Camping Hacks: When Your Tent Poles Break

Coleman kenai tent

Our tent in happier times, when the poles were fully intact.

By Heather

Darren and I have recently experienced personally the two ways in which tent poles can break: the shaft can split and the elastic inside can snap.

We learned about that latter failure this weekend. After we unloaded the car, we started the work of putting up our tent. I held up the bag of poles, dumped them on the ground and was surprised to see a couple of loose poles not attached to anything.

What the hell happened? It’s a mystery for the ages. When we packed up after using them last time, they were intact.

If you lie awake at night worrying that this will happen to you, I have solutions!

Problem 1: Splitting Tent Poles

Do not fret. The solution to this is a cinch: duct tape. Wrap it around, ensuring that you not only cover the split, but the area above and below the split.

Problem 2: Broken Elastic

The solution to broken elastic was surprisingly simple: plastic clothesline. And I really lucked out in finding it, because we just happened to be camping near a very well-stocked store. In most other places I can think of, we would have been SOL.

Clothesline works so well because it’s slightly stretchy and slightly stiff, has clean ends so you can easily thread the tent poles and it has plenty of length so you can chop off what you don’t need.

When you’re stringing together your poles, leave the clothesline a little bit slack so you can fold the poles back up when you’re finished using them.

Lesson learned

Duct tape is an essential we always keep in our supply bin, but clothesline is a new one. Now we will never leave home without it! It seems like it could come in handy for a number of things.

Keep a 50- or 100-foot package of clothesline in your bin and you’ll be totally prepared if and when your tent poles crap out!

Camping Weekend: Table Mountain

By Heather

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a getaway. Booooo.  We hit our favorite spot once again: Table Mountain and Steve nabbed our favorite site!

There were SNAFUs, but we made the best of them: broken tent pole, busted can opener, a hole in the tent wall, a forecast for temps in the 90s that was wildly off and…rain!

This weekend also turned out to be the farewell performance for our first tent, which finally crapped out after serving us well for more than three years. Steve gifted us his old tent, which he will be replacing with something smaller and lighter for a road trip this month. It’s a pretty sweet tent, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!

nabby doggy door tent

Nabby kept an eye on things while we slept.

pimm's cup

A number of Pimm’s Cups were consumed.

pimms cup ingredients

Here’s what I use to make Pimm’s Cups. No cucumber. Bitters isn’t traditional, but it sure rounds out that orange flavor.

reading by the fire

Darren and Steve read by the fire.

reading in the tent

I spent time bundled up in the tent reading about North Korea.

table mountain sunset

We watched a lovely sunset.

corn on the cob

We made grilled corn on the cob.


And California had a freak rainstorm. Where did THAT come from?!


8 Reasons to Spend Time in Nature

By Heather

I love this post from Daring to Live Fully.

Taking in fresh air and a pretty view while camping does magic for my mental state. But for me, hiking has really become where it’s at.

You know how laughing out loud at something when you’re alone means that you’ve really been gotten? Yeah.

I’ve had stupid big smiles on solo hikes that feel like they’re coming right out of my heart. It soars when I get that burst of clean air, that rush of wind, that summit and that panoramic view of the ocean. I can never believe any of it, that I’m doing it, that I love it so much, that it’s so, so beautiful, that I get to experience it, that I’m lucky to have the ability to do it.

After every hike, I feel powerful and accomplished and completely still. Nothing else has ever given me this feeling. The more I have it, the more I want it. And I’m so lucky to live in a place where I can get it as often as I please.

Thanks, Nature. You’re awesome.

Read 8 Reasons Why You Should Spend More Time in Nature ›

Debunking Buzzfeed’s Camping Hate Roundup

By Heather

I get it: camping is not for everyone! I didn’t even think it was for me just a few years ago and would have related to and wholeheartedly agreed with nearly everything on Buzzfeed’s list of things people who hate camping hate about camping.

A lot of the gripes in the article are true: there might be bears, there are nasty plants, there’s a lot of dirt. How well you cope with that is just a matter of preference. I won’t argue about any of that.

But let’s be fair: some of the items on this list are just silly.

While some things—bugs, dirt, weather—are non-negotiable and non-controllable, you’re not helpless against the things you don’t love about camping. There’s a lot you can do to improve your comfort level, depending on how far you’re willing to go: you can purchase outdoor showers if you need to be spotless at all times, you can get hot water on demand if you need warm water and so on.

What Buzzfeed Got Wrong

1. The sun will wake you up in the morning.
Not if you’re wearing a sleeping mask! I don’t use one at home, but camp mornings can be a little intense. Put a sleeping mask on your face and you are going to sleep like a baby. A BABY.

2. It’s “boring as hell.”
No, bored people are boring. There are a ton of things you can do to have fun while you camp. Don’t be that loser who can only entertain themselves with an X-Box. Or, at least don’t admit it.

3. If there’s no cell reception, you’re screwed if you get lost.
Ah, the immortal words of John Muir. Wait. No they’re not! While this is technically true, planning ahead should fix that. If you’re hiking, stay on the trail and have a map. Make sure someone knows where you’re camping and when you’ll return.

4. Sleeping on the ground is a horrible, horrible idea.
Totally agree. That’s why I protect my princess backside with a Coleman double high air mattress. I ain’t no fool!

5. Camping on those little stoves is horrible.
It’s not ideal, for sure. That’s why we use the fire! (And the Perfect Campfire Grill, natch).

6. You will freeze your ass off at night.
Again, you do have control over whether you freeze at night. Pack a warm hat, socks, jacket, layers of clothing and have a nice, warm sleeping bag and a flannel pillow and you’ll sleep like a warm, cuddly baby. Bonus warmth for having a dog or two! If you have room and your dog likes it, put him in the sleeping bag with you. It’s the best.

7. Starting a campfire is not easy.
I don’t think the person who wrote this article has attempted to start a campfire. Ever. Yes, it’s difficult if it’s windy, but that’s when you bust out the fire starting paste. If you haven’t planned in advance and find yourself in a tough fire-starting situation, pine needles and pine cones ignite nicely. We always have lighter fluid on hand, too.

8. Fires are forest fires waiting to happen.
Yes, they are if you’re being a jackass! If you follow the rules regarding where to build your fire, building your fire to a particular size and materials you can put in the fire, it’s unlikely you’ll start a forest fire. How often have you heard of a forest fire being started by a responsible camper?

2014 Camping Gift Guide

By Heather

Sure, it’s July, almost August. Call me nuts, but this is when I start brainstorming holiday gift ideas because buying great gifts is hard. When I wait until the last minute, my gifts suck. This is for all you earlybirds out there.

Is there a camper in your life? I can guarantee your camper likes new gear and is always looking to add to the mix or upgrade some old stuff.

Try one of these ideas on for size:

1. Handmade cold weather gear. Campers can never have too much warm weather gear, and it’s even better when it’s handmade by someone you love: gloves, hats, scarves, socks. If you’re a knitter, knit your favorite camper something! Don’t knit? There’s always sewing. Whip up a flannel pillowcase or shirt, or sew some dish towels or pajamas!

perfect campfire grill

2. The Perfect Campfire Grill. If your camper likes to cook on the fire ring – burgers, steaks, vegetables, fish – get them this and get ready for some raves. We use ours all the time and it’s a must-have on every trip. And it was a gift to us! Our review of The Perfect Campfire Grill.

3. Hammock Bliss. This hammock is super light and packs down to the size of a cantaloupe, making it perfect for backpackers and car campers alike. Swaying in this hammock is dreamy. Our review of Hammock Bliss.

ranger doug general grant poster

Ranger Doug

4. Ranger Doug prints. These posters are amazingly beautiful and even more vibrant in person than they are on the website. We have one for Kings Canyon (left) in our home; my parents have Sequoia in theirs. My desk is plastered with the note cards, which get a ton of compliments. I want to cover my car in those stickers. If you know someone who’s a national park enthusiast, anything from Ranger Doug will make a great gift for them. Ranger Doug’s online store.

5. REI French Press. Making coffee outdoors is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s even better with this handy French press. Steve has one and we use it on the regular! Get the REI French press here.

6. Manual coffee mill. If you know a coffee freak who also is a coffee snob, then a manual coffee grinder might be just the thing for that perfect cup. Get it at Uncommon Goods.

7. Hanging Camp Cupboard. We hate how quickly a campsite can become a disorganized mess if you’re not on top of it. This camp cupboard keeps your picnic table from being the repository of all of your crap! Get the hanging cupboard at Cabela’s.

8. Coleman LED string lights. Because they’re adorable, duh! Get them here.

bugaboo base camper

9. Bugaboo Cookset. We use and love the large Bugaboo Base Camper. (Our review here). It’s one of the best camping purchases we’ve ever made. The set looks so pretty, cleans easily, packs together neatly and goes into a nice storage bag that doubles as a washbin. We haven’t used it for dishes, but it’s good to know if we ever need to. Get the Bugaboo Base Camper here.

10. Playaboule Lighted Bocce Ball set. Camping and lighted things go hand-in-hand. It’s something fun to do after the sun goes down AND you can take cool time lapse photos. Get the lighted bocce ball set here!coleman camp oven

11. Coleman camp oven. Baking while camping isn’t the easiest thing. It can be done, but why fuss with the campfire when you can control the heat in your very own camping oven? That folds completely flat? You know you want it! Get the camp oven here.

12. Make a gift basket. If you can’t decide on that one perfect thing for your camper, throw a bunch of perfect things into a gift basket. Things like trail mix, coffee, coffee mugs, homemade granola, nuts and even a bottle of booze will be greeted with much enthusiasm!

13. Books. The other great pleasure in life is swaying in a hammock with a good book. Why not gift your camper with books from other lovers of nature? The Journals of Lewis and Clark are a great pick. John Muir’s musings are pure poetry. Or how about a book about a hiker who trekked solo across the Pacific Crest Trail? Regina highly recommends that one.

14. Topographic water bottle. These topographic water bottles are sweet! Darren has one for Yosemite. It’s sturdy, durable and the cap locks on super tight, so that sucker isn’t going anywhere. And it’s a pretty way to show off your favorite park. Get the topographic water bottle here.

15. Cocktail kit. Drinking is an important component of camping. You’ll want alcohol to relieve the stress of getting there and setting up (Friday traffic is the WORST in Southern California), to refresh during the day and warm you up and night. Drink in style! This basic Bartending Kit is reasonably priced. Here’s a beautiful but crazy spendy kit for the person who has everything. Throw in a Rum Runner Cruise Kit (which work for their stated purpose too, by the way) or some mini bottles and you’ve just given the greatest gift ever.

If there’s a gift you’ve gotten and loved, please share! We’re always looking for cool stuff.