Tow-N-Stow on The Home Depot® for $2,699 which is cheaper than the combination tent and utility trailers on the market (see Pop-up Tent Trailers), which run from about $4,000 to $6,500. Unlike the Stow-N-Go, though, you still have to figure out where to store a tent trailer.

See also…

Resources: Free eBook: Introduction To Family Camping | Authentic Whitewater Family Excursions | Outdoor Gear for Pets and People

The Mother of all Ice Chests

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Photo by mali mish on Flickr

Photo by mali mish on Flickr

A friend of mine took his family camping a few weeks ago and he told me that he’s totally fed up with trying to keep things cold for a week using only a cooler and ice and asked me what I thought about the 12-Volt refrigerators that are on the market. Honestly, I haven’t heard too many positive things about these, not to mention that then you have to deal with batteries and chargers and all of that associated overhead.

engel-ice-chestWhile I was looking around at the various 12-Volt refrigerator coolers, I stumbled across Engel® and their excellent looking line of rugged ice boxes.  It looks like their focus is on sport fishing, but these roto-molded ice chests feature a full two inches of polyurethane insulation and a freezer gasket in the lid for complete sealing.

Engel makes a 65-quart model that is dimensionally very similar to my 70-quart Igloo®, at 30” x 17” x 17”. It’s a lot heavier, at 28 pounds, but that extra weight is providing a lot of additional insulation and durability. Another thing that I like about the Engel are the positive-locking latches on the lid. One of the challenges I always face in making my ice last is that the kids never get the lid closed on my Igloo, because it just uses friction and you have to push on it hard to get the lid seated. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think the kids might actually close the lid if there were latches on it.

Of course, all of these neat features come at a price. You can pick up a 70-quart Igloo for $60 to $70, but a 65-quart Engel will set you back a cool $200 to $260. I’m confident, though, that by following good ice chest practices (see How to Use an Ice Chest), like pre-chilling and using block ice, the Engel will easily keep your food and drinks cold for a week of camping.

See also…

Resources: Free eBook: Introduction To Family Camping | Authentic Whitewater Family Excursions | Outdoor Gear for Pets and People