Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wenzel Blue Ridge Tent - Review


So, what do you look for in a tent?  Price?  Size?  Ease of setup?  Durability?  Style?   While I'm sure that there are a variety of preferences, these few would probably sum up most everyone's checklist, or at least be near the top.  All are at the top of ours, and we found that our new Wenzel Blue Ridge satisfied us in each of those preferences.  In fact, it exceeded our expectations and that's always a good thing.

For starters, let's talk about the price and size.  My wife and I have long camped with a Coleman dome style tent measuring 9x7, and while it was adequate for our needs, we found that it lacked a bit in ventilation and overall roominess.  Actually, due to our desire to add a new Coleman double stack queen-sized bed, we just felt that we needed a bit more room.  We also wanted the added comfort of allowing others, particularly our grown sons, to camp with us too without the need for them to bring another tent.  Upon initial review of the Blue Ridge's specifications, we felt that it would be well suited to meet our desires.  We were right.  In fact, what we discovered is that our tent will easily fit two Coleman double stack queen-sized beds, and with a bit of compromise on additional leg/storage room, would probably fit a twin air mattress too.  Simply put, it is cavernous.  It also comes with a divider in case you want to create two separate rooms.  We chose not to use it.  The total price that we paid for this tent, including free shipping on Amazon Prime was $134.21.  After one four day camping trip, we feel that it was money well spent.  I'll give it a 5 out of 5 stars for value and size.

Now let's talk a bit about ease of setup.  I'm gonna talk here about our experience setting this tent up, but it must be understood that we have set up tents before.  Assuming one's ability to comprehend instructions which may be a bit foreign at times to a newbie, setup times could take quite a bit longer (allowing for a bit of trial by error).  We've yet to find tent setup instructions to be perfect, or would we classify any of them as very easy to understand, but we found the Wenzel Blue Ridge's instructions to be fairly simple to understand. I really can't think of any stumbling blocks that we discovered comprehending the instructions.  In any case, after an initial setup at our home for practice purposes, we were able to put our tent up in less than 30 minutes.  This included putting tarps down underneath the tent (we had to use two of them due to the footprint of our Wenzel).  It may be possible for one person to set this tent up, but I would highly doubt it.  Be sure to have at least two people.  A third person would be perfect for reading the instructions during the initial few setups.  The only hint of difficulty that I found that may be encountered is bending the poles enough to fit them into the feet of the tent.  Quite a bit of force is necessary, but it is pretty common with other tents too.  Due to the fact that the instructions aren't perfectly clear, and it takes two people to set the tent up, I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5 for initial setup, but then a solid 4 out of 5 after that.






Lastly, I'd like to talk about durability and style.  I'll also include some of the features that we particularly liked, and I'll also address the issues that we had that were less than desirable.  To start with, I'd like to tell you that I pre-treated our tent seams with Kiwi Camp Dry.  It is a tip that I've learned about camping, and if you're not doing it, you should.  You'll find that it will aid in repelling water in case it rains.  And speaking of rain, we had quite a bit.  In fact, we had a very significant down pour one afternoon that lasted for about 20 minutes.  Beyond that, we had sporadic sprinkles here and there.  Throughout it all, we only noted about two-three leakage areas in our tent, and all of them were around the foot peg areas of the tent (the part that is stretched out and staked into the ground).  I'm not even sure that I treated those areas with the Kiwi, but in any case, the leakage was really insignificant and amounted to about three to four inches in area size.  It was easily wiped up and contained.  We did not notice any leaks around our window or door seams, nor did our rain fly leak.  With the amount of rain that we had, we were very impressed with how our tent held up!  In addition to holding up well to the rain, the floor and the walls of the tent held up well to traffic and stress.  We found no tears or rips anywhere on the tent.  I was particularly concerned with the flooring due to it's thinness, and the outer walls due the stress put on them by the frame poles.  Thankfully, everything held up well.  Items of particular note that we found extremely useful is the rain-fly and the ample amount of storage pockets throughout the tent.  In the case of the rain-fly, I really liked that fact that you can peel back part of it on either side (or both sides) of the tent to expose the nylon mesh panels that make up the roof of the tent.  This greatly aids in ventilation and is an added bonus if you want to look up at the nighttime sky while laying in your tent.  In our case, we enjoyed watching the fireflies flutter throughout the trees.  For the most part, we kept our rain-fly folded back, but there were times during the cool night that we had to close it up.  There are also two large windows on either end of the tent, and there is also one on the door.  Each can be unzipped, but they all contain nylon mesh so that you don't have to worry about the bugs getting in.  There is no window on the back side of the tent.  With all of the windows and the different configurations of the roof panels, we found the tent to be extremely well ventilated, but due to its size and thin material, it may present certain challenges in very cold temperatures...especially temps at or below freezing.  On a different note, there was one issue that we found to be a bit annoying.  On the door of the tent, there is a flap in the fabric that covers the zipper that tends to get caught in the zipper when opening and closing the door.  Be watchful and very careful of this.  My wife found that when you utilize both the inside and outside zipper at the same time when zipping and unzipping, this can be avoided for the most part.  While it certainly isn't a knock against the overall design of the tent, I do share it with you as a mere caution.  For overall durability and style, I would have to give our tent a 4.5 out 5.

(Notice the roof panel configuration)

(Notice the large side window)

In closing, I'd like to say that we are very pleased with our purchase.  And while this was our maiden camping trip with the Blue Ridge, I feel very confident that we will continue to be satisfied with it each subsequent trip.  Also, one tidbit that I failed to mention is that we had our tent configured with a queen double stack air mattress, as well as a twin sized air mattress.  Even with that, there was ample storage within the tent for suitcases and overnight bags.  We gladly recommend the Wenzel Blue Ridge to anyone looking for a nice, spacious, family-sized tent...beginners, experts, or those that are between.

**The following descriptions are taken from Amazon.com:

Product Description

The Wenzel Blue Ridge 2 Room Family dome tent will sleep up to 7 happy campers. It has a zippered removable Room Divider that allows you to have 1 or 2 rooms depending on your needs. The sturdy shockcorded multi-diameter fiberglass poles are easy to set up and create more interior space in the tent than do conventional pole sets. 1 large side entry door makes getting in and out simple. The Fly Rod creates a protective awning over the front door/window allowing you to keep it open even in rain for great ventilation and reduced condensation. The welded polyethylene floor is super tough and will last for years. Set up is simple and fast with a combination of sleeves and clips.3 windows allow for great ventilation - all with storm flaps.Mesh roof aids in ventilation and reduces condensation - stargazing??- you can if you want to.Shockcorded fiberglass frame for easy set up.E-Port for electrical appliances.Interior storage pockets for extra stuff - helps keep the tent neat and organized.Easy convenient sleeve and clip construction.Simple pole to body connection is fast and simple.External guy points to keep the tent stable in storms and high winds.All carry sacks and stakes included.Multi-diameter pole set creates more interior space.Fly Rod creates a protective awning over the front door/window so you can leave it open in rain.Fire retardant.Import.
Red
  • Floor Area: 117 square feet
  • Peak Height: 72 inches
  • Weight: 18 pounds, 2 ounces
  • Number of Doors: 1
  • Number of Windows: 3

video

Sunday, June 15, 2014

On the Water at Reed Bingham State Park


While the Summer temperatures may be too extreme for many here in South Georgia, as a life-long resident, I've learned to live and cope with them.  Notice that the emphasis here is on "live".  Life doesn't stop just because it is hot.  Though I prefer the cooler temperatures of the Fall, there's plenty to do during those long, dog days of Summer.  This post deals with one such thing that I did on Saturday prior to Father's Day 2014: Canoeing at Reed Bingham State Park.


The park itself is no stranger to us.  In fact, we've spent countless hours there camping and hiking. We've also fished and picnicked.  What we'd never done, prior to yesterday, was take a canoe trip out on the lake. Even in the midst of 90 degree heat, there was something magical about being out on the water.  Perhaps it was the fact that my eldest son had come home from Athens to spend Father's Day weekend with us.  Being together with family always makes my adventures better!  Or perhaps it was the fact that my wife had recently recovered from an illness and was finally able to get out and enjoy time in the outdoors for a change, instead of being couped up in the house taking meds.  Maybe it was the fact that we took our adventure seeking canines, Walker and Spencer, with us...that's always an adventure!  Most likely; however, it was a combination of all of these things.  As I said previously, being together with family always makes things better for me!


We don't have our own canoe or kayak, but the Georgia State Parks make them accessible for a small fee.  And though our original intent was for all three of us, plus the dogs, to be in one canoe, we found that it would have been a bit cramped, so we opted to rent a kayak also.  My son used it, while my wife and the dogs and I used the canoe.  Those arrangements made us much more comfortable and were more conducive to picture taking (mostly by my son).  There were a few hairy moments; however, when one of my dogs barked excessively at an alligator that passed nearby.  Thankfully, the gator must not have been hungry, otherwise, he may have decided to come have a snack.


The beauty of being outdoors is about sharing the experience.  Whether it is with loved ones, the camera, or on the pages of a blog, there is something about the outdoors that makes everything okay.  Long work weeks seem to fade into the past with a trip such as this.  Healing often replaces sickness.  Financial burdens lessen.  Worries simply disappear.  Again I say to you, there is just something magical about being in the outdoors!


So what are you waiting for?  Get outside and enjoy Life Outside YOUR Door!


For more pics from this adventure in the outdoors, please head over to my Life Outside My Door Facebook page to check them out.  





Do you share my feelings about the outdoors?  I'd love to hear from you.  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Grandma Goes Geocaching!!


It was a pleasure for my wife and I to introduce her mother to a day of geocaching.  Here she is with her very first find!  The cache was found while hiking the Mud Springs Trail in the Welaka State Forest in Welaka, Florida.  You may remember that in a previous post titled "Grandpa Goes Geocaching" that my son and I were able to introduce my dad to a day of geocaching at High Falls State Park and Indian Springs State Park (GA).

Have you introduced the wonderful world of geocaching to your family?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

GEO-HIK-OGRAPHY (aka-FUN)

5 out of 6 ain't bad!

There's no secret as to what I consider the most important key to my introduction to a love for the outdoors.  If you've read any of the posts on my site, you'll quickly realize that geocaching is that key component.  And while our time spent geocaching has waned over the past few months, our love for hiking, camping, and photography has flourished.  Even so, I can honestly say that geocaching is on our mind each time we step foot into another outdoor adventure, whether it be hiking or camping.  We have even been instrumental in introducing a few of our acquaintances to our favorite outdoor hobby, though we ourselves have not taken in the pleasure as of late.  With a trip to one of Florida's beautiful state parks on Saturday, it was time for my wife and I to get our geocache on (forgive my feeble attempt at sounding hip).





Located about 80 miles to our Southwest is Tallahasse, Florida and the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.  I've spent many hours in Tallahassee, but it was only recently that a co-worker of mine mentioned to me that if I like to hike, this park had over five miles of trails and it was definitely worth the time.  Having spent countless hours in our Georgia State Parks, we have been known to visit the occasional Florida State Park, most notably, Little Talbot Island State Park (Jacksonville).  We've also visited Ravine Gardens (Palatka), Gold Head Branch (Keystone Heights), and our other co-favorite to Little Talbot, Blue Spring State Park (Orange City).  Blue Spring is a manatee refuge and to see these gentle giants come up into the springs is time well spent!  For more about manatees, check out this cool site:  Manatee.  As previously stated, today's adventure, however, would be spent at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.

Our trusty trail dogs, Walker (left) and Spencer (right), accompanied us to Maclay Gardens.

Upon arriving, we noticed that the entrance was beautifully landscaped and attractive.  Once we paid the $6.00 admission and received a park map, we made our way down to our first trail, the Big Pine Trail.  The narrative for this particular trail is that it is a 20 minute stroll around Lake Hall.  Additionally, we knew that there was a geocache also located on it, so we set out to find and conquer!  While making our way to the cache, we took time to observe the beauty of our surroundings.  Around us was the typical habitat of the deep south, moss, saw palmetto, and an ample amount of longleaf pines.  Also in the mix could be found a few grand Live Oak trees...very majestic.  Many of these trees provided a canopy to the trail, and with temperatures in the high 50's, it remained quite brisk for the better part of the morning hours.  We were happy to see that there were others, both young and old, enjoying themselves on the trail with us.  All had smiles on their faces as we offered pleasantries upon passing.  Most, if not all, were completely oblivious to our ulterior motive for being there...I was sure.  We had secretly transformed into Team DAWGTRAX and we were gonna find that cache!


If you've spent any time geocaching, then you know that saying that you're gonna find a cache and actually doing it are two different things.  No one likes to log a DNF ("did not find"- in case any newbies are reading) as much as me, however, blame it on rust, or blame it on the fact that we couldn't get a consistent reading on our GPS (it was all over the place), or just say that the cache was probably missing (my preferred option), but after searching near and far and high and low for about 20 minutes, we ultimately gave up the DNF!  Oh no!  What a poor way to start!!  Hopefully things would get better.

In case you're wondering what type of GPS we use, it is a Magellan eXplorist GC.  It must be pre-loaded prior to going out, and then plugged in to log the finds to the geocaching.com website.  In addition to the GPS, my most preferred choice, however, is the geocaching app for my iPhone.  I find that it is just as accurate as my GPS, and I especially like the fact that I can search, log, and send finds from any spot where I have a tower signal.  The "find nearby geocaches" is a great help too!

After failing to capture the prize on the Big Pine Trail, we made our way over to the short Nature Trail for attempt number two.  It was here that we started our string of five successful finds in a row, but like most of our finds for the day, it wasn't as easy as the description stated.  Again, perhaps it was the fact that we were a bit rusty.  Nevertheless, after spending quite an extended amount of time searching, we located the cache and gladly logged our first find in quite some time.  We were happy, happy, happy!  In fact, we were so happy that we decided to stop for a while and enjoy our picnic lunch.  So we did.

The view from our picnic table.
 We found a variety of available locations for our picnic.
 There is a playground area.
 A covered patio area for large groups.
 In Georgia State Parks, we call them "comfort stations".
Picnic tables down by the beach area.

After eating our lunch, we ventured out to the Lake Overstreet trails area for more geocaches and hiking.  The trail that we chose to finish our day on was the 1.75 mile Ravine Trail (loop trail, though it does have a connector that is about .5 miles in length).  It was here that we found our next four caches to round our day by finding five of the six caches we searched for.  The Ravine Trail itself is a multi-use trail in which we encountered bicyclists, runners, walkers, and even a couple on horseback.  You should have seen the look on Spencer's face when he saw a horse for the first time.  I'm sure I heard him tell me that was the biggest dog he'd ever seen!  It was a great trail and we look forward to hiking it again in the future.  We also plan to return to do the adjoining Lake Overstreet Trail which is nearly three miles in length, but for today's purposes, we were short on time due to the hour of day.  It was also on this trail that we found what we would call the "most creative" cache of the day.  Without spoiling it for some others that my read this post and visit Maclay, I'll only include a picture, though I'm sure if someone were diligent, they could find the name of the cache by performing a simple browse of the park via the geocaching.com website.

The most creative cache of the day!

Lastly, I'd like to tell you about another cache that I was ready to log as a DNF (missing) until my wife's tenacity won out and we were able to log the find.  Upon arriving at the coordinates listed, the first thing I noted on the ground was an empty cap that looked like part of a nano container.  And after searching for a few minutes, I was becoming more and more convinced.  Only after my wife excitedly exclaimed "I found it", was I convinced otherwise.  Take a look at the picture and tell me what you'd think.

 I was convinced that this was the remnants of a missing cache!
Notice the broken fence.  Someone had logged that they nearly fell through the fence into the water during the search for this cache...LOL!

If you ever find yourself in the Tallahasse area, do yourself a favor and visit Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.  You'll be glad you did!

 Walker got a bit tired, so he hitched a ride in his mother's loving arms.
 Mrs. DAWGTRAX logging a successful find!
 Walker and Spencer on point!

For more information of Florida State Parks, click here:  Florida State Parks
For more information on geocaching, click here:  geocaching

I'd love to hear your comments.  Let me know that you stopped by.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Top Ten Thoughts While Spending Time Outdoors

During my recent vacation to the North Georgia mountains, my wife and I spent three days camping at the beautiful Vogel State Park located in Blairsville, Georgia.  This trip, like the many before, allowed me some necessary time to balance my life of work and rest.  I found that it also allowed me plenty of time to reflect on the priorities of life and how my time in nature affected those priorities.  More than a week has passed since we returned back to the rigors of balancing our lives with our jobs, but I still hold a few thoughts close to my heart from our most recent vacation.  And while I don't consider myself to be a great philosopher, and I know that these 10 statements fall far short of fully capturing all of the thoughts that filled my mind during our one week retreat, I'd like to share these with you.  Please feel free to comment. 
  1. You can spend all of your time complaining about the things in life that you don't like such as work, politics, or your social status; or you can spend more time enjoying the things in life that you do like such as family, friends, travel, or the outdoors.
  2. The only requirement to enjoying yourself is time.
  3. One's memory is like a photograph.  It fades over time.
  4. The outdoors is like a well-planned meal to me.  It provides my soul with energy and nourishment.
  5. Paradise is a state of mind.  It can be wherever you are.
  6. I find great reward in being able to improvise while out in nature, especially while camping.
  7. Nature is not partial to one's social standing.  There's no prejudice or racism here.
  8. We should always respect the home of the wildlife that reside in the nature/outdoors that we visit, hike, camp, or spend time in.  It is their domain and we are the visitors.
  9. A short time spent in the outdoors can help you get the priorities of life correct.
  10. I'd rather be awaken by the hooting of an owl than an alarm clock any day!