Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Set Your Hook: Aquatic Hitchhikers

Hitchhikers Guide to Boating

ESP Boss & The Queen Mother got back (today!) from their “big adventure” through Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Grand Tetons. While they had planned to kayak they said there wasn’t enough time.

Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

One thing they told me though was that a lot of the areas were cracking down on aquatic hitchhikers. There were even checkpoints where water craft were examined for critters that shouldn’t be transported.

Knowing which waters contain nuisance hitchhikers is not as important as following these steps every time you leave any lake, stream or coastal area.

Before leaving any body of water, it is important to examine all your equipment, boats, trailers, clothing, boots, buckets etc and remove all visible mud, plants, fish or animals. Remove and leave them at the site you visited. The larvae (immature form) of an animal can be so tiny that you cannot see it. However, it can live in mud, dirt, sand, and on plant fragments. Do not transport any potential hitchhiker, even back to your home.

Eliminate water from all equipment before transporting anywhere. Much of the recreational equipment used in water contains many spots where water can collect and potentially harbor these aquatic hitchhikers. Then clean and dry anything that came in contact with the water, including boats, trailers, equipment, dogs, boots, clothing, etc. Plus, dry your equipment. If possible, allow for 5 days of drying time before entering new waters.

Do not release or put plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water. This includes live bait, if you’re permitted to fish with it in the area. (Check your state’s regulations; many lakes in Arizona prohibit the use of live baitfish.)

Also, do not release plants, fish or animals into storm drains, because most storm drains lead to water bodies or wetlands. This is an important prevention step, because many plants and animals can survive even when they appear to be dead.

For more information, visit

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have any issues with aquatic hitchhikers in your area?
  • What steps do you take to keep your equipment clean?

Pitch Your Tent: Keeping RVs Clean

4 Tips to Keeping Your RV Cleaner

You know I’m in love with my new-to-me tent trailer Skippy. Skippy is a 1998 Coleman Taos that had been used a grand total of three times before I bought it. Because of the low usage, the interior AND the exterior are in pristine condition.

And I want to keep it that way!

One of the things that I do is the second I open up the trailer, before I put ANYTHING on the beds, I put a sheet over the mattresses. On both beds — not just the one I sleep on! It’s nothing special, just a cheap flat sheet from a twin bed. But then, I know that the dust that blows in the open windows all day won’t get into the mattresses as quickly. And when I toss my dirty duffle bag and shoes onto the bed, the mattress won’t get torn, snagged, or damaged.

Sheet on bed

Once the sheet is on the bed and tucked in, I feel free to pile all my gear on top.

When I get home, all I have to do is throw the sheets in the wash and they’re ready to go for the next trip. And if they DO become worn beyond repair — Hey! They were like $3 a piece.

Then, get a bunch of little non-slip rugs to lay down inside. Basically, the goal is to put down wall-to-wall carpet in the trailer. But by using small no-slip rugs, it’s easy to take them outside and shake them out.

If at all possible, I don’t wear my shoes into the trailer. In stead, I keep a plastic tub (with a lid) just outside the trailer door. I slip off my shoes, tuck them in the tub, and then put the lid on. I know that no critters can get in there and if it rains (or the dew falls) my shoes will still be dry.

I was really lucky with Skippy because I don’t have to climb OVER the seats at the dinette to get to the back bed. But in the tent trailers my family has owned in the past, we haven’t always been that lucky. In that case, I’m always super careful to NEVER put my shoe on the dinette seat cushion. Either use your knee as a booster or take off your shoe.


I bring the table, but leave it folded flat and put it on the bed. You can see it under my duffle bag. Next to my dirty boots and green Crocs.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What tips do you have to keep your RV clean? (Or cleaner?)

Set Your Hook: Tackle Box Setup

Quick Fishing Setup

tackle box


Over the last months, I’ve given you fishing tips on how to catch a variety of fish (trout, catfish, walleye, bass, etc) with a variety of lures. I’m sure by now your tackle box is full to bursting with all your gear.

You can catch different species of fish with the same type of lure but in different sizes, colors, and with different hook sizes. So, to make sure you’ve got the right tackle for the fish you’re going after, you can set up multiple tackle boxes.

For example, my main tackle box has all my tackle to catch trout and bluegill. I know that if I grab that box, that’s what I am equipped to fish for. A different box has everything I need for bass.

ESP Boss also has multiple reels with different line strengths. All he’s got to do is switch a trout reel (about 4 lbs. test) for a bass reel, grab his pole, and off he goes! Make your decision about which tackle box to take based on what fish are in the lake and which you want to try and catch that day.

Not sure which type of fish lives where? has the answers for you!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What time-saving tip do you have when you are switching from one fish species to another?

5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

It’s cold, windy, and wet across the country right now. (Or if you live in Arizona, it’s cool, knock-you-down-wind, and sunny!) No matter what your weather trend might be at the moment, winter can be doing a number on all those outdoor-loving folks out there. Here are 5 tips that will help you take a vacation from the winter blues!

5. Have a Picnic

In your living room! Break out all your favorite picnic fare and spread out a blanket in your living room. The rules are simple: no running to the kitchen for napkins or more ketchup. For an extra boost, have your picnic as close to a window as possible and surround yourself with houseplants.


Extra bonus: No bugs to share your lunch!

4. Learn Your Winter Constellations

You know your way around the summer sky like nobody’s business, but winter stars? Yeah right! Take some time to learn winter constellations. Even if it’s too cold to go stargazing outside, you can always drive to a dark spot and sit toasty warm in the car to view the stars. Just be sure to not get vehicle exhaust in the car with you!


Extra bonus: Impress your kids with stories of the constellations.

3. BBQ

The next nice afternoon, break out the barbeque (tabletop or full-size) and grill up some summer favorites: hotdogs, hamburgers, or kabobs. For the full camping-feeling, eat everything off paper plates and plastic spoons.


Extra bonus: Eat a popsicle for dessert!

2. Tell Scary Stories

Gather up some flashlights and wrap up in blankets! Then swap scary tales as if you were alongside a campfire. Not sure of which stories to share? Check out the eBook: Campfire Tales from the Chill to the Giggle. It has 15 stories that run from chilling to funny and are perfect for any audience.

Scary Story

Extra bonus: Have the whole family camp-out in the living room.

1. Start Planning Your Summer Vacation Now is a great resource to start planning your next trip. If you want to some other tips, do a web search for your state’s tourism bureau and then request their travel guide. From there, you can order information from state parks, National Forests, National Parks and more.

Extra bonus: Instead of waiting (and stressing) in a the few weeks before your trip, you can have weeks of happy anticipation for that first outdoor adventure of spring!

Pitch Your Tent: Bandanas

Bandanas – The Perfect Camping Accessory

Bandanas aren’t just for pirates or Harley riders! They are the perfect camping accessory, especially if you are camping with kids.


Here’s 19 reasons why I love them:

  1. They’re light and don’t take up much room
  2. You can wash them each night and they’ll be dry by morning
  3. Use them to wash grubby faces and hands
  4. Cover messy hair (especially when you decide to go out to eat!)bandana covering hair
  5. Mop up spills
  6. Bandanas are perfect for using as a hanky.
  7. They can be a bandage
  8. Tie it in a triangle and use as a sling for an arm
  9. Tie a red or orange bandana to your car’s antenna to signal for help in an emergency
  10. Get it wet and tie it around your head or neck to cool off
  11. As a puppy fashion statementPuppy Bandana
  12. Tie over your nose and mouth to keep out dust
  13. Use it as a belt (maybe if your waist is tiny or for your kid!)
  14. Cut it up and patch tears in your jeans
  15. Tie it to your daypack so you can find your pack when you put it down under a tree
  16. Make a bundle and tie it to the end of a stick (pretend you’re running away from home!)
  17. Make like a cowboy and tie it around your neck
  18. Get one with Insect Shield and keep away the bugs (Don’t believe me? See my product review!)
  19. Three words: Cops & Robbers

So go ahead: Play Pirate!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your favorite uses for bandanas?

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?

Find Your Geocache

How To Log A Cache Visit

I know this might seem like an overly simple topic, but trust me, there are plenty of newbie geocachers out there who ask me questions like this. And, once you actually go to to LOG a cache, you realize that it might not be that simple of a question after all!

The first time I logged into my account on to log a cache, I was really surprised that I had a ton of options for recording a cache hunt. I figured that it would be the straight forward:

Found or Did Not Find

And that was the end of the story.

Boy! Was I ever wrong!

Here are the steps to logging a cache.

  1. Log into
  2. Go to the upper right hand side, below the GC code. Click on “log your visit”. (Depending on if you’re a premium or basic member, you’ll have slightly different options, but “log your visit” will be there as long as you’re logged in.)Log Your Visit
  3. From the first drop down menu, you’ll select the “Type of log” See the types of logs belowType Of Log
  4. Then, select the date that you visited the cache site. Most cache owners prefer if you log your visit within a day or two of going for the cache. But, they understand if it is weeks later as well!Enter The Date You Visited The Cache
  5. Leave comments about your adventure. As the owner of multiple caches, I LOVE it when I get descriptions of the adventure to find my cache. But, even if you just want to type in a quick acronym, that’s okay too. To find a list of the most common log acronyms, please see the post: ‘Log Abbreviations: Decoded!
  6. Below the box for comments, you see additional options for your log. You can encrypt your entry (usually when the entry contains spoilers) or add additional coordinates. I never encrypt my entries and I haven’t had any pressing needs for coordinates either.Additional options for your log.
  7. Below that, you can indicate if you placed any trackable items that you might currently be holding on to. placing trackables in the cache
  8. And finally, at the bottom, you find the “Submit Log Entry” button.submit button

Once you’ve submitted a log, you DO have the ability to go back and edit it and upload photos. But, that will be the topic of another article since this is more than enough to get you started.

Types of Logstypes of logs; drop down menu

  • Found It – ONLY use this when you have successfully found the cache AND signed the log in the cache.
  • Didn’t Find It – ONLY use this when you have actually made it to the cache site, have looked for it and then couldn’t find it. Don’t log a DNF if you just thought about going after it.
  • Write Note – I use a note for a variety of reasons: returning to a cache with a newbie; logging maintenance or a travel item drop; when I thought about going for the cache but didn’t; leaving a message for the cache owner
  • Needs Archived – I would recommend against using this designation. Unless you are a cache reviewer or the cache owner, you can’t really decide if the cache needs to be archived.
  • Needs Maintenance – this is used when the cache itself is damaged: wet log, broken container, full log sheet, etc. Don’t think that it s a “black mark” against the cache or cache owner; it isn’t. I don’t post a “Needs Maintenance” when I feel the cache has been muggled; I always give the cache owner the benefit of being cleverer in the hide than I am in the find.

Readers Weigh In:

  • How often do you log your cache visits? Right away? When you get around to it?
  • Do you ever use the “Needs Archived” or “Needs Maintenance” posts?

Find Your Geocache

Deleting a DNF Log: Yes or No?

Any geocacher worth their salt has a bunch of DNF (did not find) caches under their belt. (And those that don’t are either brand new or lying!) Often times, those DNF will just nag and nag at a cacher until they go back and find the cache.

Like my most famous ‘did not find’: ‘Summer Lovin” Not only did I not find the geocache, I lost a $40 piece of equipment, the whole adventure is on YouTube! That cache will bother me and keep me awake at night until I go back and get it.

But once I go find it, what is the etiquette around changing the DNF into a found?

A Piece of Caching History

When a cacher logs a DNF on a cache, that log becomes part of the cache’s history. It can signal to the cache owner and future cachers that the cache might have been muggled. In some cases, the ‘did not find’ log entry shows that the cache owner is one-cool-dude for placing such a hard to find cache.


This is the cammo for a regular sized geocache.

For example, Crooks Grand TB Hotel is an example of a cache that had logged 7 DFN by the time I found it in December 2009. It had nothing to do with a cache being missing or muggled, just a well-hid cache.

did not find list

Take a look at that! 4 DNF in a row. It was a tough cache to find, but well worth it.

A Piece of YOUR Caching History

Don’t look at a DNF as a failure, but look at it as a badge of honor. Every time you can’t find a cache and log it, you’re joining the ranks of distinguished cachers who aren’t afraid to say that the cache got the best of them. This time!

If you don’t log the DNF you’re doing yourself and other cachers a disservice by not being honest that either the cache is really hard to find OR that it just isn’t there!

Did Not Find Tells A Lot About The Cache

If I’m heading after a cache and I see 100 finds and 30 DNF entries, it’s a clue to me that this is a tough hide. It might take a few tries, a lot of time, and I may need to read the logs for clues.

Taking a look at the DNF to find “ratio” is especially important because difficulty ratings are often inaccurate. Plus, the number of ‘did not find’ entries on a cache can let the cache owner know that they need to change the difficulty rating of their cache OR go out and look to make sure it’s still there!

Now I’ve Found It!

Once you go back and find the geocache, for heaven’s sake don’t edit the DNF listing! (See caching history, above)

Besides skewing the data for finds to DNF logs, when you edit an entry, the cache owner doesn’t get a message that says the cache has now been found. This is especially important when it is back-to-back DNF, I found it logs because the cache owner might be planning a trip to check on the cache and wouldn’t know that it’s now been found without checking the cache page.

If you convert a DNF into a found then post a new log on the cache.

DNF on Extreme Caches

As somebody who occasionally DOES go after extreme caches, I really hate the type of logs that say:

Well I thought about it but decided not to.

That log really doesn’t tell me anything and it is really frustrating having to sort through 5 or six of those logs before I get to one that actually lets me know more about the cache. If you are thinking of going after an extreme cache but decide against it, post a Note on the cache rather than logging a DNF.

After all, you didn’t look for it and not find it; you THOUGHT about looking and decided not to! (Can you tell I’m a bit passionate about this?)

How Can I Keep Track Of Caches I Want To Look For Again?

A lot of caches will keep looking for a DNF until they are successful in locating it. Of course, when you start to rack up the DNF logs it can be a trick to sort through them and decide if they are STILL a ‘did not find’ or if you have found them now.


Once you're logged in to you can add any cache to your watch list. The link is on the upper right side.

The easiest thing to do is to add each DNF to your watch list. Once you’ve found the cache, remove it from your watch list. That way you have a running total of the ‘did not find’ caches that you want to go after again.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you edit or delete your DNF entries once you’ve found the cache?
  • How do you keep track of the DNF caches that you’d like to try again?
  • Do you keep trying a cache until you find it? Or is it a “one-time-shot” philosophy?

Pitch Your Tent: Tent Lights

Light Up The Night

I’m sure many of you have seen our big white truck on the website. This truck is what we take when we go camping, since it is big enough to pull our trailer.

Actually, ESP Boss got a NEW truck for his 42nd wedding anniversary. It’s an even BIGGER white truck since The Queen Mother got a new trailer about a year ago. The first big white truck (Toyota Tundra) just doesn’t have enough oomph to pull the trailer!

Even though the “Royal” Family goes camping in an RV, I’ve still found a use for magnetic tent lights.

These lights have a powerful magnet in them. The light goes on the inside of the tent and a metal plate goes on the outside of the tent, then the magnet holds the light in place.

But, when you put them in the bed of the truck, under the rail and near the tailgate, they light up the bed of the truck perfectly. This way, when you’re rooting around in the bed of the truck after dark (with or without a camper shell) you can see what you’re doing, and you don’t have to hold a flashlight in your mouth!

The light in the picture is made by Coleman. Here’s a link so you can buy the light. If you bring the metal plate with you when you go tent camping, the light can do double duty in your truck and in the tent as a safelight source.

ESP Boss’ pickup has a sprayed-in bed liner and the magnet has no problem holding the light tight. It never moves no matter if we go on the roughest of roads. However, the lights tend to get fine dirt in them so we always carry extra batteries.

My truck has a plastic bed liner and the magnets aren’t powerful to attach to the truck’s bed THROUGH the liner. But, as you can see from the bottom, you can just put in a couple of short screws to hold the light in place!

Since these lights are battery powered, be sure to check out my article The Power Of Batteries for more helpful camping tips.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you use to light up the bed of a pickup?
  • Have you found any must-have camping tools that do great double duty?

Find Your Geocache

Loading Caches Directly Into A GPS

I recently got a great comment from Andy on the article “Using To Find A Spot For A Cache”

I would normally load all the caches in that area to my GPS. When I find a good site I just simply check the GPS for any nearby waypoints in my GPS and it will show up it the new cache is close to an existing one. If this is the case I would try to seek out a new spot using the same method.

But that got me thinking:

How many cachers know how to load caches into their GPS?

I didn’t discover this until MONTHS after I started caching. Loading the coordinates of a cache directly into the GPS solved all the problems of “missing” caches due to a transposed or incorrect number or imputing the parking coordinates by mistake. currently supports Garmin, DeLorme and Magellin GPS units for direct loading.

USB cable for connecting the GPS to the computer.

To start with, you’ll need to find the USB port on the back of your GPS. Then, you’ll need a USB cable that interfaces with that port. It’s very likely that this cable was provided with your GPS.

This is on the back of my GPS, protected by a rubber flap.

My GPS, a Garmin eTrex, takes a USB 2 connection. I don’t even use a special cable, I just use the same cable from my camera card reader!

This is the end that goes into the GPS: a mini USB connection.

You’ll need to plug your GPS into your computer and turn it on. At that point, your computer SHOULD automatically find your GPS through Plug-and-Play software. But if it doesn’t, go to the website of your GPS and you should be able to get instructions.

Here are the steps to load the cache directly into the GPS:

1. Navigate to the cache page. I’m showing my cache ‘No Cows Here’ as an illustration. Then click on the button that says ‘Send to my GPS’

1a. If it’s the first time you’ve done this, you’ll need to load the software that allows to “talk” directly to your GPS.

Follow the instructions to load the software. They will vary depending on the brand of your GPS.

1b. Then, you’ll either need to click on ‘Find Devices’ OR turn on your GPS. In my case, all I needed to do was power up the GPS.

All I needed to do was turn my GPS on and the computer could "Find" the device automatically.

2. Click on the ‘Write’ button.

3. Look for the confirmation screen.

That’s it! Just 3 easy steps and you’ll be able to load the caches to your GPS. I still print the cache sheet, with 5 logs, so I can get the hint and cache size, etc.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have a different way you load the coordinates to your GPS?
  • What are some of the disadvantages to loading coordinates directly into the GPS?
  • Any other tips, hints, or tricks to share with newbies? (Or the technologically challenged!)
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