Under the Hood…

With freedom comes responsibility… And I have the great responsibility of getting us all there and back again safely. Which is exactly what brought me to the Jeep dealership the other day.

We need to make sure our vehicle can withstand the grueling workout it is going to get. Our greatest concern is the extreme conditions of Death Valley in August where it can get as high as 130 degrees farenheit!

Our Jeep becomes more than  just a mode of transport out there. It becomes a critical tool for survival. So having it checked out by our mechanic is important. And it is also important that we be able to do some emergency service in case something breaks down out in the desert.

So that means, we’d better know how to change a flat tire, and it was also suggested by those more experienced with Jeeping in the desert, that we carry some spare hoses, fan belt and so forth… and following up on that, I found myself getting a tutorial in changing radiator hoses and replacing the fan belt!

It was interesting to learn about what is under the hood of my Jeep, even though I hope I will never have to use that knowledge in the field!!!! But somehow it just seemed appropriate to start the story of our road trip with the hood of the Jeep open…

posted by Blue Coyote in On the Road and have No Comments

The new camera arrived…

And I was like a little kid at Christmas! I couldn’t wait to open the box!

Frustrating that I have to charge the batteries before I can really start learning to use it… but I will be getting up to speed with it over the next week, so that I will have a good sense of the controls by the time Cactus Killer and Silly Squirrel arrive :-)

posted by Blue Coyote in Anticipation and have Comments (2)

A humorous look at what we NEED when camping…

We are winding down our preparations for the trip and starting to actually begin packing up gear to go! In the process there are still a few items we need to procure… and while searching for some of them online, I came across a really funny blog post “13 Unnecessary Camping Supplies“… (give it a read and you will surely get a laugh or two!)

…and of course, we have 2 of the things on this list (though considering we will be in Death Valley, I think the oral rehydration salts ARE an important item for our medical emergency kit)!

The same writer has a few more posts on camping supplies that are worth a read:

posted by Blue Coyote in Other thoughts and have No Comments

Checking out the Big Tent…


The tent, unrolled and on the tarp...

Today was a nice enough day outside to check out the big tent and do the seam sealing. I decided to time myself to see how long it would take to put it up for the very first time (figuring that as we learn how to do it, it will go much faster).

I started at 11:04am and had it up by 11:43am — all by myself! (I didn’t bother to put the fly on, though, as I was just doing the seam sealing, and that wouldn’t make sense, as i wouldn’t be able to reach the seams!)

It went up pretty easily! The only difficulty at all was getting the little metal pegs into the bottoms of the wall poles. That required a bit of strength to pull and push. But otherwise it was extremely easy. And I imagine that when we will be doing it as a team it will go up in about 20 minutes, max. We should have no problems getting it done quickly, even when we have been driving all day. And it seems like it will make a very pleasant shelter!


...with half the wall poles in...

It is really roomy! (I swear it is bigger than some studio apartments I have lived in! — especially in New York City!)

And the windows everywhere are GREAT! I also LOVE the skylight! It will let us see the stars at night without having to actually sleep outside! (we will have to figure out a way to cover it in the daylight so that the interior of the tent doesn’t get hot in the desert!!!)

It seems like a lot of thought went into the design, as it has a lot of good little details so you can open the windows in all kinds of different configurations, and it has a little thing so you can pull the floor down, and sweep stuff right out over the side!

Overall I think it will be a GREAT tent! (I will see how easily it comes down and can get packed up again, tonight once the seam sealer is dry).

photo-5While I had it out, I decided to put the cots in there to see how they fit. And even with the three cots we have a good amount of space and will not feel like we are “on top of each other.”

photo-4Overall I think we made a good choice with this tent! The windows and skylight make it very comfortable inside — and we can configure them in a lot of  different ways to maximize airflow while maintaining some cool shade.

The zippers seem to be pretty good quality, and the whole thing seems sturdy.  It looks like it will hold up throughout the duration of the trip, if we are somewhat gentle with it (and we will still have duct tape handy in case of emergencies)!

One detail I did think about though, was that we need some kind of floor mat (like a door mat) right inside the tent door — or just outside — to put the shoes so we don’t get the floor of the tent too dirty!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Our new tent…

So we went to the store to look at tents in person today, and Cactus Killer and I came back with our backcountry tent. A 3-man Quechua 2 second tent. (The base tent of the same brand was just not practical in the end, because it had a separate floor, and there was a huge gap where water could get in, if there was much rain/flooding….)

And when we got home, Silly Squirrel was anxious to try it out… and so we took it out of the bag and started setting it up in the middle of the living room, but then decided to take it out to the terrace, and truthfully the set up WAS quick and easy! The two of us went inside to check out the space and comfort, and it seems like a fine tent for the hike-in days! Cactus Killer was “practicing” for the hike-in by carrying the tent with us all over Paris as we did some other errands as well…

Anyway, getting the tent back down and in its bag was a bit more complicated, but i think with a little bit of practice we will be able to do it all pretty quickly…

So a toast to the new tent!!!!!

And after buying the tent we headed up to Barbes to look at fabric… We wanted to get some very light comfortable fabric to transform into camp bedding for those hot nights when the sleeping bags will be way too hot… And so we did a tour of the fabric shops, and spent a really nice afternoon looking at different options, both in terms of colors and fabric types. I had originally wanted some kind of camo pattern, but after looking at the fabrics in that pattern I switched to a lighter, more comfortable batik, and chose a psychedelic green/pink combo that looks fun and feels inviting… Cactus Killer choose some very light weight cottons in the blue purple shade for Silly Squirrel and a beautiful desert color combo African pattern for herself…

We left Barbes with smiles on our faces and packages in our arms… It was a really good day!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

The tent dilemma…

Things seem more concrete every day. A few days ago we receive our first shipment of camp-related equipment: the cots which we got on a very good sale, as well as other miscellaneous items from our list. However, the search for a solution to the tent dilemma continues…

The problem we are trying to resolve remains the same. We need a big roomy tent that is quick to assemble and disassemble, is sturdy, and quite waterproof. But we also want something light enough to carry for those hike-in days.

The two tents we are currently considering definitely meet our requirements for jeep camping, but on those days when we have to hike-in with our gear, they are really too heavy. So we are still looking for a more portable solution that is not going to be super expensive (the ideal would be for us each to have one of those personal back-pack tents, that weight next to nothing and roll up smaller than a sleeping bag. The problem with those is that they are expensive — the best price I saw was around $90 each — and as we need 3, and only for a few days of the journey, it seemed like it’s not really a viable option.)

By chance the other day I was talking to a friend about the trip, and she suggested Quechua tents, which you basically can just toss out on the ground and they pitch themselves. And they are very inexpensive! And so I followed her advice and checked them out at the Decathlon store in Paris, where they had this amazing Base 4.2 tent, and then online I saw this interesting Base seconds tent. But also this super practical “2 Second” tent. There is the “one-man” version, which is very light, or a larger “two-man” and “three-man” versions which become heavier (though still not that heavy), however, these tents fold into big round discs, which isn’t really practical in terms of carrying them on a hike, when you have other gear as well.

Wanted to find out a bit more from people who had actually used these tents in the field, and found this Gear Junkie review useful, also the comments from folks at ukcampsite were quite helpful, as they had used the bigger version of the tent.

Hopefully on Monday Cactus Killer will take a short trip to this store with me to look at them, and maybe we will make some decisions after seeing them.

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Narrowing down the tent choices

The all important tent question is still lingering on…

Today we ordered the cots and some other miscellaneous camp gear from Cabela’s (had to get them before the sale ends, and while the free shipping offer is still good), but am still hesitating on the tent. Looking around a bit more at tents, am wondering if there is a better choice in the same category (in fact by the same manufacturer)…

Here are the two tents under consideration and the issues with each of them as far as i can see:

The Eureka Copper Canyon – here is the description from the manufactuer’s site. We have already been looking at this tent and in fact had pretty much decided to purchase it here at the amazon site (which seems to have the best price). This tent has had excellent reviews. It will fit the 3 of us with the 3 cots:


tent = 10 ft x 10 ft
(tent weight is 26 lbs 8 oz. / center H is 7 ft)

cot = 25″ W x 75″ L x 16″ H  =  approx. 2.5 ft W x 7.5 ft L each
(cot weight is 15 lbs / it packs into carry case at 8″ W x 38″ L x 4″ H)

we can fit the 3 cots inside with about a foot of space between us.

The only “negative” or “concern” we had about this tent is related to its weight (if we decided to use it for the Hike-In sites) at almost 27 pounds it is relatively heavy (can be carried by one person, but that person couldn’t carry anything else, so we would have to split remaining gear between two of us).

The Eureka Tetragon 1210 – here is the description from the manufactuer’s site.  I started to look at it because it was on the same website where we bought the cots, and was well-recommended there. The reason I thought we should consider and compare it with the Copper Canyon is the weight. According to the site’s specs, this tent  is quite a bit lighter… It seems like it is a little cheaper (or about the same price as the Copper Canyon) here at the amazon site (which seems to have the best price). This tent has also had excellent reviews. It will also fit the 3 of us with the 3 cots:


tent = 12 ft x 10 ft
(tent weight is 17 lbs 11 oz. / center H is 6 ft 4 inches)

cot = 25″ W x 75″ L x 16″ H  =  approx. 2.5 ft W x 7.5 ft L each
(cot weight is 15 lbs / it packs into carry case at 8″ W x 38″ L x 4″ H)

we can fit the 3 cots inside with about a foot and a half of space between us.

This tent is lighter than the Copper Canyon… even though it is a tiny bit bigger…. Not sure what that means… One concern I had related to reviews. Seems some reviewers complained about leaks. Whereas the Copper Canyon reviews spoke about “no leaks”… not sure if it is just a difference in people’s experience or if there is some difference between the quality of the tents…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Lists… shopping… packing… and more…

We now have a rough list of what we will need to take on the trip, and looking it over, there is also a fair-sized list of things we will need to buy. And another list of things we need to confirm we have, and test out to make sure they still work!

All this with the idea of making a master packing list, and eventually a series of checklists so that we will be able to try to keep our gear organized and lose as little as possible along the journey.

Am also beginning to look online to find the best price on the items we need to buy…

For the moment am getting ready to order the tent, and some cots…

After a long discussion with Cactus Killer, we decided that the cots made sense because we will be living out of the jeep for a long time, and it might be worth having a more comfortable sleeping arrangement than sleeping bags, as it will be hot, and we might not actually want to sleep inside the sleeping bags anyway…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Tents, cots, snakes and scorpions…

Today we had an interesting discussion about tent choices, and the specific conditions we will be camping in… basically we looked again at the issues we are facing in terms of our needs for a tent in the context of the conditions and length of time we will be camping…

Some thoughts:

MAIN TENT: the main tent needs to be sturdy and quick to put up… we are still looking at this tent choice, a Eureka Copper Canyon five person tent. It seems like a solid enough tent, cool enough, and water-tight enough for our needs. Additionally, reviewers say it is relatively quick to put up… and there is space for us to be comfortable, as well as to sit/stand if needed on a rainy day…

BACK COUNTRY WALK IN SITES: we were looking at picking up two small/cheap tents to take along for the backcountry nights… this small tent, is similar to the kind i used as a kid in the scouts… but should be fine for those walk in nights, when we need quick and light… it weighs about 4 pounds (3.6 lbs) with its stakes and carry bag.

In our discussion we got onto the subject of heat and desert campsites… and the inevitable creepy crawly critters that live out there… and the idea that it might be better to be “elevated” if possible… and so we started to speak about military cots… which might be a very good solution for a trip of this length (minimum of 23 days camping), keeping us safe from creepy crawly critters and also from the back problems that can come from pitching our tent in varied terrains where we may not always be able to find the best “rock-free” ground… we found some decent in-expensive cots that don’t take up that much space in the jeep, and are not excruciatingly heavy…

The discussion is to be continued…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comment (1)

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