Archive for November, 2010

Pitch Your Tent: Fire Starters

Egg Carton Fire Starters

Since I was camping last weekend, I wanted to take advantage of the trip to test out a homemade fire starter. Back in May, I wrote an article called 5 Campfire Starting Tools


In researching starting a campfire I had run across many different tips and techniques. But, I wanted to try the Egg Carton Fire Starter tip submitted by Par:

I take dryer lint and push it into the cups of a cardboard egg carton. Then I melt wax and pour it over the entire egg carton, trying to soak it as much as possible. I use one cup per fire. I usually have successful fires with this type of starter. Please do not use Styrofoam for this project, it melts and gives off noxious fumes.

So I gave it a shot!

Materials Needed:

  • Dryer lint
  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Unscented candle
  • Matches

Egg Carton

Dryer LintI’d been saving my dryer lint just to try this (gross, I know!) and a cardboard egg carton. I filled each of the holes with as much lint as it would hold. It was basically one load’s worth of lint per egg holder.

Egg cups with lint

Then, I lit my candle and waited until I had a pool of wax. I then poured the wax from the candle over the lint. I was trying to form a seal over the lint and soak as much wax as possible into the cardboard.

Egg cups with wax

The big white globs in the photo? That was cooled drips and puddles of wax I heated over the flame and then pressed into the lint.

I know what you’re thinking: this would have been a lot easier with a block of paraffin and a double boiler. And you’re absolutely correct except for a couple of things: I don’t own a double boiler (or a pot I could sacrifice for the name of a blog post!) AND I’m flat-out dangerous when it comes to open flames and wax! So I figured that the candle would be safer for me. Feel free to use a double boiler if you’re making a large batch of these starters.

It took me about 3 hours from start to finish. Most of the time was waiting for enough liquid wax to accumulate on my candle to then pour over the lint. After fussing with it all evening, I was wholeheartedly ready to report that this wasn’t worth it.

But I was wrong about that!

When I got to test this out on Saturday night, I made a little teepee with my wood and set a single fire starter in the middle. Now, as you can see from the photo at the top of this article, my wood was NOT kindling. It wasn’t even small!

I just lit the edges of the egg carton fire starter with my utility fire lighter and that was it. There was no newspaper, pine needles, grass, or twigs. Just one little fire starter and go.

One part I really liked about making these fire starters was that it really didn’t take a lot of wax for each egg cup. I wasn’t trying to form a solid block of wax over the lint, just enough to hold it in place. As soon as the wax was cool (about 10 minutes after the last pour) I broke the egg carton apart with my fingers and put the 6 cups I made into a zippered baggie.

The cardboard egg carton fire starters are basically free and pretty easy to make. The only thing that isn’t so cool about these is that they aren’t very water proof.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your favorite homemade fire starter?
  • Have you ever made egg carton fire starters? How did they work? What did you use to fill the egg cups?

Find Your Geocache

Product Review: iPhone Geocaching App

While I was at Dead Horse Ranch State Park this past weekend, I got the opportunity to try out the geocaching iPhone app. Now, I am not an owner of an iPhone personally (the only reliable cell phone carrier in my area is Verizon) so I had to rely on CodeWolf’s phone.

iPhone Images

Image copyright Groundspeak, Inc.

Now, when it comes to cell phones, I’ll admit I’m technologically challenged. I’ve had my new phone for over a week and STILL haven’t activated it yet! So, getting to play with an iPhone was a total treat.

CodeWolf had already purchased and installed the app before our trip. He has an iPhone 3GS (apparently the model of the phone matters!) He tells me that the app is $9.99 through the Apple Store. The name of the app that he bought is Geocaching by Groundspeak Inc. (Be careful, there are several apps available for the iPhone!)

We tested it out head-to-head against my Garmin GPS on the cache GCN473: Which Comes First?

I was really disappointed to say that the phone allowed him to find the hill top but was no where near the cache. It might work better in a very urban setting but on a hill top in a state park, well, not so much. The analogy I used was that we could find the parking lot but not the car.

However, the app had a redeeming quality after we found the cache and signed the log. CodeWolf was able to post his “Find” log FROM THE FIELD. I think that is totally cool! As somebody who often forgets to post finds for a few days, the ability to give on-the-ground updates about finds, needs maintainace, and DNF is super cool!

Here’s another feature that I really like:

When I’m planning a caching outing, I load the caches to my GPS ahead of time and print out the cache sheets. But, if I end up in a different area than where I expected, I have no way of looking up caches on the fly. But having the geocaching app on an iPhone solves the problem!

We were taking a look at kayaking a stretch of the Verde River and CodeWolf was able to pull up the caches near the put-in parking lot. Very cool! (We didn’t have time to GO after any, but it was neat.) Then, I would just take it from his cell phone and input it into my GPS and off we’d go.

looking for caches

In the truck, looking for nearby caches.

It was also nice to be able to look up cache details from the field and not have to rely on memory or print outs.

However, the app REALLY sucked battery life. And it relies on cell phone towers so we weren’t able to look for any caches near Beasley Flat along the Verde River. (There are two caches at the parking area!)

beasley flat

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have the iPhone geocaching app? Do you like it? What are the pros and cons of using it?
  • Would you ever cache with JUST your iPhone? Why or why not?

Mystery Mondays: Camping at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

If there’s one thing I LOVE about my job at, it’s getting to participate in all the fun outdoor recreation adventures. This past weekend I got to camp (in a tent in November!), kayak (with otters), geocache, hike, and fish. All at Dead Horse Ranch State Park near Cottonwood, Arizona.

Now, the interesting thing about this state park is that it’s just barely out of town but feels like its miles away from anywhere. As you can see from the campground, there isn’t a lot of shade and you’re pretty close to your neighbors. BUT, what it lacks in charm, the park more than makes up for in amenities.

Dead Horse Campground

This was CodeWolf’s first camping trip with the “Royal” Family. And his second introduction to camping period, so I wanted to take him someplace that wasn’t too rustic. The RV had power and water hookups (but we were in a tent!) There were flush toilets and hot showers (which didn’t actually HAVE any hot water!) And, we only had to make two trips to Walmart for supplies.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to fish at one of the park’s two lagoons. They’re fed from the Verde River and stocked with catfish, bass, bluegill, and trout. The secret gotta-have-it-bait? Nightcrawlers!

catfish and bass

I was the big fishing “winner” catching a bass, catfish, and bluegill.

I also learned some things on this trip that I’d never realized before.

  1. Otters are cool to watch but ruin the fishing.Otter
  2. I never met a sign I didn’t want to take a photo of!Fish Sign
  3. It is possible to stand ON a geocache and not realize it.CodeWolf standing on a geocache
  4. I might think I look funny in my big hat but it’s nothing compared to how I look in a beanie!Kim in hat
  5. Most people are completely oblivious to deer standing RIGHT OFF THE TRAILDeer

Keep an eye on this week’s blog posts for more insights, tips, and tricks I learned from the trip! And, if you want to read more of my camping wisdom, check out the article Mystery Mondays: 31 Things I Learned

Fun Food Fridays: Hotdog Kabobs

This recipe comes from the eGuide ‘Camp Cooking with Joanne Fitterer’. This title will be released from the vault on November 22, 2010. It is an exclusive and can ONLY be found here. But, from now through November 22nd, it is available at a 25% discount. The eGuide features 26 must-have camping recipes. Get it now for just $1.99!

Hot Dog Kabobs

Hotdogs always go camping, so here’s a change from the regular dog in a bun. Make it easier for the cook by having everyone skewer his or her own kabob.


  • 1 16 ounce package hot dogs (Or try Kielbasa or Polish sausage) cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 large onion cut into quarters
  • 1 large green pepper cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large red pepper cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 can pineapple chunks (save juice for Sweet and Sour Sauce)
  • 8 bamboo skewers

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 10 minutes to prevent them from burning or use metal skewers.

Alternate ingredients listed above on the center of the skewers. Fill skewers to within one inch at each end. Food items should be touching each other but not tightly packed on skewer. Turn skewers with tongs to prevent food items from falling off skewer and grill over a campfire or table top barbeque until vegetables are tender and the hotdogs are hot.

Serve hot with cooked rice and Sweet & Sour Sauce, page 19.

Makes 8 kabobs

NOTE: Hotdogs are packaged fully cooked so they can even be eaten cold. However, Kielbasa or Polish sausage will need to be fully cooked before eating.

Joanne Fitterer

‘Camp Cooking with Joanne Fitterer’ is a 22 page eGuide filled with great camp recipes and menus. You won’t be able to find Joanne’s camp cookbook anywhere else- it’s an exclusive. Pre-order your copy today!

Set Your Hook

I need your help!

Okay, Friends, I need your help. I can’t tell if the Set Your Hook blog and newsletter are getting the job done for you.

I’ve been writing the Set Your Hook newsletter for nearly five years now. But what I’ve found is that I have some GREAT articles that get a lot of comments (both on the blog and emailed back to me) and then a lot of articles that seem to fall flat.

Examples of articles that you like:

The goal of Set Your Hook was to be a resource for people just getting started in fishing. I take my own knowledge, research tips and tricks from experts and try to produce a quality weekly article for you.

But I feel like I’m not doing a good job at it.

Just between you and me, I’ve pretty much reached the end of what I KNOW about fishing. From here on out, it would be a lot of research and compiling of the “truth” from other experts. And maybe that’s fine, but I want your opinion about the future of this blog.

Here are some of my thoughts about it all. But what I REALLY want is for you to leave me comments or email me about YOUR thoughts. Because at the end of the day, I don’t write this blog just to see my words in print. I write it for you.

  • Focus more on a section of beginner fishers. Like maybe women. Or women with kids.
  • Focus on a species, like trout. Of all the fresh water fish out there, I know the most about trout.
  • Focus on tackle. All types of tackle and what you do with it.
  • Or… What are YOUR thoughts?

Here’s something really weird though: I DO get a fair amount of search engine traffic from fishing terms like ‘gang hook’ or ‘worm threader’ or ‘fishing for pike’. But I can’t tell if those searchers are finding what they’re looking for or not!

Now, what about video? It seems that the two fishing videos that I’ve done have gotten some good results.

Video links

Do you want me to do more videos about basic techniques? Knots? Tackle? Putting line on a reel?

Of course, on the other hand, I could just call Set Your Hook a grand experiment and then move on to something else. But if I do that, what would you be interested in reading about?

Keep in mind that I want to gear everything I write towards the beginner!

And, in case you weren’t aware, the Thursday Set Your Hook fishing article is just ONE of the 5 weekly articles I write. If you haven’t looked, check out to see all the topics I cover.

So if we decide that the time for the Set Your Hook blog and newsletter is over, never fear that I won’t find something else to fill our Thursdays with!

The bottom line is I really need your help! Tell me what I’m doing right, what I can improve on, and what you want to see more of.

And PLEASE, don’t just read this and NOT comment! Set Your Hook doesn’t get as many comments as the other blogs I write, but I don’t want to assume that you aren’t out there, somewhere, reading it. Comment or email me and let me know what you want.

All the best!


Pitch Your Tent: Tent Storage

Preparing A Tent For Storage

No matter what, when you get home from a tent camping trip, you should open up and tent and let it dry out. ESP Boss & I suffered the dynamic duo of tent destroyers on our kayaking trip: camping on sand AND rain.

When we got home it was still kind of rainy so we decided to set the tent up in my garage and dry it out and clean it up.

Why Dry It Out:

Moisture on the tent, even just from dew or condensation from breathing, will cause mildew. Gross! And mildew not only smells and looks bad, it will eventually eat through the tent material.

Why Clean It Out:

Sand is a very abrasive. Just think of sand paper! So you don’t want it rubbing or even poking into the sides causing small tears in the fabric.

Both will keep your tent in tip-top camping condition for years to come.


  1. Fully set up your tent in a well ventilated area that is not going to receive dew or rain.
  2. With no shoes on, inspect the floor of the tent for tears or holes.

    No shoes in a tent

    Use a folded towel to cushion your knees.

  3. With a small, hand-held broom, sweep from the corners of the tent to the door.


    Do you SEE all that sand!?

  4. Use a dustpan (or a vacuum hose attachment!) to remove any dirt.
  5. Tip the tent on its side (if you can) and gently wash the tent bottom with a soft rag and plain water.

    tent bottom

    Um, don't mind all the stuff in my garage!

  6. Examine the walls & ceiling of the tent for tears or holes.

    check walls

    Running a hand along the fabric can help you find tears and holes.

  7. Check the zippers of the tent (doors and windows!) for bent or missing teeth.
  8. Allow the tent to dry completely before packing it away.
  9. As you tear down the tent and pack it away, examine the tent poles for stress or breakage.

Perform the same steps with the rain fly and ground cloth!

You’ll want to do this after EVERY trip, not just at the end of the season!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you do to put your tent back into order after a trip?
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