Tips for Buying Your First Stand Up Paddleboard…

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) has been one of the fasting growing and most popular outdoor activities of the last few years. In a 2013 report by “The Outdoor Foundation” stand up paddling attracted 1.2 million people participating in 9.6 million outings, the most participants in an outdoor activity in the U.S. in 2012. This included all ages from 6+ with the most participation being seen in men and women between the ages of 35-44. Wouldn’t you know it, my wife and I are smack in the middle of that demographic so it would make sense that we now own a paddleboard.

Stand Up Paddleboard Tahoe

In the 1940s, surf instructors in Waikiki like the famous Leroy and Bobby AhChoy would take paddles into the surf and stand on their boards to get a better view of the surfers in the water and incoming swells. When Bobby was injured in a car accident that prevented him from swimming or kneeling, he would stand on his board and paddle into the surf zone offering tips and advice to the younger surfers. In the 1980s popular pro surfers like Brian Keaulana, Rick Thomas, Archie Kalepa and Laird Hamilton began using SUP as an alternative way to train while the surf was down and it picked up the nickname “beach boy surfing”.

Even though stand up surfing with a paddle has a long history and has been popular in Hawaii for decades, interest in modern paddleboarding is relatively new outside Hawaii. SUP has grown considerably in the US mainland since it was transplanted from Hawaii to California in 2004 by surfer and Naval Special Forces veteran Rick Thomas. It solidified it’s place in the world of water sports in 2008 when the US Coast Guard officially classified paddleboards as a “vessel” (like a canoe or kayak) requiring use of a personal flotation device (PFD) when paddling outside of surf zones. The attraction is undeniable and the sport has near universal appeal to all demographics. There is something very seductive about the grace, strength and tranquility exhibited by skilled paddleboarders…even if reality for beginners is something very different.

My wife and I had our first SUP experience on the clear, blue waters of Lake Tahoe on her 40th birthday. That short afternoon on the water set the hook and it was only a matter of time before we invested in our own board. Having taken our time to go through the selection and purchasing process, I feel we can offer some sound advice to others looking to buy their first board.

Tips for Buying Your First Stand Up Paddleboard

1. Try Before you Buy


Once you’ve seen those sleek boards cutting smoothly through the water it’s hard not to want one. Before you run out and buy the next board you see, look for a good rental place to test a few boards out. There are multiple styles and sizes of SUPs and your ideal board will vary based on your style of paddling, your size, the type of water you’ll float as well as your skill on the board. Personally, I’m a big guy with a heavy upper body and an aggressive paddle stroke – I need a bigger, more stable board. My wife is half my size, has a Pilates-strong core and a relaxed paddle stroke. If I try to use the SUP my wife is comfortable on, I fall off pretty fast.

We rented several times trying out different board styles to figure out what we were comfortable with. Before we bought ours, my wife tried out a couple of different lengths to make sure she found the right ratio of speed, stability and manageable weight before we settled on the right one. Renting SUPs in most places is pretty affordable compared to other recreational options, so don’t be afraid to rent and rent often.

2. Do your Homework

Classic surf board construction is an art form requiring experience, skill and an instinct for hydrodynamic form. Modern paddleboards are an extension of that tradition and there are a variety of different construction methods used in making them. Just about everything out there will have an EPS foam core with sandwiched layers of fiberglass and epoxy. The number of layers and the quality of the construction materials are generally what will determine the cost of the board. Aside from the typical sandwich construction boards you will find pop-out production boards, made from mold injected polystyrene foam and heat treated epoxy and fiberglass. Pop-out boards are generally lighter and more durable and not a bad choice for the beginner. There are some really amazing custom-shaped, hand-glassed, hand-polished boards that would qualify as artwork and have the price tag to prove it. Since we’re talking about buying your first paddleboard, I would recommend going with something a little more economical that you wouldn’t mind getting a ding or scratch on.

Ultimately, you just want a board that you’re comfortable on and will hold up well as you learn to paddle. However, it is important to understand how construction effects pricing, maintenance and durability when selecting a board to purchase.

3. What Kind of Paddleboarder will you be?

SUP with dog

Stand up boards are used pretty much everywhere these days from quiet paddles on the lake to running whitewater. Different regions offer various SUP opportunities and your activity of choice will have some influence on the type of board you’ll need and how it’s set up. Many of the recreational whitewater SUPs look and ride very different than the sleek, thin boards designed for flat water. Even the paddles for whitewater paddleboarding are different. Having to carry your board into remote areas might lean you toward trying an inflatable version. Planning on boarding with your dog? You’ll want more stability and traction pads so your dog doesn’t slip and slide on the board.

Whatever you end up with should reflect the direction you plan to go with the sport. The activity defines the board type:

  • Surf: shorter boards that turn well and are naturally at home in the waves
  • Family recreation: durable boards with width for stability
  • Cruise: long boards, often with room for cargo; at home on flat water
  • Fitness and race: long, narrow boards built for speed in any water conditions
  • Yoga: wide, stable boards; often made with full deck pads for better grip in various postures

You’ll also need to make sure that your selecting the right sized board based on your experience and size. Longer, wider boards can be more stable and carry more weight, but might be too wide to paddle comfortably or too long to maneuver. Larger paddlers on smaller boards can find them pretty unstable. Think about who will be using the board and where to determine what size will work best. The chart below is a guideline used by many of the SUP dealers to determine proper board size for individuals.

Beginner Advanced
Weight: 120-150 lb.
Length: 10 ft. 6 in.-11 ft.
Width: 28-30 in.
Weight: 120-150 lb.
Length: 9 ft.-10 ft. 6 in
Width: 26-26.5 in.
Weight: 160-190 lb..
Length: 11 ft.
Width: 29-32 in.
Weight: 160-190 lb.
Length: 9 ft. 6 in.-10 ft. 6 in.
Width: 27-28 in.
Weight: 200-230 lb.
Length: 11 ft.-11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 29-32 in.
Weight: 200-230 lb.
Length: 10 ft.-11 ft.
Width: 28-28.5 in.
Weight: 240-270 lb.
Length: 11 ft. 6 in.-12 ft.
Width: 32-33 in.
Weight: 240-270 lb.
Length: 11 ft.-11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 29.5-31.5 in.
Weight: 280+ lb.
Length: 12 ft.
Width: 33 in.
Weight: 280+ lb.
Length: 12 ft.
Width: 32 in.

4. Budgeting for Accessories

As is the case with many sports, getting into SUP requires a small collection of specialized equipment. While the board itself is the most expensive item ($700 and up) it really can’t be used alone, so you’ll need to take into account all the other equipment needed when planning your budget. Many places will sell a board and paddle combo package, the bare minimum to get started, but you can’t assume your board will come with a paddle. A SUP paddle will cost somewhere between $80 and $250 with the average basic paddle somewhere in the $140 range. Other typical accessories you’ll need are a board leash ($30), a decent low-profile PFD ($80-$200) and a board bag ($150-$250) for keeping your investment protected. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have some good personal sun protection with a high UPF long sleeve shirt and a good hat, maybe even a wet suit if you plan to paddle in the winter. It adds up quick, just be prepared for it.

Once you’ve used your board for a while you might start thinking about other, more specialized accessories like a traction pad (if yours doesn’t have one or your dog needs one), gear storage, spare fins or a helmet (for whitewater).

5. Transportation

Stand Up Paddle Board on Roof Rack

Another logistic and cost to consider is how you plan to get around with your new paddleboard. Inflatables offer a nice, easy option as you can toss the rolled up board and pump in the back of your car and off you go. With a rigid board you’ll need to consider a roof rack setup, preferably with foam padding to keep the board from getting beat up. Long cam-straps work best for lashing your board down to the roof rack, look for padded cam-straps ($20 pair) to reduce the chance of scratches or gouges. If security is an issue consider buying cam-straps with an interior steel cable and locking cams ($90 pair). Having a good board bag also helps with transportation, guarding your new baby from scratches and road debris and keeping it out of direct sun.

6. Care and Maintenance

Luckily, care and maintenance on your new paddleboard is pretty easy and straight forward but there are a few key things you need to keep in mind when you’re buying a new board. Most importantly, do not keep your board in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. When you’re not using your board it really should be kept in a shady spot, or covered with a light-reflective material. The extreme heat that builds up inside the layers of your board when in direct sun can cause damage to the EPS foam core and delaminate the board. Many boards have built in valves to help mitigate gas buildup, but direct exposure should still be avoided. Extended exposure to UV rays can also ruin the finish on your board.

It’s important to wash your board after every use, especially when using it in the ocean. Sea water can corrode metal parts and break down plastic seals and o-rings. Be sure to rinse with clean fresh water paying particular attention to any metal or joints in your board and paddle. Even in fresh water it is still important to wash the board down so that you don’t inadvertently carry contaminants to other bodies of water. Lakes like Tahoe have suffered from the introduction of foreign algae from recreational watercraft brought to the lake dirty.

If your board does have a vent plug, it’s important to check it often to make sure it’s working properly. Get in the habit of loosening the vent plug when the board is not in use so the board can breathe. If you store your board in it’s board bag, make sure both are bone dry before storing. Any dampness in the bag can create an environment for mold and mildew which will wreck havoc on your board.

Following these tips should minimize frustration and set you up for maximum enjoyment in your new found sport. Find a good local retailer, get the board of your dreams and get outside!

 

Sampling the AZBDR and The Art of Being in the Moment

You guys know me by now. I share most of my adventures with the public either here or via social media. I have made myself a deliberate advocate of traveling for travel’s sake and spending time outdoors to connect with nature. As with a lot of people these days I tend to get caught up in recording my excursions, sometimes to the detriment of the trip itself. I’ve found that often the act of stopping to take a quick snapshot to share on social media really disrupts the moment, it imposes on the natural flow of the experience, pulls you out of it and makes you a spectator instead of a participant. With my focus on photography I am especially guilty of this and some experiences are diminished because of it. There is something to be said for simply letting an experience happen, enjoy it, immerse yourself in it.

This would be the lost art of Being in the Moment. I recently took a day trip that was such a rich experience, for me, that I didn’t want to interrupt it. I only took three pictures in 6 hours of riding and they were all at natural stopping points, natural lulls in the experience where the action didn’t become an imposition. My mind and body were immersed in the experience and it was a wonderful feeling.

“If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.” – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

AZBDR – Just the Tip

Last weekend I had been planning on a multi-day trip but things didn’t come together and I settled for a Saturday morning ride to explore on the motorcycle. I woke up early before the valley started warming up with the morning sun, packed my camera equipment, loaded the bike and hit the road toward Payson and cooler temps. With a shiny new copy of the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route (AZBDR) map in hand I figured I’d first check out Fossil Springs Road outside Strawberry, then see if I could find myself on some section of the AZBDR to see what it was like. After finding Fossil Springs Road closed (apparently it’s been closed for a long time due to road conditions) I turned up 87 cruising past Clint’s Well and joined the AZBDR on FSR 95 near Blue Ridge Reservoir. But not before a little detour.

When I first moved to Arizona in the mid 90s I did a decent amount of hiking and solo camping in the high country. One of the first big hikes I did was an overnight backpacking trip above the Mogollon Rim in Coconino National Forest. I had decided I wanted to hike a couple of the drainages that led to a little blob on the map called Blue Ridge Reservoir. I made it to the reservoir at it’s most southern tip and I vividly remember the water was a bright, algae-thick green and the sheer canyon edges hemmed in the water so severely it looked as though you couldn’t climb out. I thought to myself some 20 years ago, “this would be a great place to bring an inflatable kayak and explore.”

That was my first, and last, glimpse of Blue Ridge Reservoir until last weekend.

AZBDR on KLR Blue Ridge Reservoir

I have been riding without the use of a GPS or my phone maps. It’s helps me to get better about remembering my routes and it’s also led to some cool accidental discoveries. I took the wrong road off of 87 looking for 95. I saw a sign that read “Blue Ridge Reservoir Access” and mistakenly took that for my turnoff. I kinda knew I had taken the wrong road. Even as I cruised along on the smooth, redish dirt road I knew it was wrong but went anyway just to see what I could see. The road I did turn on, FSR 751, turned out to be a very nice dirt access road to an unexpected boat ramp at the northern end of Blue Ridge Reservoir. I found myself stopped above a large parking lot busy with kayaks and canoes fanning out in all directions from the narrow boat ramp at the water’s edge. I continued past the ramp and through the parking lot to a continuation of the road on the other side. This section was now more technical single-lane width, rutted and rock strewn that hugged along the edge of the wooded cliffs plunging into the reservoir. The road leads to the dam, but is gated and closed to public access, so I went back the way I came having enjoyed the detour immensely. The reservoir looks very different now, from the north end, 20 years later.

Back on pavement and a short cruise further up 87 put me at the road I was looking for. After double checking the map to make sure I was on 95 I soon found myself kicking up dust and zooming along on the KLR through the forest completely alone.

I could feel the grin on my face getting wider with every turn in the road. The scenery is spectacular through this area, something that would normally have me stopping every few minutes to haul out the gear and grab some pictures. But I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to stop moving, to break from the road, it felt like I would be interrupting something important. There are a few quick views of Clear Creek as the road descends to the narrow bridge which crosses at the confluence of two deep canyons. I considered stopping at the creek, it is absolutely gorgeous at the bottom, but there were a few small groups of people fishing there and I chose to move on.

Climbing out of the canyon, 95 cuts deep into the forest and, again, my bike and I crunched over the loose gravel road taking opportunity to open up in the few straightaways. The forest closed in a little more along this section, the roads appeared more well traveled and it was here that I finally shared the road with someone, for a short time. I quickly out-paced the SUV on the tight corners and rutted out road. Those roads are perfect for a motorcycle like the KLR.

The AZBDR route continues from 95 east on Rim Road 300 to eventually catch up with HWY 260 that runs between Payson and Heber. 300 sees a lot more weekend traffic as the main access road for all camp and recreational sites above the rim, but it still isn’t a busy road and is dirt almost all the way back to 260. It’s called the “Rim Road” because it literally follows the edge of the Mogollon Rim offering spectacular views of it’s rugged cliffs and the verdant valley below.

I came around one corner on 300, well before really seeing any other vehicles, and spooked a small group of some of the biggest, healthiest Javalina I’ve ever seen in Arizona. I tapped at the brakes as they bounded out of the wash and across the road to disappear into the thick forest. Riding on the motorcycle certainly reduces the opportunities to sneak up on wildlife, so the javalina encounter was an unexpected treat.

The weather was coming in on me and I knew I had a race on my hands if I expected to make it home before a monsoon caught me on the road. I stopped at the visitors center where 300 meets 260 for a breather and to stretch my legs. I needed to clear the euphoric clouds from my head before getting into traffic. I had originally wanted to document my first foray into part of the AZBDR with some great photos to share the experience. But I realized that some experiences are better, richer, when they are savored and consumed selfishly, gluttonously alone. It might sound stupid to some, but this ride was mine and I feel good about allowing myself to be in the moment and enjoy it. For a few blurry, sun-soaked hours I was completely free.

If this was any indicator of what the rest of the AZBDR looks like, I’m in…hook, line and sinker. I’ll be back for sure. Next time maybe I’ll actually pull out the camera so you guys can see what it was like. Or, better yet, come with me and see for yourself!

Ultimate Summer Dog Adventures

After our old Boston Terrier passed away, we started taking Wiley everywhere with us because we were worried about her being lonely. Then, when we adopted New Max we were really excited by the idea of showing this poor abused rescue dog what a good home is like. So now we travel with two cattledogs who love the outdoors and take on any adventure we throw their way. Taking our cattledogs on summer adventures in fun outdoor areas is a big focus for us as traveling dog owners. We often specifically plan trips around dog friendly locations and climates, which in the summer means getting out of Arizona.

Every summer we take a trip to Lake Tahoe to get away from the desert heat, soak up some mountain air and enjoy the beautiful lake scenery. Lake Tahoe can be challenging with dogs (it’s not a super dog friendly place), but if you do a little looking around and plan accordingly it’s manageable. We had been debating whether or not we would do the trip this year, and if we really wanted to take the dogs. Then we were contacted by Merrick Pet Care about being a part of their Backcountry Dog Food ambassador program. As part of the sponsorship not only did Max and Wiley get to try out their new food (which they really love) but Merrick also set us up with some extra funds to take the dogs on a trip.

This is their Summer Dog Adventure…

WARNING: Ridiculously adorable dog pictures ahead, totally NSFW if you actually want to be productive.

The Long Car Ride

Dogs in the Car

We took Wiley to Lake Tahoe on Merelyn’s birthday last year and had a great time. Wiley did really well hiking and swimming and was surprisingly quick at learning how to Paddleboard. Ever since bringing New Max into our family, we’ve wanted to get him out to Tahoe as well and see how he would do. It’s about 13 hours of road time between here and Lake Tahoe, mostly through the lower deserts of Nevada. There are not a lot of good places to stop with the dogs because the summer heat can be brutal. So our trip up north started with WAY too much car time, more than Max has had to deal with. He made sure his boredom was well documented.

Overall he did great, eventually settling in for the long trip but he took advantage of every opportunity to get out of that car. His relationship with the Car has been changed forever.

Towns without People

One of our few Day 1 stops to let our two and four legged passengers stretch their collective limbs was a small ghost town in the Nevada desert. Gold Point is a working town with a population of a couple dozen semi-permanent residents. Even so, there were no people to be seen while we were there and we had the entire old western mining town to ourselves. Luckily it wasn’t too terribly warm there as we were starting to gain some elevation, so the dogs got to walk around with us for a while sniffing at old wreckage, cows skulls, dead snakes and abandoned buildings all while trying to avoid random bits of broken glass. There were a couple of old rickety houses they seemed especially interested in sniffing around the front porch and front doors, but I’m sure the only scent they were getting was rodent.

Dogs in a ghost town

Dogs in a ghost town

Camp Bug Bite

After a LONG, less than exciting day in the car we finally made camp just above Mono Lake at the edge of treeline. Wiley and Max were overjoyed at the prospect of some actual freedom and immediately set about exploring their new territory. The gnats were pretty thick and the longer we hung out, the thicker they got. We all got doused with a generous dose of bug spray (pet friendly stuff) and tried to go about our business cooking dinner, setting up the tent and sniffing random logs (we each had a job to do). The dogs got their Backcountry dinner then we took them for a nice walk to burn off some energy letting the dogs sniff and explore on their own while we waited for sunset to color the darkening sky.

Mono Lake Camp with dogs

Mono Lake Camp dinner

Dog walk at Mono

Mono Lake Camp with dogs

Sunset was no disappointment and both of the dogs seemed very at home following me as I wandered around in the fading light with my camera. I really enjoy watching our dogs play with their natural instincts in nature. Without the restrictions of home, civilization and city life they get to experience being free for a while. They get to play, run, jump, sniff, scratch and chase without hearing “NO” all the time and we’ve found they’re both really good about coming back to us with not much more than a little whistle or name call. Wiley was finally showing that relaxed, contented look she gets when we travel and spend time outdoors, we’ve come to refer to it as Wiley’s “Vacation Eyes”. Vacation Eyes are the sure sign that we are finally settled in to a trip and doing things right, we adore Wiley’s Vacation Eyes.

As much fun as we all had at camp, the bugs were still thick and we noticed both dogs were taking a pretty good beating around their ears. So we socked in early and hid in the tent. Max has grown very fond of the tent and will often ask to be let in early…probably to claim HIS spot before the rest of us get in there.

The New Kid Visits Tahoe

Max at Lake Tahoe

The next morning we finally reached Lake Tahoe and the very first thing we did was get the dogs on one of the few dog friendly beaches. Reagan Beach is where Merelyn and I got married and it also happens to be a decent little dog friendly beach, so that’s where Max got his first introduction to Lake Tahoe. Being a rescue, we have no idea if he’s ever even seen water like that, so expansive you can’t see the other side. He definitely acted like it was a new thing to him and he was bounding through the small waves joyfully and barking at us to play with him (as he often does when we aren’t playing right).

Sticks at the Lake

We set up camp at Fallen Leaf Lake Campground and then hiked up the road to check out Fallen Leaf Lake itself. Colder water, rock beaches and small driftwood sticks everywhere made this lake a bit different than Tahoe. The dogs had less interest in swimming and running than chewing every piece of wood they could get their mouths on. Max has a toy fixation that we avoid by not having a lot of toys around for him, we have to keep him occupied in other ways. But this was an entire beach covered in tasty toys and he was a little out of his mind. Every time I would pick up a stick, or take one from him, he would target on it with laser focus and bark at me if I didn’t throw it soon enough. He gets a little mouthy at times if you’re not playing the way he wants you to.

focused on sticks at Fallen Leaf Lake

Merelyn Fallen Leaf Lake-9

New Dog, New Tricks

We had a lot of activities planned with the dogs but the big one we were looking forward to was paddleboarding. Last year Wiley proved to be an amazing paddleboard partner and my wife has been obsessed with SUP since. We were dying to get our new guy out on the water and see how he would do. He doesn’t swim well in the pool, but was enthusiastic about swimming in the lake so we got him a life jacket and picked up our rentals.

Max learning to paddleboard

Max was very anxious about paddleboarding at first. He wasn’t sure why we were all separated and wanted to swim between my wife on the paddleboard and me and Wiley in the kayak. This proved difficult until we showed him that we weren’t going to be very far apart. He still fidgeted and paced back and forth anxiously most of the time on the board and did only slightly better in the kayak with me. But we were able to happily spend the better part of an entire day on the lake with small breaks at the shore occasionally for the pups. This also proved to be a lot of adventure for one day and once we made it back to camp, both dogs sacked out next to the campfire for the rest of the evening with little interesting in anything but their dinner. They both have really become great camp dogs and settle in well without the need for restraints or constant commands. It makes traveling and camping with them so much more relaxing for us as well.

Max learning to kayak

Running Water

Our stay in Tahoe at Fallen Leaf Lake was awesome, it’s a great campground and we managed to get a spot that was on the edge so we backed up to forest land and had quiet neighbors. We left Fallen Leaf Lake having (luckily) never encountered the bear they said had been using our camp site as it’s access route from the forest. We headed down into Nevada to visit with some good friends and spend the night there. Finally some other dogs to play with! Running, playing and lots of introductory sniffing before settling down for the night. It was a great visit for dogs and humans alike.

The next day we took a new route home after chasing down some more Backcountry food from the local Petco in Carson City. Knowing we had another long drive ahead of us we took our time, made plenty of stops and let the dogs out as often as we could. We found a nice quiet road-side river stop off of 395 where we had a good time chasing sticks in the current and digging up river rocks, dunking our heads to pull them up. Lots of action along the river with bugs to chase, water to splash in, sticks floating by and lots of new interesting sniffs.

Dogs Exploring River

Dogs Exploring River

Along the way we explored some back roads in the Inyo National Forest and Max and I hiked to a couple of cool spots while Wiley and Merelyn hung out at the car pouring over maps and discussing our route home. Then we moved on to check out Mammoth Lakes since we were so close and none of us had ever been through that way. I don’t think Max or Wiley had near the level of appreciation we did coming into Mammoth. The lakes are gorgeous and the mountains up there are amazing. They look to have an extensive, well maintained trail system around Mammoth and a lot of camping options. We’ll have to do our research about how dog friendly it is there, but I could see Mammoth becoming our Lake Tahoe substitute on occasion.

The view over Twin Lakes

We found some great dispersed camping on the way home but heavy summer storms kept us moving through the evening. We finally had to call it quits outside Vegas and rolled into a campsite on Mount Charleston around 11PM. We quickly set up camp in the dark and everyone crashed in the tent, wrapped in our sleeping bags, weary from a very long day on the road. We woke to a very non-desert view of pine trees and granite. Mt Charleston is one of the Sky Islands of the southwest, unusually high with an isolated ecosystem nothing like the desert that surrounds it. Who knew you could spend a night at nearly 10,000 ft surround by high alpine vegetation within an hour of Las Vegas?

Waking up in the tent

Home

We returned home to the heat and the city, summer dog adventures were over…for the time being. Max and Wiley were momentarily happy to be home and out of the car for a while where they could harass the cat and cuddle in their comfortable beds. Both dogs slept soundly, beat from a week’s worth of fun in the outdoors and ridiculously long car rides. Traveling with our cattledogs brings us a tremendous amount of joy. Even though it limits our vacation options a little and can become a hassle at times, they are so worth the effort and we know they appreciate the time with us as well.

We always expect some recovery time after a trip like this one, so much time in the car you’d think the dogs would be content to sit at home for a while. But the next day both dogs shot outside and jumped in the back seat of the Subaru with that “Where to now?” look on their faces. I guess it’s time to start planning the next trip.

– – –

This trip was partially sponsored by Merrick Pet Care as part of their #Wild4Backcountry campaign. To read more about Merrick’s Backcountry line of dog food, check out our review.

Essentials for Summer Microadventures

Thank you to Stanley Brand for sponsoring today’s post and encouraging me to get outside this summer with the perfect camping tools!

Stanley summer essentials

Summer is Perfect for Microadventures

When my wife and I first started seeing each other we lived in separate states, me in Arizona and her near Reno, Nevada. Managing our long distance relationship meant short trips to see each other that didn’t leave much time for real travel. So during my visits to Reno to see her we would often take time for small adventures out to the trails, the mountains, the lake or wherever. We spent many of her days off hiking, biking or hanging out at the beach around Lake Tahoe. Those hot summer days at Lake Tahoe have become fond memories. These days we continue our tradition of adventuring together and more often than not our summer adventures include quick trips to the lakes here in Arizona to kayak, paddleboard or hike.

Quick trips generally mean traveling light. No need to pull out the cross-country gear for a day at the beach, right? This summer we’ll be rockin’ out the microadventures with the help of the Stanley Brand Adventure Cooler and Adventure Camp Cook Set. They’re both light, compact and versatile and perfect for summer Microadventures.

Small Cooler with Big Value

Stanley summer essentials

Having a good cooler is essential for hot summer adventures. Our big cooler is overkill for quick afternoon trips to the lake or overnight camp outs at the river. But the 16 quart Stanley Adventure Cooler is the perfect size for keeping things nice and cold on those short trips into the outdoors. The Stanley Cooler’s double-wall insulation and leak resistant gasket help keep items cold for over 36 hours and is big enough for 21 cans of your favorite adventure beverage. It’s rugged construction and high-density polyethylene outer shell make it capable of taking a beating around camp and the sturdy clasps keep it closed tight through the abuse.

The Adventure Cooler is also designed with an adjustable bungee tie-down on the lid to secure other essential gear. It’s a great place to secure a towel for your trip to the beach or your Stanley Thermos for keeping your hot stuff separate from everything else. The adjustable tie-down is a cleaver addition to the cooler that I really like find pretty handy when having to carry a lot of gear back and forth.

Stanley summer essentials adventure cooler

Stanley summer essentials adventure cooler

Stanley summer essentials adventure cooler detail

Stanley summer essentials - Adventure Cooler

Cool Summer Night Camp Cocktail

A few year ago I was camping near Sedona with a friend of mine in late summer, enjoying the cooler temperatures and amazing scenery around Oak Creek. As night came on and the temperature dropped we pulled our chairs closer to the campfire. I decided I wanted something warm to drink and offered to make up some drinks for the two of us, I had cider and hot chocolate. My buddy agreed that a warm drink sounded good but was more in the mood for a cocktail so I told him I would see what I could come up with.

I decided to warm up some water and mix in the apple cider mix, a good dose of Bourbon and since the only fresh fruit I had was an orange I added a squeeze of fresh orange juice. Really, what could go wrong? Nothing! It was amazing and has been one of my go-to cool evening camp cocktails ever since. I’ve even made it with cold cider and served over ice for a cold cocktail, but I prefer to drink it hot on a cold night around the fire. You can use your citrus of preference (it is good with orange, lemon or lime) but I prefer using orange for a nice sweetness without too much sour.

Stanley summer essentials camp cocktail

Summer Hot Bourbon Cider

This is single serving, double this for two people.

  • 1 package Apple Cider Drink Mix
  • 6 oz hot water
  • 2 oz choice Bourbon
  • Squeeze of Citrus (use slice as garnish as well)

Heat up your water using the pot from your Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set then mix in the cider. Pour your 2 oz of Bourbon into each cup (hopefully you’re enjoying this with a friend), squeeze the orange into each cup, then fill the remainder of the cup with hot cider. Garnish with a slice of citrus if you want to be fancy. The insulated cups in the Stanley Cook Set are perfect for comfortably holding on to those hot beverages.

What’s your favorite Summer Camp Cocktail? 

Stanley summer essentials at the river

Stanley has been proudly producing quality gear supporting an active outdoor lifestyle since 1913. Stanley products are built to last through a lifetime of continuous use becoming treasured possessions handed down through generations. If you are ready to rock out this summer with some extreme #Stanleyness the Stanley  Cooler and Camp Cook Set are available through REI and could become an essential part of your Summer Adventures for years to come.

The Teardrop Trailer Decision…

teardrop trailer camping

Two years ago today my wife and I were setting out to spend our first night of her birthday trip to Grand Canyon in a rented Teardrop Trailer. It was a small, bare-bones Little Guy trailer rented from a local guy who is no longer in business. The trip lasted 6 days and we had plenty of time with the teardrop to determine that we wanted one.

We’ve done plenty of camping together, sleeping in the car, sleeping in tents and couch surfing but we had just come back from a weekend at Overland Expo and the Teardrops had sparked our interest. We have looked at dozens of different trailer configurations and designs, some more “classic teardrop” than others. All had pros and cons that we discussed at length. Like, unreasonable amounts of conversation about this…you have no idea.

Domestic travel in the US has increased significantly in the last 5 years so it’s no surprise that campers, trailers and RVs are selling like crazy. Teardrop Trailers seem to be especially popular with their compact, efficient, lightweight design and nostalgic throw-back sensibility. With barely enough room for sleep space and storage, the teardrops encourage “outside camping” unlike the larger trailers with couches, chairs and TVs. The teardrop is a nice, seamless bridge between car camping RV camping.

It suits our style of travel.

Two years ago the process started. The idea was seeded in our imaginations and we fostered it diligently, letting it blossom into determination. This May we spent a cold, soggy, muddy weekend at  Overland Expo West meeting folks and checking out the newest Teardrops and compact trailers for more ideas and inspiration. The unseasonably cold weather and ankle deep mud turned some folks away as the Expo pushed on. Vendors huddled under their canopies and fought back the mud and rain to engage with the thinning crowd of outdoorsmen and travel enthusiasts. On our second or third pass through the vendors (likely on our way to get coffee) my wife spotted a teardrop vendor we hadn’t met yet and we stopped to say hi.

TC Teardrop booth - photo by Exploring Elements

TC Teardrop booth at OX2015 – photo by Exploring Elements

TC Teardrops had made the trek all the way from Wisconsin to show their products at Overland Expo West. They’ve been hand-building custom teardrop trailers since 2008 in a small shop in Wausau. Each teardrop is made to order, though they do occasionally have pre-loaded trailers for sale. The trailer we got to see at the Expo was nice, appeared to be well made, had all the amenities we had been looking for and none of the excessive stuff we didn’t need. It’s not the biggest, baddest trailer in town but it’s no bare-bones weakling either. The more we looked, the more we thought this might be a good option to consider so we asked about pricing. With base models starting out around $5k they are very reasonable and allow you to customize your way into something to fit almost any budget.

We left the Expo and my wife started doing her research.

Today, we put a down payment on our new Teardrop. TC Teardrops should fit us into one of their build slots later this year. I hope to keep everyone updated on the progress of the build, the options we chose and why. We are really excited about this new move. The trailer should allow us greater travel freedom and the ability/desire to extend our trips.

2016 will be the Year of the Teardrop.

Click here for an update on how things are going with the trailer now that we have been using it a while.