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How to camp in a tropical paradise

Bora Bora, view from Bloody Mary's

If you’re like me, your experience with camping has been mainly in the mountains and not in a tropical paradise. In fact, before reading this post, it’s possible that you never considered the possibility of camping on the beach in Bora Bora. Well, now you have.

In fact, there is only one campground in Bora Bora, the third-most visited island in French Polynesia. This campground is on a sandbar called a “motu”.

Bora Bora camping on a motu

At first impression, camping in Bora Bora sounds amazing. Access to the warm weather, the shallow bay, the scenic beauty, the biodiversity of plant and animal life, and the cultural experience are all incredible. But there are two major downsides: warm night-time temperatures and lots of mosquitoes and no-see-ums.

Sleep tight

The reality is that it is difficult for most people to have a good night’s sleep while camping. That is, unless you are backpacking for a large portion of the day and are exhausted when night comes. Unless you are a thru-hiker, the sleeping bag, bed and pillow are not part of your usual nighttime routine, and good sleep can be hard to come by. Add in temperatures above 75 degrees Farenheit (24 degrees Celsius), and a good sleep can be nearly impossible.

That said, there are a few solutions: you can use a portable, rechargeable fan to keep the air moving while you sleep; you can do some heat acclimation prior to such a trip; and you can take advantage of daytime siestas.

Using a rechargeable fan is the easiest way to keep your body cool while camping in tropical climates. Just getting the air moving will help your body release any extra heat. Wade and Dani have a list of fan options, including one with “Bora” in the name!

Heat acclimation is the process of using either warm days or time in the sauna to adapt to warm temperatures. Within weeks, you can stimulate capillary and nerve growth that are crucial for body cooling. Check out this detailed brochure by the Army Rangers for more specific information.

Lastly, daytime siestas are time-honored traditions in all tropical and subtropical climates. It has been shown that siestas are actually slightly longer in the summer in tropical climates, even though the temperatures hardly increase from the tropical winter.

Don’t let the bugs bite

Being prepared for biting bugs is a huge part of tropical comfort. You know how to prepare for this with your favorite repellent, but just in case you need ideas, here are some more options. But you may not know that another great option is a mosquito-repellent coil infused with citronella. They are the perfect, long-lasting option in the tropics that will keep bugs away for hours and are easy to pack with your luggage.

There you have it! Whether you are planning on going to Bora Bora, or the Dominican Republic, or Thailand, you now have a few tools to have a great sleep beneath the stars in a hammock or underneath the netting of a Trekker Pyramid. Let us know in the comments below if you have braved the tropics with a pack and a tent and, if so, where.

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Hiking in California’s volatile weather

Muir Beach

Let’s be clear about this: the hiking weather in California is not only volatile right now, it’s absolutely bonkers. For those of you who may be missing it, California is currently going through a series of “atmospheric rivers” that are dumping feet of rain and snow all over the state. There have been mixed responses to these weather events. On the one hand, people are glad that their historic drought might be ending. On the other hand, there is so much moisture across the state that roads are being washed out and travel is becoming difficult.

So, the question on everyone’s minds is how is this going to impact spring and summer outdoor activities, including hiking? I see three issues: one, the weather seems to be harder to predict; two, a lot of trails need extra maintenance; and three, this much moisture leads to taller vegetation and more critters. Three solutions to these issues are: one, expect the unexpected; two, pitch in where you can; and three, know your flora and fauna.

Expect the unexpected

Muir Beach Road

Traveling through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area last week, there were areas that had been closed by the Park Service and roads that were impassable. The road to Muir Beach (above) was covered in a foot of water more than a day after one of the storms had passed. I can’t even imagine how much snow is covering California’s high points. The morning of my hike, the weather forecast called for clear skies. 4 hours later, I was hiking through pouring rain.

Sure, you could say that these things are to be expected during large, ongoing weather patterns. And you’re probably right. But for every single thing you are able to anticipate, there may be two more things that you have not anticipated. In this case, don’t be surprised by lack of access to services, or by the need to turn around. You would do well to bring a water purifier with you as well as cold weather or rainy weather gear on any outing lasting longer than a couple of hours. And check park websites for closures.

Pitch in where you can

Many of the state and national parks welcome volunteers and have forms online for you to fill out for a day or more of service. But, that doesn’t stop you from clearing small items from the trail as you go and being prepared with a small shovel or saw in the event that a mudslide or fallen tree has blocked your path. Additionally, you can report fallen trees and other obstacles to the local ranger station.

Hiking and camping “without a trace” has long been the standard of good outdoorsmanship. However, in times like these, we should each set out to make the trail and the campground better than it was when we arrived.

Know your flora and fauna

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is covered in poison oak, and all of this rain is just going to help it grow and creep into the trail. Luckily, the Park Conservancy has a guide for helping you avoid this itchy plant. Whether you’re hiking in the San Francisco area or elsewhere, please be aware of the plant and animal life of the area and how they may affect you.

Taller and bigger plants inevitably leads to healthier and more abundant animal life. And the more animals there are, the better the odds that you will ending up crossing paths with one of them. Whether they are bobcats, badgers, or mountain lions, you should be aware of the possibility that with increased numbers they are expanding their territory.

Volatile weather or not, this year can be a great year for hiking and camping if you are prepared. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite tips are for expecting the unexpected!

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Product review: amazing sleeping bag combo!

River Country Products’ best-selling sleeping bag is a three-season bag designed for use in spring, summer, and fall. It is usually sold with a pad and pillow as part of a combo set. Although it will protect you in temperatures between 20-30°F (-6 to -1°C), it’s more suited to temperatures between 40-50°F (4 to 10°C).

Because it’s a three-season bag, it’s lighter and more compact and versatile than a winter bag. This makes it easier to carry on backpacking trips or other outdoor adventures. It also has an adjustable hoods and a draft collars to help you stay warm in cooler temperatures. Weighing either 2 lbs 4 oz or 2 lbs 14 oz, depending on size, it is fairly light.

It’s important to emphasize that temperature ratings are just a guide, so actual comfort levels can vary depending several factors. These include your general core body temperature, sleepwear, and insulation provided by the sleeping pad underneath the bag. In other words, you may want to overprepare for cold weather the first few times you use it until you know your comfort level.

Our sleeping bag combo is unique, because it comes with an inflatable pad designed specifically for the bag. The pad has the same shape as the bag, but it is smaller, so it can either fit inside the bag or be strapped to the outside. This means that you won’t have to worry about sliding off the pad during the night like you may with traditional pads.

Another unique feature of this combo is that it comes with a pillow that also acts as a pump for the pad. The pillow allows you to pump up the pad with cooler, typically less humid air. One benefit of the pillow is that it keeps the pad free from internal condensation. Another benefit is that the cooler air temperature will make it less likely to deflate.

What do you think? Do you prefer a three-season bag? Or a winter bag?

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Hammock + Tree Straps = The Perfect Pair

hammock tree straps backpacking

Although a seemingly small change, the addition of two 10 foot tree straps to our backpacking hammock makes a huge difference in set up time and convenience. These hammock tree straps are simple to use and are now included with every hammock.

The tree straps are rated at 400lbs (though the hammock holds just 320lbs), and are made from a durable stretch resistant polyester. The stitching is also reinforced making the straps stronger. Another great feature are the 15 connection points for your hammock. These small loops make it easy to adjust the tightness of your hammock setup without retying a knot or removing the straps.

Finally they weigh just 5.2oz each and pack down to a small size, perfect for taking backpacking, camping, or in your backyard. The orange stitching also makes them more visible in the evening and at night.