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Tag Archives: camping

Making the perfect, transportable rope swing

We’ve started  packing our homemade hammock and our rope swing on every campout and day trip. EVERY trip. In fact I tried to get my husband to leave it home a few months ago when we were packing for a trip to the Nevada desert. “Why are you packing these? You’re never going to hang a hammock, let alone a swing in the middle of nowhere.”

I was plesantly proven wrong on both accounts.

Joe has found places for hammocks and swings in just about every campsite we’ve been in this past year. It’s been a blast for the kids, so I asked him to write up a little tutorial on how to make and hang a rope swing.

MAKING YOUR SWING:

We use a disc swing as opposed to a traditional swing because it’s easier to hang. Only having one rope to hang means you don’t have to mess around with getting ropes even.

You can use pretty much any type of wood, as long as it will hold up to having someone sit on it. We’ve used 3/4 inch plywood or 3/4 inch particle board, both worked equally well.

Step 1: Trace the seat onto the wood, a 5 gallon bucket lid is the perfect size. Just set the bucket lid onto the wood and trace a circle around it

Step 2: Using a jig saw or something similar cut out the circle you just traced.

Step 3: Drill a hole in the center. There is probably a good way to find the center of the circle so you can drill a hole exactly centered in the swing but we always just eyeball it and it turns out fine. We use a 1 inch drill bit but a slightly smaller bit would probably work too, depending on the diameter of the rope you plan on using.

Step 4: (Optional) Seal the swing seat with some polyurethane or something like that.

Step 5: Attach a rope. There are two different way to do this pictured to the right.

Swing 1: Using about 6 feet of rope fold it in half, put the ends through the hole and tie a big knot.

Swing 2: Attach a short section of rope (about 3 feet) to the swing by stringing one end of the rope through the hole you just drilled.  Tie a large knot at each end of the rope. Be sure to tie a good knot that will not slip like a figure 8 or similar.

Step 6: On the other end of the rope tie a loop in the rope using a figure 8 or overhand knot (this loop will allow you to attach the swing to a fixed rope with a carabiner).

HANGING YOUR SWING:

I’ve used several types of rope and most work equally well. Static rope (without stretch) is better than dynamic rope (with stretch). In our yard we often use 1 inch tubular webbing because there is very little stretch and it sits flat against the branch so it rubbs less than most ropes.

There are several ways you can get your rope up in a tree:

Method 1 (photo to the right): Our preferred way to hang a rope is to climb the tree and tie the rope to a branch. Tie a loop in one end of the rope with an overhand knot, hang the loop on one side of the branch with the long tail hanging on the other side. Then underneath the branch thread the long tail through the loop and pull it tight. This method seems to secure the swing and minimizes the rubbing of the rope against the branch because the pivot point of the rope is against the loop rather than against the bark of the tree.

Method 2: If you can’t climb the tree, throw one end of a long rope over a branch (photo 1 below) and secure the other end to the base of the tree (photo 2 below).  The downside of this method is you have very little control over the exact location the rope hangs on the branch, and often this method leads to a lot of rubbing of the rope on the tree. Still, it work out fine in a pinch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have your rope up take the dangling end of the rope and tie another loop with an overhand knot and secure your swing to that loop with a carabiner. Depending on how permanent you want your swing to be, you can cut the rope to a desired length or simply tie up any extra rope above the swing.

We often tie several loops at the end of our rope at various heights (like this), the highest one for adults with long legs, a lower loop for middle sized kids, and a low loop for little kids. Then we use a carabiner to attach the swing to the desired loop.

Enjoy!

10 Night Games to play while camping

Capture the Flag. The best place I’ve ever played this game was in a sandy wash with sorta steep sides. In this beloved game, each team hides a flag on their side of the wash, or field, or dirt road. Team members strategize to sneak over steal the other team’s flag without getting caught while also guarding their own flag against capture. More info on Capture the Flags rules here.

Hide and Go Beep. If it’s to dark to play hide and seek, this game makes fora nice post-sunset substitute. To play, simply locate one another by sound having hidden players “beep” every 30 seconds or so.

Flashlight Tag. One person is “it” and holds a flashlight, unlit. When he sees another player, he quickly turns on the flashlight and shines his light on them. The rest of the players do their best to avoid being spotted with the flashlight. If the “it” player shines his flashlight on you, you take the flashlight from him and are now “it.”

Signals. Players should pair off and create a flashlight signal (one short and one long flash, three short flashes and so on). Partners must then separate and go to opposite ends of a large, open playing area. Players are given one minute to scatter before they begin flashing their signals. Each pair tries to reunite as quickly as possible by sending flashlight signals to partners. The first pair to reunite is the winner. (more…)

Keeping your feet dry: the delicate art of peeing in the woods

I once thought about making a photo blog called “Oh the places I’ve peed.” Nature can offer some pretty scenic restrooms!! Much better than the four walls your use to at home, and light years better than the experience you get from most public bathrooms.

If you read this blog I’m guessing you have no problem peeing in the out-of-doors. But I bet you know someone who does, it’s a pretty common hang-up for lots of women. If you do know such a woman, please send them this video.  I laughed when I watched it, only because I think Jessica (from bring-the-kids.com) is so awesome for actually making it.

And don’t worry, she’s wearing spandex…

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…)

What should have been Family ‘Burning Man’

This past week my friend Amber and I planned a camping trip. Our hope was that it wouldn’t be like your regular run-of-the-mill camping trip. We wanted to create a family style Burning Man festival. We live in Nevada, so it seemed only fitting, and we hoped to add a little of that Burning Man creativity, pizzaz, and chaos (I like to think we nailed the ‘chaos’ part pretty well).

What we got instead were 35 MPH winds. We couldn’t camp in the Burning-Man-esque dry lake bed we’d picked out because the wind was too strong.  If we’d made a burning man, we would have watched him take flight across the desert soon after.   Our hot dogs would have dried out before they got to the fire pit.  And the materials we’d brought for art projects would have scattered across the desert like New Year’s confetti faster than you can count down from ten.  We had to opt for a sheltered rock cove and a low key evening instead.

I’m proud to say we stuck out the camping trip despite the never ending wind, though Amber and I were somewhat disappointed. The kids, on the other hand, could have cared less. They ran around the rocks pretend-shooting each other for hours, took advantage waves created by the wind at the lake, flew kites, hunted for bones, mastered the giant sling shot, and ate dust while taking rides on the tailgate of the truck. I suppose we made due.  I suppose they’ll remember it fondly anyway, burning man or not.

I managed a few pics.

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Packing for a camping trip: Your ultimate guide

When we had our giveaway a few weeks ago one of the most mentioned camping tips was to make some sort of camping box. A large waterproof tote that holds the majority of your camping supplies. The idea behind such a box is that you always have the bulk of your gear packed and ready to go. I could not agree more.

The problem is that it’s hard to keep ALL your camping gear together all the time (because a lot of stuff gets used for day adventures as well).  Some stuff gets put away between adventures, but some stuff we’ve bought two of; it’s worth it to buy an extra set of supplies and make a kit that ALWAYS stays together.

I’ve already done posts that list out all the items needed to make:

  1. Mobile kitchen: a bin that houses all our cooking essentials and a few other odds and ends.
  2. Mini Survival kit:  a go-everywhere kit with random survival and medical supplies (although we still also bring a larger first aid kit).

You can also easily make dedicated camping kits for personal hygiene and dog supplies (see lists below).

To make packing the rest of the gear easier, we try to keep most if it together. We turned a corner of our garage, and a corner of our guest room closet into ‘gear closets’.  They house the aforementioned camping kits, as well as our sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tent, tarp, climbing/kayaking gear, backpacks etc. When it’s time to pack, everything is easy to find.

When preparing for a camping trip we throw our mobile kitchen and survival kit in the van and use the checklist below (download a PDF of this Ultimate Camping Checklist here) to gather/remember everything else. (more…)

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…)

Camping and the art of kid cleanliness

Keeping kids clean while camping.

It’s been said that one of the major obstacles of camping with kids is how to clean them up at the end of the day. While I don’t have any magic formula for keeping kids from getting dirty when camping (since playing in the dirt is kind of the point) I have learned a thing or two about cleaning them up so you don’t have to put a filthy kid to bed in the tent.

Usually you can get away with a simple wash down, #1 or #4. But then there are those occasions when your child’s skin color has changed dramatically, they stink, and/or they have sand and poofy dirt in places that just seem uncomfortable. This may or may not take a few days to accumulate. For those occasions you may need to bust out #2 , #3 or #4. (more…)

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

We took a trip to the Redwoods over Memorial Day. It was beautiful, not as crowded and rainy as I thought it would be, but a little on the cold and windy side. Still, a wonderful trip with my sister and her family. Ari and his cousin had a blast! As I was previewing photos from the trip there were two that made me laugh out loud, so I had to share.

#1 My first thought when I saw this photo was “wow, what a great shot!” Then I looked closer. Can you tell what’s wrong here? (FYI, click on the photo, it should get bigger).

I know! I had no idea they were playing with lighters until I saw this photo! It’s a good thing they don’t know how to use them for anything other than swords. Learn from my mistake on this one…

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Nancy: Adventure. Exhausting, but Worth it.

I grew up camping quite a bit with my five siblings and my parents.  I remember splashing in creeks, going on hikes and bike rides, rigging up rope swings, making huts, catching snakes and cramming into a tent when the sun went down.  I look back on these memories with great fondness, and I know this must be why I seek out the same opportunities for my own children.

HOWEVER, I realize now, with only two small boys, how challenging it must have been for my mother to keep six of us (three girls and three boys) semi-clean, fed, happy, and on the radar.  I was curious to see how she did it.  Never, in all the many times that we went camping, did it occur to me that she was looking forward to the drive home more than she was the next round of freeze-tag-in-the-cactus-patch.

Why did she do it?  Why did she take us again and again when it was so exhausting?  I found the answer inspiring, and I think it might appeal to my readers who don’t naturally take to the idea of sleeping on the hard ground and taking baby-wipe-showers.

I am thankful everyday that my Mother (and Father) created for us the opportunities to experience the outdoors, no matter how hard it was on her, and I appreciate her optimistic outlook, always willing to go along for the adventure. So, it is with great honor that I present to you, an interview with MY very own OutsideMom.

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    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

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