Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is all fleece created equal?

Fleece is everywhere.  From cheap fleece pajamas from Target to Performance Fleece from Old Navy to higher priced fleece from say North Face, REI, or Patagonia.  But are they equal?  Will cheap do just as good as the most expensive versions?

Fleece is my fabric of choice for layering my kids at night camping.  Also great for its awesome wicking properties - it will keep a person warm, even if it gets wet. But in my experience you get what you pay for it.  Cheaper fleece pajamas are great for winter nights at home, or maybe as a base layer.  But I've noticed they have about 1 year, maybe less before they begin to pill, degrade and thin.  For example, I bought my daughter a North Face fleece on clearance when she was 2 1/2.  I bought it big and rolled the sleeves.  She still wears it - and I still roll the sleeves sometimes.  There has been no pilling.  No thinning of the fabric.  And it is so warm I worry more about her overheating and sweating, than getting cold.  In the same amount of time we've had this fleece, she has been through numerous Old Navy fleeces that I hesitate to even pass on to her younger sister.

So the bottom line?  When I want my kids warm, I invest in their fleece.  I scour my favorite outdoor sites for sales.  And it has served me well.  Check the state of their fleece before you head out camping, and know the thinner it is, the more air it will let through.  And you don't have to spend a ton! All our kids have REI fleece jackets and have for years - on sale most of them cost only $9.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pre-made Breakfast Burritoes

A camping breakfast REVOLUTION!

Earlier, Hilary Lowe posted an awesome recipe for Easy Breakfast Burritos. Here is another one thanks to Jen Dekorte!  The key points being pre-made and wrapped in foil. Any recipe would probably be great. No prep on those cold camping mornings when it is struggle just to get out of your sleeping bag. And no clean-up when the crew is ready to head out on that hike!  Just toss them in the fire!

So here you go:
6 Eggs
Various veggies
Cheddar Cheese
tomatoes or  1 container fresh salsa/brochette mix
1 bag cubed potatoes/hashbrowns
12 tortillas (spinach preferably)

Scramble eggs, add sauteed onion and mushrooms (or whatever veggies you think would be good). Brown potatoes/ hashbrowns. Roll egg, potato, cheese (Cheddar Tillamook rocks!), diced tomatoes or brochette mix (I did a fresh pico de gallo mix from whole foods) up in a spinach tortilla from Whole Foods (I used red chili tortillas) and roll it in foil.  Store in gallon sized Ziploc.  Toss in fire when ready to eat or pan sere it on your camp stove!  Add sour cream at the end for extra awesomeness!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bugs and Bandanas

We encountered a new kind of mutant mosquito this weekend.  The kind that can sniff out the one square inch of skin that doesn't have repellent on it, and bite... Maybe you've met them before. They bit through clothing.  They flew up pant legs.  But most of all they like to bite your scalp and your face.

Now, to say I am hesitant to slather my kids faces with Insect Repellent is an understatement.  "Here, baby, take a bath in some Off with DEET."  Yeah...

So I found my new favorite camping trick - take that old bandanna you keep in your sock drawer (or a newer one, REI had some cute prints this year) spray the thing down in Off or your preferred brand and tie it on your kid, scull cap style.  Worked wonders.  In fact, I am off to REI this week to get two more - so the kids no longer need to be fighting over who gets our one bandanna, and I no longer need to figure out how to rub Calamine Lotion on their scalp.

Redman Campground - Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT

We were introduced to this campground, located between Solitude and Brighton up Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT by some friends this last weekend.  Bottom line?  5 stars!

What to expect: 41 developed campsites, including large group sites.  Popular for fishing, a scenic stream, and scenic driving. Nearby is the popular hiking trail to Silver Lake. Other hiking/mountain biking trails and rock climbing areas are in the area. 
Location: Go 16 miles southeast of Salt Lake City to Big Cottonwood Canyon, then 13 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT 190.

I'll keep it simple.  Densely forested, quiet, beautiful, clean bathrooms with flushing toilets, and hikes perfect for kids.  It fills up quickly in the summer so call ahead for reservations or talk to the camp host.
For more information visit
On the Hike to Silver Lake.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Deuter Kid Comfort III Baby Carrier

Contributor: Sam and Hilary Lowe
For those serious hikers out there who love to bring their kiddos along, this backpack is perfect for you. There are a lot of backpacks out there to choose from and it can be overwhelming trying to find one that works best. We tried going cheap and used hand-me-down packs that squeaked with every step and sent us sore and achy to the chiropractor. The packs were not only uncomfortable for me, but our little ones complained as well. It became a battle just getting
them into the pack.
Then one spring, we met the Deuter! We went on a hike with some friends who had the Deuter and we didn’t. My husband’s back was killing him and our 2 year old only weighed 20 lbs. at the time. From that day on, we knew the Deuter was the pack for us. Wow, what a difference. No more achy back, no more complaining, and no more squeaking along the trail.
We purchased this back when our 3rd child was on the way and have spent many a hike out and about toting her around. The pack features plenty of storage space (1,200 cubic inches) for water, snacks, sunscreen, and whatever else you may need to bring along. We stuff our Beco ( in too so we have an option just in case our toddler needs a brief ride as well.

In addition, here is a quick list of more great features:

1. Incredibly adjustable. My husband is 6’2” and I am 5’5”. This pack adjusts in minutes
for easy transfer on the trail. The harness also adjusts to sit smaller children up higher.
2. There is a removable plush pillow for comfy napping in the pack.
3. This pack can carry a 40 lb. kid.
4. And a high back headrest with a zip-out sun roof/rain cover which works great shading
our baby and keeping her dry during a rain storm.
5. The buckle system is color coded for ease of use and safety.
6. Well worth the price tag ($298)!

As with most things, some cons exist:

1. The high back headrest is a bit tall and hits tree branches and limits maneuverability
through tight spots. This con just takes getting used to.
2. The pack itself starts out a bit heavy (6 lbs. 13 oz.) and is bulky when packing it in the
3. We have the 2010 version and the zippers on the pockets are difficult to open and close.
The 2011 version has a different zipper design that works better.
4. It’s expensive.

Happy hiking!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Awesome/Easy Breakfast Burritoes

Easy Camping Breakfast for the Whole Family
Contributed by Hilary Lowe :

All you need is a frying pan for these scrumptious easy burritos:

½ cup cooked cherrizo or sausage
1/2 cup torn spinach
6 eggs
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
5-7 flour tortillas
1 frying pan

Heat the pan on your camping stove and add the meat and cook until warmed.  Add the spinach.  Crack the 6 eggs into the pan and add the cheese.  Stir to combine.  When the eggs have cooked completely, scoop an eye-balled ¼ cup of the mixture onto a flour tortilla and enjoy.  You don’t even need a plate or a fork.  These burritos taste great with a cup of hot cocoa or your favorite coffee.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jordanelle State Park - Camping/Boating/Fishing

Located: Between Park City and Heber City, UT off of HWY 40.
Admission‎: Day Use $7 - $10 Camping $16 - $20

Payment accepted‎: Visa, Master Card

Activities/Services: picnic areas, beach access, boat launch and rental, canoe/kayak, general store, fishing, tent/RV camping, playgrounds.

Our adventure at Jordanelle started off a little rough.  A 10 minute line of cars entering + having reserved one of the only campsites without a tent pad + realizing we forgot the kids sleeping bags and beach towels + lots of debris in the water due to high water = wondering just what the outcome of this overnight was going to be...

But it turned out fine.  It was so hot we didn't need towels after swimming, some friends that arrived later brought us extra sleeping bags, and we popped our tent on the cement (not too comfortable).  Lessons learned?  Check the contents of our trailer one last time before leaving and be very sure of what site you reserve- taking note of proximity to the water, the bathrooms, shade and playgrounds if those things are important to you.

Overall, we probably won't go back.  Jordanelle is one of the closer mountain reservoirs to the Salt Lake Valley, making it very crowded with day trippers and RV over-nighters.  Campsites are close to each other, so either your crying kid keeps everyone up or the drunk neighbors keep your kids up.  The swim beaches are gravel at best, and mostly rocky with 1-2ft banks that are hard for little kids to negotiate.  Be willing to deal with lots of people if you go on a hot weekend in the summer.

On the plus side - beautiful location, very kid friendly and free warm showers at the end of the day!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Southwest Salad

I simply had to share this recipe!  It is quickly becoming our favorite.  Keep chilled in a cooler for a great camping salad or accompany with Tortilla Chips as a snack.

1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tin of kernel corn, drained
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
(optional) 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced

Whisk together:
1/4 c. olive oil
juice from 2 limes
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper

So easy! Enjoy it :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Strawberry Yogurt Pops

 Here is a recipe my friend Anna Letvin, mother of two, adapted from "Turtle" magazine, a preschool magazine her son, David, gets.  She loves cooking and is pretty great at it! For more great recipes visit her blog, "Good Gifts" at .

This recipe is sure to keep them cool in the outdoors!

Strawberry Yogurt Pops

What you need:

Blender or food processor
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup whole fat plain yogurt
1-2 Tablespoons honey (depending how sweet you like it)
1/4 cup apple or orange juice
Frozen pop molds OR Paper cups, foil and popsicle sticks OR Ice cube trays


Place strawberries in blender and puree until smooth.  Add yogurt, honey and juice and blend all together.  Fill molds and place on tops. Freeze for 4 hours or until firm.  Enjoy!

:  Fill paper cups 3/4 full and place a piece of foil over each.  Make a slit in the foil and poke a popsicle stick through.  Freeze in ice cube trays and serve in a bowl with a spoon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Froggy Potty

One small trick we learned for toddlers is to bring our little training potty - known as the Froggy Potty in our household, with on any camping trips.  A great addition for those toddlers recently potty trained and unable to hold it the 5 minute walk to the outhouse.  Or say the kids terrified by "the big black hole."  Or say the kid who hasn't mastered going in the forest and inherently soils those precious warm layers you packed.   Also great for early morning/middle of the night trips that are so much worse when you are stumbling around in the dark and cold, trying to get your little one to go quick so you can get back to your sleeping bag.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Keeping your Infant/Toddler Warm at Night

Recently, I was asked by a few friends for any tips on keeping their babies warm at night while camping. So hear are my thoughts:

1. If they are under 1 year old, sleep them in their infant car seat. They usually love them anyways, it is only for a night or two and they are really warm. Especially if you have a Bundle Me ( in there with them. And then you don't have to pack a pac-n-play.

2. Depending on how cold it is at night I usually layer as follows - onesie, light weight long johns (we have REI brand), fleece pants and top, long sleeve sleep sac, sleeveless sleep sac, down coat/vest, hat... and yes, then they cannot really move. And this is the most layering we have done - probably 40 degrees at night. I would probably just use sleep sacs and a hat- with a tighter fitting long john or sleep n' play underneath if it was 60ish degrees. We have a lightweight Patagonia hooded long john top (pictured) that I LOVE because I can pull the hood up to keep Esme's head warm at nights, yet it isn't so bulky that she fights it or has it pull down over her face while she sleeps.

3. We've found the biggest factor in keeping them warm is what is beneath - when they are older, a good camping pad rather than just on the ground does wonders. Pac-n-plays (awesome for containment at night) are off the ground - making then much cooler because of the air flow underneath- good in warm weather but if you are worried about them being cold I would maybe layer a thick blanket on top of the pack-n-play pad but under them.

4. You can test how cold/hot they are by feeling the back of her neck, that is how I usually check throughout the night, cause it will be coldest 3-5am.

5. Don't layer them up too early, they'll sweat, then get really cold. We've made that mistake. Often, when I wake up to pee at 2am, I add a sleep sac or hat before I go back to bed.

6. We recently purchased a tent heater. I cannot comment yet on how successful it is, but will after a few more trips with it!

7. When in doubt, scratch all this and let them climb in the sleeping bag with you. My kids just don't do well sleeping with mom and dad.

Strider Bikes!

We love our Striders and they go everywhere with us. They are marketed as a "No Pedal Balance Bike" teaching kids to balance and steer before the complicated task of pedaling. We got our first Strider for our son at about 22 months old. One plus: as they transition to pedaling, they never need training wheels!

The Striders load easily in the car and are great to bring to parks, on walks, camping, or on road trips for the necessary pit stops.

Why we like Strider brand verses other balance bikes:
1. Light weight - 7 lbs. making it easy for kids to maneuver and carry on their own.
2. Foot rails for standing up on once they have mastered balancing.
3. Very durable, with wheels that can never go flat.
4. Thoughtful engineering - see the video at for more details.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Beco II Butterfly-A Must Have

We have three kids. But the number of kid transportation devices we have is simply ridiculous. We have had: an umbrella stroller, a single jogger and a double jogger, a double sit/stand stroller, two bike trailers, a co-pilot bike seat (kind that mounts behind), a Bjorn, a REI framed kid backpack complete with Camelbak pouch and two Becos. That is right, at $140 a pop, we still have two Becos-we love them just that much. And they are far and wide our most used item for toting a kid on our adventures. We even have our babysitter (in picture) use one when she comes along!

Now they aren't fail proof, a few hours with a kid over 20 lbs. might make the shoulders ache a bit, but over all here is why we LOVE them:
1. The kid is close, keeping them safe and you balanced on your feet.
2. They can be worn on front (infants) or back for toddlers up to 45 lbs.
3. They are made in the USA.
4. They wash easily and are durable.
5. They can be rolled into a fanny pack size when the kiddo wants to travel on their own.
6. They are cute and stylish for those times you don't want to appear like you've been hiking all day.

Definitely a 10 Ten Must Have for any of our trips.

The Infamous Johnny Jump-up

Why describe when an image can speak a thousand words! There are few places our Johnny Jump Up hasn't gone. An excellent entertainer, kid container, keep them out of dirty and happy with a snack item.

Be Willing To Go

Here is the thing I've noticed about mothering. Okay, maybe two things...okay maybe three. I'll try to limit it to three: 1. It is hard and tiring. 2. With it comes an unhealthy dose of worrying. 3.These two things can take over your whole life.

This spring I made a choice: to be willing to go or do some of the things Chris wants to do. Not just let him go alone, but go with and do it with him.

As I am about to enter my fifth year of being a mom, I've realized how much I have imprisoned myself by just not being willing. I am tired. I am up most nights at least once. After we crossed into the world of three kids, I ended each day feeling as though I ran a marathon. There is little or no down time. So Saturday would roll around, Chris would come up stairs with a slightly envisioned smile and suggest we go to this new climbing spot he read about or go for a hike, or drive to the mountains, etc. He wanted to go on an adventure and he wanted to take his family along with.

And my response? I am too tired. I don't want to deal with cranky kids who don't get their naps. That sounds like a lot of work. Then I would move onto previously mentioned (#2) : Well, how exposed is this hike, how far is the approach to the climb? What if they fall off a mountain? What if they get bitten by a snake (I have a thing with snakes.) And my mind would fill with all sort of images of my kids being swept downstream or teetering on the edge of a cliff. And soon my 1. tiredness and 2. worry would take over my life, my mothering, and most significantly my wife-ing (if I can make up that word). I wasn't willing to go and I was, therefore, missing a part of my husbands heart.

Recently, I've jumped in with the adventure mentality and I've seen Chris come alive in ways I never expected. And myself as well. I am learning to have fun again. And yes, it can be a lot of work. And sometimes you look at each other at the end of the day and say, "well, that didn't work." But often you find things you love to do as a family. And you find creative ways to make things work. And you and your partner learn how to work as a team in accomplishing these things. And every now and again, you get chased off a climb by swirling black clouds and rock breaking lightening, run down the mountain to get out of the fierce downpour, climb into your warm car, look at each other through dripping hair and muddied hands and say, "Lets get outta here!"... with a huge smile on both of your faces.

We were talking about this one day and I said, "I think as a mom it is hard to want to go cause it is so much work. I think most mom's are not willing and continually tell their man, 'no'." Chris responded by saying, "You have no idea...that is exactly what happens, all the time."

I was at a marriage retreat this last march and the pastor's wife asked the question, "Who do you want to be for your husband?" She answered, "I want to be the one who will run away with him." I so resonated with this. Cause when I look back at my daily dealings with Chris, often what I am being (or trying to be) is his caretaker/mother(yikes)/maid/friend/co-worker/bookkeeper/task manager. But who do I WANT to be? I want to be his partner in crime. The one who runs off with him on some crazy and wild adventure. So now I am trying to start acting like that person. And now I would ask you, who do you want to be for your husband? And are your actions in line with that?

I recently blogged on this topic over at Lessons In Semantics in a series about marriage but I thought I should share it here too. For the complete series visit

Mission Statement

This blog was born out of need...our need to get back outdoors again after having 3 babies in semi-rapid succession and fumbling our way through how to do it. In truth, there is no fail safe bullet list that will make your weekend trip an adventure. However, there are many things we have learned, many things that helped ensure our success, and many more that led to our demise that we want to pass on.

On this blog we are hoping to provide creative ways to keep the kids warm, happy and fed. Along with stunning locations to keep the parents warm, happy, and soul fed. There will be gear reviews - for better or worse. And hopefully some articles from "guest bloggers" and kindred spirits we have met along the way that share our love for the outdoors. Or perhaps it is the love of tackling a challenge, taming it, fine-tuning it, and making it work for you.

So join us on our journey. Exhilarating at times and painful at others. And please, share your own tidbits as well.