All posts by radicallybroken

Huntsville state park & a new tent

When we first got married, my husband and I were so blessed to get a gift card to Target and were able to buy a tent. I had very little camping experience and we did not have a lot of money so we bought the 4-person Coleman tent in red.

It was not a fancy tent but it has served us well for 11 years! We have camped primitively and taken it to Disney World. It has truly done it all. But, alas, the ole’ tent is getting, well, old. And it is starting to let in water/bugs in a way that meant we needed to start looking for something new.

While we put a lot of thought and research into the backpacking tent we took to Yosemite in December 2019, we had done absolutely zero research when we bought our Coleman tent. Now we needed something family friendly and had to start from scratch. After reading lots of reviews and trying to find something family friendly, here is our new, beautiful tent:

https://www.backcountry.com/marmot-limestone-4-person-3-season-tent

I may or may not be intense about the fact that this is green because I have new feelings about visual pollution when it comes to the color of camping supplies.

This Marmot Limestone 4 person, 3 season tent is a really great addition to our camping collection and got to go out for its maiden voyage (outside of us setting it up in our living room) to Huntsville State Park!

This tent has already proved itself to be a favorite since it is easy to put up, has tons of pockets, and breathes well! There are, however, a few cons. One of the doors is not see through mesh so if your littles want to be able to see outside from that door, too bad. My kiddos kept opening that one up and exposing themselves to bugs because they wanted to be able to see out. This mesh also does not breathe quite as well as the tradition mesh. With the rain fly, the breathability is almost zero. This was a struggle for us during a summer rain storm because we had to close up the rain fly but were quite hot. Otherwise, it’s amazing.

Huntsville State Park also happens to be a favorite of ours. This time not only did we family camp, we got to try out a canoe rental. Our little people could not have been more excited!

We even made a new friend…

I’d like to say that my people loved getting to meet this guy but the truth is he ended up causing some anxiety. I guess this means Brazos Bend is not on the calendar for a while. It is famous for its alligators.

The good news is that this was our only alligator buddy and were primarily visited by rabbits and other wildlife. This park is very hiking friendly even for the shortest legs so we got to see lots of beauty.

The most interesting part about camping during the past year has been one thing in particular – crowds. Because people are so tired of wearing masks and staying home, people are flocking to the outdoors.

I love that more people are discovering camping and our state parks but it has also made the camping experience very different. Where it used to be easy to go lose yourself on a trail or camp in serene quiet, you are now surrounded by music, people, and more. There are definitely pros and cons to this change but I suggest setting your expectations before arriving.

If you are looking to feel off the grid, local parks may not be your scene right now. Or you may have to work a little harder to get that serenity you are looking for. Either way, I’m glad we went!

See You Outside!

Camping after quarantine

While the world is not COVID free and safety precautions are not finished, we are seeing life begin to change. We ended up not being able to camp for a prolonged period of time because we simple could not get reservations! Everyone was outside, everyone needed that relief, everyone wanted a place where they could be without their mask.

And I don’t blame them.

So we played in our backyard, we camped in our living room, and we waited.

I’m happy to tell you that we are back at it and this semester has been full of camping. I feel like everyone is getting back into the habit but it has been glorious. Their most favorite thing?

Exploring.

The best thing about camping with little people is that there are less “nos” in the world and much more “yeses”. I have no idea if I spelled those correctly. Can I climb on this fallen down log? Yes! Can we go on a hike? Absolutely. Can I have some trail mix? Go nuts…pun intended.

While we did go camping at Sam Houston State Park earlier this year, it was…not our favorite. It is a smaller park and did not have much hiking for us to do. Since this is our kids’ favorite part, it left us a bit high and dry.

We had every intention of going to Lake Somerville State Park in February but you have heard that our area experienced a snowpocalypse and the park incurred some damage so our reservation was cancelled. Honestly, without power or water for almost a week, we felt like we had plenty of camping for that month.

This brings us to March and a new park for us – Village Creek State Park.

One of our goals for 2021 has been to try new parks and venture a bit farther from home now that our little people are getting old enough to handle a longer car ride.

We also accidentally tried another new thing – hike-in camping.

While we have done this type of camping before as adults, we have never brought our children along. Little did we know, we booked a primitive campsite and had to hike in to our site…with all of our stuff…and our three children. It was a blast. And by blast I mean it was a bit of a mess. The first day, I got in over 18000 steps just helping bring all of our stuff in from the car while also setting up camp. The good news is, our kids were champions!

I will definitely do this style camping again, but I would bring an all terrain wagon instead. Another family of campers near us also did not know they would need to hike in and ran over to a local Walmart to get a wagon for day two. They were smart! I have already started researching these wagons for the future.

This was only a one night endeavor but was still a really great park that we would go back to. The campsites were closer together than I would like and we had an entire boy scout troop surrounding us but there was plenty of hiking and places to get some quiet.

There was one point that was truly the highlight of the whole weekend — I went on a hike all by myself.

This may not sound exciting as I usually get time by myself regularly but in the last year time alone has been at a premium. We are spending more time as a family than ever and part of me deeply loves this. We have learned to play board games, read books, camped, gone on walks, worked on riding bikes, and more together. At the same time, my husband and I (as well as thousands of other grown-ups) have struggled to find time for quiet, time for peace, time alone.

I had one particularly hard time while we were camping because some kiddos wanted to hike and one really wanted to sleep. You heard me right! They asked to sleep. Who am I to deny a kid who wants to have nap time?

But guess who didn’t nap?

So then things got a bit contested, we struggled together to find them a way to enjoy themselves without the entertainment of siblings, and I realized that between the lack of sleep and all the stress that I’ve had lately, I was running out of steam. The others got back just in the nick of time and the husband could tell that I was struggling. He not so gently let me know that I could go on a walk by myself if I needed to. I knew I needed to. He knew I needed to. My kid probably knew I needed to. And yet, I still hesitated.

Mom guilt is so real. Even in this place that is supposed to be about unplugging and feeling grounded and connecting with Creator, I found myself feeling guilty for not being present at every moment if I took this hike. Thank goodness for husbands nudging you onto the trail. I got a certain distance away from the campsite and realized I could not hear anything. I heard an occasional bird and the sound of my own footsteps but those were the only sounds available. It felt like calm settling over me like a warm blanket.

It felt like reminding myself that I was human.

I remember sitting in therapy at one point during an extremely stressful time in life and continuing to spiral into the what could have beens and the what ifs and she gave me advice. She told me to sit in a chair or on the floor or near something with a texture. She told me to rub my hands over that texture and remind myself that I am right here, right now. That I can bring myself back into the present moment this way. That I can keep from stressing about the past, reliving difficult moments, or panicking about the future.

So, I took a minute to breathe. To listen. To feel the air. To feel the sensation of my feet in the sand. And I reminded myself to be in this present moment.

I needed to let go of the stress that I’ve been holding onto this past year while also not staring in panic at the possible future. The pandemic has put more stress on me than I was prepared for and I can admit to you that I have not always handled it well.

This was a moment of reminder and a moment to pull me back to the now.

While I don’t have a picture of the moment, there was a place where I came across a fork and had to decide which way to go. In the calm, this poem came to mind and I can only thank my sophomore English teacher for having me memorize it. She was always an incredible woman who knew what we needed.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Setbacks

During quarantine and this odd portion of Covid limbo, I have turned primarily to the outdoors and running as my refuge. Unfortunately, a few months ago I went in for a routine Dermatologist visit only to find out that I had a suspicious spot. This was later revealed to be the dreaded Melanoma.

Shortly after that, I had surgery on my upper thigh to remove the Melanoma and was able to get clear margins. What should have felt like a victory was severely dampened by the fact that the healing portion was far from over.

And this healing journey has been deeply painful…literally.

The hardest part however has been this – I have been unable to run. In the beginning, I could not even walk very far at a time. I continued to walk as much as I was able but running was off limits, doctor’s orders.

Even though I have now been cleared to run, it has been a much harder process than I expected. The pain is definitely real.

But more than coming here to complain, what I really wanted to say is this: We will get through this. We can do hard things.

I will keep running as far as I can and walking the rest. I will keep choosing my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health even though I want to sit down and eat cake while crying during a Gilmore Girls episode.

Our bodies were made to move. My soul was made for the outdoors.

This process will be worth it in the end.

I’m not sure if you needed to hear that or know it. But hear this

You Are Strong.

Much stronger than you ever knew or thought.

You Are Capable.

You can do these hard things and trust in your body.

You Are Not Alone.

See you Outside.

How to survive a quarantine

Hey Everyone! I know it’s been a hot minute because, crazy times, I got another job and just could not keep up with everything. But now it seems that we have a bit more…ahem….time on our hands these days.

If you are anything like me,  you seem to have more time and less time all simultaneously. I am working two jobs from home and am now homeschooling all of my children as well. We enjoy the homeschooling, I enjoy the work, it’s the trying to do both that frequently seems impossible.

Anyone else’s kids eating way more than normal as well?

Anyway, the best way I have found to survive is to…you guessed it…get outside. I need to clear my mind, find ways to quiet all those anxious voices in my head, and calm myself. It is proven that exposure to sunshine helps our mood.

So, make sure you are following the laws in your area and the safest practices for everyone (yourself and your greater man), but get outside. Whether it’s your backyard, chalk on your driveway, or a short walk. Get some of that divinely made vitamin D in your body. It won’t fix everything, it won’t, but it’ll be like taking Tylenol for a headache – it will ease enough of the pain to give you the oomph to get through the next bit of time. Your kids will thank you for not only choosing sanity for yourself but for them as well.

I have been walking 4-5 miles a day to start my day and it is life changing. Here is a little inspiration to help convince you that you should head outside too. This is the green belt near my house that is life giving to me right now.

 

Let me know how you are finding creative ways to get outdoors during this time!

See You Outside!

Product Review! REI Co-Op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag unboxing

I got a new sleeping bag! I finally have the bag I plan to take to Yosemite and I wanted to show you not only the look of this bag (which is brand new on the scene) but my entire sleep system. It is VERY warm and has great compression. Enjoy!

Here is a peek at that Sea to Summit Compression sack before it is filled. I am loving these and have a few. Sea to Summit is also a brand I have heard a lot of excellent things about from other backpackers. The compression sacks have worked really well for us and I look forward to trying more of their products in the future.

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When I first tried to get the bag in the compression sack, I have to tell you, I was not sure it would go in. hahaha It is such a fluffy sleeping bag! It feels huge! It makes my Coleman bag feel comparatively thin. Yet, it all went in because compression sacks are backpacker magic. Which is why I frequently say to REI, “Take all my money!” Backpacker magic. Camping magic. Harry Potter is real! Okay, so maybe I can’t use a wand here, but it is really helpful.

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I put this Nalgene (the water bottle that will never die – ever – even if you wish you could get a new one haha) next to it to give you an idea of how large the compression sack is compared to that huge bag. Also, before you buy your compression sack, make sure you know the specs. Most bags will tell you how much space they need even when compressed. Otherwise, you will find yourself in a pickle, my friends.

Here are the steps to my sleep system. This Klymit Static V is EVERYTHING. I need to do a separate product review for just it because it is one of my favorite purchases EVER.

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Can you tell that I am excited about this bag? So the REI Co-Op Magma 15 sleeping bag is very cozy and comfortable. It has a flap inside that you can pull up to your neck to keep you even warmer and has cinching straps that tighten the bag down around your face to keep even less of you exposed to the elements. As I mentioned in my video, it comes in long and regular so that you can get the right length for you. I am only 5′ 1-2″ (the doctors debate between 1 and 2 inches so I feel it is my duty to let you know that I am somewhere in there. I wouldn’t want you to feel deceived ha) so I do not fill up this bag. I will just stuff some extra stuff in the bottom to create extra warmth. With my daughter’s sleeping bag, we have also tied off the extra part of the bag with rope or a rubber band and that helps her, so there is another option for you. On my last trip, I stuffed the bottom with my fleece while I wore my puffy to sleep and it was perfect for that weather. I will keep experimenting though. I did not experience any leakage of air through the zipper which is a common issue with sleeping bags that are a more reasonable price. Do you have any other questions about the bag or my sleep system? I’m happy to elaborate!

Until then,

See You Outside!

Prepping for Our Austin Spring Break Mini-Vacation

My friend gives us some insight into her family and their mini vacation!

Accepting the Unexpected Journey

We were only a couple weeks into the school year when our fourth grade daughter came home with an announcement: “This year we get to do a city project and I want to do Austin!”

I looked at her a little skeptically. After all, she had just started Texas state history and I was certain she was going to learn more throughout the year that might change her mind. Aware that the actual city project would be assigned in the weeks leading up to Spring Break, I locked it away in my memory and put it aside for a couple months, aware that if she did in fact have Austin, Spring Break would be the perfect time to get information in person.

Spring Break has been our go-to for extended spring camping trips. The weather usually cooperates and is a healthy balance of not too hot and not too cold…

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A Deep Breath For Your Family – Guest Post

As a mother of quite the circus, getting outside isn’t just another activity. Getting outside is how we save our sanity, decompress, and have fun all at the same time. If you didn’t know, nature is magical like that.

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Our family recently made a big move from Louisiana up to the land of unending snow, polar vortexes, wind advisories, and school cancellations. You might know it as Ohio, but we have nicknamed it “Snow-hio”. This nasty weather has really put a damper on my family’s mental and physical health. I know some hard-core midwesterners who would laugh at us, hiding in our house until warmer temperatures, but our long, leisurely walks and bike rides just can’t happen with wind chills in the negative 20’s. In Louisiana, it hardly gets cold enough to hunker down inside. Maybe wet, raining, and muddy, but not lock-yourself-in-the-house-and-binge-baked- goods freezing cold.

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It has certainly been a reminder of how much my family requires times spent outside. It’s like being unable to take a deep breath and then suddenly you’re free to go outdoors and you can breathe again. All the fresh oxygen comes rushing in and you feel so connected with your family, and life, and if you’re a spiritual person, God.

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That’s how serious we are about getting away from our regular lives and responsibilities. Just taking a walk for an hour and not talking about homework, being in trouble at school, last night’s argument, or finances. No phones, no television, no begging to play a video game. It’s like a deep breath for your family. Five stars. Highly recommend.

I’m sure that evening strolls and bike rides aren’t possible for some families. There’s work schedules, practices, projects, and some have nowhere to walk. But I would encourage you to carve out some time, any time, to take a walk with your family. My kids love to find animals, leaves, acorns, sticks, mud puddles, watch airplanes fly overhead, run, skip, eat flowers our neighbor says are edible… it rejuvenates them. I’m certain it would do the same for your family.

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We are so close to Spring here in Snow-hio, and I’m guessing in your part of the country, too. So get ready, dust off your sneakers and your bike helmets, and go fill your lungs with some fresh air!

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Allison Pickett is a mom of four wild ones and married to a giant, bearded man. Reading, crying about things she reads, Netflix, crying about things she Netflix-es, eating cookies, crying about eating cookies… these are some of her favorite hobbies. 

 

Gear and The Husband Guest Posts

Hey Everyone! I am so excited to let you know that my amazing husband has done this guest post for us. He’s amazing and I am excited to get to share just a piece of his genius with all of you. 

Look at that handsome guy! He has been camping since he was a child with his family, he can tie almost any knot, he is calm in the face of all things, and is my complement in all ways. Enjoy!

Like Claire wrote in the last post, you don’t need all the gear you think you need. However, you do need some. I like REI’s list of the Ten Essentials. They say you need navigation, light, sun protection, first aid, a knife/tool, fire, shelter, food, water, and clothing. I would tend to agree with them.

tenessentials
Photo courtesy of rei.com

Once you figure out what you absolutely must have to go outdoors, you need to figure out which equipment you want and how to acquire that equipment. If you ask the internet what equipment is best for camping/hiking/outdoor activities, the internet will gladly point you to the most technical, researched, overdeveloped items you can buy. (I’ve gone to outdoorgearlab.com almost obsessively. Although I like sectionhiker.com too.) Those items come with a price tag that reflects all the development work that went into them. If you are going to summit Mount Everest, save your pennies and buy that gear. It will serve you well. If you are going outside overnight or to escape the suburbs, then don’t buy that gear.

 

So, where do you get all this stuff?

 

Some outdoors brands have brick-and-mortar stores. Hopefully, you’ll find helpful people there with experience who can direct you to the items that fit your needs and budget. Unfortunately, dedicated brick and mortar stores are only available in the largest cities.

My favorites: Patagonia, The North Face, Eddie Bauer

Then there are the outdoors stores that carry several of the blue-chip outdoor brands. There is usually more variety here with respect to use and budget. Usually, these stores will also have helpful people who can point you to things that will help you go outdoors successfully. I love going to REI because it gives me a chance to put my hands on things. It’s hard to tell online how heavy a base layer is or how thick a particular set of gloves are. Besides, there’s one close to my office and I like to wander around in it. (Claire’s note: This place is super dangerous for us because there are so many fun items that we love. Even our kids love walking around REI and Bass Pro Shops to look at all the gear. It’s infectious! But hey, if you don’t buy anything, it’s a cheap date.)

My favorites: REI, Bass Pro Shops, Sun & Ski, Field & Stream, MooseJaw

If all of those are out of your budget, many major sporting goods stores will have outdoors gear. Usually, the staff is helpful, but you’d have to get lucky to find someone with the same experience as someone who’s working for a dedicated outdoors company. But also there are more options. You don’t have to get something that’s designed specifically for backpacking if you’re not going backpacking. Plenty of sporting brands will make clothing that will keep you safe from the elements, but might not have the bells and whistles the internet says you “need”. You can (and I do) buy paracord from anywhere. Who doesn’t need more rope? (Claire’s note: This is literally his life mantra. “You can never have too much rope.” And, judging by the amount of rope and paracord we are in possession of, he means it.)

My favorites: Academy Sports, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain

If you are still not satisfied with those options, you can go to your favorite big box store. You’re not likely to get much help in identifying good equipment, but it sure is cheap. By the same token, you don’t need an avalanche-capable tent to spend a spring weekend in a southern state park. These stores will probably carry the Coleman brand. That brand has been a gateway drug for our gear. Our first tent is from Coleman and my Coleman camp stove has some nostalgia tied to it because an older version is what my dad cooked on when we went camping.

My favorites: Target and believe it or not, Costco

If you’re looking for ruggedness, military surplus stores can be a good place to find camping and survival gear. Here again, you need to know what you’re looking for to find something that will fit your needs.

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Once you’ve exhausted the places you can physically walk into, you can go online. Depending on where you go, you can find the top of the line peak-bagging gear or you can stumble into cheaply made junk. Amazon is a blessing and a curse here. There’s no helpful guide to say, “this item you’re about to buy has no guarantee that it will survive a stiff breeze.” Reviews are only so reliable. On the plus side, there are infinitely more options online. You can browse Amazon, eBay, or Craigslist if you like.

If you like the excitement of flash sale sites, theclymb.com and massdrop.com have you covered.

If you want the best new gear, go to the brand you want. Outdoor Research, Rab, North Face, Kelty, Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, Gregory, MSR, Arc’teryx, United by Blue and on and on.

If you don’t know the brand you want, go to REI, Backcountry.com, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro, Gear Co-op, MooseJaw, you get it.

If you want to rent big ticket items before you buy them outdoorsgeek will rent gear as well as some REI stores.

All these sites have sale and clearance sections that can save your bacon if you get lucky (Claire’s note: Check out REI Outlet/Garage and consider becoming a member so you get access to their big sales.). We’ve benefited from putting outdoors gear on Christmas and birthday wish lists. But there are whole sites dedicated to selling stuff on the cheap. These sell items that are not the latest and greatest, but still good stuff. Think steepandcheap.com, sierratradingpost.com, campmor.com, campsaver.com, decathlon.com, and mountainsteals.com. Also if you plan things out far enough in advance, you can buy gear out of season. Winter clothing is the cheapest right as winter is ending. Same with summer items. Most big box stores consider camping and outdoors activities a “summer thing”. Use this to your advantage when fall rolls around.

It must be said here that the cheaper gear is, the less you know about how it’s made. Some companies are glad to source their materials from countries that have poor worker protection laws and poor conservation efforts. Outside online profiled the Decathlon brand here.

If you have a preference for sustainability and conservation, the internet has you covered here too. There are brands that clean up trash for every item you buy (United by Blue). There are brands that give back to help alleviate poverty (Cotopaxi). Patagonia is getting political with its conservation efforts. Clif Bars make sure all their ingredients are traceable and sustainable. Marmot uses fewer chemicals in their manufacturing and is incorporating recycled materials into its products. Many of the major brands are opening online stores that sell used and refurbished gear. There might be a patch on that jacket or there might be a seam that needed repairing, but preventing these items from going to a landfill or the Great Pacific garbage patch is a noble endeavor. These sorts of things can be found at rei.com/used, wornwear.patagonia.com, outdoorsgeek.com/product-category/buy-now-used, thenorthfacerenewed.com and renewalworkshop.com. There is a push currently for outdoors brands to care for the environments they want their customers to enjoy. If you can, support these efforts.

Let me know if you have tips or tricks that I’ve missed.

Otherwise, gear up and get outside!

Meal Prep, FODMAP, and the woes of eating in the forest

This last weekend I went camping and it had its ups and its downs. We took all the kids and lots of it was exactly what we needed. But there was one major hiccup.

Food.

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Do you remember that special new protocol I am on to keep me feeling like my best self? It’s called the FODMAP Diet, although I hate the word diet because it is in no way related to weight loss. Monash University describes FODMAP as this…

What are FODMAPs?

Put simply, FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people with IBS. FODMAPs are found naturally in many foods and food additives.

It stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols. This cuts out gluten, dairy, legumes, fermented foods (I may have cried over kimchi), garlic, onions, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. For more information go here.

This makes all food a challenge for me, but it makes eating while camping/hiking even more challenging. Many of my go-to foods have now been cut out of my life.

When I first started eating this way, I would literally open up my refrigerator, look at the contents, and cry.

I had no idea what to eat, how to make it, or if anything would taste good. When I go to events, most of the time I cannot eat anything there which makes me feel unsociable and isolated. It is a constant difficulty even now.

Cut to this weekend and my amazing husband went to buy all the food for our camping adventure. He worked so hard to find food I could eat, many things still ended up being non-compliant for me. Part of it is that, even after 8 months or more of doing this, it’s still hard to remember all the items I cannot have! I have an app that I can search in to help me because even I have trouble sometimes, especially with food I do not eat often.

So get to camp and guess who does not have enough food? It’s me in case you missed that.

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Praise the Lord for eggs or I would have just been hungry (on top of freezing).

So I am going to begin sharing new and improved recipes on here for how to take your dietary needs camping. Here’s just a first look at one recipe:

Camp Chili

1lb beef
1lb spicy ground pork (because sausage is out now)
No beans
Cumin, Chili Powder, Paprika, Parsley, Basil (let’s be honest I do this by feel/smell)
1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 cans Tomato Sauce
1 can Tomato Paste
Water
1 Carrot (ground to a pulp and tossed in – you can’t taste it)
1 handful of Spinach (ground to a pulp and tossed in – you can’t taste it)
1 Baked Potato (to pour it on)

Directions:
Brown the meat and add a small portion of the spices until it is fragrant and slightly colorful. Add cocoa powder and stir. Add all the tomato products at once. You can also use Rotel here if there is nothing it that bothers you. I like the chunks but it says “spice” and since I do not know what that means, I steer clear.
Now I fill up 1 can of tomato sauce (now that it’s empty) with water and pour that in. You can always add more later if needed.
Grind up the vegetables in the food processor, blender, or chop it up if you want and throw it in.
Bring everything to a boil then let it simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours. (after about 30-40 minutes, test it and adjust seasonings as needed)

You can box this and take it camping, or you can make this in a cast iron dutch oven over a fire which will mean maneuvering it reduce the heat when needed.

Only YOU can decide when you’re chilly is done. I prefer mine pretty thick and very fragrant. Stir it every now and then until it is the consistency you want.

Are you vegan? Take out the meat (obviously) and add in any beans you want! I used to love making this with kidney beans and pinto beans, but black beans are tasty here as well despite being less common in this variety of chili. Consider pouring your chili over rice instead of potatoes if you are worried about getting that complete protein here, but you know yourself and what you need. Also, consider sprinkling nutritional yeast over the top instead of the cheese others prefer to get a similar flavor. I love the stuff! (if only it was cheaper! Do you hear me, Sprouts??)

Enjoy and See You Outside!

What do you NEED to go camping?

A huge part of planning a large scale trip, and one of the biggest drawbacks for people who want to start camping, is gear.

So what do you even need for your basic campout?

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Need:

  • Campsite
  • Ground Pad (or air mattress if you’re glamping)
  • Tent (optional)
  • Cooking method
  • Cooking utensils
  • Food

Okay, so a lot of times people have this mental list of all thing things they “need” to go camping. They have decided that it requires a tent, ground pad, sleeping bag, specialty pillow, specialty stove, special utensils, special clothes, special coolers, and on and on it goes. People end up racking up hundreds of dollars in things they supposedly “need” to go camping.

But it’s not all that.

If you go to a nearby state park or check out hipcamp.com to use someone’s property, there are really only a few things you need. You could even camp under the stars without a tent if you are up for it, or make a rain fly out of a tarp for some protection. I prefer a tent, so this is how it looked for us before we had gear.

We got a tent with gift cards from our wedding so we lucked out there, but we got it from Target. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need a to head to REI and get an ultralight tent. A Coleman tent from Target will do just fine.

Tent

Here’s my Target tent! We’ve had it for 9 years and it is still going strong.

We bought some cheap ground pads although honestly, some of those egg crates or even a mattress pad would have been just as good because the ones we bought were barely a step up from the ground. My kids actually don’t mind sleeping directly on the ground as long as there aren’t rocks, so you have that option too.

So did we buy fancy sleeping bags or…. no. No, we didn’t. The husband had an old sleeping bag from high school and we had a lot of blankets that we took of our bed. We also brought our regular pillows from our house. Ta-da, your accommodations are taken care of!

So now for the next most important part – eating. You have to eat. As you can see here I brought a cooler and a large tub for this campout but before that, we used cardboard boxes that were leftover from having items shipped to our house or wedding presents. If you don’t want to worry about cooking (I have done a no-cook campout before), you can just bring granola bars, cereal, dried fruit, apples, and anything that does not need to be refrigerated. And for the first night, you could pack yourself a sandwich or something that can last outside the fridge for a short time.

But if you do want to cook, you have two options. You can buy a camp stove or you can learn to cook over a fire. The good news is that you’ll probably want a fire either way because campouts feel sad without a fire. Wood is cheaper than a stove and often times can be purchased (or even must be purchased) at your campground. Make sure that the wood is good and dry or it won’t do much good. I’ll talk in another post about the best ways to get a fire started, but for now, let’s just assume you can start a fire (bring some newspaper or something to help you out). Ta-da, stove.

When we first started out, guess where we got our cooking pans and utensils? If you guessed our house, you are on the money. We just brought our own pots/pans and spatulas or whatever we needed. We stored food in the cooler with two bags of ice and ate on paper plates. (note: make sure to bring trash bags and properly dispose of your trash) We actually ate canned chili with our first kid campout and had to open the chili with a Swiss Army Knife because I forgot a can opener. You live, you learn, you never bring canned goods on a campout again (if you’re me).

Fire2
Most campsites have a fire ring – this is the safe place for your fire

So now you have no excuse. It’s so clear that you need very little to start camping and the cost of a campsite is often times under $10.

So, where will you go?!

See you Outside!