• Marchuary? Tips for Cold Weather Camping

    When people think of winter (or winter-like conditions in Spring) the last thing that often comes to mind is sleeping outside, whether in a tent, snow pit or a simple backcountry hut. In fact, the first words that often come to mind are cold, uncomfortable and not fun.

    What if I told you that you could happily and comfortably head out into the depths of winter to camp? What if I told you that I could change the former words to fun, comfortable and even cozy?

    The difference between a good night and a bad night out in the mountains during the colder months comes down to a few basic things. We have personally learned these things through trial and error, which by the way meant some cold nights out. Hopefully through sharing these tips we can help you to avoid those harsh nights out and start you off on the right, warm, foot!

    TOP THREE TIPS:

    1) Eat Right and Stay Hydrated

    Not all calories are created equal when it comes to spending time in cold temperatures. Higher fat foods and complex carbohydrates are your friend as they are a slow steady form of energy, keeping your core temperature warmer for longer. Complex carbohydrates like hot oatmeal or granola are a fantastic simple start to the morning. Add in some of your favorite nut butter to up the fat and calorie content and you have a breakfast that will keep you warm and satisfied for hours.

    Our new favorite is the Good To-Go Granola which can be made hot or cold. For a warm, spicy version try the Oatmeal—it’s loaded with chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, hemp hearts and spices like cinnamon, turmeric and cardamom. Try adding freshly sliced apple to the oatmeal for an amazing breakfast!

    Keep snacking and don’t let yourself go hungry. Snacks like cheese, sausage, dried fruit and nuts are all great, tasty, high calorie options to keep you warm and feeling satisfied throughout the day.

    Keep up your fluid intake by constantly sipping on fresh water throughout the day. When you are at camp drink hot fluids—tea, hot chocolate, cup of soup—these will keep your core temperature warm and they are delicious.

    2) Stay Warm

    Having the right gear is the biggest factor in either enjoying winter camping or never wanting to do it again. Layering is the best way to manage warmth. Instead of only having one large insulated jacket, it is important to have a system that allows you to remove articles of clothing as you are on the move and need to dump heat, but also gives you the opportunity to layer up as the need arises. Here is an example of my winter setup:

    1x Merino Wool Base Layer long sleeve shirt

    1x Merino Wool Base Layer long john’s

    1x Down Puffy Jacket

    1x Synthetic Puffy Jacket

    1x Gore-Tex Shell Jacket (windproof and waterproof)

    1x Toque (wool hat)

    1x Buff (to use while moving)

    1x Merino Wool Socks

    1x Thick Gloves

    1x Thin gloves (to use while moving)

    When camping always make sure to bring extra, dry base layers. Since it is inevitable that you will sweat during the day, it is very important to have dry layers to change into once you reach camp. Don’t forget when it comes to staying safe it’s worth it to invest the extra money in good quality gear—buy cheap, buy twice!

    3) Be Safe

    Snow not only changes the look of a landscape, it also changes how you travel in that landscape. It’s not as simple as heading out onto the same trails that you would in the summer. Travel is now slower, especially if you are pushing through deep snow, the amount of daylight in a given day is less and slopes are now loaded with feet of snow. This all means that we need to head into the backcountry fully aware of conditions and consequences.

    Take a basic Avalanche awareness course, head out with the appropriate gear and know how to use it. Take into account the dwindling daylight and the time it takes to break a trail in snow. The more we can learn the safer we can be and this means we can enjoy winter that much more!

    So there really is no need to pack away your tent for the winter season. All it takes is a little preparation, a positive mindset and some tasty food to make winter camping a regular part of your outdoor life.

    Story and photos by Spring and Leigh McClurg | pebbleshoo.com

  • HOW TO COOK THANKSGIVING DINNER… ON A CAMPFIRE?!

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    Everyone loves Thanksgiving! It’s all about food, friends and giving thanks for the wonderful things in our lives. We plan, prepare and cook to our heart’s content. So this year, while you plan your #OptOutside adventures, you might consider getting a jump on nature by having Thanksgiving dinner outside as well!

    Thanksgiving outside might sound daunting but it doesn’t have to be. Stick with the basics, focus on friends and success is inevitable. Here’s a menu that is a sure winner and best of all, most of the ingredients can be picked up at the grocery on your way out to the great outdoors.

    CAMPFIRE THANKSGIVING DINNER FOR SIX

    • Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast
    • Dutch Oven Stuffing with Sausage and Sage
    • Smashed Sweet Potatoes
    • Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Orange
    • Green Bean and Pea Casserole
    • Tarte Tatin (Upside-Down Apple Pie!)

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    INGREDIENTS

    • 4 cups applewood chips
    • 1 boneless turkey breast
    • 36 tablespoons butter (about 5 sticks)
    • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
    • 4 tablespoons thyme
    • 1/2 pound of sweet sausage
    • 2 onions
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 1 cup (diced) celery
    • 1/3 cup chopped fresh sage
    • 14-ounces dried bread stuffing
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • 5-6 small sweet potatoes
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
    • 3/4 cup of half & half
    • 1 can cranberry sauce
    • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
    • 2 teaspoons orange zest
    • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
    • 8 ounces mushrooms
    • 1 pound frozen cut green beans
    • 1 pound frozen sweet peas
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup apple cider
    • 1 lemon
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 6 honeycrisp apples
    • 1 sheet puff pastry
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    DIRECTIONS

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    Cooking a whole turkey, over a fire, can be a lot work and also time consuming. (We’re sure you’d rather spend your time on the trails.) But smoking a turkey breast is just delicious, quick, and surprisingly easy. There’s no need for a fancy smoker—with a little imagination, a smoker can be made out of a myriad of kitchen pots and pans. A traditional New England steamer, used for steaming open soft shell clams can easily be transformed into a smoker. Once the spigot is removed, you have a smoker that can sit over an open fire and slowly cook a turkey breast.

    THE FIRE

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    The trick to “open-fire” cooking is heat, used judiciously. A fire pit, covered with a strong grate (an oven rack works well) is your best option for cooking. First, make a generous fire using good-sized logs. The goal is to gain enough heat in the ring while burning down the logs to smoldering coals. Place the “smoker” on the grate with the hot coals six inches below. The chips will begin to smoke after 15 minutes or so. If they don’t, stoke the fire and add more wood to get it hotter. It’s ok if there are some flames, but don’t let the fire engulf the smoker. The internal temperature of the smoker should be between 375F and 425F. This can be monitored with the help of an oven thermometer inside the main chamber.

    APPLEWOOD SMOKED TURKEY BREAST

    Cook time: 120 minutes

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    Place four cups of applewood chips, soaked in water overnight, in the bottom of the steamer while the breast cooks in the main chamber. (Remember to cover the pot to keep the smoke inside!) The boneless breast is best prepared by rubbing with butter, lemon zest, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper. Make a make-shift pan out of foil, turning up the edges so to hold the juices from the breast. It should be slightly larger than the breast itself. Set this into the main chamber. Depending on the size of the breast, it will take around two hours to cook.

    DUTCH OVEN STUFFING WITH SAUSAGE AND SAGE

    Cook time: 50-70 minutes

    While the turkey is smoking, you can prepare and cook the rest of your dinner. The stuffing is best prepared in a four-quart cast iron Dutch oven. Place the Dutch oven on the grate to pre-heat.  Once hot, add one-half pound of sweet sausage meat, mixing it to cook evenly. Add one diced onion, cooking until soft. Toss in two minced garlic cloves, one cup of diced celery, one-third cup of fresh chopped sage, two tablespoons of fresh chopped thyme, and eight tablespoons of butter. Cook for a few minutes, then add one 14-ounce bag of dried bread stuffing, one-and-a-half cups of chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Top with four tablespoons of butter. Cover the Dutch oven and keep it close to the hot coals, approximately six inches. Turn the Dutch oven every 15 minutes to heat it evenly. It will heat throughout and get crispy and crunchy on the top and sides in about 45 minutes to an hour.

    SMASHED SWEET POTATOES

    Cook time: 20-30 minutes

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    In a two-quart pot, place five or six small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes. Cover the potatoes with water and season with salt. Place it on the grate and bring the water to a boil. Simmer until the potatoes are soft. Hold a spoon or whisk on the edge of the pot and pour off all of the water. Using a potato masher or a firm whisk, smash the potatoes. Add one-half a cup of heavy cream or half & half and one stick (eight tablespoons) of butter. Season with salt and pepper and whip together. Cover the potatoes and set them to the side to keep them warm.

    CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH GINGER AND ORANGE

    Cook time: 0 minutes

    With some slight doctoring, it’s easy to create an improved version of canned cranberry sauce. Take the sauce, mix in one tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, two teaspoons of orange zest, and one-fourth a cup of fresh orange juice. That’s it! Fast and delicious.

    GREEN BEAN AND PEA CASSEROLE

    Cook time: 25-35 minutes

    The last savory dish is a stove top rendition of a classic green bean casserole. In a four-quart pot, melt one stick of butter (eight tablespoons). Add one medium onion, cut into one-fourth-inch matchsticks. Sweat the onions until soft. Add eight ounces of sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook through. Add one pound of frozen cut green beans and one pound of frozen sweet peas. Add three-quarters of a cup of half & half and cook down by half. Season with salt and pepper. Once thickened and hot, it’s ready to go.

    TARTE TATIN (UPSIDE-DOWN APPLE PIE)

    Cook time: 50-55 minutes

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    The dessert can also be made right on the open fire using a 12-inch cast iron pan. Add three-quarters of a cup of brown sugar, one-fourth a cup of apple cider, juice from one squeezed lemon, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of cinnamon to the pan. Place on the grate over the fire and cook for five to ten minutes. This will bubble but do not let it burn or over brown. Add six tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time, incorporating it into the glaze with each addition. Decoratively arrange six apples (I recommend honeycrisp) into the glaze, rounded side down. The apples should be peeled, quartered, and cored. Cook for 20 more minutes. Lastly, place a sheet of puff pastry—cut into a round shape the same size diameter of the pan—over the apples, tucking the sides down into the pan. Cover the cast iron pan with another 12-inch cast iron pan. Place the pan six inches above the hot coals and spoon hot coals onto the top of the cast iron pan. Bake it like this for 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden, puffed, and done. Pull the pan from the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes. Cover the pan again with the other 12-inch cast iron pan and flip the it over, inverting the tarte.

    And there you have it… Thanksgiving! Enjoy your dinner and your beautiful surroundings.

    This post was created in collaboration with REI’s Adventure Project

  • ROAD TRIPPING 101

    THE OPEN ROAD – Those three words stir up ideas of freedom, discovery and adventure around every corner. The opportunity to put aside your everyday worries, give in to the pull of endless adventure and to liberate yourself from a schedule tied to arbitrary hours. The open road represents a path outside of everyday life where we are no longer constrained by time or routine; you allow yourself to be taken wherever the road leads.

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    When we decided to take to the open road to visit the beautiful state of California for the first time we had little knowledge of what to expect or even where we would be going.  With our car packed with only the basics, rock climbing gear, trail running gear and simple camping supplies, we opened Google maps and took to the road.

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    TIME IS IRRELEVANT – They say that time is not absolute, but relative and flexible, and nowhere is this truer than when you are traveling with no defined notion of where you “need” to be. Days shift around you only because you notice the rising and the setting of the sun. In this state of timelessness you are left with nothing but options of how you enjoy the spaces between each day and night.

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    Stresses start to melt away and what becomes important in your life narrows down to the basics: good food, water, shelter and lots of coffee. It was always easy to meet these needs and in fact enjoy them in a way we couldn’t if we were staying in a 5-star hotel. Sleeping in the back of the car, snuggled up in our sleeping bags we would wake up often from the brightness of the moon shining through the windows, as it inched its way across the inky night sky. I could pack my stove and dinner up to a sandy mountaintop to watch the sun set across the beautiful expanse of the desert. In the morning I could wake up to first light, open the tailgate and make a delicious cup of coffee to the sound of birds chirping and squirrels scurrying in the nearby trees.

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    There was no need to hurry up; life was easy. That’s the beauty of life on the road, it’s simple and you learn a lot about what is truly necessary. You learn a few things about yourself and figure out how to live as efficiently and comfortably as possible.

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    HERE ARE A FEW OF OUR TOP TIPS FOR LIVING WEEKS AT A TIME ON THE ROAD!

    1) Organization – Whatever your chosen mode of transportation for life on the road, I can probably assume it’s smaller than your regular home. Small spaces become cluttered easily so it’s important to have a place for everything. Having an order to how you pack the car each time, ensures you won’t misplace items and keeps a feng shui to the space.

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    2) Keep it simple – I always pack twice. By that I mean I take out the clothes and gear I think I need for the trip and then I go through it a second time to pair it down to the mere essentials. Will it be nice to have 5 t-shirts and 5 pairs of pants while I am away? Probably, but do I really need that many items of clothes…nope. Really think about the activities you will be doing, how comfortable you want to be and how long you can get away without having to clean your clothes.

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    3) Eat well – Just because you are on the road doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. Even without a cooler it’s possible to eat smart and healthy. Good To-Go meals are our go-to food for lunches and dinners. They are quick to make, taste delicious and they are easy to add fresh ingredients to. Fresh food like apples, oranges, bananas, pre-cooked chicken, avocados, bell peppers, spinach, eggs…they all hold up fairly well and add a lot of extra calories to your meals.

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    4) H2O – Always have water with you in reusable bottles and containers. This is good for the environment, ensures that you stay hydrated (as you always have water on hand) and best of all will save you a lot of money. It will be easier than you think to find ways to refill your water.

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    5) Hygiene – Baby wipes aren’t just for babies. That’s right, you won’t be showering everyday and that’s ok. It’s part of the appeal of the open road, you are forced out of your daily habits and adjust accordingly.

    Credit: Ambassodors Leigh and Spring McClurg

    To learn more about Leigh and Spring visit: Pebbleshoo.com

  • ONE LAST CHANCE TO DISCONNECT

    CLICK HERE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A JETBOIL MINIMO STOVE, GOOD TO-GO MEALS AND A VOLTAIC ARC 10WATT SOLAR KIT

    When I got an email about shooting photos and writing a blogpost for a collaborative giveaway from three awesome companies, I needed a little time to interpret the theme, “One Last Chance to Disconnect”. As it’s the end of summer and many folks hunker down for the cold months ahead, packing away the camping gear and hanging up the boats and bikes, the timing seemed to work, but what did the idea mean?

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    For me, “One Last Chance to Disconnect” isn’t about disconnecting from our devices, rather it’s about disconnecting from the tether that keeps a lot of us in our places and limits our ability and freedom to roam. By carrying a solar panel with me, I can do work from the road, keep my batteries charged and leave the concrete jungle behind to explore wilderness advocate and philosopher Sigurd Olson’s notion of “One foot in and one foot out”. In this day and age it’s hard to be all-in for the nomadic, traveling lifestyle, so it’s important to find the balance maintaining my relationship with the wild while maintaining my relationship with my community, family and friends. By being able to go on extended backcountry trips and have the ability to keep: my phone charged, my Delorme inReach charged, my headlamp charged, and my batteries for my camera charged—I can share these experiences with everyone else and get them motivated, excited and inspired to pursue their own adventures.

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    The Arc10W solar kit from Voltaic Systems is a simple, rugged and reliable approach to keeping the juice at 100%. I can set it up when I arrive at camp and strap it to the outside of my pack when I’m on the go, and charge any of my devices in the sun in no time. And while I don’t always have access to a full kitchen to make delicious meals, I carry a few things with me to make me feel like I do.

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    After 20 years of wilderness travel, and thanks to Jetboil and Good To-Go, I’ve finally found the best combination for quick, easy, delicious and nutritious meals in the backcountry. With the Jetboil MiniMo, I don’t have to prime stoves or deal with rubber o-ring gaskets on fuel pumps. I just start it up, boil water and go. I don’t have to worry about things falling apart in the backcountry. All the things that make the solar panel great are what make the stove great—simple, rugged and reliable. And when it comes to food, I don’t like to make a mess. I prefer quick, easy and delicious. With a serious culinary background and simple, real-food ingredients that you know and can pronounce, the makers of Good To-Go put a lot of time, effort, thought and passion into the food they sell and we eat. All the meals are gluten-free and more than half their line is vegetarian. I usually opt for the two serving bags as I need the higher caloric intake being the 6’3’’ guy I am. It also works out well that my favorite food on the planet is Pad Thai, and it just so happens Good To-Go makes the best one I’ve ever tasted.

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    With a full belly I can recharge my internal battery while my peripheral ones charge from the sun. I can stay out longer, experience the moments that last a lifetime, and come back to share them with everyone, encouraging their own opportunities to explore, create and live a full life.  Don’t let your batteries run out before it’s too late.

    (photos and story by Brian Threlkeld)