Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gearing Up! Camping in the Backcountry with Fam Och

 I've recently raved about our upcoming outdoor adventure plans for this summer. There are those I've spoken with who have inquired on the necessary supplies we usually use on these trips.  I can honestly say that for car camping families (drive-in campgrounds in which you pitch your tent on the clearing next to your vehicle), anything goes just as long as you can fit it in the car. There is no need to worry about how bulky, heavy, perhaps unnecessary it may be. If it fits, take it, right? And of course, there's the convenience of loading up in the car and driving back to fetch a forgotten item.

Backcountry camping requires a bit more forethought and much more planning, especially if you have children with you, and more importantly if one is prone to allergic reactions like my youngest is. We've been car camping numerous times, but this summer will be a first to venture out away from the security blanket of our car.

In a couple of weeks, we are staying for two nights and three days at this public-use cabin:
The Yuditna Creek Cabin alongside the gorgeous Eklutna Lake is pretty bare bones.  There are simple wooden sleeping platforms on which to lay our sleeping pads and bags, and a small wood burning stove. That's about the amenities it can boast of. Well, if you don't count the outhouse pit toilet a hundred feet away.

 If you look below at the map, the trailhead and the parking lot are to the top left. Three miles in is the Yuditna Creek Cabin.
After a bit of discussion as to the method to take to reach the place we settled on this:
  1. Hiking in is out of the question since we had sleeping bags and other gear to haul there, plus a just recently turned five-year-old who has a habit of inducing a collapse claiming she cannot possibly walk any longer as her legs do not work anymore.
  2. Kayaking would have been a fun way to reach the cabin...except for the fact we've never kayaked with the children before (the Mister and I have sea kayaked off KeyWest before), and especially not in glacier-fed waters.
  3. We had recently outfitted the family with bicycles, and after a few test runs around the immediate vicinity, it was apparent that the children could handle this better. Plus, hauling gear via bicycle was much more promising. Biking there it is.

Although Little Livy has a tiny bike with training wheels, she is still as lazy as ever and seems to be bewildered at the fact that her pedals don't turn themselves. This Weehoo iGo Bike Trailer is the perfect solution for her.
As for the gear, we are simply renting a trailer (there is an outfitter at the trailhead) much like this one to stow our sleeping bags and other gear.

 Okay, on with the gear. You all know I love organization. This Kelty Binto Hauler is perfect for my OCD tendencies. For this particular trip, however, we are only bringing two of the compartments as space is at a premium. One bin holds cooking and water essentials, the other holds extra clothing (as in, wool socks, sleepwear, extra hand warmers, etc.).

 Can you tell I love Kelty? Our food (and no, it won't be stuffed with the junk depicted below) will be held in this Kelty Picnick Pak. The bottom compartment is a waterproof/tight that will hold anything we need to keep cold. Dylan will wear this as a backpack.

 Backcountry camping, of course, won't have safe water readily available. Thankfully, the cabin sits right where the Yuditna Creek empties into Eklutna Lake (Anchorage's main water supply). Still, for safety reasons, filtering the water gathered from the creek is a good idea. (Note: although it would be easier to simply scoop up water from the lake, it is a glacier-fed lake, which means it is silty, and therefore would shorten the life of our filter faster)

I am a fan of the Platypus Gravityworks Filter.  It filters rapidly, and holds a lot of water. Plus, you can simply roll it up when not in use.  It doesn't take a lot of space, and is light as a feather.

When car camping, we bring a filled 5 gallon water container. But again, space and weight is a premium when you have to travel a bit to your camping site.  Another great Platypus product is this collapsible jug we empty the filtered water into. When empty and not in use, it rolls up and takes up hardly any space. (You can purchase any collapsible water jug for much less $$.)

On to cooking supplies. I'm a gear-aholic.  I love nifty products that either have multi-uses or are configured in a way to minimize space.  The GSI Bugaboo Set (we got this previous year's model on sale for 30% off...yes!) is just really cool. It has pots, pans, lids with strainers built-in, plates, bowls, cups with sipping lids, all in this stackable configuration.  Everything fits into that big pot at the bottom.

Plus, its carrier (below) doubles as a sink.

Now, I know you're asking...'why don't they just bring paper plates?' Well, we used to. But our Miss Sophie is very environmentally conscious (she takes things learned at school very very she should) and we agree that Fam Och should try to lessen our impact. So washable reusable tableware it is. (Plus, we would need to pack out our trash at this campsite. Less trash, the better. I can just imagine the epic argument over who has to haul the trash bag three miles while riding a bike.)

Other things of note: as the Mister is an expert in fire building (survival skills he learned from work), it is still a good idea to bring a couple of these Duraflame logs. Restarting a fire in the cabin's wood stove at 3am is not a fun thing. And the other log will serve as an instant flame when starting the campfire outside in the morning. The evening campfires are Dylan's responsibility to build from scratch.

Useful tool to have...axe and saw. This one has a saw that fits nicely into the axe's handle. Space savers are just awesome.

There are many outfitters to purchase supplies from. Our favorite is REI. As a member, we receive a dividend the following year based on the amount we spend. When that dividend check comes in, we'll head over and see what neat things they have in stock. I've also found great deals on Amazon and eBay. It's taken us several years to figure out what gear really works for us, so it's taken some time to get our supplies to where we really want them. Don't feel pressured to purchase everything at once (unless your checking account is a bottomless pit, ours isn't). If anything, check out places that rent out gear for a good price, or better yet, borrow from your friends for free!

There really isn't an excuse not to bring your kids out and enjoy the outdoors. It just needs a bit of planning. Imagine the stories they will tell as grownups about the adventures they had as a child. 

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