Posts by Ryan Mueller

Ryan is a web developer who counters the sedentary nature of his profession with outdoor adventure.

The Two Most Important Winter Camping Accessories

Winter camping is awesome. The stillness and starkness of the world around you during the cold months can lead you to a deep sense of awe and inspiration. There’s just something so profound about sitting on the shore of your favorite lake while nature has wound-down to a slow creep.

There are some other benefits as well. Like being able to build a roaring fire and sit close beside the flames. Or feeling the warm companionship of your wife while snuggling inside your tent.

There’s also one very significant drawback to winter camping… it’s so damn cold!

For me, camping in the cold is all about finding ways to moderate the chill to a tolerable level so I can enjoy the experience. There are two little accessories that help.


Yes, believe it or not, many a camper has forgotten to bring along a nice clean, dry, pair of socks to wear inside the sleeping bag. I’m not a socks to bed kind of guy, but when it’s 30 degrees outside they make a big difference.

It doesn’t really matter what type of socks you wear as long as they’re dry. Even the slightest dampness will reduce the benefit greatly.

Knit Hat

Carheart Knit Hat You loose a massive amount of body heat through your head so keeping a lid on your noggin is a really good idea. I’ve got this old Carheart knit cap that I picked up years ago that works perfectly.
When choosing your hat look for one that has a tight weave that that is elastic. The tight weave helps retain body heat better and the elastic guarantees you’ll be able to pull it down over those ears.

Choose a hat that has no ribs or ridges woven in for decoration. Those will just annoy you while your head is on your pillow.

Choosing a Tent for Summer Camping

The best type of tent, I think, for summer camping is a double walled three season tent. These tents usually weigh in at 5 – 10 pounds depending on size. They have double walls which means on a clear night you can remove the rain fly (the second wall) for maximum ventilation. You can also use these tents in the spring and fall.


By April Killingsworth

By April Killingsworth

You number one concern climbing into bed on a summer camping trip is staying as cool as you can. Many double walled three season tents feature a full mesh top. These are the style of tents I love. With the rain-fly removed you’ve got near full visibility and the air just moves right through the tent.

Put this tent on a nice ridge and you’ll feel the full effect of the summer breeze. Or place it in a lower valley and catch the air as it cools at sunset and moves two lower ground. Stagnant air is your enemy while summer camping, while moving air will make your stay far more pleasant..

Rain Protection

Having that rain-fly available is important in my neck of the woods, Texas. The weather changes so fast here. You can have 118° F at 2 pm and it will be raining and 60° F by evening. It helps with those early or late summer nights when dew is common by catching the condensation.

Choose a tent that has the polls on the outside. The main tent body hangs from the polls which arc over and are secured to the floor of the tent. The rain-fly should then rest on top of these polls. This gives you several inches of air gap between the mesh wall and the rain-fly allowing air to move freely and moisture is kept at bay.

Size is Important

My rule of thumb for tent shopping is when the manufacture counts one person, you should count half a person. That is, when a tent is rated for 2 persons, I count that as one. Of course I’m 6’ 3” 260 pound man so your mileage may vary.

Just keep in mind, while snuggling with your sweetie on a cold night in the tent may sound glorious, it’s not the same thing in 80°+ weather. You’ll want, nay need, some personal space just to let the air move around you.

My Picks

ascend_h2.2My personal tent is the Ascend Hiker 2 from Bass Pro; it’s now sold under the Ascend H2.2 name. It’s a three season tent and I do use it year round (winter in Texas isn’t that rough). As the name suggests it’s sold as a two person tent. I’ve found that I can fit myself and my 4 year old fine on warm evenings with plenty of room between us; when he’s not trying to wrestle.

I really like this tent because it has mesh walls nearly to the floor. The rain fly cover’s the tent fully plus extends outward around the door making a little vestibule area for storing gear. I’ve put this tent up by myself in about 8 minutes. You have to be a little creative seating the polls when you’re by yourself. If you’ve got help 3 – 5 minutes to setup with rain-fly.


Choosing Sunscreen


Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 – 50+. Apply as directed by the maker; using less, lessens the product’s effectiveness. Because of skin absorption be careful of the ingredients list. Consider using one of these three:

  1. Kiss My Face SPF 30
  2. 100% Pure Hydration Organic Pomegranate
  3. Aubrey Organics SPF 30 Children’s Unscented Sensitive Skin

Why Use Sunscreen?

It is Ultraviolet Light that causes sunburn and skin cancer in humans; it also causes generation of Vitamin D which is beneficial. Knowing how our skin reacts to UV light is especially important in these summer months.

Let’s look first at UV light. We classify the Ultraviolet portion of the light spectrum in three segments, UVA, UVB and UVC.

The latter, UVC, decimates biologic entities, including humans. In fact when you purchase an UV water treatment tool, it’s using UVC. That really cool looking “oven” your barber places his comb and scissors in uses UVC as well. Before you decide to never step outside again, relax, our little planet blocks UVC in the highest reaches of our atmosphere. Pretty handy I’d say.

UVA and UVB, however, do reach the planet’s surface and are what cause skin aging and sunburn. The latter being the most noticeable effect is what most sunscreens are formulated to protect against.

How to Choose an Effective Sunscreen

The industry standard for measuring sunscreen effectiveness is measured in SFP or Sun Protection Value. This measurement is often misunderstood by consumers which can easily lead to poor choices in sunscreen products.

You skin has a natural SPF which is unique to you. It’s based on how much melanin you have. The darker your skin the longer you can stay in the sun without burning. That’s why a ginger burns so much quicker than an African American.

Once you have an idea how long it takes you to start to burn in direct sunlight, you can use the SPF rating of a sunscreen to calculate it’s effective duration. Say it takes you 15 minutes to start burning. Using an SPF 10 product will give you an additional 150 minutes in the sun.

There’s a catch here, you must apply the sunscreen as directed. Putting on less than the manufacturer’s recommendation will lessen its effectiveness.(( What’s Wrong With High SPF? ))

How Sunscreen Works

Photo by Karrie Nodalo

Photo by Karrie Nodalo

In general, sunscreens get their effectiveness from their ingredients which either reflect or absorb UV rays. Zinc or Titanium oxides are literally miniscule flecks of those metals suspended in the location. They bounce the UVB light rays away from your skin just like a mirror.

Many sunscreens include other substances which absorb UV rays and convert that energy to heat. Different ingredients absorb different types of UV. For example Cinnamates absorb UVB while Benzophenones absorb UVA. Depending on the ingredients a sunscreen will be labeled as “multi-spectral” if it screens both UVA and UVB.(( How Does Sunscreen Work? ))

Since UVB is what causes the more immediate burning that has traditionally been what sunscreen makers have focused on. While the effects of UVA are not understood completely, it is highly suspected that UVA causes deep tissue damage which leads to premature aging. In the last decade more and more manufactures have been offering multi-spectrum sunscreens.

What About Chemical Absorption?

According to Dr. Josh Axe, many sunscreens include some not so awesome chemicals which can be absorbed through the skin. He lists the following three products as his choice of healthier sunscreens:

  1. Kiss My Face SPF 30
  2. 100% Pure Hydration Organic Pomegranate
  3. Aubrey Organics SPF 30 Children’s Unscented Sensitive Skin

I highly recommend checking out his article which includes more details on why he chose to recommend these three products over hundreds of others. He also has some recommendations regarding nutrition and its effect on natural skin protection.

Please note that I’m not a doctor. Any recommendations above are based on reviewing other’s research and my personal opinions. I encourage you to do your own research and speak with your health provider before making your own decisions.

The Art and Science of S’mores

There’s one snack that has been forever etched on the American psyche when camping comes to mind. The S’more, a delectable treat combining the richness of chocolate, the fluffy whiteness of a marshmallow and the course graininess of graham crackers. REI’s infographic shows us that good S’more construction is more than haphazard.




Camp Hanger for Your Kitchen Utensils

We love finding old school camping tips and tricks. Check out this cool tip using an old belt to hang your camp kitchen utensils.

This was just one of the top 110 best DIY tips ever from Popular Mechanics.

Check out the original article in PM from the April, 1921, issue.
And here’s “The 110 Best DIY Tips Ever.”

Why Bother Packing Out Your Garbage?

We’ve all heard the phrase, “pack in, pack out.” The idea is whatever you bring into nature you should bring back out with you so as to not negatively impact the ecosystem.

By Brian Walker, CNN. 08/16/2010

By Brian Walker, CNN.

But what is the real impact of leaving trash laying about? There are immediate effects possible like possibly killing wildlife. But there’s an even more sinister effect possible. As man-made materials are left laying around they can leach chemicals into their surroundings as they degrade. But many of these items take many years to break down. They’re like a slow time released chemical weapon to the natural world.

How much time you ask? Well a Nylon jacket could take 40-50 years to breakdown. That baby’s diaper will take 450 years. So do your great, great, grandchild a favor and pack out that trash.

Trash - How Long It Really Lasts

by VisualApogee.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.