Tuesday, May 31, 2011


If you don't have any camping gear, it may seem like a big expense to get all the different things you'll want.  But if you compare it to other types of travel, the cost of hotels and restaurant food, you'll quickly find that it's a much more economical way to have family adventures.  And once you have your gear, you're good to go as often as you like. Here are some affordable quality basics for Summer car camping--stay tuned for more of my Summer Camping Series. 

My son loves this tent because it's blue, I love it because it's easy to use.  It is a very good looking tent.  Set up is simple and takes me about 10-15 minutes.  The construction is good with a "bathtub" bottom which keeps rain out.  There are extra storage options included with the tent like a hanging gear loft, storage unit, and bottle holders.

I love the sky light opening at the top (without the fly) and the windows on all sides.  This makes for great ventilation and views.  The dome is good for wind and rain.  The Sunrise 8 is a luxury tent for two, though it will accommodate four people. The tent also comes in two other sizes.

Taking the tent down and getting it back in its bag is easy and it's just a great all around economical tent for family car camping.

 Exped Mega Mat:  If you're going to splurge, I think a quality sleeping mat is a worthy luxury.  Tired and cranky do not make for a good outing.  This mat is ridiculously comfortable and two mats easily attach together if you need a double mat.  Read my in-depth review Here. 
KELTY ECLIPSE 30 DOUBLE SLEEPING BAG:  This is a great value for families.  It's a double sleeping bag that separates into two individual sleeping bags, you're basically getting a two for one deal here.

This is perfect for couples or for co-sleeping with kids.  When the child develops more autonomy and wants their own bag, voila, there it is.  The other side is a plain dark orange, which casts a nice glow in the tent. It has a pillow pocket, anti-snag zippers, a stash pocket, and I love that it has its own integrated stuff sack/carry bag--brilliant design.   It's a very comfortable sleeping bag and it doesn't get easier than this.

THERMAREST PILLOW:  Thermarest pillows are by products of their sleeping pads.  They utilize scraps to make their compressible pillows great for camping or travel.  My son especially liked the medium blue pillow--it fits his six year old frame and the colors are fun. 

Opening Image Credit: Kelty

Friday, May 27, 2011

Simple Shoes Summer Find: Take On Elastic

All shoe companies should take a page out of the Simple Shoes book.  By using eco friendly materials like organic cotton, recycled wool, hemp, and recycled car tires and employing eco friendly manufacturing practices, Simple Shoes proves that shoes can be made in a more sustainable manner.   I wish there were more options like this on the market.

Look at these adorable organic cotton canvas shoes.  The Take On Elastic is a light weight slip on that is as comfortable as it is cute.  These would be perfect for travel as that second pair of comfy shoes.  Wear them to the beach, Farmers' Market, working in the garden, riding your bike or on the plane.  I think they'd look nice with a dress or with jeans or cropped pants. 

Normally I like shoes with a chunky sole as I prefer as much shock absorption as I can get.  But these have a cushy and biodegradable EVA "ped bed" which really does the job.  The soles are made from recycled tires and natural rubber.  The uppers are a blend of organic cotton and recycled PET.  Pictured here in "Goat," I love the splash of cool colors (available in warmer colors) and the versatile cocoa gray.  These are perfect for Summer, find them HERE. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BERN Bike Helmets

Believe it or not, I just started wearing bike helmets last year.  It had been a few years since I'd had a bike and it just wasn't part of my thinking back then.  Now as a mother, it's all about safety, and I wouldn't consider riding my bike without one.  It's not a big deal and there are some good options, though not that many that suit my personality.  Some of them are a little too...what's the word...sporty.  To the point of looking like you need a racing shirt and neon leggings to match.  Or that you look a little alien-esqe.   I don't dress like that when I ride my bike, in fact, I'd like to look at least a little bit fashionable while being safe.

Bern seems to get this.   Looks and function combine to create comfortable and attractive protection for your melon.  They're more low profile and there is something a little post punk about them, they're sassy.  I love the visor which keeps out sun and rain and this helmet covers more of my head than the Giro helmet I have, which makes me feel safer.

Look at these cool designs.  You can't go wrong with this basic black Berkley Helmet and that shiny finish gives it edge, it's really pretty in person.   If you want more of a pattern, they have that too.  The little black and turquoise flowers against the matte gray is interesting and feminine without getting too flashy or too girly.  And finally, if you want something more sporty, the Bomber helmet is nice without looking like you're training for a triathlon. These helmets, while they would function great for a variety of sports, look more urban, more city commuter-ish.  They're more accessible, more versatile than a lot of helmets out there.

The visors come out, and Bern has a trademark Zip Mold which you can use to customize your fit.  The helmets are lined not with Styrofoam but with injected liquid foam which provides a superior strength to weight ratio making them lighter and safer.  This is a very comfortable helmet.

I'm super impressed with Bern.  Check out these awesome helmets HERE and if you need a little push, REI is having their 20% off coupon this week, and they have them there as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rebagz Cinchy Tote GALAXY: Eco Friendly Wearable Art

I've always liked the recycled rice sacks made into totes, but the Rebagz Cinchy Tote takes it to new heights.  Look at this cool GALAXY Cinchy Tote.  This is a bag with multiple uses, the first being to look fabulous.  It's the perfect light weight bag for Summer.

This tote is large and perfect for a weekend getaway bag.  I can see this functioning as a mommy bag, at the Farmer's Market, college, at work, shopping, or on the plane for in-flight needs.  It will hold a ton of stuff such as your lunch, clothing, electronic goodies (though it's not padded, there is an inner pocket perfect for a cell phone), wallet, paperback or magazines...pretty much anything and everything. 

Rebagz is an award winning, good cause donating promoter of sustainable fashion.  Their fabulous bags are made with recycled materials using fair labor practices.  With a portion of the proceeds going to organizations like the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund, Greenpeace, and the Kind Campaign, it's an indulgence you can feel good about.

I love that you can be wearing jeans and a tee shirt and add one of these bags and just like that, you're stylin'.  This stuff is functional eye candy and I highly recommend having a look at their website.  Find them HERE.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exped Mega Mat: Luxury Meets Bad Ass

Over the years I've used a lot of different sleeping pads for camping, I've also slept right on the ground with nothing but a sleeping bag.  As a mom, sleep has become top priority.  I never get as much as I need, but things can quickly unravel if I'm dragging too far behind.  This is one of those things that makes family camping intimidating for me.  The thought of not getting any sleep all night and having to deal with all that extra responsibility like keeping my kid safe and the sheer work load of it all--this can be a deal breaker and it's something that's made me put off camping for years. 

I've finally found something that has taken this apprehension away--Exped's new sleep pad, The Mega Mat.    This is a game changer for me and takes the sleep pad to a new level.  Though it is very light weight, it's rather large and is not meant for backpacking, Exped has that covered with appropriate back country sleep pads.  But it is The Ultimate sleeping pad for car camping--it's extra long, extra wide, and unbelievably comfortable. 

I hesitate to use the word "luxury" with Exped because they are sort of a hard core company that provides minimalist gear for expeditions and whatnot.  However, I'm telling you, short of bringing your mattress from home, it's not going to get more comfortable than this.  It's probably a whole lot better than some mattresses.  At the same time, if you have a way to transport it (llamas?) you could use this for sleeping in more extreme conditions.  Exped founder  Andy Brun mentions sleeping on ice in his demo video while he shows you how simple it is to use. 
It comes in a roomy stuff sack with an innovative cloth air pump.  The mat self inflates to a point and you can use the pump to adjust the mat to your comfort level.  It's very straightforward and couldn't be easier to manage.

The appearance is good looking with certified eco friendly non toxic red and gray fabric with a nice honeycomb pattern.  This mat meets Oekotek standards and there is absolutely no chemical smell.  I like that there is a valve for inflating and a separate valve for deflation.  The Mats have toggles so they can connect to each other easily forming a double mat.  I love this attention to detail, and that everything simply works, there's no frustration factor here.
This could easily be used for house guests.  Last year during the holidays, I purchased one of those self inflating air beds for company I was having (I don't remember the brand).  Nice idea, but as soon as I opened the box and started to take it out, the smell almost knocked me over.  It was offgassing  so much that I put it back into the box and returned it.  The Mega Mat, while not raised off the ground like a bed thus posing possible difficulty for older folks, is just as comfy as air mattresses I've tried but has no odor.  It's also easier and faster to set up, take down, and store.

REI is about to have one of their 20% off coupons and I'm going to go and get another Mega Mat with my coupon.  They are a little spendy, I realize that, but this is quality.  You buy it once and you're done.   Click HERE to find the Mega Mat at REI or HERE to find it on Exped's site.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

STANLEY's Heavy Duty Outdoor Series

I'm a big fan of Stanley's Vacuum Bottles and Food Jars, they're hard core and something you buy one time which is better for the environment and your wallet.  Being a person who follows an organic whole foods veggie diet, I'm used to bringing along my home prepared foods and have collected a variety of to-go ware.   My Stanley stuff looks brand new even after years of use, it's just very well made and virtually indestructable.

When I discovered their Outdoor line, I got very excited since I'm gearing up for Summer adventures.  Check out this Vacuum Bottle with two built in cups.  Very smart!  I can see so many uses for this, what a great option to be able to share.  And not only that, but the cups are color coded which is a nice practical detail.  The Bottle holds a lot, keeps you drink hot or cold all day, and the colors are a very good looking deep charcoal, olive green and bright orange. 

The Mug has a clip so you can attach it to your pack.  It's not light weight so if that is an issue, this wouldn't be your best bet.  But I love that it is insulated, BPA free and heavy duty.  It won't rust or leak.

If you want to carry some hot food along with you, the Outdoor Food Jar is wonderful.  Again, the nice color scheme, no BPA, and they've included a spork in the lid.  This keeps your food hot all day, or cold, won't leak, and is built to last. 

Bringing your own home made food reduces your chances of coming into contact with chemicals and germs, you can make sure all your stuff is organic (very important to me), and it's just healthier and more satisfying and it saves you money.  All three of these would be excellent for car camping, road trips or brown bagging it to school or work.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Horny Toad Hoodies for Spring and Summer

Hoodies are fabulous for this time of year when the weather is touch and go and they'll see you right through Summer and the beginning of Fall.  They're good for layering or for when the temperature drops and you want to cover your head or get a little shetler from a rain shower.

I love Horny Toad for their eco friendly fabrics and versatile styles.  They travel well and the colors mix and match to give you maximum options.  The Delectable Hoodie is soft and cozy and has a flattering neck line and raglan sleeves.  It's great to keep in your backpack for when you get chilly and it works for sportier occasions as well as daily casual.  That neckline serves to dress it up and it just looks nicer than your average pullover.
The Zennie Jacket is a zip-up hoodie with some detail seams that create slimming lines.  It's ultra light weight and perfect for Summer.  I'd wear this with jeans or a dress.  Horny Toad is a company with a sense of humor and a heart.  They seem to try to make all their clothes your favorite--you know, the clothes you wear to tatters while other stuff sits in your closet because it just doesn't feel as good.  They use green materials like organic cottons, bamboo, and tencel and are made for comfort and durability.  Find them Here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fabulous New App for Kids: Ansel and Clair's Adventures in Africa

If you have an Ipad and kids, you are going to want to know about this cool new app by Cognitive Kids.  If you don't, seriously, consider getting a refurb, it's worth every penny and then some.  And then consider Ansel and Clair for your very first app.

Ansel, a very cute little alien travel photographer from the planet Virtoos, takes his robot buddy Clair on an African adventure that will educate while it entertains.  This is why I got an Ipad--for apps like this.  But they are few and far between, I hope Cognitive Kids makes a habit out of this!

It's ideal for the modern eco kid and wonderful for parents who don't want their kids to play mind-rot games only.   You know, it's like junk food.  A peice of candy won't kill them from time to time, but as a main diet, you want your kids eating vitamin rich food.  This is the organic apples and almond butter of Ipad apps.  It's portable, there's no waste or clutter, and it combines learning with FUN. Watch a preview HERE.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Easing into Camping with Kids

Camping used to be one of my favorite activities, but after having a child I shied away from it.  This makes no sense!  What better time to enjoy the outdoors than when you have children?  It teaches them an appreciation for nature, for the sound of the wind in the trees, makes them capable in the outdoors, lets them feel the joy of sleeping close to the earth, the thrill of sipping a warm drink by the glow of a campfire, and experience the endless magic of mother nature. 

For me, the deterrents are safety, and the sheer the work of the thing.  Setting up camp, clean up, food, taking down the camp, having to be much more vigilant than at home....and all this by myself.  Ah yes, now I see why I haven't been camping!  It seems like more work and stress than the fun and relaxation that it used to be.  My son is now six and this summer I'm determined to introduce him to a cherished summer pastime.

Here's how I'm easing into it.  We first did a little camp-out in our house.  We moved the furniture aside and set up camp.  It was too cold and rainy outside anyway, and it was such good fun the tent stayed up for about three days.  There is something so enchanting about tents, I revert back to a kid the minute the thing goes up.   Then, when the weather permitted,  we set up camp in the backyard.

Next is something I'm calling "day camping."  This is a brilliant thing.  You go to a campsite or state park (check the rules) and camp out for the day.  When the sun is setting, you pack up and head home.  After we get good and comfortable, we will start with the over nights.   The weather is still touch and go but by the time Summer gets here, we should be ready to go.  Baby steps.  If you have some help, you can jump right in, but if you don't, I think camping with kids is totally doable one step at a time.   Stay tuned for more on Summer family camping.

Image Credit: Nick Chill

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ahnu Tilden II: Great Hybrid Shoe Promotes Wellness

Too cold for sandals but too hot for shoes?  Check out these hybrid Ahnu Tilden II's.  The sole offers a lot of traction and shock absorption and the ventilation makes it perfect for Spring or cooler summer mornings.  You can start out with socks and take them off as you warm up, or put them back on in the evening if it gets too chilly.  This is ideal for people living in climates that change quickly (hello fellow Pacific North-westerners).  They're great for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. 

This is a foot-flattering shoe, if you like for your foot to look smaller (something unusual in performance shoes), this is your shoe.  The mesh is soft and breathable and you can customize your fit with a lock down system as opposed to laces, very simple.  The loop on the back strap makes it easy to get on and off and the reinforced toe box makes them great for the trails.  Ahnu utilizes their own Numentum technology which is meant to increase comfort and stability.  Because of their versatility and durability, I think these would be fabulous for travel.  I can think of a few times I wish I'd had a shoe like this with me and I can't wait to hit the road with them.

Ahnu is the namesake of the Mother Earth-like Celtic Goddess of balance and well being, in case you are wondering.  This is appropriate since they employ sustainability and ethical supply chain practices in addition to their philosophy promoting a balanced life.   Ahnu has partnered with the Breast Cancer Fund to raise money for their Prevention Mission, donating a portion of sales to the cause.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

CB2 Oliver Bicycle Dishes: Citrusy Summer Fun

Look at these cool appetizer plates from CB2.  I love this little Oliver character and the fruit and veggies that often accompany him, like this cute bike dish with lime wheels.  They're meant for adults, but they're great for kids, my son thinks they're funny and loves them.  They're made of fairly durable porcelain are so much better than melamine (ie plastic) plates you see for kids.  They're the right size for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or snacks like crackers and fruit.

They would be so fun for a cocktail party and Summer eating outside on the patio.  They just make me smile and I like the way they manage to celebrate riding your bike, fruit and the season all at once.  Find them Here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

LOWEPRO CompuDay Photo 250: Modern Day Must Have

If you have an SLR camera, you know it can be difficult to find the right bag.   Lowepro's new CompuDay bag is perfection.  I have yet to find a backpack that meets my needs like this--ever--let alone one that is also a camera bag.  It's as though Lowepro read my mind and made the ultimate backpack just for me.

Having a larger camera was more complicated than I thought it would be.  Back in October, after my small Canon Powershot failed me miserably with my son's Halloween photos, I invested in a Canon Rebel SLR.  Love the camera, but it seldom goes with me because of its size and fragility, and I miss out on a lot of great photos.  Enter the Lowepro CompuDay Photo 250.

This pack answered all my needs and then some, it could be my only bag and I would be happy.  It fits my body for one thing, most packs end up being too long for me and too unwieldy (I'm 5'5).  This is manageable, comfortable, and looks good--it's the perfect size and style.  It's low profile basic black and you would not know it's made for cameras and laptops.  You definitely don't want your bag to scream "valuable stuff inside."

There is a space for your camera which is adjustable--how smart is that?  It's on the side for easy access and the fact that I can make it smaller to accommodate the size of my camera frees up space for other things.  With other camera bags and packs I've looked at,  I was always stuck with too much unused room in the camera compartment.  There are separate compartments for other electronics like your cell phone, mp3 player and pretty much anything else that needs its own separate space.  It even comes with a little zipper bag to keep your cords or chargers in.

It's a traveler's dream, being a wonderful carry on personal item and ideal day pack.  It houses everything you need--snacks, ipad or computer, wallet, water bottle, sweater, etc.  I took this on a recent train trip to Seattle and I've never been so organized.  I continually marveled at how easy this bag made my life for those two days.  The ability to slip it over my wheelie was wonderful and appreciated at the train station and I can't wait to enjoy that feature during air travel.

And as far as daily life and having my new camera with me--problem solved.   The pack is designed with the modern day person in mind.  You can snap some photos and pop into a coffee shop, download them onto your laptop, and blog away.  They thought of everything.  Highly recommended.   If you have a camera (any camera) and would like a way to make all your electronics incredibly portable and organized, you will probably love this.  Find it HERE.  Lowepro has a wide variety of camera bags to fit your specific needs, and even offers bags made of recycled materials.