Monthly Archives: August 2012

A lighter weight Chaco! A review of the new Updraft.

There are two kinds of people in this world:  the toe-loopers and the non-toe-loopers.  Those who enjoy (and apparently even become addicted too) the security of a piece of webbing between their big toe and, and those who can’t stand to be violated in such a manner.  Lindsey is a toe-looper.  I am not.  Somehow we are still friends.

Recently, Chaco sent Lindsey a pair of snazzy new Updraft sandals, rigged with vibrant red webbing.  They were a sight to behold.  They also were missing the ever-loved toe loop. Lindsey’s feet couldn’t adjust. She’s more of an Updraft 2 kind of girl. Lucky me.

I’ve been wearing them for two months now–hiking in the Sierras, tubing the Rio Grande, shopping for souvenirs at the Spanish market.  I even danced in them at a Hank III concert, where my husband had to spend most of the evening protecting me and my poor feet from a horrific and spontaneous occurrence that apparently happens at rowdy concerts:  a mosh pit.

I love these sandals.  I love that they felt good on my feet the moment I slipped them on.  I love how adjustable they are.  I love that I can slip them on and be stylishly ready to go at a moment’s notice (yes, I am one of those people who thinks their Chacos go with every outfit).  I love that I don’t have to tighten the straps for them to stay on my feet.  I love that they have such solid arch support and the cushion-y feel.  I have already hiked several miles in a day in these things without ever regretting my choice of foot wear.  And I love that they aren’t shoes. (more…)

DeLorme topo maps: Essential for the outdoor traveler.

Since posting my article on dispersed camping a few days ago I’ve had quite a few questions on HOW one goes about finding places to camp on public land. Today I’m prepared to answer that question in the form of a gushing review of the DeLorme’s Atlas and Gazetteer series.

I’ll admit, when I started my review of these priceless books-of-maps, I couldn’t figure out why they went to the trouble of calling them “Atlas and Gazetteers”.  So fancy-schmancy… what was the point?  Being ever the resourceful one, I decided to find the answer.  I called Olivia.

“I dunno”  she informed me.  “Look it up.”

So I did.

Atlas: /’atles/  A book of maps or charts.
Gazetteer: /gazi’ti(Ə)r/   A geographical directory of places containing information on things like mountains, waterways, camping areas, historic markers, state and national parks, roads etc.


Put them together and that’s exactly what we have here:  A book of amazingly detailed, large-format topographic and informative maps.

Because Atlas and Gazetteer is too long to keep saying I will here-to-fore refer to these publications as A&G.

I’ve been a fan of this A&G series for a very very (very) long time.  It’s amazing how often we use these them. They go everywhere with us, they even have a permanent spot in the back of the van underneath the mat so that if we’re out of the house, so are they.

They provide information on camping, hiking trails, cities, and most importantly, back roads! And they have a version for all 50 states.

How do I use them?  Well, let’s take some hypothetical situations that (strangely) mirror real ones that may or may not actually happen on a regular basis. Here is a small portion from this sample page. (note the A, B, C correlations to the map). (more…)

Shade seeker

I started a really great blog post for today, but like most things I’ve started this week it’s just not going to happen. So instead I’ll leave you with this photo. Why? Because every time I see it, I laugh.


Hope you all find some shade this weekend.

This post is part of a photo series on unstructured moments. For more photos in this series click here.

My camping style: no fees, no toilets, no people

I’m not that in to campgrounds. They make me feel claustrophobic, you have neighbors, you can hear them, your dog has to be on a leash, you have to pay, you feel bad for peeing outside your tent in the middle of the night.  I always feel like I need to keep my kids quiet… and it’s just sorta stressful for me.

I go camping to get away from the world.

This is why I love camping on public lands. You can pretty much set up camp wherever you want, which is technically known as ‘dispersed camping‘. I have topo maps of just about every state in the west for the sole purpose of knowing exactly where to find Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.  I pour over the maps, until I’ve located the perfect obscure road. (more…)

If you give a kid some Chacos: A review of the Z1 Ecotread

The folks at Chaco were nice enough to hook up a few of my favorite outdoor kids with a pair of Chacos last spring. After putting their shoes to work all summer these kids are ready to talk about how THEY view their new footwear.

We asked Ari (age 5), Adan (age 4), Cohen (age 5), Jackson (age 7) and Tobin (age 7) what they thought of their Z1 Ecotreads.

Where’s the coolest place you’ve worn your Chacos?

Adan: Sea world, Papa & Nonnies [Grandparents], rocky mt natl park, and soon the first day of school.
Jackson: Lake Tahoe
Cohen: The beach
Tobin: Cape Cod
Ari: To my friend Evas house and to Bone Canyon to find dinosaurs bones [aka sticks].

What’s your favorite thing to do in your Chacos?

Adan: Go on hikes and run really, really fast in them.
Jackson: Swim out to the big rock [at Tahoe] in them.
Cohen: Riding my bike and going to the beach
Tobin: Walk
Ari: Hike and splash in the water.

What do you like most about your Chacos?

Adan: I can get them wet & muddy
Jackson: The adjustable straps
Cohen: I like them because they make it so I don’t have to wear shoes.
Tobin: Green thingie – [he means the pattern of the webbing]
Ari: They help me climb up steep hills.

Is there anything you don’t like about your Chacos?

Adan: If I wear them for days and days the straps rub a sore spot.
Jackson: No
Cohen: This is what I don’t like about them. I don’t like it when the sand gets in them
Tobin: Mostly that they gave me a blister.
Ari: They sometimes don’t get enough sticky on the bottom of them and I slip down steep hills.

If you could pick one superhero (or the equivalent) to give a pair of Chacos to who would you pick and why?

Adan: He-man, cause his boots look to hot. [Of course Adan’s parents think its because He-Man’s going for the minimalist look]
Jackson: Thor, because he could use a new pair of sandals.
Cohen: The incredible hulk because they would make him kick stronger.
Tobin: Green Lantern because he’s green.
Ari: Spiderman, because he could put web slingers on his Chacos. (more…)

Finding night critters using a black light

If you were to ask your kids what kinds of critters come out at night, they’d surely rattle of a list that included bats, owls, raccoons and other cute furry or fluffy stereotypical nocturnal animals.

The world of nocturnal critters is bigger than you think, in fact the other night while hiking in the dark I encountered toads, trap door spiders, salamanders and countless insects hovering in front of my headlamp.

The experience reminded me of all the night adventures my Dad use to take us on as kids. One of my favorites was an activity known to the entomology world as “black lighting”.

What is black lighting? Well, simply put it’s collecting nocturnal insects by using an ultraviolet light to attract them to a white sheet.

What you’ll need: (more…)

The Perseids are coming!

Comments Off on The Perseids are coming!

The Perseids always fall around my mom’s birthday, and growing up I remember many a birthday party that involved clambering into the car and getting away from city lights.  The challenge was to see more than Dad.

We’d make dutch oven Gingerbread with Peaches and serve it with ice cream, kept cool under a brick of dry ice.  This weekend, my husband and I will be throwing a mattress out on the back lawn and sleeping under the stars (if the monsoons stay away, that is–cross your fingers!).  Join in the fun!

The stars are aligning for a perfect weekend star party:  The moon will be tiny and coming up late in the evening, the weather is warm, and it’s a weekend!  Time to throw out some blankets and stare at the night sky.

And the best part?  It’s free.

The universe is conspiring to create some fireworks (a.k.a. The Perseid Meteor Shower), and the best time to see them will be Saturday night (the peak is apparently Sunday at noon, but, that won’t work for obvious reasons).  There should be 50-100 meteors per hour (don’t be disappointed if you don’t quite see that many).  The meteors are tiny fragments of thousand-year-old debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle Comet.

Check here for more info on the meteors and other things astronomical.

Watching meteors is a great family event that develops focus in little ones.  Want to share the night sky with your kids?  Here are a few pointers on getting set up: (more…)

What do your children think you value?

I heard about a study awhile back that crosses my mind on almost a daily basis. Maybe it’s just my lifestyle, but I really do think about it quite a bit.

This study involved two groups of moms. Group one never opened a book all day long. They just went about their motherly business while their kids were at home. Group two at a minimum had a book open on their laps whenever possible. If they weren’t actually reading, they at least gave the pretense of it. The study found that the kids whose moms were in group two were significantly more likely to become readers than the kids who grew up in the homes of group one.

To tell you the truth I can’t find that study anywhere to provide you with the link. Don’t remember where I heard it, or whether I heard it or read it. Maybe I dreamed the whole thing, I don’t know (if so, props to me for dreaming about scientific studies!). But I guess that’s also not really the point for me.

The findings are not shocking by any means, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that our kids watch us. Our actions speak far louder than our words. They do what we do. They learn to value what we value.

After reading (or dreaming) about the study, I started to mentally mull over my day. I imagined what it was that I was showing my kids about what I valued. Exercise? Computer? Work? Outdoors? Phone? Service? Them? Cooking? Health? Art? TV? Reading? Funny how what you think you value isn’t always reflected in how you choose to spend your time every day. I also thought a lot about what I wanted my kids to know that I value, and subsequently what I want them to value.

I made a few changes in my weekly routine. (more…)

The incredible haystack: life’s most versatile meal

Haystacks are my most favorite of camping meals.  Not too long ago I was camping with some friends and lo, they had never heard of the Haystack!  This most easily manipulated, picky-eater-friendly, camping-masterpiece of a dinner is my go-to meal several times a month.  Perfect for the lazy chef.

Here is the idea behind a haystack: you need a starchy base, covered by a protein, topped with something fatty, and piled with any toppings of your choosing.  The  ‘toppings’ of your choosing part is what makes this meal easy when camping (many of the toppings travel well), and fun for little mouths that seldom get a say in what appears on their plate each evening.  Building your own haystack is an art form and a matter of personal preferences reflecting the unique taste buds of each eater… and over time the gourmand will learn how small to make the base in order that the haystack still fits on the plate after the last topping is added.  The down-side to a haystack?  You’ll need several small serving dishes…

Just in case there are others who fall into the unfortunate category of Those Who Have Never Had a Haystack, we are today sharing Four Variations on the Theme of Haystack. (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