camping gear

EOG V3 Pocket Bellow

Getting a fire going in wet weather can be tricky.  We should know because we've been on a lot of rainy trips.  This pocket bellow makes starting a fire a lot easier.  It's also great for increasing the heat when you want to get water boiling quickly or burn off garbage.

The EOG V3 pocket bellow is made of stainless steel and packs small.  They are a staple in our fire kits.  

You can pick them up at Canadian Outdoor Equipment for $19.95.

LittlBug Senior: A Wood-burning Stove for the Whole Family

By Uncle Dave

Over the last few years, our families have become very interested in fire cooking using wood burning stoves.  In this post we want to share with you the wood burning stove that we recommend for backcountry families.

The wood burning stove category has exploded over the last decade and there are all kinds of wood-burning stoves on the market. Most of them are geared to the solo hiker or hiking pair sharing a cook kit. The vast majority of these are too small to do any meaningful cooking for a group.

One stove that stands out from the crowd is the Littlbug Senior. The senior version of the Littlbug is large enough to hold a 4-6 L pot or even a 12” Dutch oven making it possible to cook meals for the whole family.

The Littlbug consists of 4 curved panels made from stainless steel, which stack together, and nest nicely around your pot set. Littlebug Enterprises sell a separate envelope style nylon pouch that is handy to keep soot off the rest of your cook kit and we recommend purchasing it with the stove.

The Littlebug can be used as is in an existing fire pit or with the optional fire pan to practice leave-no-trace and avoid leaving a fire scar. We have the old fire pan, which was basically a steel pie plate type unit. The old fire pan was heavy and prone to rusting, and we really can't recommend it. However, Littlebug Enterprises now have available a new fire bowl which appears to be modular and made of stainless steel. Once we've had a chance to test out the new fire bowl we will report on how well it works.

Besides the optional storage pouch and fire pan, there is available a chain for hanging the stove off the ground while cooking - an option which we don't consider viable with small children ambling around camp. There is also available a pot sling designed to lower your pot deeper into the stove for use with an alcohol burner - an option which we haven't tested.

Setup

Assembling the stove is easy and intuitive. For wood-burning mode, simply attach the pot supports to the upper closed slots in the stove sides, and then connect the sides together making sure all three edge tabs go inside the stove and all three assembly rivets enter their respective holes. 


Usage

When lighting the stove there are several options. Since the stove has no bottom one can simply light the tinder bundle, place the stove on top and then continue feeding it from the top. In case of a strong wind one can place the tinder bundle in the stove, light the stove while it is on its side, and then tip it upright once the fire has started (my preferred option). With a long match one can also light the loaded stove through one of the air holes along the bottom. In all these scenarios there is no need to stick your hand down from the top while lighting the stove - a definite plus.

The Littlbug will accept all manner of fuel collected from around camp from small twigs to pinecones etc. Our boys love splitting wood to make fuel for the stove and since the fire is nice and controlled we don't mind letting the kids get close to put sticks in to keep the fire burning.

Our main use for the stove is to boil water, purifying it for drinking, washing dishes, rehydrating meals, and, of course, for the required hot beverage on cold mornings. The stove is fast and effective at boiling water thereby saving a lot of fuel for our white gas and canister stoves as well as saving wear on our water filters.

With practice one can learn to control the heat output quite effectively and when I don't mind the extra work of operating the stove (vs. canister/white gas), I enjoy using it to cook my morning eggs. The stove is definitely capable of serving as your primary stove if your fire skills are up to the task. In practice, we use the Littlbug as a supplemental and backup stove to our white gas or canister stoves, and it fits that role nicely.

Drawbacks

If there are any downsides to the stove they are the typical ones associated with this whole category. One must possess sufficient fire starting skills to light and sustain a small fire - no small feat when it has been raining for days and all available fuel is wet. The stove needs a steady source of fuel to keep it going but is considerably more fuel efficient than an open fire. Also, fire cooking is inherently messy as your pots will get blackened with soot and there will be a little soot on the pot support panels of the stove. In the event of a fire ban the stove would likely be classified as an open fire, relegating it to serving as a pot support for an alcohol burner. More specific to the Littlbug: since the top of the stove is open it is not possible to cook your day's catch directly on the stove without some sort of additional grill.

Summary

That said, the Littlbug is a joy to use. Besides its practical cooking capability, the Littlbug easily provides that uplifting campfire ambiance when there is no time to collect large quantities of wood for a larger fire, and it provides a surprising amount of heat on a cold and dreary day. We love the way the little bug engages the kids in meal preparation and how it provides a controlled environment to teach the principles of fire starting and fire cooking. At 585g (including storage sac) it can easily save you that much and more in white gas/canister stove fuel on a longer trip, and it provides a maintenance-free backup in case of gas stove failure. Over the years this stove has earned a permanent place in our tripping kit.

The Five W's of Food Storage While Canoe Camping in the Backcountry

By Uncle Dan

Anna carrying the food barrel out of the forest on a sunny morning.

Recently, we received several questions about how we pack and store our food when canoe camping in the backcountry.  These questions have inspired us to write this post aimed at addressing the five W’s of food containment and storage in the backcountry.

1) Why should I be concerned about how I store my food in the backcountry?

There are two primary reasons why you should carefully store your food when you are in the backcountry.  First, anywhere you go, there will likely be various animals sniffing around, searching for opportunities to dispossess you of your food stores and to line their bellies with your jam, peanut butter and chocolate.  Second, some animals – bears in particular – might not be satisfied with consuming your jam and chocolate, and might decide to complete their feast by having you or one of your group members for dessert (actually a very unlikely event, but certainly worth mentioning).   

2) Who (or what animals) should I be worried about?

When discussing issues of food storage in the Canadian backcountry, the first animal that comes to mind for most people is the bear. Leaving exposed food in your campsite can attract bears and this can become a problem especially in places that are frequented by less than careful campers. Bears (like other animals) quickly learn where they can easily access human food and so they often look for food at specific campsites where they have found food before.  That being said, in all of my years camping in Canada, I have never seen a bear in our campsite nor have I seen any evidence of a bear trying to get at our food supply.

A rather cute chipmunk eating our breakfast!  Photo by Anna

While bears readily come to mind when discussing food storage, in most cases, food theft is far more likely to be perpetrated by much smaller, less scary and more common animals such as raccoons, skunks, squirrels, chipmunks and birds.  If you leave your food exposed or improperly stored, particularly at night, chances are that one of these little critters will help themselves to your food supply.  Sometimes I think that when squirrels and raccoons see (or hear) campers pull into a campsite they believe that animal Starbucks has come to town (again)!  I remember one time, as we pulled into a (highly frequented) campsite, we could see the beady little eyes of raccoons peering down from the surrounding trees, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on our food.  In my time camping, I have experienced a number of situations in which raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks and birds have accessed our food – even in broad daylight while we were at the campsite!  These are the real thieves you ought to be worried about!

3) What food container should I use?

The answer to this question depends on where you are backcountry camping.  In some areas, such as the Bowron Lakes in northern British Columbia, each official campsite has a strong steel food box with an animal-proof latch.  In areas such as this, food should be kept in these steel bear-proof food caches at all times (unless you are eating).  This system is in place to prevent bears from learning that they can obtain food from campsites, which in turn discourages them from visiting campsites often.

In areas where steel bear-proof food caches are not provided, it’s up to you to bring the appropriate container.  I have seen many different containers being used for food storage during backcountry trips: plastic coolers, regular backpacks, and even Rubbermaid containers stored in backpacks.  While these containers are easy to come by, all of them are problematic when it comes to animals stealing food.  These containers are typically not scent proof, allowing animals to readily find them.  In addition, they are not very strong.  I have seen a group of squirrels easily chew through plastic Rubbermaid containers to get at the food inside.  It seems that squirrels in particular get their kicks from gnawing at Rubbermaid containers; its almost as if for them it’s a sport! Raccoons are also surprisingly dexterous and can open all sorts of containers or chew through cloth packs.  As such, we strongly recommend you try a different option.

A ring placed through the latch prevents even the most cunning of animals from opening the food barrel.

Our top choice in terms of food storage on canoe camping trips is the food barrel.   The barrel featured in the photo at the beginning of this post is made by Recreational Barrel Works, but other companies, such as Eureka, make them also.  The barrels typically come in two different sizes: 60L and 30L.  These barrels are optimal for food storage because they are pretty much scent proof, which means that animals will not be attracted to it by the scent of the food inside the barrel.  To optimally take advantage of this feature, it is advisable to avoid preparing or cooking strongly scented food on or around the barrel, as the scent will then be present on the outside of the barrel, thus undermining the scent-proof feature.  The barrels are also waterproof (which is useful in a downpour or if you tip your canoe).  The construction of the barrels also seems to deter animals from getting in to them.  To prevent those creative and skillful raccoons from opening the barrel, you can place a ring through the latch (see above photo)– with the ring in place, even the most prodigious of raccoons will not be able to open the barrel.  It is important to keep in mind that these barrels are not fully bear-proof, however, and a highly motivated and heavy bear sow could crack it open if she so desired.  This is why it is important to not only consider what you put your food in, but also were you place it. Which brings us to the next question. . . 

Our food barrels placed far away from our campsite.

4) Where should I place my food containers?

Choosing the right food container is only a part of the story.  A central component of proper food storage in the backcountry is choosing the right location to place your container.  Unless a bear-proof steel food cache is provided at the campsite, our main recommendation is to store your food well away from your campsite.  Some people recommend taking the food container(s) 200 meters from camp.  While it might be tempting to leave your sealed food barrel in your campsite overnight, this is decidedly a bad idea.  Although the barrel might be scent proof, and although you might have been careful to avoid cooking food near or on the barrel, placing the barrel in your campsite overnight might still be a problem, particularly in places where large animals are used to frequenting campsites to find food.  A bear might think the barrel is just another cooler (with which it might have had good success in the past) and give it a go. The outcome might be less than optimal for you and your food stores.  When you are in the backcountry, watching a large bear enthusiastically dancing on your food barrel right beside your tent at five in the morning might not be as humorous as it sounds right now. No matter what container you use, always store your food away from your campsite. 

Having taken your food container well away from your campsite, the next issue to consider is how to place the food container.  One view is that your food container ought to be suspended on a rope between two trees, high above the ground.  When I was younger, we would often spend hours finding the right two trees and trying to get our ropes high enough above the ground.  We tried various ways of attaching the ropes and numerous ways of pulling the food pack high up into the air.  The assumption was that bears would not be able to get the food packs if they were properly suspended.  You might be surprised to find out that suspending your food will not prevent sufficiently tenacious bears from getting your pack down.  Take a look at this video if you are not convinced. 

And, to witness how quickly a bear can scramble up a tree, take a look at this eye-opening video (not for young viewers as it contains a swear word, however if ever there was a situation that calls for an expletive, this would be it).  In addition, I have also personally witnessed suspended packs being torn open by several industrious squirrels.  So, hanging your food packs, though often recommended, is a tedious and somewhat ineffective solution.  Since we have begun using food barrels, we now just place them under some trees far away from our campsite.  And, I’m happy to report we have had no robberies thus far. 

5) When should I place my food in a safe place?

Finally, we come to the question of “when” to store your food.  We typically keep the lids on our barrels (sealed) when we are not directly using them.  This prevents little critters like chipmunks from helping themselves to our food when we are not looking.  Trust me, it only takes a moment of inattention and those little guys are in the barrels feasting away.  If you are planning to be away from the campsite for a longer period, it’s probably best to place your food containers away from the campsite.  In the evening, we typically take our barrels into the forest before it gets dark.  Going to place your barrels into the forest while it is still light ensures that you don’t get lost and that you don’t get discouraged by darkness from taking the barrels the full proper distance from the campsite.  If you are at a campsite that has steel bear-proof food cache containers, you should keep your food in them at all times except for when you are eating. 

As a final point, we suggest that you always do your research regarding the recommended food storage procedures in the area in which you plan to camp.  


The Ultimate Survival Kit for Backcountry Moms

by Shelley

In this post we are going to talk about something very important – a survival kit – but not just any survival kit – the mom's backcountry survival kit. 

We all know that we need to be prepared in case of an emergency and if you do a Google search for “ backcountry survival kits” countless results will pop up.  They all contain slight variations of the same things.  Compass, knife, light, fire starter…you get the picture.

If you search for “mom’s survival kit” you will also get numerous links to kits that contain “fun” mom stuff like, baby wipes, nail files, hair elastics, bandaids, hand sanitizer, etc.

Do you know what happens if you search for “backcountry mom’s survival kit”?  You get nothing.  Zilch.  Zip.  Zippo.

I have decided to remedy this glaring omission.  After 5 kids, 13 years of canoe tripping with kids, and countless hours of research and product testing, I am happy to introduce you to The Ultimate Survival Kit for Backcountry Moms

The Stanley Thermos 
This is a vital component.  Boiling water takes time in the backcountry and it cools down far too quickly.  This thermos will keep water hot enough to make coffee for 24 hours.  If you fill it up when you are making supper in the evening the next morning you will have hot coffee within minutes of getting out of your tent!  Need a cup in the middle of the afternoon?  No problem, just pull out that thermos full of hot water and you’re good to go.  You can see my video review of the Stanley Thermos here.

The Aeropress
This handy little press makes the best coffee ever and is my favourite system for the backcountry (and at home).  Really.  It makes the best coffee ever.  See here and here for more information.

Before we head out on a trip I grind my beans and then package double servings in little Ziploc baggies.  Why double servings?  Because Lisa needs coffee too.  We mom’s have to look out for each other.

Starbucks Via Packs
For those times when you need a hit fast!

Hot Chocolate 
Hot chocolate is a dual-purpose item.  Almost any child in the backcountry can be bribed with a hot chocolate or you might need a café mocha.  Either way, you’re covered.

Insulated Mug 
Because coffee cools down way too fast in the backcountry and backcountry moms often get called away from their coffee.  

Good Chocolate 
No explanation needed.

 

Sometimes being a backcountry mom is really tough, but it's worth it!

First Aid Kits for the Backcountry Family

Uncle Dave

We recently received this question from Matt, a reader who's thinking about venturing into the backcountry with his kids.  Check out Dave's response about what we pack for potential emergencies:

 

Hi,

I have two kids, 3 & 6, and your blog has given my wife and I a boost in confidence to head back to Algonquin...with the kids...I enjoyed reading your recent gear list post, and am wondering what you bring for first aid/emergencies? Do you bring any type of Satellite communication device like a Spot device?  

Thank you kindly in advance for any insight!
Matt
ps my kids love the johnny cake recipe

 

 

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your email.
 

AMK Backcountry Kit

AMK Backcountry Kit

For first aid gear I like Adventure Medical Kits.  They are well put together with quality supplies that, depending on the kit, cover just about everything you might need.  Each of our families has the AMK Backcountry kit as well as a second smaller kit for day tripping and excursions away from base camp.  


The smaller kit can be one of the AMK smaller kits or you can make your own and fill it with stuff you think you might need.  I like the MEC First Aid Bag for that purpose.  In addition to the stuff that comes with a kit like the AMK Backcountry you'll want to take child specific meds for upset stomach and diarrhea, fever/pain relief, allergic response (anti-histamine), etc.  Add to that a good size tube of antibiotic ointment (e.g. Polysporin) and lots of extra bandaids so you can be liberal with them.  I also like to bring liquid bandage for small cuts on the feet where bandaids don't stay on when kids are constantly in and out of the water, and extra wound closure strips (Steri-Strips) and a Celox pad in case of serious wounds from an errant knife or axe.  If you are planning to use open fires (for cooking, warming, ambiance) then you need to give some thought to treating burns.  With burns an ounce of prevention is definitely worth more than a pound of cure. 

The above should take care of your basic run of the mill emergencies.  For more severe medical emergencies the most important thing you can take with you is knowledge and skills.  The AMK Backcountry Kit comes with a great little first aid manual that serves as a handy reference, but I would highly recommend taking a basic First Aid course or even a Wilderness First Aid course.  The knowledge gained will greatly increase your confidence in being able to deal with whatever first aid situations may arise.  An old adage is "The more you know, the less you have to carry."

As far as a Spot or other satellite communication devices, at present we do not carry these. The main reason is cost.  Good camping gear is not cheap and I'd rather spend my limited resources on equipment that we will use day in, day out, rather that an electronic gadget that you have to keep powered and that will likely never be used.  With small children our strategy has been to camp somewhere with no more than a day's journey out (and to take day trips from there) so that if something should really go wrong we always have the possibility to self-extract in a reasonable time frame. 

That said, the above statements only reflect our personal preferences based on our own comfort levels and the places we travel.  Your decision should be based on your own comfort level and the remoteness of your location.  If we were to undertake trips where getting out meant an arduous multi-day paddle, a satellite phone or emergency beacon would likely get upgraded priority. 

With any activity there is always some risk associated.  When camping with children the key is to focus on the most probable risks and try to mitigate those and not get too hung up on potential scary scenarios that have a very low probability of occurring.  If you start with small and short trips with an easy bailout option, your comfort level will soon grow to what it was before you had kids. 

I hope this helps.  With ski season nearing an end, the activity on our blog should pick up so stay tuned for more posts.  I'm glad to hear that the blog has inspired you to head back to Algonquin with your kids.  Encouraging other families is one of the main goals for our blog.  The experiences you'll share as a family will stay with them for a lifetime.

Happy camping and don't hesitate to drop us another note. 

Sincerely,

Dave


P.S.  We keep all medications and anything other poisonous first aid supplies in our big AMK Backcountry kits.  These kits are stored somewhere that is easily accessible by adults, but out of reach for children in order to avoid poisoning.  Our smaller kits contain mostly bandaids of various sizes, antiseptic wipes, and a tube of antibiotic cream.  It is kept out at all times and is easily accessible for adults and kids.  This way the older kids (i.e. ages 6+) are able to get their own bandaids for minor scrapes, etc.

Gear Lists Updates

We've been going through our trip journals and putting together some gear lists.  Here are two new ones to check out.  

Gear List for Snowshoe Day Trip (with kids)

Uncle Dan's Gear List for Canoe Tripping is a comprehensive list of what we pack in terms of shelters/tents, packs/carriers, tools, canoe gear, nighttime gear, and gear for fun and relaxation.  Basically everything we bring with the exception of clothing, kitchen gear, and photo gear.

Let us know if you think we've forgotten anything!

2014 Gift Giving Series - Gifts for the Backcountry Mom

by Auntie Shelley

The following are some gift ideas for the backcountry mom.  As we mentioned earlier, we are trying to keep our gift recommendations under the $100 mark.  The following are just a few little things that the mom on your list might appreciate.

Image from Stanley

Image from Stanley

I think almost every backcountry mom I know loves coffee, so top on my list this year is the Stanley SS Vacuum Coffee System.  When I showed this to Dan he thought it looked complicated and said that he would lose a part and then be in trouble.  But since he never makes coffee on the trail, I’m not too worried (for the record, he does make me coffee every morning at home). 

This system lets you brew and carry your coffee on the trail, comes in 500ml and 1L sizes, and will keep coffee hot for up to 15 hours.  Seriously, it will keep coffee hot for 15 hours!!  

Usually what happens when we're in the backcountry is I brew up coffee and just as I'm about to enjoy it, a little person needs my help.  By the time I get back to my coffee, it's cold - even if it's been in an insulated mug.  Well, this little thermos will give me 15 hours to get back to my coffee.  My kids can't possible keep me busy that long can they?

Here's how it works:

To really enjoy backcountry coffee though, the mom on your list needs a nice seat.  I have the Helinox Chair One and I highly recommend it.  There's a reason why this chair wins awards.  It's light, compact, comfortable, and stable.  My kids put it to the test on our trips this past year and it held up to a lot of abuse.  I don't just use it on trips either.  It comes with me to the beach, the pool, the soccer field, etc.

image from helinox.com.au

image from helinox.com.au

I recently tried out the Therm-a-Rest Treo at Adventure Guide and it was on par with the Helinox in terms of comfort and stability.  Actually, Dan thought it was more stable.  I think the thicker legs probably won't sink into the ground as easily as the Helinox's do.  An added benefit is that the legs fold up to make the carrying case so you don't have worry about losing the little storage pouch.

Image from cascadedesigns.com

Image from cascadedesigns.com

Just think how happy mom will be watching her children enjoy the wilderness from the comfort of her own special chair, nursing the baby in the chair, snuggling her bigger kids in the chair, reading a book in her chair, begging her kids to "please, please let me sit in my chair!"  On second thought, maybe you should get the kids some chairs too.  That way mom might actually get to sit in her chair and enjoy her coffee. 

Of course, after a really stressful day in the backcountry, maybe what your mom really needs is to sit in her chair with one of these ;-)

 

If the outdoor mom on your list is a runner, hiker, snowshoer, cross country skier, etc., then a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters would be a practical and stylish addition to her wardrobe.  

 

image from mec.ca

image from mec.ca

And for the outdoor mom whose hair styling repertoire consists of a ponytail (yes, that's me) the Smartwool PhD Hyfi Training Beanie, or any other stylish beanie with a ponytail exit would be thoughtful.  

Personally, I think winter hats are a great gift  Why?  Because they let me hide the fact that I haven't had time to do my hair.  

A good winter hat transforms me from the disheveled mom who hasn't had time to brush her hair and is racing her kids to the bus into the stylish outdoorsy mom who's dropping her kids off at the bus on her way out for a run.  Really the only running I'm doing is back to the house where I will finish my coffee (that's still hot because I left it in my Stanley thermos) and read outdoor blogs, but what the neighbours don't know won't hurt them.  

Here are a few more of my favourite hat picks.

For the outdoorsy mom who likes to cycle around town you might want to consider a trendy purse/handle bar bag like this Sherpani Samba Handle Bar Bag.  This is a good sized bag with enough room for diapers and wipes, keys, wallet, a phone, candy wrappers, random pieces of lego, special rocks, exoskeletons, acorns, and the odd pine cone.  You know, all that important stuff that outdoor moms carry. 

    

 

 

photo from mec.ca

photo from mec.ca

photo from mec.ca

 

Finally, if the mom on your list doesn't have a good knife, consider picking one up for her.  If you want to splurge, a really good knife is something that she will keep for years, but it will cost you.  However, there are a lot of decent knives out there for under $100, such as the Gerber EZ Out Straight Edge.  It's easy to open with one hand, has a reliable locking mechanism, and the belt clip is solid.  For the price (under $35), you really can't go wrong.  

 

 

 

These are just a few gifts that the mom on your list might appreciate.  If your outdoor mom likes to cook then you might find some more ideas in our next post - Gifts for the Backcountry Chef!

2014 Gifts Giving Series - Ideas for Outdoor Kids

By Auntie Shelley

Christmas is quickly approaching and we've been busy putting together our wish lists.  We have come across some neat ideas for the outdoor family.  Over the next few days we'll be posting some Christmas gift ideas.  

For the most part we have tried to keep all of the items under $100.  Many are under $20 and would be ideal as stocking stuffers.  For the kids we have tried to focus on items that will encourage them to develop their outdoor skills and inspire them to get outside.  

So here's our first instalment.

Knot Tying Kits

Terra Kids Knack of Knots Kit

Knowing how to tie various knots is an essential outdoor skill and it's a great to practice during the winter months.

We recently came across this Terra Kids Knack of Knots Kit.  It retails for $16-$20 and comes with everything kids need to know how to tie various knots.

On its own this kit would be great, but you could add a book on knot tying, like My First Book of Knots.  

A great stocking stuffer for older kids would be ropes of various sizes/weights, a carabiner or two and the PROKNOT Outdoor Knots Cards.  This set contains twenty of the most common knots.  They are illustrated on waterproof plastic cards and held together with a grommet.  

They would easily fit in a glove box, backpack, or purse and could be used as a quiet activity during the year on car rides, etc.  

For those with anglers on their lists, they even have the Fisherman's Ultimate Knot Guide cards.

 

NatureFactsKnotsBandana.1__03766.1411506527.135.100.jpg

I would round out a knot tying kit with this Nature Facts Knot Tying Bandana.  

 

Stay tuned for our next instalment - Gifts to Inspire Orienteering Skills.

The Scrubba - Revolutionizing Laundry in the Backcountry

By Auntie Shelley

One of the challenges when camping with families as large as ours is minimizing gear.  Kids, especially younger kids, tend to go through a lot of clothes on a trip.  In the past we have tried doing laundry in the backcountry in an effort to save on how much clothing we brought.  It never worked out well.  It was always labour intensive and the clothes never really came out clean.  We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would just have to bring extra clothes for the kids.  That was until we discovered The Scrubba! 

Uncle Dave is the one who discovered the Scrubba earlier this year.  Dave is always up on new and exciting gear.  This summer on our 12-day trip we had the opportunity, actually several opportunities, to put the Scrubba to the test.  I think I can safely say that it has earned a place on our essential gear list.

So, what is the Scrubba?  According to their website, it is “the world’s first pocket-sized washing machine” and it weighs less than 5oz.  Imagine a dry bag with a see-through window and an internal washboard made of little nubbies – that’s The Scrubba.  It’s a modern, backcountry version of my grandmother’s old-fashioned washboard.

It’s quite simple to use.  You fill the bag with clothes, water, and a bit of soap, then close it up the same way you would a dry bag – roll the top down 4 or 5 times and clip the ends.  Next you open the air valve and push on the bag to remove the air from it.  Close up the valve then press down and rub the clothes against the internal washboard.  Depending on how dirty the clothes were we found it took anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to get everything clean.  This is where the little window comes in handy.  It allows you to see whether or not the clothes are clean enough.

Once everything was clean we drained the water.  On their website, Scrubba says that you can rinse your clothes with fresh water in the Scrubba, or under a running tap or shower.  We tried rinsing the clothes in the Scrubba, and it worked well, however it was a bit time consuming given the volume of laundry we were dealing with (we had 9 kids on the trip).  Lisa came up with a system where she would wash the clothes in the Scrubba and then rinse them in her Sea to Summit portable kitchen sink.

One thing I would recommend is to start with a small amount of soap (i.e. just a few drops).  On his first load Uncle Dave added a bit too much soap and there were a lot of bubbles.  It took several rinses to get it all out.  Start with a couple of drops and then add more if you need it.

I will admit that I was a bit skeptical about how well the Scrubba would actually work, however after testing it out we were all really impressed.  I’m quite excited because I think it will really allow us to cut back on the amount of clothing we need to bring on longer trips.  I can definitely see how it would be a great item to bring when backpacking or trekking and have no hesitation recommending it as a great piece of gear.

For demonstration videos you can check out the Scrubba YouTube channel.  I think this one is my favourite.

 

 

 

Make Your Own Tubular Bandana

by Cousin Eva (Age 7)

One of my favourite pieces of gear is The Buff.  The Buff is a round tube of cloth that you can wear on your head as a hat or around your neck as a cowl.  It keeps your ears warm and it can keep them from getting mosquito bites. 

Cousin Eva wearing her Buff while camping in the backcountry.

It comes in different colours like blue, black, red, pink, yellow, orange, and patterns too.

After I found out about the Buff, I decided to try to sew one.  I bought some fabric that was soft and stretchy.  Then I washed the fabric to get it ready.  I cut out a rectangle and I folded it in half.  Then I sewed a seam down the side.  I tied off the threads so the seam would not come undone.  I pulled the seam flat and then I was done.  It was so easy that I decided to make some for my brothers and cousins too.

Cousin Eva cutting out her tubular bandana.

Cousin Eva sewing together her bandana on a serger.

Here is the tubular bandana!

Cousin Eva wearing the tubular bandana she made.

 

*A note from Eva’s mom:

The rectangle that Eva cut out was 19 inches by 19 inches, with the stretch running across the width of the fabric.  We used our serger, but if you don’t have one you can make this using a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.