Archives For Wilderness

When campers live far north, like I do, enduring seven months of bitter cold and then five fast months when camping is possible, we do all we can to be ready to go as soon as the weather allows.

Here are 3 photos of my camp bin being unpacked, showing essential items that help make my home away from home as cozy and as safe as can be.

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Camp Bin includes: red first aid kit, small sleeping bag (an extra), blue camp hammock (a new fabric one!), mosquito jacket if bugs are really bad, two propane bottles, bear spray with belt holster, air horn (not shown), metal water bottle, bug spray, seat pad for picnic table, kitchen wash bin (see below), large tongs, green tablecloth, camp mirror, small dustpan set, lighter, bungee cord, solar shower, Off lantern with candles, LED lantern with batteries, shelter privacy wall (white shower curtain), small paper towel roll, 4 metal skewers, aluminum foil, fly swatter, and 14″ hatchet. Not bad for one bin!

Having an organized camp bin helps make the difference between enjoying a great getaway, or surviving an ordeal. Here’s my kitchen bin unpacked:

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1 – white plastic wash bin
1 – plastic cutting board
1 – wire rack (upcycled baking rack, to grill on fire pit grate)
1 – red silicone cutting/heat mat
3 – kitchen towels (1 cotton, 2 microfibre)
1 – cleaning supplies mesh bag (Biodegradable Camp Soap & dish brush, plus Pine-sol & Irish Spring as repellents only – not for washing)
1 – plastic water glass (with 1 silicone oven-mitt rolled inside)
1 – melamine cup (with a week’s worth of plastic bags for daily campsite garbage trips to the Bear Bins)
1 – camp cook stove attachment for propane
1 – small flashlight plus some extra cordage
7 – clothespins
2 – metal plates
1 – melamine bowl
2 – stacking pots with lid, black mesh bag
2 – extension fire pit forks
1 – cutlery bundle: steak knife, paring knife, 2 forks, 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, small tongs, metal spatula, military can opener

Beyond this collection of smaller items packed in to one main bin, there are other essential items for comfortable SUV camping that I’ll share about in upcoming posts. Bring on the milder weather!

[Copyright © 2017 Front Yard to Backcountry]

Matches To Go

2017-03-27 — 5 Comments

by Sheena Kohlmeyer

As a wilderness traveler and advocate of being prepared, I appreciate those small boxes of ‘strike anywhere’ matches. They’re inexpensive yet can be life-saving if one’s vehicle breaks down beyond cell reception. They’re in my camping gear, kayaking bin, emergency evac go-bag, bedside table, and in my kitchen ‘everything’ drawer. I also keep a box of these matches in my vehicle. In the vehicle is where it’s especially important to pay attention to the amount of matches remaining in the box. In my world, travel bins and tins with wooden matches have a qualifying feature: matches are secured.

Years ago a friend showed me the burn scar caused by a fiery eruption in his shirt pocket while driving on a pitted backcountry road. He’d tucked a box of a few remaining ‘strike anywhere’ matches into his shirt pocket as he headed down a bumpy road. He had no idea the friction from the constant jarring could shake those match-heads enough to ignite them against each other. He recovered thankfully, and his story can help others. I certainly ensure my matches ‘to go’ cannot jostle. No accidental fireballs on my person or in my vehicle! Hopefully not yours either. So let’s keep them snug.

Transfer matches out of your homestead supply into the travel matchboxes to help keep those boxes full. Using an elastic band around the box keeps it handy for securing matches together into a bundle as their numbers dwindle and bumpy roads are ahead. Then you can rest assured that no matter how rough that backcountry road, your bound matches will not rub against each other and ignite. That’s my little tip today to help us all stay safe.

Here are points I like to consider when heading out to camp. First of all, it helps to live close enough to decent campgrounds to visit regularly. Getting to know the drive and the area you’ll be camping in builds your confidence with each trip.


Art by Lisa D. Hickey


It is not worth anyone’s time to pack the cooler, tents and everything needed into the vehicle, then drive an hour or two or whatever it takes, only to arrive at a sold out campground. It’s worth reserving a spot ahead of time. Some campgrounds are only first come first served so I always arrange time off for driving out mid-week. My week-long camping vacation is Wednesday to Tuesday, and not weekend to weekend. If I had to work, I’d drive out Wednesday evening, set up a tent on the campsite I wanted, and pay for the days until I can return (yes this can be frustrating to those who wing it but it’s the only way to get a site for a Friday arrival in a non-reserve campground, unless you do what I do and head out mid-week). One simply must head out on Wednesday. Thursday is pushing it. I’d never head out on a Friday. There’s enough campers around that for the past couple of years whenever and wherever I go camping, the place is sold out by Friday morning, if not Thursday.


Trees are everything camping is about for me and I’m so lucky to live not far from heavily forested areas. I love the look of trees, the sound the wind makes in their branches, the shade they offer, the designs in their trunks. I especially enjoy how they help me create shelter with tarps. Camping is about creating shelter. That’s what we’re doing after all, right? We’re building a ‘home away from home’. And even though the metal fire ring and gravel area are ‘fixed’ there are often several tree trunks to select from for securing tarps for shelter and privacy.


I love this old hammock!


My ideal campsite will have a well-placed pair of strong trees for my camp hammock. And by ‘well placed’ I mean, among other things, upwind of the fire. A hammock secured between two trees for a midday rest, reading, watching the sky, listening to birds, feeling the breeze, just dozing… it’s like heaven in a campground. The most refreshing short sleeps of my life have taken place in my camp hammock.


Campsites are all different shapes, sizes, and orientation to the wind and the sun. Working around the fixed firepit and picnic table, it helps with choosing a great site to know sizes of everything you’ll be adding. For me it’s a 17’ SUV (with bike rack), 8×8’ tent, 5×3’ privacy tent, 12×12’ shade shelter, various tarps, the chopping area, woodpile, a couple of folding chairs and a hammock (or two). You can use a cheat sheet with measurements and a tape measure but soon you won’t need that. Every camper who sets up his or her own tents and tarps learns to assess a site. One has to be able to stand in an empty space and visualize the ‘set up’. If it doesn’t feel right, move on and keep looking. Being able to pick and choose from empty campsites until I find the right one is why I head out camping mid-week.


BEAR-BINS: How far away are the daily-use bear bins? After the last meal of the day, wrap everything up into a tight garbage bag and take it over. This is part of my daily bike rides, my evening campground trip over to the “bear-bins”, or bear-proof heavy duty metal garbage bins. When it’s getting dark it can feel a bit scary but I have bear spray in my holster, and I know how to use it! Also, I listen carefully and keep alert.

PLAYGROUND: People generally choose nearby if they have kids, or farther for more quiet. Obviously. However, even though my kids are grown and I prefer hearing birds and breezes over boisterous children, I’ll choose to camp near the playground over the bear bins, which are usually at the opposite end of the campground. Some of my camping trips located near playgrounds had hardly any noise, and I’ve been far from the playground and had an RV full of school aged kids park beside me. It’s all good.

A small Mule deer buck

A small Mule deer buck greets me just outside the bathroom.

BATHROOMS: The vault toilets/bathroom building (without plumbing, these well-built concrete structures have very strong hinged doors) is a tricky item to consider at your campground. I often aim for being three to eight sites away. You don’t want to be too far away, but at the same time the closer you are, the more annoying the sounds (I’ve never had an issue with odor). Sure there’s the increase in foot traffic, but worse is the slamming door. The heavy doors are spring-loaded and most people just dash out, letting them slam. I don’t like that sound myself when I’ve had to camp close to the bathroom building, so I’m one who catches the door as it closes. It only takes a second and I walk away from the building quietly, without the door slamming.

WATER: Again, weigh the pros and cons of having to travel farther but having less foot traffic, or the opposite. Water weighs so much that I try to incorporate my bike if possible, or will use my vehicle as a last resort, but mostly I bring enough water from home to last several days. Note, for extra precaution the pump water from campgrounds should be boiled before using.

PHONE: Yes, some of the campgrounds I enjoy are so deep into the mountains that there is no cell service. At these places I trek to the old-school payphone at least once a day to let someone know “Hi! All’s well.” Plus how much longer I’m staying. As a solo camper I prefer sites with service for the safety it helps provide. But at times, when my desire to go camping is stronger than the sites available, I’ll drive farther out and camp anyways. It requires more trust, and confidence. Yet it’s always good to know the site manager has a Satellite phone for emergencies.


Learn the manager’s site.

MANAGER: Personally, I prefer to be close to the manager’s site. First of all firewood is always available for purchase from their site, in addition to the trucks that come around a couple of times a day. I’ve also found that unruly off-leash dogs and late-night partying tends to not occur in campsites close to where they are. I prefer to be within emergency whistle or air horn hearing distance to them. Usually it’s an older couple living in their gorgeous RV for the summer season, plus the day staff who drive the firewood trucks, are who manage campgrounds. I like to learn their names early in the season. These hard working folks deserve a greeting from appreciative campers like me.

Every time I go camping it’s in the perfect site! But some locations have been better than others. These tips help me in my quest for the most comfy, cozy site. I hope they can help you too. Keep clean campsites, never feed the animals, and let’s all be safe. Enjoy!

[Copyright © 2017 Gina~Inga, Front Yard to Backcountry]

Fireside Point by Darrell Bush

Fireside Point by Darrell Bush

Thrift stores and old antique shops can hide great treasures if you look diligently enough. Especially tiny treasures. I’m always on the lookout for small tins and was delighted to find this old Regesan Catarrh Pastilles tin for $1! Thinner and slightly larger than most mint tins, this container is just long enough to hold my manual can opener. While not perfectly water-tight, this well made tin snaps tightly shut and is unlikely to open in your pack or pocket, and the shiny interior is useful as a mirrored surface to signal for help.

Items include:

  • Tin itself, useful as a reflective signaling device
  • 6′ (2m) paracord, can also be unwrapped into 7 strands
  • 2-square-feet of heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Manual can-opener with spoon
  • 200′ of heavy gauge fishing line
  • Earplug as storage/bobber for 2 fishing hooks
  • 2 bundles of 7 waterproof matches with striker paper
  • 2 foil-wrapped petroleum-jelly-dipped cotton balls
  • 3 large safety pins (can be bent into fish hooks)
  • Polysporin ointment in sealed tube
  • Bandages and package of gauze
  • Small amount of medication

Tiny enough to tuck into a shirt pocket, this compact tin helps one to be just a bit more prepared in case a hike in a new wilderness area takes a wrong turn and the unthinkable happens. Lost! Of course it’s no replacement for a proper backpack filled with crucial components to help you stay safe overnight (or longer) in the backcountry, but this little tin is small enough to be an EDC (everyday carry) and it’s a lot better than nothing. The matches alone can be life-saving.

Petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) swabbed onto a cotton ball is an incredibly helpful fire-starter. You provide the flame and once it catches, it burns for several minutes. This is immensely helpful in windy conditions or when dealing with imperfect fire starting material. Rip a small hole in the foil, pull out a bit of the fluff and twist it like a wick. Light that thing and you’re good to go.

While my attempts at paracord braiding haven’t been successful yet, I am practicing. I want to make a pouch to slide the tin into, with a carrying loop. I look forward to continuing to improve my survival tin making skills, and will share my journey here. I’ll also be sharing about a couple of different folding saws I that I use, my favorite hatchet, plus other items I bring everywhere… just to be safe.