Category Archives: Camping trips (3)

15 Tips for staying warm while winter camping / snow camping

If some one suggested a year ago to go camping in the snow, without a tent, the answer would have been a very enthusiastic “NO!!!”. Since then I actually went camping with a tent, 3 times, and twice I was super cold. Stay tuned for that blog post because I have a lot to say 🙂

But now let’s talk about how to go winter camping, ans actually doing it without a tent and still enjoy it. I did this twice, and Loved it! In fact, my second time was on this past New Years Eve, so you if you have time, check out my Youtube video about that amazing time.

But for now, here are my 15 tips for staying warm and 1 bonus for just becase 🙂  For some you might need to invest some money, most require very little, and a lot are free tips. These tips can apply to camping in a tent or without a tent, in snow or in just cold weather.

  1. price: $100-200. 0 degree sleeping bag. If you can invest a one time $100-200 in a quality sleeping bag, pretty much most of your troubles are over. There are mummy style bags, I personally don’t like them because I feel like I really am a mummy, unable to turn. I toss and turn while I sleep, side to side and I can’t help it. So I like a spacious bag.  The one I got is from Kodiak Canvas, it’s $200, wide and super tall (if you spend another $20, it can accommodate someone up to 6’3″. It has a built in pillow top, it’s very neat. Very warm !! Very light weight and packs up nicely. Definitely recommend them. Check them out at
  2. free Jumping jacks, warming up by the fire, drinking a hot beverage before you get in your sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag is not a heating pad. It cannot generate heat. A lot of people don’t know this, but you cannot go inside your sleeping bag and expect it to warm you up, regardless of its temperature rating. You must be warm and the bag will retain your body temperature. Which leads to my next point…
  3. free  Layers. If you are sleeping in a lowers temperature sleeping bag, you can’t have layers. It might be a scary thought to just have on a t-shirt and thin pants, but trust me, it works like that. As long as you get in there feeling warm, your 20 – 0 – -20 degree sleeping bag will do its job. If you have 3-4 layers of clothes on, it won’t. You will be cold, your sleeping bag will be like any others.  If you have a simple bag, let’s say rated at 40 F, yes, you should have a few layers, but don’t forget point #2, and many of the ones coming up.
  4. $5-10 Use a tarp behind you if you’re not using a tent. You can actually position it above you, but I think it’s best if it’s behind you and a bit above you it shield you from rain as well. I camped twice without a tent, once I didn’t put up a tarp, the second time I did. It was the same temperature, same gear, bit I think the tar made a difference because I felt warmer at night with the tarp behind me.
  5.  $10-40 Even of you have a wonderful sleeping bag, you still need some insulation to maximize its potential. Let’s say you have a cot, and you put your sleeping bag on it. The bottom of your bag will get compressed and will not provide the same insulation as you need. You can do 2 things:
    buy a sleeping pad, this should be a “closed cell” sleeping pad. The price varies, some can get expensive, but you can also use this if you’re sleeping on the ground (in that case you definitely need this). What I did was something less expensive:  Mylar blanket. Much less expensive. What you do  use a blanket, any kind of sleeping bag, etc on top of your cot (or the ground) and then lay the Mylar blanket on top, and on top of that your sleeping bag. This will keep your body heat / sleeping insulation from escaping to the ground. I bought mine from
  6. $5-10 Mylar Blanket:  I know I just talked about this, but I want to point out its other uses. If you can’t invest in a quality, low temperature sleeping bag, then I would wrap myself around with this thermal blanket and then get inside the bag. I haven’t tried this, but I would assume that you also don’t want to have too many layers on. Maybe 1 and keep extras o n hand inside your sleeping bag
  7. $1 In order to stay warm in your sleeping bag, you can simply fill one or more water bottles with hot water and place them inside. They will emit heat and it will be easier to stay warm. I would put one in the bottom, by my feet and one to hold. You can use hot potatoes in foil. Toss them in the fire, then wrap them in foil. Be careful so they don’t burn you. You can eat them the next day 🙂
  8. free If you use a cot, (or a hammock), you will now have 1 foot or more cold air between you and the ground. It’s better than sleeping directly on the ground, in my opinion, but that cold air can make it very cold for you. So you need to fill that space with something. This can be your camping gear, fire wood, dogs  if you have them (that would be best since they will emit body heat and they will probably like sleeping under a shelter. But worse case, if you don’t have enough things, pack it with snow. Snow actually insulates, but make sure it doesn’t reach your cot. If i t does, it will make it wet so all your efforts of staying warm will be pointless. Test it by sitting on your sot, laying on it and making sure it did not touch the snow.
  9. $5-10 Again, for the same reason as above, bring some handwarmers. They’re inexpensive. These little packets will take about 15-20 minutes to heat up (simply shake them, keep shaking them a few times) but will stay hot for several hours. I used to have one in each hand, they really help. You can put them in your sleeping bag before you get inside so it will already be warm. Even with my 0 degree bag, I had a few of these on hand. You never know, if I get cold at night, using these would be much easier, you couldn’t just pull out hot potatoes or hot water bottles from nowhere, right?
  10. free Do not go to sleep hungry. This is not the time to do intermittent or worry about your diet. Make sure you have a nice meal, and I don’t mean a couple of granola bars. Something warm, something that will full your belly. Digesting t will create more body heat.
  11. $300+ . This is a little pricier, but if you plan on snow camping a lot (hunting, or even just enjoying the snow), especially for 2 or ore night, you probably want to be in a tent. A canvas tent if possible, it retain heat a lot better than other tents. They’re called 4 season tents because they are able to keep you alive even in very cold conditions.  I got mine from Kodiak Canvas. One of the reasons for this tent is that you can put a wood burning stove inside, and your staying warm problems are forever sold. You would need to convert your tent to be able to do this, but it’s simple. I did it. My video will be on Youtube in a few dass, check back here for the link.  So this brings me too my next point…
  12. $200-400 Wood burning stove. You can only use this in a canvas tent safely. I would not recommend using it in a nylon or other type of tent, unless it specifically says it’s ok. Why do you need this? Remember I said in the beginning of this post that last year I went snowcamping 3 times and twice I almost froze my butt off? Well, it turns out that your little camping heater can work in cold temperatures or at high elevation, but they will NOT work in cold temperatures AND high elevation. It worked at 3200 ft and 25 degrees, so my 3 season tent held up nicely. But it did not work at 7200 ft elevation and 25 degrees. They have a low oxygen sensor shut off so they just won’t even turn on. If you live up north where temperatures get below 0 regularly, there might be other options available, but not anything I have seen seen so far. So  wood burning stove is what you need because they will work no matter what because you’re burning wood. Your tent will be literally 80+ degrees inside.  You can also use the top for cooking so you do not need a camping stove or make a campfire to cook. I got mine from Colorado Cylinder Stoves and I love it. Definitely worth the investment. I will have a video up in a week or so on Youtube showing you how I camped like this, so make sure you check back for the link.
  13. free Now let’s say you can’t just now invest in a wood burning stove. You can take a big pot and place embers in it from your campfire, they will help warm up your tent and will stay burning for a few hours. Because they do smoke a bit, you need to make sure there is enough ventilation for the smoke to escape. Be careful with this.
  14. free keep your socks, gloves, even some of your clothes you will be wearing the next day in your sleeping bag. They will stay warm. No one wants to put on freezing cold clothes in the morning when it’s already cold
  15. free While you sleep, wear a beanie, gloves and wool socks. We lose a lot of heat through our head, and our hands and feet are the furthest from our bodies so they get cold first. I always feel that if my hands and feet are warm, I’m warm.
  16. free Did you know your phone’s battery life is greatly reduced in cold temperatures? You probably do. I’m sure my phone is not the only one that can go from 100 % to 6% in half an hour. What do you do? Bring a warm sock and put your phone inside. That’s it. Simple. You should first make sure your phone is not freezing cold already, warm it up if it is (same thing as it is with your body and the sleeping bag). Once it’s in the sock, you should keep it in your pocket or close to your body (I often put them inside my snow boots), or your sleeping bag. At night do the same thing.
  17. and here is one more, also free. Do not camp on top of a hill, but also don’t camp on the bottom, in a valley. It will be colder on top, but also windier. Most people think in a valle it will be warmer, because you’re sort of protected, like you’re in a pocket, but cold air settles, so it will go down to the bottom. You will be much colder down there. Find a spot midway. Sometimes ‘s hard to find a flat, even area like that, but if you use a cot, you can just dig some of the feet in and you’re set. If you’re using a hammock, you are definitely set.

So these are my 15 +2 tips for staying warm, hopefully you find them helpful. If you have any other advice, please leave them in the comment section!

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Camping at the Grand Canyon South Rim

Many people have the Grand Canyon on their bucket list, but are unsure about how to plan the trip. How to get there and where to stay? What can you expect?  In this post I will give you a few options for camping and describe my camping trip in April 2018. Make sure to watch my video for all the visuals.
The North Rim is only accessible in the summer, officially opening in the middle of May. (It’s much colder because it is 1500 ft. higher in elevation). The South Rim is open year round, and even though not all campgrounds are open 12 months of the year, you would still have camping and lodging options.
Scroll to the end of this post to watch my video to provide all the visuals for this post.

RV Camping 
Trailer Village.
If you require a site with a hookup (available only on the South Rim at Trailer Village), you need to reserve and pay in advance for your site by contacting Delaware North’s website.

Camper Village
Commercial campground located seven miles south of Grand Canyon Village in the town of Tusayan. Call (928) 638-2887. Open seasonally. Hook-ups and coin-operated showers are available.

Camping (tent / RV / van):

Mather Campground
Close to the National Park, but because of that it fills up months in advance. If you go in the summer, reserve at least 4-6 months ahead of time. I tried to reserve a spot in April 2 weeks in advance and there was none available. So even in the off season, you should look 2 months ahead to be safe. They have group sites, tent sites, RV sites, sites for campers with horses and all sorts of options. My personal opinion: Desert View campsite is prettier, but this site is much closer to the National Park, and if you have a reservation, then you don’t have to stress.

– bench, fire grill, bathrooms with running water and flush toilets.
– Forest type setting quiet, peaceful (but honesty I liked the other campground much more, the scenery was much prettier)
– Hook ups for RVs
$18 / night
– pets must be leashed, and cannot be left unattended.
Reserve:   National Recreation Reservation Service (877) 444-6777.

Desert View Campground
30 minutes from the National Park, but on the way you can stop to view the gorgeous scenery at one of the many lookouts. Only 50 campsites and YOU CANNOT MAKE RESERVATIONS. FIRST COME FIRST SERVE ONLY. Season opens April 14th.  check in 11 am, check out 12 noon.

Personal opinion: much prettier than Mather Campground, and as long as you have a backup plan for camping, it’s worth it. It is 25-30 minutes from the park but there are many lookout points along the way with gorgeous views, starting at 5-7 minutes from the campgrounds.

-same as the other campground, bench, fire grills, bathrooms with running water and flush toilets. Trash containers.
– Hook ups for RVs. Here you can camp in your tent, RV, van, car or in hammocks / sleeping bags.
– The setting is beautiful. Neighbors are kinda close but you can walk way back away from everything.
-$12 / night.
-Pets must be leashed and cannot be unattended.

If you come here, do what I did:

  • arrive early (8 am) and look for a campsite. Park your truck and go pay for it. Pay by credit card, but if the machine doesn’t  work, (it didn’t when I was there)  have exact change with you.
  • In case you cannot find a site, don’t leave, wait, because people who are leaving will be packing up around 10-11 am to be out by 12 noon. You most likely will find a site, but if you arrive after noon, most likely it will be full.
  • have a back up plan to camp in the forest that way you don’t have to stress (of course you need a full set up for that)

Kaibab National Forest
This is right outside of the National Park, you just have to make sure you’re .25 mile off the highway. Double check fire and other restrictions. This can be an excellent back up plan just in case you don’t find a campsite. Make sure you have a full set up, and ready to camp without running water and bathrooms.
Take everything with you, leave no trash behind (even if it’s biodegradable)
Even in April you might have snow on the ground in the morning, but it’ll be gone in a few hours. Of course check the weather. this year has been unusually, the weather we’ve had in April is more suitable for March.

You will most likely encounter free roaming elk and deer, maybe even close to your campsite. Don’t approach them because they might feel threatened and they will charge at you. Also you should never feed any wildlife, because this way they can get dependent on humans, as well as lose their fear and they might feel comfortable biting or kicking, etc. Their lives depend on you leaving them alone.
Also you should not pick up any wood from the ground (it is prohibited in the campgrounds but you should also leave them in the forests). Leave nature the way you found it. You can buy fire wood at the stores.

Our trip:
We came hoping for a campsite at Desert View, with the back up option at the National Forest. If I came back again (and I will), I will do the same thing, but I will stay 2 nights and I will bring my dog. My daughter and I had a wonderful time, but a day and a half / 1 night is definitely not enough.

We spent a few hours in the National Park, and on the way back stopped at a few of the lookout points. They’re perfect for sunsets or sunrises. The only thing is that if you’re camping, watching the sunset at a beautiful view means you will get back at your campsite in the dark. The rim is not visible from Desert View  campgrounds. I like to cook  my dinner when the sun  is going down and eat it while I can still see it, and then sit around the campfire after the Sun is gone. So it’s either see the sunset, or have dinner and see it, too.
I woke up at 5:30 am to see the sunrise, it was only a 10-15 minutes ride. It was gorgeous, with hardly anyone around. I loved all the elk and deer around us.

Grand Canyon National Park

Entrance fee is $30. I was lucky because we happened to go on earth Day, on which day entrance to any and all national parks are free. Check to see if they have specials. There are many things to do at the National Park, these include

  • various hikes (day hikes and overnight). If you’re not a hiker at all, you can just walk along the paved road right next to the rim (like so many people do) and take in the gorgeous view. You can always hop on a shuttle bus to take you to your destination, should you get tired.
  • bicycle tours (you can rent bikes)
  • mule rides. 3 hours, walking along the rim. If you feel adventurous, check it out
  • white water and soft water raft
  • car or commercial bus tours
  • educational activities: book store, museums, ranger walks with information the science, history, culture and nature of the Grand Canyon.
  • there are shuttle buses, so if you can’t walk too  much, you can hop on one to take you to your destination, there is a network of 3 different routes.

Things to know:

  • be prepared for a lot of people, from all over the world. That is pretty cool, actually.
  • you may take your dog, as long as the dog is on a leash
  • entrance fee is $30. On Earth Day it’s free. We happened to go then, I didn’t even know, so we saved $60.
  • be careful. There are rails along the paths, but you can walk / climb out to the ledge. Yes, you can fall and will not survive. Please be super careful with children.
  • If you take a hike, make sure you are experienced and are up for it. In the summer months 600 people get rescued by rangers, and 160 people get rescued by helicopters. Hiking here is the opposite of what’re you’re used to: the easy part comes first, you walk down, which is easy, but you might be too tired to walk up. The weather can be extreme, especially in the summer. Fatigue and dehydration / overhydration is your biggest enemy. Even experienced hiker have a hard times sometimes. Check out the various levels of hikes and pay attention to the intensity level. Play it safe.
  • Do not hike alone.
  • you do not need to pay for parking!! (this is not Disneyland)

I’m hoping this post was helpful and you will feel more comfortable making your next trip. Check out the following websites, and watch my video, which gives you about the same information that I gave you here plus more visuals.

Watch this video to see the visuals accompanying these tips.


A live-and-learn camping experience

After I went camping for the first time, I couldn’t wait to get out there. I had bought a small tent (2-3 person), already had a sleeping bag and I figured I was set. I planned to go to a different campsite from last time, I felt adventurous and was looking forward to a fun, but simple and uncomplicated experience. Boy, was I wrong. Continue reading A live-and-learn camping experience

My first time camping

This is a story about how camping is not only camping for me. It is about how it all started and why I hashtag most of my Instagram posts #naturetherapy.

The first time I went camping I had almost nothing in terms of camping gear. I had a sleeping bag. I bought a $5 emergency foil tent; I didn’t know if I would stick with camping and didn’t want to invest a lot of money in a tent. I had no lanterns, no stove, no heater. For cooking I took a few disposable foil containers, forks and spoons, a knife, salt and pepper, and matches to start the fire. For food I took some zucchini, a couple of potatoes, carrots, a bag of Top Ramon soup, some crackers and cheese. And water. I had one medium size backpack and all my clothing had to fit. I also had one German Shepherd and food for him.

This was one day + 1 night and 1 morning on a trial bases. I Googled campsites, and found Pine Flat Lake only about an hour and a half from me. They had a campground that cost $20 for 1 day, the site gave me a metal bench, fire rings + grill, running water, a nearby bathroom with flush toilet and even showers. There was a boat launch ramp next door which didn’t mean much since I didn’t have a boat.

I arrived at the site excitedly and wondering how it will go. I set up my “tent”, tried to gather firewood. There really wasn’t any around, I was able to gather a lot of twigs and some medium size wood, but nothing thick enough to sustain a fire for a couple of hours, which I didn’t know then.

The ranger arrived to collect payment and she told me about all the campsites along the lake and the Kings River which feeds into the lake. I decided the next morning I would take a drive around and visit each site.

I wanted to go hiking so grabbed my backpack, my dog and his leash and started on foot. As I discovered there really wasn’t anywhere to hike. I mean I hiked up a huge hill only to discover more hills and more after that and they just never stopped. It wasn’t a trail, just the hills. It was good exercise, but not the best experience. I knew I had to get back by the time the sun started to go down, because I had to make a fire, cook my food and eat it, because once it was dark, I couldn’t do anything.

Making the fire proved a little difficult, as we all know twigs and small wood will burn out very fast. It wasn’t even enough to boil my water for the Top Ramen! I eagerly cut up the zucchini, carrots and some potatoes and added it with the noodles. The water never boiled. Well, luckily, because Top Ramen noodles are already processed, the noodles became soft enough to eat even in the warm water. I had to scoop out all the vegetables and gave them to my dog. That fire was sad and burned out quickly, but I was still enjoying my time.

There weren’t many people around. There was one gentleman a few sites down from me who was just there collecting moths. I was bored, my fire was out, it was getting a little dark so we started taking. He gave me locations of sites and trails I might want to try out. I had my big German Shepherd, Oso with me, who after sniffing him a few times, didn’t seem to care. At one point I looked down and saw that he positioned himself perfectly between us. He was just standing there on four legs, like a table. That’s when I realized he did that to protect me. If this stranger wanted to do anything, he would have had to go through him first.

This was a wonderful realization, because I had only adopted this dog 3 years before. He was already extremely well mannered and very calm, but I never new how protective he would be,  how much I depend on him and didn’t know a whole lot about him.  That night was the first night I took my dog camping and I never went without him. He is my camping companion, he keeps me company and makes me feel safe. I know he would protect me from wildlife and people (my mom always worries about the people part, I always try to tell her that nature loving people are peaceful people). But if I hear strange noises, and think that something is out there, all I have to do is look at my dog and I know if my fear are realized. Not that I’m afraid. Like I said I feel 100 % safe with my dog. And just one look at his face shows how happy he is to be there with me. I’m his leader and he knows his job is to protect me and he loves to hike. He is what you would call a “happy camper”.

The night was uneventful although I was kind of cold. My dog laid directly above my head, looking out for danger. The next morning I had some instant coffee, some crackers and cheese and hung out with my doggie. I packed up my primitive campsite, hopped in my car and drove down to see the other campgrounds. I had never been to this lake so I didn’t know what to expect.

Most of the places were either boat launch sites, or RV camping, or day-use hiking areas, but then I drove all the way out to the river and found a wonderful site. I have been to this site during the last 2 years many times, even with my daughter. It’s called Kirch Flat, it’s directly next to the river. There are 17 campsites there, a lot of them are spaced apart from each other. Each one is spacious, some has room for 3-4 tents, and have a couple of benches. Each has a fire ring with grill, and there are vault bathrooms right there. And it’s free. I love this campground.

During this trip I realized that the best thing you can do on the weekends is get away from your every day life. There is no cellphone reception in most of these places, so you can’t obsess with who’s doing what on what social media. You can read a book, talk to your dog, talk to your self, sleep, relax, hike, think about things, or not think about anything at all. I really don’t mind going camping by myself, and I actually prefer it. I love the peace and quiet. I’m a high school teacher and all day long either I’m talking, the students are talking, we’re both trying to talk at the same time or I’m telling them to stop talking. So a weekend without human words is like heaven to me.

Needless to say I also learned a lot from this trip. The next week I bought a small tent, I learned that getting wood is a high priority. But it was a long time, 9 months before I felt the need to even buy a lantern, a stove or a heater.

I was roughing it every weekend, it was not very comfortable but I loved it. What I didn’t tell you is that this happened right after I broke up with a boyfriend who briefly introduced me to the outdoors (one camping trip and one hunting trip). The trips I took by myself every weekend were extremely liberating for me, as I was always thinking “I don’t need a man to do my thing”, and time spent in nature was and is always very therapeutic. This is why a lot of my outdoors pictures are hashtagged #naturetherapy