Travels with Charley

The cool camping blog. Trying to find gear, supplies, adventure and activities for the 21st century camper.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Gear - LED Flashlights - Turning Night into Day

I have finally run across the new LED flashlight technologies for myself. These new torches use rechargeable batteries and put out up to 900 lumens of light! Ok, so, maybe their claims are a little far fetched, but I can assure you that these lights are super bright, brighter than any handheld light you have ever seen. And I'm talking minimag sized lights. The torch I have is barely six inches long, holds on "18650" battery (which is a rechargeable 3.7v lithium)and will make the night into day. You'll hurt your eyes if you are looking at this when it turns on. There's plenty of sizes, brightnesses and prices that are being produced. You want to make sure that you get a "P7" emitter if you want the absolute brightest light, but other emitters (these don't have bulbs) will cost you less for less light. I won't even recommend one over the other, just to say, go to the link and find a light that fits your needs and budget.

Deal Extreme LED Flashlights

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Holidays

Hey everybody, hope your having a fine holiday season where ever you're at. Just thought I'd share a quote I got from Quote of the Day:

The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness.
- Henry David Thoreau, 1817 - 1862

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's the law: Sell wet firewood, go to jail!

Or at least it should be. We got "burned" again this last weekend with wet campfire wood. I bought two bundles from a party store. They were banded with plastic straps and what I call sawmill scrap: very flat with bark on one surface and the other face is sawed. Had good luck with some great oak like this that burned hotter than heck and burned slow. When I opened the bundles at the camp I could see that it was still green under the bark- bad sign. The cut surfaces still felt damp. Hoping against hope I tried to light it and sure enough no dice. I had to go back out and get more wood, this time some dry pine.

This has happened a lot. Not so often now but still I get some wood that just won't burn. I feel ripped off, the sellers usually know and are thus taking advantage of us travellers. It's not fair and you hardly expect a refund from a coffee can with a slit in it. I've even been sold bunk wood by vendors in national park!

So the best thing you can do is look for and buy only dry firewood. Here's see tips for getting better firewood:

• Buy split firewood that was cut to size before it was dry, suggests University of Kentucky. Look for cracks in the ends. As the wood dries it shrinks- you're looking for big cracks caused by shrinkage.
• Don't buy wood that you can't see the split face. The greyer it is, the better.
• On the split face look for splinters or slpits beginning to come off of the wood. If these are dry and brittle that's good.
• Maryland DNR suggests looking for wood that has the bark falling off of it. Though I've certainly found good firewor with the bark still attached.
• Try to find ash wood. It burns even if it's wet.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tips - Finding the Perfect Campground - The Usual Suspects

I'll kick off the series with an introduction to finding a campground. This part will be a basic tutorial and many experienced campers already know most of this, but I thought to include it to be thorough.

So you know where you want to go, geographically. How do you start finding a campground? First, of course, you should know if you want a tent only site, or an RV site. Pull through, electric, water, sewer, concrete pad? Have all of these things in hand as well as a map that shows your area of interest.

What follows is a listing of the major ways to find a campground. Each form of listing will be different but most will tell you the size of the site, what utilities it has and if it's a pull through. There will also typically be a description of what amenities the campground has such as pool, camp store, LP, ect...

Before the internet you might be able to get campground listings from state tourism boards. You also used the Woodall's directory to find campgrounds. The directories still exist in print form and can be gotten at most larger bookstores. They offer a quick way to scan for campgrounds in an area you're looking for. Woodalls also has a website search function that appears to mimic the book. You must register, but if you're looking for campgrounds in a particular area it can be worth it.

Most states have an extensive network of state funded public campgrounds, that can vary in quality, but my experiences in Indiana, Michigan and New York have all been great. I recommend you google the state and "state campgrounds" to get a link to the listing. also has a link to every state's public campgrounds. Some states use a vendor to run the websites and reservations and some are in house. Similarily, you can search for National Parks campgrounds in your area of interest, too.

Some towns and counties have public campgrounds, but can be hard to find, due to variations in how they advertise them. Google would be your best bet here.

If you are intending to visit a major tourist attraction, or region, their websites often have links to local accomodations, including campgrounds. City tourism websites frequently do too.

And finally, if you google the location you're going to by city, state and you type "campground" after it, Google will give you a map with nearby campgrounds.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tips - Finding the Perfect Campground

I have been to enough campgrounds to know you are just as likely to book a dud as you are a gem when reserving site unseen. If the campground has a website, you might at least be able to tell if it's a treeless field, a weedy swamp or a nicely forested glen. Or you might not. Woodall's rates member's campgrounds, but that's only good for private camps. How can you know if the campground you're looking at is the real deal or not?

I'm finally going to kick of a series of posts that explore the different techniques you can use to investigate campgrounds, and the best sites at those campgrounds. I'm going to try to help you (and me for that matter) determine if they are near your destination, have the amenities you want, are clean, secluded, and we'll try to find pictures of the campsites as well.

let's start with a couple of assumptions:
1)You already know the destination you want to be near. E.g. NASCAR race, the Black Hills, Washington DC, or Hell, Michigan.
2)You are looking for an organized campground to stay at. I.e. not a dispursed public land area.

First up: The Usual Suspects.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Camping Season Kickoff

If you either have come to this blog in the past, or are just finding it for the first time, you probably noticed that I haven't posted since last April. Partially that's a sign of a lot of camping last season. We camped every other weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day plus a weekend in October last year. We had a lot of fun and picked up a couple of tips. I'll try to post some interesting things I learned soon.

This summer is going to be just as busy. We already have reservations for four trips and two more planned for places that don't take them. We'll be staying at public campgrounds this year, county, state and federally run, in a variety of rustic and hookup sites. I'll be posting about our experiences at them, giving you reviews of campgrounds you may not have had a chance to visit.

Talk to you soon!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tip - Survival

With any luck, recreational camping these days should in no way put your life at risk. However, if you are a backcountry hiker, if you are going anywhere that could put you in danger, or if you are headed anywhere that might not get visited for days, you should take some simple steps to safeguard your health. As hard as it is to believe, people, do get stranded and lost for days, like James Kim, - Going out of cellphone range, without anyone coming by for days or weeks? If you are going anywhere like this, you should be prepared.

I stumbled upon Doug Ritter's website while trying to find reviews of camping knives. That's coming soon, but instead I found this interesting site about survival, Equipped to Survive. Not, as he succinctly puts it, Survivalists, but survival for you, should you become stranded somewhere for a really long time. And that's what caught my eye. Though he appears to have started the site for aviators, he has expanded to all sorts of situations. Doug's site has lots of great articles on Personal Locater Beam gear, survival kits, skills, equipment, techniques and how to deal with special situations.

Since my post today is about tips, I'm going to link to several of Doug's articles, among others, about survival.

First up is Doug Ritter's own personal pocket survival kit, that you can make up. Not sure how you'll get the vicodin, but if you can, that's got to be one of the smarter kit ingredients I've seen in some time. This article has other great links to categories of items you'll need to survive such as food, medicine and devices., our friendly government's survivalist arm, has a set of links for survival kits you can make. And that ol' reliable, Wikipedia, has a lengthy entry on kits.

What should you do if you get stuck on a logging road miles away from everybody? Doug has awesome tips. Some of the best? Carry a AA battery cell phone recharger, and texting signals can travel farther than voice signals. And find higher ground, altitude is your friend when trying to phone out. Here's a tip from just about everybody: If traveling in the winter where you might get snow bound, carry a metal coffee can, some rolls of toilet paper, a gallon of isopropyl alcohol and these instructions. You can heat your car or truck for over 24 hours with this setup, saving gas for motoring out when the thaw hits.