Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Family Backpacking

You may already know this but my husband and I met in college in the outdoors club called "Wilderness Adventures."  The club went on many backpacking, canoeing, and other outdoor trips through Buffalo State College.

all of our stuff

We continued to backpack and canoe even after we got married but then it took a side-seat to raising a family. However, this year we now think that it's time to take the boys (6 and 9) on their first outdoor backpacking adventure. We have taken them on many car-camping trips since they were 1 (imagine a pack-in-play in a tent and you have the right idea). So now we think that they are ready.

Our first trip was to one of our favorite short loops in the southern tier of Western New York, the Minister Creek Area. According to Backpacker magazine:
  • "This 6.4-miler loops through the lush forest surrounding Minister Creek, passing glacial boulders, wooded caves, and a plethora of streams. Follow leaf-covered Minister Creek Trail to the northwest through hemlocks and deciduous forest. After .6 mile, bear right at the junction to start the 5.2-mile loop around Minister Creek—you’ll stay within sight or sound of the creek for most of the trip. The trail passes gigantic, moss-covered boulders that were deposited by glaciers and crosses numerous streams. At mile 3.1, the route curves to the south for the return trip, crossing several more streams. Tackle a boulder-scrambling side-trip to an overlook above Minister Valley at mile 5 before closing the loop and retracing your route to the trailhead. Note: Use caution when hiking in Allegheny National Forest during hunting season."  Backpacker Magazine Link

(I have to admit I am not super-happy that they shared this loop with the general public because in no time the trails will be destroyed, garbage will be left behind and there will be no natural firewood remaining.)

We started the hike with a backpack for everyone in our family. We had to hike in everything we would need for our over-night stay and for the next day. When you are hiking a total of 7 miles over 2 days you have to ask yourself "what can I live without? or What do I truly need to survive?"

Meals consisted of:

A description from bottom to top of the image above: 
We freeze one meal for the first evening because it thaws as we are hiking and is ready at dinner time. This time we froze a steak and a pork chop. We decided to have our favorite package of noodles (Garlic and olive oil vermicelli) which needed 2 tsp of butter so we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken and asked them for some butter packets. We also felt that it was important to bring some veggies and our family LOVES edamame. For a snack around the fire after dinner (and to keep us warm in our tent at night) we had quesadillas on the fire. Little known fact: make up your quesadillas and put them over a small open flame and they will be delicious!

NOTE: we froze the meats, cheeses, tortillas, butter packets, and edamame before the trip.
You just need to write yourself a note so you don't forget them)


From bottom to top of the picture above: I planned to have a hearty breakfast of loaded instant potatoes, and lite spam for breakfast. (Even though I know this was way too much for me alone for breakfast I knew my husband would eat the rest of it.) They boys will  have dinosaur oatmeal (their favorite) and a cereal bar if they were still hungry. My husband will have 2 cereal bars for breakfast and of course we will have coffee.


Lunches from bottom to top: We will hike and snack on sunflower seeds and flat fruit, we will stop and have turkey slim jims, tuna and chicken salad,  and granola bars and Snickers (which curiously enough have the same nutritional value as protein bars that don't taste 1/2 as good.)
(FYI: for the food images above I used the iPad app called Skitch)

cooking dinner noodles on our backpacking whisperlite stove

we carried a grill grate so we could cook over an open flame

our 2 person tent that was just barely big enough for the 4 of us

fire pit and "chairs" made out of stones
Andrew drew this picture of me and he put it in his backpack because he wanted to take it home. I made him leave it behind.

Every trip we go on we have a debriefing afterward to help us decide what to bring and not to bring next time.
What I brought and didn't need: SPAM that stuff is not edible! My 9 yr old loved it but I will never serve it again. It had the texture of tofu and the taste of ham...not for me.

What I wish I had: a better pillow. I had a fleece pillow that I stuffed my unworn clothes into but it was definitely not comparable to my contour pillow I have at home. I am actually thinking about buying another and sawing it in half with a butter knife (half for me and half for my husband).

Have you ever tried a family backpacking trip? What have you found that would be beneficial to others?
originally posted on www.ballinwithballing.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 11, 2013

We are an outdoor family and some camping tricks we have used

Some of you may not know this but my husband and I met in the outdoor club in college.

Since our family has grown (we now have 2 boys who are 9 and 6 years old) it has been challenging to continue our backpacking and canoeing trips to say the least so in the past couple years we have been family camping with our car. This past weekend we went camping at Stony Brook State Park in Central New York State.

my husband and son to the left of the falls

Daddy carrying Andrew back to the trail

Here are some little camping tricks we have learned over the years that work well:
1) prep food at home and freeze it if you can
 I made these breakfast burritos from Ninth and Bird's Blog and froze them
at the campsite you can set them out so they thaw and then put them on the fire so they get indirect heat (NOT directly over the flames or coals)
FYI: I made extras for mornings at home and froze those also. To heat them up in the microwave put them on 50% power for 3 minutes and then 40 seconds on full power. DELICIOUS!

image from Ninth and Bird

 I also cut up and prepped veggies and fruit for snacks

2) make a salad that travels well and doesn't get soggy
like this bean salad from Echoes of Laughter's Blog
image from Echoes of Laughter

 3) freeze bottles of water for your cooler
because they can be a beverage when they melt, they can be refilled, and they don't take up useless car space like those blue gel ice packs like these.
I like the gel ice packs if I am leaving my house and going on a short day trip but if you can't refreeze it in a freezer then it's a waste to take these on a 3 day camping trip. Cooler space is valuable and water bottles are useful frozen or melted.

4) Papertowels can be used as napkins

Take an entire roll of paper towels and put them on to a plastic hanger so they are off of the ground. (I broke the hanger in the middle so I could get the paper towel roll on to it)

5) pack a sandwich bag of dryer lint  (it's lightweight and makes a great fire starter)

6) reuse a Mio drink bottle for condiments
I got the idea from www.indestructables.com

My condiment of choice on everything is Sriracha hot sauce...so guess what ended up in this bottle?

7) Make a stromboli 
from http://www.familycookbookproject.com/view_recipesite.asp?rid=2965253&uid=136816&sid=408007
and then wrap it in heavy duty foil and freeze it. When camping you can leave it out to thaw and put it directly over the fire for a quick dinner. The idea and recipe came from this website. Familycookbookproject

8) You can make cinnamon rolls over the campfire
(as seen on the blog Whimsey-love) FYI: they are MUCH better than s'mores in my opinion.
image from Whimsey-love

9) Take solar powered landscape lights
because they can be used to help you see your way in the dark, they don't use up batteries, and if you take the dangerous point off of the bottom, they make great flashlights for the kids.

10) put everything in your tent inside a trash bag.
It keeps your bag of clothes out of water, and slide the trash bag up the end of your sleeping bag so if your sleeping bag touches the wet sides of the tent, your sleeping bag will not get wet.

I hope that you found these tips helpful on your family car-camping trip...coming up in a future post...family backpacking! Yep, we haven't done it yet with the kids but we will document the ups and the downs of a family adventure.
What camping tips and tricks do you use?

originally posted on www.ballinwithballing.blogspot.com