The Teton Sports Trailhead +20°F Ultralight Sleeping Bag is much superior to my old similarly priced sleeping bag for one huge reason: the Teton’s zipper never gets stuck. When camping, I usually turn in for the night dead-dog tired and cold. Even though Dad always warns me to zip slowly to not snag the fabric, I always jerk the zipper.
With the old sleeping bag, the zipper would get hopelessly stuck, and Dad would have to fix it while I sat cold and guilty for getting it stuck again. Over the past year I have slept in my new Teton bag on several camping, backpacking, and canoeing trips. The zipper always zooms up, and I begin to feel warm pretty quickly. The Teton’s quality zipper is what makes it stand above others in its price range.
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Flowers are blooming, the Spring weekend holidays have just passed, the trails are calling, the question is, are you ready for some family outdoor time and a good old fashioned adventure? But, you don't have a tent. The old tent is musty and smelly, or too small and cramped, or it's missing all the poles. Whatever the reason, never fear Wenzel is here with a tent that is amazing! Easy to set up by two people in a jiffy. Roomy and spacious for a family with gear! Oh and the important part, this tent won't break the bank.
In addition to all of these great features the Portico offers some other family friendly features that all family tents should have. As any family with kids who are experienced in camping will tell you one of the most frustrating things is dirty shoes in the tent. The Portico offers outer pockets for shoes, sandals, etc on the outside of the tent to ensure your tent stays clean and dirt or mud free during your camping experience. But won't the shoes, socks, sandals, etc. get wet? No way! Especially if the rain-fly is on the tent to not only protect the tent from the elements but also provide a great vestibule to enter and exit the tent without getting wet. This area also provides a great spot to sit in the shade, store some addition gear you may not want in the tent or create some shade to help cool your tent. Simply put this vestibule is another great family friendly feature of the Portico.
In addition to these features the Portico also offers a front facing E-port allowing you to bring in power to your tent (if at a site that has power - or if at home in the backyard) for inflating air mattresses, charging devices or other power needs. With the E-port there is no need to keep the main door unzipped and let in unwanted flying pests.
Space in a tent is always a concern when camping as a family. Many tents are rated for just people, not people with gear or the utilization of substantial air mattresses for added comfort versus sleeping on the ground. The Portico is spaced appropriately to allow for a family with gear and air mattresses to stay comfortably in the tent.
When I get gear to test I am always the primary tester of the gear unless it is for my girls, but I always talk about the value of the product, durability and quality of the item, things my girls don't often consider. They are more concerned with the cool factor, comfort, color options etc. When Wenzel asked me to test and review their new line of family tents I jumped at the chance and wanted to try something new.
I wanted to be the observer, I wasn't going to be the tester this time for these products. I know that many of my readers (hi there!) are avid outdoor gear heads or avid adventurers. But I also know that many of you are also newbies to the outdoor world and need some honest analysis about gear and a helping hand in making the right decision on outdoor gear with a limited budget for your family. So I figured, why not let a a young family, with a "very" active 3 year old boy try out the tent. Oh, did I mention they have never been camping as a family?
Let me introduce you to Sammy (my godson) and his parents Steve and Jaime. Sammy, can't say Uncle Scott... So I am referred to lovingly as "Uncle Snot". (pause in the review for cuteness "awww" and or mild "laughter"). ......................................................................................................................................................................................................... Okay. Carrying on. This, as I previously mentioned was Sammy's first time camping and The Greene's first family camping experience/adventure, a perfect opportunity to see what a newbie family thought of this great tent. Sammy just loves camping in general now, and I think a lot of that had to do with the Portico. The Portico, is now classified by Sammy as "My Tent!".
I have always professed our collective need to get our kids outdoors early and often to show them the simple things and the lessons in life that can only be taught outdoors or made clear around a campfire. But a young family won't continue to return to the outdoors, if they aren't comfortable, at ease and can set up and take down their camping equipment quickly and efficiently. A young family also wont't take the first be step to become an outdoor family if the large pieces of equipment they need cost them and arm and a leg.
Wenzel's group of family camping gear is the ticket for families young and old to get outdoors and build the memories that will last a life time. Video games, tv shows, and apps on phones won't be the memories kids will remember when they get older. Being outdoors catching fireflies, eating s'mores for the first time or picking up sticks for the fire (Thanks for helping me Sammy! - Uncle Snot appreciates it) will be the things that our kids will remember and carry on. Why did we go outdoors as kids with our families? It's simple, our grandparents took our parents and wonder and excitement and simplicity was found and so our parents took us outside to find that same wonder. A tent is the key to adventure for our families and our kids. So, go buy a good tent, one that will last, because like Sammy, they are going to get hooked on camping and that tent is going to get a LOT of use.
Not a single time do I hear from Sammy without him asking me "Uncle Snot can we go camping.... NOWWWWW?" "Sammy Buddy! It' February and it 15 degrees outside now" "So?" He will reply. Sammy is now hooked. I encourage you to get your family hooked just like the Greene family who has a couple more planned adventures upcoming this summer due to a great first camping experience, largely due to the comfortable, easy to set-up and family-minded Wenzel Portico.
Sammy's mom and dad continually commented about how cool (temperature) the tent was, positioned near a treeline and with plenty of ventilation the tent never got stuffy due to lots of attached guy-lines to ensure proper ventilation even when the rain-fly is attached. In addition to the external pockets as a mom, Jaime really liked the internal storage pockets (4) in the Portico as well as the gear loft for important items needed in a jiffy.
As mentioned before the tent was used in this application with a large queen air mattress, gear for a family of three and Sammy who also happened to be using one of Wenzel's awesome Blue Moose 40 degree sleeping bag. Space was never an issue in this tent for the family and left room for Sammy to still move around as a three year old does and will.
The Wenzel sleeping bags designed for kids with kids in mind are a fantastic value and will keep your favorite little guy or gal warm at night and get them excited about camping. Sammy instantly feel head of heels for his Blue Moose bag and regularly wanted to go and "nap" in it to his mom and dad's surprise. The sleeping bags stuff sack is strung to be used as a backpack. To the average adult this may not be even a feature of note but to a kid getting his first sleeping bag it is a huge deal. It also serves as his/her first backpack too. Soon your favorite lil camper will be marching around with their sleeping bag on their shoulders asking "Can we go camping nowwwww?"
Durability, comfort and affordability as the adult areas of concern are all checked off on these sleeping bags. The cool factor, colors and design get a big thumbs up from Sammy! And that is what it is all about!
Check out Wenzel's website for more about these great family camping products.
Wenzel Blue Moose 40 Sleeping Bag
Wenzel Girls Backyard 30 Sleeping Bag
Wenzel Portico Tent 8
Wenzel Portico Tent 6
As always... Keep Hiking Forward!
Portico 8 Tent Specs
Boys Moose 40 Sleeping Bag Specs
You know, "Breakfast"! Like waffles on a Sunday morning or... Warm ooey gooey cinnamon buns on a Saturday morning? Wouldn't having those weekend comforts of home be amazing to have when on trail or while camping on the weekend? Well now you can.
Being able to have that experience of a real breakfast would be amazing but to have it for a fraction of the calories and a lot healthier too... Is Beyond Cereal.
Introducing the new Quest line of Cereal Protein Bars. These bars (as pictured above) come in Chocolate, Cinnamon Roll (Mmmmmmm) and Waffles.
At just 110 calories, you won't feel guilty like you would if you were home this weekend eating multiple helping of waffles. You are an active person, a weekend warrior, who still gets to eat his/her favorite breakfast in a protein bar. These bars are also Gluten free and pack 12 grams of protein to help you reach the next summit and beyond.
Local carbs and high fiber make this the ultimate morning treat to start your day outdoors.
The question is now... where do you find these bars? That's easy! Head over to your local Vitamin Shoppe and check out the huge selection of quest Beyond Cereal Protein Bars. Better yet... Click here to check out the Quest Bars on Vitamin Shoppe website.
Enjoy those Quest Bars All!
And Keep Hiking Forward!
Ever thought that backpacking would be a lot more fun without having to lug a tent everywhere and sleep on some ridiculously-priced, flimsy mat? A hammock is the answer you’ve been looking for. Mine is practically weightless and sets up between two trees in a snap.
I know you are thinking "that sounds great, but I sleep on my side and could never be comfortable all curved in a hammock." I thought the same thing until I found on the internet that you are supposed to sleep diagonally in the hammock, and then you’ll be able to lay flat. Here’s how I do it:
How to Sleep On Your Side in a Hammock
First, roll over on your side as close as you can get to one edge of the hammock. Then back your head up until you are lying diagonally in the hammock. By positioning yourself diagonally, you will be able to lie flat in the hammock which is very comfortable.
Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock
My Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock sets up easily using the included ropes. When my family went camping recently with some other families, some of the dads took a turn in the hammock for a few minutes. They all said it was very comfortable. When the dark crept into our camp, I went to sleep in the hammock with a friend’s tent almost right underneath me to keep me company. I had a good night's sleep. For my birthday, my parents bough me the Adventure Hammock Mosquito Net to go with my hammock, so now I can sleep in it even in the middle of the summer when bugs are the worst.
I usually sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed. Since my brother has a hammock, too, I think it would be fun to try sleeping between the same trees in our hammocks so it would be kind of like being in our bunk beds.
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Jr. Hiking Forward Correspondent
Yeah, I said it… It’s January and cold here in Illinois as you might imagine. In order to get outside with the family and friends sometimes you need to make compromises because not everybody enjoys the thrill and honor of camping and sleeping outdoors when it is 7 degrees outside. Weirdos!
In order to get people to this point of enjoying the outdoors in all four seasons you need to sometimes ease them into it. Instead of tent camping maybe it’s the right time to introduce a rustic cabin with winter hiking. This weekend I will be doing just this with the family and some friends. A place and trails I know well be the destination along with no adequate cell service or wifi (sorry kids!).
Unplugging and disconnecting from the outside world even for 24 hours is a must for getting people aware of their surroundings and realizing they can live without these daily necessities. A word burning stove, rustic but amazing meals and winter hiking will soon fill their memories and lighten their future opinions of re-engaging in this type of activity again.
I encourage you to think of others when you are planning your winter outdoor adventures, and think of how you too can bring others along to experience all of nature’s wintertime splendor. You might have to make a few compromises from your normal methods of being outdoors, but you might enjoy the company and will surely enjoy sharing in your outdoor craft and sharing the outdoors.
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2016 has been a pretty amazing year for my family and our outdoor adventures
This year has also been wonderful for my own growth as an outdoor educator and volunteer.
I've got plenty of ideas and plans to keep me busy in 2017. Most importantly, the arrival of a second Tyke Hiker to join Embry, due in March. Until then, we enjoyed a few hikes over the last few days to celebrate 2016.
We kicked off at the Retzer Nature Center. Embry loves clearing the trail so she did her best to make sure the trail was void of pine cones. Of course, we had to stop at fallen trees and stumps along the trail for some easy natural play. Embry especially enjoys the stump jumps as long as they don't lead to rump bumps.
We walked through various habitats. From prairie to the pond with woods along the way, we always enjoy a good trip to Retzer.
Them to cap off the year, we enjoyed a trip to our neighborhood nature spot, the Weiland preserve.
Embry always enjoys being the hike leader, though her tendency to want to stop and explore everything she sees does make for an interesting hiking pace. It compares to stop 'n go traffic, but with a lot more enthusiasm.
We took our usual route, enjoying and not avoiding what Embry calls "slip sloppy" ice. We saw tracks, scat, and collected every stick we could handle along the way.
I absolutely love the winter scenery. Being able to see into the woods from this barren perspective makes it seem the trees go on forever. There's just something so serene and calming about a winter walk.
Of course, the chuckles and silliness of a three year old tend to break the serenity quickly.
Near the end of the trail, Embry was mesmerized by the ice. She counted the leaves trapped in the ice and was especially enamored with the frozen footsteps and the bubbles trapped inside.
But, nothing is more fun than "ice skating" on the curb line ice and cracking as much as possible on the way home. Bring on more adventure 2017! We'll be ready!
Keep Hiking Forward!
Okay... So I bought myself a Christmas present. We all do it right? Right?
I purchased the Lodge Sportsman's Grill prior to Christmas and proceeded to immediately put it together then stare at intently wondering when I would finally get to use it given all of the holiday fanfare.
Well, I finally used it. I will admit, I had visions of a Porterhouse suberbly marinated for at least twelve hours with grilled asparagus dining in the woods... but, I made burgers in the backyard just the other night.
I knew that anything Lodge made was going to be a forever purchase, meaning that the purchase would last me forever. Upon recieving the grill and putting it together not only did I have proof that it is a forever item of gear but one I will bet lots of use out of. I love cooking outdoors, over fire and with cast iron... this grill is the tri-fecta of outdoor goodness.
I am truly stoked to use it in the wild with a menu worthy of its sturdy seasoned cast ironness. It's a word. Look it up! :)
Based on initial quality, ease of use and the wide range of uses this grill is well worth twice the price. I know this is a short post, but I am really excited about this purchase. I intend to update in the furture how I am using the grill, what I am cooking with it (including recipes) and where I am using it.
Keep Hikng Forward!
The beginning of a new year is usually always an amazing time. A new year represents a new blank canvas to paint how you choose. For most, this year has been one of difficulty, crudeness, uncertainty and pain. Most people I talk to, interact with or observe online are all collectively ready for this year to be over and start over again. (For Pete's sake Princess Leia just died! ugh!)
I started my 40th year this year and have been feeling an overwhelming sense to really turn the page like never before on this new year. This sense about me has actually keep me from blogging over the past few months (sorry) as I have been trying to figure out where I want to go and how I want to get myself there.
So, as I turn the page this week, I know a few things;
Experiences, not gear is where it is at.
Nothing familiar, all new places, trails, discovery is now the new name of the game.
No more setting goals for the sake of setting goals.
Time to get out of the comfort zone, push the limits and see what life really has to offer.
Hiking Forward is making a pivot, come along for the ride... I dare you!
Keep Hiking Forward in the New Year My Friends.
Strap in... It might get bumpy!
It's that time of year again! Time to stress and worry about what to get the person on your list who has it all, is constantly out and about camping, hiking, backpacking etc. Never fear Hiking Forward is here once again to offer some suggestions for gear items for that special outdoor person, family or even four legged outdoor nut. Not only will we offer a range of items for a variety people and interests we will also be offering items at a variety of price ranges, proving once again it doesn't cost an arm and a let to get outside. Are you ready? Here we go!
Teton Sports - Somina Ultralight Camp Cot
Okay, you're probably thinking... A Cot? Really? Yeah! It's a cot. But it's a ton light from the previous versions that Teton Sports has crafted, yet without sacrificing on comfort, versatility or functionality. It usually prefer the cot when car camping in the winter to get off the ground allowing me much better sleep. This ultralight cot is only 10 pounds and the carry bag doubles as a side pouch to keep all your smalls organized while camping.
Click here to check it out. Teton Sports
Serac Sequoia Double Hammock
I'm a sucker for a great hammock. And my holiday gift guide wouldn't be complete without a great hammock on the list. To me, a hammock is the ultimate stocking stuffer. Plus, hammocks already kinda come wrapped. Serac puts out a fantastic hammock, that is lightweight, comfortable for two and comes with the straps (a huge bonus and necessity).
Check out our review on this hammock.
Wenzel Sleeping Bags for Kids
It's never to early to get the kids used to and comfortable with sleeping in a sleeping bag. Wenzel offers a great and inexpensive line of sleeping bags for kids. If you have kids on the list this year who are curious about camping, sleeping in backyard or would just be excited to have their own sleeping bag, this is the one. The stuff sack straps allow the sleeping bag to carried as backpack. I got to experience my godson on his first camping trip this summer using this bag, he was so over joyed that it was his and he to got sleep in it every night. He, reminded us all that it was his sleeping bag and that it was comfy. He even made it each day. For the price, the experience of giving kids their first outdoor piece of gear is well worth it ten-fold.
Wenzel full line of sleeping bags
Wellness - CORE Dog Food & Snacks
If you have a four legged adventure buddy like I do, then you can't let the holidays pass without stocking up on great food and snacks to keep them at the ready for the next adventure. CORE by Wellness provides an amazing grain free and high protein option for your adventure pup to keep them lean and full of the right kind of energy. As winter approaches ensuring that the your dog has proper nutrition and protein in their diet is extremely important. Boston loves the CORE dog food, snacks and the Air Dried CORE for our hiking adventures. The Air Dried CORE is so much lighter then normal food and is far easier for him to carry in is saddle pouch.
Sunflair Solar Oven
I guarantee who ever you a buying for this year doesn't have anything like this. The Sunflair Solar Oven is a lightweight alternative option of cooking outdoors. Tired of propane? Not a huge fan of cooking over the fire? Then use the sun as you fuel. Sunflair has a variety of oven sizes with multiple assecories for your oven. We began using our oven this summer on a Labor Day trip. Two whole split chickens cooked in the sun. When was the last time you had fresh cookies on a camping trip? Now you can. Fish, casseroles, stews, pies, breakfasts and more... it will cook and or bake it all. One of the best parts about the oven is if you have kids they really want to get involved in the cooking and be a part of using the oven. In addition, another benefit overall is the lack of mess created by using the Sunflair Solar Oven over traditional methods.
Palisade Gear Hiking Sticks
When we come across a deal like this we just have to share it! Carbon Fiber trekking poles right not for just over $60.00. These poles have the feel and functionality of high end poles of more then double the sale price. The company while new and small has turned out an amazing product. And, in the season of giving and shopping small let it be noted that Palisade Gear is one of the supporting partners of Gear Forward who has generously giving gear to youth in need and is a small family owned company. So, if you going to spend your hard earned money on a pair of sticks this year for you or someone else who would purchase them for a large company, when you and purchase them from a generous, small and family owned operation?
Another item from the stocking stuffer (and belly stuffing) category. No matter who you are buying for this holiday season as an outdoor nut, one thing is for sure, they all need to eat when outside. Sasquatch Fuel (another small family owned company) offers backpacking meals in a paper envelope versus the normal foil envelope. What the difference? Well, you don't have to pack out your trash when you are done eating the meal. The paper envelope can be burned versus thrown away in the trash at the end of one's adventuring. Oh and by the way they are delish... buy a few for yourself. These meals are great for campers, hikers, and just to have around in case of a zombie apocalypse.
For more information about these meals check out our video review below.
We hope these items help you as you check off items on your holiday shopping list year. If you purchase any of the items on our list, we would love to hear how your loved ones or friends liked the items.
Have a happy, safe and adventurous holiday season!
Keep Hiking Forward!
We are pleased to announce our first Hiking Forward AT Crew member... Goldielocks. Presently, Goldielocks is only utilizing her trail name until just before her hike. Please enjoy the story of her preparations of her future thru-hike.
Hi everyone! It's great to officially be the first member of the prestigious AT Crew 2017!! You can call me Goldielocks!
Just a few things about me:
-I'm a super nerd. I love all things math and science. Where my follow nerds at?
-I have a fluffy dog that I absolutely love dearly. (We'll call her Sasslefrass Fluff-bottom).
-Food is a passion! I love Thai Food. I live for Thai food. And sushi. And casseroles. Green bean, squash, sweet potato - you name it. You get the idea.
-I will be setting off for a Flip Flop thru hike of the Appalachian Trail approximately Mid April next year.
Now, let's begin!
I often think about what it must've been like for prehistoric man to stand before the great beasts we call mammoths, armed with only a spear and determination.
I don't really find myself thinking about a man fighting a hairy elephant with a stick, but it seemed like a good way to begin. :)
I DO, however, find myself contemplating the mammoth feat that stands before me: thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. We can all agree that tackling a thru hike of any of the long distance trails in the United States (notably the AT, CDT, & PCT) is a mammoth undertaking requiring physical stamina, mental fortitude and some serious perseverance. Maybe even a dash of stubbornness. Okay, a lot of stubbornness.
Every day is a roller coaster of emotions filled with highs of "This is totally happening; why did I ever doubt this?" and lows of "what on earth are you thinking?!?" Maybe a more accurate analogy would be the teacup ride - you know, the one that spins the life (and hotdogs) out of you. Spinning around and around. The excitement that once filled your soul has begun to fade. The butterflies that once fluttered their wings in your stomach have suddenly turned sour. You find yourself repeatedly asking yourself "Why?"
This ride will last until Mid April when I step foot on the trail. Then, it becomes real. It's really happening.
The obstacles keep piling up into a colossal mountain.
-I'm out of shape and overweight.
-I'm a woman - it's hard to find other women in this hobby to train with
-I'm a novice. There's so much to learn and so many opinions floating around out there.
-I live in Florida. We're known for our white beaches, not mountainous terrain.
-I'll have to quit my job.
-I have another human being that partially relies on me for her care.
-I have to keep a strict budget to reach my financial goals prior to the trail.
-I have to make arrangements for my dog. Does this make me an awful doggy mom?
The mountain of obstacles and doubt is seemingly smothering me. I keep clawing my way, digging through the debris hoping to see light. I just keep telling myself to keep my head low and keep trudging through. There HAS to be an out. Before we even step foot at Springer, or in my case Harpers Ferry, we must first conquer the mountain of obstacles and doubt. And, boy is it all piling up!!
I would like to believe this is totally normal. But, I'm not so sure. Everyone out there is writing about their gear choices and why they chose to save half an ounce on one item here and there. (Just take the extra little bit of toilet paper for crying out loud, Tarzan. We're not barbarians. And when we cross paths later on: You're welcome.)
But, let's be real, I'm also worried about the important questions:
-How am I going to stay up to date with Game of Thrones?
-How greatly will taking time off from my MBA steer me off course?
-I am an avid contact wearer. What am I going to do about my eyes? WHAT. ABOUT. MY EYES?!
-What if I somehow end up on a trail cam pre-tinkle with the full moon in full exposure? THE HORROR.
-How will I burn down my tent if there is a spider? (I'm terrified of spiders...add that to the obstacle list)
We prospective thru-hikers are somewhat on our own in this endeavor. No one is going to force you to live like a badass, mountain-conquering, homeless person for half of a year. It's easy to feel completely overwhelmed and alone. But the fact of the matter is - there wasn't just one man taking down a mammoth. There were a multitude of others with the same goal, different perspectives, all striving for the same thing - a satiation of a common hunger.
These people are my tribe. Even you reading this now - paint your face, baby! Because you're in the tribe too! We all have the same hunger. Although I may not know you, I know I am not facing a colossal beast alone. With that final note, I invite you to join me in my journey. Let the adventure begin!
Keep Hiking Forward!
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