Monthly Archives: March 2012

Your Best Camping Tips (and the winner is…)

Lets get right to it. The winner (chosen by of the $50 REI gift certificate is LAUREN!! Congratulations!

Her best camping tip:

I have to agree with those who mentioned “the bin” system. I live by it. It makes camping life so much easier. But, a tip of my own… frisbees make great plates and obviously provide other fun functionality as well, and always have duct tape on you… whether car camping or backpacking. It’s easy to have a bit of it wrapped around your water bottle or stashed and it almost always comes in handy. I mean, what can’t you fix with duct tape? :)

Now for a roundup of YOUR BEST CAMPING TIPS:

Note: Some comments were combined and most have been shortened, for details on these ideas read through the comments on this post.

1. Create “The Bin”, The Bin (a rain proof tote) has everything you need for your camping trip with mini-bins inside separating your camp area essentials (make two: one for backpacking, car camping, etc.).

2. Go often. The more often you go, the easier it is to actually get out the door because you have to establish some sort of a routine to actually get out the door!

3. Glowsticks and headlamps for kids. Makes them easier to spot in the dark, plus makes the dark that much more fun.

4. Simplifying your meals and prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

5. When camping with kids, go with another family. Everything seems a little more manageable when there are more hands on deck.

6. We have a list that we print out before every camp trip so we don’t forget anything. We have a specific list for camping near water, in the mountains, or backpacking. (more…)

Our First Anniversary! Enter to win $50 at REI

**Giveaway has ended. Thanks for all those who participated!**

Yep. We made it. This blog has officially been alive for one year!  It all started with a post about minivans and a whole slew of people willing to share the site with their friends.

Do you know what the best part of this blog has been for me?  It’s provided a new way for me to ‘meet’ moms and dads who care as much about incorporating the outdoors into the lives of their children as I do.  I’ve learned so much from you folks, and enjoy every chance I get to interact with you.  We can’t thank you enough for being a part of this blog.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and talk about trivial things like $50 REI gift certificate giveaways, here are a few stats from our first year.

29,341 – # of individuals who visited our website

∞ # of thanks we owe all the aforementioned visitors

136 – # of posts we published

1,349 – # of comments left by all you lovely visitors

1 – # of blessed, blessed blog-saving contributers

211 – # of times our most popular post (make your own hammock) was shared on facebook and twitter

252 – # of days I’ve spent pregnant

22,290 – # of times the video How to Turn your Minivan into an RV has been viewed

50 – # of dollars you could win to spend however you wish at REI

Please note that ‘smooth’ segue into our one year anniversary giveaway… (more…)

Death and destruction at the hands of a child: Our connection with living critters.

GrasshopperThe other day I was teaching an after school science lab at our local elementary school. My students hadn’t come to my classroom yet, so while I waited I watched the fourth and fifth graders playing outside. Soccer balls bounced on the field, girls hung from the bars, and two little boys squatted over an insect that had emerged too early and was struggling to deal with mud and snow. They poked at it with a stick for a minute—and then skewered it.

I winced for some reason, and then watched as they, fascinated, lifted the part of the skewered bug that stuck to their stick and examined its legs up close. One reached out to touch the hard exoskeleton. Then the other grabbed the stick and started chasing the girls with it.

Boys will by boys, I thought.

But what is it about boys that leads them to skewer animals, tie strings to flies, stomp on ants with wild abandon, and eventually ask dad if they can try out the beebee gun on the birds in the backyard? And is it bad? (more…)

Project BudBurst: Get outside with a purpose

I’ve had a few readers suggest getting involved in Project BudBurst. I’d never heard of it until recently, but after looking into it a bit more I can see several reasons to get involved.

  1. It’s a great excuse to get you and your kids out for a weekly walk.
  2. Your kids get to become little scientists, they collect data. Real data.  And they learn that science isn’t that scary–it’s actually fun!
  3. The data actually gets used by scientists and educators, and they can see how their contributions help.
  4. It’s a good way to get your kids accustomed to making observations.

Projects like this are important because scientists can’t be everywhere at once. In order to investigate some of today’s most pressing questions, which are often global in nature, scientists are relying more and more on help from citizen scientists across the globe. The ability to gather and manage data on this scale has only been possible in the past decade or so, giving people like us the opportunity to help answer previously inaccessible questions.

So, what can we do?… scientists need data collectors.  Enter:  your kid.

What Project Budburst wants you to do: (more…)

Use #4 for a stick: Getting down (or up) the trail

Does this sound familiar?  You’ve….

  • loaded your pack with snacks, bandaids, baby wipes, extra clothes, spare kleenex, candy, and a bazillion other things
  • cleaned off the carseat(s),
  • strapped the kiddo(s) into the car,
  • driven 25 minutes to an exciting looking trail head
  • sung row your boat and the song that never ends over 346 times on the drive
  • extracted the kiddos from the car
  • and set them off down the trail….

only to find that they are tired and ready to go home five minutes into the hike.  You try candy, coaxing, singing, follow the leader, knock knock jokes and as many other tricks as you can think of, but have only made it another 50 feet down the trail… and two hours have passed.  Let me recommend one more trick for getting little ones moving down the trail (and, truth be told, this still works on me today): the Hiking Stick.

Tell them they need to find a hiking stick because it will give them the energy to go further.  They’ll try 30 different sticks, cruising down the trail in search of new and improved ones, and totally forget that the point was to go for a ‘walk’.  They’ll try them forwards and backwards.  Between their legs like a horse.  Over their shoulder.  It might turn into a gun. They’ll balance it on the palm of their hand.  And who knows what else they’ll think of.

Point is, they won’t think about the hike.  Tell them to find you one too–it has to weigh a certain amount, be a certain length, be the right height, have a curve for your grip, etc.  The hiking stick is the ticket to at least 100 extra feet.  And if you’re in the Mojave and there are no ‘sticks’ to be had?  Substitute something else:  find me a white rock, a tortoise shell, a flower, etc.  Scavenger hunts are wondrous motivators.

Looking for outdoor family advice? Ask us!

We’re starting a new feature on the blog. We’re thinking of calling it… Ask Outsidemom. Think of it as a Dear Abby column for the outside-enthused parent… except that we promise not to discuss which way to put the toilet paper in the holder (over the top), or your mother-in-law.

The thing is, we get emails every once in awhile with questions from parents. Questions about naps, outdoor cooking, tents, packing for hikes, etc. We love knowing the kinds of things you’re wondering about, or how we can best aid in you getting your little ones outside more.  You guys can help us gear this blog to your specifications.  We want to encourage these questions, because (truth be told) they actually end up being some of our favorites!

If ever you have a question, please don’t hesitate to ask. No matter how odd (shoot–I’m probably asking for it with that statement). We may not personally know the answer, but we have ways of finding out, and will likely even solicit the help of our readers from time to time.

So bring ’em on!  We’re very much looking forward to more of your questions! Just email us via the envelope icon on the side bar or send your email directly to

Tips for choosing a family tent

Our family tent is currently an older REI Half Dome 4, it’s worked nicely for us over the past 6 years. We currently sleep 2 adults, 2 kids and a dog quite comfortably. I suppose we can even fit the new baby in there for awhile, but eventually we’ll need an upgrade.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of tent to get for the next phase of our lives, so when Joe got an email from a friend last week (hi Dave) asking him for advice on choosing a family tent, I realized I wasn’t the only one stewing over this. And thus, this post was born.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a tent.

1. What kind of camping are you going to do?

  • Backpacking (or river trips): Obviously you will need to consider the weight and size quite seriously.
  • Car Camping: You can get something more roomy and a little heavier, but make sure to consider how much       space you’ll have available in your  vehicle.
  • Road trips: You’ll be putting the tent up and down a lot (sometimes in the dark, often by yourself while your spouse tries to keep the kids from running through a cactus patch), so make sure to get something with a simple design so it’s easy to set up. Also, campsite sizes will vary if you’re moving around a lot, so pick something on the smaller side.
  • Stationary camping: If you’re setting the tent up once, in a place your familiar with, and staying put you can choose a tent that’s bigger and more complicated to set up. (more…)

Exciting happenings with the outsidemom crew!

Today’s post is a little different. There have been some exciting things afoot in the lives of the people who make outsidemom function. These new developments bring me such joy, I have to share. Please indulge me while I update you on happenings in our personal lives, so that if you’ve thought that perhaps we seemed distracted, reset assure we kind-of were.

Outsidemom blog designer, tech crew, social media instigator, strategic adviser

You don’t ever really hear about Travis, but he’s my brother (and world’s greatest Uncle). I’d been thinking about this blog for years before it existed.  I’m 100% sure I would still be thinking about it if it wasn’t for Travis.  He designed it, got it working, helped me set up my facebook and twitter accounts, and fielded ten thousand questions as I took my first steps into the blogging world.

If, over the next year, my blog begins to falter, it’s because my brother has moved on to bigger and better things, but I couldn’t be prouder. Besides, when he’s rich and famous he can hire someone to fix all the weird things I’ve done to my blog trying to maintain it myself. His first single hit iTunes and his music video (shot in my old stomping grounds, so the scenery is fabulous) came out today. I’m not usually a country music fan, but one might say I’m a fan of Travis Marshall.

Did I mention I was proud? Oh, did I also mention he’s single… (more…)

There’s an outdoor app for that…

I got an iphone just before Christmas.  I love it… mostly because it works all the time.  But as an added bonus, it turns out iphones are like swiss army knives where you get to choose the tools and gadgets it has.  (Bejeweled, anyone?)  I’ve been looking at outdoor apps a lot (I got an app store gift certificate for Valentine’s Day) and thought I’d share with you the myriad choices available to the nature-lover… I’ve included both those useful to the iphone-folk as well as the droid-folk. Of course, I put several under each numeral; these apps achieve the same end-goal, but go about it slightly differently.  I’m all about providing options! (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

    I don't blog alone! Meet outsidemom contributer Olivia