Zamp Solar Install

It has been hard to peel away from parenting duties to work on the Sportsmobile.  Parts have piled up over the past few weeks, but we are slowly making our way to getting them onto the camper.

Sportsmobile, Dodge, Pop Top, Zamp Solar

After looking through our existing solar set up, we realized we had a cheap generic solar charge controller and a heavy aging panel (about 40 lbs for the panel).  While it works, we were looking at upgrading our solar set up to a higher quality set up that will protect our house battery (proper charge profiles, temperature shut off).  Our goals were to: 1) add a panel to the roof of the van using our existing square bars, 2) make the set up light enough so the penthouse top would not be difficult to lift, 3) make it easily removable (so we can carry our paddle boards), and 4) make it expandable. Continue reading

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Gear Review: GoLite Imogene UL3 / MyTrailco Tent UL3

Updated 2/8/2017

Quick and Dirty
Gear Type: Tent
Material: Rip Stop Nylon
Weight: 48 oz
Price: $300 (discontinued) / $249
Link:  GoLite Imogene UL3 (discontinued) / MyTrailCo Tent UL3
Pros: Light, free standing, pop-up vent hole, seam sealed.
Cons: Small vestibule, shorter than competition, pointed roof, very little pocket storage, feels smaller than competitor.

P1040426-1 Continue reading

Dog Sleep System

When we first started backpacking with Dakota, we had a lot of questions about gear. Does she need a pack?  How about boots?  Jackets?  Suffice to say, Dakota is probably has enough gear to rival her human counterparts.  The biggest question was about her sleep system.  While some dogs have thick coats and are suited for cold weather, Dakota’s short coat does not retain enough heat to keep her warm.

While on one of our trips, the weather turned from a 75 degree day, to dipping in the low 30s at night.  Dakota was freezing.  Her Rough Wear jacket (photo below) and bed were not keeping her warm enough, instead, she forced her way into our quilts and huddled close to our bodies.

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To decide on the best sleep system, we looked at several factors:

1. Weight – It needs to be light enough to keep her pack weight low, and keep her mobile

2. Size – A small form factor matters. Dogs need to be nimble enough to navigate through technical terrain.

3. Warmth – Why else would you buy a sleep system?

We found three options that worked best were, but not all satisfied the requirements.

A thick coat

We bought a cheap and thick dog coat at our local pet supply store for about $20.  The coat keeps Dakota warm at night and has holes for her legs to pop through.  The problem we found is that it is bulky, heavy, and not designed to be used for backcountry camping. Dakota could not carry the coat on her own, and it added a good pound and a half to our pack weight.

An old sleeping bag

IMG_20140426_141503We had an old Suisse Sport sleeping bag in our gear closet with a broken zipper. Originally, we were planning to cut the bag up and use it as a quilt system.  Instead, we used it as a full sleep system for Dakota.  Bottom folded up into a bed, and the top wrapped around her body, keeping her warm in cold weather.  At two pounds, it was relatively lightweight, Dakota could carry it with ease and this increases her cuteness factor by at least 10 fold.  However, it didn’t stay on her very well, and when she moved around at night, we would have to get up to fix the bag so she would stay warm.

A child size quilt

IMG_20141009_173243By far the best solution was a child size quilt with snaps on the back.  We purchased a used Enlightened Equipment  Protege quilt.  The Protege quilt was designed as a child’s size quilt, but is perfectly suited for a dog her size.  The snaps allow Dakota to walk around freely with the quilt on in the morning, move around the tent as she pleases, and stays securely strapped to her.

We’d love to hear what are some ways you keep your dogs warm during backpacking trips!

Trail Report- Momyer Creek Trail

The Quick and Dirty:
Location: San Bernardino National Forest
Distance: 11 miles round trip
Terrain Type: Steep elevation gain for the first 3 miles, trail not maintained at some parts
Difficulty:  Moderate
Best Time: All year round, water is abundant throughout the trail!
Special Conditions: Permit needed for over night camping. One of the lowest points in San Gorgonio, water is available pretty much all year round.

Duration: 2 days

We headed out to San Bernardino National Forest a couple weekends ago for a quick one night backpacking trip. The weather was gorgeous, perfect for a fall hike near home.

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First Look: REI Flash Air Pillow

Quick and Dirty
Gear Type: Pillow
Trail weight: 1.25 oz
Price: $19 (on sale), $29 retail
Link:  REI Flash Air Pillow
Pros: Ultralight
Cons: Air moves around the baffles, small surface area.

REI Flash Air PillowAlright, I caved in.  After years of using a stuff sack and dirty clothing, I ran into a problem: I do not carry a lot of clothes on the trail.  That lead to my impulsive purchase of the REI Flash Air Pillow (Flash).  For $19, it was worth a shot.

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